Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why central planners fail

It is interesting to watch Gordon Brown, the central planners' planner, twist in the wind as events unfold around him out of his control. He simply has no conception of what makes an economy work. It does not operate, to his perplexity, via the diktat of the politician or via the simple pulling of the lever to make all the people do what you want, but via the human action of individuals working in what they perceive to be their own personal (dare I say selfish) interests. This applies to angelic socialists just as much as it does to the rest of us devilish proles, though socialists are usually too witless to acknowledge this self-evident truth.

Take for instance the coming disappearance of the CD single.

How could central planning have predicted this and then made provision for it? Let's just take this single product instance and then make a special case for it. If Woolworth's had held a centrally dictated monopoly on the production and distribution of such music materials just 10 years ago, would they have planned for the disappearance of the CD single? Of course they wouldn't have. With all their shop frontage investment and distribution chain execution set up for the display, marketing, and public provision of CD singles, they would have considered it an enormous waste of these invested resources to do anything else but continue to sell CD singles for the rest of time.

But somehow the damnable free market came along and replaced CD singles with MP3 files and other related downloads. How could this have possibly been catered for in a rational 10-year plan?

The advent of the music download once existed only in the fevered mind of one individual, Dieter Seitzer, who wondered what it would take to get a piece of music down a telephone wire within a reasonable cost and time frame. Karlheinz Brandenburg then developed the MP3 file format, following on from the much larger WAV file format, to fulfil this dream. This entire MP3 'paradigm' was consequently immortalized within the design of the original iPod player (amongst many other MP3 player designs), by a Chingford man, Jonathan Ive.

Who can say where Dieter Seitzer got his original idea from? Wherever it was from, however, it was simply another in the long line from Thomas Edison and even further into the past, right back to the first Prometheus who wanted to find out how to make fire (and possibly even to the first Bonobo-like ape which wondered what it would be like to live on the savannah rather than in the trees).

If Herr Seitzer had gone along to the centrally planned United Nations Global Music Board, as operated by Woolworth's, and told them about his revolutionary plans to destroy their business model, they would have at best laughed at him and at worst arrested him. Why had he not considered the dangers of how many people his idea would put out of work? It would have been the socially necessary thing to either shut him up or shut him away.

Perhaps the best known story of this tendency of the centrally planned state to shut down creativity is that of the Emperor Tiberius who reportedly killed the inventor of an unbreakable form of glass, lest the secret get out and force other tax-paying glass makers to go out of business.

However, despite this producer-led self-interest of the central planners, Joseph Schumpeter's creative destructionism always manages to find a way out of the socialists' Platonic cave of fear to continue releasing the spirit of freedom. So let us thank the Lord for these brave pioneers and all those others who have stood up to the centrally-imposed diktat of the backward tribal chiefs, as exemplified by that gorilla amongst gorillas, Gordon Brown.

So what does this creative destruction do in the Woolworth's case? Well, in the short-term it is painful for Woolworth's to liquidate their CD singles shelves, to create an online rival to iTunes, and to re-train their staff. However, in the long run, the new dominance of the MP3 download music distribution model has released the energy and time of all those people formerly employed in the CD singles distribution chain to do other more useful things to help make everyone else, including themselves, better off. It has also released a lot of expensive high street shop-floor frontage, to allow Woolworth's to offer its customers an even wider range of other available goods. Thus, in the long run everyone is a winner, including Woolworth's shareholders, employees, and customers.

This then is the Misesian wonder of the unfettered market allied with the Hayekian wonder of the pool of distributed knowledge, which work best together when they have the least amount of government interference bleeding them and controlling them through communist taxation and fascist regulation. With just the smallest amount of wiggle room, the free market can still work the greatest of miracles, usually in completely unexpected directions. No wonder that great fascist communoid Gordon Brown hates it so much and has tried so hard in the last 11 years to firmly fasten all of this wiggle room within an insane Guardianista straitjacket.

Well, we reap what we sow, Gordon, as the newspapers are now telling you every morning and every evening. This is what happens when you shut down freedom. Welcome to your control freak inheritance. It couldn't have happened to a more loathsome wretch.

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