For quite some time I had a misconception about government planning. I thought most government planning was harmless. I was wrong. Government planning limits our freedoms.
All governments place some degree of limits on their citizens. They might be severe, as in Communism, or minimal, as envisioned by the United States Constitution, but all governments limit what individuals can do. America’s founders wanted to limit government to things like national defense and ensuring equal rights for all under the law. The temptation, then and now, is for government to proactively plan to help out in other areas. What could be wrong with trying to make people’s lives better? But, every government plan and action has an unintended consequence. The more government tries to plan better lives for its citizens, the more it finds it must do to fix the unintended consequences, and the more limits it places on individuals. As more limits are put in place, the harder it becomes for each individual’s plans and dreams to become reality.
In school I recall learning that communism failed because central planners cannot possibly plan an entire economy because the human mind is just not big and fast enough to react correctly to all of the variables affecting a national economy. That made sense to me at the time. Recently I read that even if government planners had the benefit of the best computerized planning tools in the world, they still could not match what the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market can do. That also made sense to me, and may very well be true, but now I realize that the larger point that must be made is that government itself and planning are incompatible. It is not that government planning does not work because planning at a massive scale is too complex; it is rather that governments, of any size or type, are incapable of fulfilling the dreams of each of its citizens. The idea that government can create a good and fair society rests on the belief that government knows what is best for each and every citizen. But how can government know the dreams of every citizen?
Governments do not have dreams; people have dreams. Dreams of a better life. Dreams that drive them to make life better. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. His dream cannot be fulfilled by government no matter how many laws it passes. Dr. King’s dream can only become real when people acknowledge the truths Dr. King saw so clearly. Government, to one degree or another, tries to replace the dreams of the individual with its own idea of what people should think, have, and be.
America was founded on the idea that its people would be better off if government was limited to the point that people were free to pursue their dreams. How can limited government be truly limited if it is free to plan beyond its limits? A government that can change itself and give itself more responsibilities is not limited. The proper role of our government is to protect us from outside dangers, and to make sure law applies equally to all. Each of us must be free to pursue his own dreams. Government planning should be replaced with faith in the law, and with faith that if each of us pursues his dreams and plans, all will benefit.