By Mike Meyer
What kind of world do we want to have? That’s an important question that really needs to be answered and the resulting answer turned into a broad definition before we start fixing what exists. Or before allowing random, less than knowledgeable people doing things that affect all of us.
In America we don’t have any plan. I don’t see anyone actually concerned with this. Politicians have “policies” or “A Plan for Healthcare”. Usually only one or two and those are usually so specific and based on unquestioned assumptions that they are worthless. Shouldn’t we have a general plan with subsequent adjustments for the country? Is this an outrageous suggestion?
The basis for human civilization is taking the time to figure things out. Our improvements in life, now fully expected to arrive weekly, are and must be the result of research, planning, more research, and testing. As we learn every time we try to organize something larger than a trip to the bathroom a little research and planning does wonders.
Of course ideology screws this up periodically and seriously. In the last four hundred years in both the West and East, Europe and China, there have been ideological problems with setting large plans, respectively. There are two ways to screw up a better future though planning. One way is to refuse to plan anything at all and the other is to declare that there is no need to plan as you are already there.
China during the middle of the Ming dynasty (明朝) as the result of a series of disasters and problems made a decision to ignore the rest of the world. This killed one of the greatest and technologically most sophisticated periods of world exploration several decades before the Portuguese got started around Africa in the 1480s.
China was supreme and needed nothing but decided to go have a look to be sure. The Yongle emperor (永乐) commissioned an admiral, Zheng He (郑和) to build a fleet and find out if there was treasure that the Chinese did not know about.and found it interesting but mostly worthless. The emperor died and his successors thought the whole idea ridiculous. The Manchus took over after that ignoring the Great Wall of China built specifically to keep them and their cousins out. (Is there a lesson there?) The idea stuck that China was already there so no need to plan for more.
The western expansion was based on humanist and materialist ideas initially sublimated to religion and mythology but with materialism proving to be more rewarding. This tended to support the idea of individualism and as a specific model of human agency in the world. Over three centuries this lead to the refinement of these ideas into something called America. This refinement was an increasingly extreme commitment to free market forces and radical individualism that denounced and denied the value of large scale planning.
What would appear to be two opposites led to the same end. China was the top in the Ming dynasty but when you decide you already have it all, where do you go? Someone else comes in to take over and take what you have. China took all of the 19th and 20th centuries to work through this mess and is now winning the planet with planning. President Xi of China has made China number one in many areas by careful, modern planning. He has planned to make China first in everything by 2049. They are on or ahead of schedule.
America is currently in final decline having lost even the awareness of what it was doing. Blinded by an illusion of exceptionalism and decades of self destructive internal propaganda, America elected a mentally unstable, criminal and loser. That is proving to be the final act in the ending of the American Century. Thinking that you have it all and you need to exclude everyone else, whatever path you used to get there, leads to a bad end.
Note that this bit of history, within the context of the mess the planet is now entering, is a result of willful ignorance, active suppression of open curiosity, xenophobia, and a narrow minded dislike for human social planning. Ironically all of this has resulted in the slow realization that planning now really makes the difference. With planning mistakes will be made but adequate monitoring and feedback mechanisms allowing recursive loops for correction means large scale, very large data based centralized planning will win.
Leaving it all to the invisible force of the market means everything ends up in a few hands and everyone else suffers. The irony is that China learned to do both, manage the market under its rules but plan the goals and the limits to society for everyone’s benefit. But they do this with one party in power and limits on many things.
Of course this type of planning with markets and social goals is also part of social democracy that has been the most successful, relatively speaking, of the Western model systems. Right now its very obvious that the Chinese are more successful and they claim that rational authoritarian government is the key. If we want something else we had better begin innovating and planning to remove poverty and raise everyone’s living standards as the Chinese are doing.
A national plan might be a start. Maybe something a little more honest and broader than filling rich people’s pockets?