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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7483/engineers-and-planners/

Engineers and Planners

November 28, 2007 by

The ideal of conscious control of social phenomena has made its greatest influence felt in the economic field, writes F. A. Hayek.

The present popularity of “economic planning” is directly traceable to the prevalence of the scientistic ideas we have been discussing. As in this field the scientistic ideals manifest themselves in the particular forms which they take in the hands of the applied scientist and especially the engineer, it will be convenient to combine the discussion of this influence with some examination of the characteristic ideals of the engineers.

We shall see that the influence on current views about problems of social organization of his technological approach, or the engineering point of view, is much greater than is generally realized. Most of the schemes for a complete remodeling of society, from the earlier utopias to modern socialism, bear indeed the distinct mark of this influence. FULL ARTICLE

{ 3 comments }

RHU November 28, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Very interesting essay by one of the most prominent Austrian School personalities.

As an engineering professional, I can only subscribe the central idea of this article, i.e., that the planning philosophy that can be useful for the execution of an engineering project is not suitable for the planning and construction of a new “social order” as many pseudo-scientists and politicians claim.

One of the basic flaws of the “social engineers” (this expression irritates me deeply, sounds more like an oxymoron), central planners, bureaucrats and other do-gooders is to assume that they really know everybody’s needs and also the aspirations of the amorphous body called “society”, and which results should be achieved in order to benefit all of us poor mortals.

I’m just arriving to the conclusion that the idea itself of central planning and control of the lives of millions of people is a mental disease which dominates weak spirits through the thirst for power.

Not to mention that the practical application of extensive central planning has produced the greatest killings, famines and all sorts of tragedies to humanity, however disguised in noble ideals by their perpetrators.

It’s hard to believe that most people still stick to the idea that they should empower politicians to plan their own lives and the future of their children.

Henry Miller December 1, 2007 at 9:52 am

Engineers have long known that large projects do not work easily. Most large projects that work out do so because it was divided into mostly independent parts. (That is why the CO2 scrubbers in Apollo were different between the two different capsules – different independent teams designed them) The other way to make a large project work out is to have a small team that takes a long time to do the job (this is much cheaper and better in the long run, but the whole thing takes much longer)

I’ve long said that socialism works on a small scale, but it starts falling about at around 50 (I’m not sure where, as few socialist societies of this size exist) people, and is completely fails at 2000. Families are a classic example of this – they are small enough that you can plan everything out to whatever level you want (baring the unforeseen of course).

Enginners have learned to keep their projects small, while presenting the illusion that they are large. However a large engineering project is tiny compared an entire country.

N. Joseph Potts December 2, 2007 at 12:15 pm

I’d say that today the most vicious manifestation of this mindset would be the aggrandizement of government power to prevent “global warming.”

Climate scientists and their ilk find that they can grasp the levers of power by means of this hysteria, and the innumerable science-fiction fans who seem to make up the electorate believe it is well to surrender their freedoms to such a priesthood.

Government NEVER fails to leap into a breach like this.

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