Arguments For and Against Planning

Arguments For and Against Planning

by Richard E. Klosterman

A Summary


For tens of year, the necessity of planning process has been questioned. Although in the 1950s the resolution of the debate about it seemed to confirm that planning was still needed by the society, it appeared that in the 1980s the planning’s status was still in inquiry.

The article is intended to critically observes the four major arguments advocating and opposing the planning process for local and regional level Government. Therefore, those arguments are not applicable in wider range of interests such as national interest.

The four arguments are : economic arguments, pluralist arguments, traditional arguments and Marxist arguments.

1. Economic Arguments

These arguments defend the necessity of planning process by showing that although a competitive market could run by itself, it is necessary that the local Government involves in solving the “market failures”. These failures emerges because there are discrepancies between the idea of a perfect competitive market and the reality of the market. The failures are on the field of : (1) public goods; (2) externalities; (3) prisoners’ dilemma conditions; and (4) distribution.

1.1. Public goods

Public goods are commodities that could be accessed by many people at once. These kind of goods (e.g. healthy environment) could create a “market failure” (i.e. the dicrepencies between ideal competitive market and real market) by its characteristic that could benefit people without paying contribution in creating it. It could effect many people to do so.

1.2. Externalities

Externalities or side effect of production or consumption could failure the market because they are often ignored by the producers as they are not considered as part of production. This ignorance could grow social costs that are frequently higher than the producers’ revenue.

1.3. Prisoners’ dilemma conditions

It is a condition of passiveness of the market player. The condition could failure the market by its characteristic of interdependence between individuals and society. More passive each individuals, more decline the society.

1.4. Distributional questions

The questions are on the optimal way of distribution. Above the questions, it is the societal concensus that should be fulfilled (e.g. the distribution of the needs of babies and elderlies).

In all four fields mentioned above, the local Government could interfere the market by planning process to assure that the needs of society are carried out.

However, it seems that the Governmental intervention in those failure is not to establish formal end-state plans. Market oriented policy is believed to be more effective than a centralized coordination. Thus, society’s objectives should be carefully observed to make a planning product effective.

2. Pluralist arguments

These arguments emphasize that political action should support the competitiveness of the market. Unfortunately, like in the market competition, the political competition also faces discrepancy between the ideal and the real condition. This situation appears because there is also some domination of political area by some particular groups of people, as happens in market area. Therefore, it is the Government’s tasks to ensure that the interests of unrepresented groups and individuals will be adequately fulfilled.

3. Traditional arguments

These arguments support the planning function of the Government by stating that it is in the Government hand to provide public goods. However, the over-restrictive plans that often be produced by the Government are considered fail to define the social problems and solutions.

4. Marxist arguments

Marxists observe that the role of the Government is as a neutral instrument serving the interests of society as a whole. Therefore, to reach some improvements, society should revolutionary reform its labor activity and put existing market and political decision process into society’s hand.

While it helps to identify the nature of contemporary planning, the Marxist argument did not offer any mechanism but radical revolutionary action. Such action by itself will reduce the role of planning practice, as well as it is highly unlikely to happen in most Western democrasies.

5. Conclusions and implications

The four arguments recognize that planning is still required. However, it should not fall into routine and rigid conservative regulations. Furthermore, to have more support from society, the Government should learn from its mistakes and improve its conception of common interests, information and its political action. By doing that, the Government planning could really fulfill the fundamental interests of society.



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