Full-Length Friday Liberty Quotation: Hayek on Planning and the Single-Minded Idealist

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95d39/huch/1889/09“In our predilections and interests we are all in some measure specialists.  And we all think that our personal order of values is not merely personal but that in a free discussion among rational people we would convince the others that ours is the right one.  The lover of the countryside who wants above all that its traditional appearance should be preserved and that the blots already made by industry on its fair face should be removed, no less than the health enthusiast who wants all the picturesque but unsanitary old cottages cleared away, or the motorist who wishes the country cut up by big motor roads, the efficiency fanatic who desires the maximum of specialization and mechanization no less than the idealist who for the development of personality wants to preserve as many independent craftsmen as possible, all know that their aim can be fully achieved only by planning—and they all want planning for that reason.  But, of course, the adoption of the social  planning for which they clamor can only bring out the concealed conflict between their aims.

“The movement for planning owes its present strength largely to the fact that, while planning is in the main still an ambition, it unites almost all the single-minded idealists, all the men and women who have devoted their lives to a single task.  The hopes they place in planning, however, are the result not of a comprehensive view of society but rather of a very limited view and often the result of a great exaggeration of the importance of the ends they place foremost.  This is not to underrate the great pragmatic value of this type of men in a free society like ours, which makes them the subject of just admiration.  But it would make the very men who are most anxious to plan society the most dangerous if they were allowed to do so—and the most intolerant of the planning of others.  From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.”

F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom [1944]