Gosplan And Soviet Aotearoa

The Soviet Union collapsed because of central planning. The agency responsible for the 5 Year Plans was called Gosplan. It would use statistics to decide what would be produced, where it would be produced and by whom it would be produced. Gosplan was staffed by the best and brightest the Soviet education system could provide. But in the end, they were not capable of reproducing the decision making ability of the entire Soviet population by way of committee.

“From the start,” write the Soviet economists Nikolai Shmelev and Vladimir Popov, “the administrative system was distinguished by economic romanticism, profound economic illiteracy, and incredible exaggeration of the real effect that the ‘administrative factor’ had on economic processes and on the motivations of the public.” Source.

Anyone who has ever participated in a team or group knows that committees don’t work. A committee will talk for the sake of talking, decide for the sake of deciding and never actually achieve what it sets out to accomplish. It is an exercise in futility to centrally plan everything. Almost all successful projects involve a key champion of a project who ensures that everyone else is onboard – an ubermensch taking responsibility.

New Zealand has its own form of central planning committee that repeatedly makes poor decisions and presides over the accomplishment of nothing. It’s called Cabinet, and the Chairman is John Key. They are not “neoliberal”, nor are they capitalist. They are unreconstructed central planning fetishists. The most convincing evidence of this is in how the National government have approached the rebuilding of Christchurch.

In lieu of letting the residents of Christchurch “get on with it”, they have passed new laws and created new agencies to “lead the rebuilding”. They are using statistics and models and environmentally conscious architects to impose a top-down vision of how Christchurch should be. The feelings and hopes of Christchurch residents and property owners who will actually pay for all of this be damned. The Cabinet has delegated management of the rebuild to CERA and an assortment of officials and bureaucrats.

This is actually a minor example of how National are rolling back the reforms of the 1980’s and modelling their governance on Gosplan. A better example of the central planning conceit can be found in the “Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation”. Different departments are being rolled up into one, to be led by a “Super Minister” in the form of Steven Joyce. This irrational action shows that clear thinking is not a feature of Gosplan-On-Bowen.

This is because larger organisations are harder to run. Because bad news never flows uphill, more problems will be swept under the carpet. The “Super Minister” will be so busy that regulatory oversight problems – like mining inspectors and Pike River Coal mine – will multiply. It is more likely that a “Super Ministry” will have scandals that hurt workers and citizens of New Zealand than a smaller ministry focused on a core function with a direct line of accountability from the call centre to the Cabinet Gosplan committee room.

I fail to see how doubling down on errors in two key areas – Building & Housing; Labour; – will lead to any improvement in performance. What sort of person actually thinks that more work for less pay and less head count will ever work out? Just look at how changing military roles to civilian roles has worked out for the NZDF as evidence of why “new thinking” doesn’t work in the real world.

It is disturbing that other partisans think that their team could do any better or fail to suffer from the arrogance that a central planner can replace the price system with decisions by committee. Every single problem New Zealand has today can be directly traced back to a branch of Gosplan making a decision in concert with other Gosplan-like conspirators. In Soviet Aotearoa, top down dictates on everything under the sun will be the final knife in the corpse of a New Zealand that once held so much promise.

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