Cato Institute book shows government planning does more harm than good

"O'Toole has earned a reputation for dogged legwork and sophisticated number crunching." --U.S. News & World Report

September 18, 2007

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Drawing on 30 years of experience with government planning, Randal O’Toole has drawn together evidence of how planners have systematically choked American cities with traffic congestion, made housing markets more unaffordable, and led to the spiraling cost of government infrastructure. His new book, The Best Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future, shows that when government attempts long-range, comprehensive planning it inevitably leads to more harm than good.

Government planners promise answers to all problems if given the power to do comprehensive planning of land and resources. Yet The Best-Laid Plans shows that their schemes invariably go astray, and create their own problems in the form of traffic congestion, higher taxes, unaffordable housing, diminished environmental quality, and increased unemployment.

Moreover, the book shows that these problems are not the result of special circumstances but can be traced to the idea of planning itself. Land and resources at the national, state, and even urban levels are simply far too complicated for anyone to plan scientifically. Lacking real science, planners turn to fads and pseudoscience and their plans are heavily influenced by special interests seeking to use the powers granted to planning authorities for their own gain.

O’Toole combines theory with numerous case studies to show that government planning does not and cannot work, paying particular attention to the areas of transportation, land-use, and forestry.

The Best-Laid Plans calls for repealing federal, state, and local planning laws and the dismantling of planning departments at all levels of government. In place of planning, the book proposes institutional reforms that can solve social and environmental problems without heavy-handed government regulation.