The Bookshelf

FREEDOM UNDER PLANNING, by Barbara Wootton, University of North Carolina Press. $2.00

This newest attempt to bake a cake that we can both have and eat is one Britisher's answer to Professor Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" which argues the complete incompatibility of freedom and planning. Wootton defines freedom as the ability to do what you want, planning as a conscious choice of economic priorities by a public authority, and points out the area where planning does not necessarily mean curtailment of freedom. The book is perhaps more valuable as a picture of an ideal equilibrium than an aid in solving contemporary economic problems.

The most specific economic conflict is in the field of collective bargaining: planned production means planned wages, and the results of collective bargaining, under which both management and labor are seeking their own maximum advantage, will not usually fit in with a comprehensive system of wage control. Wootton would thus make arbitration compulsory, with government decisions given the authority of a court of law.

Theoretically, you could still have the rights to change the government by peaceful means, but planning demands continuity at least in administration. One way out is to create more independent boards, mainly outside the realm of political controversy; but Wootton admits that planning can only work where there is common agreement between parties as to social ends, and favors inter-party conferences to emphasize agreements rather than disputes.

The greatest problem, particularly in the United States, is the control of the greatest increase in administration inherent in the extension of governmental power. Perhaps because in Britain policy and administration are more closely integrated, Wootton seems to underestimate this, though she does stress the need of increased local supervision of government officials.

"Freedom Under Planning" is a good start, but probably because the author has spent her life in education rather than politics, it assumes too much good will, and too much unity particularly as to the means of attacking social problems. Furthermore it implies at least a semi-peaceful world in which each nation is left relatively free to work out its own economic program. This, of course, simplifies the problem, but simplicity and reality are far from identical.