Sunday, February 28, 2010

World-Around Planning

The Planning Decade, Introductory

By John Taylor; 2010 Feb 28, Ayyam-i-Ha Day Three, 166 BE

After a world government forms humanity, will enter into its first constitutionally ordained, permanent peace. This means no further need for standing armies. Millions of soldiers and other military personnel, along with volunteers from the ranks of the poor, unemployed and underemployed, will be recruited to work on the World Belt Project (WBP) to connect the continents. This will be a state building project for a new level of government, the continental union, of which there will be one for each continent. In exchange for their service, the project workers and their families will gain world citizenship and a founding share in their own homestead.

The WBP that they will build is a specially designed corridor that combines power lines, high-speed rail transport and specially organized building projects called hillside housing. Its high-speed trains will take passengers and freight through it at speeds approaching ten thousand kilometres an hour, thus relieving the burden of long-range travel from air transport. This will spare atmosphere from one of its most potent polluters and causes of climate change. The underground power lines running under or alongside the trains will distribute electricity from renewable generation facilities to where power is needed most, the poor regions of the earth.

As the World Belt finally spans and interconnects every continent, the project will enter a second stage. Now it will surround, cross and re-cross the world's desert regions, colonizing a land area equivalent to that of the Americas. By this time, the builders of the world belt will have considerable experience not only in building trains and power lines but also inhabiting hillside housing facilities and farming the immediate surroundings. Skilled agriculturalists will make these corridors into a true green belt as they integrate gardens, farms and trees into the buildings and the whole area. They will know which kinds of trees can best hold water in the ground and change the climate. They will treat the soil with biochar and other natural supplements to help turn wastelands into lush, fertile, bucolic landscapes. As unused regions are populated, at the same time delicate natural areas with endangered species or unique ecosystems will be slowly, permanently depopulated.

In order for such major structural change to be implemented, each and all will need to become better planners, both individually and apart. This means we all need to understand planning better so as to keep ideology from blocking and disrupting it.

In their heyday, communist countries were not afraid to design and evolve their entire economies around a single, central plan. Although brutal and arbitrary, the young Soviet Union instituted several five year plans which turned an agricultural, serf-based economy into an industrialized one in a remarkably brief time. The secret of China's success today is its ability to retain some aspects of central planning while taking on some of the liberal, de-centralized virtues of capitalism. In the last decade the United States, the world's largest capitalist economy, has gone severely into hock to the Chinese. Thus a recipe of limited freedom along with a dash of planned initiatives turned a very poor nation into the manufacturing base of the entire planet.

Capitalist countries are in a deep dogmatic slumber. In his latest book, Raj Patel sums up the self-defeating thinking of anti-planning, neo-liberal in a brief joke:


How many Chicago economists does it take to change a light bulb?

None. If the light bulb needed changing, the market would have already done it.


This is not to say that markets do not have a powerful, albeit often unplanned effect. Like any other virtue, planning works only in moderation, and takes in surprises, good and bad, from every direction. However, that is no reason to throw out regulation and planning completely, for as Shakespeare said,

"Of your philosophy you make no use, if you give place to accidental evils." (Cassius, in Julius Caesar, Act IV, Sc. III)

Plans work well if and only if they are stochastic, if they somehow transcend the random factor. They must have just enough structure, not too much or too little. They only connect when the individual has enough freedom to work out her own place in the social framework, and the center takes care of essentials only. Just as the republican form of government is a combination of several earlier, simpler types of government, so a cosmopolitan plan combines central directives with a diversity of initiatives coming in from the periphery.

So far, People without Borders has concentrated on the spatial ramifications of the cosmopolitan condition. In future essays, we will discuss the temporal dimension. The World Belt Project will surely be only the most noticeable facet of the first world plan for a universal civic society.


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