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PLANNING FROM RIGHT AND LEFT

In this section we discuss ideologically based criticisms of planning—both the idea of planning and planning as actually practiced. The reader will note that there is a certain amount of national or systemwide material in this section. This larger focus is necessary because much of the ideological debate about planning, even as practiced in small jurisdictions, is based on different views of the nation's political and economic system.

The right-wing criticism that falls on city, town, or regional planning does so largely because planning in that particular sense happens to be in the general target area. Specifically, almost any sort of public planning requires some replacement of signals from the marketplace with the calculations of planners, technicians, bureaucrats, and others. For example, we noted earlier how zoning may interfere with the workings of the market by preventing those uses that, in a pure market situation, the property owner would choose on the basis of profitability. The person on the right, almost by definition, is one who is convinced of the wisdom of markets and of the efficacy of Adam Smith's "invisible hand." He or she is likely to see the inefficiency and loss of personal freedom in centrally planned economies not as accidents but as inevitable concomitants of excessive central control and of insufficient reliance on markets. With such a general worldview, one is likely to view specific instances of planning with a degree of suspicion.

The criticism from the left, in contrast, has not been directed at the idea of planning. The replacement of some market decision making by political decision making is part of the agenda of the left. A preference for planning and collective decision making as opposed to markets is one of the left's defining characteristics. Rather, the left's criticism has often been directed at municipal planning as currently practiced.

There is also another difference in the attacks from the right and the left. The criticism from the right, by and large, comes from people who are not trained as planners and who have not practiced as planners. This is hardly surprising, since if one disdains the idea of planning one is not likely to become a planner. On the other hand, much of the criticism from the left comes from within the profession, not so much from practitioners but from planning educators—people who are trained in planning and who often have some experience as practitioners.

 
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