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Vermont's five-year plan

There are compelling examples, both historical and recent, of politicians no, lets call them statesmen, no, make that statespersons of superior intellect and judgment successfully designing and operating a centrally-commanded economy. These irrefutable precedents should give pause to those of us inferior beings who would, in company with the 18th century economic thinker Adam Smith, argue that its the invisible hand in economics (the combined judgment of untold numbers of producers and consumers) which is the best basis for an ever-more productive and efficient economy. Consider, for example, the late 18th century English House of Lords, which designed and implemented a brilliantly conceived sequence of relatively minor revenue-enhancement profit centers, on luxuries from paper to tea, with a few no-local-manufacturing requirements thrown in, so as to encourage their North American subjects to help pay for their own security. King George III himself may have been a few coronets short of a full crown as subsequent early 19th century history would reveal but certainly the Parliament was entitled to full credit for the enlightened economic-planning initiatives which started in Boston and ended in Yorktown. More recently, consider the remarkable economic track record of those multiple Soviet Five-Year Plans, drafted by a Duma whose members were all obviously above-average in intellect and economic understanding, designing, operating, and constantly refining centralized management of everything from public enterprise from tanks to toilet paper to private enterprise; how best to guide the Personal Subsidiary Farming sector, the little (and technically illegal, but what the heck) private garden plots which produced and still produce the great majority of the foods found in Russian supermarkets and street sales. When it comes to government showing how it can plan and manage free enterprise, all those Five-Year Plans remain an example for the ages. And most recently, consider the brilliant economic leadership of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, skillfully guiding his new African nation from a colonial past with a substantial agricultural surplus problem festering into creating a continuous major export responsibility, to a new situation of tiny farms, many rapidly regaining pristine-wilderness status, and a far more efficient food situation wherein the country simply imports whatever it needs to feed its citizens. Admittedly, all the nations of Africa have enlightened legislative and/or executive leadership which has skillfully planned and managed local free enterprise in recent decades, and not a one of them has simply allowed the private sector (and that ridiculous invisible hand notion) to function without continuing close adult, governmental supervision, and you can see the results for yourself; but Zimbabwe has to be in the forefront by any measure. Against that track record of the best and brightest (just ask them) in government across the centuries and across the globe, dexterously planning and managing free enterprise when- and wherever it erupts, comes the long-awaited news that even little Montpelier, capital of the nations second-smallest state, will now take on the same intellectual challenge. Heres the language, contained in their Five-Year Plan (Freudian slip?) for a new Vermont Commission on Economic Development which will, among other things, cooperatively plan the free enterprise economy of Vermont. How blessed the Green Mountain State is to have such brilliantly superior, highly motivated, intellectually innovative folks under their gilded dome. None of us minor members of the Fourth Estate could ever make this stuff up. Vermont observer Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.

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