James Scott’s “Seeing Like a State” is perhaps the best introduction to a sub-genre of books on how the best laid plans can founder. Jane Jacobs had earlier applied that sort of analysis to city planning, William Easterly does to international development and Chris Coyne does to reconstruction & occupation following war. Robin Hanson ought to apply his “near/far” theory to those ideas some day. The introductory example Scott uses is Prussian forestry, so it only makes sense that there should be an example specifically dealing with forest management*. Someone commenting on one of Arnold Kling’s half-formed arguments/metaphors**/dichotomies mentioned Alston Chases Playing God in Yellowstone, which gets a rather favorable review (despite its bashing of the environmental movement) from IndyBay here. The reviewer states that part of his argument is a critique of a “hands off” approach involving “natural regulation” but his own recommendations aren’t that different in general approach (maybe “be more pragmatic and use good science”?), so it might be hard to slot him in as a Hayekian/Polanyian***.

*Randal “The Antiplanner” O’Toole is actually has his degree in forest management. But he seems to devote most of his time these days discussing roads & rails. And he’s not a fan of Jane Jacobs. I told him some day I’d send a copy of Donald Shoup’s “The High Cost of Free Parking” to review.
**Karl Smith complicates the ranger/curator dichotomy with is metaphor of the arborist, though he could have simply pointed out that the actual curators seem to do a decent enough job in managing a pleasing park. He earlier tried to add nuance to Kling’s hydraulic macro economist type with a hydrodynamic metaphor.
***I actually read “The Great Transformation” months ago, procrastinated and ran out of library renewals while writing a review around the time I moved to Chicago. I do plan on eventually finishing & posting it.

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