Shitload of planners @ Dunedin #conferencejunket

Over the rainbow - NZPI Conference 2016 - Dunedin (12-15 April)Official Image: NZPI Conference 2016 (12-15 April), Dunedin

“Power attracts pathological people. It’s not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the pathological.” –Frank Herbert

One for us, and them:

From the archives at Bonner & Partners (USA):
It’s about something that affects us all in ever greater measure – the arrogance of central planners.

From BB’s Diary:
Bill Bonner, Chairman – April 13, 2016


We’re still thinking about how so many smart people came to believe things that aren’t true.

They believe they can manipulate the future and make it better. Not just for themselves… but also for everyone else.

Where did such a silly idea come from?

After the Renaissance, Aristotelian logic came to dominate Western thought. It was essentially a forerunner of positivism – which is supposedly based on objective conditions and scientific reasoning.

“Give me the facts,” says the positivist, confidently.

“Let me apply my rational brain to them. I will come up with a solution!”


This is fine, if you are building the Eiffel Tower or organising the next church supper.

But positivism falls apart when it is applied to schemes that go beyond the reach of the “herald’s cry”.

That’s what Aristotle said: Only a small community would work. Because only in a small community would all the people share more or less the same information and interests.

In a large community, you can’t know things in the same direct, personal way. You have no idea who made your sausage or what they put in it. You have to rely on “facts” that are no longer verifiable by direct observation or personal acquaintance.

So it’s hard for people to work together in the same way.

In a large community, central planners’ “facts” are nothing more than statistical mush, wishful thinking, and theoretical claptrap – like WMD, GDP, the unemployment rate, and the Übermensch.

Large-scale planning fails because the facts upon which it is built are always unreliable and often completely bogus.

It fails also because people don’t really want it.


In a small community, the planners and the people they are planning for are close enough to share the same goals.

But in a large community, the planners are a small minority.

And in a large community, the planners usually have their own agenda… often a hidden one.

They call for stricter law enforcement… while getting campaign contributions from the prison industry. They seek a cure for cancer… and depend on the pharmaceutical industry for job offers. They promote a united Europe… and hope to be its head man.

Large-scale planning provides almost countless opportunities for corruption. But it’s not the dirty dealing that dooms it. It is that the planners don’t know (or care) what people really want… and don’t have the means or the information necessary to achieve it anyway.

As Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich von Hayek observed, the “public information” used by central planners is empty… and most often misleading. But the problem is much more basic than the quality of the information or the corruption involved.

When we think of what people “want”, we are not talking about their conscious, stated desires. We are speaking of what they might be able to get… if allowed to do so… given the facts on the ground.

People in Hell may want ice cream; they won’t get it. But people will do the best they can with what they have to work with.

Large-scale central planners can’t help them. Partly because they don’t know what the conditions in the man’s private Hell really are. And partly because they don’t have any ice cream.

You might better describe this process of getting as much of what you want as possible as the progress wrought by evolution, where trials and errors result in “the best we can do”.

Not perfect. Not the end of history. Just another step toward a future that is unknowable.


Large-scale central planners fail because they believe three things that aren’t true…

First… that they understand the current conditions (wants, desires, hopes, capabilities, resources) of the community they are planning for.

Second… that they know what the community’s future ought to be.

Third… that they are capable of creating the future they want.

None of those things is more than mere illusion. Together, they constitute what Hayek described as the “fatal conceit that man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes”.

Central planners cannot know current conditions because that would require an infinite amount of information. It would require, as British philosopher Samuel Bailey wrote in 1840, “minute knowledge of a thousand particulars which will be learnt by nobody but he who has an interest in knowing them”.

The planners have nothing like that. Instead, they have a body of public knowledge, which, as we have seen, is nothing more than popular theories, claptrap, and statistical guesswork.

As to the second point – that the central planners are blessed with some gift that tells them what the future should be for complete strangers – we pass over it without argument.


Of course, each man always does his best, at his own level, to shape his world in a way that pleases him.

One will want a wife… and likely get one. One will want a fortune… and maybe get it, if he is lucky and diligent. One will want to spend his time playing golf… that too, may be within his means.

Each will try. Each will win, lose, or draw, depending upon the circumstances.

And the future will happen.

But the central planner steps in to try to impose his version of the future. This is a huge mistake.

Where evolution is taking us, no one knows. But the large-scale central planner thinks he knows where it ought to go… and he doesn’t mind giving it a shove, disrupting the plans of millions of people in the process.

And as soon as the smallest bits of time and resources are shanghaied for the central planner’s ends rather than those of individual planners, the rate of evolutionary progress slows.

The trials that would have otherwise taken place are postponed or canceled. The errors that might have been revealed and corrected are not discovered.

The future has to wait…


But the real danger is this: People are easy to deceive, especially when they only have access to “public information”.

Out of range of the herald’s voice, they have no more idea of what is going on than the planners.

They are encouraged to believe that the collective plans are beneficial. Often, they go along with the gag – for decades – even as the evidence of their daily lives contradicts its premises and undermines its promises.

Even worse: To encourage compliance, ruthless planners – think Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong-il – begin purges, cleansings, regulations, famines, deportations, disappearances, tortures, drone attacks, and mass murders.

But their plans are wrecked anyway. Because not only do they retard the future, they also don’t lead to the outcome the planners expect.


Typically, the designers argue that the people must make sacrifices but that it will all come right in the end.

As Lenin said, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.”

People go along with breaking a few eggs (particularly if they belong to someone else) for a while. Ultimately, the problem is the omelet: It never makes it to the table.

No “workers’ paradise” ever happens. The War on Drugs (or Poverty… or Crime… or Terror… or Cancer) ends in a defeat, not a victory. Unemployment does not go down.

And if any of these grand programs “succeeds” it does so at a cost that is far out of balance with the reward.

Why do these plans fail?

Because that’s not the way the world works.

Life on Earth is not so rational that it lends itself to simpleminded, heavy-handed intervention of the naïve social engineer. Bridges are designed. So are houses. And particle accelerators. Economies are not.

It is also true that humans can design and achieve a certain kind of future. If the planners at the Pentagon, for example, decided that a nuclear war would be a good thing, they could bring it about. The effects would be huge. And hugely effective.

But this is the only kind of alternative future that planners are capable of delivering – one that pulverises the delicate fabric of evolved civilised life.


The article has been reproduced whole and in part at a number of news sites. It originally appeared at Daily Reckoning (April 25, 2013).

█ Source:

Profile: Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success in numerous industries. His unique writing style, philanthropic undertakings and preservationist activities have been recognised by some of America’s most respected authorities. With his friend and colleague Addison Wiggin, he co-founded The Daily Reckoning in 1999, and together they co-wrote the New York Times best-selling books Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. His other works include Mobs, Messiahs and Markets (with Lila Rajiva), Dice Have No Memory, and most recently, Hormegeddon: How Too Much of a Good Thing Leads to Disaster. His most recent project is The Bill Bonner Letter.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


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16 responses to “Shitload of planners @ Dunedin #conferencejunket

  1. Gurglars


    And the worst one can allow is for them to coalesce and meet at a conference. Because they all get the same dose of megalomania.

    Thus we have empty cycleways littering the roads of Australia and New Zealand so that cars cannot park near the short term places they wish to visit. The mall type of shopping suits the public service because they are locked and loaded into an office desk. But private businesses, particularly small business entrepeneurs need to be able to complete many tasks at many different locations on a daily basis. That is why Dunedin now has less new businesses and many failing businesses because their type of customers and themselves have had the ease of transport movement and relocation taken away from them by cyclists, traffic lights and reduced parking spaces near shops. Cyclists aren’t in the most place customers. Try taking a fridge home or the groceries or even an icecream on a bike. Now it is much easier to go to the hospital on a bike because one can park and lock the bike near to the hospital, but how many older people can or would ride a bike to hospital – for dialysis, for having a new leg fitted, for an eye examination etc etc. Such people need a car, and thus a parking space that is not going to cost them $100 per day to park and wait their term.

    Now that is a problem that the conference planners could resolve at the Dunedin conference. One that would benefit ratepayers, not add to their costs.

  2. Elizabeth


    ANGER as Local and National Mainstream Media blindly stir up POLITICAL POSTURING in Election Year

    The low-lying suburb is plagued by the threat of rising groundwater, coastal erosion and poor housing stock.

    Fri, 15 Apr 2016
    ODT: ‘Leadership needed’ over South Dunedin’s future
    A collaborative “urban development approach” could be the answer for South Dunedin, Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford says. The Te Atatu MP mooted the idea during his keynote address to the New Zealand Planning Institute’s annual conference in Dunedin yesterday. […] Speaking to the Otago Daily Times after his address, he said it was “way too early” to speculate on whether South Dunedin’s issues meant the area needed to be abandoned or whether the government could step in to save it.

    At the conference on Wednesday, parliamentary commissioner for the environment Jan Wright said South Dunedin presented the “most troubling example” of high groundwater levels in the country and the area also faced issues of rising seas and coastal erosion. […] Dr Wright’s report – Preparing New Zealand for Rising Seas – said high water levels in Dunedin, which were one-in-100-year events at present, could be expected every two years if the sea level rose 30cm. A 30cm rise was the minimum expected over the next 50 years and much of South Dunedin was 50cm above sea level or less, she said.

    What if? Dunedin readers could take the opportunity to refute the repeated allegation that rising ground water and climate change is affecting or will strongly impact South Dunedin.

    Meanwhile DCC has a responsibility to NOT DELAY mitigation work to prevent coastal erosion at St Clair / Ocean Beach. The hands-off sluggish approach is not working. That means as a PRIORITY the seawall at the Esplanade has to be replaced with an appropriate structure(s); and dune protection northwards along the beach has to be put in place immediately – it is nearly that simple. REPRIORITISED DCC BUDGETS.

  3. Elizabeth

    The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill was “the sort of Bill you want to have a damp towel around your head when you read it”.

    Thu, 14 Apr 2016
    ODT: RMA architect slams ‘tinkering’ by govts
    Former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer has panned the “tinkering” of successive governments in regards to the Resource Management Act. Sir Geoffrey, who was architect of the Act, was a keynote speaker at the New Zealand Planning Institute’s annual conference at the Dunedin Town Hall yesterday. […] Elements of the proposed Bill were “likely to pave the way for untransparent dirty deals which compromise the quality of our fresh waterways, lakes, rivers and streams”.

    █ Palmer calls for a change in how New Zealand manages the natural environment. “The polluters don’t pay and those who are harmed by the pollution aren’t compensated.”

  4. Calvin Oaten

    Members of the Institute of Planning will be salivating at the prospect of getting into the ‘gravy’ of the “great campaign to save South Dunedin”, not to mention all low lying areas of New Zealand from the “ravages of sea level rising” at least 30cm in the near future. This, as predicated by no less than Dr Jan Wright in her report to government. This report simply cherry picks details of note from the IPCC’s dire predictions based on guestimates and computer models (not meeting outcomes) which in turn are nothing more than the fantasising of the Agenda 21 “Planners”. Planning is the bane of modern day bureaucratic tampering that befuddles politicians’ thinking as manifested in the ramblings of Labour spokesman Phil Twyford in his ‘keynote address’, “urban development approach”, as being an answer for South Dunedin’s being plagued by the threat of rising groundwater, coastal erosion and poor housing stock. Again, a hit at the folk residing in South Dunedin. All of this is a Planner’s delight offering riches on into the future, despite there being not a skerrick of empirical evidence of any measurable sea rise beyond around 1.4mm per annum over the last 110 years. This is empirical as demonstrated by the Otago Harbour Board’s meticulous tidal records. Our local council seems to have already consigned South Dunedin to the ‘too hard basket’ and concedes victory to the ‘sea rise’ mantra.
    A true local confirmation of the paper as detailed by Bill Bonner above.

  5. Hype O'Thermia

    Sea level as the explanation for flooding is as logical as attributing obesity to fats, then remediating by producing “low fat” foods full of sugars to compensate for the flavour and mouthfeel that fats used to provide.

    Other information needs to be taken into consideration.

    Are all parts of NZ in the same place, in relation to latitude and longitude, and to other parts of NZ, as they were 100 years ago?
    Are some parts moving in different ways to others?
    Are all parts of NZ rising, sinking, tilting, sliding, identically?

    Elsewhere in the world, do islands appear where there use to be no island? Not counting the man-made ones….
    Does history record the disappearance of islands?
    Does history record the disappearing of parts of land masses, cliffs crumbling into the sea for instance, and what anthropogenic factors if any were causative agents in those cases?

  6. Elizabeth


    She fudged NZ child care, and now….

    Wed, 13 Apr 2016
    ODT: NZ to sign historic climate agreement
    Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett will head to New York next week to sign New Zealand up to a historic climate agreement. Ms Bennett said the signing ceremony at the United Nations on April 22, which 130 countries will participate in, was another step towards ratifying the Paris Agreement.

  7. Calvin Oaten

    Paula Bennett has obviously brought all of her own research, study, and all of the empirical data that’s available on the subject of ‘man caused’ climate change together, in order to evaluate the urgency of limiting the temperature rise of the earth’s environment to no more than 1.5deg C this century. After a good deal of soul searching, she decided that travelling to New York in person (business class) would be the fit and proper way to demonstrate NZ’s dedication to the saving of the planet (even going the hard way) by personally signing the ‘non binding document’. Good on her I say, and I have no doubt our civic ‘nitwits’ will endorse her actions.

  8. JimmyJones

    Good questions, Hype O’Thermia. LINZ (Land Information NZ) need to keep track of land movements because it messes up their maps. They tell us that Otago is moving North-West (towards Australia) by 50mm each year. Other parts of the country are also moving, but not in the same direction. Dunedin has less sea-level rise than other cities because we have up-lift. There is an up-rising.
    The very well informed P Foster has an ODT comment here » (South Dunedin flood risk ‘an issue’)
    There are two comments from me there as well and hopefully another one here » (‘Leadership needed’ over South Dunedin’s future).

    • Elizabeth

      JimmyJones – thanks again for commonsense reminders that all is not Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne). ODT Link

      On another tack
      If published here, a comment I made today to P Foster’s informed comments at ODT Online (minus a simple typo!), would have the lawn tennis association sue my pants off for their thrill of it – how perfect, typically, are they at not offending the Dunedin Public (!!). Stripes of a suit might travel the other way up thin hairy skin. Meantime, the association enjoys the concession to wear Lycra shorts all it likes out cycling since there’s nothing too much there, to bulge [ ]. Hear tell, in any case, the preference is for frilly bloomers to cover constructively tucked-in letters about the Land Transfer Act.

      Bill to Modernise Land Transfer Legislation (Last Updated: 1 March 2016)

  9. padre defrocked

    Before the Renaissance was Scholasticism. All learning was theology based and you were unlucky, I mean lucky, to get into an Abbey. The Renaissance was a big Italian outfit, great Art, but appalling top down corruption from Medici.

  10. Kleinefeldmaus

    April 15, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    “Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett said the signing ceremony at the United Nations on April 22, which 130 countries will participate in, was another step towards ratifying the Paris Agreement.”

    Agree to what?

    In spite of the claims about saving the planet, there is little of substance. Much of the Agreement has to do with noble intentions:

    “Each Party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions.” (Article 4.2)

    Legally binding? No!

    It is an exercise in accounting and advertising. Spin doctors anyone?

    “Parties shall account for their nationally determined contributions. In accounting for anthropogenic emissions and removals corresponding to their nationally determined contributions, Parties shall promote environmental integrity, transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency, and ensure the avoidance of double counting – -.” (Article 4.13)

    So they will do a lot of talking? – well they would wouldn’t they ….politicians.

    Unresolved is what to do about the big emitters who have emerged since 1992, when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change came into being.

    Saying “Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention.” (Article 9.1), but there is no clarity of who is ‘Developed’ and who ‘Developing’. Which category does China and India fit into?

    And then: from Article 28:

    “1. At any time after three years from the date on which this Agreement has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Agreement by giving written notification – -. 2. Any such withdrawal shall take effect upon expiry of one year from the date of receipt – – of the notification of withdrawal, – -”

    An agreement from which you can opt out any time you feel so inclined? That’s no agreement!

    So what is Paula Bennett going to sign up to? Does she know?

    • Elizabeth

      I was happy to see major dents in the Paula Bennett political trajectory following Minister Anne Tolley’s speedy address to the plight of vulnerable children in state care once the portfolio was taken off Bennett – who had dawdled for a very long time and achieved precisely nothing. Very telling!

      • Kleinefeldmaus

        Well Elizabeth here is a bit more for her to think on about
        Have your say – Vote on Myworld
        The United Nations wants to know what matters most to you – so it says.
        What People are concerned about
        9,723,169 sample
        Data Last Updated
        Fri Apr 15 2016 17:32:46 GMT+1200 (New Zealand Standard Time)
        Male (4,935,285)
        Female (4,643,170)

        9,723,169 votes for All Countries & Country Groups / All Genders / All Education Levels / Age Group (All Age Groups)
        A good education
        Better healthcare
        Better job opportunities
        An honest and responsive government
        Affordable and nutritious food
        Protection against crime and violence
        Access to clean water and sanitation
        Support for people who can’t work
        Better transport and roads
        Equality between men and women
        Reliable energy at home
        Political freedoms
        Freedom from discrimination and persecution
        Protecting forests, rivers and oceans
        Phone and internet access
        Action taken on climate change
        As you can see this is at the bottom of the heap – the UN says so!
        So What are Paula Bennett’s priorities I wonder

  11. pb

    I’m not so sure these planners have the winged-monkey aspect portrayed. They seem mostly small cogs. Victorian Dunedin pumped out some amazing buildings. Some of that at least was guided by the state. Maybe the current org-structure is flawed, touched on by the central planning observations in the article above. Can we go back and try what worked? More autonomy vested locally? Sure you’ll get some mistakes, but occasionally a thing of wonder. Creative people can’t function as part of the cyborg collective.

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