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Economies and Fire Trucks

Introduction to Tog on Software Design, On our economy as a firetruck:

If we are to achieve the promise of the future, we must stop using the front steering wheel of our fire truck like the floating pointer of a Ouija board, as we all fight to steer at once. We need to replace random twists and turns with long-term strategies and coordinated directions.

My first thought when reading this was “planned economies seem like a great idea, but they don’t work.” Why? Because the people driving don’t seem very good at determining which way will be the best way forward; there are a lot of false starts and dead ends that the fire truck gets stuck in. My next thought was that in a market economy, we don’t have one fire truck hurtling through the streets; we have a quantum fire truck hurtling through every street, and when it finds an optimized path, we realize that one and the others fade out. Then we start over from the next crossroads. Market economies are great because they allow the entire economy to try lots of different things, and we can avoid putting all our eggs in one basket.