Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Shaping A Better Future

If you've never watched this excellent documentary on how Soviet planning came unstuck, I urge you to set aside 45 mins and do so.

It's from the BBC Pandora's Box series, made in the early 90s, so they were actually able to interview real-life Soviet planners inside Gosplan.

I challenge your jaw not to fall open as these guys struggle to set 25 million separate prices and plan everything from the number of bristles in toothbrushes to how far each taxi-driver can travel in a month.

And while you're watching, see how many parallels you can spot with Labour's demented attempts to shape a better society through its vast array of plans and targets. I'm sure I spotted Millipede's grandad among the comrade engineers, and I'll bet MI5 have arrest targets just like the KGB used to have.

Although there are some hilarious sequences- like the attempt to plan the deployment of pantyhose by Soviet womanhood- ultimately you feel rather sorry for these well meaning but deluded people. Especially the ones who still believe the "scientific" approach to shaping human behaviour can somehow be made to work.

And as I watched Bottler's shaky (and shaky handed) performance against Dave in the Commons today, I wondered whether a modern day free market Russian TV crew might be even now making a documentary about the failure of socialist planning here in the People's Republic of Britannia.

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