Don Lavoie: The Failures of Socialist Central Planning

Originally published in The Independent Review

Don Lavoie died in 2001 at the age of fifty from pancreatic cancer. I mention this sad fact because I sincerely believe that had he not had this untimely death, there would be no need for me to write this essay. All readers of The Independent Review would have known Lavoie's work. He would have continued to influence students for a generation or two with his teaching and mentorship. And he would have completed his methodological book and his social theory treatise. Lavoie would have become a household name among scholars in the humanities and the social sciences, especially among classical liberals and libertarian intellectuals.

As it is, Lavoie died before the age of social media fully kicked in. We do not have a good record of his lectures on YouTube, and many of his publications remain behind the paywalls of scholarly journals. His two main books, Rivalry and Central Planning The Socialist Calculation Debate Revisited and National Economic Planning: What is Left?, became since their publication in the 1980s prohibitively difficult to obtain until the Mercatus Center republished them. But Lavoie made serious contributions to Austrian economics and to the analysis of comparative economic systems that were recognized within the mainstream of economic and political science scholarship. In addition, Lavoie made serious contributions, which I will talk about, in the disciplines of philosophy of science, computer science, and social theory.

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