Throughout his considerable body of work, William Easterly has identified several critical problems with foreign aid and economic development programmes. In particular, he argues that many working in areas of development act as ‘planners’, who believe they can implement effective policies but who in fact lack the necessary knowledge. Moreover, Easterly claims that these agents face perverse incentives that lead to suboptimal development outcomes. This article explores the theoretical roots of Easterly's critiques and relates them to the work of two Nobel prize-winning economists, F.A. Hayek and James M. Buchanan. It explores the broader applicability of Easterly's criticisms by applying a similar framework to military activity.