Seeing Like a State

Written on May 11, 2020. Written by .

This book goes deep into a discussion of how states operate and why their central planning schemes are often very destructive. The first part of the book talks about how states attempt to make their citizens and resources more “legible”, meaning easier to measure and administrate. The second part is about “high modernism”, the naive overconfidence in science and technology. The third part is about the centrally planned attempts to modernize rural populations which had terrible consequences. The fourth part makes the case that high-level state administrators can never have the same level of first-hand practical know-how that actual practitioners develop, and this is a big explanatory factor for why central planning has such bad outcomes. The book is quite scholarly and goes deeper into certain topics than I was interested in going, so I found the book a bit boring despite the fact that I think it makes strong points on very important topics.

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