Much of an individual's enthusiasm for economic and social planning can be explained by the aesthetic appeal of map over territory. Perhaps all of it. Such a person may mistake the plan's informational purity, in other words its informational poverty, for freedom from error and waste, not perhaps appreciating that mistakes and misdirected effort are inherent to the real world, and part of its wealth of redemptive opportunity in the face of changing circumstance and emergency.

Furthermore, insofar as enthusiasts for planning are able to enforce the plan's purity, weaken the population under their direction. This is obvious, as already observed, the variety of intellectual content (some of it plain error in the prevailing situation) makes that society able to respond to changes and crises that emerge in spite of the plan. What seems like redundancy and waste today proves to be indispensable tomorrow; the faults of this decade turn out to be insights of the next.

The concept of Excluded Context is also relevant here. In creations governed by aesthetic principles it is clear that we guillotine off or edit out information that pollutes the tableau. The exclusion of the territory beyond the margin of the picture, the aggressive framing of the photograph, the abrupt start and end of the novel, the lost context of the lyric poem, are not losses that any one would restore. Similarly, the 'plan' tends to presume a static, bounded, even atemporal, society in a state of evil, that must be corrected to bring it a similarly fixed state of virtue, a state that is, by definition, insusceptible to unexpected internal development or external shocks. This is irresponsible negligence by any standard, but it is surprisingly common, and the history of economic planning provides many examples, the sad history of the Soviet Union being one long case in point.

This suggestion, that economic planning has a strong aesthetic dimension, will strike many as prima facie misconceived; the dismal science is utterly lacking in joy (and some would say, I think correctly, that this deficiency is evidence that it is not yet a science). But there is more to aesthetics than simple delight, and in any case economics yields intellectual pleasures that are sufficient to motivate my thesis. After all, economic planning resembles all systematic philosophy in offering the reader the potential of intellectually apprehending a world that otherwise lies beyond our grasp, and the reward is pleasure of a kind, and aesthetic therefore.

The comparison with philosophy takes us a little further: like a pure philosophical system 'Planning' must be couched at a level of abstraction so high that it can make plausible claims to universal descriptive, explanatory, and predictive power. It is this level of abstraction that renders such aesthetically persuasive systems open to error, for some phenomena are so complex that even only moderately abstract accounts are only very approximately true, however pleasing they may seem to be. And in the realm of economics this approximate nature is more or less fatal, since micro-economic phenomena are so important to the Plan and are the source of developments that may lead to system-wide transformations that leave the Plan irrelevant.

The aesthetic attractions of fiction, that it presents hyper-integrated networks of causal relations with little or no redundancy is also true of economic plans. Moreover, just as the fictional scheme, which neither needs nor should have an end, is shielded from the problem of infinite extension by arbitrary termination, all 'Plans' have a state in which no further change that is worthy of notice is deemed possible. History comes to an end and, absurdly, all concerned live happily ever after.

Finally, for now, it should never be forgotten that novels are written for the satisfaction and pleasure of those outside the story, for the author and the reader. Plans, too, are aesthetic in this respect; they serve the interests of those making the plans and observing them, and these are interests not in any simple or pecuniary sense (though such things are not quite completely irrelevant). Plans, like novels, are a joy to behold, rich in significant links and satisfyingly comprehensible, unplagued by clutter, unknowns, unknowables, dead-ends, delays, waste, and needless duplications. Most satisfyingly of all they have a sense of purposeful termination, the arbitrary stop that is dressed as a necessary and inevitable closure delivering Peace, Stability, the Just Society.