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Statistics in Economic Planning

Nature volume 134, page 245 (18 August 1934) | Download Citation



IN Planning of July 17 (16 Queen Anne's Gate, London, S.W.I) emphasis is laid on the importance of settling economic and social problems, so far as possible, by reference to ascertained facts, rather than by the dim light of ancient tradition or with the aid of a flash of alleged inspiration. But if the fact-finding method is to prevail, certain conditions must be first satisfied. It is necessary to have a technique for collecting and publishing accurately and promptly the right information in the right form. Planning essentially consists of organising knowledge, and bringing it effectively to bear on current problems of economics, politics and sociology. Here is one of the most obvious contrasts between planning and laissez-faire. Laissez-faire assumed a process of automatic and almost unconscious growth. A few inquisitive persons, such as Bagehot, might occasionally inquire how the system worked, and which way it was going; but opinion on the whole was indifferent, if not hostile, to the gathering, publication and use of systematic facts and figures. The intense secrecy and suspicion still so often encountered when such information is required, is a survival of this prejudice. The forces now at work are tending to break down this obscurantism, so that one of the most notable features of the present time is the sudden growth of statistics and information services. In certain directions, however, necessary statistics have barely begun to be provided. There is no adequate index of the huge changes in the structure of society which have occurred in the past twenty years, and are still occurring under our eyes. Large-scale planning demands a vast expansion of statistics and information services. Some expansion is taking place, but it is at present completely unco-ordinated, and there are immense gaps.

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