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The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future [Hardcover]

by Randal O'Toole
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 20, 2007 1933995076 978-1933995076
Drawing on 30 years of experience reviewing hundreds of government plans, Randal O'Toole shows that, thanks to government planners, American cities are choked with congestion, major American housing markets have become unaffordable, and the cost of government infrastructure is spiraling out of control. The book makes the case for repeal of federal planning laws and closure of government planning offices. Every American who worries about the insidious growth of the Nanny State must read this book.

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Editorial Reviews


O'Toole documents example after example of government planning gone hideously awry. He demolishes the widely held belief that government planners are somehow smarter or more capable of managing the future than market forces. Yet despite all evidence to the contrary, many Americans still expect the planners to miraculously get it right the next time around. Better to fire the planners and let free people, free minds and free markets use the genius of their freedom." --The Washington DC Examiner Editorial Board -- The Washington DC Examiner

"A hard-hitting, fact-filled, well-written volume. Fascinatingly, Mr. O'Toole explains why elected officials tend to favor government planning. Namely, they are happy to turn over hot issues to the planning bureaucracy rather than make the decisions -- and take the heat -- themselves." --William H. Peterson, The Washington Times -- The Washington Times

"O'Toole presents an across-the-board indictment of government planning. Whether zoning suburbs, designing rail systems or determining how much timber to cut in national forests, he says, federal, state and local planners are trying to simplify dizzyingly complex problems. Inevitably, they focus on one or two resources, fall prey to planning fads and succumb to pressure from interest groups." --Alan Cooperman, Washington Post Book World -- Washington Post Book World

As O'Toole shows, whether it's failed "smart growth" schemes, oppressive zoning policies, expensive light-rail boondoggles or mismanagement of public forests, government planners have caused us trouble and cost us freedoms. Their misguided, top-down, faddish rules and regulations have brought us higher housing prices, more-crowded roads and forests that are susceptible to diseases and catastrophic fires. O'Toole says it's time to liberate society from planners' control. -- Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 10/28/07, Bill Steigerwald

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Cato Institute (August 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933995076
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933995076
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,047,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why government planning fails. November 12, 2007
In his 48 chapters O'Toole covers a wide range of government planning efforts. Rather than a complaint only about the disastrous consequences of a specific government planning effort, he shows why such efforts are doomed by the very incentives that motivate government.

He has many years of first-hand exposure to the Congressionally mandated planning process for our national forests. He argues that the planning process has wasted over a billion dollars and severely impeded the management of those public lands. It has defocused the Forest Service so badly that they are marginally effective.

He description of the various fads that run through the ranks of urban planners are sufficient to suggest they should be called congestion enhancers. Many urban plans in the guise of "traffic calming" actually make congestion worse in the hope that people will chose a high density lifestyle. Like most urban planning this runs counter to peoples wishes. It just makes commutes more time consuming , increases gas consumption, and increases pollution.

"Smart Growth" is anything but smart and relies on substituting planners pipe dreams for the citizens personal plans and cost sensitive traffic engineering.

He includes a number of examples from Portland, Oregon where urban growth boundaries have run home costs up enough that many people settle in Washington instead. When citizens voted overwhelming against more light rail, Metro chose alternate financing and decided to build anyway. That same Metro opines "Congestion signals positive urban development."

His chapters on "The Rail Transit Hoax" and "The Benefits of the Automobile" are worth the whole cost of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Urban planning affects all and being informed on why urban planning makes the decisions it does even if they are a manifestation of overbearing government and its social engineering goals is important to be aware of. This should be required reading for all city councils and state government officials who manipulate citizens' goals and decisions regarding land use and transportation planning. Highly recommended.
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16 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More focus, please October 22, 2007
I think this book tries to do too much, especially in the middle chapters. I'd rather read a short, focused, very-well-researched book; I thought the chapters on "Peak Oil Panic" and "Building Auto Hostile Streets" were particulary weak, which makes me question the quality of the research in the rest of the book.

The wide scope of issues tackled will give critics opportunities to nit-pick, which is too bad because I think there is a lot of great information and good ideas here.
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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Government planners claim to know all, from how individuals should be living their lives to how far to live from work and how much money to make, population distribution and more. THE BEST-LAID PLANS: HOW GOVERNMENT PLANNING HARMS YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE, YOUR POCKETBOOK, AND YOUR FUTURE refutes these claims, offering damning evidence on government planning gone awry - and what to do about it. Theory blends with case studies to create an analysis perfect for college-level classroom debate, making THE BEST-LAID PLANS a top pick for any college-level political science or American history collection.

Diane C. Donovan
California Bookwatch
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Best Laid Plans May 28, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I make my living working with city and county planners. This is a must read for all who must do that. It demonstrates professionally what a cry in America has become -- "Get government off our backs." The lays out a clear case of how the least qualified hold sway over the most qualified.
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