In The Freeman Again
F. A. Hayek, in “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” used distributed, or idiosyncratic, knowledge—the unique situational knowledge possessed by each individual—as an argument against state central planning.
Milton Friedman’s dictum about “other people’s money” is well known. People are more careful and efficient in spending their own than other people’s money, and likewise in spending money on themselves more so than in spending money on other people.
A third insight is that people act most efficiently when they completely internalize the positive and negative results of their actions.
The corporate hierarchy violates all of these principles in a manner quite similar to the bureaucracy of a socialist state. Those at the top make decisions concerning a production process about which they likely know as little as did, say, the chief of an old Soviet industrial ministry.
The employees of a corporation, from the CEO down to the worker on the shop floor, are spending other people’s money, or using other people’s resources, for other people. Its managers, as Adam Smith observed 200 years ago, are “managers rather of other people’s money than of their own.”By its nature, the corporation substitutes administrative incentives for what Oliver Williamson called the “high powered incentives” of the market: effort and productivity are separated from reward.