March 23, 2018 

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MARGINAL PHYSICAL PRODUCT: The change in the quantity of total product resulting from a unit change in a variable input, keeping all other inputs unchanged. Marginal physical product, usually abbreviated MPP, is found by dividing the change in total product by the change in the variable input. Marginal physical product usually goes by the shorter name marginal product.

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A system of extensive central government control of an economy, including organizing production and making allocation decisions. This was the popular method of allocating resources and answering the three basic questions of allocation under communism and socialism economic systems of the Soviet Union, China, and others during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
Applying the communist/socialist philosophy that private property and market allocation was "bad", central planning relied on extremely detailed plans made by government. These plans would set specific production quotas for individual products, parts, components, and inputs fabricated by all of the factories and farms across the economy. This was a daunting, complex task that required detailed production information for hundreds of thousands of different commodities.


While some attribute the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980s to the United States military build-up, the burdensome bureaucratic inefficiency of central planning played an important role, if not THE key role in this decline.

Central planning tends to be inefficient due to:

  • One, the resources used for the central planning process cannot be used to undertake actual production. In other words, a person (the planner) who spends eight hours calculating how much flour is needed to produce bread, is not actually producing any bread.

  • Two, the central planning process, being developed and implemented by mere humans, is inherently flawed. Mistakes happen. Inputs are sent to the wrong factories. A decimal point is misplaced. Too much of one good is produced and too little of another. All of these mistakes mean less output is produced with available resources.

Central Planning and Capitalism

While central planning is usually associated with communist/socialist economies it is also practiced, to a much lesser degree, by market-oriented economies such as that found in the United States. For example, the Federal Reserve System has a "central plan" for the growth of the money supply. The Department of Transportation has a "central plan" for highway construction. Almost every city has a "central plan" that specifies where different types of activities can locate within the city.

There are two main differences between "central plans" found in capitalism and communist/socialist-type central planning.

  • First, the plans found in capitalism are usually only for a segment of the economy. They do not attempt to integrate the massive amounts of information needed for an economy-wide central plan.

  • Second, planning undertaken in capitalism works within the confines of a market-based economy, making use of market efficiencies, rather than attempting to provide an alternative to the system.


Recommended Citation:

CENTRAL PLANNING, AmosWEB Encyclonomic WEB*pedia,, AmosWEB LLC, 2000-2018. [Accessed: March 23, 2018].

Check Out These Related Terms...

     | socialism | capitalism | market-oriented economy | government functions | paternalism | nationalization | planned economy | command economy | pure command economy |

Or For A Little Background...

     | economic system | communism | public sector |

And For Further Study...

     | private property | seventh rule of complexity | mixed economy | distribution standards | economic goals | three questions of allocation | pure market economy |

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