You have heard much about central economic planning over the last year of the failed Bush administration and will hear even more in the coming months of the Obama presidency. In both cases they will be wrong and against your best interest. Here is why.
A free society and a free market requires not just voluntary exchange, but informed voluntary exchange. In a voluntary exchange, all parties benefit from a transaction. The role for government is to protect the freedoms of everyone to enter into voluntary exchanges. Government would work to prevent fraud, it will protect contracts of all kinds. This enables people to have lawful protection while doing business with another party that they do not personally know.
When Central Planning begins, it accidentally removes many of the fundamental components of free and informed exchange. Central Economic Planning can attempt to make things "fair" by fixing a price, or fixing a wage. The price of something in a free market can tell a consumer immediately if it is a good deal. If the price is too high there may not be a market for it, if it's too low it may lend information about the quality or reliability of the product. These are decisions that you and I make a thousand times as consumers.
Once "fairness" or "stimulus" has been added to the market, the ability to make an informed decision about an exchange becomes more difficult. When a price becomes fixed, or more money or credit is allowed into the system, all the information we seek becomes harder to find.
The other piece of the exchange disappears as well. The "free" part of the exchange goes away with choice. After an industry has gone under the wisdom of central planning it's not long before the winners and losers in the industry are chosen by bureaucrats rather than consumers. Protectionist policies, tariffs, regulation and bailouts all lead to a reduction in choice by the consumer. It isn't long before the consumer loses the freedom to exchange with whomever they wish...after only a few choices remain.
The heart of a free society is the voluntary and informed exchange. Once a government compromises this then believe me...there are no free markets. President Obama would do well to ignore central planning and work hard to build a government that enforces fraud and tirelessly protects the rights of people to voluntarily exchange with one another.