This scene is from a YouTube video peddling the concept of regional planning.

This scene is from a YouTube video peddling the idea of regional planning.

By David Tulis

Survey results by the marketing company behind Thrive 2055 help us enter into the larger agenda of having a gaggle of 16 area counties join forces to create a new identity.

The government-funded program is designed to induce the mass of people who pay taxes in Hamilton and other counties to improve their lobbying of an insolvent national government in Washington. “With economic prosperity comes a requirement to invest in managed growth and suitable infrastructures,” says a City Scope magazine story about Thrive 2055. The program assumes a continuity of federal funding and a persistent dependence on the national tax and borrowing machine whose F$17 trillion in paper debt was rebuked in the Tennessee senate this week.

The 20 survey questions published in the document induce the participant to think within the framework of regional planning and an external organizing force for life, education, business and other formulations of modern society.

Several Clarion Associates questions are artfully ambiguous or offer a subtle argument. “I value a region that celebrates an economic win for one community as a win for all communities” says one. “I value great educational opportunities through our public schools and universities,” says another. “I value regional collaboration, having partners from diverse backgrounds and professions come together to proactively work towards moving our region forward in a positive fashion *** I value peaceful, family oriented and friendly communities with religious based values, a rich history and culture, and great urban and outdoor life.”

These statements seem to ingratiate the Thrive 2055 agenda with the respondent. Other questions account for skeptics of central planning, but seem to establish important ambiguities that keep the process humming along. “I value the protection of private property rights when planning for the future.” Note, planning for the future is assumed, only we want you to understand that we will respect “property rights.” Another question is: “I value the preservation of autonomy for local governments (cities and counties) in controlling their own future.” This statement is fuzzy. Does a county control its future, or do its people? Government-centrism leaks from this one. “I value a ‘can do’ attitude toward improving the quality of life and opportunities in this region.” Can do means government. “I value public involvement in planning for the future.” Is public involvement a reference to the people, or to commercial government?

How consensus is created

Thrive 2055 as a lobbying arm for soft-law government has everything going for it. The planning process uses the Delphi system to manufacture consensus among the citizenry. You are part of a client system, and so am I. We are part of a solid, massageable whole.

The free market, in contrast, is comprised of tens of thousands of people living their lives without trying to create an organization for a public purpose. They are minding their own business and are united in a single purpose, serving their customers and supporting their families. Operating in the self-interest of the marketplace, their interests are diffuse and they are not organized. They can be pushed aside by a dedicated minority with an agenda.

Working against the simplicity and seeming chaos of the private world and free market, the Chattanoogans and others organized for action operate in concert to bring about the beauty of planning. They imagine they are wiser than the thousands of actors who make up the marketplace. They want to manage change as “change agents,” to use a term popular in the 1970s. Their work in process and in result is behavioral management.

The Delphi technique was developed with the help of Rand Corp. in the 1950s as a technique for creating forecasts from a panel of experts. The focus group, handled by a facilitator, answer rounds of questions. Its members are encouraged to revise earlier answers in light of a growing consensus toward an acceptable answer. Adapted for use among common Americans, the “visioning” method lets elites steer “public conversations” to conclusions judged best fitting for the larger “community good.” The method was developed in federally funded public school reform programs in the 1980s. When used in professional teacher events, it was dubbed the Alinsky method.

Agitation + propaganda = softened resistance

Thrive 2055 is effectively an agitator organization to build the guise of support for political centralization and continuing dependency on Washington. Because it has a centralized perspective, it insists on a formula of social planning that ignores the geopolitical trend of decentralization, one that is wrecking old media, university and schooling structures, and threatening monetary and other commercial cartels.

Brian Anderson, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in Dalton, Ga., and an overseer of the program, assumes that the marketplace is puny and unresponsive, that government planners must step in.

“If we don’t plan, we are at the mercy of being reactive. There are horror stories in Columbus, Georgia. When Kia came in, they needed more schools, roads, water. You can’t build that stuff overnight.”

Sources: Michael E. Haskew, “Thrive 2055,” CityScope magazine online (undated story). See earlier stories, including this brief analysis that explains the 2055 program and is the first of three parts.

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