A planning grammar: turning nouns into adjectives, people into processes

Officials offered huge tax breaks to bring Volkswagen to Enterprise South industrial park in Hamilton County. Government employees believe centralized planning and big companies will bring prosperity and health to the area’s residents.

As a provincialist and quasi-yokel, I am susceptible to careful uses of grammar and subtle vocabulary by the better sort of person in charge of things.

One way artful people use the mother tongue to influence me is to turn a noun into an adjective. This method is not very fancy, but can be used well to cover the basics. The effect can be deflective of a hidden intent, to be disarming of “community members,” as we are called.

On the national scene, inflation is no longer inflation when AP writer Martin Crutsinger is finished with his day’s economic boiler plate in the Times Free Press. It is inflationary pressure. Inflation doesn’t really exist as routine policy, just pressure.

Getting Local Economy Man to love The Plan requires understanding American grammar on this point and using it to win him. Step 1: Take the word planning, a noun, and convert it into an adjective. Now, step 2. Since people on the taxpayer payroll envision themselves remaining on the job until their pensions kick in, they find the best noun to which to attach the adjective planning.

That word is — yes, process. Process is a noun. So planning process emerges.

Very possibly, Local Economy Man could be convinced to accept — even love — that. As one bullet point in a city goal list put it: “Initiate a public input process that engages many citizens throughout the region in determining where and how we want to grow.”

A planning process sounds democratic, participatory. A discordant burble of voices are whipped into a chorus.

NOTICE HOW THIS POLISHING activity, in consultation with the Harbrace handbook, removes sharp edges and applies a layer of padding. If Local Economy Man is told he is subject to a local plan, he might protest and draw his tea party friends into a demonstration. He might consult Jim Folkner and Charlie Wysong, who have taken high public profile lately in the expression of popular sovereignty. He might prowl the Lexis Nexis keyboard at the UTC library to find a cause in Title 13 of the Tennessee Code Annotated which covers state-organized planning commissions.

No one would deny there is a plan, but why admit it if you don’t have to? A plan would be boring and obvious. So, tentativeness, provisionality are injected into the concept. That’s process.

The civil engineers have tucked their pens into their shirt pockets (only one uses still a plastic pocket protector). They stick with the pencil. Pencils have erasers. Things can be changed, depending on public needs. Erasers are useful to careful people. Circumspection is a great virtue, and being able to back out of a bit of trouble reveals one has a talent for polity.

THE PEOPLE WHO organized the state of Tennessee used ink for many things, however. Read the bill of rights in the constitution. Here’s a Kodachrome postcard in the 1870 constitution that gives wanderers and explorers the lay of land at a northeast corner of the state:

That the limits and boundaries of this State be ascertained, it is declared they are as hereafter mentioned, that is to say: Beginning on the extreme height of the Stone mountain, at the place where the line of Virginia intersects it, in latitude thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north; running thence along the extreme height of the said mountain, to the place where Watauga river breaks through it; thence a direct course to the top of the Yellow Mountain, where Bright’s road crosses the same *** . (Article 1, section 31)

I’d very much like to find this Stone Mountain and traipse along Bright’s Road — sounds delightful. Maybe Jeannette and one of my boys could amble alongside.

Hope the rain holds off.

REGIONAL GOVERNMENT people, however, find such poetry laughable in the face of the modern interstate economy with its global corporate combines, its need for environmental sustainability, its interstate highways and multilayered bureaucracies. These border lines may be in ink on the surveyor’s notarized record. They may be bound in green law volumes. But they seem irrelevant, a little silly, when bigger causes come into view.

“We need everybody to be able to sit down together and talk about how we plan to grow,” said Richard Beeland, a Chattanooga official. “Collegedale is going to grow, Soddy-Daisy is going to grow. The I-75 corridor to Bradley County is going to be a very different place in the next 10 years and, if we don’t plan now, we’ll have let an opportunity slip away from us,” he told the Times Free Press in November.

He was talking about the city’s 2001 20-year growth plan and said, in a paraphrase, that a committee “is necessary to plan for imminent growth.”

The peril of growth outside the scope of public ministrations is, to the better sort of people, worth planning for. But what about declension? What about withdrawal, shrinkage? What about too few babies being born in the city, the aging of the population base, and the closing of unprofitable industry? What about the boom and bust cycle of the federal economy?

THE PERIL OF NATIONAL ECONOMY is weighed by Westpoint,Tenn., journalist and reformed Anglican clergyman Franklin Sanders, who makes a living publishing my favorite economic newsletter, The Moneychanger. Here’s how he describes the problem of people centralizing into an economic system rather than doing away with systems and plans and letting the free market exercise itself at liberty for the benefit of all vs. a self-chosen few:

The Chamber of Commerce model to promote prosperity relies on drawing industry into the community from the outside to create jobs. It aims to draw outside money into the community. This works fine, as long as outside demand for local labour remains strong. When that weakens, however, the community discovers exactly how dependent it has become on that outside money, and to what extent employment has been centralized and made vulnerable to forces outside the community.

The Chamber of Commerce’s mistake lies in (1) centralising employment, and (2) not building up the local economy from the inside out. When employment is centralized in one or two large employers that large employer sets the wage rates for everyone in the community, and not just his own employees. Obviously, employment security becomes dependent on the economic health of those large employers — not just for their employees, but for everyone else in the community through the knock-on effect.

To build up the local economy from the inside out means to encourage local people to take care of local people’s needs. Why should Tennesseans buy tomatoes in season from California? Or cigars from Florida or the Dominican Republic? Or you name it. Most of life’s necessities we can raise right here quite economically, and often with a competitive advantage. We can grow locally, produce locally, and buy locally.

When a decline comes, the problem of overdevelopment suddenly becomes stark. Everyone looks at the wreckage left from the earlier exuberance, for which the decline is a necessary corrective. One regularly overlooked cause of  “overdevelopment” is credit. Harsh declines are a function of an economy based on credit versus one founded on honest money and the stewardship implied in that stricture. Easy credit enables easy malinvestment by developers. Inflationary currency schemes always cause a misallocation of limited resources and prompt a false confidence by business people as to what a particular market will bear.

OUR INFLATIONARY paper money system violates Article 1, Section 10, of the federal constitution requiring states to circulate only gold and silver as a medium of exchange. Most people care little about the ongoing paper money crisis. But remarks about its empty-husk results are not hard to find.

A developer is trying to build a F$100 million shopping complex in Hixson and has generated much public resistance. Terri Chapin, a Hixson resident in a letter to Nooga.com, makes note of the extent of overbuilding that I would attribute at least partly to the economics of inflation: “As of March 2012, there are 49 commercially zoned vacant lots in the Hixson area. Additionally, there are 30 vacant buildings and 77 vacant storefronts, with Northgate Mall adding 19 vacant storefronts to the overall total on its premises alone.”

Turning a government plan into a planning process is an effort to win the acquiescence of us common folk. The establishment’s media’s turning inflation into inflationary pressures helps us not to worry about our daily loss of buying power as holders of dollars.

Are big credit and big government linked?


“Bernanke says lending spigots more open now,” TFP, Page C3, May 11, 2012
South Carolina League of the South, http://sclos.org., carries Mr. Sanders’ critique as an entry point to discuss political and economic decentralization and Southern independence, arguments that interest us.