Visionaries are back

Vision n. A mental image produced by the imagination.
Visionary adj. Having the nature of fantasies or dreams; illusory. One who is given to impractical or speculative ideas; a dreamer.

Economic seers are back in town; actually, they never went away. They lurk in the social fabric like mold in damp cloth. Central planners have been gathering in “steering committees” for decades dreaming of where and how people should live, work and play. Right here in River City dreamers seek to know “what type of development the community wants” and presume to plan “where business development should occur.”

The usual suspects (self-identified “stakeholders”) show up for a new joint city-county initiative, discussed and promoted by the Wilmington (N.C.) StarNews Editorial Board. (link)

A mental image-producing consultant will be hired to help city and county “community leaders” identify what kind of utopian place they might envision over the next few years. In reality no one person or group of people has any clue about the future, but political operatives and those who want to influence them will take on this illusory task.

That being performed by a few anointed visionaries: looking into crystal balls hoping to see how hundreds of thousands of individuals should be placed and perform according to an ideal plan—a presumptive mission that has failed in collectivist societies for centuries.

Local central planners and their misguided supporters have crafted “Vision 2020,” land-use plans, zoning rules, coastal “management” and other schemes to herd citizen cats into conformity. Constant complaints, revisions and waivers evidence that they don’t work. Why? Because visions of an anointed few can’t represent or replace thousands of visions and individual plans of people free to decide themselves where and how they want to live and work.

Even StarNews editors seem to partly get it: “But all the planning in the world and all the well-intentioned business groups in this community (or anywhere else) can’t pave a path for the region’s future if leaders fail to act on the recommendations…with a unified voice,” they write. But that leads to coercion.

The editor’s qualifier infers that to make us conform to the limited (and limiting) visions of a select few elite, our dear leaders must pave the way to their imaginary future with government rules and regulations. As the late, famed economist Milton Friedman said, “The self-interest of people in government leads them to behave in a way that is against the self-interest of the rest of us.”


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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