Wrong Way – Go Back

By S.D. Plissken | June 3, 2019

Wrong Way SignIt was announced last year that the State had postponed the long-awaited replacement of the Milton-Lebanon bridge for a further two years

At the time, some Town officials put forward a theory that this would not have happened if only we were represented on the Strafford County Planning Commission. They are wrong, of course.

Logically Fallacious

Central planning can never work, because of Hayek’s “Knowledge Problem.” It is a logically impossible. I pointed this out formerly (Milton and the Knowledge Problem), but the Town government clings to its pet notion regardless.

Such methods survive partly through a need to control and order the world (and people) around its adherents. St. Augustine termed it the libido dominandi: the lust for domination.

Town planners might serve us better in figuring out how to deal with their own Town messes: “Lockhart Field,” the Emma Ramsey Center’s failing foundation, invasive plants, unsustainable budget increases, etc. I have heard even that we have a toxic bloom in town.

There is plenty to occupy their time without attempting to plan and direct our economic lives.

We have spoken to government interventions in the market before (PawSox Put One Over the Fence). These hot-house creations must  be perpetually tended. Even so, they will fail to thrive when market forces change or if there is a better offer. Milton need look no further for instructive examples than its own economic history. (As transcribed by Ms. Bristol).

Empirically Disproven

Propping Up Marginal Businesses

Some portion of Milton Mills’ residents engaged at shoe-making at home, at least part-time, with components shipped in from outside. This might have been the economically viable level of production. You see, while Milton Mills had an ample supply of water power (Milton Water Power in 1885), as did many places in New England, it was easily five miles from the railhead at Union station.

A group of wealthier Milton Mills residents sought to “encourage” the establishment of a shoe factory in 1888. (They had wanted this since at least 1864). They purchased a disused factory building (with their own money) and offered it – free of charge – to anyone who would set up such a shoe factory in Milton Mills. The townspeople even voted to relieve the factory of all taxation – thus taking that tax burden upon themselves – for a period of ten years.

But it was not enough. Transport costs, and the limitations of a village-level (“country”) labor pool, and other factors, all required wages that were lower than those paid in the city. That occasioned discontent and the subsidized factory did not even last a year (Milton Mills Shoe Strike of 1889).

Their Ends Do Not Align with Ours

Federal central planners wanted a military road network like the Autobahn they so admired when conquering Germany. So, they created the Federal Interstate highway system. For their own reasons. Any benefits for the civilian areas through which it passed were purely incidental.

Milton enjoyed a twenty-year tourist boom when the Spaulding Turnpike funneled an increased number of people right though its business district. That ended when the Federal and State central planners bypassed Milton in the next phase of their construction (Milton and the Spaulding Turnpike).

Those planners did nothing to either help or hurt Milton. They simply did not care. They were as oblivious to Milton’s needs in diverting the traffic away from here as they had been in directing it here in the first place. Our needs are just not in their plans.

Since then, our own Town planners have for some reason worked diligently in ensuring that Milton experiences no economic resurgence. They have planned that we remain a bedroom community only and that is what they have largely achieved.

There are fewer businesses here than when they first set out to “plan” in 1982, and there is certainly much less economic activity here now than at any time since the so-called Gilded Age. One wonders how much of their oeuvre would survive if the whole package were put to a vote.

Why should we continue to abide by the unsuccessful plans of these Town, County, State, Federal, and, now, even international planners? There is simply no reason at all for us to do so.

Alton Shows the Way

On Alton’s 2014 ballot, resident petitioners placed warrant articles on the ballot to eliminate the offices of Town Planner and Town Assessor, in favor of a contract planner and a contract assessor, and to withdraw Alton from the Lakes Region Planning Commission (LRPC). They did not succeed at this initial outing, but this was merely the beginning.

(We may note that Milton has both a Town Assessor and a contract assessor, whereas Alton seemed to regard it as an either/or proposition).

In 2018, the Alton Town government put forward a warrant article to fund Alton’s membership in the Lakes Region Planning Commission. The selectmen recommended it by three votes in favor and two against. (Note that split votes are possible). The budget committee opposed it.

The Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers (CNHT) claims that these planning commissions – their ideas, plans, and goals – come straight from the American Planning Commission, a non-governmental organization that “promotes United Nations Agenda 21/2030 regional principles.” There is State and Federal nonsense in there too.

Despite the recommendation of the Alton Board of Selectmen, town residents rejected continued funding for the regional planning commission, with 401 votes (70%) opposed and 172 votes (30%) in favor. (Note that the BOS majority was the complete opposite of the voters. So, we might well ask, who was the Alton BOS representing?)

Remember, it was an attempted insertion of plug-and-play planning code that caused the virulent opposition – hysterical even – by its very creators, of last year’s Article #3.

One Alton resident remarked, “If only more towns would get out of these regional boondoggles.” Or, better yet, if only more towns never entered into them in the first place.

Ask yourselves too, whose business district is doing better, Alton’s or Milton’s? The answer argues for less planning, a great deal less. But, if we cannot manage that, we should at least stop making it worse.

What Is to Be Done?

Take heart. If Milton officials are deluded enough to proceed along this route, – this wrong way – we can undo it as they did in Alton.

The danger for Town officials, and for their “plans” of many years, is that we might not stop at withdrawing from County planning.

There are none so blind as they who will not see. – John Heywood


CNHT. (2018, March 15). Alton Residents Dump Lakes Region Planning Commission. Retrieved from www.cnht.org/news/2018/03/15/alton-residents-dump-lakes-region-planning-commission/

Laconia Daily Sun. (2014, February 20). Petitioned warrant articles would do away with Alton planner & Assessor. Retrieved from www.laconiadailysun.com/news/local/petitioned-warrant-articles-would-do-away-with-alton-planner-assessor/article_121a954d-94f5-5e2f-b2c1-505edb77ee72.html


Author: S.D. Plissken

I thought he'd be taller.

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