POSTED: 5 SEPTEMBER 2007 - 10:00am HST

How to build whatever you want

image above: Mililani Plaza at upper left. Central Oahu sprawl surrounding

by Garret Keizer on 5 September in The Los Angeles Times

To shove that project past the local opposition, just follow these easy steps.

Progress without strategy is regress. Time and again a new Wal-Mart or airport runway that would enable investors to make as much money as they want or consumers to travel twice as often from here to there is stalled by the Taliban mentalities of local resistance. Fortunately for America and its future, a formula exists whose careful application seldom fails. It deserves to be better known. Here it is.

Delay announcing your development for as long as possible
Never underestimate the element of surprise. This is not merely a matter of catching your opponents off-guard. Most people have an entrenched fatalism, as evidenced by the number of lottery tickets they buy. To give the appearance of a fait accompli is to take on the authority of fate. It was bound to happen. Whatcha gonna do?

Never lose an opportunity to outlast your opponents
Outspend them. If there's a formal approval process, do everything in your power to prolong it. Amend your proposal. Reschedule your testimony. The new paradigm of "let them eat cake" is "let them hold a bake sale" -- again and again.

Exploit local divisions
Learn from history. Tribal animosities helped win the West. They're what turned Pontiac into a hood ornament, what put Tecumseh in front of a cigar store. Most communities are marked by fault lines of culture and class, envy and resentment. Develop a nose for these. Because the more articulate members of your opposition are likely to be better educated than some of their neighbors, it will help to pass yourself off as a common man. Wear jeans to informational meetings. Shoot things.

Ingratiate yourself with the local authorities
Politics is largely a spectator sport, and most people are too harried even to be spectators. As for those in public office, they tend to be overextended, underappreciated and blithely out of their depth. Get on their good side. Appeal to their latent entrepreneurial aspirations. We're men of the world, you're men of the world. We look at things the same way.

Lobby for tax cuts
Declaim without ceasing about the fragile nature of profitability. This might seem like a losing proposition -- but only if you forget the prevailing public mood. Taxes don't benefit people; taxes benefit the government, or gov'nmint, as the case may be. Just as the ordinary person would like to keep more of his or her earnings, so would you. That the ordinary person might be able to do that very thing if you were to pay your fair share of the tax burden is a point too subtle for most ordinary persons to grasp. It's what makes them ordinary.

Cloak yourself in rectitude

Should your project permit any connection, however tenuous, to national security, global warming or the free flow of commerce, express that connection as a patriotic imperative. Drive home the point that the challenges facing America -- nay, the globe -- demand big solutions that only big money can provide.

Promise jobs
Promise that more people will soon be able to make a living in a place where no people in their right minds will soon want to live. Of course you will inevitably need to import or outsource your key personnel, but be sure to hire at least one local person off the bat. He or she should not necessarily be the sharpest tack in the box. What you want people thinking is this: "If that bozo could get a job before the operation was even up and running, think of the opportunities awaiting someone like me." Keep thinking, Einsteins.

Buy out your opponents

There are always a few Alamo types, but most homeowners live with one eye on the door. Everybody has a dream, almost everybody has a price, and virtually nobody is completely happy where he is. You need to turn that truth into an epiphany. Be sure that any buyouts include the contractual forfeiture of the right to speak out against the project, its functionaries, their practices or their pets. Remember that a person who sells out is motivated first by greed and later by guilt, both being highly susceptible to manipulation.

Make your opponents goals seem pricey or silly
Never miss an opportunity to demean "the aesthetic," "the subjective," the wee and worthless creatures that scurry over the leaves or within the human breast. Bambi belongs in Disneyland. Quiet nights went out with the Conestoga wagon. In the English language, "precious" can mean either priceless or silly. Your job is to make sure it always means both.

Hold your experts of over your opponents experience

Along those same lines, insist on the primacy of expertise over experience. For example, noise is not something people hear; it's something experts measure. You're not even dead unless a doctor says so. What untrained people claim to see and hear is moot. They also see and hear UFOs. Reliance on experts may seem to clash with your professed role as regular guy, but only if you blur this crucial distinction: Your experts are the cross you have to bear to do business. Their experts are the flakes who'd like to put you out of business.

There's the program in a nutshell. Old neighborhoods, small towns, obscure ecosystems, faint sounds and soft murmurs of the heart -- these will always inspire nostalgia, and that's the whole point. They should. They're worthless till they're gone. Making them go is the grand story of America, and you can be part of that story simply by mastering the basic elements of the plot.

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