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It is not possible to appraise the significance of our present State planning boards without an understanding of their origins and the several steps in their later development. The following historical sketch of State activities is of very great value in examining the trends of the American commonwealth, and in looking forward to the future management of State resources. By looking back over the long road from early indifference to scattered forms of protection of resources, on to a period of systematic conservation, first of natural and then of human resources, we may see the basis for the beginning of orderly State planning as it now begins to develop. It is not by accident or as a result of some sudden impulse that our American States recently began systematically to or ganize agencies and set up programs to bring about the highest and best use of our vast State and national domain. This movement was the outgrowth of a long series of experiments of the trial and error type through which the American States came to realize the importance of orderly development of the fullest possibilities of their assets.
To those who point out that the State planning boards have thus far engaged in a variety of activities without very clear definition of their central objective, this historical review will show how the whole program of the States from the beginning of our history has been of this experimental kind; and indeed this. might be said of the development of American national policy as a whole.
The conservation movement was the beginning of a notable change both in the policy of the States and of the Nation as well. It is interesting and impor tant to note that city planning began at about the same time as the conservation movement. It was not a mere coincidence that shortly after the turn of the twentieth century there appeared (1) the national conservation movement, (2) the State conservation movement, and (3) the city planning movement. Supplementing this development, there have appeared in recent years the county planning movement, the State planning movement, the regional planning movement, and the national planning movement. The earlier conservation develop ment referred, indeed, in words to the conservation of human resources, but in practice only natural resources were dealt with. Human resources were the focus of attention only in the more recent period of growth.
The importance of the whole State conservation and planning trend can not lightly be dismissed. As the recent committee on the appraisal of State planning boards* said: "If planning can bring about a more economical utilization and conservation of our resources, it will contribute much toward maintaining the foundations of representative government. * * * Representative government rests upon a faith in gradualism, a general acceptance of the proposition that through governmental action a slow but certain adjustment of injustices will occur.
Nowhere is this gradual adjustment of "injustices" more clearly seen than in Dr. Hynning's careful description of the step by step advance of the American States toward the solution of the problem of most effectively utilizing our rich resources in practical and effective manner. Those who are impatient with everything except impetuosity find little of value in the gradual growth of *Report on the Future of State Planning issued by the National Resources Committee, March 1938. (Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D. C.)
State conservation and planning, in the trial and error method of our many commonwealths, with widely different problems, struggling toward ideals of prosperity and liberty in a framework of free society. But to those of us who have watched the trends of American institutions, these stages of development are of the very greatest importance in the national evolution. They mark the beginnings of a form of planning which is at once democratic and decentralized, although united with a national program of national American action, They mark the beginning of a movement which will bring about the utilization in Nation and State of the fullest possibilities of our national productive assets and talents. From this will emerge far higher standards of American living, material and human, in a new era where the promise of American democracy is at last fully realized.
CHARLES E. MERRIAM.
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