“Unintended consequences of ‘Smart Growth'”

December 21, 2009

by Sandy Ikeda

That’s the title of a video interview I did with the Mackinac Center that was posted on their website a few days ago. I did it last summer and it runs about twelve minutes.

It’s very hard to do justice to either the SG side or my critique in such a condensed interview, though I think it gets the main points across fairly well. Still, here’s a couple of things.

At one point in I mention the “third wave,” which is a term Joel Garreau uses in his 1992 book Edge City to refer to the migration in the 1980s of corporate offices, hotels, and other diverse land uses to the suburbs.

The idea that post-WWII policies — such as the interstate highway system and massive federal subsidies to construct local infrastructure — hastened the very sprawl that current policies, Smart Growth in particular, are now trying to combat is treated especially well in Robert Bruegmann’s, Sprawl: A Compact History.

Also, here’s a website from the Smart Growth Network, dedicated to explaining the principles and issues of that approach to urban planning.

5 Responses to ““Unintended consequences of ‘Smart Growth'””

  1. Zach C Says:

    Very interesting interview! I’ve noticed a lot of fellow NYU students studying things like “green urban planning” or “green urban development.” I know very little about it except that every time I hear them talking it sounds like a huge euphemism for central planning.

  2. Sandy Ikeda Says:

    The simplest way of imposing any specific objective onto a spontaneous order is through central planning. This is true whether we’re talking about targeting GDP via fiscal policy or achieving “sustainability” in cities via land-use restrictions. Of course, the consequences of such interventions typically make matters worse, even from the viewpoint of the interveners, as I try to point out in the interview.


  3. It’s always seemed to me that developers want to build denser residential and include commercial areas, and existing communities and governments always want to prevent such developments. This was true in the deepest suburbs of South Florida when I was a kid and is probably true everywhere. Suddenly these “smart growth” types want to force developers to build the very things they have always wanted to build — more houses on less land is profitable, duh.

  4. Dave Doctor Says:

    Calling it “smart growth” compliments the enemy. It’s “Forced Community Design.” I don’t even use “central planning” since “plan” sounds benign.


  5. […] interview with Sandy Ikeda, Professors of Economics at Purchase College and contributor at ThinkMarkets. Please take a moment to see what he has to […]


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