There are only two jobs in America where you can “get-it-wrong” on a regular basis and still keep your job: weathermen and government.
Lyndon Johnson instituted Great Society welfare programs to eradicate poverty. Fifty years and $50 trillion later, we have more people on welfare than ever. Why? Because government ignores what every parent knows. If you subsidize undesirable behavior, you get more of it.
In the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency instituted Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards (CAFÉ) for cars. To circumvent this, manufacturers produced truck-based SUVs exempt from the standards, leading to a net increase in fuel consumption.
In 1996, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development established programs requiring that slightly more than half of all mortgage loans be placed into the hands of “disadvantaged” Americans. Twelve years later, collapse of these sub-prime mortgages nearly bankrupted the U.S. economy.
So called good intentions of government rarely produce desired results, and frequently yield destructive outcomes. This is because education and intelligence do not guarantee good decisions. Good decisions are the result of wisdom; and wisdom is the product of experience, sound economics, and intellectual honesty, tempered with a dose of biblical principles.
This brings us to the most misused buzzword of the 21st century… Sustainability.
It sounds good, but the problem is, the word has two meanings.
For most of us, sustainability, with a small “s”, means to make something last for a long time. This is not the case when government uses the word, as it is may better be described as Sustainability with a Capital “S”, and it is a socio-economic movement that promotes increased government control over the factors of production: Land-Labor-Capital, all in the name of saving the planet and promoting social equity.
For those of you that are students of politics, this is also known as Marxism. In fact, 21st century Sustainability might better be described as a hybrid of anti-free-market capitalism, radical environmentalism, and pro-socio-fascist-Marxist doctrine.
People ask me, “Commissioner, what is Sustainability? What does it mean when government says it wants Sustainable Communities?”
I provide the following advice: Whenever government talks about Sustainable Communities, simply substitute the words, “Government Approved.”
The adjunct implementation buzzword for Sustainable Communities is “Smart Growth.”
Critical premises of Smart Growth are not the product of science or wisdom. They are unproven products of pop-culture politics and wishful thinking. Consider three examples.
Smart Growth assumes residents will choose to live adjacent to huge office parks in order to reduce commuting and traffic. In the real world, there is little evidence to support this. In an economy where people change jobs every three years, it is not practical. People choose their neighborhoods for a variety of personal lifestyle reasons. Large office parks may actually increase traffic and congestion by drawing vehicular traffic into a community and creating chronic day-long traffic problems.
Second, government asserts that Smart Growth will improve a jurisdiction’s tax base. Empirical evidence shows that dense low-cost housing does not produce enough tax revenue to pay the cost of critical services. If the low-cost units are occupied by non-working recipients of government housing subsidies that pay little or no taxes, the local government suffers a double whammy…. fewer property taxes and fewer income taxes. This of course means that owners of existing single-family suburban homes must pay more taxes to subsidize government services for the recipients of so called affordable Smart Growth development templates. …Affordable for whom?
The State says, No… that’s not true, government gets more revenue per acre. That’s true, but irrelevant. A 2011 analysis I performed with State supplied data shows that revenue per household may drop by as much as 50%. In other words, these units do not generate enough revenue to pay for the cost of government services including schools, police, fire protection, social programs, etc.
Third, dense stack’m and pack’m subsidized housing initiatives are cleverly disguised with euphemisms, including inclusive housing, workforce housing, MPDUs, and HUD block grants. Empirical evidence suggests these programs have problematic outcomes when buyers who have failed to establish a track record of personal financial responsibility cannot afford upkeep and maintenance within their neighborhoods.
Smart Growth is intellectually dishonest and unwise. It tramples private property rights by changing the fabric of communities with empty promises to improve our quality of life, unsupported by evidence. Crime is also more likely to increase. During an epic debate related to proposed Smart Growth plans in Carroll County, Maryland, more than a thousand citizens spoke-up during hearings, and they were too wise to drink this Kool-Aid.
Government says Smart Growth jurisdiction are more sustainable, healthy, and better balanced. What does that really mean? What makes a town “sustainable, healthy, and better balanced”?
After years of observing effects, I am quite confident I have finally discovered the answer as to what constitutes a so-called healthy, better balanced, sustainable community. Politicians and urban planners, re-engineer communities to promote social equity, with low cost affordable housing because they tend to attract citizens dependent on government services with left leaning voting proclivities.
In other words, a healthy, better balanced, sustainable community is one that contains more left-wing voters.
There are two types of people in the world. The first type includes developers, engineers, and business owners that turn dreams into reality. The second type includes urban planners and liberal politicians. They try to convince us that the nightmare should be our dream.
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