NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Sprawl" To Some Is Freedom To Others

July 1, 1999

Vice President Al Gore is gearing up to make urban sprawl -- which is really suburban growth -- a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. But statistics challenge the theory that wild lands are scarce.

  • Only about 5 percent of U.S. lands are developed -- and three-quarters of the population lives on just 3.5 percent of the land.
  • More than three-quarters of the states have more than 90 percent of their land dedicated to rural uses.
  • More than five times as much land is set aside in national parks, wilderness areas, federal forests and federal grazing lands than has been developed for housing and industry.

Cities -- which actually don't take up much space -- have been yielding population to the suburbs because municipal governments have failed to meet their responsibilities, experts note. As cities aged, they began to suffer from bad schools, high tax and crime rates, anti-competitive regulations and deteriorating housing.

Rather than make land planning -- a consummate local concern -- into an overt federal issue, analysts suggest rural areas can be protected by eliminating inheritance taxes and dedicating highway funds to building roads, rather than mass transit. Farms could then be retained and worked by families, instead of being sold for development. And traffic congestion would be reduced.

The failed Soviet idea of central planning should be rejected, critics warn. Instead, a tax cut would leave people free to choose their own housing, travel and shopping arrangements -- and ensure their right to develop their own property as they choose.

Source: Pete du Pont (National Center for Policy Analysis), "Destination Suburbia," Washington Times, July 1, 1999.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues