Grassroot Perspective – Feb. 14, 2003-Environmental Apocalypse Now?; Freedom Trumps Smart Growth; Is Rail Transit a Success Story

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”Shoots (News, Views and Quotes)”


– Environmental Apocalypse Now?

Thirty years ago, the international best-selling book THE LIMITS TO
GROWTH created a stir with its seemingly scientific prediction that
ecological catastrophes would soon bring about the Apocalypse —
unless stringent policies were adopted immediately to save humankind from the ravages of overpopulation, natural-resource depletion, pollution, and related maladies.

Although some parts of the world subsequently have suffered from
famine and deadly pollution (significantly, these disasters occurred
where private-property rights were weak or non-existent),
environmental apocalypse never materialized on a worldwide scale. In the past three decades, however, the countries that have been under the policy sway of environmental doomsters the most — the developed countries — have seen relative economic decline.

Have the environmentalists’ predictions of economic decline become a self-fulfilling catastrophe?

That’s the question economist Craig S. Marxsen ponders in the winter
2003 issue of THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, the Independent Institute’s peer-reviewed quarterly, edited by Robert Higgs.

Marxsen reviewed several academic studies on the economic impact of environmental regulations and conducted a few of his own. For
example, based on a study that concluded that environmental
regulations reduced U.S. manufacturing productivity by 11.4 percent
below what it could have been by 1986, Marxsen estimated that the
regulations reduced output 22.35 percent below what it otherwise
would have been in 1990. Consequently, real GDP “probably could have been 20.65 percent higher than it actually was in 1990, ceteris
paribus.” Fortunately, an influx and foreign capital and women into
the workplace since the early ’70s “obscured the economywide
stagnation of U.S. multifactor productivity from 1973 to 1995.”

What’s the bottom line, according to Marxsen? “Ecocatastrophism
[Marxsen’s term for the environmental-doom viewpoint] dangerously
weakens economic performance in several ways and therefore might
bring about a persistently declining global standard of living that
would create a debacle not unlike the very one of the catastrophists

In short, “Environmental Apocalypse Now” may not be coming soon to a theater near you, but “E.T.” [Economic Tumble] has been having a long run below our field of vision.

See “Prophecy de Novo: The Nearly Self-Fulfilling Doomsday Forecast,” by Craig S. Marxsen (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2003)

For more on environmental policy, see:

A POVERTY OF REASON: Sustainable Development and Economic Growth, by Wilfred Beckerman, see

CUTTING GREEN TAPE: Toxic Pollutants, Environmental Regulation and the Law, edited by Richard L. Stroup and Roger E. Meiners

Above article is quoted from The Independent Institute Lighthouse January 12, 2003

”Roots (Food for Thoughts)”

– Freedom Trumps Smart Growth

Urban policy expert says sprawl improves lifestyle

Proponents of urban “smart growth” initiatives espouse policies that excessively restrict the rights of citizens, a nationally known demographic and transportation expert says.

“I am operating from the perspective that freedom is good,” said Wendell Cox, an urban policy consultant and scholar who represents several state policy think tanks and foundations.

Cox spoke at a luncheon Thursday for the Research Triangle Chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties.

Cox has analyzed urban growth issues in cities throughout the United States and in foreign countries. His years of study have led him to the conclusion that unless there is a material threat to other individuals or the community, people should be allowed to work or live where they want.

Cox said smart-growth policies that overly restrict land use and manage urban growth infringe unnecessarily upon property rights and overall freedom. He explained that supporters of growth limitation hate sprawling developments of “ticky-tack” houses; complain about “automobile dependency;” and want strip commercial and “big box” retail development restrained.

“They are looked at as inherent evils,” Cox said.

He said sprawl opponents “have in mind a more European type of place” in which downtowns bustle and residents live in greater concentrations near urban centers. Such growth controllers hold up Portland, Ore., as their “nirvana.” Cox said Portland is almost universally recognized as the U.S. leader in anti-sprawl policies.

Such land planning emphasizes mass (usually rail) transit over highway construction, construction only within smart-growth boundaries around a city, increased urban density, preservation of open (agricultural and
forested) spaces, and rationing of home ownership through zoning regulations, impact fees, and taxation.

Despite the efforts of smart-growth advocates, Cox said, “Urban densities are declining all over the world,” even in Portland and European cities such as Paris. He showed demographic examples and photographs of Paris’s sprawl and multiple strip-mall developments. Portland is not what it claims to be, Cox said, because it is one of the most sprawling cities in the western United States.

Smart growth’s land use and planning is irrational, leading to disastrous consequences for the quality of life, Cox said. Smart-growth policies lead to less home affordability because of oppressive regulation, and home ownership is higher where sprawl is greater, he said.

– Is Rail Transit a Success Story

As cities debate the addition of light rail to their transit systems, it may be worthwhile to consider its success where systems are already in place. With the release of the 2000 Census data, such an evaluation of light rail is possible. What the data reveals is that in cities with major rail lines, transit ridership is either declining significantly or increasing only slightly. This is the case regardless of whether a city has had rail lines for some time, as with Atlanta or Washington, D.C., or has installed lines recently. San Diego began rail service in 1981 and Denver in 1994.

Between 1990 and 2000, the share of people traveling to work on public transit was flat or fell in major metropolitan areas. The decline in public transit’s share of people going to work fell 22.5 percent in Atlanta and 18.4 percent Washington, D.C..

San Diego’s public transit system gained 2.6 percent and Denver gained 2 percent. Dallas undertook a major transit investment to open three light-rail lines and one commuter rail line in the last decade, yet ridership declined by 23 percent from 1990 to 2000.

Light rail’s difficulty in reversing the trend away from transit may be due to the fact that it is usually focused on downtown.

Population and employment growth have shifted outside the downtown core. According to one estimate, on average, 90 percent of employment occurs outside city centers.

Light rail also faces competition from less-expensive options such as carpooling and telecom-muting. Also, telecommuting made significant gains in market share in nearly every major metropolitan area from 1990 to 2000. Washington, D.C.’s grew by 20 percent, Denver and Dallas by 30 percent, and Atlanta’s by nearly 56 percent.

Policy Note, November 2002, Buckeye Institute

Above articles are quoted from Carolina Journal Weekly Report for Executives (

”Evergreen (Today’s Quotes)”

“It is indeed probable that more harm and misery have been caused by men determined to use coercion to stamp out a moral evil than by men intent on doing evil.” — Friedrich A. Hayek

“History shows that great general prosperity occurs only where something approaching a free economy has been reached, and that prosperity always diminishes as government economic regulation increases. A free economy alone offers unlimited opportunity to all.” — Thomas Barber

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