The issue of "urban sprawl" has become a cause for concern among many environmentalists, policy-makers, and opinion leaders in Michigan and across the country. But just what is sprawl? To many, the term conjures up unsavory images of environmental degradation, ugly subdivisions and strip malls, and disappearing fields and farmland. To others, what is often called sprawl is simply another term for healthy economic growth; the natural result of free people pursuing their shot at the American Dream of a peaceful and prosperous homestead.
Unfortunately, the policy response to sprawl issues has thus far focused mostly on greater government control over people's choices of where to live, work, and raise a family. With growing frequency, state and local government officials are promoting plans that seek to preserve open spaces at the expense of economic growth and development. But there is an alternative to onerous new restrictions that serve to downgrade citizens' standard of living and negatively affect their quality of life. Environmental policy goals can best be met and balanced with economic growth not by a reliance on government command-and-control strategies, but by adherence to a set of fundamental principles that respect people's freedom while providing the best framework for resolution of issues of environmental concern.
Recently, Mackinac Center staff members, authors, and scholars--including President Lawrence Reed, policy consultant Wendell Cox, urban policy analyst Samuel Staley, and agricultural expert Jefferson Edgens--joined over 100 other policy professionals and scholars in signing the Lone Mountain Compact, a statement of 10 "Principles for Livable Cities" to guide policies dealing with "urban sprawl" and growth issues. The overriding philosophy of the compact is that policy decision-making should be as local and decentralized as possible and exhibit a respect for citizens' freedom.