Conclusion: Pursuing the American Dream

The evidence in this report supports the view that the free market regulates development activity. Land development is not random, irregular, or chaotic. On the contrary, land development is constrained by consumer behavior and production costs. Few developers are proposing high-density, single-family housing units in rural counties because virtually nobody desires that type of housing in that area. Similarly, transportation and commute costs prevent most families and workers from living more than an hour from their workplace. Increasing population densities in suburban, transitional counties reflect the desire of Michigan families to upgrade their living environment.

The dangers of giving in to "anti-growth" sentiment are significant. Between now and 2010:

  • The Michigan economy is expected to expand by 17.8% after adjusting for inflation.[124]

  • The state’s population is expected to grow 5.1% to 10.1 million people, and employment is expected to grow by 9.0%.[125]

  • Per capita personal income is expected to grow by 12.4%.[126]

  • The value of farm output is expected to grow by 24.3% — even with suburban growth trends — although the number of farms is declining and the number of farm workers is expected to fall by 7.6%.[127]

This means that more people than ever will be living, working, and playing in Michigan. Existing residents will also expect to see their quality of life increase along with their incomes. So they will expect better housing, safer communities, and easier access to normal, everyday amenities such as shopping and recreational activities. And in order for them to have these things, economic development and growth must be accommodated rather than restricted.

"Urban sprawl" is not a monster to be tamed; it is the natural evolution of free people pursuing peaceful ends and their shot at the American Dream.