Guide to the American Dream

The American dream of freedom, mobility, and affordable homeownership has produced enormous benefits for Americans:

  • Homeownership — More than 80 percent of Americans say their ideal home is a single-family house with a yard. Homes are one of the best investments a young family can make. The most important source of funds for new businesses in the U.S. is mortgages on the businessowner’s homes.
  • Mobility — Automobiles give Americans access to better and higher paying jobs, lower-cost consumer goods, rapid-response emergency services, distant friends and relatives, and all sorts of recreation opportunities.
  • Freedom — According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2002 Index of Economic Freedom, nations that protect property rights and other forms of economic freedom have per capita incomes at least six times greater than nations will little or no economic freedom. Higher incomes mean higher environmental quality as well.

Despite these benefits, this dream is being challenged by a new planning doctrine known as smart growth, which calls for dense urban development, restrictions on rural development, rail transit boondoggles, and barriers to auto driving. Despite its attractive name, smart growth is one of the greatest threats to American mobility, affordable housing, and freedom today.

  • Homeownership — Smart growth’s urban-growth boundaries and regulation of home construction make housing unaffordable to most families. Housing in San Jose, Portland, and other smart-growth cities is far less affordable than housing in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and other less-regulated cities.
  • Mobility — Though traffic congestion costs Americans more than $60 billion a year, smart growth actually seeks to increase congestion in order to discourage people from driving.
  • Freedom — Smart growth requires draconian restrictions on property owners and businesses. Limits on rural development, minimum-density zoning in urban areas, and strict rules for retailers and other businesses all impede economic freedom and increase costs to homebuyers and consumers.