Every American has the opportunity to own private property and for those who own land or who dream of owning land, their American Dream is threatened by a massive initiative known to us now as Smart Growth/Sustainable Development.

As our country copes with dwindling budgets, high unemployment rates, rising gas prices, a stagnant housing market, obesity and climate change, it has become clear to smart growth planners that they must “creatively change the way we live and work to set the stage for a more vibrant, prosperous future.”1 They believe the time is ripe for “The Great Reset” and the overriding message is that smart growth is the solution to sustaining the American Dream for future generations.

Their view of the American Dream appears to be that the Dream is only available to some because of social, economic and environmental injustices; ‘communities of concern’ have not had access to this elusive Dream. For “a shot at the American Dream of opportunity for all”2, they believe smart growth principles must be understood, adhered to and implemented at any cost.

Smart growth is a multi-billion dollar industry that is funneling our tax payer dollars to pay for all kinds of ‘sustainable’ projects. Most of these land use/housing/transportation projects are paid for by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities grant programs that include sustainable development criteria. (See How Is Smart Growth Being Funded?) Above and beyond the money that is being spent on smart growth initiatives, what is of concern is that many of these planners, government agencies and non-profit social and environmental organizations are willing to go to extreme and arbitrary measures–even at the cost of their own freedom, and ours–to implement plans for our sustainable future in the 21st Century.

To understand why we should be concerned about smart growth and its powerful influence over the American Dream, it is vital to recognize how our economy has changed in the last century. At the 11th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference that I attended in February 2012, there was an emphasis on how community design and land use patterns accommodate today’s knowledge-based economy.  One of the closing conference plenaries summarized,

“Over the past century, we have progressed from an economy based on agriculture, to an economy based on manufacturing and to a resource constrained, knowledge-based economy. Through history, land use patterns have evolved, based on the needs of each type of economic base.”3

A knowledge-based economy is an economy centered on the production and management of knowledge. The knowledge-based economy is the latest stage of development in global economic reform and creates forces of change that affect how we might live as a society.  The Centre for Strategic Economic Studies in Australia published A Primer on the Knowledge Economy and quoted the following statement from a 1993 essay entitled The New Age of Capitalism which said:

“Capitalism is undergoing an epochal transformation from a mass production system where the principal source of value was human labour to a new era of ‘innovation-mediated production’ where the principal component of value creation, productivity and economic growth is knowledge.”4

Since the knowledge-based economy requires continual creativity and dynamic group interaction to produce innovative technologies, smart growth advocates view the role of the city as a vital center for synergy and collaboration; a place where the ‘green infrastructure’ offers clusters of walkable, mixed-use, high-density development with easy access to transportation, services, and parks.

Smart growth advocates love this push toward urban centers because it supports social equity whereby socio-economic classes are now living side by side and sharing equal advantages, economic justice whereby housing is more equitably distributed and environmental justice whereby open space around the city is now protected from sprawl, species are preserved and greenhouse gases are mitigated by the change in human mobility. The transition from an industrial and agricultural economy to one based in knowledge, is prompting an opportunity to push for a force of change from rural, exurban and suburban living to urban settlements.

To those who favor smart growth, this trend may seem advantageous and ideal for our sustainable future, however, the push to live in urban settlements is not a desire that we are necessarily embracing by choice. Along with the legislative guidebook, Sustainable America: The New Consensus and other social and environmental coalitions and unelected government agencies, smart growth proponents are demanding a change in behavior from the public. Through a stealthy but comprehensive public relations campaign, ‘smart growth’, ‘green’, ‘vision’, ‘quality of life’, ‘sanctuary’, ‘progressive’, ‘sustainable’, ‘social justice’, ‘collective’, ‘change’, ‘transformation’, ‘hope’, ‘greenhouse gases’ are just a few words that are becoming part of our daily vocabulary. Practically every television program, commercial, printed advertisement, and product is nudging us to believe that what we desire is a sustainable future for the ‘common good’.

What is crucial to define is what this sustainable future looks like and whether it is actually threatening the cornerstone of our liberty, our wealth and our private property rights.

The Founders described the Dream when they wrote the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

If we lose our principles of liberty then we lose our American Dream and everything it has come to represent. By adding smart growth to the American Dream it is certain that what is being created is the American Smart Dream. I submit that our American Dream of individualism and liberty is in flux and is in danger of becoming the American Smart Dream of collectivism and slavery to the regulators.


  1. 11th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth: The Great Reset: Reshaping our economic and physical landscape to meet new needs, Conference Program Book, p. 46
  2. This Is Smart Growth, p.2-published by Smart Growth Network
  3. 11th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth: Community Design and Urban Innovation for a Knowledge Economy, Conference Program Book, p. 56
  4. Florida, R. and Kenney, M., Futures–The New Age of Capitalism, 1991, p.637