Senior Fellow Randy T. Simmons, co-editor of Aquanomics, looks at the battles over water in the western United States. Thirsty citizens of growing cities, farmers, factories and environmentalists are in a fight for a natural resource that is priced arbitrarily. Its value is determined not by the free market, but by bureaucrats. Outdated government reclamation projects and water policies have put residents of the Golden State at the mercy of the weather, and of government's mandatory regulations.
In June 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London that local governments may force property owners to sell out and to make way for private economic development, even if the property is not blighted. In response, many states have passed legislation and proposed amendments to their state constitutions to block this unprecedented government assault on the rights of property owners.
Astronomical housing costs, suffocating traffic congestion, and pollution take a heavy toll on our quality of life. Are these problems the inescapable consequences of modern life or the results of poor government policies? Proponents of "smart growth" seek to correct them by replacing suburban living with high-density, urban living and public transit. Others seeks to extend and expand current public and private systems. But how smart are these and other approaches? Would market-based alternatives be preferable to create sustainable communities? Urban economists Randal O'Toole and Daniel Klein discussed innovative "smarter growth" solutions for affordable housing, transportation, land use, and the quality of life in our communities.