ANDRÉS DUANY AND DAVID BRAIN
The United States has been experiencing a phenomenon without precedent. While our cities have maintained their fiscal and political reliance on continued economic growth, the very idea of urban growth has acquired strong negative connotations in the popular imagination. Americans have come to fear the growth of their communities, and this fear has become a powerful political force. Citizens who may not take the time to vote for the next president will nevertheless turn out in large numbers to oppose a real estate development. How did it come to be that people who built the constellations of villages, towns, and cities that span the continent should have so radically changed its ethos?
Such fear of growth is not unfounded. Whereas once growth represented an increase in the wealth of the community and the possibility of continuous improvement in the quality of life, there are reasons why citizens might now see it only as an increase in traffic, an influx of social problems, higher taxation, and the loss of open space. Neither is it surprising that there is a lack of faith in regulatory efforts to mitigate such problems. The proliferation of technically complex regulation and the unpredictable results of an elaborate public process have undermined popular trust in the government's ability to act as steward of our common interests and private developers' ability to act as agents of civic improvement.