Depopulation — Where is the Outrage?

By. Neil Williamson, President

In a front page article in today’s Daily Progress by Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Brian Wheeler, a local population control group calls for the depopulation of the region.  Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP) President Jack Marshall is quoted directly:

“We must, if we care about having a sustainable community for our grandchildren, we must consume less and simultaneously we must stabilize our population size or even reduce the population size of our community,” Marshall said. [emphasis added-nw]

Over the objections of the Free Enterprise Forum, ASAP received government funding for research to determine the region’s Optimum Population Size (OPS).  While the funding has been provided and expended Marshall  says the research is still insufficient to identify a specific optimal population.  Interesting, he can’t pin a number on it but knows we need to stabilize or reduce our size?

Marshall sees restricting housing choices as the manner to best achieve local population control.  He asserts in the article:

“If we don’t build it, they won’t come,” Marshall said. “We could achieve a realistic stationary population simply by adjusting the development potential in the community by changing the zoning.”

Housing starts respond to demand.  The Free Enterprise Forum believes one need only look to the most recent Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors ® (CAAR) market report to understand the fallacy of Marshall’s argument for construction causality.

In this quote, perhaps unintentionally, Marshall reveals an underlying philosophical plank to his organization’s goals:

“If we don’t build it, they won’t come,” [emphasis added –nw]

Taken to its logical conclusion, Albemarle’s depopulation effort will require the selection of those who can stay and those who must leave.  Clearly we (who got here first) are better than (them) who aren’t here yet (and may not look like us).

Perhaps, I am too close to this issue because I take great exception to the fear of “them”.  Part of the American Dream for me is the freedom of movement.  I can’t believe I am the only one who finds the academic discussion of depopulating a region rather sinister.

Again taken to it’s logical conclusion, if one reduces the number of available housing units and demand remains the same, the price on the remaining units will rise. 

As the land prices increase, the homes built on the property will also increase.  Look to Santa Barbara California, with a State University (UCSB), thirty thousand working class people commute in and out of Santa Barbara county because they can’t afford to live there.  How do you think that’s impacting the carbon footprint.

I am surprised at the lack of outrage at the concept of depopulation.  I am also surprise ASAP is again provided an audience at City Council to spread their propaganda.  The Free Enterprise Forum believes ASAP has the freedom to pursue any research they choose; but we do not believe tax dollars, nor city council meetings, should be used to propel their agenda.

To be clear, I consider myself to be one of “them”.  Over ten years ago (I am still a newbie) my family chose to live here over living somewhere else.  How could I, or my government,  possibly justify preventing another family from exercising that very American freedom?

Further, how can Charlottesville this forward thinking community, embrace this backward notion? 

 The Free Enterprise Forum calls on Charlottesville City Council to be unified in support of American mobility and while appreciating ASAP’s research, reaffirm your commitment to high quality infill development across all price ranges.

Respectfully Submitted,


Neil Williamson, President


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website



5 responses

  1. You missed a key part of the original quote: “…having a sustainable community for our grandchildren”. We have to control population growth now so that there is room for the new members of the Marshall family? What gives these unborn grandchildren a pass on living here. Are they “Grandfathered” in?

    Perhaps when the Charlottesville/Albemarle business community withers away and people leave, the population will certainly be controlled. No one will want to be here, there will be plenty of water and no traffic. Also no vitality. Maybe we can get UVa to move out, since they drive a lot of the growth.

    Keep pushing, because this is a time for outrage.

  2. Well said, Neil. If it wasn’t so laughable, it would be sinister. But I guess we need to be on guard in case the idiots get some traction.

    Mr. Marshall should move to a nice quiet town in southern VA. Try Danville where the population has decreased 5% in the last decade. See how he likes the vitality and quality of life there. Or Detroit where they are tearing down abandoned housing after decades of decline.

    The fact is they cannot point to any city (or state) that has thrived under limited growth. Even California has killed the golden goose with all of its regulations and high costs of living and doing business. It used to be that the NIMBY’s and No-growthers had bumper stickers there that said “Welcome to California. Now Go Home.” With 12% unemployment, net out-migration, and plummeting real estate values, you don’t see those anymore.

  3. […] Update 19 October 2010: Neil Williamson at the Free Enterprise Forum opines on the fallacy of Marshall’s argument for construction causality. […]

  4. It’s always those other people, the “Them” that seem to be the problem in Jack’s mind. Unfortunately for Jack, it’s a subjective characterization. Jack doesn’t seem to realize that for many of us, he is part of “Them”. Perhaps ASAP can set up a commune down in Buckingham County where these terrible growth pressures are not a problem.

  5. […] careful writer, I went back to the Free Enterprise Forum blog and found my October 18, 2010 post, Depopulation – Where’s the Outrage?: In a front page article in today’s Daily Progress by Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Brian Wheeler, […]

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