Tag Archives: population control

Population Growth Report or Manifesto?

By. Neil Williamson, President

This morning’s Daily Progress included an article outlining a report written by Craig Evans considering the fiscal costs and benefits of growth.  This report is underwritten by a local population control advocacy group, Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP).  The Free Enterprise Forum was contacted by the paper and asked to provide comment.  Brian Wheeler quotes us accurately in the well written article.  Below is the entirety of our statement on the issue of this troubled “report”.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the Evans report while seemingly accurate in its limited financial analysis fails to recognize the indirect, but calculable, economic benefits of population expansion. The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned the “Counting the Costs and Benefits of Growth Analysis” report by Craig Evans is flawed in design and unfairly prejudiced in its analysis and conclusions.

Much of the Evans report reads significantly more like a political manifesto rather than an academic thesis. Using such terms as “Race to the Bottom” and describing developers as “Speculative Enterprises” do not add to the academic credibility of the report and fails to recognize developers as the very businesses who take the financial risk to bring the community’s comprehensive plan to life.

Taken at face value, the Evans report indicates that the County and City lose roughly $.25 for every dollar collected in residential tax revenue. In FY2011, the City posted a $3.8 Million dollar surplus. How is that possible?

According to NBC29, “The [FY2011] surplus came from a couple of different places. First, the city saved money during the last fiscal year when expenses came in $2.9 million under budget. On top of that, the city collected $900,000 more revenue than expected in 2012 – largely from a spike in sales, meals and lodging taxes”. Only by recognizing the indirect benefit of and important symbiotic relationship between population and revenue producing commercial activities can you reconcile this anomaly.

The Evans report fails to calculate the considerable value of population to economic vitality. It is established that “Retail follows Rooftops” and revenue follows retail. One need only look to Greene County’s recent increase in retail square footage that followed the residential expansion. In addition the retail sales tax local option has increased exponentially in Greene County since the establishment of the retail centers.

In its most telling omission, the Evans Report fails to recognize that every locality in the state must produce a balanced budget. Property Taxes are set by elected officials after consideration of ALL revenue sources. While the property taxes generated by individual homeowners may not cover Evans cost calculations, these same citizens generate the economic activity [sales tax, commercial tax, machine/tool taxes] that allows the locality to keep property taxes lower because of commercial activity.

One thrust of the Evans report is that growth comes with costs. Taken in isolation this is a true statement but when one considers the economic opportunities and advancements such growth also provides.

The Evans report cites Loudoun County as an example of rampant growth and it is true their government spending has accelerated significantly to meet the needs of their community. At one point Loudoun was building a high school a year to keep up with growth in student population. Late last year, Loudoun County was named by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey as the county with the highest median income per household in the nation. With a median income of more than $119,000, Loudoun households generate almost twice the income than Albemarle households. Yes, there is a cost to growth but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Paraphrasing Aaron Levenstein, “Statistics are like bikinis. While what they reveal is suggestive, what they conceal is vital”.

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, Louisa and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org


Shifting Philosophy at ASAP?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything”.  This quote came to mind Sunday morning as I sipped my coffee reading Jack Marshall’s opinion piece in The Daily Progress.  Mr. Marshall is the President of local population control group,  Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population.

Mr. Marshall’s piece, tepidly headlined “University’s role deserves close look” was paired with an essay adapted from University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan’s speech at the 96th annual Chamber Dinner headlined “Thoughtful growth at UVa”.

Mr. Marshall has argued that if the University is to grow it should do so elsewhere via satellite campuses while Dr. Sullivan outlined her belief that as they grow UVa “wants to be a good neighbor”.

Mark Twain came to mind late in Mr. Marshall’s piece, when he wrote:

No one is proposing a reduction in the size of UVa or the population of the Charlottesville/Albemarle area, even though ASAP’s footprint analysis reveals we’re in severe ecological deficit.

Wait a minute, didn’t this same Jack Marshall present to both Charlottesville City Council AND Albemarle County Board of Supervisors indicating a desire for population reduction?

Knowing Mr. Marshall to be a thoughtful person and an exceedingly 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, 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]

While ignoring the internal inconsistency of having a sustainable community for our grandchildren where new members of the population are not welcome (wouldn’t that be our grandchildren),  Mr. Marshall expressly called for population reduction on The Daily Progress front page.

Recognizing that this may actually be a shift in organizational philosophy, the Free Enterprise Forum simply asks Mr. Marshall which is it? 

Does ASAP want to start building the moat to prevent people from moving here?


Does ASAP, in their “reasoned, informed”  tone, wish to build the moat and reduce the current population? 

Regardless of ASAP’s current position, The Free Enterprise Forum’s philosophy has remained consistant and intellectually honest — government should stay out of the population control business entirely.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org


The Greening of Population Control

By. Neil Williamson, President

Yesterday’s (9/15) Washington Post ran a David Fahrenthold article titled When It Comes to Pollution Less (Kids) May Be More.   I read the article which outlined studies from the Loondon School of Economics (LSE) and a separate report from Oregon State University(OSU) with great curiosity as I also recently read the Advocates for A Sustainable Albemarle Population  (ASAP) local government funded report on the ecological carrying capacity of the  Charlottesville -Albemarle region.  This carrying capacity report is the first in a series of ASAP reports that are a part of its Optimal Population Size Project.

According to the Post article, the LSE Study suggested that each and every new life is a guarantee of new greenhouse gases, the result of decades of driving and electricity use.   

The article continued by quoting the sponsor of the study:

“There is no possibility of drastically reducing total carbon emissions, while at the same time paying no attention whatever to the drastic increase in the number of carbon emitters,” said Roger Martin, chairman of the Optimum Population Trust, a British nonprofit that sponsored the report and whose goal is to rein in population growth in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. “For reasons of an irrational taboo on the subject, [family planning] has never made it onto the agenda, and this is extremely damaging to the planet.”

Quantifying the emissions output of each human life was the goal of the OSU study.  Not surprisingly, the results are dependent on where in the world you live.   As Fahrenthold reports: 

In the United States, each baby results in 1,644 tons of carbon dioxide, five times more than a baby in China and 91 times more than an infant in Bangladesh, according to the Oregon State study. That is because Americans live relatively long, and live in a country whose long car commutes, coal-burning power plants and cathedral ceilings give it some of the highest per-capita emissions in the world.

Seen from that angle, the Oregon State researchers concluded that child-bearing was one of the most fateful environmental decisions in anyone’s life.

Recycle, shorten your commute, drive a hybrid vehicle, and buy energy-efficient light bulbs, appliances and windows — all of that would cut out about one-fortieth of the emissions caused by bringing two children, and their children’s children, into the world.

I find it most interesting all of  these studies focus on the specific environmental costs without any effort to quantify the benefit side of the equation.

Scare Tactics From Population Control Advocates

By. Neil Williamson

This morning’s Daily Progress featured a letter to the editor penned by Jack Marshall, President of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population www.stopgrowthASAP.org

I suppose we should be grateful to the economist who recently consoled local homebuilders that their sluggish business will, when the recession ends, “snap back” in response to a “pent-up demand” (“Hold on for coming boom, builders told,” The Daily Progress, Feb. 20).

Without her public prediction, the slowdown in residential development might have lulled those of us concerned with Albemarle County’s steady population increase into a false confidence that our growth is getting under control.

But as the expert reminds us, we haven’t yet faced the fact that our attractive community lures an endless flow of new businesses and residents — endless, that is, unless we put an end to it.

Mr. Marshall seems to believe that having an attractive, accessible community where all citizens and their businesses thrive generates unwanted attention from those outsiders who might wish to move here.  The Free Enterprise Forumbelieves the greatest asset in any community is the people in the community.  We firmly believe Americans have a right to choose where they live and local government does not have the right to obstruct this fundamental  freedom.

Mr. Marshall’s letter continues by ramping up the rhetoric:

 How would we be better off with a population two, three, four times what is now (think of the additional houses, cars, school buildings, etc.)?

What would be the impacts of this kind of growth on groundwater, streams, fields, forests, public safety, taxes?

Many politiians have used the strategy, “When the facts don’t support your case change the facts”.  The suggestion of  doubling of population, in the near term, defies logic based on historic population trends.

A few years ago, Loudoun County Supervisor Jim Burton, a slow growth advocate spoke to the League of Women Voters in Charlottesville.  With Mr. Marshall in the audience, I asked Mr. Burton “What level of annual growth is sustainable?”  His reply, “2%”. 

Without any specific local government population control policy, Albemarle County has grown at a rate between 1% and 2% annually.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes local government has many tasks to accomplish, population control should not be added to the list.

Seeing 2020 – Where Will We Grow?

By Neil Williamson

NAI Global, an international commercial real estate firm, has commissioned a November 2008 report that indicates the Charlottesville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) , including Albemarle, Charlottesville, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson, will see population growth of 213% between 2000 and 2020.  (Hat Tip to Tom Seeley via Facebook)  By means of comparison the Virginia Employment Commission projected growth rate of 10.8% for 2000-2010.   

The Where Will Growth Occur? report, written by NIA Global’s Chief Economist Dr. Peter Linneman, PhD, is fascinating in both the statistical results and the other observations found interior to the study.

Drawing on statistical research conducted with the Wharton School’s Albert Saiz, the paper finds, not surprisingly, many Americans prefer to live in warmer drier climates with little or no snow.  While the report considers quality schools to be a preference driver, it is given less import due to the large cohort of the population that is childless.

As one might expect in choosing to relocate tax policy is a large selection driver.  More surprising is the impact of the region’s political climate.

Research underscores that both firms and individuals avoid high-tax locations, as well as those areas with large governments.  In fact, more local government spending always leads to less growth, unless that spending is on highways….

We find that areas with large governments tend to be more interested in protecting the status quo and redistributing income than creating growth opportunities…

We find that areas dominated by either Democrats or Republicans tend to grow more slowly than communities where political control of either party is tenuous.  Thus, political competition, like economic competition, fuels growth.”

The paper outlines communities that have enacted regulatory barriers to designed to hinder population growth.  San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Aspen are singled out as areas that would have likely seen increased level of growth if not for significant opposition to growth (and the resulting regulatory environment).  According to the paper such population controls do have a cost.

Research done using the Wharton Decentralization Survey of Growth Controls has repeatedly found that both lower growth rates and higher prices result from high regulatory burdens.  My colleague Joe Gyourko has persuasively demonstrated that communities with high regulatory burdens have a large gap between housing prices and construction costs, and also that housing production grinds to a halt in these communities.

Considering the factors outlined in the report and our experience with the regulatory burdens in the various localities, The Free Enterprise Forum believes whatever level of growth that occurs between now and 2020 (it will likely be less than 213%) will occur under existing zoning by right or in the outlying counties.  If this assertion is correct, and the job growth remains in the urban core, how will this impact our regional vision for 2020?

ASAP Speaker Calls for End of Economic Growth

This week a local population control group, Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population, brought Brian Czech, President of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) to Charlottesville for a series of meetings and a radio appearance with Coy Barefoot on WINA’s “Charlottesville Right Now”.  WINA has the podcast here.

It is not surprising ASAP would bring CASSE to Charlottesville as one National Population Control organization, Negative Population Growth (NPG) has promoted Steady State Economy in their paper “A No-Growth, Steady-State Economy Must be Our Goal”.  The paper, written by NPG President Donald Mann, argues for a decimation of the population in addition to the elimination of economic growth.

Economic growth is not sustainable.

Since we live in a world of limits, macro economic growth cannot possibly maximize per capita income in a way that would be sustainable. On the contrary, in the long run it would surely greatly diminish or even utterly destroy per capita income, the very thing that, to maximize, is its very raison d’etre.

The only way to maximize per capita income and make it sustainable is to create a steady-state economy by reducing population to a sustainable level. Population size is, without any question, the key variable. (emphasis added -nw)

Mann suggests a national goal of cutting Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 50% and/or reduce the United States population by the same.  He states by lowering immigration and reducing our fertility rates we could stop growing and in fact see a decline in population.  I am surprised his paper does not suggest pulling the plug on anyone on life support lest they take community resources to selfishly support their lives.

Steady State Economics is largely associated with the work of Herman Daly, who literally wrote the book on the subject Steady State Economics (1977).  The concept which applies the perspectives of steady state systems developed in thermodynamics to economic analysis has never garnered significant support in the economic community.  It has however captured a “significant audience” in the environmental movement.

According to a recent summary of Daly’s work written by Thompson Galen in Environmental Encyclopedia:  

Daly offers three large-scale social institutions for the United States to help make a steady-state economy a reality. The first of these is a socially determined limit on the national population, with licenses issued to each person allocating exactly the number of births required to maintain zero population growth (approximately 2.1 births per female). These licenses could be purchased or otherwise transferred between individuals, so that those wanting no children could transfer their licenses to those wishing more than their allotment.

The second institution would stabilize the stock of human artifacts and would maintain the resources needed to maintain and replace this stock at levels which do not exceed the physical limits of the environment. A set of marketable quotas for each resource would be the primary mechanism to attain this goal.

The third institution would be a set of minimum and maximum limits on personal income and a maximum cap on personal wealth. The first two institutions are designed to structure population and economic production within the fundamental thermodynamic limits or “ultimate means.” The third is the extension into human society of the moral boundaries set by the goal of preserving and fostering life—in this case to ensure that all people in the steady-state economy have access to society’s resources.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes, even in these dark days of 400+ point swings in the stock market (and around the globe), the greatest resource any country has is its people.  

It is imperative that the public understand these radical concepts that form the foundation for ASAP’s call for “sustainability”.  Just the concept of the government issuing licenses that permit 2.1 children (that can be traded if you want more children), Daly’s approach gives new meaning to a Transfer of Development Rights program.  The second and third pillar of Daly’s institutional changes for government defile the concept of capitalism and individual determinism. 

Cloaked in the auspices of environmental sustainability and a steady state economy, the “government knows best” cohort of the population is garnering support for new government programs that trample individual liberty in their efforts to control all around them.

Our philosophical rejection of these suggestions is based on our belief that the free enterprise system, with all its faults, has been tantamount to the preservation of our freedoms. 

As American Nobel Laureate Milton Freidman said, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither.  A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both”.