Phoenix-According to new Census Bureau figures, Maricopa County grew faster than any other county in the nation during the fifteen months from April 2000 to July 2001. While some see this growth as a cause for alarm, Goldwater Institute economist Robert Franciosi believes that Maricopa's vigorous growth is a reflection of its high quality of life.
"How people vote with their feet," says Franciosi, "is the only sure measure of the attractiveness of a locale. In this case, 122,000 people voted for Maricopa County." For Franciosi, the fact that Maricopa is leading the nation in growth shows that worries about a broken economy and a deteriorating quality of life are overblown.
Instead, Franciosi suggests that continued population growth demonstrates that opportunity and a desirable quality of life are still readily available. Says Franciosi, "There is nothing in the statistics to warrant a pessimistic vision of Maricopa's future."
Since the mid-1990s at least, advocates have used worries about growth to push an activist government agenda. Franciosi and other Goldwater scholars have frequently pointed out that the quality of life in the Phoenix metropolitan area compares favorably with that in peer cities around the country. At the same time, these scholars have generally been skeptical about government measures designed to ameliorate alleged deficiencies. Says Franciosi, "Using taxpayer money and government regulation to try to fix the real and imagined problems tends to limit choices, benefit the haves at the expense of the have-nots, and destroy opportunity."
In a 1996 report titled "Growth, Quality of Life, and Metropolitan Comparisons," Eric Van Dohlen found that Phoenix compared well with regard to factors such as cost of living, road availability, traffic congestion, employment, and crime. In a 1998 report, "A Tale of Two Cities: Phoenix, Portland, Growth and Growth Control," Franciosi demonstrated that Maricopa County still had plenty of open space, and that there had been no significant deterioration in traffic congestion and air quality. In that paper, Franciosi warned that Portland, the model city for growth control advocates, promised only marginal changes at a cost of millions spent on transit, higher home prices, and citizen resistance.
In his next report, "Questions and Answers about Growth in Arizona" (to be released by Goldwater in late May), Franciosi looks at growth in the state at large over the last decade. For copies of the 1998 and 1996 studies, contact Tom Jenney at (602) 744-9603 or email@example.com.