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Home > Social Issues
The Tangle of Growth
by Bob Powell, 4/26/01
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"The Tangle of Growth" describes the feedback loops that produce traffic congestion, infrastructure backlogs, higher taxes, low wages, higher costs, unaffordable housing, declining quality of life, farmland loss, and sprawl. The causal loop diagrams can be practically used to think through the effects of policy alternatives and make policy decisions. To design effective policies, policymakers must consider systems effects. Effective policy-making is not defined by a “one-shot” set of actions; it must define actions over time that reinforce the desired outcomes. To do so we must create and foster feedbacks that operate in virtuous cycles (assuring that they do not turn into vicious cycles) and create and foster balancing processes that provide needed stability. Systems thinking helps us gain insight into system behavior (both immediate and delayed), arrive at a shared understanding, and resolve conflicts.

Download the Table of Contents, Preface, Summary and Introduction: Tangle Overview (pdf, 467K, 27 pages).

I was selling the entire document, 1949K, 102 pages, pdf format, for $20.00, but the service I was using went out of business. Here it is in full for a limited time: The Tangle of Growth.


From the Summary of "The Tangle of Growth":

The Problem: How can we explain why growth produces sprawl, traffic congestion, infrastructure backlogs, higher taxes, declining quality of life, consumes farmland, and raises costs (including the cost of housing, making it unaffordable)?

The Approach: A systems thinking approach is appropriate for understanding why a system behaves as it does.

A Premise: Because we see similar problems (though at different stages of evolution) all across the country, it's a major hint that the roots of the problem associated with growth and sprawl are driven, at least in part, by national policy and by similar state and local policies.

What's presented here: The major structures that interact to create the behaviors we observe and data relevant to the structures.

Example: The figure shows that the rate at which impact fees and/or excise taxes on development are collected can be set equal to the rate at which infrastructure costs are accumulated.   The overall backlog, now at $1 billion and rising in Colorado Springs, can then be drained by taxes.  Attempting to cover infrastructure costs without impact fees and/or excise taxes that counteract the build-up is dangerous.  It will encourage continuing current policies that are creating the ever-increasing infrastructure backlog.

On the other hand, there should be no attempt to pay off the total infrastructure backlog by way of impact fees or excise taxes on new development.  This would be too great a burden on the industry and pose a real threat to the economy.  Eventually, we must all pay for the "sins of the past" and pay the taxes necessary to drain the backlog. Impact fees and excise taxes should simply stop the infrastructure backlog build-up.

Systems diagrams can help us examine infrastructure sustainability.

Download the Table of Contents, Preface, Summary and Introduction: Tangle Overview (467K, 27 pages).

To purchase the entire paper, 1949K, 102 pages, pdf format, $20.00: Order Now!

If you're dissatisfied for any reason, just send us a note telling us why and we'll gladly refund your payment (bob@exponentialimprovement.com)

See an earlier, abbreviated pdf version of this paper, "Housing Prices, Growth, and Transportation: A Dynamic Analysis," at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Center for Colorado Policy Studies website: http://web.uccs.edu/ccps/newsite/growthimpacts.htm.

URL: http://www.exponentialimprovement.com/cms/TangleOfGrowth.shtml

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