The Lone Mountain Compact:

Principles for Preserving Freedom and Livability
in America’s Cities and Suburbs

The phenomenon of urban sprawl has become a pre-eminent controversy throughout the United States. Recently a number of scholars and writers, gathered at a conference about the issue at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana by the Political Economy Research Center, decided to distill their conclusions into the following brief statement of principles. The authors have called this statement the “Lone Mountain Compact,” and have invited other writers and scholars to join in endorsing its principles. A partial list of signatures appears at the end.


The unprecedented increase in prosperity over the last 25 years has created a large and growing upper middle class in America.  New modes of work and leisure combined with population growth have fueled successive waves of suburban expansion in the 20th century. Technological progress is likely to increase housing choice and community diversity even further in the 21st century, enabling more people to live and work outside the conventional urban forms of our time. These choices will likely include low-density, medium-density, and high-density urban forms.  This growth brings rapid change to our communities, often with negative side effects, such as traffic congestion, crowded public schools, and the loss of familiar open space.  All of these factors are bound up in the controversy that goes by the term “sprawl.”  The heightened public concern over the character of our cities and suburbs is a healthy expression of citizen demand for solutions that are responsive to our changing needs and wants.  Yet tradeoffs between different policy options for addressing these concerns are poorly understood.  Productive solutions to public concerns will adhere to the following fundamental principles.

Principles for Livable Cities:

1. The most fundamental principle is that, absent a material threat to other individuals or the community, people should be allowed to live and work where and how they like.

2. Prescriptive, centralized plans that attempt to determine the detailed outcome of community form and function should be avoided. Such "comprehensive" plans interfere with the dynamic, adaptive, and evolutionary nature of neighborhoods and cities.

3. Densities and land uses should be market driven, not plan driven. Proposals to supersede market-driven land use decisions by centrally directed decisions are vulnerable to the same kind of perverse consequences as any other kind of centrally planned resource allocation decisions, and show little awareness of what such a system would have to accomplish even to equal the market in effectiveness.

4. Communities should allow a diversity in neighborhood design, as desired by the market. Planning and zoning codes and building regulations should allow for neotraditional neighborhood design, historic neighborhood renovation and conversion, and other mixed-use development and the more decentralized development forms of recent years.

5. Decisions about neighborhood development should be decentralized as far as possible. Local neighborhood associations and private covenants are superior to centralized or regional government planning agencies.

.6 Local planning procedures and tools should incorporate private property rights as a fundamental element of development control. Problems of incompatible or conflicting land uses will be better resolved through the revival of common law principles of nuisance than through zoning regulations which tend to be rigid and inefficient.

7. All growth management policies should be evaluated according to their cost of living and "burden-shifting" effects. Urban growth boundaries, minimum lot sizes, restrictions on housing development, restrictions on commercial development, and other limits on freely functioning land markets that increase the burdens on lower income groups must be rejected.

8. Market-oriented transportation strategies should be employed, such as peak period road pricing, HOT lanes, toll roads, and de-monopolized mass transit. Monopoly public transit schemes, especially fixed rail transit that lacks the flexibility to adapt to the changing destinations of a dynamic, decentralized metropolis, should be viewed skeptically.

9. The rights of present residents should not supersede those of future residents. Planners, citizens, and local officials should recognize that "efficient" land use must include consideration for household and consumer wants, preferences, and desires. Thus, growth controls and land-use planning must consider the desires of future residents and generations, not solely current residents.

10. Planning decisions should be based upon facts, not perceptions. A number of the concerns raised in the "sprawl" debate are based upon false perceptions. The use of good data in public policy is crucial to the continued progress of American cities and the social advance of all its citizens.

For more information and background on these principles, see A Guide to Smart Growth: Shattering Myths, Providing Solutions, edited by Jane S. Shaw and Ronald D. Utt, (PERC/Heritage Foundation, 2000).

The Lone Mountain Coalition*

Jonathan Adler Donald Leal
Arlington, Virginia PERC
  Bozeman, Montana
Ryan Amacher, Ph.D.  
Department of Economics Dwight Lee
University of Texas, Arlington Department of Economics
  University of Georgia
Terry Anderson, Ph.D. Athens, Georgia
PERC/Hoover Institution  
Bozeman, Montana Stanley Liebowitz
  School of Management
Angela Antonelli University of Texas, Dallas
The Heritage Foundation  
Washington, DC Edward Lopez
  Department of Economics
John A. Baden, Ph.D. University of North Texas
Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) Denton, Texas
Bozeman, Montana  
  John Lunn
Michael B. Barkey Department of Economics and Business
Acton Institute for the Study Hope College
of Religion and Liberty Holland, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan  
  J. Stanley Marshall
Bruce Benson James Madison Institute
Department of Economics Tallahassee, Florida
Florida State University  
Tallahassee, Florida Nancie G. Marzulla
  Defenders of Property Rights
John Berthoud Washington, DC
National Taxpayers Union  
Alexandria, Virginia Roger J. Marzulla
  Defenders of Property Rights
Robert Bish Washington, DC
School of Public Administration  
University of Victoria Ken Masugi, Ph.D.
British Columbia, Canada Claremont Institute
  Claremont, California
Clint Bolick  
Institute for Justice John McClaughry
Washington, DC Ethan Allen Institute
  Concord, Vermont
Samuel Bostaph  
Department of Economics Robert McCormick
University of Dallas Department of Economics
Irving, Texas Clemson University
J. C. Bowman Clemson, South Carolina
Children First Tennessee  
Chattanooga, Tennessee Kelly McCutcheon
  Georgia Public Policy Foundation
Jerry Bowyer Atlanta, Georgia
Allegheny Institute for Public Policy  
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Ed McMullen
  South Carolina Policy Council
Gordon L. Brady, Ph.D. Columbia, South Carolina
Center for the Study of Public Choice  
George Mason University Roger Meiners, Ph.D.
Fairfax, Virginia Professor of Law and Economics
  University of Texas, Arlington
James Burling  
Pacific Legal Foundation William H. Mellor
Sacramento, California Institute for Justice
  Washington, DC
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D.  
National Center for Policy Analysis John Merrifield
Dallas, Texas Department of Economics
  University of Texas, San Antonio
Henry N. Butler  
School of Business Edward Moore
University of Kansas James Madison Institute
Lawrence, Kansas Tallahassee, Florida
William N. Butos John C. Moorhouse
Department of Economics Department of Economics
Trinity College Wake Forest University
Hartford, Connecticut Winston-Salem, North Carolina
John Caldara Lucas Morel, Ph.D.
Independence Institute Associate Professor of Politics
Denver, Colorado Washington and Lee University
  Lexington, Virginia
F. Patricia Callahan  
American Association of Small Andrew Morriss
Property Owners School of Law
Washington, DC Case Western Reserve University
  Cleveland, Ohio
Jim Cardle  
Lone Star Foundation and Report Henry Olsen
Austin, Texas Manhattan Institute
  New York City, New York
Anthony T. Caso  
Pacific Legal Foundation C. Kenneth Orski
Sacramento, California Innovation Briefs
John Charles Washington, DC
Cascade Policy Institute  
Portland, Oregon Randal O'Toole
  The Thoreau Institute
Kenneth W. Chilton, Ph.D. Bandon, Oregon
Center for the Study of American Business  
Washington University Daniel C. Palm, Ph.D.
St. Louis, Missouri Department of Political Science
  Azusa Pacific University
J. R. Clark Azusa, California
Center for Economic Education  
University of Tennessee Chattanooga Gary Palmer
  Alabama Policy Institute
Daniel Coldwell Birmingham, Alabama
Department of Economics  
University of Memphis E. C. Pasour
Memphis, Tennessee Department of Economics and Business
  North Carolina State University
Michael Coulter Raleigh, North Carolina
Shenango Institute for Public Policy  
Grove City, Pennsylvania Mitchell B. Pearlstein, Ph.D.
  Center of the American Experiment
Wendell Cox Minneapolis, Minnesota
Wendell Cox Consultancy  
Belleville, Illinois Steve Pejovich
  Department of Economics
Louis De Alessi, Ph.D. Texas A&M University
Coral Gables, Florida College Station, Texas
Robert de Posada Roger Pilon, Ph.D., J.D.
Hispanic Business Roundtable Cato Institute
Washington, DC Washington, DC
Sean Duffy Lawrence W. Reed
Commonwealth Foundation Mackinac Center for Public Policy
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Midland, Michigan
Becky Norton Dunlop David W. Riggs, Ph.D.
The Heritage Foundation Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington, DC Washington, DC
Jefferson G. Edgens, Ph.D. Thomas A. Rubin
University of Kentucky Thomas A. Rubin Consultancy
Lexington, Kentucky Oakland, California
William A. Fischel Peter Samuel
Department of Economics Toll Roads Newsletter
Dartmouth College Frederick, Maryland
Hanover, New Hampshire  
  E. S. Savas, Ph.D.
B. Delworth Gardner Baruch College
Department of Economics City University of New York
Brigham Young University New York, New York
Provo, Utah  
  Peter W. Schramm, Ph.D.
Michael Gilstrap John Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs
Tennessee Institute for Public Policy Ashland University
Nashville, Tennessee Ashland, Ohio
Peter Gordon, Ph.D. Jane S. Shaw
School of Policy, Planning and Development PERC
University of Southern California Bozeman, Montana
Los Angeles, California  
  Daniel R. Simmons
Grant Gulibon Competitive Enterprise Institute
Commonwealth Foundation Washington, DC
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania  
  Randy T. Simmons, Ph.D.
Paul Guppy Institute of Political Economy
Washington Institute Foundation Utah State University
Seattle, Washington Logan, Utah
Robert L. Hale Fred L. Smith, Jr.
Northwest Legal Foundation Competitive Enterprise Institute
Minot, North Dakota Washington, DC
Rick Harrison Vernon L. Smith
Harrison Site Designs Economics Science Laboratory
Minneapolis, Minnesota University of Arizona
  Tucson, Arizona
Jake Haulk, Ph.D.  
Allegheny Institute for Public Policy Sam Staley, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Reason Public Policy Institute
  Los Angeles, California
Steven Hayward, Ph.D.  
Pacific Research Institute Richard Stroup, Ph.D.
San Francisco, California PERC
  Bozeman, Montana
Andy Herr  
Department of Economics David J. Theroux
St. Vincent College The Independent Institute
Latrobe, Pennsylvania Oakland, California
P. J. Hill Gordon Tullock
Department of Business and Economics Law and Economics Center
Wheaton College George Mason University
Wheaton, Illinois Arlington, Virginia
Randall Holcombe, Ph.D. Ronald D. Utt, Ph.D.
Department of Economics Heritage Foundation
Florida State University Washington, DC
Tallahassee, Florida  
  Malcolm Wallop
John Hood Frontiers of Freedom
The John Locke Foundation Arlington, Virginia
Raleigh, North Carolina  
  John Weicher
Stephen L. Jackstadt Hudson Institute
College of Business and Public Policy Washington, DC
University of Alaska, Anchorage  
  Bob Williams
Jeff Judson Evergreen Freedom Foundation
Texas Public Policy Foundation Olympia, Washington
San Antonio, Texas  
  Robert Whaples
Jo Kwong, Ph.D. Department of Economics
Atlas Economic Research Foundation Wake Forest University
Fairfax, Virginia Winston-Salem, North Carolina
George Landrith, III Bruce Yandle
Frontiers of Freedom Department of Economics
Arlington, Virginia Clemson University
  Clemson, South Carolina
Robert A. Lawson  
School of Business and Economics  
Capital University
Columbus, Ohio  

* The Lone Mountain Coalition is an ad hoc, informal consortium of individuals committed to the principles contained in the Lone Mountain Compact. Endorsement of the Lone Mountain Compact does not necessarily imply unanimous agreement with every principle. Organizational names are for identification purposes only, and do not necessarily imply any organizational endorsement of either the Lone Mountain Compact or the Lone Mountain Coalition.

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People should have the freedom to live and work where and how they like.

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