Congested traffic on I70 and Yogi Berra quote: Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.

Colorado Governor Needs 12-Step Program

While most politicians promise, pursue, and extoll the virtues of economic growth, they generally shy away from public admissions they’re chasing population growth to get it. Population growth, they say, is “beyond our control. You’re not going to stop it.” So this occasion is remarkable for a few comments made by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

“If something’s not done, transportation woes could spur anti-growth sentiments, effectively tamping down an engine of Colorado’s economic growth, he warned. More folks straining the transportation system could stoke thoughts of, ‘we’re having too much growth, we need to stop it,’ Hickenlooper said.”

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and the growth profiteers who fund his campaigns don’t want the public to get wise to the fact that the costs of growth are exceeding the benefits. This is from a story in The Coloradoan about “competition” for new residents and the businesses they start or run:

Utah a Boogeyman Waiting to Steal Colorado’s Growth

We know from the start this story is about an archaic, but nearly universal, approach to economic development:

“When it comes to economic growth, there’s a boogeyman lurking to the west, waiting to lure Colorado-bound business out of the Centennial State.”

Apparently the State of Utah is competing more and more successfully against Colorado in the perennial effort to poach businesses from states like California. California is a frequent, easy target, because the costs of growth in that morass of 40 million people have become very apparent and painful.

“You drive from Colorado into Utah, you’ll see a marked, dramatic difference in the quality of roads,’ Hickenlooper said, adding that drivers see the same crossing into Kansas and Nebraska. ‘Sooner or later that’s going to begin to take its toll on where young people decide to move and set up their businesses.”

No one wants to pay more tax, so the idea of recruiting more taxpayers is an easy sell for growth profiteers and the growth-addicted politicians in their pocket. Problem is, it’s a Ponzi scheme. Californians don’t enjoy low taxes, because – once you pass optimal scale – the costs of continued growth outpace any benefits. Every increment of growth requires infrastructure expansion and more maintenance. That requires more tax revenue, so another increment of growth is pursued to cover that expense. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s rather similar to many addictions. You always need more.

Today, Utah may look good. Its highways are well-maintained. But if it continues to “win” the battle for more people and business, it will eventually experience California’s demise.

Colorado would do well NOT to compete in this race to the bottom. Officials have already identified a huge gap between projected water demand (from expected population growth) and known water supply. IF water supply projects can be identified (it really is hard to squeeze blood out of a turnip), they will be massively expensive. But no politician will code that as an expense to be subtracted from the “prosperity” growth was supposed to provide.

Interstate 70 in Colorado is a transportation disaster. But the State is not finding the funds to widen it. Attracting more people and businesses may provide the tax revenue to do that, but it will also fill the additional lanes. The photograph above accompanied this news story in Summit Daily, a newspaper serving Summit County:

Record Eisenhower Tunnel Visits Come with Benefits, Concerns

I added the infamous Yogi Berra quote.

“More people in the Summit community may be a larger strain on local roadways equivalent to that of residents’ patience, but it also produces positive impacts for area businesses and sales tax revenues.”

That story goes on to mention many challenges presented by the crowds, beyond roads. The only people who win in the competition for more people are builders and developers.

This is a problem we’re experiencing on a global scale. The carrying capacity of the planet is far below our 7.5 billion population at current levels of economic activity. Even if there is still a region somewhere that can enjoy a short-lived “win” from population growth, I can guarantee you that population growth anywhere is a “loss” for the world. We need to get the myth of prosperity from growth out of our heads, out of our politics, out of our system.

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Dave Gardner

Producer of the documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. Dave writes and speaks regularly on the subject of growth addiction, including the pro-growth media bias that perpetuates prosperity-from-growth mythology.

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