Doug French

The housing and economic crash of 2008 kept more people from moving to cities during the last decade. Census data from 2010 indicate that while urbanization continues, it slowed in the last decade to 10.6 percent growth in metropolitan areas of more than 1 million. This growth rate is down from 14.6 percent in the 1990s and 12.6 percent in the 1980s.

Fourteen of the 15 most populous cities at the start of the decade either grew more slowly or lost population by the decade's end. And while the 50 largest metro areas collectively grew by 3.7 percent in the 1990s, that growth was more than halved to 1.3 percent from 2000 to 2010.

This is a dramatic slowing of a trend going back to 1790. Harvard economic professor Ed Glaeser in his book, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, writes,

In every decade but one between 1790 and 1970, America's urban population increased by more than 19.5 percent. It was only during the 1930s, when the economy faltered and tariffs effectively closed borders, that America's urban growth slowed dramatically.

The slowing of urban growth is not a good thing. Hans Hoppe explains that it is human cooperation and the division of labor that improve society and everyone's well-being:

As a result of this development and an ever more rapid increase of goods and desires which can be acquired and satisfied only indirectly, professional traders, merchants, and trading centers will emerge. Merchants and cities function as the mediators of the indirect exchanges between territorially separated households and communal associations and thus become the sociological and geographical locus and focus of intertribal or interracial association.

Professor Hoppe explains international trade and commerce will be centered in big cities, where

as the subjective reflection of this complex system of spatio-functional allocation, citizens will develop the most highly refined forms of personal and professional conduct, etiquette, and style. It is the city that breeds civilization and civilized life.

Doug French

Doug French is is president of the Mises Institute and author of Early Speculative Bubbles & Increases in the Money Supply and Walk Away: The Rise and Fall of the Home-Ownership Myth

Be the first to read Bill Barker’s column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.