"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Building toward what?

The Center for the Rocky Mountain West has pulled together an analysis on construction growth around the country, with some figures and conclusions that ought to startle. (Thanks to the High Country News Goat Blog for the pointer.)

construction map

We notice first of all five northwest counties in the “very high” construction category – in Washington, Clark (no surprise) and Whatcom (yeah, a bit of a surprise), in Oregon, Deschutes (of course) and in Idaho – not Ada or Kootenai but Blaine and Teton (probably owing to the high price of housing there). A string of additional counties – in Idaho, Ada, Kootenai, Bonneville and Valley, and in Oregon, Jackson – are in the second tier.

About some of this, the Center says, “A heavy concentration of construction activity has emerged in the Rocky Mountain West, stretching from western Montana to southern Colorado and into New Mexico.” This is usually taken as a strongly positive sign for economic growth, and in many ways it is.

But: “This growth has made all of these states much more construction dependent, as indicated in the lower chart by the amount of construction labor earnings for every $20 million in total personal income.” (Emphasis added.)

The High Country News blog suggests on this, “Despite the obvious negatives of growth (more pollution, more habitat lost, more traffic jams, more crime, more total aggravation), all the hammering on new houses and Bigger-and-Bigger Box Stores means income for workers. It can shore up the whole local economy. Arguing against it amounts to arguing against workers. The politics must go uphill.”

But turn the issue another way, and that almost suggests inevitable and never-ending growth, which most adults know won’t happen. What happens once the build boom cools?

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