The “golden egg” as a natural resource: Toward a normative theory of growth management

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Growth management is the branch of urban planning concerned with the timing and sequencing of land development and the policies designed to mitigate the more negative impacts of growth. These policies are often justified on the ground that rapid or poorly planned development causes “quality of place” to deteriorate, reducing both current welfare and the prospects for future growth (i.e., “killing the goose that laid the golden egg”). In this article, I evaluate the normative assumptions underlying this popular argument. I conclude that the “golden egg” argument makes an implicit analogy to resource economics and raises legitimate issues of sustainability and dynamic efficiency. Although an understanding of resource economics can provide more normative guidance than one typically finds in the urban planning literature, using these concepts to make policy is no easy task. Thus the golden egg argument remains subject to cynical manipulation by both pro‐ and antigrowth forces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-56
Number of pages8
JournalSociety and Natural Resources
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Amenities
  • Community development
  • Economics
  • Growth
  • Industrialized countries
  • Resource management
  • Social welfare—theory
  • Sustainability
  • Urban planning


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