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American Nightmare

How Government Undermines the Dream of Homeownership

About the book

The American Dream turned into a nightmare when the housing bubble burst, and people have been trying to figure out who to blame‐ Greedy bankers? Corrupt politicians? Ignorant homeowners? In American Nightmare: How Government Undermines the Dream of Homeownership, Randal O’Toole explores the forces at play in the housing market and shows how we can rebuild the American dream of homeownership by eliminating federal, state, and local policies that distort the free market for housing.

But, American Nightmare is more than an inside look at how government policies undermined the American Dream. O’Toole offers a penatrating view of the housing landscape in America by delving into the changing attitudes about homeownership among people of different income classes as they migrated to and from urban centers and shows how that laid the groundwork for the war on sprawl. He covers housing during the agrarian, urban, suburban, New Deal, and postwar eras and demonstrate how the drive for homeownership did not let us down. Government planners let us down.

About the Author

Randal O’Toole is a Cato Institute senior fellow who has written three books and numerous papers on transportation, urban growth, and public land issues, including Gridlock: Why We’re Stuck in Traffic and What to Do about It and The Best‐​Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future. He resides in Oregon.

What others have said

“Randal O’Toole makes a convincing case that government interference is the main problem with housing in America. A laissez‐​faire housing policy would lead to more stability, greater affordability, and a higher rate of sustainable home ownership.”

—Benjamin Powell, Associate Professor of Economics, Suffolk University; co‐​editor of Housing America: Building out of a Crisis

“Anyone interested in housing policy should read Randal O’Toole’s American Nightmare. O’Toole does an outstanding job of putting the current state of the housing market in historical context and points a sharp finger at the policy distortions that got us here.”

—Randall Pozdena, PhD, President, QuantEcon, Inc., and author of The Modern Economics of Housing

“O’Toole provides a ground‐​breaking survey of home ownership’s spread throughout society and its crucial role in democratizing prosperity. At the same time he forcefully shows how, in some areas, policies that sound “high‐​minded,” with attractive marketing names (such as “smart growth”) have done serious damage to living standards and threaten to cut short an all too brief history of middle‐​income prosperity.”

—Wendell Cox, Principal, Demographia (urban policy and demographics consultant), author of The War on the Dream: How Antisprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life