Readers will know that I’m somewhat obsessed with the idea of sprawl as a non-market outcome. I like to draw attention to this for three reasons. One has to do with high-ideology—some people are very sincerely committed to the idea that everything in America should be governed by free market principles, and I’d like to draw those people’s attention to a policy area where I happen to agree with them but where market-oriented institutions rarely do work. Another has to do with rhetoric—in American political culture whichever side can position itself as on the side of “freedom” and “the market” tends to have the upper hand. And the last is a reason of economics—it’s important for people to understand that the current state of the American built environment is inefficient in both an ecological and an economic sense. In both cases, it’s needlessly wasteful of land and of energy for transportation and heating.
At any rate, Michael Lewyn of the Florida Coastal School of Law seems to share my interest in the subject and has a number of relevant papers. “You Can Have It All: Less Sprawl and Property Rights Too” makes the overall case, but the one I would really recommend to anyone either interested in evangelizing about this point to others or else to a skeptic who wants to really see a rigorous argument made is “How Government Regulation Forces Americans Into Their Cars: A Case Study” which is a detailed examination of zoning and land use regulation in Jacksonville, Florida.