Thomas Malthus once said, ""The happiness of the Americans depended much less upon their peculiar degree of civilization than...upon their having a great plenty of fertile uncultivated land."" Malthus knew. Lord MacCaulay knew. Albert Gallatin knew. America and her people would change as a growing population whittled away her land supply. Nothing has shaped the American character like the abundance of land that met the colonist, the pioneer, or the early suburbanite. With today's political and economic institutions shaped by the largesse of yesteryear, how will Americans fare in the new landscape of water wars, expensive housing, rising fuel prices, environmental and property rights battles, and powerful industry lobbies? Anne Mackin takes the reader story by story from frontier history to the present and shows how land shaped the American political landscape. She shows how our evolving traditions of apportioning resources have allowed diminished supplies to create our present, increasingly unequal society, and asks how 300 million Americans living in the new American landscape of growing competition can better share these resources. Why is land the key to American democracy? How can we protect our democracy as more people and industries compete more intensively for our remaining resources? ""Americans and Their Land"" begins an important, overdue discussion of these questions.
Anne Mackin has previously been a planner for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, and a longtime writer on topics related to planning and history. Her work includes A Design Primer for Cities and Towns and a series of fifty vignettes portraying Boston history for Mapping Boston.