The Growth Ponzi Scheme, also called the "Municipal Ponzi Scheme," is a core Strong Towns insight describing the financial characteristics of post-war North American growth patterns.
In the Growth Ponzi Scheme, municipalities receive the modest near-term financial benefits from new development in exchange for the larger long-term financial commitments of providing ongoing service and maintenance.
There are three stages to the Growth Ponzi Scheme. They are:
- The Illusion of Wealth that comes from new growth.
- A period of accelerating community obligations and municipal debt.
- Municipal insolvency and decline.
The Growth Ponzi Scheme is not nefarious; there is not a specific individual or group that has created it for their own benefit. It has emerged from a broad cultural consensus about economic growth, development patterns, and debt.
The Growth Ponzi Scheme and the Illusion of Wealth are described in Chapter 3 of Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity.