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A critical component in the rise of market-oriented democracy in the modern era has been the dispersion of property ownership among middle-income households—not just in the United States but also in countries like Holland, Canada, and Australia, where it was closely linked with greater civil and economic freedom. In its early days, this dispersion was largely rural, but after the Second World War, it took on a largely suburban emphasis in the U.S., including within the extended metro regions of traditional cities like New York and Los Angeles. American homeownership soared between 1940 and 1962, from 44 percent to 63 percent.
Today, the aspiration of regular people to own homes—arguably one of the greatest achievements of postwar democracy—is fading. But the dilution of this key aspect of the American dream is not the result of market conditions or changing preferences, but rather the concerted effort of planners and pundits. California offers the most striking example.