Book Review: the Cul-De-Sac Syndrome

The Cul-De-Sac Syndrome: Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream
by John F. Wasik
Bloomberg, $24.95

Financial analysts, like the author of this book, have picked out the housing market as the trigger for the current economic downturn. In The Cul-De-Sac Syndrome, John Wasik, a personal finance columnist for Bloomberg News, agrees with that assertion, but says that our problems with houses go much further back than just a few years, and will require a cultural shift to fix.

Wasik looks at the philosophical and physical basis of the American Dream—doing better than one’s parents and owning one’s own home—and how that dream mutated into some people flipping homes to quickly make money and others living under crushing mountains of debt. If you dream of owning a home one day, Cul-De-Sac can be a depressing read, especially when Wasik gets into the infrastructure problems of overdevelopment, like running out of groundwater.

The last section, though, is more hopeful, and lays out a way to rebuild the American Dream. With walkable communities that are sustainably designed and mostly self-sufficient, Wasik argues, we can shock our ailing national dream back to life.