Sunday, August 31, 2008

Galt’s Gulch

In the novel Atlas Shrugged, each summer the heroes of the story retreat to a secluded valley. This valley, called Galt’s Gulch, is a bastion of individual freedom, rational thinking, and respect for the rights of each individual. It provides the heroes with a respite from the increasing controls on individual freedom being enacted by the government.

While Galt’s Gulch is fictional, the principles embraced by the community are not. Those principles are eloquently captured in the oath taken by each individual entering the community:
I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
The extent to which a community understands, accepts, and practices this principle is the extent to which that community thrives economically. The extent to which a community recognizes the moral foundation for individual freedom is the extent to which the individuals in that community prosper.

In the Declaration of Independence our Founding Fathers recognized the essence of this principle when they stated that each individual has a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Founders recognized the fact that each individual has a moral right to his own life, that his life is not a commodity to be disposed of by society. They recognized the fact that each individual has a moral right to be free to pursue his own happiness, so long as he respects the mutual right of others.

In many ways Houston has embraced this principle. Houston has largely embraced the right of individuals to use their property in the pursuit of their values. But the principle has remained unnamed and implicit, and thus Houstonians have accepted numerous restrictions on personal liberty—the sign ordinance, the landscaping ordinance, and regulations on sexually oriented businesses to name a few.

The economic benefits of Houston’s freedom have been widely publicized during 2008. While many areas of the nation suffer from a collapsing housing market and a loss of jobs, Houstonians have continued to enjoy economic growth and prosperity. Our robust economy is the effect; freedom is the cause.

Because the principle has remained unnamed, Houstonians are vulnerable to continued assaults on their personal liberty. Those who seek greater control over our lives systematically target seemingly isolated issues, proposing new restrictions to control some “undesirable” land use, such as the Ashby High Rise, Magnolia Glen, or development around airports.

However, these are not isolated issues. In each instance the proposed restrictions require some individuals to sacrifice their values for the alleged benefit of the community. In each instance some individuals are forced to live for the sake of others.

So long as the principle remains unnamed Houstonians will continue to accept restrictions on personal liberty as “practical”. They will continue to advocate personal freedom while simultaneously accepting its infringement.

It is time for the principle to be declared openly, proudly, and without equivocation. Each individual has a moral right to the freedom necessary to sustain and enjoy his life. No individual has a moral right to force others to provide for his sustenance or enjoyment. And it is the responsibility of our government to protect this right.

Throughout the economic turmoil of 2008 Houston has set a shining example to the world. Houston has prospered because it has rejected the restrictive policies of other cities.

If we wish to continue and expand our prosperity, we must become a real-life Galt’s Gulch. We must refuse to live for the sake of others. We must refuse to force others to live for our sake. When we can do that, completely and consistently, our future will be secure. The glory of human freedom will be ours.

1 comment:

Striker said...

It's really super to see at least one 'nuther soul who understands this. Thank you so much. I've passed this on to Digg.