In the Chronicle article, Jim Blackburn, an environmental attorney and coastal expert based in Houston is quoted:
"We have to protect people from themselves and certainly from developers."
According to Mr. Blackburn, development should be restricted or prohibited because people might make bad decisions. The same could be said about consuming alcohol, eating red meat, driving, using the Internet, or come to think of it, any human activity. If protecting people from themselves is justification for prohibiting them from building on their property, then there is no limit as to which activities could be regulated.
Freedom means the right to act without coercion, so long as you respect the mutual rights of others. Freedom means the right to make bad, or even stupid, decisions.
Some argue that such restrictions are justified because these bad decisions impact others. But this is also true of virtually every decision we make. Again, those who posit such an argument are endorsing unrestricted government regulation of individual activities.
Jerry Patterson, the state's land commissioner
said his intent is not to trample on property rights, but to confront what he considers a crucial problem. In addition to the eroding shoreline, he is concerned that the high cost of rebuilding highways and pipelines and restoring beaches on barrier lands will become a perpetual burden on state taxpayers.
This entire issue would go away if the government got out of the infrastructure business. Simply privatize the land and the entire issue goes away. Those who own the land should pay for the infrastructure needed to support those areas.
This is the type of problem that arises when government acts beyond its legitimate functions. Each illegitimate action creates unforeseen problems, which lead to the need for further interventions.
The real issue is not whether anyone should build in areas impacted by hurricanes. The issue is the legitimate function of government. Government's proper function is the protection of individual rights, including property rights.
A right is a sanction to act without restriction. A right sanctions you to act according to your judgment, so long as you respect the mutual rights of others to act according to their judgment. You cannot force others to act in accordance with your judgment, just as they cannot force you to act in accordance with theirs. Government's sole function is the protection of this right.
When government moves beyond this function, it invariably imposes the judgments of some upon others. Such actions require some individuals to act contrary to their judgment, or as Mr. Blackburn puts it, "to protect people from themselves". Not only is this arrogant, it is immoral.
Mr. Blackburn, and others who support the Texas Open Beaches Act may not like the decisions many people make. He has every right to disagree, but he has no right to impose his views on others. That is the meaning of freedom.