In 1776, while the rest of the world was governed by kings, czars, and other despots, America’s Founding Fathers declared the rights of the individual. They rejected the tyranny of the British Crown and declared America an exception to the rule. The result was the freest and most prosperous nation on Earth.
Throughout the 20th century, while many cities in America were regulating land use and subjugating property rights to the dictates of politicians and bureaucrats, Houston rejected such transgressions. Houston respected, even if implicitly, the rights of the individual and declared Houston an exception to the rule. The result has been the freest and most prosperous city in America.
While much of America has suffered economic turmoil throughout 2008—lost jobs, dramatically reduced housing prices, and a declining economy—Houston has remained vibrant. Houston has been an exception to the rule.
Economic prosperity is the result of individual freedom. And individual freedom is not possible without respect for and protection of property rights. It is not a mere coincidence that America is the most prosperous nation on Earth, and Houston is America’s most prosperous city. There is a causal relationship between freedom and prosperity.
Much of the nation suffers from the consequences of government controls and regulations, just as nations around the world suffer from the controls and regulations enacted by their governments. Controls and regulations do not apply to inanimate objects or faceless “others”. Controls and regulations apply to individuals. Controls and regulations limit the actions that individuals may legally take.
Houstonians are much freer than the citizens of other cities, and that is an exception to the rule. Houston’s economy has continued to grow and prosper, and that is an exception to the rule.
Many cities in America have extremely restrictive land use controls. Those regulations drive up the cost of doing business. They increase the cost of housing. They reduce jobs. And they drive the middle class to the suburbs. Land use controls make life more expensive and more difficult for everyone within the community.
Houston has been an exception to the rule. Houston is one of the most affordable cities in the nation. Our cost of living is well below the national average. Forbes Magazine has called Houston the best place to earn a living. Kiplinger Magazine named Houston the best place to live. Business Week awarded Houston the title of best big city to find a job.
Houston’s economic prosperity is the consequence of Houston being an exception to the rule. Houston has rejected the draconian regulatory policies of other cities, and Houston has avoided the economic consequences of such policies. By rejecting the cause of economic turmoil, Houston has remained prosperous.
While other cities believe that government should dictate how individuals live their lives and use their property, Houston has largely respected the rights of individuals. Houston recognizes the right of individuals to pursue their values without seeking permission, without requiring oversight, without being subject to the rule of politicians and bureaucrats.
If Houston is to maintain its position as a world class city, as a city that others around the world look at in admiration, Houston must remain an exception to the rule. And more importantly, Houston must declare, openly and proudly, that we are a city that respects individual rights, including property rights. And that would truly be an exception to the rule.