Saturday, January 17, 2009

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff 10

The text of the talk I delivered to the Houston Property Rights Association on Friday will be posted on Tuesday. A summary of the Q & A will be posted Wednesday.

Here's a Fine Pickle
The National Safety Council has called for a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving. The group's president and chief executive, Janet Froetscher, cited numerous studies to support her contention that talking on a cell phone is akin to driving while intoxicated:

Froetscher said the council examined more than 50 scientific studies before reaching its decision. One was a study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis that estimates 6 percent of vehicle crashes, causing about 2,600 deaths and 12,000 serious injuries a year, are attributable to cell phone use. Hands-free cell phones are just as risky as hand held phones, she added.
This reminds me of a study I heard about many years ago relating to pickles. I do not recall the exact numbers, so do not quote me.

The study found that 90% of dead people had eaten a pickle. Nearly 50% of the people who had eaten a pickle came down with the flu within 5 years, if they hadn't already died. And nearly 85% of all communists have eaten pickles. The study concluded that pickles were a primary cause of illness and death, not to mention totalitarian political views. The researchers recommended banning pickles.

Like all regulations and controls, the cell phone ban would treat all drivers the same, regardless of their specific actions. Punish those who use cell phones irresponsibly, rather than ban their use. When they outlaw cell phone use, only outlaws will use cell phones.

Mr. X is Mellowing
I've previously mentioned Quanell X, the local rabble rouser who likes to appear in public with armed body guards. The Houston Press recently ran a feature on Mr. X that declared he was mellowing:

Quanell, however, says he's found a new voice and that his days of racial, religious and sexual bigotry are behind him. He says he's matured, studied history and felt the sting of racism within his sacred Muslim community, all of which have contributed to his gradual evolution as a person and a leader.

For the first time ever, he's publicly saying he's willing to build bridges across the same racial and sexual divides he's helped widen and work with whomever he can to aid his community. Even if it means alienating his hard-ass core of revolutionary African-American supporters.

"White folks," he says, "you are now on the back burner. Hate is too consuming. It consumes the hater as well as the hated. This is a new philosophy for me. My main focus is on trying to implement solutions for the serious problems within the black community."

I don't believe Mr. X any further than I could throw his posse. He is doing what is expedient at the moment, and when new conditions dictate he'll take white folks off the back burner and toss them in the fire. He may be expressing his racism more mildly, but he is still a racist.

And he is wrong to claim that hatred consumes the hated as well as the hater. Mr. X hates me, but I haven't spent one nanosecond thinking about his hatred. And beyond the time it took for me to identify the nature of his character (or write this post), I have given no thought to my hatred of him. Evil is impotent, and I'm not going to allow his problems to ruin my life.

A Rose is a Rose
neoHouston promotes land use regulations while skipping all around using the term:

We need to embrace our uniqueness as a metro area, and embrace form-based code. That’s what we already have! Now, let’s improve on it by setting logical, mandatory standards for building placement and street network design that create a flexible, adaptable, sustainable market in every part of the city. Where local management districts and neighborhoods wish to voluntarily adopt additional architectural standards, they should be able to.
Over the years, zoning advocates have tried to use all kinds of different words to describe their proposals. The latest are "planning" and "form-based code". Many of the latest advocates, including neoHouston, even explicitly denounce traditional zoning.

I don't know if these people really think they are fooling anyone, or if they just don't know any better. Whether they call it zoning, or planning, or form-based code, or anything else, it is still land use regulation. It is still the heavy hand of government dictating how property owners can use their land.

Unable or unwilling to think in principle, they think that Houston can somehow avoid the economic turmoil that invariably follows restrictive land use policies. Rejecting the fact that specific principles underlie land use regulations, they think that it's just a matter of tweaking details or using a different term. They are wrong.

Certainly, some forms of land use regulation are less restrictive and destructive than others. But all involve the violation of individual property rights. All are wrong as a matter of principle. And that will remain the case no matter what they call it.

Legalizing Drugs
Clarence Page wrote in Thursday's Chronicle about legalizing drugs. He takes the typical utilitarian view:

Legalization is not the perfect solution. But treating currently illegal drugs
in the way we treat liquor and other legal addictive substances would provide
regulation, tax revenue and funds for rehabilitation programs. Most satisfying,
it would wipe a lot of smiles off the current drug lords’ faces.
There is no mention of the moral right of each individual to choose what he puts into his body, even if his choices are self-destructive. Instead, Page offers more of the same, only changing who and what will be regulated and controlled. This is like rebelling against communism by advocating socialism, or fighting Obama with religion.

The only real issue in regard to drugs is--who owns your body? If you own it, you have a moral right to do with it as you choose. And if you don't, then you are just a slave.


Harold said...

You might enjoy this.

Brian Phillips said...

It is informative, but not particularly enjoyable. The war on success is alive and well in the EU.