Since it is extremely unlikely that anyone running for Houston Mayor in 2009 will come anywhere near advocating a pro-freedom, pro-growth agenda, I offer the following as the positions of my fantasy candidate.
1. Rescind all land use regulations. The right to property is the right of use and disposal. Ownership means control, and land use regulations vest the ultimate control of land in the government. Houston's relative lack of land use regulations is the primary reason for the city's economic success. Greater freedom invariably leads to greater economic prosperity.
2. Privatize the city's parks, libraries, roads, and other properties. The city would raise hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in revenues. Much of the money should be returned to taxpayers, which would serve as an actual economic stimulus. The economy would boom as new entrepreneurial opportunities arise. Taxes could be slashed (see position #6). And citizens would not be forced to pay for services they do not use.
3. Tell Washington and Austin to stick it. This would certainly spark threats from those in power. They undoubtedly would not be happy with the city declaring its independence from the respective capitols. If the city got out of the road, entertainment, airport, and other businesses it would have no need for Washington's money. And the city has never needed the mandates and dictates emanating from Washington and Austin.
4. Get tough on crime...really tough. This has two aspects. The first is to legalize all activities that do not constitute a violation of individual rights, that is, an initiation of force. This would free the police from chasing prostitutes and crack dealers, and allow them to focus on the real criminals. The second aspect is to deal with criminals harshly--long sentences that are served in their entirety. Of course, this will require some cooperation from the State, which might not be as easy to achieve. But setting a good example is a great place to start.
5. Amend the city charter to prohibit any new ordinance that violates individual rights. It is immoral for the government to initiate force against its citizens. This principle should be codified in the city charter, along with an explicit statement defining individual rights and their moral foundation. The city should make it an official policy that it rejects service to others--altruism-- as the standard of morality, and the "welfare of the community"--collectivism-- as the standard of good.
6. Eliminate taxes. Confined to its legitimate functions, the city's budget would shrink to a tiny fraction of what it currently is. The courts and police could be financed through a number of methods: an endowment established with the money raised when city property is sold, lotteries, and voluntary contributions. Houstonians currently spend millions of dollars on private security, donations to the 100 Club, and for alternative dispute resolution. In other words, they voluntarily pay for the protection of their rights even with the burden of taxation. There is no reason to think that this will cease when citizens are no longer forced to support the myriad illegitimate city departments and programs.
7. Sponsor a really big party. Okay, this one may not be legitimate. But Houston can throw some large and spectacular celebrations-- such as the annual Fourth of July celebration. I cannot think of a more fitting event to celebrate than Houston's emancipation from the shackles of altruism and collectivism.
I am well aware that the above is indeed a fantasy. But since the approach of the new year is always a time of optimism, I will hold on to a tiny shred of hope that my fantasy might come true.