Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mayoral Preview: Brian Phillips

Over the past few months I have previewed some of the potential candidates for the Houston Mayoral election in 2009. I have even fantasized about my ideal candidate. But rather than continue to wait in vain for my ideal candidate to emerge, I am now declaring my virtual candidacy for Houston Mayor. (By virtual candidacy, I mean that I am not literally running for Mayor. But I will address the issues as if I were.)

Since I am approaching this as if I were actually running for the City's top position, I must keep in mind political and economic realities. For example, it would not be possible to eliminate taxes and privatize all city services in a single mayoral term (two years). Therefore, I will not advocate such positions. This does not mean that I will compromise; it means that I must recognize that creating more freedom must be a gradual process. Moving towards greater freedom is not as easy as throwing a switch. Weening the public from government services without creating chaos will require careful planning to insure an orderly transition.

I have two reasons for this virtual candidacy. The first is that it is an interesting intellectual exercise. It is one thing to advocate that all property be privately owned. It is another to lay out a plan to get from where we are to that ideal. When Margaret Thacher was dismantling the British welfare state, she created constituencies for her proposals. She appealed to the self-interest of the various individuals who would be impacted by her plans. She was able to get support for her proposals by doing this, and thus was able to get them implemented. My second reason is to be pro-active.

Rather than simply criticize the actual mayoral candidates, I will offer actual solutions. Rather than tell them what they are doing wrong, I will real solutions to the issues facing Houston. This is a form of intellectual activism.

For those who support freedom, my virtual candidacy will offer concrete, positive alternatives to the expansion of government. My platform will offer you ideas that stand in stark contrast to those offered by the mainstream candidates. These ideas will provide you with the intellectual ammunition needed to combat the trend towards greater government control of our lives.

Since this is a "political campaign" I do not know what twists and turns it will take. Since I will not be an actual participant, it will require some creativity to inject these ideas into the debate. For those who support me, this can be a fun and rewarding opportunity to spread the right ideas.

Between now and November I will run a virtual campaign. I will write OpEd articles (I will actually submit them, though not under the pretense of running for Mayor). I will "participate" in debates. I will leave comments on other blogs. I will seek speaking engagements and writing opportunities--not for the purpose of becoming Mayor, but to put forth a positive argument for individual freedom and property rights.

In the coming weeks I will lay out my platform and my position on the issues I think most important. Unlike actual candidates, I will provide real solutions to these issues. Unlike actual candidates, my proposals will not involve an expansion of government powers. The important issues facing Houstonians that I will address are:

  • Crime

  • City services

  • Taxes

  • Quality of life

  • The economy

  • City assets

  • "Protecting" neighborhoods

My message will not cater to the myriad special interest groups that attempt to influence local politics. Politicians who do such are continually changing their message to appeal to the group du jour. My message will be aimed at all individuals, no matter their skin color, their sexual orientation, or their religion. My message will appeal to the best within each individual. My message will be one of individual freedom, and the opportunities which that freedom provides.

Since I am a virtual candidate, I ask for your virtual support. I ask you to share my ideas with the media, voters, and politicians. I ask for your help in delivering my message by commenting on blogs and web sites. I ask you to link to my position statements.

I do not ask that you do so for some higher cause, but rather, I ask that you do it as a matter of your own self-interest. If you value individual freedom and property rights, promoting the ideas that support freedom is in your self-interest. That is my motivation, and I would expect nothing less of my supporters.

I am a political outsider. To run an actual campaign at this time would be an exercise in futility and a waste of resources. The ideas that I advocate are rejected by the political mainstream. However, injecting these ideas into the debate can have positive short term benefits, as well as set the stage for long term success. In the short term we can slow the growth of government; in the long term we can reverse that trend and move towards greater freedom. This virtual campaign is not about winning votes; it is about spreading ideas.

I do not have political connections, nor I do not know the minute details of city or state government. If I were an actual candidate, this would undoubtedly be a liability. However, the fact that such connections and knowledge seems to be necessary to run for office is an indictment on our culture, not my ideas. I say this, not as an excuse, but because such details are largely irrelevant. To argue over details is to accept the premise that government should regulate and control the lives of individuals. I reject that premise. I am not trying to fine tune city government. I am trying to pare it down to size.

Many people run for political office and promise a more business-like approach. But government is not a business--it is an agent of force. Making the use of that force more efficient in the violation of individual rights is not a virtue. My goal is not greater efficiency in government, but greater freedom for individuals.

A year from now, Houston will have a new Mayor. It will not be me. But with your help we can have an influence on the debate. With your help we can move towards greater recognition and protection of the rights of all individuals.


C. August said...

You certainly have my vote.

The following stuck out in my mind because I've had similar thoughts in relation to government corruption:

"I do not have political connections, nor I do not know the minute details of city or state government. If I were an actual candidate, this would undoubtedly be a liability. However, the fact that such connections and knowledge seems to be necessary to run for office is an indictment on our culture, not my ideas."

When people blame businessmen for using lobbyists, or politicians for rigging sweetheart deals for campaign contributors or what have you, I always bring up a variation on your point above. If the government weren't in a position to hand out favors, if it wasn't able to violate the rights of some for the benefit of others... in essence, if there were no favors to hand out, there would be no corruption.

The fact that lobbying is often necessary to survive in business is not an indictment of business itself, but of our culture and prevailing ideas. (To adapt your quote.)

I look forward to following your campaign.

Brian Phillips said...

One thing I hope to illustrate in this campaign is that businessmen must often grovel for permission to operate their business. Politicians talk about creating jobs while passing laws that kill jobs. They talk about attracting businesses to the city, while creating more barriers to business. They try to appeal to whatever group they are talking to at the moment.

I will have one advantage--I will always be speaking about the rights of the individual, and everyone I speak to will be an individual.

Rob said...

It will be interesting to see how this "excercise" pans out.

How closely do you intend to emulate an actual campaign? For instance, you posted an announcement of your "candidacy" on your blog. Have you announced it to the press? Did you send out a press release? Or perhaps you actually held a press conference?

Brian Phillips said...

Since this is an intellectual campaign, I don't plan to do all of the things an actual candidate would do. I have not sent a press release, but plan to so once my entire platform is posted. I'm going to try to get on some local talk shows as well.

Part of the challenge with this is to be serious about the ideas, but not serious about an actual candidacy.

B.L.P. said...

You certainly have my "vote" as well. I am not from your area but I feel this is a great idea and will be following your campaign. In the future I may mimmick this idead in my city(Lancaster,PA). We need an intellectual revolution within more individuals all over the country and this is a wonderful way to start. Keep up the great work, you are true son of liberty.