(This post is a part of my platform for my virtual campaign for the Mayor of Houston. You can read my announcement here and my statement of principles here.)
Several of my opponents have spoken of the need to protect neighborhoods. But they haven't told us what this means. They assume that we all know, and agree, to the meaning of the term.
A neighborhood is comprised of the individuals who own property and reside within a particular geographic area. But those individuals do not speak with one voice. They have different dreams, aspirations, and values. They seek different things in their life and in the neighborhood in which they live.
The proper function of government is the protection of individual rights, not neighborhoods. To "protect" neighborhoods, government must necessarily restrict the actions of some individuals for the benefit of other individuals. Government must use force to compel or prohibit certain behavior--it must use force to benefit some individuals are the expense of other individuals. This is what my opponents mean by "protecting" neighborhoods.
Consider the positions of my opponents, who advocate controls and regulations on the types of development that can occur. This, they would have us believe, will "protect" neighborhoods from actions that the residents find distasteful. And in the process, the rights of some property owners are violated. "Protections" that require a violation of property rights are a gross contradiction.
Civilized individuals do not resort to force to prohibit actions they find distasteful. They use reason and persuasion. They resort to contract and voluntary agreement, not the heavy hand of government.
The call for neighborhood "protection" is, at root, a demand that the property rights of some individuals be violated for the benefit of others. While it may be politically popular to appease such demands, the principles of individual freedom require that the rights of individuals be protected from the passions of a mob. The rights of individuals are sacrosanct, and may not be violated no matter the number demanding otherwise.
Each individual has a moral right to use his property as he chooses, so long as he does not violate the mutual rights of others. The only manner in which rights can objectively be violated is through the use of force--by compelling an individual to act contrary to his own rational judgment. Finding an action distasteful is not a violation of your rights. If it were, every Houstonian could make claims about countless others, and the result would be the destruction of all rights.
Those who are truly concerned about maintaining a certain character, charm, or quality in their neighborhood should use voluntary, contractual means for doing so. They can purchase objectionable properties, or use deed restrictions to place voluntary restrictions on the use of property.
But most of all, they must take responsibility for their own decisions. I realize that it is not politically popular to make such a suggestion--voters prefer to absolve themselves of responsibility and politicians are quick to cooperate. This does not change the fact that actions have consequences, and those who take the action must be held accountable for their actions. If they do not like the consequences, it is not the responsibility of government to bail them out. It is not the responsibility of government to make the pain go away. It is the responsibility of government to insure your freedom to make decisions and act accordingly.