Monday, February 23, 2009

My Virtual Platform: "Quality of Life"

(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.)

My opponents promise that they will improve the city’s “quality of life”, but they do not define the term. They assume that we all know and agree to the same definition of “quality of life”. As used by my opponents, "quality of life" is a meaningless phrase.

The truth is, “quality of life” is a matter of personal values. We each define “quality of life” differently. Some individuals prefer a spacious back yard, while some prefer no yard at all. Some prefer proximity to parks, while others prefer to live close to shopping. Some prefer a short commute, while others prefer suburban life. All of these preferences and many, many more contribute to how each individual conceives “quality of life”.

For politicians to claim that they will improve the city’s “quality of life”, they must necessarily embrace one particular conception of the term. They must accept and implement one view of “quality of life”, to the exclusion of all others. And the “quality of life” that they embrace will be imposed upon all individuals, no matter their own personal views on the subject. All Houstonians will be forced to accept and live by the “quality of life” advocated by public officials.

There is only one context in which any public official can legitimately speak of “quality of life”. There is only one context in which all Houstonians can embrace the same conception of “quality of life”. And that context is individual freedom—the right to pursue your individual values and goals without interference from others, as long as you respect their mutual rights. Indeed, freedom is the ultimate in “quality of life”.

In this context, my administration will improve your “quality of life”—my administration will increase your personal freedom. My administration will reduce the arbitrary restrictions and controls imposed by city government. My administration will allow you to choose and pursue your definition of “quality of life”.

We will accomplish this by repealing ordinances that violate the rights of individuals. We will repeal permitting and licensing, which are nothing more than a mandate by city government that you secure permission for pursuing your “quality of life”. We will reduce taxes, which will allow you to keep more of your money and thereby pursue your “quality of life”. We will repeal ordinances that control how businesses operate, which will allow entrepreneurs to pursue their “quality of life”.

We will not tell you how to build or remodel your home. We will not tell you which contractors you can legally hire. We will not tell you what kinds of trees you can plant, or what kind of signs you can erect. We will allow you to act by right, not by permission.

Government regulations and controls drive up the cost of the goods and services you purchase, stifle competition, and reduce options for consumers. Government regulations and controls decrease jobs, make it more difficult and expensive for businesses to operate, and reduce economic opportunities. Government regulations and controls decrease your “quality of life”. And therefore, any meaningful discussion of improving a city’s “quality of life” must necessarily include reducing the size and scope of government.

Interestingly, my opponents argue that improving the city’s “quality of life” can only occur by expanding government. They argue that more government programs, services, and control over your life and business are the only way we can improve our “quality of life”. If this were true, then totalitarian dictatorships would be the epitome of “quality of life”. If this were true, citizens would voluntarily give all of their money to government.

“Quality of life” is a deeply personal issue for each individual. We each have a moral right to choose our “quality of life” without government restrictions. My administration will not stand in your way—we will allow you to pursue your own happiness and your own "quality of life".

Tuesday: City Assets


Harold said...

You've got my vote. Thanks for clarifying the QOL issue. If this subject were to appear in a real campaign, it would definitely get people thinking. It would be interesting to see how your opponents would respond.

Brian Phillips said...

I too would be interested in how they would respond. They will likely try to ignore me, but I won't go away that easily. I intend to press these issues.

Jessie said...

Some prefer a short commute, while others prefer suburban life.

I would argue this is more of a tradeoff more so than a preference. But maybe that's implied. Because, what percentage of people actually want a long commute, 1%?

as long as you respect their mutual rights.

And here lies the problem, people for the overwhelmingly most part will not live by the "golden rule."
But your following statement helps qualify this...

My administration will reduce the arbitrary restrictions and controls imposed by city government.

which are nothing more than a mandate by city government that you secure permission for pursuing your “quality of life”.

But sometimes I cannot actually choose my quality of life for myself. I do not build the roads I drive on or the buildings I work in. I do not have the funds to build my neighborhood a lake and park like it does.

Just playing a little devils advocate.

Brian Phillips said...

Jessie-- Yes there is a trade off living in the suburbs. My point is that for some, the short commute is more valuable than life in the suburbs, and for others the opposite is true. It is a personal choice.

We each should be free to choose our values and pursue them without interference from others. This means making choices-- should I buy a new computer or a new television? Should I take my wife to dinner, or save for a vacation?

If you value a park or a lake, then you have many options--save your money to build them, buy a house near such amenities, work with your neighbors to pool funds, etc. You do have a choice. If the value is important enough, do what is required to attain it.

Ryan O. said...

Jessie-you mentioned that your inability to afford a park or lake in your neighborhood as evidence that you cannot choose such a thing and therefore that you cannot choose your quality of life. But in doing this, you have made an equivocation between the freedom to pursue something and actually having the thing itself. I would like a Ferrari and am not restricted in any way from obtaining one-I just cannot afford it. This doesn't mean that I am without choice or freedom or rights in this regard. To have a right to the Ferrari, or the park, would imply that someone else is obligated to give it to me-that individual would be my slave in this situation, without choice.

The difference is important--those who advocate universal health care or welfare programs under such slogans as, "Without providers there can be no choice," or "A hungry person is not free" seek to make slaves of us all.

Brian Phillips said...

Ryan-- You are right. Many people confuse their desires with their rights. They believe that the desire for something gives them a right to it. They believe that they can consume without producing, which ultimately means that they get to consume the production of others. As you point out, this makes the others into slaves.