Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Virtual Platform: Statement of Principles

(This post is a part of my platform for my virtual campaign for the Mayor of Houston. You can read my announcement here.)

I will begin my virtual candidacy for Mayor of Houston by doing something that is virtually unheard of in modern politics-- I will state the principles that underlie my candidacy.

The proper purpose of government is the protection of individual rights. Every policy I propose, every position I take, every piece of legislation I endorse will serve this end.

A right is a moral sanction to freedom of action in a social context. A right places boundaries on others-- it prohibits them from interfering with your actions. Their mutual rights prevent you from interfering with their actions. Rights pertain to action--the freedom to take the actions necessary to achieve your values. Rights are not a claim on the values of others.

The only manner in which rights can be violated is through physical force. Only physical force can prevent you from acting as you choose. Only physical force can deprive you of your life, liberty, property, or pursuit of happiness. Again, the mutual rights of others prevents you from depriving them of their life, liberty, property, or pursuit of happiness.

Rights pertain only to individuals. There are no such things as "black rights", which imply that blacks have rights separate and distinct from non-blacks. There are no "gay rights", or "women's rights", or "Hispanic rights". There are only individual rights, and they apply to all individuals, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

You have a moral right to take the actions necessary to sustain and enjoy your life. You do not have a right to demand that others provide your sustenance, or an internet connection, or a flat screen television. You have a moral right to pursue your values, so long as you respect the mutual rights of others. This is true whether you are black or white, male or female, gay or straight. This is true whether you were born in Texas, Ohio, Yucatan, or Southeast Asia. This is true of all individuals.

(It was the philosopher/ novelist Ayn Rand who articulated and defended these moral and political principles. The interpretation and application of these ideas is my responsibility, and I do not purport to represent or speak as an official representative of her philosophy. For more information on her ideas, I refer you to Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and The Virtue of Selfishness.)

Government today has expanded far beyond its legitimate functions and purpose. On the local level, government has only two legitimate functions--the police and the courts. The purpose of the police is to apprehend criminals--those who violate the rights of other individuals. Properly defined, only those actions that initiate force against others is a crime. The purpose of the courts is to determine the guilt or innocence of accused criminals, and to resolve disputes over contracts. Beyond these two purposes everything the government does necessarily involves the violation of the rights of some individuals for the benefit of other individuals.

In such an environment, government becomes a magnet for special interest groups, each declaring that its agenda is in the "public welfare". Each scurries to develop political influence with the intent of imposing its values upon the entire community. It is a civil war, in which ballots are used in place of bullets. But the results are just as destructive.

When government expands beyond its legitimate functions, it must necessarily become an initiator of force. It must necessarily use force against citizens, not because they have robbed, raped, or murdered, but because they have not secured permission to use their property or operate their business, or because they engage in peaceful, voluntary actions that do not meet the city's approval, or because they have the audacity to use "attention-getting devices" outside their business.

When government provides services not within its proper sphere, it must necessarily limit or prohibit competition. It must secure its "customers", not by their consent, but by mandate. It secures its "customers" by prohibiting competion under the penalty of law. The city government should get out of the water, sewage treatment, and park businesses. It should divest itself of libraries and roads. It should limit itself to the protection of the rights of Houstonians.

Some may think that I am an impractical idealist to advocate such dramatic reductions in the size of government. Let me be clear--I do not intend, nor do I think it prudent to reduce city government to its legitimate functions in the span of two years. To do so would be virtually impossible. But we can begin to move toward that end. We can begin to dismantle city government and return it to its proper sphere. While we will move rapidly, we will also move cautiously--taking every effort to insure an orderly transition.

Our goal is to increase individual freedom. Our goal is to allow Houstonians greater control over their lives. The first steps we take will be to rescind those violations of individual rights that do not involve city services--such as business and building permits. We will move to decriminalize voluntary interactions between individuals that do not involve coercion. Such steps will allow us to reduce taxes and allow Houstonians to keep more of their money. Such steps will allow our police to focus on the real criminals--those who violate the rights of others.

My opponents will argue that we need more government control of our lives. They will claim that individuals must put aside their personal values for the betterment of the community. Some will insist that if we develop a "common vision" we can build a better city. I reject these claims and arguments. All require that you be subservient to the community. All demand that you place the interests of others before your own interests. In contrast, I declare that you have a moral right to live your life for your own happiness. And with your help, the City of Houston will not stand in your way. With your help, Houston will become the freest city in America.

Thursday: Crime

No comments: