Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Quality of Life Coalition

The Quality of Life Coalition (QLC) is an umbrella organization of civic, business, and charitable organizations dedicated to making Houston a better city. This sounds laudable, until we examine what they advocate, and how they propose to achieve their goals.

While claiming that "quality of life" and economic prosperity go hand in hand, QLC
supports active enforcement of Houston's billboard ordinances and banning construction of further billboards in the greater Houston area and the state.

In short QLC would like to put the billboard industry out of business, which means the loss of several thousand jobs. Apparently, the "quality of life" of those employed in the billboard industry is of little concern to QLC. This is not surprising, as groups like QLC are quick to claim that they speak for the public, while destroying the livelihood of some members of that public.
QLC gives away their hand when they speak of economic development.

Higher pay is not enough to attract and maintain the best and brightest of the market's workforce to the Houston region. We must be able to offer a strong and healthy community, one that allows families to prosper personally as well as financially, one that offers tremendous quality of life.

These types of arguments have been bandied about by the "quality of life" crowd for nearly one-hundred years. Since the 1920's they have claimed that Houston needs zoning if the city is to keep growing. But the fact that Houston has kept growing--and led the nation in job creation in 2008--is an inconvenient fact that they just evade. They keep making the same dire predictions, decade after decade. And in the meantime tens of thousands of people find Houston's "quality of life" attractive enough to move here every year. The voluntary actions of individuals is a much more compelling statement about our "quality of life" than the feel good statements of QLC and its ilk.

What is interesting is that QLC never defines "quality of life". They assume that everyone knows its meaning, and agrees to that meaning. They assume that all Houstonians define "quality of life" the same way.

The truth is, "quality of life" is a matter of personal values. Some value parks, while others value shopping centers. Some value short commutes, while others value life in the suburbs. These values, and many, many more contribute to how we define "quality of life". To imply that all Houstonians agree to the same definition is arrogant, and an evasion of readily evident facts. All they need to do is drive through the Montrose, or the Heights, or Rice Military, or West University, or countless other neighborhoods to see that Houstonians define "quality of life" differently.

This is precisely what QLC and its supporters oppose. Freedom permits individuals to pursue their values without interference from others, so long as they respect the mutual rights of others. And sometimes individuals pursue values that others find distasteful. But rather than defend the rights of others, QLC wants to use the power of government to impose its values on the entire city. They want to prohibit values that don't fit with their view of "quality of life".

In advocating the use of force to achieve their ends, QLC is actually destructive to the "quality of life" in Houston. Individual freedom is the most essential factor in determining "quality of life". Endorsing regulations and controls on individuals is destructive to that freedom, and thus "quality of life".

If QLC and its supporters really cared about "quality of life" they would advocate greater individual freeom. They would defend the right of each individual to define his own "quality of life" and pursue it without the arbitrary restrictions of government. They would defend property rights, rather than attack them. They would be planting the seeds of liberty, not trees and landscaping.


Harold said...

"Quality of Life" sounds like a floating abstraction.

Brian Phillips said...

As used by QLC and their ilk, it is. They make references to things like trees, graffiti removal, and the sort as a part of "quality of life". But any objective definition of the term must take into account a myriad other issues.