Monday, May 25, 2009

Creating the Perfect City

You probably have a vision of the "perfect" city. In a "perfect" city everything would be just the way you like it. You would never have to walk into a business in which someone was doing something you didn't like--such as smoking. You would never have to look at an ugly tree. You would never have to witness a favorite building torn down. You could get around town cheaply and easily. You wouldn't have to tolerate a muffler shop next to your house.

Of course, a "perfect" city probably wouldn't be so perfect. You wouldn't be able to run your business as you choose--Houston's smoking ordinance (and many others) might prohibit that. You wouldn't be able to plant the trees that you enjoy--Houston's landscaping ordinance might prohibit that. You wouldn't be able to use your land as you desire--Houston's preservation ordinance (and many others) might prohibit that.

You see, your vision of the perfect city is not shared by every Houstonian, just as you do not share their vision. Some of us like smoked filled bars. Some of us like different kinds of trees. Some of us like to use our property for things others might not like. The things that you like are not embraced by all of your fellow Houstonians. While you are busy trying to create your perfect city, other citizens will be doing the same. While you are trying to control actions you dislike, others will be trying to control your actions.

You will likely find politicians who share your vision, and they will seek to pass laws to bring that vision to reality. And others will be doing the same. Indeed, this is modern politics--competing groups seek to gain political influence to implement whatever they deem necessary to create their "perfect" city.

This battle for "perfection" is the logical outcome of the morality that dominates Houston. Most Houstonians believe that the individual must put aside his own selfish interests for the "public good" or the "general welfare". The individual must abide by the dictates of "the people", no matter his own judgment, desires, or values. The individual must serve the "greater good", and those who refuse to do so voluntarily may properly be forced to do so.

Forget about planting a Chinese Tallow--your fellow citizens have decreed that to be a "trash tree". Don't even consider allowing employees or customers to smoke in your business--that has been declared to be detrimental to the "public health". Don't think about erecting a billboard on your property, or tearing down an "historical" building, or using "attention-getting devices"--you will incur the wrath of those with a different vision of the perfect city. No matter your view of perfection, there will be those who disagree. And if they have political power, or political connections, they will be able to impose their views upon you.

In truth, the perfect city is one of individual freedom. In the perfect city, each individual is free to act according to his own judgment, so long as he respects the mutual rights of others. He is free to use his property as he desires. He is free to operate his business as he chooses. He can plant the trees of his choice, or tear down the house that he owns, or allow smoking in his business. Those who find his choices distasteful are free to shun him, find a job elsewhere, and spend their money with businesses more to their liking.

Houston can be the perfect city. All we must is reject the belief that the individual exists only for the sake of serving others. All we must do is recognize and protect the right of each individual to his own life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness.

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