Saturday, June 20, 2009

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff 30

Parker on Infrastructure

Mayoral candidate Annise Parker recently released a white paper on the city's infrastructure. Claiming that she will reform how the city provides roads, sanitation facilities, and bridges, she writes:

Infrastructure funding decisions are made in a yearly budget process that, even when it works well, can be intensely political. The short-term interests of politicians who can serve only six years may not coincide with the long-term planning necessary to maintain and upgrade our infrastructure.

So what is her proposal for reform? She wants to create a dedicated fund for infrastructure that will remove politics from the process.

Those who are unable to think in principles may find this plausible and consider it an effort at reform. But tinkering with details is not reform--it is tinkering with details. True reform means to change the essential character of the item or issue in question.

Parker believes that a dedicated fund will remove politics from infrastructure decisions. But politicians will remain in control of the process, which means, politics will invariably be involved in one form or another. If she truly wishes to get politics out of the process, then she should advocate getting politicians out of the process. In other words, she should advocate privatizing the city's infrastructure.

Parker concludes her paper:

Houston is the best place in America to live and raise a family. To keep it that way, we need a government that takes care of the basics – and makes sure that all voices are heard as these important decisions are made. That’s my job as your next mayor.

This is a large part of why Parker's alleged reform won't amount to anything. If "all voices are heard" on these important issues, how will she reconcile the competing and contradictory ideas she hears? The answer is quite simple: Those with the most political influence will get their way, which means, nothing will change.

Brown on Crime

Mayoral candidate Peter Brown also recently released a white paper. His addressed crime in Houston, and like Parker, he thinks that tinkering with details amounts to reform. He too is wrong.

Apparently, the way to address crime is through better relationships:

Almost half of Houston's police force is behind a desk instead of out on patrol, keeping us safe. Peter’s plan would get police officers out of downtown and into the community. Police officers will get to know our neighborhoods, and the neighborhoods will get to know their local officers, fostering relationships of trust and accountability, whether you live in Kingwood or the Third Ward.

In other words, if the citizens get to know police officers, criminals will lay down their guns, quit breaking into homes, and change their ways. If we all just sit in our front yards singing Kumbaya crime will plummet.

As sweet as this may sound, it isn't the way to combat crime. The most effective method for reducing crime is to punish criminals--those who violate the rights of other individuals. And the best way to accomplish this is quit wasting time on policing strip clubs, running prostitution stings, and otherwise interfering with the voluntary, consensual activities of adults.

The Cult of Compromise
Both Parker and Brown have called for greater citizen input into the decisions made by government officials. This is a common theme among politicians, who like to posture themselves as "servants of the people". What the politicians don't tell us is--the process of greater citizen input demands that all parties compromise.

For example, if some citizens demand that billboards be outlawed, while the billboard companies want to retain their moral right to use their property, how can politicians reconcile these diametrically opposite demands? We can find the answer by looking at history--the billboard companies will accept some controls and regulations and the anti-billboard crowd will accept a reduced presence of billboards. In short, both sides compromise.

But the result is actually a complete victory for those who oppose billboards, for the billboard companies have conceded that their business, their property, their lives can be disposed of by others. The billboard companies have conceded that their rights are subject to the approval of others, and the only issue to be decided is which rights will be violated and to what extent. As we have seen, once this principle is conceded, it is only a matter of time before the statists are knocking on the door demanding more blood.

Underlying this process is the belief that developing a consensus will lead us to the truth. If enough citizens express their views, the truth will emerge out of the mish-mash of conflicting ideas. In short, while one Houstonian is probably wrong, a million Houstonians can create the truth.

Truth is not determined by a vote. Reality is not malleable to the demands of the majority. And these facts will not change, no matter how many people believe otherwise.

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