Friday, June 19, 2009

Houston: The City I Love, Part 5

Freedom and Responsibility

Freedom means the absence of coercion. It means that each individual can act according to his own judgment without interference from others, so long as he respects their mutual rights. Freedom allows us to choose our values and the means by which we will attain them.

Freedom does not give us a claim to the values produced by others. It does not mean that others must satisfy our desires or needs.

Freedom carries with it the responsibility to choose wisely. If we choose wisely, we reap the benefits. If we choose poorly, we bear the consequences.

There are however, many who do not like this fact. They desire certain values but do not wish to engage in the actions necessary to attain them. They do not like the options available to them—such as transportation—and they seek to use government force to create additional options. In doing so, they limit the freedom of choice and options available to others—they compel other individuals to provide financial support for their values.

There are those who want an easy commute, and rather than move or find a new job, they demand that government build light rail for them. There are those who want their neighborhood to remain unchanged, and they demand that government prohibit the construction of certain projects. There are those who want “walkable” neighborhoods, and they demand that government mandate wider sidewalks and more green space. Such individuals have no reservations ceding their rights to government. Nor do they have a problem sacrificing the rights of their neighbors to satisfy their own desires.

More than other American cities, Houston has rejected these calls in the past and protected the rights of its citizens. The economic benefits that we enjoy—affordable housing, job growth, and a lower cost of living—are the practical benefits of this freedom. The many options we have in regard to places of employment and housing are a consequence of freedom of choice—both ours and that of our fellow Houstonians. Their freedom allows them to offer options to us, and our freedom allows us to choose those that satisfy our values.

I love Houston, and not just because I live here. I choose to live here, because I love and value freedom.

The prosperity that Houstonians enjoy has a cause. We will not and cannot continue to experience economic growth while destroying its cause. We will not and cannot continue to enjoy an abundance of affordable housing options while enacting more controls and restrictions on developers and builders. We will not and cannot solve our traffic problems by ceding more control to government.

Each individual has a moral right to pursue his own values without interference from others. Each of us has a moral right to our own life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. This applies to every individual, gay or straight, white or black, Anglo or Hispanic, male or female.

Houston’s greatness is the result of recognizing this right more than any other city. Our continued greatness requires a renewed commitment to the principles of individual rights. Our continued greatness requires that we recognize and protect individual rights, completely and consistently. This is true in regard to housing, in regard to transportation, and in regard to how we conduct our businesses. It is true in every realm of our lives.

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