Monday, June 15, 2009

Houston: The City I Love

Politicians love to listen to citizen complaints. Complaints give the politician both a purpose and a justification. Solving the problem is the purpose, and the fact that the complaint was voiced to a government official provides justification for expanded government powers.

As an example, Annise Parker’s web site has a section titled “Houston Speaks”. Here, citizens can voice their displeasure about Houston and their opinions on how the city can be improved. The dominant issue raised on that page is the need for mass transit, and light rail in particular.

I’ve used the subway systems in both New York and London, and I will admit that they make for a relatively easy method for getting around town. Of course, the other alternatives can be expensive and difficult, and the city governments in those cities are largely responsible for this fact.

Much of the demand for rail in Houston seems to stem from similar experiences. Indeed, one poster on Parker’s site says: “I moved here from Chicago. Now that’s public transportation!” Another comment states: “Convenient neighborhood light-rail service to downtown and airport, like in other large cities.” In other words, these citizens want Houston to emulate other cities.

I have two questions to those who make such comments:

Something about Houston was enticing enough for you to move here, and stay here. What was/ is it?
If Chicago, or anywhere else, is so damn good, why didn’t you stay there?

These questions are rhetorical, because I am going to supply the answers in a moment. But I first would like to point out that underlying such comments is a gross evasion. Those who want Houston to emulate other cities ignore crucial facts about Houston and the cities they seem to love. They believe that there is nothing essentially different about Houston, other than the fact that we don’t have mass transit. And that, in their feeble minds, is a bad thing.

So what is it about Houston that attracts so many people that dislike our city? I’ve traveled the city far and wide for nearly thirty years, and I have yet to see a single sign advertising Houston as a Mecca for masochists. Since my arrival in 1980 I have heard an endless litany of complaints about Houston. Yet, our population continues to grow.

The reason is quite simple, but it seems to be lost on virtually every one of these whiners. We have jobs. Houston is filled with refugees from the Rust Belt—where jobs are disappearing faster than Boone’s Farm on skid row. And an increasing number are fleeing the West Coast and its obscene taxation.

Once in Houston, they pine for the “good old days” back in California, or New York, or whatever hell hole they fled. They want light rail, walkable neighborhoods, controlled growth, and all of the other things that created the problems in their Eden. They want to have their cake, and eat ours too.

The fact is, Houston is different from every other city in America. Houston shows a greater respect for individual rights—including property rights—than any other city. That fact is the primary reason why Houston created more jobs than any other city in 2008. That fact is the primary reason why our city has prospered. There is an indisputable connection between individual freedom and economic prosperity.

But freedom is not what many Houstonians want. They want to have their desires fulfilled by others, believing that if enough people support some proposal then it is proper and just. They don’t want to sit in their car for an hour drive to work, and have no qualms forcing their neighbor to help pay for a rail system. They want a nice house in the suburbs and a short commute. They want it all, and they want their neighbors to pay for it.

Just in case it isn’t clear, these people piss me off. They live in the greatest city in America, and they want to destroy it. They have no understanding of Houston’s greatness, the source of the jobs they are so happy to take, or the reason for our affordable housing. They view the economic benefits that they enjoy as a birthright, along with light rail and ample parks.

This week I will address this issue in more depth. I will indicate the connection between freedom in land-use and economic prosperity. I will show the vast number of options and choices available to Houstonians, in regard to both employment and where to live. I will show why Houston has more choices than the Shangri-Las these statists left behind. And finally, I will discuss why freedom of choice brings with it personal responsibility.

No comments: