Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blinding the Able

Advocates of expanding government control over the lives of Houstonians love to make claims about how visitors see our city. For example, in supporting more restrictions on billboards, the Chronicle recently claimed:
There’s no virtue in looking awful, and when Houston competes with other cities, our tackiness puts us at a disadvantage.
Anne Culver, executive director of Scenic Houston, an anti-billboard organization, told the Chronicle:
People come here and they are consistently shocked by the city’s appearance and they often ask us how we let this happen to our city. Site consultants say all the time that they’re told not to put Houston on their lists because of pollution, the heat and how it looks.
As I have pointed out, statists love to make assertions about how bad Houston is, while ignoring the actual facts. In the past year I have pointed out studies, reports, and articles that praise Houston. I have also pointed out articles that demonstrate the negative consequences of land-use regulations. Conveniently, the statists ignore the public, published findings and conclusions that cite Houston as a model for other cities, and instead make reference to private comments made by unnamed sources. Why?

On the political level, statists do not like the decisions made by others and seek to use government coercion to control the actions of others. They don't like the fact that some individuals choose to erect billboards on their property or use "attention-getting devices" to promote their business. And because they believe that force is a proper way to deal with others, they seek the power of government to impose their views on the community.

But politics is not a primary. One's views on the proper relationship between individuals is determined by one's views on what is proper for individuals qua individuals. That is, one's views on ethics determines one's views on politics.

While the specifics vary, statists agree that morality consists of placing the welfare of others before one's own individual welfare. They agree that the individual must be subservient to the demands of others, whether it is the community, or the majority, or "the public". They agree that morality demands that the individual serve others, that the individual does not exist for his own sake. They agree that the individual has no right to his own life, his own liberty, his own property, or the pursuit of his own happiness.

To the statist, those who refuse to sacrifice their values and place the "public welfare" before their own individual welfare are "selfish" and immoral. The statist believes that these recalcitrant individualists may properly be forced to be moral.

Fundamentally, statists believe that individuals should not be permitted to act according to their own judgment. To act according to one's own judgment means to choose one's values and the means for attaining them. It means to judge the facts and act accordingly. Government controls and regulations are, at root, an attempt to prevent individuals from acting as they determine best. This is what underlies every government control, regulation, mandate, and decree.

To justify such atrocities, government officials hold hearings and conduct meetings to determine "the will of the people". If enough people agree, then the idea must be true. If a consensus can be reached, then the proposal must be proper. In short, truth is determined by a vote.

This is what lies at the very foundation of the appeals to unnamed "experts". The actual, observable facts are not to be believed. That Houston led the nation in job growth or has affordable housing is a mere chimera. It isn't true unless "the people" declare it to be true. The testimony of individuals that Houston's relative freedom in land-use is a primary cause of its economic prosperity is insufficient, for it is based on the judgment of individuals.

Just as statists wish to prevent individuals from acting according to their own judgment, they wish to dismiss the judgment of individuals when it conflicts with their agenda. They want the majority to rule, not just in elections, but in determining the truth. They have closed their eyes to reality, and they seek to blind those who refuse to do the same.

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