Thursday, July 30, 2009

Flooding Us with Non-Solutions

Peter Brown has unveiled his plan to address flooding in Houston, and as would be expected, it involves the violation of property rights:

Unchecked development just outside the city limits is creating flooding inside Houston. We need to use the tools available to protect neighborhoods from unchecked development that isn’t bound by the standards and policies of the City of Houston. Everyone needs to play by the same set of rules if we’re going to stop flooding in every part of Houston.

It isn't enough for Brown to limit development within the city; he now wants to expand that arbitrary power to areas outside of city limits. He wants the power to control the property of individuals who can't vote for him and have no representation on city council.

The recognition and protection of property rights is the only practical and moral solution to flooding concerns. However, Brown has thoroughly rejected property rights--as evidenced by his continual calls for restrictions on development. No matter the issue, his automatic response is more government controls and regulations.

Flooding is certainly a complex issue. The actions of one property owner can have an impact on other property owners miles away. But this complexity does not justify government controls.

The right to property means the right of use and disposal. A property owner has a moral right to use his property as he chooses, so long as he does not interfere with the mutual rights of other property owners. If I use my property in such a way that it floods another's property, I have violated his rights and I am responsible for the resulting damages.

Because flooding is a widespread issue, impacting virtually the entire city, many believe that only government can properly address the issue. Only government, it is believed, has the resources and the power to develop a regional plan. Houston's recurring flooding problems stand as testimony to the effectiveness of that approach.

If property rights were respected, this would provide a powerful incentive to use my property wisely. It would provide motivation to examine the possible consequences of developing land upstream and take appropriate precautions. But when government intervenes with controls and regulations, that responsibility is removed from the individual property owner and vested in government.

Respecting and protecting property rights would not eliminate flooding, but neither has government. While politicians, such as Peter Brown, like to crow about their concern and their innovative solutions, they continue to offer us the same failed ideas. They continue to offer more government controls and regulations, and argue that they will somehow wield the power of government more effectively.

A truly innovative solution would be freedom--the recognition and protection of individual rights. A truly innovative solution would be to remove the arbitrary dictates and prohibitions of government. Until Houstonians demand that city government recognize the moral right of each individual to his own life, his own liberty, his own property, and the pursuit of his own happiness, we will continue to be flooded with non-solutions.

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