Over the past several weeks I have sent emails to a number of small business owners in Houston directing them to posts defending their property rights. While their responses have been positive, they reflect an attitude that is troubling.
The primary concern of these business owners seems to be electing a mayor who is pro-business. On the surface, this is understandable and desirable. But below the surface lies a premise that explains--at least in part--the city's slow but steady march towards more regulations over business and individuals.
What does it mean to be "pro-business"? Most people take this to mean a government that passes legislation favorable to the business community, in contrast to legislation that is favorable to consumers. The premise is that the interests of businesses and the interests of consumers necessarily conflict, and government must find a balance between these competing interests. However, properly understood, the interests of businesses and consumers are not in conflict.
Both businesses and consumers have a moral right to act according to their own judgment without interference from others, so long as they respect the mutual rights of others. Such interference can only occur through force--by compelling or prohibiting certain actions. Freedom--the absence of coercion--is in the interest of both businesses and consumers.
The false conflict between businesses and consumers ignores the fact that businesses are comprised of individuals, and do not gain or lose rights because of that fact. Individuals, and only individuals, possess rights. And those rights apply to all individuals, regardless of their capacity as a business owner or a consumer.
Further, this false conflict ignores the fact that businesses--producers--are also consumers. Indeed, one must first produce before one can consume. Unless of course, government intervenes.
The false conflict between businesses and consumers has deeper roots--that the rights of individuals necessarily conflict. With much of the citizenry having equated rights with desires, and having accepted that one's man need is a claim on the property owned by others, the perceived conflict between businesses and consumer seems logical. But a syllogism that begins with false premises will lead to a false conclusion.
Rights pertain to action--the freedom to act as one chooses. Rights allow one to pursue values, and protect one's ownership of the values attained. Rights do not guarantee success in one's actions. Rights are not a claim on others, nor is the frustration of a desire a violation of one's rights.
Whether it is the Ashby High Rise, or signs, or planning, or a myriad other issues, Houston is slowly being divided into different groups, most of which propose to use force against others. Most lobby for ordinances favorable to their particular group or cause, and seek to impose the expense on others. No matter the issue, these groups are anti-individual, whether the supposed beneficiaries of their scheme is consumers, home owners, or businesses.
Houston does not need a "pro-business" mayor. Houston needs a mayor who recognizes the moral right of each individual to take the actions necessary to sustain and enjoy his life. This isn't pro-business or pro-consumer. It is pro-individual.