Thursday, September 10, 2009

Plato's War on Houston: From Zoning to "SmartCode", Part 4

The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave. Ayn Rand, Man’s Rights

The solution to the problems of zoning is not a different gang leading the city, or a different set of rules and regulations. The solution is a different ideal—an ideal that is founded in reality. The solution is an ideal that recognizes the moral right of each individual to live his life as he chooses, so long as he respects the mutual right of others. The solution is capitalism—the unknown ideal.

Capitalism is the only social system that recognizes and protects individual rights, including the right to property. It is the only system that prohibits individuals from interfering with the actions of others. It is the only system of individual liberty.

The extent to which a nation, or a city, recognizes and protects individual rights is the extent of the happiness and prosperity enjoyed by the citizenry. America—the nation which has been most dedicated to individual rights—is arguably the most prosperous nation in the world. Houston—the city in American most dedicated to individual rights—is arguably the most prosperous city in the nation. That freedom has allowed individuals to pursue their own values, and in turn offer their fellow citizens more choices and opportunities. All Houstonians have benefited.

It is quite easy to look around Houston and find many things with which one disapproves. A neighbor may paint his house an obnoxious color or plant hideous shrubs. A business may advertise its wares in a gaudy fashion or open in a location we dislike. A national chain may displace a locally owned shop or the character of a neighborhood might change. We may find such facts frustrating and wish someone would “do something” to prevent such things.

Life will be a constant disappointment to those who dream of a Platonic ideal—of a world that contains no such frustrations. Unhappy with the world around them, for centuries men have dreamed of such an Eden, renouncing this world and seeking their dream through brute force. If others will not act as they deem proper, the Platonic idealists do not hesitate to seek mastery over their fellow citizens.

We must reject Plato, Kant, Dewey, and all of their variants. We must develop a different dream and then act to make it real. We must dream of a world in which individuals—all individuals—are free to live as they choose, free to aspire to greatness and take the actions necessary to achieve it. It is a world in which we are not our brother’s keeper, unless we voluntarily choose to be so. It is a world in which talent and achievement is celebrated, not penalized with higher taxes and guilt trips about helping the needy.

Such a world is possible, here on earth. But we must first renounce force as a means for dealing with other men (except in retaliation against those who initiate its use). We must embrace reason and persuasion as our sole means for dealing with others. It is a world in which all interactions are based on the voluntary consent of each individual involved.

The Platonists speak of developing a consensus, whether city-wide or within neighborhoods, as the means for establishing their ideal. They argue for using compulsion to create a better society, while destroying the lives of the individuals who comprise that society. They refuse to allow the individual to develop and pursue his ideal—the individual must subjugate his dreams and aspirations to those of the collective.

Our Founding Fathers bravely asserted that each individual has a right to his own life, his own liberty, and the pursuit of his own happiness. They sought to great a nation in which these rights were protected, and nobody—including government—could violate these rights. The freedoms they established unleashed the citizenry, resulting in unprecedented prosperity and happiness.

The Founders dared to dream of individual liberty, and risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for that cause. It was a glorious and just cause, and it is no less so today.

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