Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pro-Business Promotes Quality of Life

Before the proposed merger between Continental and United was finalized Mayor Ma Parker, County Judge Ed Emmett, and Greater Houston Partnership Chairman Patrick Oxford sent a letter to the chairmen of the two airlines. Houston, they argued, is the best location for the headquarters of the merged company.
Houston has a favorable business environment, low cost of living and excellent quality of life for our citizens...

Our environment supports business and encourages entrepreneurship.
I agree that Houston is generally more pro-business than other cities. However, Ma and the gang at city hall are just playing cheerleader--they are telling the chairmen one thing while telling the citizens of Houston something entirely different. While pleading for jobs they present Houston as a utopia for businesses; while begging for electoral support and appeasing constituents they bash local businesses.

For example, the city did not hesitate to use its coercive power to delay the Ashby High Rise. Nor did it have any problems shutting down a Spec's Liquor Store after previously granting approval for the store. The city has harassed CES Environmental Services. The city has long waged war on sexually-oriented businesses and outdoor signage, making it clear in both word and action that such companies are not welcome in Houston. I seriously doubt that the owners of these businesses would say that the city "supports business" or has a "favorable business environment". All of these restrictions and controls--along with many others--were "justified" on the basis of promoting "quality of life".

As I previously wrote:
For politicians to claim that they will improve the city’s “quality of life”, they must necessarily embrace one particular conception of the term. They must accept and implement one view of “quality of life”, to the exclusion of all others. And the “quality of life” that they embrace will be imposed upon all individuals, no matter their own personal views on the subject. All Houstonians will be forced to accept and live by the “quality of life” advocated by public officials.

There is only one context in which any public official can legitimately speak of “quality of life”. There is only one context in which all Houstonians can embrace the same conception of “quality of life”. And that context is individual freedom—the right to pursue your individual values and goals without interference from others, as long as you respect their mutual rights. Indeed, freedom is the ultimate in “quality of life”.
Freedom--the absence of coercion--is pro-business. Its relative lack of land-use regulations provides Houstonians with greater freedom in the use of their property than most cities. It is this freedom that is a primary cause of the low cost of living touted by Ma.

Ma Parker, like most government officials, wants to have our cake and eat it too. She wants to brag about the city's relative "pro-business environment" to business leaders, while appeasing noisy constituents who demand controls and restrictions on businesses in the name of "quality of life". The truth is, "pro-business" and "quality of life" are not antagonistic--they have the same root cause. And the sooner city officials discover this fact, the sooner they can truly be pro-business.

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