In the early 1990s a group of Houstonians attempted to bring zoning to the city. In a debate that lasted several years, they repeated the same arguments that had been made in previous attempts to institute zoning in Houston. And, while one of the city's major newspapers at the time--the Houston Post--city council, and many community "leaders" endorsed the plan, it was defeated in a referendum on my birthday in 1993. It was one of the best birthdays in my life, and made the efforts of several years very satisfying.
Early in the debate I wrote a pamphlet with my friend Warren Ross that exposed the principles underlying zoning and a proper alternative. We distributed this pamphlet widely and during the debate I spoke to numerous community groups, city council, and other organizations. I wrote several OpEd articles and was quoted in the papers semi-regularly. I would like to think that these efforts had an impact on the final vote.
One of the talks I gave during this time was titled "Winning the Battle, But Losing the War." In this talk I predicted that, without the proper moral defense of individual rights, zoning would not go away. And it hasn't. It has changed its form, but the principles that underlie zoning have not been defeated.
Following the defeat of the zoning referendum, zoning advocates were very sore losers. They made it clear that they would not give up, and they haven't. From the Ashby High Rise to sexually-oriented businesses to billboards, we see the ideas of zoning at work. We see the same, or very similar arguments being presented.
In the aftermath of the zoning debate, I re-wrote our original pamphlet to include the arguments taken by zoning advocates to explain their defeat. Because those arguments are still used today, though on more narrow issues, I am posting links to that pamphlet (which were the first posts on this blog).
The Government versus Freedom, Part 1
The Government versus Freedom, Part 2
The Government versus Freedom, Part 3
The Government versus Freedom, Part 4
The Government versus Freedom, Part 5
The Government versus Freedom, Part 6
The Government versus Freedom, Part 7