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Willisms

« Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 488 - Electability. | WILLisms.com | Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 143. »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 489 - Opportunity Cities.

What Recession?-

I am not the biggest fan of Houston, Texas. The air is not pleasant (although it's truly getting better)-- the humidity and soot and chemicals all conspire to give your lungs the equivalent of a sunburn.

It is terribly spread out-- people act like it's no big deal to make you drive an hour or more. Where I grew up, driving an hour means you are four towns away (or... almost to San Angelo, or... halfway to Oklahoma City).

Aesthetically, it's pretty ugly. The bayou that runs through town is muddy and swampy. There are no mountains. The beach is more than an hour from downtown-- and it's not exactly South Beach or Venice Beach we're talking about, here.

It's essentially Summer 10 months out of the year, with about 3 weeks of "transition" (which you might get away with calling "fall"), three weeks of Winter (which is actually usually very nice), and three more weeks of Spring-ish transition (which is where it spasms back and forth between 65 and 85 degree days, before settling on 90 until Halloween).

Houston also has a lot of baggage. Negative connotations. Etc. Many of them are completely bogus, like the perennial Men's Fitness "Fattest City" distinction (Houston's only #10 this year). Some of them, like when George Costanza went to Houston to meet with the Astros, are totally accurate.

That being said, I am a big fan of Houston. It has low taxes, cheap housing, few regulations, and it is far more healthy-- spiritually-speaking-- than any other city of its size. It's got a lot of random quirks and interesting mom-and-pop stores and restaurants, despite what you might think after driving through on the freeways.

While I generally prefer my town to be a little smaller, Houston is a fantastic place to be, for a lot of reasons.

Joel Kotkin elaborates:

In 1950, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh ranked among the nation’s ten largest metropolitan areas; today they have been replaced by Houston, Dallas, and Miami. Equally significant has been the shift in the location of the nation’s largest companies away from the traditional centers of commerce.

....

Over the past decade, Houston, Phoenix, and Dallas each have matched the employment growth of New York, Boston, San Francisco, and the Silicon Valley area combined.

Houston itself does not have a lot of natural resources (the oil is an hour or two away, the coast is more than an hour away, the landscape is drab), other than its people, who have been generally unencumbered by the stifling hand of government.

Houston is an amazing success story, given what it has to overcome. Rarely a day goes by during the brutal Houston summers that I do not think to myself, "what kind of lunatic would put a city here?"

The only thing Houston really has going for it, from an "organic resources" standpoint, is that is still has a lot of space to grow. This is fortuitous, because Houston is a pro-growth city in a pro-growth state in what remains a mostly pro-growth nation.

Houston, while far from some perfect mecca of free market principles over its history, is one of the greatest examples of how policies matter. It's one of the rare big cities in America that is growing not just with foreign immigrants but with domestic migration as well:

opportunitycities.gif

Think of Houston as a microcosm of America. It's diverse. It's thriving, due to low taxes, relatively few regulations, and a reasonable cost of living. It's fairly small-l libertarian yet simultaneously a city of faith. Most of all, there's a healthy spirit of "live and let live" in Houston. Mind your own business, and let everyone else mind theirs. That permeates every facet of life, including government.

This "leave us alone" spirit is why some of us view the modern left as such a sinister force today. While some on the right would certainly like to play bedroom police and dabble in regulating morality, it is the left that truly wishes to penetrate every aspect of life with its collectivist, nanny-state takings coalition run from Washington, D.C.

If Houston is a microcosm of the Republican America, Detroit is the Democratic America.

The way I see it, there are a few options, here:

1. Impose Republican America on the entire country.
2. Let Republican America do its thing and Democratic America do its thing. Eventually, there'll be a winner.
3. Impose Democratic America on the entire country.

I tend to believe that FDR threw us into number 3. Eisenhower moved us back to 2. LBJ moved us back to 3, and we're only sort of back to 2 thanks to Reagan and George W. Bush.

Believe it or not, I am not for number 1. I believe there is a place in America for San Francisco and Aspen and Vermont. I just believe they all should be responsible for their own long-term problems. And that they'll eventually choose option 1 when they lose all of their productive people.

Unfortunately, today's Democratic Party is firmly encamped in choice number 3 (option 2 is antithetical to an ideology that advocates centralization and equality above liberty), and today's Republican Party is mostly within the second option (if only because it is hard to impose things like "small government" on others). That means the center of gravity is actually somewhere between numbers 2 and 3. That's a problem.

Let's hope the continued growth of places like Houston is the solution.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Barack Obama's Questionable Electability.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 May 2008 09:10 PM

Comments

Will, Do you think you might have been a little harsh on Houston?

Posted by: ZsaZsa at May 2, 2008 07:24 PM