Houston’s True Heritage

Preservationists claim that they want to preserve Houston’s heritage by protecting old buildings. But Houston’s heritage isn’t about bricks and mortar. It isn’t about buildings. It’s about ideas.

In terms of essentials, Houston’s heritage is defined by a relative respect for individual rights, including property rights. (I say relative because the city certainly engages in numerous violations of property rights. But in comparison to other large cities, Houston is a bastion of freedom in this regard.) The city’s lack of zoning and similar restrictions makes Houston unique, politically, economically, and morally.

This is precisely what preservationists do not want to preserve. They do not recognize the moral right of each individual to use his property as he chooses, so long as he respects the rights of others to do the same. They seek to remove this freedom in the name of protecting old buildings.

For most of its history, Houston has recognized and protected property rights to a much greater extent than other cities. Individuals have been left relatively free to use their property as they choose. The result has been lower housing costs, a lower cost of doing business, and economic prosperity. This is Houston’s true heritage, and this is what the preservationists are attacking.

Preservationists would have us believe that old buildings have some kind of inherent value. They would have us believe that if the old buildings of The Heights are replaced with modern homes (and more efficient uses of land) Houston will somehow degrade into a second-class city.

The fact is, Houston has become a world class city because it has embraced progress. Houstonians have welcomed innovators, and our city has prospered as a result. By definition, innovators challenge the status quo, the conventional, and the past. By definition, innovators are not interested in preserving the past. They are interested in building the future.

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