Mayors Versus Freedom

On Monday, Gov. Gregg Abbott warned that local governments were threatening property rights. As examples, he cited tree regulations, permitting, and property taxes. The following day, eighteen mayors, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner submitted a letter to the governor asking for a meeting.

In part, the letter states:

Harmful proposals such as revenue and spending caps, limiting annexation authority, and other measures preempting local development ordinances directly harm our ability to plan for future growth and continue to serve as the economic engines of Texas.

In other words, if local governments want to violate property rights, the state government should do nothing about it.

It is of little practical significance if our rights are protected at the federal level, but local governments can violate them with impunity. A primary responsibility of the state government is to nullify or prohibit local laws that violate individual rights, including property rights. To his credit, Abbott is making an attempt to do this.

The mayors imply that regulations are the engines of economic growth. But regulations do nothing but impede economic growth and innovation. Regulations dictate what individuals and businesses may and may not do. Economic growth comes from economic freedom–the freedom to produce and trade products and services.

Consider Uber as an example. Uber created a better way to provide rides for hire. In response, cities across the world–including Austin and Houston–attempted to impose restrictive regulations on the company. While consumers have flocked to Uber, politicians like Turner have wanted to impede the company’s innovative service. Who is the engine of economic growth: Uber or politicians?

Turner and his ilk want to run their little fiefdoms as they desire. They don’t like the fact that Abbott is standing up to them and putting a halt to their rights-violating policies.

Unfortunately, Abbott isn’t entirely consistent. If he was, he would be calling for an end to all land-use regulations, including zoning. But that is a battle for another day.

Comments are closed.