Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Stars At Night Are Big & Bright

After last week's passage of ObamaCare put another nail in the coffin of individual liberty (Note to leftist readers: please take this as the metaphor it is intended to be and not an incitement to violence), a friend and I were exchanging e-mails on the possibility of pulling up stakes and moving down to Texas, which seems increasingly likely to become one of the last bastions of freedom. I don't think either of us is seriously considering the prospect just yet, but it's clear that many others have as the Texas economy and population continue to grow, outperforming most of the rest of the country.

Further evidence of this boom is provided by a piece by Joel Kotkin. Kotkin has seen America's urban future and--unlike other urbanists who cling to the stale dream of revitalizing the gritty urban cores of the Midwest and east coast--he believes that future will look a lot like Texas:

Yet despite planners' prejudices, places like Houston and Dallas are more than collections of pesky suburban infestations. They are expanding their footprints to the periphery and densifying at the same time.

Of course, like virtually all other regions, Houston and Dallas suffer excess capacity in both office buildings and urban lofts. But the real estate slowdown has not depressed Texans' passion for inner city development. Indeed, over the past decade the central core of Houston--inside the boundaries of the 610 freeway loop--has experienced arguably the widest and most sustained densification in the country.

An analysis of building permit trends by Houston blogger Tory Gattis, for example, found that before the real estate crash, the Texas city was producing more high-density projects on a per-capita basis than the urbanist mecca of Portland. Significantly, as Gattis points out, the impetus for this growth has largely resulted not from planning but from infrastructure investment, job growth and entrepreneurial venturing.

This process is also evident in the Dallas area, which has experienced a surge in condo construction near its urban core and some very intriguing "town center" developments, such as the Legacy project in suburban Plano. In Big D, developers generally view densification not as an alternative to suburbia but another critical option needed in a growing region.

It's widely understood there that many people move to places like Dallas, whether in closer areas or exurbs, largely to purchase affordable single-family homes. But as the population grows, there remains a strong and growing niche for an intensifying urban core as well.

Dallas and other Texas cities substitute the narrow notion of "or"--that is cities can grow only if the suburbs are sufficiently strangled--with a more inclusive notion of "and." A bigger, wealthier, more important region will have room for all sorts of grand projects that will provide more density and urban amenities.

Sounds like a little something for everyone. This Texas thing is looking better and better all the time.

Another reason (an admittedly trivial one) that Texas seems more appealing right now is what the state stands for. While the official state motto is "friendship," I think when most people think of a slogan befitting the Lone Star state, "Don't mess with Texas" would come to mind. That's something that you can wrap your arms around and get behind. Other worthy state mottos:

Alabama-"We dare defend our rights"

Delaware-"Liberty and Independence"

Iowa-"Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain"

Massachusetts-"By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty"

Mississippi-"By valor and arms"

New Hampshire-"Live free or die" (probably my favorite)

Obviously, the citizens of some of these states don't take their official mottos as much to heart as most Texans seem to take their unofficial one.

As a Minnesotan, I thought our state motto "L'Etoile du Nord" (the star of the North) was pretty lame. Sounds pretty wimpy and very Canadian. But then I realized it could be worse:

Maryland-"Manly deeds, womanly words"

Michigan-"If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you"

Oklahoma-"Labor conquers all things"

North Carolina-"To be, rather than to seem" (a little too philosophical)

It's also interesting to see how many state motto writers seem to have missed out on the whole separation of church and state clause in the Constitution (I know, I know).

Arizona-"God enriches"

Colorado-"Nothing without the Deity"

Florida-"In God we trust"

Ohio-"With God all things are possible"

South Dakota-"Under God the people rule"

But maybe if what we're looking for is a state whose motto embraces free market capitalism to the fullest and isn't beholden to an inflated fiat currency, we should head West.

Montana-"Gold and Silver"