HOUSTON IS THE FUTURE, OR: THE FUTURE IS GOING TO BE SHIT

Posted in Rants on June 3rd, 2013 by Ed

There are some people I truly love living in Houston, Texas. I've been there a few times and generally enjoyed myself. But let's not kid ourselves; unless your idea of a well laid-out metropolis with a high quality of life is Phoenix or Tulsa, Houston is a clusterfuck. To be outdoors in Houston in August is like breathing soup or living in the anal cavity of a giant mammal. It is necessary to drive everywhere – which I'm sure has no bearing on Houston being the fattest city in the country. The public transportation "system" is a joke and good luck trying to meet your needs on foot. The city center is a concrete splatter surrounded and pierced by one highway after another. It sprawls mightily in every direction with nothing to constrain it and with no rhyme or reason (much like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Southern California, etc). Much of the city is seedy, impoverished, and crime-ridden despite what the rest of this post is going to talk about. The Astros are fucking horrible.

Houston is a big, hot, sprawling mess. It's also "America's #1 job creator" according to The Atlantic.

The crux of this analysis is that it's really cheap to live in Houston and its location makes it relevant to the energy industry (read: oil and gas). Because it's cheap to live there, employers can set up shop there, pay less than they would have to pay elsewhere, and then make the cost of living argument. Combined with Texas's legendarily "business friendly environment", it's a cheap place. It's not hard to see why Houston would be adding jobs.

These things don't exist in a vacuum, though. Housing is cheap because land is ample and cheap, hence the epic sprawl. Add more highways to move people between the city and the sprawl to up the ugliness factor. And that business friendly environment isn't free either. Employers are lured there with billions in tax abatements and other handouts from the public till. Accordingly, there's a limited tax base and the population growth has outpaced the ability to provide public services. That's why Houston manages to be "booming" and "affluent" while appearing to residents and visitors alike to be run down and seedy. Come for the great jobs, cheap houses, and public schools you wouldn't send your dog to.

This is supposed to be the template for other cities to follow – be more like the growing, sprawling megaplexes of the Sun Belt. Pay particular attention to Texas and the Southwest. Turn your city into a gargantuan strip mall, hand out money to oil companies (and defense contractors; good lord does Texas love it some defense contractors), actively reject the idea of urban planning as socialist, and tell everyone who lives there to fend for themselves. We have seen the future, and it sucks.