Category Archives: Education

Property Rights, Provo Grocers, and Zoning Laws

We each have equal God-given (or natural) rights that end where the rights of others begin. All of our rights can arguably be derived from a few basic ones, which may be categorized as rights (1) over our bodies, (2) over the fruits of our labors, (3) over our children within reason as they mature, (4) to interact contractually via mutual voluntary informed consent, and (5) to defend ourselves against others’ aggression. Those last two rights justify us in chartering political systems, to which we contractually delegate limited authority to assist us in defending our rights from others’ aggression so that we may remain free.

It’s sad when our public officers reject their proper role as rights-defending servants to become rights-violating masters, instead, even to the point of behaving like Earthly monarchs to rule over us, dictating how we citizens will exercise our rights as if we exist merely to serve their interests. This is not only immoral but also impractical, as the grandiose central plans that a few mere mortals arrogantly devise to coerce upon the rest of us are generally inferior to the plans that many mere mortals (especially with divine guidance) freely work out amongst themselves through persuasion coupled with voluntary cooperation.

This is also true of zoning, which originated among European socialists. This municipal variety of central economic planning curtails development, reduces competition, promotes false “order” and/or aesthetics over genuine needs, reduces housing supply while raising housing costs, excludes “undesirables,” wastes people’s valuable time with needless paperwork, retards economic progress, and lowers standards-of-living. Every one of its alleged benefits is provided better within genuinely-free markets, which allow the most economical allocation of resources. Houston developed well with hardly any zoning laws and, as a result, enjoys exceptionally affordable housing, while California’s zoning laws (combined with other regulations) have rendered housing so unaffordable that prices are driving residents away.

People often migrate in the direction of greater freedom, which is one reason why many Californians are currently migrating to Utah County, although they are mostly bypassing Provo for now. Their reasons for avoiding Provo remain unclear to us at present in the absence of any professional survey results. However, it’s possible that Provo is repelling new move-ins with its own proliferating regulations, as Provo’s city code more-than-doubled from 2001 to 2021.

Provo’s regulation explosion is partly guided by Provo’s Vision 2030 (or Vision 2050), which is a grandiose central economic plan that mayor John Curtis instigated in 2011, and that Provo’s city councilors have since attempted to translate (as they’ve openly admitted) from abstract vision statement into concrete city code. These efforts have included city council discussions about enhancing Provo’s existing mostly-1970s-era zoning laws that regulate buildings’ function with additional laws that regulate their form. At one Vision 2030 discussion in 2016, Provo’s city councilors even discussed the possibility of requiring all Provo homeowners to landscape their yards in a manner dictated by municipal law. During this surreal discussion, one attendee remarked something about how, if Provo residents didn’t like their local aesthetics, then they could fire their mayor for a successor with better taste.

Such form-based code, like traditional zoning, originated among socialists and has been touted as a means to implement “Smart Growth” policies. These are an attempt to forcibly redirect municipal development away from a city’s outskirts toward its center in the guise of “saving the natural environment.” Such overt environmentalism arguably conceals socialism, as socialists have long understood that rural landowners tend to be more patriotic and conservative than urban dwellers—so, by forcibly confining a town’s growth so that its city center develops in an urbanesque manner, socialists can perhaps help their ideas to flourish more easily within it. Such “Smart Growth” policies are also blatantly part of Provo’s Vision 2030, along with its successor Vision 2050.

Even without such form-based enhancements, Provo’s existing zoning laws still violate our equal God-given (or natural) rights to both property and contract, which form the basis of genuine free markets. For example, Smith’s bought some land long ago in west Provo with the intent to construct a shopping center on that land someday, and Smith’s management has since been waiting for it to make financial sense to do so. But Provo’s city councilors recently decided to forcibly hasten this process by rezoning this land so that Smith’s could no longer use its property to construct what it intended, while hoping that this impediment to competition will encourage other grocers to build stores in that same area. And those city councilors have also been examining alternative locations in west Provo on which competitors might build. Their primary motivation is reportedly to prevent west Provo residents from leaving town to buy their groceries, as this reduces city tax revenue.

Whenever the state forcibly overrides the market, the results are invariably detrimental. Frederic Bastiat wrote expertly about the persistent difference between the overt intent of public policy and what those same policies unintentionally achieve through indirect effects upon a complex system. For those same reasons that he stated so eloquently, forcing a grocery store into existence where it does not (yet) make economic sense for it to exist causes economic inefficiencies that hurt every consumer generally. Rather than centrally control or manipulate markets, it’s better to allow free people to freely work out such things amongst themselves. And, more importantly, it’s also the right thing to respect everyone’s property rights.

The “bottom line” is that zoning must end, including in Provo. Zoning violates rights and it does more harm than good. But zoning won’t end without significant changes in the sort of municipal politicians that Provoans have been electing. And those politicians won’t change unless/until more liberty-lovin’ Provoans involve themselves in municipal politics. And involvement won’t increase unless residents like YOU choose to engage in precinct-level activism by engaging your neighbors, motivating them, educating them, informing them, organizing them, mobilizing them, et cetera. Please choose to do so. And you’re welcome to use this website if it help any.


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Rightful Liberty Versus Both Police Abuses and BLM Violence

All lives matter, including black lives, and it’s great to attempt to remedy inequities in how our society values people. Such noble ends have been proclaimed by Black Lives Matter, but BLM protestors have engaged in terribly-counterproductive means, such as pillaging-and-burning while attempting to foment a violent Marxist revolution. Their violence even touched Provo yesterday, as some rioters committed attempted murder and property damage. Such destruction does not build both unity and mutual respect, but it can help victims (whether real or fancied) to become oppressors.

Both tyrants and criminals feel emboldened whenever public officers do nothing. And some have readily accused Provo police of “standing down” under orders from Mayor Kaufusi; however, this author has not yet seen any credible evidence to support these claims. Although we have definitely criticized the mayor (and her predecessor) for many statist policies, we desire to comment ONLY about things that she has actually done, and not about imaginary grievances. And we also like to applaud her when we notice her getting things right. So, at this time, we express our gratitude that (unlike some other mayors) she has NOT treated such crimes with astounding permissiveness. Or proposed bad policies (yet) in response, as far as we’ve noticed.

Unfortunately, responding with bad policy is something that we will need to counteract in the near future. Marxists have repeatedly employed a “pincers” movement of applying pressure from both above and below—for example, they will use street groups to foment riots and then use politicians to propose bills that allegedly address rioters’ concerns but that actually further the Marxist agenda. Which is arguably why some federal politicians are now considering legislation that would begin to nationalize our local police officers. Police nationalization, along dumbing-down and militarization, is part of the long-term Marxist agenda for our nation. Such dangerous trends would render our local peace officers more like a federal standing army that some aspiring Caesar could potentially wield to subjugate our nation from within.

National police are normal in totalitarian regimes, but are antithetical to free societies. Ideally, with respect to our fellow mortals, we should each be kings or queens of our own figurative castles, and nobody else’s, free to love/serve God and our neighbors according to the dictates of our own respective consciences. Whether or not we choose Him as our Master, the state should NOT be our master but our servant, with the specialized duty of expertly helping us to defend our equal God-given rights from others’ aggression so that we may remain free. The state’s larger jurisdictions exist NOT to rule but only to serve the smaller jurisdictions within themselves, of which the smallest units are individual households.

So, to preserve a free society, we need to actively oppose efforts to nationalize and dumb-down and militarize our local peace officers, including by electing like-minded municipal officers. Politicians who incentivize our police to wantonly behave like brutal thugs will only give increased legitimacy to anarchic BLM rioters, which will only provide further excuses to corrupt politicians to enact counterproductive reforms, thereby perpetuating a vicious cycle toward tyranny. As in the movie “WarGames” (1983), the only way to win such a power struggle is to NOT participate in it. Let’s keep this cycle broken by actively promoting liberty, instead, along with peace, respect, and the value of EVERY human life, whether black or blue or both or neither.


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Provo’s Budget for FY 2021

Provo’s city council recently adopted a budget for fiscal year 2021, which was reduced somewhat due to the COVID19 pandemic of 2020.

During this budgeting process, some citizens advocated defunding Provo’s police force in response to recent incidents of local police abusing their power to violate citizens’ rights. These calls derive from valid concerns because police, like other public officers, should act within the limits of their delegated authority (including due process) to expertly help people to defend their equal God-given rights from others’ aggression. And it’s sad when police become aggressors themselves. Such trends toward police aggression are arguably facilitated by ongoing nationwide efforts to nationalize and dumb-down and militarize our local peace officers. Such a national police force could be used as a standing army to conquer our nation from within, and is a normal part of totalitarian regimes. We should resist such trends, including abuse of our local SWAT team, but we should definitely NOT eliminate our police force. So, I applaud our city officers for rejecting such calls.

What they should actually defund—or, better yet, privatize—is most everything else in Provo’s municipal budget. As we’ve noted before, Provo’s city-owned businesses include a redevelopment agency, a power company, an airport, a television channel, a library, a performing arts center, a recreation center, a fitness center, a golf course, an ice rink, a water park, a beach, a park service, a gun range, a garbage-collection service, a recycling service, and a cemetery, none of which are involved in defending our rights. It would be better for Provo’s municipal officers to spin off all of these divisions fully into the private sector, and then sever all lingering ties with them. As competitive private enterprises, these former agencies would become far more innovative and efficient and effective, serving customers better—and simultaneously allowing public officers to focus better on defending rights, and perhaps also on a few other tasks like maintaining local roads. It’s always easier for public officers to focus on performing their core duties well whenever they aren’t needlessly overwhelming themselves with excessive responsibility over other parts of our local economy. And our economy always works best whenever politicians stop trying to subjugate it to their will and, instead, simply help defend everyone’s equal God-given rights from others’ aggression.

But such structural change won’t happen without electoral change. For at least 20 years, Provo’s public officers have remained rather enamored with big government. And this is partly because Provo’s municipal elections have remained dominated year-after-year by big-government voters. And they prevail NOT because they constitute a large percentage of Provo’s population, but because most voters don’t bother to participate. So, we who value our rightful liberty need to change this sad status quo. We won’t reverse these statist trends unless we grow our ranks in both numbers and effectiveness. And there’s no time like the present to begin—so, please make a plan and implement it.


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Centrally-Planning Affordable Housing

Provo’s city council is currently considering allowing residents to maintaining accessory apartments within homes that they occupy, along with detached apartments and even “tiny” homes, subject to certain conditions, all in pursuit of a city goal to render local housing more affordable.

It’s great that these city councilors may decide to allow Provoans to exercise property rights within carefully-restricted limits—but why limit these property rights in the first place? Ideally, their only limits should be the equal rights of others. Why not police those natural boundaries and, otherwise, allow residents to exercise their property rights as they please?

This goal accompanies other city goals (including those found in Vision 2030/2050) such as reducing the amount of rental housing available within Provo, redistributing renters to other parts of Utah county, restricting the number of renters per unit, et cetera, all of which is helping to render local rental housing less affordable.

All of these somewhat-conflicting policies are part of a broader effort by Provo’s city council to centrally-plan our local economy as much as residents will allow. And, based upon Vision 2030/2050 plus what’s been heard in public meetings, those aspirations extend even to regulating our diet-and-exercise while deciding how we will landscape our yards. Do we want the city choosing the aesthetics of our homes?

Are they our masters or our servants? If ownership is defined as the right to determine how something is used, then are “our” homes truly our property or theirs?

What Provo’s city council could do, instead, is to simply respect that every Provoan has God-given (or natural) rights to their respective persons, property, children, et cetera, which end where the equal rights of others begin, along with rights to interact either contractually or defensively—and that their job is merely to assist Provoans in defending such basic rights against others’ aggression.

This change-of-attitude would restore a relatively free market in Provo, and free us as individuals from the increasingly-burdensome requirements of city ordinances, which have been multiplying since 2001. It would also render Provo’s city government cheaper and smaller and better-able to focus on defending our rights rather than attempting to run our lives by commanding us in all things.

But this change-of-attitude almost certainly won’t occur without a change-of-leadership. Provo’s city council has, for many years, remained firmly dominated by central planners over free marketeers. This is probably because most Provoans don’t bother to participate in local elections but instead abdicate participation to a tiny fraction of their neighbors, of which a slight majority are statists who elect fellow statists to public office.

We can change this status quo by choosing to both educate and inform ourselves about municipal issues, and then to involve ourselves regularly in local politics, while seeking and activating and mobilizing like-minded neighbors to join us. Together, we can achieve a freer city, which may serve a start to a freer state, nation, and world. Please start now by making some concrete goals and plans. And, if our website helps, then please use it.


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Our Politically-Managed Airport

It’s wonderful that we enjoy a nice regional airport here in Utah County, and that it’s apparently prospering well enough to merit some expansion, which will increase its capacity to benefit its growing number of customers, and will produce positive “ripple effects” upon everyone who lives in our county.

But why is this growing local transportation hub being run by politicians rather than by entrepreneurs?  And why are its managers lobbying legislators to compel us (and others) to fund its expansion, rather than raising such capital from profits or savings or loans or investments or whatnot?  The state exists to exercise its coercive powers to help us to expertly defend ourselves from others’ aggression, NOT to figuratively pick our pockets to fund its growing array of business ventures, which are beyond its scope, and which distract it from its proper role.

Such business is best left to the private sector, where it normally operates efficiently and effectively and innovatively, while any exceptions are generally both rare and fleeting.  These norms-and-exceptions are reversed in the public sector, in which politically-managed businesses often exercise state power to defend their poor performance from unwanted competition.  Although our local airport may (or may not) be faring alright for the moment, it would fare far better if our city officers were to fully privatize it without any lingering political “strings” attached.  We need to set this airport free!

Sadly, Provo’s current public officers don’t appear to share such views, and haven’t done so for a long time.  Which is why Provo’s expanding municipal government now runs a redevelopment agency, a power company, an airport, a television channel, a library, a performing arts center, a recreation center, a fitness center, a golf course, an ice rink, a water park, a beach, a park service, a gun range, a garbage-collection service, a recycling service, and a cemetery, none of which are involved in defending our rights.  And it’s also why we who value our rightful liberty need to get educated, informed, and active in our local elections or else these ongoing statist trends may slowly ruin Provo just as they’ve ruined Detroit and other cities (or even entire nations).

As Utah’s weather improves, we urge you to please go kindly confront your neighbors, engage them in discussion about these issues, and organize like-minded ones for regular victory in our city elections.  And, if our website helps for that purpose, then please use it.  If you succeed, then we can regain a lean city government that effectively defends our rights, while allowing us the freedom to keep Provo such a great place to live, hopefully for many generations to come.  And wouldn’t that be worth the bother?


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