Tag Archives: central planning

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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Envision Utah’s Statist Vision Debuts

Although Free Provo focuses mostly upon municipal issues, city issues are sometimes closely connected with broader trends in Utah County. This site’s previous blog entry warned about attempts by local politicians to reorganize Utah County’s commission, arguably so that it can shoulder greater responsibilities for centrally-planning Utah County’s economy. These efforts roughly coincided with related efforts to devise some central planning guidelines, as composed by Envision Utah.

Envision Utah is a group of prominent Utahns who dislike free-market-driven growth for being too “chaotic” and “accidental” (as they’ve been quoted in the local news) and, as such, prefer our political system to assert control over that growth in order to start centrally-planning it. Envision Utah has devised central plans for other parts of Utah and, now, it’s apparently Utah County’s turn.

Envision Utah started a “Valley Visioning” initiative about two years ago under the excuse of managing Utah County’s rapid population growth. Its carefully-refined visioning process has involved (1) hosting various surveys and workshops and such to determine Utah County residents’ wants and values and priorities, then (2) using this input to develop a communal vision for Utah County’s future that will serve to guide county-level central planning in the coming years, and finally (3) leveraging Utah County values to sell this central plan to residents after it’s finished.

Envision Utah’s statist vision of Utah County is apparently finished now, and it will be presented publicly on November 17th (Tuesday) at 2PM during a news conference. It will then coordinate/guide local statist politicians in planning where new move-ins will live, what sort of homes they’ll inhabit, how they’ll landscape their yards, et cetera, rather than leaving such decisions to free people in free markets.

Central economic planning has devastated both entire nations like the USSR and great cities like Detroit, and it will innately do likewise here. It will greet Californian move-ins with the same sort of heavy-handed state policies that created the terrible conditions from which they’re currently fleeing in droves. The plans of the few, no matter how expert, are always inferior to the plans of the many. Some may denigrate free societies as “chaotic” and “disorderly” and “selfish,” but others perceive the beauty of virtuous free people spontaneously creating order amongst themselves.

So, let’s keep our politicians focused on defending our rights (and maybe maintaining our infrastructure) and NOT expect them to exercise their coercive powers to guarantee us the future that we think that we want, which would be counterproductive. It’s better for us to work out out our county’s future amongst ourselves as free people, while our politicians defend our rightful liberty (NOT carefully limit it). So, let’s please regularly scrutinize our politicians’ actions, including whether-or-not they’re complying with this central plan, and then elect ONLY those who will fully respect our rights.

Sadly, it shouldn’t surprise us if Provo’s current city council embraces this central plan, since they’ve already endured a similar process at a city level. About a decade ago, mayor John Curtis initiated a similar citywide visioning process, soliciting input from residents that he used to create Vision 2030, which Provo’s city council openly admitted to using as a guide for centrally-planning the city, gradually transforming its abstract vision into concrete city code. Vision 2030 proved so successful that they began to replace it with an updated version called Vision 2050. You can read more about these vision statements elsewhere on this site.

We endure such municipal politicians not because most Provoans love statism, one might argue, but because most Provoans abdicate to it because they don’t bother to participate in municipal politics. Again, let’s please motivate, educate, inform, and organize our like-minded neighbors to involve themselves in municipal elections to help replace Provo’s central planners with free-marketeers. And why not make a plan for such activism today? If this website helps you at all, then please use it.



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Please Vote Against Utah Ballot Proposition 9

Although the 2020 general election will choose both federal and state officers, rather than local officers, this year’s ballot still includes an issue of pressing local concern, which is ballot proposition 9. Proposition 9, if enacted, would expand Utah County’s current county commission from 3 commissioners (currently Nathan Ivie and Tanner Ainge and Bill Lee) to 5 councilors plus a mayor.

This proposition is being sold primarily on the basis that it would separate our county commission’s legislative and executive powers from each other. This reasoning may sound great to Utahn patriots on the surface, but such executive power is already separated, and (moreover) dispersed among seven separately-elected county officers, which include county attorney, county sheriff, county clerk/auditor, county treasurer, county assessor, county surveyor, and county recorder. So, what’s the real reason for this proposed reorganization of our Utah County commission?

To uncover the real reason, it may help to consider the source. This reorganization was instigated recently by county commissioner Nathan Ivie, who (with support from fellow commissioner Tanner Ainge) has consistently voted for both higher taxes and increased central economic planning. And it has also coincided with efforts by Envision Utah to devise a grandiose central plan for Utah County, including where new residents will live, what sort of homes they will own, how they will landscape their yards, et cetera. And it’s arguably more than coincidence that such developments are occurring simultaneously.

These facts together suggest that Proposition 9 is (in reality) likely an effort to unjustly expand our county government to shoulder greater responsibilities (as recommended to it by Envision Utah) that will violate our equal God-given (or natural) rights, including our rights to both property and contract. If our county commission were to respect our rightful liberty as fully as it should, then it would lack any need to expand. Especially considering that the Utah County commission oversees only unincorporated land, which has shrunk over time. With ever-less land within their jurisdiction, why needlessly multiply the officers involved?

This expansion’s opponents include county commissioner Bill Lee, who has heroically stood firmly against Ivie’s and Ainge’s tax hikes and such, but without much success as a minority of one. Lee is warning that Salt Lake County endured a similar reorganization about 20 years ago that resulted in higher taxes, bigger government, and an all-too-powerful mayor. Lee also notes that Utah County’s proposed reorganization would likewise consolidate the executive power currently wielded by seven separate officers into a single kinglike county mayor who would likely usurp legislative power from the county council. We would do well to heed his warnings. And to reelect him.

So, please vote against ballot proposition 9. We don’t need to expand our county government to more-effectively violate our equal God-given (or natural) rights to property and contract and such.


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Provo’s City Council Starts 2020

Provo’s city council recently met (with 4 of 7 members replaced) for its first time in 2020 to consider its current projects. This partly involved considering input from Envision Utah about county-level central economic planning (as detailed in our previous two blog entries), which we shouldn’t be surprised if they cooperate in implementing.

Councilman Handley seemingly learned (as should the rest of us) that, although Utahns remain relatively unconcerned about climate change, which environmentalists are using to excuse collectivistic policies, politicians’ appeals to local concerns about “water” and “air quality” may be used to achieve similar outcomes. So, please remember such tactics when considering proposed changes to city code.

Councilman Handley’s interest in radical environmentalism, along with councilwoman Ellsworth’s interest in identity politics, suggest that they harbor rather collectivistic political views. Which is interesting, considering that they represent one of America’s most conservative cities. But it shouldn’t be surprising, considering Provo’s municipal policies for the last two decades or more.

If we want more city policies that actually favor rightful liberty under Constitutional law, then we need to elect better municipal officers. Thankfully, we have two years until our next city elections to alert our neighbors and build our ranks. Please make good use of that time and, if our website helps, then please use it. Thank you.


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Utah County in Transition

Although this site focuses primarily on Provo’s political issues, we are definitely affected by politics at all levels, including the county level. And our Utah County government, over this last year or so, has been enduring three major trends that arguably merit the scrutiny of all Provoans who value their rightful liberty.

Firstly, some politicians are currently seeking to reorganize Utah County’s government from a simple three-person commission into something more complex. Proponents of this reorganization like commissioner Nathan Ivie (who spearheaded this process) have repeatedly asserted that it will allow effective separation of our county government’s legislative and executive functions, which is very sound in principle—but others like commissioner Bill Lee have expressed deep concerns about the details of the proposals that his fellow commissioners have embraced for reorganization, which he asserts could allow both ever-higher taxes and ever-more regulations, as has become characteristic of Salt Lake County. This is a very interesting observation, considering the other two trends that we’re about to highlight.

Secondly, our current county commission (by a 2-to-1 vote) has just raised county-level property tax rates by an astounding 67%. We applaud commissioner Bill Lee, who voted firmly against this needless tax hike and is now trying to rally opposition to it, but we feel severely disappointed with his fellow commissioners Ainge and Ivie, who apparently favor us spending even more of our hard-earned money on being told what to do. This huge tax increase may render a newly-expanded county government awash in cash to spend on new responsibilities.

Thirdly, new responsibilities are currently being contemplated by Envision Utah, which is seeking to lead Utah County (as it’s already done successfully with many other parts of Utah) away from its libertarianish past of both local control and free markets toward a statist future of regional central economic planning. Since late 2018, Envision Utah has studied public opinion, devised scenarios, and evaluated options, in order to compose a common vision for Utah County’s future—a central plan that will dictate where everyone will live, what sort of homes they’ll live in, how they’ll landscape their yards, et cetera. It’s not guaranteed that a newly-reorganized Utah County government will ever arrogate such responsibilities or not—but it’s definitely more likely if we keep electing candidates like commissioner Ivie, who has already stated publicly that he welcomes a countywide central plan for economic development, partly to inhibit development from spreading into undeveloped areas. Such goals happen to be consistent with longtime socialist goals to regulate markets, reduce land ownership, and increase urbanization.

It may be more than coincidental that these three trends are occurring simultaneously. Franklin Delano Roosevelt once asserted that: “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.” In any case, we would do well to monitor these ongoing trends and encourage the best possible outcomes, lest we end up living under Soviet-style central planning, whether overseen by Commissar Nathan Ivie or perhaps someone even worse. We don’t need a county government that reigns over us in all things, but one that helps us to defend our rights against others’ aggression so that we may remain free. The plans of the many, negotiated among free equals, are normally superior to the plans of the few, dictated by political masters.

As Edmund Burke once noted, “evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” So, please don’t do nothing. Instead, please shake off any apathy that impedes you, get educated and/or informed about these pressing issues, get active and organized, and help your neighbors to do likewise. And become the hero that our society needs. If our website helps, then use it. Ditto with these voluminous references below. And, if you do nothing else, then please sign commissioner Bill Lee’s Utah County Petition!


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