Tag Archives: contractual rights

Centrally Planning Utah County

Some people want our county government to centrally plan our county’s economy, and they are already making progress toward that goal.  More details are provided below—but, first, let’s overview some of the principles involved…

Anytime people remain sufficiently both free and virtuous, they tend to enjoy various blessings, including progress both as individuals and as a society.  Such advancing free societies develop without any obvious central guidance—and yet, despite that absence, somehow people still build homes and grow crops and mine ore and teach school and cure disease and supply countless other products and/or services that people demand, and do so more efficiently and effectively with each passing year.  Such orderly activity not only occurs spontaneously without any centralized direction, but central economic planning would actually harm it; one reason for this is that it’s impossible for any tiny oligarchy (even in the Information Age) to effectively oversee a vast complex system in which each person plays such a highly-specialized role.  In any case, the more advanced a given civilization becomes, the harder it becomes to centrally plan it, and the worse it fares whenever some would-be oligarchs attempt to harness it to serve their will.

Some people crave such power, though, and delude themselves into believing that the world (or their nation or their state or their city) would become so much better (or even “perfect”) if only they could subjugate their neighbors to their will and then reign over society with kinglike powers, directing everyone where to go and what to do.  Such power-hungry people are naturally drawn to politics, and even to public office, in which they strive to corrupt our political systems away from their proper role of defending rights toward a perverted role of controlling society.  Such centralized command-and-control essentially involves enslaving society, which practice is innately evil—and such evil means always lack the power to produce good ends, regardless of their intentions.  And this is why, although many statists may genuinely intend to create heaven-on-Earth, they almost invariably create hell-on-Earth instead to the extent that they’re allowed to implement their respective visions.

Statism isn’t only found in past horrors like Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany, but it has found favor among some Americans, as well.  It’s what reduced Detroit from a rich thriving metropolis to bankrupt crumbling ruins.  It’s why the middle class is currently fleeing California in droves.  And it’s even taking root here among us in Utah County.  Some Utahns might find that last statement surprising, considering Utah’s well-earned reputation as a highly conservative state—but it might make more sense to those who understand that very few Utahns actually bother to vote in local elections, while the few who DO bother to vote don’t necessarily represent majority views.

A small percent of Provoans supported John Curtis to win election in 2009 as Provo’s mayor, after which John quickly began working on Vision 2030/2050, which arguably became his most enduring legacy.  This document is more than a mere vision statement for what our political elites (after considering public input) decided that they want Provo to become, but it was intended from its inception to serve as a central-planning guide for our city council, and to become slowly transformed into city code.  Although this vision includes many relatively-benign provisions, it does include some rather alarming ones, such as dictating development, subsidizing politically-favored businesses, expelling renters, running monopolies, censoring communication, and even implementing a mini-Obamacare at the city level.  All of this from a former Democrat who seemingly never changed his views as much as his label.  And his successor, Mayor Kaufusi, seems well poised to perpetuate his legacy.

Mayor Kaufusi is now rallying Provoans to participate in developing a central economic plan for our entire county, as well, so that we can help “figure out where growth should go” as we “ensure Utah Valley grows the way the people who live here want it to.” This visioning process is being overseen by a group of wealthy and/or powerful Utahns called Envision Utah.  Envision Utah has criticized Utah County’s past relatively-free-market growth as being “chaotic” and “accidental”—and, as such, they are seeking to subjugate our local economy to our local politicians, who will override the free market by imposing their own political plans for our economy.  Rather than develop this central plan entirely on their own, Envision Utah has deigned to allow public participation—and, so, we local residents can visit their Valley Visioning website to complete a survey about what sort of future we want for Utah County.  One of this survey’s many interesting questions (which Mayor Kaufusi was seemingly referencing above) is about what percent of Utah Valley growth should be allocated to which cities—and, so, if we want 100% of new move-ins to come live in Provo, and 0% of them to live anywhere else, then we can tell Envision Utah so, and perhaps they’ll decide to decree it accordingly.  But why are we choosing where other people will live?  State-controlled-and-assigned housing may be perfect normal in communist nations, but it’s not a practice that we should accept here (or anywhere).

Please actively oppose this effort to develop a central economic plan for Utah County (and to continue the plan for Provo).  Please urge both your neighbors and your public officers to do likewise.  And, if your public officers choose to support central economic planning, anyway, then please rally your neighbors to uphold better candidates in next year’s local elections—candidates who will help preserve free markets by defending our equal God-given rights to both property and contract.


References:

Advertisements

Provo’s Control over Rental Properties

This month, Provo’s municipal government has incrementally increased its control (again) over local rental properties, thereby further subjugating otherwise-free local markets in violation of our rights.

We each have equal God-given rights, which (in their most basic form) include rights (1) over ourselves, (2) over the fruits of our labors, (3) over our children within reason as they mature to adulthood, (4) to interact contractually with others, and (5) to defend ourselves against others’ aggression.  Those last two rights together constitute not only the “non-aggression principle,” but also our right to charter political systems to expertly assist us in defending ourselves.  Meanwhile, our rights to both property and contract together are essential to free markets.

And free markets are what we should ideally have.  Which involves respecting each other’s rights to property ownership.  Whenever we own something, it means that we enjoy absolute authority to decide how to use that thing within the limits of our God-given rights.  And, if we ever overstep the limits of our own rights to infringe upon the equal rights of others, then the state may justly intervene to help thwart such rights-violations—but, otherwise, the state has no legitimate authority to dictate property usage.  We may not always approve of our neighbors’ decisions about how to use their own property, and we may freely exercise our rights to say so—but, ultimately, it’s their choice to make (and to hopefully learn from), and not our choice (or our politicians’ choice) to enforce upon them.  Relatedly, we should be perfectly free to contract with each other as we please, without politicians and/or bureaucrats intervening to dictate contractual terms, except as needed to help defend people’s rights.

Unfortunately, we no longer enjoy a free market in rental housing here in Provo, as our municipal government has increasingly arrogated control over such properties, dictating the details of how they are both managed and rented.  This control has increased over decades through many incremental steps, including caps on occupancy during the 1980s, a landlord licensing law in 2003, and a new disclosure ordinance that barely took effect this month.  Although such laws are presumably well-intended, they nevertheless attack rights that they should be defending, which renders them not only illegitimate but also damaging to Provo’s economy.  Central economic planning imposes burdensome “red tape” that innately stifles healthy innovation, whereas genuinely-free markets facilitate such innovation, which yields steady improvements in both efficiency and effectiveness that foster both prosperity and abundance.  We would all benefit from such abundance, but we don’t benefit from politicians commanding us in all things—they should simply help us to defend our rights as needed, but otherwise stay out of our way.

Sadly, Provo’s current array of city officers show no significant interest in reducing such burdensome regulation—in fact, both Vision 2030 and Vision 2050 indicate their interest in increasing such economic regulation, including by artificially restricting the supply of rental housing within Provo’s city limits in order to drive more renters out of Provo into other parts of Utah County, allegedly for our own collective good.  As for driving those “excessive” renters out of town, though, it seems that this excess does not necessarily include ALL renters—in fact, Mayor Kaufusi recently stated that she intends to actively “ensure that Provo attracts and retains young single professionals.”  Such statements demonstrate a sad lack of understanding of the proper role of government—it’s not our city officers’ responsibility to determine our city’s “ideal” demographic mix (more of one sort of people but less of another sort) and then enforce it through public policy, but only to help us to defend our rights so that we may remain free.  They likewise shouldn’t be choosing which local startups to subsidize, which existing businesses to relocate within our city limits, where those businesses will operate, what sort of outward appearance those new shops will have, et cetera, as they are currently seeking to do—we didn’t hire them to dictate our local aesthetics (although some might disagree), but only to maintain our rightful liberty.

Regaining our freedom includes repealing such burdensome regulations, and allowing our neighbors to both manage and rent property as they please.  Yes, this could mean that some neighborhoods will become slightly more crowded with student renters than they already are—but I believe that our attitude about such potential nuisances should ideally conform with Thomas Jefferson’s wise pronouncement that “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.”  We could learn much from him about maintaining proper respect for our neighbors’ rights to both property and contract.

So, let’s choose freedom!  And that includes upholding new city officers in 2019 who (unlike our current set) will not aspire to run our lives, but only to protect our rights so that we may remain free people, rather than mere cogs in a communal wheel.  You may learn more about Provo’s ongoing political degeneracy on our website, along with how you might act to effectively reverse such trends.  With your help, Provo can remain one of America’s best cities, rather than following the same sad path that led once-thriving Detroit to ruin.  And there’s no time like the present to start on this project, especially while our weather remains so well-suited for knocking on neighbors’ doors.  Will you join us?


References:

Opposing a Statist Vision for Provo

We Provoans who value our rightful liberty would do well (for reasons detailed below) to lobby our city councilors from March 6th to March 27th (as they’ve voted to allow) about a revised General Plan for our city that they’ve been drafting since last year.

This revised central plan will merge our present General Plan’s Chapter One together with two city documents full of central-planning guidelines, namely Vision 2030 and Vision 2050.  Vision 2030 was instigated in 2010 by newly-elected mayor John Curtis, in cooperation with his like-minded city councilors, who together appointed a system of committees that gradually developed it through 18 months of careful deliberation, while both inviting and considering (but not necessarily heeding) public input, before finalizing it all on paper in 2011.  After using Vision 2030 to guide their central planning for five years, and then noting (in John Curtis’ words) that “so much of 2030 has already been accomplished,” our city officers sought additional public input about their plans in 2016, which they considered as they composed a similar plan called Vision 2050.  Along the way, Provo’s city councilors made it perfectly clear that their intent has been to gradually transform these abstract vision statements over decades into concrete city code.  So, if we want to know what these city officers envision for our future city ordinances (which have been proliferating greatly in recent years), then we should scrutinize this pair of vision statements.

Although these documents together present many fine aspirations for Provo’s future, most such goals/objectives are best accomplished through both loving persuasion and voluntary cooperation, rather than through the heavy hand of political edicts.  In fact, our political system should ideally focus on its core (and only proper) mission of helping us all to effectively defend our rights against others’ aggression, while leaving all other concerns to free people in a free society—and our politicians should NOT seek to compel us to live up to anything-and-everything that suits their fancy.  What follows next is a brief overview of some of the worst city ordinances envisioned by these documents, accompanied by some of our commentary.

  • Censoring Internet communications (perhaps) in violation of our rights to speak freely (see V2030 5.2.3).

Vision 2030 expresses concern about “the risks associated with free and open access to the Internet,” along with a legislative goal to “provide safe and secure Internet access.”  It’s unclear if this phrase refers to wanton electronic censorship or to something more innocuous (as some have suggested) like restricting children’s access to pornography at Provo’s public library; but, in any case, we urge caution.  While Vision 2030 was being composed, Provo owned a shoddy overpriced money-losing fiberoptic network called iProvo, which our city council had built from 2004 to 2006 using a massive $39.5-million-dollar loan (which Provo taxpayers are still repaying), but later sold in 2013 to Google Fiber for only $1 (while paying hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in related expenses); this transfer-of-ownership perhaps explains why this entire section about censorship was excluded from Vision 2050.

  • Reconstructing Provo’s infrastructure to impede private traffic in favor of public transit (see V2030 12.1, 12.2; V2050 9.1, 9.2).

Vision 2050 calls for neither eliminating nor minimizing traffic congestion, but “managing” it in such a way that it discourages people from driving.  This may (or may not) imply joining a recent nationwide trend of so-called “road diets” that are now severely obstructing traffic in various major U. S. cities for the purpose of “encouraging” drivers to give up their automobiles for politically-favored alternatives.  Provo’s city officers may be fulfilling these goals right now (at least in part) through their insanely-expensive road-reconstruction project to establish Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which they have admitted isn’t justified by current consumer demand.  We should note, by the way, that even this current relatively-low demand is highly inflated due to heavy taxpayer subsidies, without which all UTA fares would be at least several times more expensive.

  • Dictating which buildings will get built where, while regulating the details of both their form and their function, all in accordance with the principles of “sustainable development” and/or “smart growth,” but in violation of property rights (see V2030 1.5.2, 1.6.2, 2.1.1, 2.2, 2.4; V2050 1.3.5, 1.5.4, 1.6.2, 2.1.3, 2.2, 2.3.6, 2.5, 2.7.3, 2.8.1, 4.6.1, 6.6, 6.7, 6.9, 9).

Although zoning is common, some cities like Houston have thrived without it, as it curtails development, reduces competition, promotes false “order” and/or aesthetics over genuine needs, reduces housing supply while raising housing costs, excludes “undesirables,” and wastes people’s valuable time with needless paperwork.  While traditional zoning controls only the function of buildings, newer zoning trends control their form, as well, and this seems to be referenced in Vision 2050—in fact, Provo’s city councilors in 2016 discussed the idea of mandatory landscaping for all residential homes, which they would regulate through city code.  Some consider such form-based code to be vital in implementing “smart growth,” which forcibly redirects development away from a city’s outskirts toward its center, thereby concentrating municipal residents into high-density walkable urbanesque cores served by public mass-transit, which is exactly what these documents envision for Provo.  “Smart growth” is a closely-related concept to “sustainable development,” which has become associated with “watermelon” environmentalists who advance communistic principles under the guise of protecting nature.  Communists have long favored such “delandization” policies in nations that they’ve sough to subvert.

  • Redistributing demographics, including by expelling renters from Provo to other parts of Utah County, in violation of our property and/or contractual rights (see V2030 1.5, 2.1, 2.3, 5.3; V2050 1.5, 2.1, 2.3).

Provo’s city officers have expressed displeasure with Provo’s current owner-renter balance, along with a desire to exercise political power to artificially restrict rental housing (which would inflate rental costs for students while unjustly enriching landlords), subsidize homeownership, discourage relocation, and even encourage each neighborhood’s residents to have diversity in their ages.  It’s unclear exactly how our city officers might enforce age diversity—perhaps each block would be assigned a mandatory elderly couple?  In any case, our public officers shouldn’t decree who lives where—such decisions should be made contractually within a free market.

  • Expanding Provo’s current array of city-run business ventures, regulating what it doesn’t run, and subsidizing politically-favored relocations and/or expansions and/or startups, all in violation of our property and/or contractual rights (see V2030 3.1, 3.3, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 4.7, 5.4.2, 7.3.2, 9.1.2, 9.3.2; V2050 3.1, 3.3, 3.6, 3.7, 4.7, 4.8, 5.3.2, 6.2.4, 6.3.2, 6.4, 6.8).

Provo’s city officers seem to want to control (or at least manipulate) our municipal economy as much as we’ll let them.  Their current roster of city-run businesses (which should all be fully privatized) includes a redevelopment agency, a monopolistic power company, an airport, a television channel, a library, a money-losing performing-arts center, a rather-profitable (for now) new recreation center, a fitness center, a golf course, an ice rink, a water park, a city park service, a gun range, a garbage-collection service, a recycling service, and a cemetery, with plans to possibly add a museum and/or beach.  Such additions might be funded through Provo’s new RAP (recreation, arts, and parks) tax, through which our city officers may entertain us as much as they please while sending the bill to taxpayers.  But it’s not right for our politicians to be running and/or regulating our businesses, which distracts them from their proper role of helping us to defend our rights.

  • Socializing Provo’s health-care system, while ensuring that Provoans maintain proper diet and exercise (see V2030 6.1, 6.2).

Vision 2030 expresses a desire to guarantee every Provoan “access” to health care, which appears to be a city-level version of “Obamacare.”  Which may explain why, after our nation’s Congress passed the unconstitutional Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, this section was excluded from Vision 2050.  What also disappeared were goals about ensuring that all Provoans live healthier lives.  As for how Provo’s city councilors considered enforcing such health laws, we can only speculate—perhaps it would involve regular home visits from “health enforcement agents” to ensure that we’re all talking enough walks and eating enough vegetables?  Creepy…

  • Recruiting residents to help implement this statist agenda (see V2030 5.3.5, 10.1.3, 10.2, 14.3.4; V2050 7.1.3, 7.2, 11.3.4).

Provo’s city officers also want to educate Provoan children to engage in “sustainable development,” and to understand the “roles of government,” which they seemingly believe is to reign over the rest of us—and to harness some Provoans as volunteers to help them to render their statist vision a reality.  Rather than trying to finagle us into serving their interests, they should be helping us to remain free to pursue our own interests within the limits of our equal God-given rights.

Please lobby your city councilors against such such goals, and please encourage fellow liberty-lovin’ Provoans to do likewise!  Since these goals/objectives were generally their idea, they might resist relinquishing them, or they might eliminate them only on paper while pressing ahead with them in practice—but your efforts may still either slow or pause their statist plans enough to have an impact while we’re in the process of helping our neighbors to choose better successors.  And we hope that you’re already actively proselytizing your neighbors, as well, especially as our local weather is growing milder.  As a reminder, you’re more than welcome to peruse our Free Provo website for both ideas and resources.


References: