Tag Archives: contractual rights

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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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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Subjugating Landlords via Occupancy Laws

Provo’s city council is continuing to increase its control over Provo residents, including landlords, who sometimes dare to use their property as they please rather than as the city council pleases.

Our most basic rights include rights to both property and contract, which are the basis of free markets—and our politicians are morally obligated to both respect and defend such rights, rather than to wantonly violate those rights as a criminal would do.

Whenever a politician ceases to defend rights and instead dictates how those rights will be exercised, this is essentially tyranny, regardless of how petty it may be—and, in cases like this, it invites the question of who truly owns the property in question.

Policies like occupancy restrictions not only violate rights, but they are also impractical, as they render rental housing both scarcer and costlier than it would otherwise be. This needlessly hurts poorer Provoans by rendering housing less affordable to them.

Rather than dictate how landlords are to rent their property, it would be better for Provo politicians to both respect and defend landlords’ rights to rent their property to others as they please, as long as they don’t violate anyone else’s rights in the process of doing so.

Such changes in policy won’t occur without changes in politicians, though, which won’t occur without changes in voting habits. So, please educate and inform and activate your neighbors to vote better in our local elections.


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Valley Visioning Workshops

You are urgently invited to attend one of many Valley Visioning workshops being held in early 2019.  Although these workshops concern Utah County generally, they could have tremendous impact upon Provo specifically.  One was already held earlier this week in Provo but, for those who may have missed it, you may attend another one on February 21st at 6PM at Orem High School.

As detailed in a previous blog entry…  Valley Visioning is sponsored by Envision Utah, which is a group of prominent Utahns who seemingly dislike market-driven growth for being too “chaotic” and “accidental,” but prefer for our political system to control such growth by centrally-planning it.  They’ve already fostered central plans for other parts of Utah and, now, it’s apparently our county’s turn.  But they don’t want to finalize their central plans for our county without first getting our input about what we want—so, these meetings will allow us to provide our input to them.  They intend to consider this input as they develop a communal vision statement for our county’s future that they intend to guide county-level central planning in the coming years.  Which apparently includes dictating where our newcomers will live.

This sounds much like what Provo has been doing on a city level since 2010-2011.  At that time, “liberal” Mayor John Curtis (who was formerly a Democrat) solicited residents’ advice as he created a comprehensive municipal vision statement called Vision 2030, which has since served as a guide to Provo’s City Council in (increasingly) centrally planning Provo’s municipal economy.  Vision 2030’s many goals include “sustainable development,” “Smart Growth” that redirects new development from Provo’s outskirts to its downtown, business subsidies, population redistribution, mandatory city-regulated landscaping (according to one city council meeting), promotion of mass-transit, a city-level Obamacare, and even oversight of each resident’s diet-and-exercise.  It looks like Orem is now following Provo’s example, along with Utah County—and, it would seem, other places throughout our nation.

So, if you don’t want central planners running the economy of our city or county or state or nation, but would prefer to leave markets free, then please choose to get motivated, educated, informed, and involved to help thwart these plans.  This requires us (in part) to both nominate and elect better politicians—and, since we can’t accomplish this feat with our one vote alone, we need to both engage and mobilized our neighbors, as well.  We Utahns who still value our rightful liberty need to build our ranks to become more numerous and/or effective than those of our statist adversaries, so that we can start to gain ground more than lose it.  If you find our website’s resources helpful in that goal, then please use them.


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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.


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