Tag Archives: free markets

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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Centrally Planning West Provo

As populations freely grow and shift, they change the way in which land is used.  Such changes may occur either through voluntary contractual interactions among free people or through coercive decrees from oligarchs—or something in between.

But it’s not the place of politicians to dictate how everyone else’s land is to be used—such decisions are rightfully made by individual landowners.  Besides, if landowners can’t truly decide how their own land is to be used, then are they truly its owners, or are they merely caretakers of public land?  It’s sad when politicians treat their constituents’ land as if it were their own land by issuing edicts about how it will be used.  It’s not the proper role of public officers to reign over society like oligarchs, but only to help keep us free by expertly helping us to defend our equal God-given rights from others’ aggression.  And those rights include property rights—the right to determine the use of our own property, provided that our actions don’t interfere with the equal God-given rights of others.  It’s a basic principle that, whenever we violate others’ property rights through trespassing or theft or damage or other such means, we engage in criminal wrongdoing, which we may justly prosecute but not perpetrate.

Centralized economic planning is not only wrong in principle but it’s also impractical, as history abundantly proves.  Highly centrally-planned economies like that of the former U. S. S. R. were parasitical economic basketcases that would have likely collapsed many times without regular infusions of economic aid from the West.  Meanwhile, the West thrived economically due (in part) to relatively-free markets, in which both property and contractual rights are generally respected (as they should be), while decision-making remained dispersed among relatively-free people rather than concentrated in the hands of very-powerful oligarchs.

Unfortunately, Provo’s city council appears to have embraced the principles of central planning, as evidenced by documents like Vision 2030/2050, and its councilors remain eager to dictate development in west Provo.  They met earlier this week on Tuesday evening to consider approving a new land-use map that will help determine what will get built where in west Provo.  If you missed the meeting, then please contact your city councilor to let him/her know that you favor economic development planned by free people rather than by city officers.  And let’s please strive to elect better city officers in 2019 who will respect your rightful liberty on their own without needing us to lobby them regularly.


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Cheap Electricity & Free Trees

It’s great to have electricity.  And it’s great to have trees.  But it’s not so great for our local politicians to give us both federally-subsidized electricity and taxpayer-funded trees.  If I want a tree, then I should be able to buy one, but I have no right to compel my neighbor to pay my bill for it.  If my neighbor wants to pay my bills, anyway, then that’s wonderful—but such money should be freely given, not forcibly taken.  Ditto with saving money on my electric bill—charitable assistance is great, but taxpayer subsidies are not.

Some people might neither understand nor accept the difference between plunder and philanthropy—but our politicians should ideally uphold this difference, and NOT legally perpetrate theft but prosecute it.  In fact, all politicians should expertly help us to defend our equal God-given rights to our bodies, our property, our children, contract, defense, et cetera, so that we may remain free, rather than trying to reign like monarchs over our lives (including our bank accounts).  And this includes our city officers.

So, the “bottom line” is that we need to privatize Provo City Power, along with the city’s Trees for Energy Conservation program.  And we also need to elect more local officers who will defend our rights to our property, rather than dictate how we will spend our paychecks.  Cheap electricity and free trees are nice, but they’re not something that we should legislate our neighbors into giving us.  Please contact your city officers about these changes, and please mobilize your neighbors to vote better in 2019.


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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?


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Staying Among America’s Best Cities

WalletHub recently ranked Provo as America’s second “best-run” city, based upon its performance across a wide range of categories, as compared with the size of its city budget.

And Mayor Kaufusi, to her great credit, acknowledged that this was not an achievement of Provo’s city government alone, but something that we Provoans all achieved together.  I would add that free people tend to accomplish amazing things whenever they freely choose to work together toward noble goals—and that I believe that Provo has become such a great place to live because it remains a relatively virtuous-and-free place to live, and because its virtuous free residents voluntarily choose to do so much good on their own, rather than relying on relatively inefficient/ineffective taxpayer-funded programs to accomplish the same ends.  For the moment.

Sadly, such achievements are not innately self-sustaining.  And Detroit arguably provides an excellent example of this point.  Detroit during the 1950s was also a thriving city with a high standard-of-living.  Sadly, though, its municipal government began transforming during the 1960s, as its focus shifted away from defending people’s rights toward trying to run their lives—including their municipal economy.  Over time, both its industry and its residents slowly fled to freer places, leaving a cityscape full of crumbling ruins, costly public-works boondoggles, and denizens who were unemployed or even criminal—and this shrinking tax base was required to support a growing (and terribly expensive) army of city bureaucrats.  These trends inevitably led to bankruptcy during the 2010s, as this once-thriving city finally (by a thousand figurative cuts) governed itself to death.  And its demise should serve as a tragic lesson to all cities nationwide.

We Provoans should beware of similar trends here.  Recent city officers have been selling us into financial bondage in order to finance risky business ventures like iProvo and the new Recreation Center—tasks that should be left to private entrepreneurs.  They’ve also been seeking to raise taxes, multiply ordinances, disrespect our equal God-given rights, and increase their control over our municipal economy.  They’ve even approved a Vision 2030/2050 central-planning guide that includes tasks like controlling both development and demographics, forcibly restricting the availability of rental housing, mandating city-regulated landscaping, censoring the local Internet, running a city-level Obamacare, and supervising our diet-and-exercise.  We would do well to nip such trends in the figurative bud before they ultimately bear the same sort of fruit that they did in Detroit.

Such political repentance won’t happen unless/until we sufficiently overcome apathy, ignorance, and uninvolvement in order to uphold better city officers, and to effectively help our neighbors to do likewise.  So, please choose to include these among your goals for the near future.  And, if your find our Free Provo website helpful in this regard, then please make the most of it.


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Preventing Privatization

Our city’s ice-rink was built for use in the Olympic Games in 2002.  It has since served local residents in various ways, while being co-owned by both Utah County and Provo city.  Sadly, its usage fees have been subsidized by taxpayers in both jurisdictions.  Our county commission recently showed interest in divesting its share of ownership in this ice rink, which might have constituted a good opportunity to fully privatize this facility—but Provo’s city officers eagerly kept this facility fully in public hands by making a deal with Utah County to eventually assume sole ownership of it.

Provo’s city officers seem determined to maintain each-and-every publicly-owned facility that they currently oversee, and to keep expanding that array.  Their current roster of city-run businesses includes a redevelopment agency, a monopolistic power company, an airport, a local television channel, a library, a money-losing performing-arts center, a rather-profitable (for the moment) new recreation center, a fitness center, a golf course, the ice rink mentioned above, 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 new museum and/or beach.

As Provo’s city officers play CEO of a growing collection of business operations, this arguably distracts them from their core (and only proper) role, which is to help us to expertly defend our rights from others’ aggression.  Also, they’re not defending but (sadly) violating our rights whenever they wantonly help themselves our hard-earned money in order to subsidize other people’s expenses, such as through Provo’s new RAP (recreation, arts, and parks) tax.

Let’s please encourage our city officers to stop redistributing our paychecks, to stop playing entrepreneur, to fully privatize Provo’s present publicly-run business ventures (as it did once before with iProvo), and to focus on helping us to defend our equal God-given rights.  You may find their contact information below.

Also, let’s strive to persuade our neighbors to elect better city officers in 2019 who will do the right thing on their own without needing to be lobbied.  This is a great time-of-year to spend time outside knocking on neighbors’ doors in order to try to proselytize them to support the cause of freedom.  In doing so, you’re welcome to use our website’s resources if they help any.


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Provo’s Subsidies to Local Businesses

Provo’s mayor and city council have together articulated a statist vision for our city’s future since 2011 through both Vision 2030 and Vision 2050—and, despite changes in our city’s officers over these last 7 years, our current ones are still seeking to transform this same statist vision into reality.

This vision includes subsidizing politically-favored business activity, including local relocations, startups, and/or expansions (see Vision 2030 5.4.2, 9.1.2, 9.3.2; Vision 2050 6.2.4, 6.3.2, 6.8.4).  Mayor Kaufusi polled some residents during her campaign last year about what sorts of businesses they want to open franchises within our city, and she presumably considered this input to compose a “shopping list” of business chains to target.  And, at Provo’s recent city-sponsored Tech Summit, its city-employed moderator, while soliciting ideas about what Provo could do to help startups, was even bold enough to ask local entrepreneurs, “Do you want us to give out free money?” (see the city’s official YouTube recording of this event from 13:02 to 13:32).  Thankfully, none of those attendees dared to say “yes” in response to this offer, but this incident illustrates how interested our current city officers are in redistributing our hard-earned money as they please—if only they can only identify willing recipients.

Providing financial assistance to businesses should not be mandatory but voluntary.  If an economic cause is truly worth funding, then it shouldn’t be hard to persuade enough people to freely choose to finance it.  Such generosity (whether for business causes or for personal ones) is generally laudable and strengthens our charity, whereas theft may allow our charity to atrophy, even if such theft is perpetrated in the false guise of “compassion.”

And I don’t use the word theft figuratively but quite literally.  It’s important for us to understand the innate difference between forcibly taking and freely giving.  If I go to a park where I see a homeless man and feel compassion for him and give him $20 and maybe a job offer, then that’s a virtuous act of charity.  If I go to a park where a homeless man sees me and puts a gun to my head and demands that I give him $20, then that’s a corrupt act known as theft.  Some people may struggle to see much difference between these two incidents, since the same amount of money is transferred from the same person to the same person in each case, but those similarities are only superficial, whereas the underlying differences involved are profound, as are the long-term effects on both parties.  The latter is not only a genuine sin but also a genuine crime—it’s an act of aggression, against which we’re justified in defending ourselves.  And, in defending ourselves, we’re also justified in calling upon other people to help us with that task, from bystanders to hired bodyguards to taxpayer-funded police officers.  Assisting us with our self-defense is the ONLY proper role of any political system, and politicians violate that role whenever they side with aggressors instead.  And aggression doesn’t change its fundamental nature simply by becoming both popular and legal.   Robbery remains robbery, whether a lone gunman helps himself to what’s in our wallet, or whether he lobbies a politician to legally do the same thing legally on his behalf.  And  also whether the armed robber is an unemployed homeless man who wants some spare change or an otherwise-respectable local businessperson who wants some extra dollars in his coffers whether people want to donate those funds or not.

Since such legalized plunder is being actively promoted and/or solicited by our current array of city officers, we would do well to retire them all as quickly as possible, and to uphold successors who will not only respect our rightful liberty but also expertly help us to defend it.  This isn’t a task that we can each do alone, so please go try to persuade your neighbors to both cherish and understand freedom, while preparing them to vote better both this year and beyond.  And, if your find our Free Provo website helpful in this regard, then please make the most of it.


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