Tag Archives: housing

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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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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Provo’s City Council Prioritizes Statism

Provo’s city council recently went on a retreat to choose their top five priorities for our city over these next two years.  Sadly (although not surprisingly), their final selections had little to do with defending our equal God-given rights better, but much to do with increasing their central planning of our city’s economy.

Our city council’s topmost issue is apparently zoning compliance.  Zoning has become rather commonplace in America, but any practice can become popular without being right.  And zoning not only violates both our property and contractual rights, but (as some hard data proves) it also 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.  Some American cities like Houston have thrived with barely any zoning laws—but, sadly, Provo’s city officers seem determined to not only maintain present zoning laws, but also to extend those laws to include “form-based code,” which would regulate the form of buildings in addition to their function.

A second issue is housing, as our city councilors apparently intend to determine what sort of housing should be built where, and then ensure that it gets built accordingly, rather than leave this task to free people.  And their remaining three top priorities include budgeting for “outcomes,” for Vision 2050, and for economic development.  As for this last item, they are apparently assuming that they shouldn’t leave the economy free to grow on its own, but should actively direct that development according to their central plans—even though such planning-by-the-few is rarely as good as planning-by-the-many that naturally occurs in a genuinely-free market.

The most dangerous priority of these five is arguably the one about funding Vision 2050, which (for those who don’t already know) is an abstract vision statement that Provo’s city council has stated that it intends to gradually transform into concrete city code.  Its various statist provisions include forcibly redirecting development away from the city’s outskirts into a high-density downtown core, dictating what gets built where, impeding private cars (in order to encourage public mass-transit), encouraging symbiosis between city institutions and relatively-big businesses, attracting politically-favored companies into town, subsidizing politically-favored startups, running ever-more local monopolies, regulating homebuilding along with (mandatory) residential landscaping, restricting the local supply of rental housing, redistributing city demographics as they see fit, and even overseeing our diet-and-exercise.  Its predecessor, known as Vision 2030, also proposed both Internet censorship (seemingly) and our own local “Curtiscare.”

Such oligarchic trends, if allowed to continue, will inevitably run our now-thriving city economy into the ground.  And this course won’t change until enough Provoans “wake up,” pay attention, and then start voting for something better.  And that won’t happen unless/until we make it happen.  So, let’s please work hard over these next two years to help our neighbors to prepare themselves to elect better city officers in late 2019.  We invite you to please visit our Free Provo website for both ideas and resources, and we hope that you’ll encourage your fellow liberty-lovin’ Provoans to do likewise.


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