Tag Archives: regulation

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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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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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.


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