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On December 5, 2013, the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was repealed, terminating the federal prohibition on “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” A failed 13-year experiment on commercial restriction ended, pushing the issue back to the state level. Utah is thought to have been the necessary 36th state to ratify the 21st amendment (that repealed the 18th), but Ohio and Pennsylvania ratified it on the same day, and Maine ratified it the day after. (So even if Utah didn’t vote to repeal, it would have passed.)
It’s worth reviewing some of the effects prohibition had on public policy, as we then address similar policies that remain at the state and local level.
For those who desired to obtain illicit substances during the prohibition era, the black market was readily available. Outlawed products were available, but rather than being cheap, safe to acquire, and legal, they were thrust into the domain of crime, gang warfare, violence, and racketeering. Prohibition directly fueled the rise of organized crime in America, providing a financial foundation upon which this threat could exponentially escalate. A study of 30 major cities during 1920 and 1921 (early years in the prohibition era) shows that crime increased by 24 percent, theft and burglaries by 9 percent, homicide by 12.7 percent, assaults and battery by 13 percent, drug addiction by 44.6 percent, and police department costs by 11.4 percent.
A newly released audit for the state of Utah reveals that the government relies upon federal funds for well over a third of its budget. According to state auditor John Dougall, “Utah continues to have a heavy dependence on federal financial assistance, which amounted to $4.5 billion in federal expenditures and $2.2 billion in endowments, loans and loan guarantees for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2013.”
As reported earlier this year, a 2011 financial report produced by the federal government states that “there is little question that current fiscal policies cannot be sustained indefinitely.” The Comptroller General similarly said in the report that “the current structure of the federal budget is unsustainable over the longer term.”
On Sunday, Senator Osmond released more specific details of his proposal to reform education law in Utah. The proposal contains three separate pieces of legislation, the first of which interests us the most.
Titled “Parental Right to Educational Freedom,” this first bill would require parents to “choose an educational pathway for each child upon 6 years of age”—the age at which, under Utah law, a child is considered a “school-age minor.” Parents would sign an affidavit indicating whether they will be enrolling their child in a government school, private school, or educating them in the home.
Some parents have voiced concern in social media regarding this requirement, requiring two important clarifications:
We’re excited to announce the selection of our new policy analyst here at Libertas Institute: Josh Daniels!
In looking to hire for this position, we sought out candidates with educational backgrounds in economics, political science, or law. Josh’s broad educational experience is in all three! Needless to say, we were immediately impressed.
Josh began his studies at BYU in pursuit of an economics degree. As he proceeded through the technical upper-level coursework his interest became more focused on economic theory and policy. He decided to switch to political science where he took courses in American politics and statistical research. During that time he served on the student team for the Utah Colleges Exit Poll where he participated in a large-scale statewide study of voter opinion and analyzed large data sets to prepare a major policy research paper. For another of his papers, he argued that the colonial-era emphasis on property rights was due to the belief that individual liberty was inextricably linked to private property, and that liberty could not exist in a government that did not respect the primacy of property rights.
As the annual tradition of Thanksgiving leads us to once more gather with family and friends to share experiences and express gratitude for our possessions and circumstances, it’s important to recognize the central role played by the market.
It’s common for these celebrations to feature a variety of food—turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pies, and other items. For most of us, there are several large grocery stores located nearby, each featuring many options for each needed ingredient. In other words, we are surrounded by abundance and variety, both of which are products of a free market system.
To understand this relationship, consider its inverse: a centrally planned economy overseen and regulated by a government body. Russia under Stalin and North Korea today are clear examples of dangers of suppressing a free market. State Planning Commissions arbitrarily set production goals, prices are fixed, and scarce resources are dedicated only to a select few products and services. As a result, there is rarely any substantial selection of consumer goods. Abundance and variety vanish.
With the development of the Lake Golf Course at Wasatch Mountain in 1967, the state of Utah began ownership and operation of golf courses. Since that time, an additional five government-run courses have been developed around the state. None of them justify the subsidy of taxpayers to drive down the cost for those who desire to use these courses.
Worse, poor planning has placed these golf courses away from any large population of regular golfers, thus requiring marketing and other efforts to attract golfers who live long distances away and must travel long distances to reach the course. For this reason, among others, all of the courses have been experiencing a decline in use. Now is the time to sell them off and extricate the state from an area of enterprise in which it may not legitimately operate.
In 2012, the state commissioned a report from National Golf Foundation Consulting “to assist with evaluating the Utah State Parks golf system and to make recommendations to help ensure the long-term viability of the golf program.” Their core findings highlight the “competitive disadvantages” of the government-owned golf courses, and point to six key areas of deficiency:
Yesterday’s public opinion poll (and by extension, all of the ones we’ve done) has met with some professional criticism, to which I feel it’s important to respond. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only ones I’ve seen spiking political touchdowns with the response have been those who support the proposed anti-discrimination law.)
First, it was claimed that the questions we used were “unbalanced and inaccurate.” Specifically, the objection was made that we referenced “jail time” in our questions about anti-discrimination law, and that this punishment is “non-existent” in regards to anti-discrimination law. The purpose of this question was not to gauge reaction to any specific proposal or bill language, but to test the degree to which voters would be willing to use the violence of the state against a peaceful business owner. Further, a business owner who would be fined under the proposed law, and who objected to paying that fine, could easily find himself in a legal battle that escalates to the point of jail time. Thus, we felt it was not inaccurate to raise this as a possibility when discussing the state’s prohibition on peaceful behavior.
Service is one of those ubiquitous, loosely defined words used to describe all sorts of exchanges. It can involve delivery of a material good for money, such as in restaurants, or it can represent the value of labor expended on behalf of another with no remuneration, such as spending time at a rest home caring for the elderly. At its core though, all service involves a giver and receiver.
On a daily basis we come across dozens of examples of service. On a regular basis, I attend a church meeting, or service, where a sacrament is served to a congregation, followed by a sermon delivered by a speaker, followed by a lesson given by an instructor. When I get home, my wife and I serve our children a meal. These are common everyday examples of service.
The etymological roots of the word service stretch back to antiquity and refer to servus, the Latin word for slave. A slave provides service to a master at the threat of his life. He is the purported property of the master and as such has no legal recourse for improper treatment. Over time, slavery became indentured servitude with a preset term of service in exchange for expenses paid up front for debts uncollected. Thankfully, slavery in the developed world has dwindled to a minute, illegal, underground industry with no general public support (although Tax Freedom Day might be considered an annual celebration of the end of annual indentured servitude).
In an effort to bolster support for its proposed legislation, Equality Utah—a “gay rights” organization—points to a poll it conducted as evidence that the majority of Utahns agree with its proposal. The key claim in the poll is that “73% somewhat or strongly favor a statewide nondiscrimination law in employment.” The organization’s executive director commented, regarding this poll, that the claimed 73% support by Utahns “enhances our opportunity to achieve statewide passage for these important protections.”
The question asked was this: “Would you favor or oppose a statewide law (statewide nondiscrimination law) that makes it illegal for someone to be fired from a job solely because they are gay or transgender?” We theorize that many respondents did not understand the implications of this question, and therefore were more likely to express support. To test this theory, we decided to conduct a brief public opinion poll asking related questions with more context for the respondents regarding what the illegality of such discrimination might entail. In other words, when Utahns understand that business owners or landlords could be fined or jailed based on their discriminatory decisions as property owners, will they still support Equality Utah’s proposed legislation?
During legislative meetings at the Utah Capitol it is not uncommon to regularly see the same people in attendance—staff, government employees, and lobbyists. Citizens are in the minority. In a desire to better understand the degree to which citizens have engaged in the legislative process, Libertas Institute conducted a brief survey earlier this week.
We randomly surveyed 500 Utah voters on November 18, 2013 via an automated phone system. Sampled voters were contacted and administered a questionnaire. Half of respondents were contacted on their mobile phone, half on a landline. The margin of sampling error is ±4.38%.
1. Have you spoken with your state Senator or state Representative in the past year?