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The following op-ed by our president Connor Boyack was published in today’s Standard Examiner.
If you remember your Bible stories, you’ll recall Esau and Jacob, the twin sons of Isaac and grandsons of Abraham. By being born first, Esau was the legal heir to the birthright, set to preside over the family and receive a double inheritance from his father. Surprisingly, he exchanged this prized status for a mess of pottage—giving up something profoundly important to satisfy a momentary desire.
Of course, the fulfillment of a fleeting need for food was temporary, and Esau would once again be hungry at a later time. Perhaps for this reason—by abandoning his birthright in favor of something so ephemeral—we read that Esau “despised his birthright,” obviously placing little value on it.
Many politicians follow in Esau’s footsteps.
Through the First Freedom PAC, Jonathan Johnson has been promoting an amendment to state constitutions, including Utah’s, to legally protect a church’s ability to only marry who its clergy desires to, in accordance with the church’s doctrine and practice. We believe that religious belief and practice is an extension of individual liberty, and therefore “religious liberty,” as it’s usually called, deserves the same attention and support.
This battle, however, is in anticipation for a future that has not yet arrived—and, of course, proponents hope it never will. By strengthening state constitutions in this regard, supporters intend for churches to never face legal repercussions for refusing to marry a homosexual couple, for example, should their doctrine or custom lead them to choose not to. Strategizing in anticipation of future battles has its place, but we must also keep an eye on current skirmishes lest they escalate into open conflict. In several states already, discrimination laws have given legal standing for successful lawsuits against owners of businesses who prefer not to offer their goods and services to another individual. This violation of property rights is a current battle in this country that merits a proactive, defensive response in Utah.
By Gerard P. Howells
I was born 29 years ago in Birmingham in the United Kingdom. I first set my sights on moving to the United States at the age of 16 after reading its founding documents and Thomas Paine’s seminal work, Common Sense. I was attracted, more specifically, by the focus on individual freedom and the enumeration of natural rights that I knew to be essential to the human condition.
It was not, however, until a decade later in the year 2010 when this goal began to become a reality. I was accepted to attend an educational institution in Salt Lake City and hoped to find a way to stay on a permanent basis. Shortly after arriving I was fortunate enough to meet the woman who would become my wife in 2012, after a brief stint back in the UK due to financial difficulties related to being in the United States on a student visa. Under current U.S. law, foreign students are only legally able to work for up to 20 hours per week at the educational institution they are attending, or at a limited number of other institutions approved by the Department of Homeland Security.
In a recent letter to property owners who rent out their property, the city of Cedar Hills, Utah announced a new ordinance (Title 3-Chapter 1-Article H:Rental Dwelling Unit) that requires these individuals to seek the permission of the city government if they wish to “legally rent out a residence in the city of Cedar Hills.” The ordinance requires the property owner to submit a Rental Property Business License Application, pay an annual fee ($65 for the first property and $25 for each additional property) and be subject to an “ordinance compliance review.”
This ordinance violates the fundamental principles of private property rights. Property rights require that an owner may do with their property as they please, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of other individuals. If a city requires certain conditions be met (that are not related to an existing or imminent violation of other individuals’ rights) in order for an owner to rent out their property, then clearly the city purports to possess the authority to prohibit the owner from renting out their property. If the city assumes this right, then clearly the owner does not have the right to rent out their property, but may do so only with the consent of the city. In this case, there are no private property rights with respect to renting out the property, but rather a city-granted privilege bestowed upon whomever they deem fit, based on whatever arbitrary criteria they choose.
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: