Center for Private Property
Article 1 Section 6 of Utah’s constitution states, “The individual right of the people to keep and bear arms for security and defense of self, family, others, property, or the state, as well as for other lawful purposes shall not be infringed.”
Today, Governor Herbert is hanging his hat, not on that particular sentence, not on the fundamental principle of liberty, not on the inherent right of the individual to bear arms, but on the second part of that clause which says, “but nothing herein shall prevent the Legislature from defining the lawful use of arms.”
Governor Herbert has chosen to veto House Bill 76, which would allow law-abiding Utahns to conceal carry an unloaded firearm without needing a permission slip (conceal carry permit). The bill passed through both the House and Senate by over a 2/3 vote.
Earlier this week, an anti-discrimination bill was shot down by a House committee. Sponsored by Representative Wiley (a Democrat), HB132 would have enacted legal protections against discrimination in employment for individuals because of their height or weight (as well as the “impression,” and not actual measurement, of that person’s height or weight).
Another anti-discrimination bill had a different outcome in a committee meeting yesterday. SB262, sponsored by Senator Urquhart (a Republican), aims to criminalize discrimination in employment and housing against individuals because of their “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” The bill passed 4-3 after public comment which featured a number of weak arguments advanced by the opposition.
None of the opposition addressed the fundamental violation of property rights as it relates to anti-discrimination law, instead focusing on compliance costs, awkwardness of allowing boys whose “gender identity” is female to share a bathroom with girls, fear of providing legal support for introducing same-sex marriage in Utah, and other more superficial reasons. While these and other concerns shared are valid, they were not effective. More importantly, they did not address the heart of the issue—the reason why anti-discrimination law is so repugnant to liberty and limited government.
Last night, the Highland, Utah city council considered passage of an ordinance which would nullify federal and local gun control laws. “As elected leaders,” said the sponsor, councilman Tom Butler, in his opening remarks, “we can either stand with the free citizens of Highland and protect their God given rights to self preservation, self defense and all other rights as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, against all enemies, foreign or domestic, or we will be abdicating our duty, our responsibility and yes our oath—to ourselves, to God and to the people whom we represent.” Struggling to contain his emotion, Butler called for support from his fellow council members: “God help us to stand up for the Constitution.”
The council voted against the ordinance 3-2. Its opponents expressed support for the right to keep and bear arms, saying that despite their agreement with the ideas contained within the ordinance, they did not believe the city had the authority to push back against federal law.
Utah is one of several Western states actively fighting the federal government over its unconstitutional land hoarding policies. HB148, signed by Governor Herbert after 2012′s general legislation session, gave fuel to this decades-long fire and once again lit the match, initiating legal proceedings against the federal government to reclaim ownership of land within Utah which Washington does not rightfully own and regulate. (We supported a “yea” vote in our legislative index.)
A few months later, the Outdoor Industry Association came out in strong opposition to this effort, with the President and CEO stating that the industry is often “surprised and frustrated” by Utah’s “unfavorable positions on public lands policy.” In response to the desire by Utah elected officials to unlock land within the state from the grip of D.C., Outdoor Industry Association President and CEO Frank Hugelmeyer said:
Of greatest concern is the governor’s lawsuit challenging the federal government over jurisdiction of the federal public lands and some road claims within national parks, monuments and wilderness areas. We have not and will not sit silently on threats to the nation’s recreation infrastructure.
This was not empty rhetoric: as the OIA determines where it will hold its large conventions, the biggest is in Utah, which brings 47,000 visitors and $40 million to the state each year.
The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence begins with this:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It goes on to affirm that the only proper role of government is to protect these “unalienable” rights. It is important to understand the significance of these pronouncements. Note that government does not grant these rights. Government is not the originator of these rights. These rights are innate. They are natural. They are God-given. They are unalienable. Even those that do not believe in God must recognize that men have these rights naturally and that they are not granted to them by other men. On what premise would one argue that some men are superior to others and should have the power to grant or take away their rights?
According to Utah Administrative Code R68-1, “Every owner or person coming into possession of one or more colonies of bees within the State of Utah shall register with the Department of Agriculture and Food…”
The code provides further regulation, including the requirement that each “apiary location” (a place where bees are kept) be identified by a sign showing the owner’s registration number. Other regulations require the beekeeper’s assistance to “the department” or county bee inspectors in locating the apiaries, and detail how salvage operations are to be performed for diseased colonies.
The application for a beekeeper’s registration apparently also constitutes an application for a beekeeper’s license. This seems a little confusing since the code does not state that a beekeeper must be licensed by the state in the first place.
In July we published a post urging Highland City residents to oppose efforts to reinstate a city ordinance restricting the right of private individuals and businesses to engage in peaceful commerce on Sunday. I argued then that the most basic principles of private property rights demand that property owners have the right to complete control over their own property, their own buildings, and their own businesses, so long as they leave intact the rights of others. In addition to analyzing the principles of private property rights, I also examined the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the predominant religion in the area, and found that the basic principles espoused by that church do not support coercion as a means to force people to observe the Sabbath.
Last week, the Sutherland Institute published an article with the title No liberty is violated by Highland’s Sunday closures. In that article, Sutherland president Paul Mero argues just that—that no liberty is violated by using the force of government, at the barrel of a gun, to prohibit otherwise peaceful individuals from using their private property as they see fit, from engaging in the peaceful and consensual exchange of goods and services, and ultimately from having complete control of their own bodies, forcefully removing the possibility for those that want to work on Sunday in Highland of legally doing so.
The imposition of taxes by government entities is defended as a necessary evil. Many conservatives and others that theoretically believe in smaller government and fewer taxes contend that some taxes are necessary, that government must exist to provide order, and that it must be financed through taxes. I would contend otherwise, as I have here, but if taxes are to remain (as a necessary evil), then shouldn’t they be administered equitably between tax payers?
Many governments have expanded their role beyond that of providing the minimum essential services that might justify government and taxes in the first place and have interjected themselves in the private market. On the national level, Americans have witnessed seemingly unprecedented interference in the private market in recent years as the federal government has overstepped their rightful and constitutional bounds time and time again with measures such as numerous stimulus bills designed to rescue and stimulate a crashing economy, auto bailouts, bank bailouts, and bailouts of quasi-governmental institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The most basic principles of freedom and liberty defy these government actions and reveal their immoral nature. Most conservatives and virtually all libertarian-leaning citizens recognize that the federal government is out of control, respects no constitutional bounds, and is no longer guided by the sound principles of liberty upon which the country was founded. The cost to American tax payers today and in the future is gargantuan and unthinkable. Nineteenth century Frenchman Frédéric Bastiat wrote in his seminal essay, That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen, the following:
According to the Utah State Tax Commission, a transient room tax (TRT) can be imposed by a county, city, or town. TRT is essentially a tax on hotel rooms (hotels, motels, inns, trailer courts, campgrounds, etc…). Proponents of TRT in various parts of Utah claim that TRT is a tax on visitors or tourists (not the hotels themselves), and that it costs locals, including local businesses, nothing. They claim that the local area will benefit greatly by spending TRT, and at no cost to the locals! It sounds like a magic pot of gold, right? As with the gold, it’s too good to be true.
The arguments in favor of TRT are flawed on many levels. First of all, suppose that the tax really was just paid by tourists and visitors, and there really was no cost to the locals. Upon what moral authority is the government justified in taxing someone (even an “outsider”) for nothing more than doing business with local merchants (private individuals and private businesses)? Aren’t local businesses already paying their property taxes? On what basis can a visitor be charged an additional, arbitrary fee by the government for passing through and staying at a hotel? If this is accepted, then why not also impose a tax for staying at someone’s home? I submit that there is no justification for this method of taxation.