Tuesday, November 5, 2013 | 15 comments

Hyde Park: A Snapshot of Moralistic Statism

By Connor Boyack

Audio Recording

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

View our iTunes Podcast

I have never tasted an alcoholic beverage in my life. I don’t see the need, I have no desire, and recognizing the dangers drinking can produce, I caution others to avoid it.

In other words, I am like many Utahns: socially conservative with adherence to a health code that requires abstinence from certain substances. But I differ from many of these individuals in that I do not believe I have the authority to impose my health code and personal preferences upon other people.

Hyde Park, Utah, has long been a “dry” city where alcoholic beverages are legally prohibited. An ordinance allowing for licensed, limited alcohol sales narrowly passed the city council last year on a 3-2 vote. Some residents, upset with the outcome, collected enough signatures to put the ordinance on hold and put the question before the city’s 4,000 residents.

One of the councilmen who voted against legalization said he morally objects to the consumption of any “mind-altering substance.” As the referendum suggests, many Hyde Park residents agree with him, including one who told a reporter, “Hyde Park hasn’t needed the sale of alcohol yet, and I don’t believe for a nanosecond that we need alcohol… for any excuse or reason.”

As with many political questions, this turns policy into a popularity contest—a democratic spectacle in which community members try and muster a majority so as to impose their personal preferences upon their dissenting neighbors who were in the minority. It’s one thing to personally choose not to partake of a “mind-altering substance” and entirely another to use the force of government to mandate that same behavior on the part of your neighbor.

Moralistic statism permeates Utah, leading conservative voters to use the ballot box to enforce their social norms upon others. This is hardly conservative, nor is it Christian. It is a violation of government’s proper role, and it must stop.

Tagged in: , ,

About the Author

Connor Boyack is president of Libertas Institute. He is the author of several books on politics and religion, including the Tuttle Twins series for children.


Where did all the old comments on this go?  :p

I would posit that ALL governance is based in morality. Even the idea that liberty is the prime directive of government is a moral idea.

Becky S
Becky S

The ordinance passed by well over 350 votes, 50% voter turn out and now the city government can decide what kind of alcohol can be sold. Also when businesses can sell it.(Not after 9pm)Also how much.  Is that the proper role of government? If it passed or not we still have the conservative city council regulating a legal substance just because they can. And of course taxing it to pay for whatever they want in the city.