Free Market

Hyde Park: A Snapshot of Moralistic Statism


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.

  • Brett Garrett

    I think rather than an example of moralistic statism, this is what the founding fathers intended when they dispersed power to the lowest possible levels and planned for strong local governments.

    I dont drink at all myself and am a constitutional conservative

    • Connor Boyack

      To say that bad local laws are what the founding fathers “intended” is a bit odd. Consider the fact that for many years, states had official religions. Was this what they “intended?”

      While local control is better than distant control, tyrannical mandates are not more tolerable if imposed by your neighbor as opposed to a faceless bureaucrat. Wrong is wrong, regardless of the level of government.

  • Becky Saldivar

    I live in Hyde Park. I attended all the meetings where this issue was discussed and I have heard both sides. I think having a dry city works here. The business that wants the license to sell alcohol is very close to a park and a school. The business has been in that location for a few years, they chose to build there despite from the beginning knowing the the laws that were in place. They could have built somewhere else. This small town has always had a law on the books to not sell alcohol here. You can drink it and make it but not sell it. The USU campus just up the road from Hyde Park is also a dry campus, no alcohol is sold at the sporting events or anywhere on campus. The ONLY reason the city council could see for changing the books now is that we would get revenue from the sales of alcohol. I personally don’t think money should be the biggest factor in any choice that affects the whole city. Our property taxes will go up if we have the revenue or not of the sale of alcohol. That is just a fact of life. I have talked to people that drink and don’t drink and they all agree that the location of the sale of alcohol for the first permit request is a bad one. We all try to teach our families to make decisions based on sound principles, not because everyone else is doing it or because everyone else has one (whatever it is). Just because all the surrounding cities and the state of Utah allows alcohol sales doesn’t mean our town needs it at this time. I think we should at least try to be consistent. I really think there are more productive and positive ways to increase our tax revenue. It would be more beneficial to attract businesses that would contribute in a positive way to our community. A few months before this issue came up the sale of SPICE was defeated. Was it a moral issue? I think it will be interesting to see how the city votes and I am glad the people are given that chance in our town to have laws that help our community grow closer together and be friends.

    • davidmpark

      This is the same soft-speaking Utahn argument that lost my struggling family our livestock and my right to have a job, “The community didn’t need it.”

      My lovely wife has several disabilities; I’m her full-time caregiver. I was told by DCFS they would charge me with neglect if I got a full-time job outside the home. Our community forced us to loose our rabbits and chickens (food stamps doesn’t payout enough and is embarrassing we grew them for food), and got in the way of me working-at-home as a machinist because they didn’t agree with that next to their precious homes. We were told to pretty much starve on minimal welfare… because it’s what they decided that’s best for the community.

      There’s a huge difference between being a disciple of Christ and what many do in the name of their community. Which God should be served?

  • Brent Hartman

    George Q. Cannon: “We are told, and very plainly too, that hot drinks–tea, coffee, chocolate, cocoa and all drinks of this kind are not good for man…we must feed our children properly… We must not permit them to drink liquor or hot drinks, or hot soups…” (Journal of Discourses, reported by David W. Evans 7 April 1868, Vol. 12, p. 221,223)

    I think we need to pass laws against hot coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate, and hot soup. However, I’m cool with the mild drinks made from barley. 😉

  • Steve Mackliet

    The local government should have just as much right to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol the state or federal government to ban any other mind altering substance. One might look at this from the view of the “oppressors” for a second. They might value that their small town is less likely to have drunk drivers. Even though most of these people don’t drink for moral reasons, with the history and prevalence of alcohol it is likely they oppose it for safety reasons. As long as they don’t discriminate against people who choose to live in the city who choose to consume alcohol outside the city on a legal level. I believe they have every right to do what they are doing.

    • Connor Boyack

      Based on what delegated authority does the city derive this “right” to use violence against those who consensually engage in commerce?

  • PeterK

    I think that at some point you have to argue that you ARE forcing your morality on people. Your own libertarian tendencies reflect your own viewpoints and moral position. And you could even argue that you are trying to impose that view on other people.

    Even the very foundation of our government was laid on moral principles.

    Now obviously I agree with you or I wouldn’t be here, but it chafes a littler to always hear that you can’t or shouldn’t force your morality on others, because that IS what we do. We just try to do it as little as possible.

    • Connor Boyack

      Suggesting that people not be jailed for peaceably using their own property is not to “force” a morality upon anybody. Those advocating the violence of government are the ones operating on force. Those of us opposing that violence are suggesting force NOT be used.

      It’s dangerous to use the word “morality” as you have done so here, liberally. What is morality? If you are referring to the regard for life, liberty, and property—meaning, it’s immoral to hurt or kill people or damage their stuff—then we agree, and the law should reflect that morality.

      If your definition of morality includes sexual behavior, alcohol/drugs, Sabbath observance, and other actions such as these, then the law enforcing these things is an obscene violation of the proper role of government.

      Violence is justified only in defense against an aggressor. Thus, preventing assault, punishing murder, etc. is okay—people are being protected and justice is being imposed upon bad actors. Using violence to enforce a code of conduct upon an entire community is unjustified. And that violence is at the heart of Hyde Park’s proposal to ban the sale of alcohol.

  • Brennen

    I’m surprised you mentioned “the proper role of government”. Isn’t that a bit subjective to throw around or lay claim to?

    • Mark

      Conner, these people have never read “the law” or H. Verlan Anderson’s “many are called few are choosen” until people understand that what you are speaking of is true liberty from government force then they will continue with ignorant comments. Great job keep up the fight!!

  • Anonymouse

    “he morally objects to the consumption of any “mind-altering substance.”

    Makes me want to laugh hysterically, considering that the consumption of mind-altering antidepressants in Utah is about twice the national average.

    Given a choice between SSRIs and a goblet of wine, I choose wine, in accordance with the Scripture, by the way – Ecclesiastes 9:7 doesn’t say “take thy Zoloft with a merry heart”. It says “drink your wine”!

  • davidmpark

    Agreed.

  • 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.

  • PeterK

    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.

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