What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
The following is an op-ed I wrote that was published in the Daily Herald today:
Republicans have rarely done a good job at identifying and rejecting socialism. Many seem to think that only Democrats enact such policies, and therefore anything passed by a fellow Republican must have some sort of basis in fiscal conservatism. Thus, conservative activists shake their fists in outrage at Obama’s stimuli, bailouts, and “spread the wealth around” administration, yet they ignore, excuse, or embrace similar policies being promoted in their midst.
For an example of this cognitive dissonance, one need look no further than the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) here in Utah. This agency has recently been in the news, with the board funneling nearly $2 million to a company owned by one of its own members, and the announcement of $4.4 million in incentives going to the company headed up by Fred Lampropoulos, the recent week-long Senate candidate.
GOED’s sole purpose, as stated on its own website, is to “provide rich business resources for the creation, growth and recruitment of companies to Utah and to increase tourism and film production in the state.” Its current incarnation dates back to July of 2005, when a bill sponsored by Craig Buttars transferred the responsibility for economic development and tourism from a couple of departments to the new entity operating under the purview of the Governor’s office.
Did anybody bother to ask, previous to that time or since, why we have empowered our government to be involved in the economic development and tourism business? At their core, these operations are based in socialist principles: tax the many to benefit the few. As with the most recent example, this office is giving almost $2 million to a company (owned by a GOED board member) that claims it will create about 300 jobs over the next ten years. By what moral authority am I taxed to financially benefit another individual or company?
In essence, we have permitted our government to arbitrarily pick winners and losers in the marketplace, and as always, the politically-connected stand to benefit. The majority of Utahns are furious over the redistribution of wealth at a federal level, but their rage is entirely absent when it comes to their own state. Why the double standard?
GOED pats itself on the back for enticing businesses and movie studios to select Utah as their location of choice. This, they claim, is a boon for the local economy. Here’s a radical alternative: if the goal really is to help Utah’s economy, why not eliminate GOED entirely, let citizens keep the corresponding amount of taxes required to fund their socialist stimulus packages, and disseminate the tax breaks—once offered to a select few businesses—among the entire state?
If nothing else, our state government would be one step closer to being a respectable entity that does not confiscate an individual’s wealth for the benefit of those who can best woo bureaucrats. Government should only promote economic development by lowering taxes and removing its sticky fingers from the marketplace altogether. The status quo of robbing Peter to pay politically-connected Paul may be nice for Paul, and may be crafted to look good on a press release, but at the end of the day, Peter the taxpayer has been robbed.
Ayn Rand once remarked that “a society that robs an individual of the product of his effort… is not strictly speaking a society, but a mob held together by institutionalized gang violence”. It’s time we stopped tolerating the theft and redistribution of our money by a few government thugs, even and especially when done in the name of “economic development”.