August 29th, 2011

GOP Ditches Free-Market Principles

The following is an op-ed I wrote that was published in the Daily Herald today:


Utah County is known country-wide for being among the most Republican of counties in one of the most Republican states. And yet, one need not look very far to find a number of examples where the government violates the principles to which Republicans claim, according to their platforms, to adhere.

Being Republican is almost synonymous with being a supporter of free markets. Ronald Reagan, the modern bastion of Republicanism, declared that “We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down.” Sarah Palin, a Republican beloved by many, once said: “I am a conservative Republican, a firm believer in free market capitalism.” Our own Governor Herbert campaigned for re-election by affirming that “I believe in the free market and the adage that government does not create jobs — businesses do.”

Most Republicans would, of course, agree with these statements. The Utah County Republican Party’s platform states that “Utah’s economic growth should be sustained through the principles of free enterprise.” The state party’s platform argues that “We must rely more on market forces and less on government” and emphasizes the importance of “a business-friendly environment.” The national party’s platform promotes “open markets and fair competition.”

Such lofty rhetoric often helps to win elections, but in practice can only rarely be found ­– even here in Utah County, amongst county and city governments heavily dominated by Republicans. A couple of examples should sufficiently illustrate what is cognitive dissonance at best, and hypocrisy at worst.

In fiscal year 2010, cities in Utah County spent more than $1 million in taxes to subsidize golf courses that were and are consistently losing money. Pleasant Grove Mayor Bruce Call, a Republican, justified his city’s significant investment of tax dollars on grounds that it is “an amenity to our citizens, similar to our swimming pool, our library, our recreation center and our parks ….” This presumes that cities should be buying and operating those other things. Whether true or not, the argument certainly can’t be reconciled with Republican-based free-market principles.

In spring of next year, the Utah County Convention Center will open. This $45 million project, says Provo Mayor John Curtis (a Republican), “will contribute in ways that most of us can’t even comprehend today.” County Commissioner Gary Anderson, also a Republican, justifies the investment on grounds that it “is going to produce literally millions of dollars for this economy both in sales tax and economic benefits.” Never mind that in pursuit of this lofty vision, free market principles are completely discarded.

Does such a convention center foster a “business-friendly environment” for, say, the Provo Marriott just one block away which offers 21 meeting rooms for use? Forcing a private business to compete so directly with a government-run operation — backstopped by the full faith and credit of the government and its ability to tax the citizenry to cover costs — is antithetical to the principles Republicans claim to hold dear.

Republican-led governments in Utah County own, subsidize and/or monopolize a variety of business entities which should, under Republican principles, be left to the free market to manage. Government, which justifiably exists only to defend our lives, liberty, and property, should not be involved in owning or funding hotels, gas stations, swimming pools, theaters, or garbage services.

Utah County may be known country-wide for being heavily Republican, but a closer inspection finds our county and city governments in consistent violation of the principles we espouse. If we truly believe in a free market, then it’s time to aggressively implement the principles that until now have been relegated only to campaign slogans and sound bites.

29 Responses to “GOP Ditches Free-Market Principles”

  1. Clumpy
    August 29, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    The parties don’t really significantly differ in their approach toward business – both indulge in regulation often designed by and solely for a few corporations doing the lobbying, and indulge in mostly reactionary public services so that they can advertise those accomplishments upon reelection. Public libraries are the most difficult for me to give up, as I don’t believe they could exist in their current incarnation in a private capacity, but I have to discard them cognitively not to be a hypocrite :P.

  2. Jon
    August 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Here in AZ the libraries compete with the Starbucks of the world by having cafe’s in the library itself. I think you would see coffee house, churches, charities, etc. pick up the slack if there weren’t government libraries.

  3. JJL9
    August 29, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    Clumpy,

    Although public libraries might not exist “in their current incarnation”, look at the bright side. They would exist in a better incarnation, one that would most certainly be better, based simply on the fact that they would result from the real demand of real people.

  4. JJL9
    August 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    On a side note, when libertarians use simple and true principles to argue against central planning under the guise of economic stimulus, it is quite comical that the rebuttals often include teary-eyed predictions of the disappearance of public libraries and fire stations, etc… (don’t worry Clumpy, I’m not accusing you of this).

    The fact of the matter is that while those simple principles might in fact suggest that we shouldn’t have publicly funded libraries, that discussion is in all reality a red herring. We’re talking about ending unfair tax treatment, and selective incentives for for-profit corporations. Let’s finish talking about that, and then we can move on and talk the public libraries.

  5. Frank
    August 29, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    Connor, I’m suprised you didn’t bring up Utopia to help illustrate your point.

    Also, the government built convention center is also directly competing against Noah’s who are in the public meeting hosting business.

  6. Kelly W.
    August 29, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    When governments and businesses get in bed together, it’s called Fascism, not Republican Conservatism. Unless, that is, Republican Conservatism is only a disguise for the Fascism which is more and more prevalent not only in Utah County, but every where else in these United States.

  7. TRON
    August 30, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    We have a public pool here in Lehi. It is awesome. We take our daughter there a lot. I’ve lived in areas without public pools, it sucks. The private pools are smaller, dirtier, or you need a membership. Am I evil for being willing to pay extra taxes for a service I enjoy?
    At least I’m not a hypocrite like the Republicans – I am a liberal Democrat who believes that there are services government should provide and I’m willing to pay taxes to have them.

  8. Kelly W.
    August 30, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    I heard recently a comment I liked, and tend to agree with:

    Republicans are the Fascist arm and the Democrats are the Socialist arm of the New World Order.

  9. Jon
    August 30, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    @Kelly,

    But Democrats do the same fascist things. Truly the republicans and democrats are “two wings of the same bird of prey.”

  10. TRON
    August 30, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    I’m part of the swimming pool arm of the New World Order.

  11. Jon
    August 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    @TRON,

    If you feel OK with yourself knowing that you advance an ideology of theft from others. Do the ends really outweigh the means?

  12. TRON
    August 31, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    @Jon

    Okay, let’s say there’s no public pool and with kids having less to do, the crime rate in my neighborhood goes up along with childhood obesity, childhood diabetes, more graffiti lowering my property values and an increase in teen pregnancy. So while my taxes are lower, my insurance is higher — both health and property insurance. My home equity is lower and my taxes go up anyway to cover the additional police coverage.

    Here is one of many studies on the subject.

    http://ag.udel.edu/udbg/sl/humanwellness/Human_Benefits.pdf

    Who’s stealing from whom?

  13. Clumpy
    August 31, 2011 at 3:44 am #

    You may be arguing from different definitions of “theft,” and I don’t believe this conversation will resolve as such. A private individual may, through extremely competitive behavior, get a controlling share in his/her field of business, undercut salaries, then later build a swimming pool as a “philanthropist.” Libertarians would not necessarily have a problem with this as they do not define coercion through monetary incentives or monopolistic practices (as long as they develop without government interference) as theft. It’s a pretty central tenet of this stripe of libertarian dogma that true theft in this context can only be performed by the government because only their whims are enforced through courts and law enforcement. The term “robber baron” has a great deal of meaning to some and absolutely none to others.

    I’m not trying to be a smart aleck but you two will probably have to attempt to persuade from your definition of theft first rather than its ramifications.

  14. Jon
    August 31, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    @Tron,

    That’s quite the leap, is there nothing else for children to do? Is there imagination so limited that they can’t find any other physical exercise? If it’s not a voluntary transaction then it’s theft.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntaryism

    @Clumpy,

    In a free society monopolies wouldn’t exist. Monopoly, by definition, is caused by government:

    A situation, by legal privilege or other agreement, in which solely one party (company, cartel etc.) exclusively provides a particular product or service, dominating that market and generally exerting powerful control over it.

    The privilege granting the exclusive right to exert such control

    So, in a free society you wouldn’t necessarily see monopolies as they are seen today. Would there be organizations that would appear monopolistic. I don’t know, we’ve never lived in a society with a truly free market. I do know there are market failures and that it isn’t a utopia, but it would be better than what we have today, in my opinion.

    True theft can be done by the individual also. If I take something from you without prior consent it is theft. That is the principle and it is extended to the government on the same principle since, a person cannot extend to the government that which he cannot rightfully do of himself.

    But it sounds like you are already familiar with all of this. Just wanted to make sure we were clear on these points, I guess.

  15. Eran
    August 31, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    There have been a lot of government intrusion in business in Utah.

    Utopia, Provo Cable, The Maverick Center, Red Butte Garden, Rio Tinto Stadium just to name a few…

  16. Clumpy
    August 31, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    @Jon

    Yeah, I think we’re pretty much on the same page. Some of our opinions may differ but I think we have the same information set to work from.

    Still, though monopolies can be caused by government (and probably usually are), they’re really only defined by a lack of competition and one sole provider for a product. This can certainly arrive through predatory (legal) practices such as buying out startups and otherwise artificially reducing competition through use of existing reserves, or aggressive expansion that crushes smaller businesses. I have a lot of reservations with the “libertarian utopia” some believe in, though as I ascribe many of our problems to the government/corporate continuum and foreign policy I’m probably libertarian for all intents and purposes, though I reject almost all of the dogma and one-liners you hear sometimes.

  17. Jon
    August 31, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    It’s nice to blogversate with similar minded people. I’m used to blogversing with progressives. They have a lot of hate towards people that don’t want to be told what to do all the time and who don’t like having their money stolen. Not all, just mostly on the blogs.

  18. JJL9
    August 31, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Absent government interference, monopolies are virtually impossible to sustain.

    It comes down to the most basic of business economics. The only reason to fear a monopoly is the assumption that since there are no alternatives the monopolistic firm can provide inferior products and services, and/or charge excessive prices.

    Inferior products and services, along with excessive prices, are the things entrepreneurs dream about. They create an incredible opportunity for someone to provide competition and be very successful.

    Here are numerous examples of government impeding free market competition to the detriment of everyone.

    http://www.deseretnews.com/m/article/700167928

  19. JJL9
    August 31, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    The Many Monopolies.

    http://www.thefreemanonline.org/featured/the-many-monopolies/

  20. TRON
    September 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Maybe no one clicked on my link. It showed that in Chicago, having parks dropped crime by 50%, actually dropped the time in hospitals by 8.5%, and increased spending to private sector businesses in the community by 9% to 12%.

    I checked to see how much of my taxes per year go to city parks here in Lehi and I pay $2.70 per year. The slides alone that my daughter uses weekly would cost me around $15,000 to install in my back yard.

    I thought the ultimate goal of libertarianism was to free up as much money as possible for me so that I can choose my own destiny. When the private sector offers these services for less than the government, then I’ll gladly vote for politicians who will close the city parks.

  21. Connor
    September 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    I thought the ultimate goal of libertarianism was to free up as much money as possible for me so that I can choose my own destiny.

    Who in the world has ever argued that this is the ultimate goal of libertarianism? This is so far off the mark as to be downright laughable.

    The ultimate goal of libertarianism is the protection of life, liberty, and property. Taking my money — even if only a few dollars — so your kids can have cheaper access to park slides violates all three of those.

  22. JJL9
    September 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    TRON,

    There is absolutely NO proven causation (or causality if you prefer) between crime rates, hospital recovery times, etc. and city parks.

    I’ve studied statistics at the Masters level, including studying claims much like the one your are making. Suffice it to say that correlations can be found in all kinds of data that have nothing to do with each other. You can’t just look at two variables and assume there is a cause and effect relationship between the two.

    In fact, the assumption of a cause and effect relationship without sound statistical “proof” is nothing more than information bias. I assure you that I could find strong correlations between variables to support anything I wanted, but without a proven causation, the exercise is meaningless.

    The link you provided stated, “it remains difficult for
    humans to clearly track the cause and effect
    between presence of plants and resulting
    benefits…”

    But even if there was a proven causation (which there’s not), on what principle would you force everyone to contribute toward the cause just to get the effect?

    Suppose statistical proof exists that alcohol decreases the overall wellbeing of a society (and just so you know, the proof exists and is irrefutable). Would you support banning alcohol? If not, why not?

    The point is that if public parks are so beneficial, why wouldn’t everyone voluntarily pay for them? The answer is that they probably would, but when government monopolizes an industry it is impossible for the free market to compete.

    I suggest you take your data and convince everyone to voluntarily contribute or buy memberships to parks and stop supporting government coercion. You’d be surprised what you could do if government wasn’t already trying to do it for youj.

  23. Clumpy
    September 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    @JJL9

    It doesn’t even take advanced statistics to know that reporting a correlation the way TRON did is a gross misuse of statistics. Events that follow in sequence are just that unless you can impute some sort of correlation. And that requires a sample size larger than… one, was it? :)

    At any rate, libertarian’s central tenets are matters of principle and hence don’t hinge on whether or not federal parks help or even if they’re more efficient than private solutions (granted, they may not be, but libertarians who really subscribe to the belief system wouldn’t support any taxation for these types of public services).

  24. mark
    September 21, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    I would have to disagree with you on this issue. I believe that beautification of our communities drives the economic engine. For example, putting a golf course in a the middle of a neighborhood may be costly; however, the home values increase because of such recreational areas. Certain recreational facilities attract new home builders and more financially stable communities because of financially stable individuals want to live close by a park, golf course, or a recreation center (you want to see what a rundown heap looks like without proper recreation, look no further than Detroit). The problem is that too many people think that a collaboration between government and private business or vice versa is disadvantageous. We didn’t get to the economic engine we have today without a timely collaboration between government and private business. For example, in the article it said that government is suppose to protect its citizens; however, to protect its citizens government oftentimes contracts out to private business to come up with the latest and greatest technological and tactical advantages to the battlefield. I don’t know how many government contracts the RAND Corporation has gotten from the Pentagon to build technological weaponry; or how many times the Department of Transportation has subcontracted building of highways and streets to help small businesses. The real question should be: what is the proper role of government and business collaboration. All of us believe, I assume, that federal bailout is an improper use of funds; however, the building of a park or the launching of fireworks is but an example of a city trying to attract citizens. Perfect example is Day Break; how many houses have sold because of a government subsidies and projects to build the community. Let’s find the proper role and not think that anytime the government gets involved its “BAD FOR BUSINESS.”

  25. Jon
    September 21, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    mark,

    You propose to use violence or the threat thereof against innocent people to create recreational places? To steal from one group to give to another? Doesn’t seem like a charitable position to take. Love is greater, give it a chance.

  26. mark
    September 22, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    Jon,

    WOW! Jon…one word “speechless.”

  27. Jon
    September 22, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    Yes, it’s hard to refute basic principles. Love is a much better path, as Jesus taught.

  28. Brint Baggaley
    November 18, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    Sorry to join an old conversation, but I have to chime in on Mark’s comment of Sept. 21. Home values increasing due to government projects is considered a good thing automatically. I would argue that the increase in home values is good for builders and sellers and maybe debtors wanting to borrow all they can, but it hurts long term owners who have to pay higher taxes and buyers who now must pay more, or are not able to buy. In another view, the government is picking winners and losers with a project that both the winners and the losers must pay for.

    Detroit is a perfect example of the long term effects of a city run by constant central management.

    Government does often have to contract with private industry to accomplish its legitimate purposes. I would first question if the purpose is a legitimate government function. Secondly, is the bidding process open and fair to all companies?

    Finally, a look at Daybreak. It is asked how many houses have sold because of government subsidies and projects to build the community. I have to ask how much I have paid for someone else to have a nicer house than I have? I don’t have anything against nicer houses than mine or their owners, I just don’t want to pay for them.

    The government being in bed with business is absolutely Fascism. History should teach us the inevitable ends as this trend grows and like Socialism, corporations and government become essentially the same entity.

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  1. Zion Curtain Reflects Utah GOP Hypocrisy - August 31, 2011

    [...] For example, the Utah GOP promotes its anti-free-market agenda in other ways (as discussed by Connor Boyak this week) including advocating subsidies for golf courses and building a $45 million Utah County [...]

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