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.


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