Center for Community and Economy Newsletter – Oct. 20, 2011

1. Datebook 2031: Tracking Down the ‘Utah Miracle’

By Allan Carlson 

September 26, 2031, Salt Lake City, Utah

The media buzz about an economic and communitarian “miracle” in Utah had long piqued my curiosity. I pulled myself away from the congestion and fumes of Manhattan and teleported out to Salt Lake City.

Speaking of teleporting, Utah was the place (a small lab in Lehi, Utah) where three new Brigham Young University graduates – an engineer, a physicist and a biologist – discovered the principles behind teleporting living beings instantaneously from point to point. Teleport centers are now going up around the country and the globe, all using portals built at the new plant near Lehi. (Of course, the airlines and plane manufacturers are reeling: Both Boeing and Airbus are bankrupt, while air travel generally is on its last legs.)

My host, a friend of a friend, met me as I walked out of the downtown Salt Lake City Teleport Station. “Welcome to Utah,” he said with a broad smile and a firm handshake. “Call me Jared. What can I tell you about?”

“Let’s start with Utah’s business climate,” I replied. “The recent federal economic reports are stunning. They say that while the rest of the United States is still stuck in the Great Bush-Obama Recession, Utah has been recording growth rates of 10 percent annually. And job creation is cruising along at about the same pace. What’s the cause?”

Jared led me down a street lined with thriving small shops and cafes, all filled with people. “Back in 2012,” he began, “the Utah Legislature took the bold step of abolishing the state’s economic hunting policies. So this put an end to special tax breaks and other financial incentives usually given to large, wandering out-of-state corporations, in the hope that they might create some jobs.”

“But that sounds suicidal,” I said. “Everyone knows that a state has to play the economic development game, or other states will use incentives to lure the big companies their way.”

“Yes, that was the conventional wisdom,” Jared said. “However, that same year the state Legislature also abolished the corporate income tax and set up a special commission to streamline state regulations. Many irrational policies were exposed and eliminated, especially state mandates that favored big corporations and hurt small firms. In both cases, the goal was to create a level, fair, and truly business-friendly environment.”

“What was the result?”

Jared smiled. “A veritable explosion of entrepreneurial energy among the people of Utah. It’s small businesses that create real jobs, not handouts to politically favored giants. In the years immediately following these changes, thousands of new businesses formed here. Of course, many failed. That’s how a free market works. Yet many also succeeded and – not by coincidence – Utah became the global center of amazing new technology companies. Alongside the teleport industry, Utah also is home to the Cellular Telepath industry, the devices that replaced cell phones and smart phones. They are all crafted right here, at a facility on the west side of town. So too with the Organic Computer, basically invented by a Utahn in his garage. Again, they are mostly grown right here in Utah. These Utah Bio-Pod companies now ship out about 200 million of them a year.”

I shook my head in wonder. “I’ve also heard that Utah has become the New Hollywood. How did that happen?”

“Once again, we can trace the change back to 2012, when the Legislature abolished a state program that gave money and tax breaks to out-of-state movie studios if they would do some filming here. Instead, the Legislature created a small office that would help film producers – Utah-based or out-of-state – to overcome regulations and zoning rules that got in the way of film production and also to identify local technicians, writers, actors, and production facilities.”

I nodded. “So the state basically identified and mobilized its home-grown human talent.”

“Precisely,” Jared responded. “And the result was a burst of creative energy. Of course, Utah’s stunning scenery also gave it a natural advantage. Moreover, Utah studios were out front in adopting the new MicroVision technology, also invented in the state, which doomed the big, lumbering studios in California. Last year alone, more than 100 feature movies and countless serials and commercials were produced right here.”

“What else accounts for this surge in creativity?”

“Our schools,” Jared replied without hesitation. “Again, nearly 20 years ago, the state Legislature abolished the state-enforced monopoly on elementary and secondary education held by the so-called public schools. In place of direct funding and bureaucracies and teachers unions, we created a simple system of education savings accounts, given to all parents of school-age children. Although considerably smaller in value than the average ‘per child’ cost of the old public schools (which allowed us to reduce taxes), these savings accounts encouraged a vast array of new experiments in learning and of new types of schools: some religious; some classical; some proprietary; many simply in homes. Almost immediately, standardized test scores began a sustained rise. Also, the children taught in these new schools became the ones able to think outside the box, to innovate, and to build the Utah miracle.”

I nodded again. “I’ve also heard that Utah’s countryside has witnessed the return of small family farms. That seems counterintuitive. How did that happen?

Jared smiled again. “Two things occurred. First, in a great groundswell of common sense – also starting about 20 years ago – Utah’s towns and cities quickly abandoned zoning rules that had long favored free-standing, single-family homes on large lots. Instead, they allowed mixed-use development, so that homes could be in walking distance of shops and cafes and could feature sidewalks, small front yards, and large front porches. As it turned out, these homes were all wired and ready to serve as places for small family businesses. Such plans also allowed for farmers markets and other ways to encourage producers to sell directly to consumers. Second, at the same time, Utah’s Agriculture Department revamped all of its regulations, ending the favoritism formerly shown to big agribusinesses. The result was a flowering of small-scale agriculture and improved land use.”

As we turned a corner, I saw one of these new neighborhoods. Adults were relaxing on their porches or leaning over a picket fence, visiting with their neighbors. Children, laughing and healthy, were in abundance, weaving in small groups between the homes. The air was clean and crisp. The whole scene was one of sufficient abundance and community well-being. I concluded that the Utah of 2031 was a miracle, indeed – but not a coincidence.

The author, Dr. Allan C. Carlson, is director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Community and Economy, president of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, and distinguished visiting professor at Hillsdale College in Michigan.


3. The Price of a Blender and the Market Economy

By Matthew C. Piccolo

The other day, I stopped at a yard sale with a friend. He had spotted a blender as we drove by and wanted to take a look at it. He asked the homeowner how much she wanted for it.

She pondered for a moment and then threw out an offer, “How about $3?” Her manner indicated that she was likely new to the yard sale business.

After perusing other items available and deliberating the blender offer, my friend informed the woman he wanted only the blender. When she said, “Great, that’ll be $3,” my friend replied, “I’ll give you $5. I think that’s a fairer price.” …

To read the rest of this post on the Sutherland Daily website, click here


4. Obama Jobs Plan: Math or Class Warfare?

By Paul T. Mero

During a press conference last month from the Rose Garden of the White House, President Obama used a nifty sound bite to describe his new jobs proposal. He said, “This is not class warfare, it’s math.” And then, it seems, he forgot the math and preached class warfare.

Is it math or class warfare when he says, “We shouldn’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the middle class. … For us to solve this problem, everybody, including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, have to pay their fair share … Middle class families shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires”? …

Click here to read more of this post on the Sutherland Daily blog.