Intergenerational families: Humanity’s keystone species

self-controlAt Yellowstone last summer, we heard about keystone species, “a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance.” These species solve large ecological problems that would otherwise threaten the very existence of an ecosystem.

Consider the challenge of transmitting virtue. It was commonplace among the Founders of the United States to note that a free society requires a virtuous people. They accepted Edmund Burke’s observation: “Men qualify for freedom in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power is put somewhere on will and appetite, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.”

In an authoritarian state, social order of a sort is maintained by extensive controls from outside the individual. In a free society, virtue must be transmitted into the hearts of individuals—but not by the state. Consider this powerful observation of Professor Bruce C. Hafen:

[I]t remains fundamental to democratic theory that parents, through this institutional role of the family, control the heart of the value-transmission process. As that crucial process is dispersed pluralistically, the power of government is limited. It is characteristic of totalitarian societies, by contrast, to centralize the transmission of values. Our system thus fully expects parents to interact with their children in ways we would not tolerate from the state—namely, through the explicit inculcation of intensely personal convictions about life and its meaning. Read more

Before you vote, take these 3 easy steps

Here are three easy steps to help you decide whom and what to vote for.

Besides the major federal, state and county office candidates, your ballot can include choices for judges, amendments to the Utah Constitution and county propositions.

To get a handle on all of those choices, follow these easy steps:

1. Go to and enter your information in the fields provided. If you are not registered to vote, you can do so by clicking the link in the “Not Registered to Vote?” box under the voter lookup box. Read more

Away with the speed traps!

What would you do if you were king or queen for a day in Utah? If you could make any decision to create any law or repeal any law or pass any regulation you want, what one thing would you do? Would you get rid of the state income tax? Would you create a new tax that would only help to feed people? Would you legalize drugs? What one thing would you do if you were king or queen for the day?

As odd as it might sound, I think I would get rid of speeding tickets and speeding traps. Not that I’m plagued by speeding tickets – I’ve had three speeding tickets in 40 years of driving. It’s just that I have a visceral and palpable animosity every time I see a speed trap. I think to myself – or sometimes say out loud in my car – “Don’t you guys have anything better to do than to sit there waiting to make criminals out of otherwise innocent people?”

I should say up front that I don’t oppose laws against reckless driving, just speed traps. Read more

Positive signs for Orem taxpayers after 8-hour tax hearing

After an eight-hour Truth in Taxation Hearing, the Orem City Council voted 4-3 at 1:45 this morning to approve a 25 percent property tax increase for the Orem portion of the property tax bill, instead of the proposed 50 percent increase. That will raise $1.7 million and the city will forego city employee pay raises and other purchases to cover the remainder of the $3.3 million city budget shortfall, $2.8 million of which is due to a UTOPIA bond payment. 

But Deputy City Recorder Rachelle Conner said she personally believes Orem residents will file a petition to make the tax increase a referendum item to be voted on by Orem residents in November of 2013. If the petition gets the necessary signatures and is validated, the tax increase will be put on hold until the vote, leading Conner to state that the city will have to make $3.3 million in cuts to city services to balance the city budget.

Read more

Isn't a dollar still a dollar?


While waiting in an excessively long line in the grocery store the other day, I overheard a little girl say to her mom, “Can I have this? It’s just a dollar.” The girl’s mother didn’t respond. But the child persisted and began listing the reasons she had to have what she wanted, her main argument being “It’s not like it’s a lot of money; it’s just a dollar.” The mother’s response was “I’m using my credit card, I don’t have a dollar.” The child retorted, “You don’t have to spend any money if you use the credit card.”

After about five minutes the child had moved on to the next shiny wrapped thing that had caught her attention and asked, “No, wait … can I have this instead? It’s just five dollars.” At this second request, the mother rolled her eyes, obviously having given up even trying to reason with her daughter, and added the item to her pile of things.  Read more

Overspending will kill your Christmas cheer


“Christmas is the season when you buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money.”


With the holidays nearly upon us, I was thinking about all the good memories I have about Christmas and the good feelings associated with the holidays. As a child, seeing all the gifts under the tree created such a powerful anticipation for the day we would open them. As I grew older, I started to understand how expensive the holidays were for my parents and how burdensome it was for them to pay for our gifts for months and years afterward. It was difficult to see the tension it caused in their marriage, which spilled over to us kids. Read more

The gift of self-reliance, stitch by stitch

My 10-year-old daughter just presented my husband and me with a Christmas wish list in the form of a letter:

Dear Mom and/or Dad,

Please, please, please get me a sewing kit for Christmas. I dearly want a junior one and I really want to learn how to sew like you, mom. Or get me something electronic. Like I’ve told you, most people (like, literally 8/9) have cell phones.  … Really those are the two most parent-acceptable things that I want.

Oh, no offense, but I secretly am getting tired of getting so many books for birthdays or Christmas! Just get me one or two! I do like to read, but I have plenty of books. I SAID no offense! …

Your Hopefully Humorously persuasive Daughter Read more

When Tiger Woods’ values disintegrated, so did his world


Tiger Woods recently announced that he and his longtime caddie Steve Williams parted ways. Williams’ departure is simply the latest in the stream of friends, family members and corporate partners who have left in the wake of Woods’ stunning infidelity and self-centeredness (see the graphic below — click for supersized version).

What led to this colossal personal, professional and financial collapse? For Woods, it was his gradual but consistent choice to abandon the values he had been taught. At a February 2010 press conference, Woods said: Read more

Video games, parental rights and double standards


Reactions to the Supreme Court ruling that struck down a California law regulating the sale of violent games to minors strike me as interesting, to say the least. Regardless of where one stands on this particular ruling, it is interesting to note how often legislators and the courts step in to take over the role as parent.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff was quoted as saying, “The government isn’t always able to step in and take over the role as parent,” in defending the Supreme Court ruling regarding these violent games. The Deseret News article further quoted Shurtleff as follows:

“Nobody likes the fact that there are violent video games out there, and no one likes their kids watching them,” Shurtleff said, adding parents and the gaming industry need to take responsibility for keeping violent games away from minors, just as with movies and music. “Parents, that’s the key. That’s what is going to control what movies they see and what music they listen to. Video games are no different,” Shurtleff told the Deseret News. He said he believes that the government shouldn’t step in and substitute for parenting.

“Parents need to wake up and be aware,” he said.

I agree wholeheartedly with Shurtleff’s first comment and would add that the government shouldn’t step in and take over the parent’s role. But why is it OK for the government to do it in some instances and then not do it in other instances? Read more

‘Free’ lunch for all Utah children this summer – at your expense


This summer, many government schools (and parks and rec centers) in Utah are offering free meals to anyone under age 18 who shows up, regardless of their need, using federal tax dollars. Check out this video report to learn about the program:


More and more, government is using schools as welfare centers rather than education centers. Schools offer children and their families meals, medical care, day care, transportation, counseling and more.

What’s next?

Here’s the script of the video:

VOICE-OVER: The Utah State Office of Education supports a Summer Lunch Program that offers free meals to anyone under the age of 18. The catch? Well, there isn’t one. Charlene Allert, the assistant director for the child nutrition programs in the state of Utah, explains this program.

CHARLENE ALLERT: “The summer program is a program for kids; it’s to offer them healthy meals during times when school is not in session. And it’s only offered in neighborhoods where at least 50 percent of the kids qualify for free or reduced-price meals. In that community all kids can attend that program.”

VOICE-OVER: The summer food service program is federally funded and administered at the state level. This year there are 30 sponsors throughout the state and 224 sites that provide breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner, depending on the type of service offered at each site. Even though the program is only offered in low-income areas, children under 18 from anywhere can get a free lunch, no questions asked. In fact, school districts like Davis County advertise and invite anyone under 18 to attend, regardless of income.

ALLERT: “Parents decide whether or not they want to send their children to the sites; that’s an individual decision that they make. The school is area qualified; in other words, all children that come qualify for any meals at that site and we don’t make a differentiation between ‘that kid doesn’t look like they should qualify for this program’ and ‘that one does.’ All children that come to the sites qualify.”

VOICE-OVER: But do parents even know this program is intended for individuals who cannot afford food for their children? The majority of partakers at Washington Elementary in Bountiful said they heard about this FREE lunch from their friends and neighbors. When asked why she came to the lunch, one mom said:

MOM AT SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM: “Well, for one, it’s free; that’s great the kids can eat free, and I have four kids and so it’s nice just to come and not to have to worry about making them lunch every day and the cleanup afterwards.”

VOICE-OVER: This summer lunch program impacts the self-reliance of families and individuals. Bill Duncan, director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Family and Society, explains how residents of Utah can become more and more dependent upon government.

BILL DUNCAN: “The creation of dependence in people who take these kinds of programs – it’s much easier to say, ‘Well, I’d like a free lunch,’ or something like that, rather than figure out ways of how you’re going to support your family. Even for people who might potentially be on the borderline there’s a risk that those people are going to say, ‘Well, we need the government to give us what we have,’ rather than figuring out ways to build their own self-reliance.”

BILL DUNCAN: “These kinds of programs are kind of inherently flawed because the challenge is you’re not going to have the parents come to the door and say, ‘Can you show us an income statement?’ – that would be pretty intrusive. But on the other hand, the government is sort of holding out this carrot: ‘Please come in and depend on us for your meals.’ That kind of judgment call is sometimes hard for people to make.”

VOICE-OVER: This “free lunch” attitude was even promoted as a way to “save money” in a post written by a local resident on a coupon clipping website.

BILL DUNCAN: “One problem we have already seen that you’ll see online is people talking about ‘hey, look this is a great way to save money, be a little more frugal.’ Frugality is great, but not necessarily with the expense of your neighbors who are taxpayers.”

VOICE-OVER: As the saying goes, there really is no “free lunch.” The growing acceptance of government handouts in our Utah communities is alarming. Should Utah participate in a taxpayer-funded lunch program, even if it is making Utahns more dependent on government? Do Utahns realize their “free lunch” is at their neighbors’ expense? Our freedom is reduced when government, by force of tax, takes from some of its citizens and gives to others. For Sutherland Institute, I’m Alexis Young, reminding you that policy, good or bad, changes lives!