Put burden of proof on those who would liberalize liquor laws

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Flaming_cocktailsLast year, a scholarly paper was presented at the Alcohol Policy 16 Conference explaining how restaurants can transform in all practical aspects into bars through liberalized liquor laws – to the point at which restaurants are becoming more of the source of disorder and crime than bars. The paper did not describe circumstances in heavy control states such as Utah or Arkansas or Kentucky. The paper studied progressive, enlightened, liquor-loving California.

The problem is that restaurants are not regulated as strictly as bars. When restaurants morph into bars, the ill effects are equally present but the lack of regulations do not adequately compensate for the growth in disorder and crime. These morphing restaurants over-serve and under-enforce, leading to disproportionate numbers of police calls for drunkenness, violence and sexual assault.

Local government officials encourage morphing in the name of economic development precisely because restaurants face fewer controls and there can be ambiguity between state liquor laws, local zoning ordinances and discretion in use permits. Even as state liquor laws struggle to keep up with morphing, local governments and businesses lack incentive to mitigate it. Shared authority becomes a hindrance to effective liquor control policies.

Measuring, or quantifying, the effects of restaurants becoming bars is a double-edged sword. The ability to measure the effects of morphing exists but the measurements require experiences where morphing already has occurred. In other words, you only can measure what already has occurred – hardly a prudent way to learn the lessons of alcohol abuse and the destructive influences of liberalized laws.

In all of this sits Utah’s “Zion Curtain” law. For cynics who demand evidence that the “Zion Curtain” reduces liquor consumption and mitigates under-age drinking, there is one sure way to find out: get rid of it and expand access to liquor in restaurants.

Read more

Count My Vote will put decisions in hands of fat cats

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Cats_&_PeugeotDuring a Sutherland Institute panel last week at the state Capitol discussing the Count My Vote initiative, I mentioned that I have no concerns about low voter participation rates or worries about under-participation by women and youth. I stated matter-of-factly that I’m more concerned about the quality of participation. Are voters educated? Frankly, I don’t want people deciding my freedom who think a “call to duty” is a videogame.

For my candor, the Count My Vote panelists lectured me for my generalizations about uninformed youth and the value of 18-year-olds who are old enough to fight and die for their country. What I said is true. I’m not running for elected office and I’m not being paid to engage this campaign – so I get to tell the truth.

The game being played by Count My Vote leaders is the old bait-and-switch. Their problem is that Count My Vote is an elitist scheme. They need it to look more mainstream, so they wrap it in the context of concerns over voter participation. They complain about a limited number of neighborhood delegates who get to pick candidates for the general ballot when these elites know full well that their scheme would put those decisions in the hands of a dozen or so rich fat cats.

Yes, their arguments are shameless. But that’s campaign politics! They will say whatever it takes to win.

Back to reality: If we’re to avoid creating voter tests to determine participation in one of the most sacred roles of citizenship, we have to find nonintrusive ways to filter the negative impact of irresponsible citizenship – irresponsible meaning single-issue voters, special-interest parasites, and uninformed citizens who think and vote based on selfish emotions. Utah’s caucus and convention system is that filter. And it works.

Read more

In politics, where there’s a stink … there’s probably a rotting fish

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Dead_fishEmbattled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s scandal provides a wonderful case study in politics as usual. Not that I think he’s done something wrong – at this point I don’t know. But having been in politics for a long time, where there’s smoke there’s fire. Let me explain.

Governor Christie has been accused of using his political power to punish opponents – in this case, he’s accused of using political power to close a lane of freeway to inconvenience an opponent. Actually, all things considered in the game of politics, playing with an opponent in that manner is one of the tamest things I’ve heard of.

Let’s get real.

Politics is a nasty business because people can be nasty. We take opposition very personally. We don’t like to be criticized. We certainly don’t like to be accused of wrongdoing. And politics has all of that in spades. Most of all, politicians enjoy power because they’re human and human beings enjoy power. Government concentrates power, and that’s why we see so many bad examples in politics. But it’s no different in the business world or in sports.

The problem has as much to do with gaming ethics as it does a man’s character. Most politicians and their supporters view politics as a zero-sum game. People are objects to be stepped over, stepped around or stepped on. It’s true that we don’t have enough time in the day to respond to critics. But, in general, we don’t go the extra mile to converse or explain or debate civilly because it’s simply easier to attack an opponent. And there’s more money in conflict than in peacekeeping.

Read more

How Judge Shelby got the 14th Amendment wrong

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

scalesThe 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution has been at the epicenter of most controversial court decisions over the past 40 years. Few people understand it even as many people invoke ideas such as “due process” and “equal protection” in support of their causes. The recent Judge Shelby decision on same-sex marriage in Utah is just one more example.

There are three main schools of thought regarding the 14th Amendment. The first school of thought, represented by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia, is “original intent.” This school of thought holds that the 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868 with specific application addressing slavery – and that terms such as due process and equal protection were intended at that time to be limited to legal proceedings such as contracts and court cases.

This school of thought relies heavily on the intent of the legislative bodies at the time laws were adopted. It looks to the meaning and intent of the sponsors of the laws. Permitting judges to interpret those legislative purposes and meanings would be a violation of judicial jurisdiction. In other words, this school of thought holds that judges shall not legislate from the bench.

A second school of thought – a modern progressive school – holds that terms such as due process and equal protection in the 14th Amendment have substantive meaning not simply procedural application. But this progressive school takes it a step further by using its own ideologies to define the substantive meaning. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and our own Judge Shelby think in these terms. This school of thought is perfectly comfortable, indeed legally and morally justified in their own minds, to legislate from the bench and substitute their own personal morals for the voice of the people.

They say, “Look, society got slavery wrong. It got abortion wrong. And now it got same-sex marriage wrong – we’re simply fixing what society got wrong.” And then we get government by judiciary.

There’s a third school of thought that also believes in substantive due process but is not driven by ideology.

Read more

How Obamacare is hurting its supposed beneficiaries in Utah

One of the many bitter ironies relating to the creation and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is how it is hurting many of the people it was supposed to help.

A new illustration from data analysis and visualization specialist Bob Rudis shows this quite succinctly. His mashup of data from Investors.com and Gallup collects in one chart the heartbreaking human impact of the Obamacare debacle. Below is an image detailing some of the organizations in Utah that have had to cut work hours and/or jobs because of Obamacare.



Many of these people are part of low-income households. The hours they are allowed to work are being reduced because organizations are doing what they have to do just to survive the implementation of Obamacare. If they don’t, even more jobs will be lost. The effect on these folks, with reduced hours leading to lower incomes, is one more example of the unintended consequences of this disastrous public policy.

A further irony: Many of those most affected just want the income – they don’t even need or want the insurance offered by their employers because, for example, a spouse already gets employer-sponsored insurance. Unfortunately, these victims will soon be joined by millions more who are about to feel the pain caused by Obamacare — a healthcare “solution” riddled with sickening problems.

9/11 and your shoes

1024px-NYC_Panorama_edit2“Look down at your shoes. Could you break into a run in those if you needed to?”

So begins a post at The Foundry reflecting on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Click here to read it.

As it says, we will never forget.

Is America’s high unemployment ‘the new normal’?

The most recent recession has created a difficult, if not dire, employment problem for millions of Americans, and thousands of Utahns. As an illustration, after the national unemployment rate fell from about 6 percent in January 2003 to under 5 percent in January 2007, it skyrocketed to 10 percent in late 2009, and remains stubbornly high today.

image001But these numbers don’t even begin to tell the whole (human) story. Since losing their jobs between 2007 and 2010, many people have simply been unable to find work to pay the bills, put food on the table, or put their children through school. Tragically, the recession transformed what in years past would have typically been a difficult few months into a soul-crushing several years … and counting. The full cost of this tragedy – to individuals, families (especially children), and society as a whole – may not be fully understood for some time.

Now comes along a new study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which suggests that the increase in long-term unemployment may be permanent.

Read more

The Iron Lady’s legacy

Margaret_Thatcher_1983The legendary Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Britain, has died at age 87. The Iron Lady led Britain through the 1980s, bringing unions to heel, producing a dramatic turnaround in the British economy, and working with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to end the Cold War.

As National Review Online said in its obituary,

Margaret Thatcher … the greatest peacetime British prime minister of the 20th century, and her achievements in foreign policy were second only to those of Churchill.

In domestic policy, she reversed the decline of the previous 30 years and revived both the British economy and the British spirit. In foreign policy, she was instrumental to the free world’s victory in the Cold War — a victory achieved “without firing a shot,” as she herself phrased it.

Here’s a video of Thatcher giving her pithy opinion of socialism during her last speech in the House of Commons in 1990. Here’s another of her speaking about “Thatcherism” and unions.

One more: “There is no such thing as public money; there is only taxpayers’ money.”

Bravo, Mrs. Thatcher, and thank you.

2013 Legislature video: Buzzing around the Capitol

Here’s a fun one-minute time lapse of what goes on inside and outside the Utah Senate and House Chambers during the session — set to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”!




Season's greetings

We’d like to wish you a merry and peaceful Christmas and New Year. Look for our blog posts to resume starting Jan. 3.

— Sutherland Institute staff