Free Market

Hyde Park: A Snapshot of Moralistic Statism

I have never tasted an alcoholic beverage in my life. I don’t see the need, I have no desire, and recognizing the dangers drinking can produce, I caution others to avoid it.

In other words, I am like many Utahns: socially conservative with adherence to a health code that requires abstinence from certain substances. But I differ from many of these individuals in that I do not believe I have the authority to impose my health code and personal preferences upon other people.

Hyde Park, Utah, has long been a “dry” city where alcoholic beverages are legally prohibited. An ordinance allowing for licensed, limited alcohol sales narrowly passed the city council last year on a 3-2 vote. Some residents, upset with the outcome, collected enough signatures to put the ordinance on hold and put the question before the city’s 4,000 residents.

One of the councilmen who voted against legalization said he morally objects to the consumption of any “mind-altering substance.” As the referendum suggests, many Hyde Park residents agree with him, including one who told a reporter, “Hyde Park hasn’t needed the sale of alcohol yet, and I don’t believe for a nanosecond that we need alcohol… for any excuse or reason.”

As with many political questions, this turns policy into a popularity contest—a democratic spectacle in which community members try and muster a majority so as to impose their personal preferences upon their dissenting neighbors who were in the minority. It’s one thing to personally choose not to partake of a “mind-altering substance” and entirely another to use the force of government to mandate that same behavior on the part of your neighbor.

Moralistic statism permeates Utah, leading conservative voters to use the ballot box to enforce their social norms upon others. This is hardly conservative, nor is it Christian. It is a violation of government’s proper role, and it must stop.