But yesterday, the Utah Senate voted to support Governor Huntsman’s plan to divert 15% of the hotel tax to help fund a stadium for RSL (see D-News article). Having had a career in accounting, I understand that technically, that’s not money out of my pocket as a taxpayer. But that position is simply an accounting trick. In a representative democracy, government revenues from any source belong to the citizens. The citizens’ representatives determine how those revenues should be managed. This means that instead of reducing the hotel tax or using that 15% for other projects, it will be used to build a venue for a private entertainment business.
This goes against my limited government instincts. Why should state government subsidize a private entertainment venue? I heard SLC Mayor Rocky Anderson on the radio saying, “That’s how these things are always done — with a public-private partnership.” That does not make it right.
I commented on the Senate Site post about this issue and received this very thoughtful response from Alien Wannabe (at 1:06 AM no less).
I have tremendous respect for you. And, I think I understand your position. My roots are also in the conservative wing of our party, so I see you as being a kindred spirit.
In the limited time I have here, I will try to supply an answer to your question:
I am a Republican, not a Libertarian, for a good reason. Just as I do not believe in the "maximum" government of the Socialists and Democrats, I do not believe in the "minimum" government of the Anarchists and Libertarians either. Rather, I believe in the "optimum" government of the Republicans.
For me, that is what the divinely inspired Constitution is all about--finding that right balance. As you remember, the original government of the United States, the Articles of Confederation, was too weak. It didn't work. The founding fathers replaced it with one that gave more power to a central government--they recognized the need for balance, "optimum" rather than "minimum."
Too many of my fellow Conservative Republicans fail to seek this same balance. They start idealizing "minimum" government as if they were Libertarians instead of Republicans.
No one understood the need of limited government more than Thomas Jefferson, but he also understood this principle of balance. He further understood that "limited" is a different concept entirely than "minimum." And, because of that, he was able to act in his country's best interest at a crucial moment in history.
When France offered to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States, Jefferson wisely jumped at the opportunity, even though doing so seemed to require that he use authority not explicitly granted to him in the Constitution.
Thank goodness he had the intelligence to do what he did! His actions have proven themselves over time to have been a tremendous blessing to our nation. Indeed, one wonders how dangerously handicapped and stunted our country would have been if he had not the vision and wisdom to do the right thing instead of the simple thing.
Too often we conservative political junkies fall into the trap of being intellectually lazy. We gravitate toward a simple direction, right, instead of toward actually doing the "right" thing.
I have learned in my life that doing the "right" thing requires balance--effort and judgment. Following a simple direction requires no effort and no judgment, we simply turn off our brain and say either "more government programs!" (left), or "less government programs!" (right)
In the past, some who have famously fallen into a similar trap have declared such things as "It is wrong to heal on the Sabbath!" These folks couldn't get past the direction of following the letter of the law, so they failed to understand the balance of the spirit of the law.
The spirit of our national and state constitutions is to provide for the common good. As a conservative Reagan Republican, I believe that often requires government to get off the backs of the people, so that their creative energies can be unleashed. But, sometimes it means that the government needs to step in, as appropriate, to build such things as the Eerie Canal--all for the common good.
For me, Real Salt Lake's stadium falls into this category. I am convinced that it will produce benefits for our state that are just as vital to the common good as schools and highways. That is why I enthusiastically support the state chipping in a small portion to help make it a reality.
I hope this, in some way, does justice to your excellent question.
Now, it’s no secret that I’m not a sports guy. But I’m not opposed to professional sports arenas. I just have concerns about using public money for that purpose. Larry Miller did not get public money to build the arena formerly known as the Delta Center. That would be an exception to Rocky’s statement above. And, although I respect Alien Wannabe’s thoughts on the matter, I simply can’t bring myself to put sports arenas in the same category canals, roads, schools, and libraries. I’m sure that plenty of sports fans would disagree with me on that, but I can’t see how athletic entertainment is as essential as education or transportation.
I’m not a pure libertarian, but that does not mean that all libertarian principles are bad. In fact, I think we need some rabid libertarians to counter the constant push to grow government. I understand the enthusiasm many are expressing for the soccer stadium. Heck, it’s probable I could attend events at that venue someday. But I’m afraid that I cannot bring myself to support public funding for it. Still, it seems that my view on this matter is like a feather in a windstorm.