November 25, 2016 Print

It is written in the Utah Constitution that “a free market system shall govern trade and commerce” in the state. That principle has been routinely violated in recent years, however, as innovative companies like Tesla, Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, and others have been targeted by Utah laws that, in some cases, rule that their business models are illegal. Libertas Institute, an Atlas Network partner organization based in Utah, recently launched its Disruptive Enterprise Initiative to combat the protectionist policies of the state of Utah.

“Many governments are seduced and pressured into enacting protectionist laws that shield a powerful, profitable industry from its upstart competition—and Utah is no exception,” explains Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute. “Tesla can’t sell its cars in our state. Uber and Lyft drivers were fined $6,500 each when they began offering rides. Food trucks are prohibited from operating near restaurants, and home owners often can’t share their property with travelers on Airbnb. The list goes on—which is worrisome considering that our state constitution has language requiring a free market.”

The Disruptive Enterprise Initiative encompasses a comprehensive public awareness campaign to educate voters about the Utah Legislature’s many free-market violations. Libertas accomplished this through four separate mailing campaigns, and more than 500 Utahns signed a petition to tell their state legislators that they do not support anti-market policies, and neither should their lawmakers.

“The Legislature violates the free market because they are pressured into doing so by corporate lobbyists and crony capitalists,” Boyack continues. “Constituents need to compete against these well-funded interests by loudly and repeatedly making clear that elected officials must fulfill their oath of office to support the constitution, and therefore support a free market.”

Food truck regulations are a particularly egregious hindrance to free markets in Utah. Owners and operators of food trucks are subject to different regulations in each city and county in which they operate, an obstacle not faced by restaurants or caterers, suggesting that these regulations are intended to protect established brick-and-mortar businesses from competition. To highlight these barriers to entry and raise awareness for the Disruptive Enterprise Initiative, Libertas Institute held a Food Truck Freedom rally that was attended by more than 1,500 people and covered by multiple news outlets, including the Salt Lake Tribune and the local Fox and CBS affiliates.

Libertas has been working with a Utah state senator to prepare a bill for the next legislative session that would make it possible for food truck operators to obtain a universal permit to conduct business in any county within the state, which would allow them to save thousands of dollars in administrative fees and regulatory burdens.

“Our Disruptive Enterprise Initiative highlights the many instances in which businesses in Utah have been legally prevented from fairly competing against established market players, in order to educate active voters and mobilize them to speak their mind to their elected representatives,” Boyack concludes. “Through a multi-prong advertising strategy we will be educating and empowering Utahns to identify and take action on issues that violate the free market in order to ensure that existing violations are dealt with, while future violations are prevented.”