Chapter 1: Purpose and Identity

What does it mean to be a human being? In the understanding of faithful Latter-day Saints, it means we are the literal offspring of our Heavenly Father. We have His spiritual DNA in our mortal bodies. Every human being is a child of God and that identity defines our freedom. Hence, to be truly free means to match our will to His. If freedom is our goal, our purpose every day we wake should be to strive to conform our lives to His – our desires to His, our thoughts to His and our actions to what He would have us do in this mortal existence. read more

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Freedom Series: Introduction

Freedom In 300 Words Or Less: For Faithful Latter-day Saints

I think that it is impossible that ye should be ignorant of the things which have been spoken concerning the coming of Christ…yea, I know that these things were taught unto you bountifully before your dissension from among us…prepare your minds…the word is in Christ unto salvation. – Amulek to the poor and outcast in Antionum, Alma 34.

Introduction

I wrote this series beginning in 1978, the year I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and every day thereafter. From the opening prayer of the Fall General Conference in 1978 to today, more than 40 years later, the words of the living prophets echo in my mind and press upon my heart. While tone and style ebb and flow according to the circumstances of the day and the needs of the Church, doctrine never changes. read more

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How to lower prescription drug prices without government intervention

Prescription drug prices have skyrocketed and the immense harm to families and businesses is leading some public officials to propose outrageous “solutions.” For example, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, now a 2020 presidential candidate, suggests the federal government get into the business of manufacturing medications. And that begs one to ask, how’s that going for Venezuela where the government controls all aspects of business?

Extreme interference in the private sector isn’t right for Utah. Fortunately, our state legislators are considering their own ambitious, market-based measures to bring down prescription drug prices and if the legislation passes, Utah will become the leader in solving this urgent problem. read more

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Sen. Mike Lee urges Utah governor to drop state defense of ‘unconstitutional’ law

While most of the comments on Lee’s post were sympathetic to his opposition of SB54, some questioned the purpose of a U.S. senator communicating with the state’s governor through social media.

Paul Mero, president of Next Generation Freedom Fund and former president of the conservative Sutherland Institute, wrote that the question of SB54′s constitutionality should be settled by the courts. But Lee’s post, Mero said, was “stirring up the crazies” who have made support or opposition to SB54 a litmus test. read more

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Utah needs a child-centered approach to fighting poverty

Utah is proud to be a data-driven state. Our policymakers want to make good decisions based on good data. But new research focused on teenagers living in intergenerational poverty (IGP) seems to reveal that Utah’s long-standing approach is outdated and missing the mark.

New multi-state research commissioned by the Georgia Center for Opportunity and Utah’s Next Generation Freedom Fund suggests it’s time to reevaluate state IGP policy goals. The new research, conducted by Heart+Mind Strategies just this fall, interviewed teenagers (12-18) living in IGP and their parents. The study’s objective was to really know and understand the IGP “customer” from the inside out. read more

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Who Speaks for God?

Secularists have an odd way of arguing with people of faith – odd in that they even try. Their frames of reference are too different. A secularist telling a person of faith what God thinks in the very same breath the secularist decries a person of faith for proclaiming what God thinks is, well, absurd. But it happens time and again and, in Utah, typically within the esteemed pages of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Most recently, George Pyle and, to a certain degree, Robert Gehrke have risen in defense of people of faith for whom they feel have been slighted, insulted or oppressed by other people of faith. This week’s offender before their secular court of justice is President Dallin H. Oaks, a prominent leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His crime? Telling people of the same faith what God thinks about His plan for His children.

The secular premise in play here is that regardless of what God may or may not think, He certainly does not hurt people or make them feel uncomfortable. Pastor Gehrke knows what God thinks. He knows God thinks that Dallin Oaks pretends to love Jesus and feigns piety while condemning as satanic a family with a transgender son – because, of course, Jesus never would look to hurt anyone’s feelings about how to live and behave (except for Dallin Oaks). Pastor Gehrke is the true saint. He is “not going to disparage Oaks.” He’ll allow the father of the transgender boy to do it.

Preacher Pyle simply wants to ensure that everyone, especially people of faith, do not fall “for the argument that someone who seeks to tell you what to think or do is really telling you what God wants you to think or do.” After all, there is no difference between Pope Francis, Russell M. Nelson and Brain David Mitchell, the latter having kidnapped and brutally raped Elizabeth Smart. Don’t they all claim to speak for God, Preacher Pyle wonders aloud?

In their secular church, Preacher Pyle and Pastor Gehrke will not “pound the Bible” to foment “institutionalized cruelty.” But they will speak for God about Dallin Oaks, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its plan of salvation and its doctrinal understanding of gender and sex. Be clear: God does not condone anything perceived as hurtful to others from the mouths of these Mormons.

I like and respect George Pyle and Robert Gehrke. They have been true to their secular faith and never have given me offense. I do not ascribe to them ill motives. I understand how difficult it must be for them to reconcile ideas, words and behaviors from people of faith that seem to them to be irreconcilable. They see illegitimate or false paradoxes from people of faith such as Dallin Oaks. What does he mean by conjoining love and law?

But neither good man should kid himself about their Latter-day Saint problem. Either somebody speaks for God or nobody does. They choose nobody – the only possible choice for them as they so freely associate a prophet, a pope and a pedophile rapist. Meanwhile, millions of people of faith know the difference between a prophet and a pedophile.

Just because my friends do not believe in my God does not mean my faith is incorrect. It simply means we don’t agree. I no more impose my will on other people than they do. They choose the private behaviors and public laws they want for the reasons they champion and so do I. The fundamental difference between us in these matters is that I think they are merely wrong, while they think I, and my kind, are intentionally insolent.

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All Good Things Have an Ending

The older I get, ten years does not seem that long ago. But ten years has passed since I christened the Mero Moment to today when I lay it to rest.

When I began these radio commentaries Barack Obama just had been nominated by his party for the presidency, something named Lady Gaga hit the stage, the Summer Olympics were in China where Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt became household names and, more importantly, the Unites States economy began to crumble. Within in a few weeks of my inaugural Mero Moment the federal government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and several major financial institutions filed for bankruptcy to begin the Great Recession of 2008.

That was ten years ago. America is much different today. I am much different today.

The general theme throughout these several hundred commentaries, as with my career, has been freedom and, over the course, I have tried to explain freedom and what it is not. For instance, my aggressive support for traditional marriage was in the name of freedom – and even many of my conservative, pro-family friends thought my arguments odd. My first memorable interaction with For the People, right here on KVNU, was a heated argument with Tom Grover and Ryan Yonk over the intrinsic value of the natural family and its relationship to freedom.

Freedom has been the theme that has put me at consistent odds with libertarians who mistake liberty for freedom. This contention created Utah’s Libertas Institute. And, even today, this distinction drives several controversies, such as the marijuana initiative. Utah libertarians view it as matter of choice for individuals. Everyone else knows it is a medical issue for society.

My idea of freedom became my conservatism and then my conservatism was freed to advocate for many causes not normally identified as conservative. Utah’s support for comprehensive immigration reform – not to mention our state’s compassionate view of undocumented immigrants – is due, in no small part, to my conservative ideas.

Admittedly and unapologetically, I have used many of these commentaries to defend my faith – well, more so to ravage those liberals and progressives who oppose my faith. In many ways, I became the tip of the spear to say what my Church could not say. While my Church often took public stands on important moral issues and left those opinions to hang in the wind, I was free to explain their importance and defend them.

In recent years, these commentaries have been directed at and against ideologies masquerading as conservatism and very unfreedom-like behaviors. For more than two years now, I have been arguing against Donald Trump and have tried to make the case as to why he is unfit to be president and why the right-wing love affair with him is not only idiotic but a betrayal of principle in the highest order.

I said I am much different today than I was ten years ago. This is true personally as well as professionally. In the refiner’s fire I have learned a great deal about myself. I was fired from my longtime job leading Sutherland Institute six years into these commentaries – that hurt me deeply, affected me acutely and, in the end, made me a better person.

But, like so many other public people who have seemed to move away from their past record, I think my old team has moved away from me. Whether because of right-wing ideologues, Trumpites or libertarians, conservatism today is not my conservatism. I did not leave conservatism, today’s conservatism left me. The freedom that today’s crazies defend is not my freedom.

But none of this is why the Mero Moment must come to an end. Frankly, I have said about all that should have been said about freedom in Utah these past ten years. You either get it by now or you do not. There is always something to be said. But, for now, those things will need to be said by others.

I have deep love and respect for my time with my friends at the Radio Ranch – from Tom Grover and Ryan Yonk to Tyler Riggs, who actually hosted the first Mero Moment, to my good friend Jason Williams who has dealt with the brunt of my experiences on For the People. I have tremendous gratitude for Kent and Eric Frandsen and, of course, the lovable Bill Walter – each of who has made these ten years comfortable and welcoming.

So, I sign off and wish everyone happiness and peace.

I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

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Pot Initiative Proponents and Opponents Deserve Each Other

For the past 30-something years, especially the last 18 years here in Utah, I have made freedom my business. But I guess I have not done a very good job as its advocate because even really intelligent people either do not understand it or still choose to prioritize self-interest.

Throughout these ten years of commentaries, I have described freedom in minute detail – from its essence to its processes – and, regardless of the angle, I am convinced most people (even guardians elected to serve and protect it) do not really get it.

Historically speaking, it’s to be expected. Frankly, our founding fathers were shocked at what they had achieved and most figured it would not last. They predicted every possible failure ahead when they created a system of freedom knowing full well that it could not survive people of diminishing virtue – a good point at which to pick up the current narrative over Utah’s marijuana initiative.

Whether the direction of the current debate be substantive or procedural, both sides – proponents and opponents of the initiative – have abandoned freedom.

Zealous political proponents of the initiative, who should know better, miss the whole point of the problem. The problem is not pain relief. The problem is addressing one kind of pain without creating other kinds of pain. Setting aside end-of-life and life-debilitating physical scenarios wherein no potential solution is as worse as the problem, pot is not the answer. In fact, if you really believe in freedom, it creates new problems.

The process of freedom is slow and deliberative. A pot initiative is neither and neither are lawsuits to stop it. I suppose opponents of the pot initiative feel justified in filing lawsuits because proponents of the initiative bypassed primary constitutional processes through the Legislature. Pure democracy is not freedom and neither is government by judiciary.

I oppose the pot initiative because it is bad public policy and it undermines the common good essential to true freedom. The idea of “chronic pain” as legal justification to do anything is ludicrous and only minds obsessed with equating freedom with license could be so blind not to see it.

But I also oppose the strategy of the initiative’s opponents to quash the effort by lawsuit. I get that government by judiciary is the new means for victory in modern America. If you do not like something, sue. But reliance on the judiciary is hardly the epitome of freedom. And it bugs me most that my church – the LDS Church – does not see the harm in government by judiciary. Hell, the entire Book of Mormon is one eternal witness of the harm done to freedom by lawyers when we let lawyers define our existence! How can they not see that?

Quit filing lawsuits! Try winning over the hearts of the people not the interests of judges and lawyers. And understand this – your lawsuits are not justified because proponents of the pot initiative pursued an end run around the Legislature. Part of your problem has been how you work the Legislature – thinking a stealthy but heavy hand serves your interests more than an open and robust debate. That behavior is anti-freedom and gives rise to frustrations that lead to misguided political efforts like a lame pot initiative.

Likewise, for proponents, the legal initiative process in this case is hardly an act of a confident cause. It is intellectual cowardice. You who pride yourself on reason and objectivism are betraying your values. You think the legislative process broke down in your cause. It did not. You broke. You broke faith with reason. You quit making an argument. You are behaving in ways you claim to loathe. And for what? To legalize pot. And you wonder why I call your libertarian thinking juvenile. The politics of tantrum are unbecoming of a self-proclaimed enlightened movement.

A pox on it all. I am so sick and tired of rearguard actions to save face and winning as strategy. If you believe in freedom, virtue is the prize – virtue in substance and virtue in process. Both sides of this pot initiative are making a mockery of freedom.

I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

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Alex Jones Is Not Worth Trashing The First Amendment

Are Facebook and Twitter responsible for the content of their users? Some people argue that both mega-companies are publishers, no different than a book company or a news agency. The CEOs of Facebook and Twitter argue they run tech companies, not newspapers.

Of course, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos runs both! Should Bezos apply the same content standards to Amazon that he does at The Washington Post? Should every non-fiction book on Amazon be held to the Post’s standard of journalistic integrity or be banned? Bezos would fire a Post reporter who lied in a story or who fudged the truth a bit. Should he also insist on dumping disreputable books from Amazon’s web site?

The only way to really answer this question intelligently is to set aside the product and look at the brand. The Washington Post is a newspaper. That is the product. That is what people purchase. But the brand of the Post is not the paper. Its brand is the words on the paper. Its brand is journalistic integrity.

Likewise, Amazon sells all sorts of products, books included. But its brand is a combination of broad selection, ease of purchase and efficient fulfillment. Does it matter to consumers that Amazon’s range of products is seemingly endless, including all sorts of things a consumer would not buy for whatever reason? No, it does not matter. Does an Amazon consumer of clothing care that the company also sells erotica? Probably not.

And yet, Amazon bans books from Holocaust deniers. It does not ban other books. In fact, Amazon markets books banned elsewhere. It just bans the ones denying the Holocaust. Only Holocaust deniers have a problem with that. Reasonable people do not give it a second thought. We get it.

So let us turn back to Facebook and Twitter and ask these same questions. Should these two companies ban participation by truly offensive people or subjects?

The current controversy is over Alex Jones – Donald Trump’s favorite conspiracy theorist. Despite some pretty loud complaints, Facebook and Twitter are choosing to not censor Jones. Yes, Jones is the same guy who said that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a fraud and that everyone was acting. Everyone else on Planet Earth is aware that 20 students and six teachers were killed. So, Jones is an idiot, a troublemaker or both. But should he be banned from social media?

If I had the power to ban every idiot from social media, social media would disappear overnight. Are some matters beyond the pale? Yes. Criminal activity is beyond the pale and no social media outlet should permit criminal activity. But a difference of opinion – even a difference wherein reality is dismissed? No. Even if I wanted to, I would not have the energy to sift through every word on social media and decide what makes the world a better place and what does not.

Of course, I ban all sorts of things on my personal social media, by conscious choice and by omission. I block people on both Facebook and Twitter. What I control, I take care of because I can and the scope of my interference affects nobody but me. I am dealing with my personal preferences, not a corporate brand affecting billions of people.

If you do not like Alex Jones, ignore him. If his influence on the president troubles you, fire the president. The problem is Jones, not the medium by which he spews his nonsense. If he existed during America’s founding, I am quite sure our forefathers would not throw out the First Amendment just to silence him. Neither should we.

I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

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3D-Printed Guns are a First Amendment Issue

The First Amendment is many things. One thing it is not is the Second Amendment. A Unites States senator from Florida introduced legislation that would ban the publishing of instructions on how to make a 3D-printed gun. Utah’s Senator Mike Lee blocked the bill from being considered. The 3D gun is a Second Amendment issue. Instructions on how to build it are a First Amendment issue.

The differences are so clear that I need to invoke a tag line of the cartoon dog, Droopy: “What’s all the hubbub, bub?”

Many progressives and anti-gun advocates are going nuts. Senator Lee’s office phones are ringing off the hook with complaints. “What? Is he stupid? Doesn’t he know that sharing instructions on the Internet about how to build a plastic gun is extremely dangerous?” But, is it?

Plastic guns already exist and they are heavily regulated and criminalized in certain instances, such as trying to get on an airplane with one. But this controversy is not about the gun. The controversy is about instructions on how to make the gun. The instructions are not a “thing.” The instructions are words. So the real question is this: Do you want to regulate words?

In some cases we do regulate words. Shouting fire in a crowded theater when no fire exists is a crime. As are the many printed forms of child exploitation and abuse. And this very short list would include highly sensitive government documents that, if published, could jeopardize our national security or the lives of Americans around the world. But, beyond those special cases, the First Amendment allows pretty much everything else.

If you can learn how to make a bomb on the Internet, why are we so upset about publishing instructions to make a 3D-printed gun? That is one argument. Another argument is equally sane: Why are instructions about how to make a bomb legal?

And then the Internet presents its own complications. Ban something in the United States and somebody will just produce it from another country.

Senator Lee is right. Legislation to ban the publishing of instructions to build a 3D-printed gun is unwise. The downside could tear apart the First Amendment. And the upside is what? No 3D-printed plastic guns? Good luck with that effort. Banning guns does not work for commonly manufactured guns. Do you really think it will work for 3D guns? Weird.

But let’s wander down that road. For something to be banned legally under the First Amendment, it must meet certain legal criteria. First, the government must show a compelling state interest. Second, if there is a compelling state interest, the ban must be tailored narrowly to avoid excesses under the law. And, third, any ban must utilize the least restrictive means possible to implement the ban.

What is the compelling state interest? That someone might get shot with a 3D-printed gun? In other words, it is constitutional for a person to get shot with a Smith and Wesson but not with Pete’s Printing and Publishing? That is crazy.

If words used to create 3D-printed guns are banned we might as well ban any word that hurts someone. And, of course, that is where all of this snowflake-driven censorship on college campuses is headed.

So let’s just stop it right now. We can loathe lots of bad behavior through the spoken and printed word and still allow it because one day your vocal opinion could be deemed harmful and then criminal.

I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

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