Picture 2

Picture 2

Jan 24, 2016

Feds Should Sell, Not Manage, Western Land

Some kooks have occupied a bird sanctuary building in Oregon. At least that’s what you can get out if the news.  Their reasons are all about how much land the federal government owns out west and how poorly they manage it.

Arbitrary federal management of land out west is notorious.  It matters because the federal government owns between 30 to 60% of most western states.  The size of the federal debt is also notorious.  We can solve both problems with a single program.  The federal government should sell western public land to private parties in regular auctions to raise money to pay off federal debt.  This would help in two ways.  First, it would bring in money directly to the treasury.  But secondly, it would also place the land under the management of private owners who would have an incentive to develop and use the land productively.

Placing federal land under state ownership merely exchanges one bad landlord for another.  Worse, it strips the federal government of assets it can use to satisfy its creditors.  Selling the land is the best way to lessen the tax payers debt burden and at the same time put the land into more productive use which would generate economic growth and increased tax revenue without raising tax rates.

If Congress could tie the western land sales to the size of the deficits, it would be perfect.  All of the socialists who don't want to sell western land would face a dilemma.   If they did the usual borrow and spend, land would be sold to make up the difference.  If they budgeted responsibly, they could keep western land in government hands, but only at the cost of fewer votes purchased with federal free stuff.

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