More than 100 organizations from across America sent delegates to
Washington last week to prepare a message for politicians: the
government owns too much land. By most counts, the federal government
owns about 33 percent of the land area of America. Add the land owned by
state and local governments, and the total rises to approximately 40
percent of the total land area.
Three bills have been introduced in Congress to authorize what the
President calls his “Lands Legacy Initiative” to preserve irreplaceable
places. The legislation would create a perpetual fund, beyond the reach
of Congress, to spend up to $2.3 billion per year to expand the federal
land domain. The idea sounds reasonable enough, even desirable, until
consideration is given to the inevitable consequences of such a plan.
The land contains or grows the raw material for every product we use.
The more land owned or controlled by government, the less raw material
is available for use in a free market. To put it bluntly, when the
government owns or controls the source of production, the market is no
longer free. Capitalism and socialism are mutually exclusive; socialism,
by definition, is government ownership of the sources of production. No
matter what high-sounding name may be applied to the White House
“initiative-of-the-week,” the inevitable consequence of the Lands Legacy
Initiative is the eventual transfer of the sources of production to
The group assembled in Washington last week, formally created the
Property Rights Congress to be the vehicle through which individuals and
grass-roots organizations across the land can amplify their voices to
shout a loud, unmistakable message to the president and to the U.S.
Congress: NO NET LOSS OF PRIVATE PROPERTY.
The Property Rights Congress is currently drafting legislation to
prohibit a perpetual land acquisition fund, and further, to require the
federal government to dispose of land of equal acreage and value, for
any new land it may acquire. Moreover, the proposed legislation would
require the federal government to secure approval of the state
legislature for any land it may wish to purchase in any state.
The concept of no net loss of private property is endorsed by nearly
400 individuals and organizations that have “signed-on” to a resolution
posted on the PRC web site. The
resolution is the basis for the proposed legislation which is supported
by a wide variety of interest groups, both rural and urban.
How much is enough? The Constitution is quite clear; whatever is
needed for buildings, military training facilities, and other legitimate
needs. All development in America, both government and private, exists
on approximately 5 percent of the land area. Every square inch of land
taken out of private ownership, not only increases taxes for the rest of
the property owners, but takes the nation a step closer to the threshold
of government ownership of the source of production.
Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental
Conservation Organization (ECO) and chairman of Sovereignty