TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

Oil Shale Politics Points to Problems of Federal Land Ownership

Snake RiverWhy is energy production in the United States subject to so much political oversight? Public News Service reports the latest news about oil shale: “Two competing plans for the development of oil shale in the West are making their way through Washington, D.C.” Both plans involve government-owned lands, and both are subject to extensive political wrangling.

The Reason Foundation’s Leonard Gilroy summarizes a major reason why federal politicians exert so much control over energy production: “The federal government owns nearly 30 percent of all the land in the country,” including “more than 84 percent of the land in Nevada” and large chunks the land of various other states.

The fact that the government has socialized so much land necessarily involves federal politicians in the management of that land and of any economic activity thereon.

Those federal lands should be converted to private property for Constitutional, economic, and (most importantly) moral reasons.

Regarding the Constitution, as legal scholar Rob Natelson points out in his book The Original Constitution, permanent federal land ownership for unenumerated purposes is contrary to the intent of the Constitution. Natelson points out that “Founding-Era records disclose a universal belief that most federal lands would be sold promptly.”

In terms of economic incentives, private owners, whether individuals, for-profit businesses, or conservation groups, tend to manage their property (whether by developing it, preserving it, selling it, or leasing it) to best achieve their values. Politicians tend to manage lands to the advantage of those with the most political pull.

More fundamentally, the government’s proper role is to protect individual rights, including rights to develop and gain title to property; the government has no moral business managing lands or their development. Property owners, not political fiat, should determine the development of oil shale, natural gas, outdoor recreation, and every other land use.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Environmentalism, Individual Rights and Law

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • Mike Kevitt

    Gvt’s. proper, sole, role means it is to have exclusive oversight over human relations.  Gvt. goes after crime, meaning, initiatory force, leaving everything else alone, exercising no oversight over anythng else.  Its oversight is only weeding out crime.

    But, all economics & much other social activity, not just energy production on “gvt.” land, is hobbled with “political” oversight & control, & all of it is, truly, “so much”, not just some, not just a little.  But, any, at all, is SO MUCH, too much.  Of course, on “gvt.” land, it’s probably even worse.

    The reason “gvt.” “owns” all that land and takes oversight & control of economics, everywhere, & of lots of other social activity, not just of human relations only, & just weeding out crime is, we lack, publicly, a prevaling concept of gvt., meaning, the exclusive exercise of control & oversight of human relatons, & of nothing else.  Instead, that concept is, in our minds, infested with the concept of crime.  So we, in fact, infest gvt. with crime: likewise, we infest law, by legislation, with criminal plans.

    When crime occurs outside this cover it’s properly seen as crime.  But, under this cover, we see it as part of gvt., law & politics, but just too much, too big or outside its proper bounds.

    We must see, & keep seeing, these two concepts & facts as the separate things they are, & de-infest gvt. of crime.  It’s extremely desirable that an overwhelmingly huge majority of the public makes this correction as a big aid in de-infesting.

    Gvt. must own some land & other property as per the one purpose that can be enumerated for gvt.: its one proper functon.  As for all that energy-rich land it “owns”, it’s actually fraudulently possessed by crime, infesting gvt.  It is, in fact, privately owned, or unused or never yet used ownerless resources.