Who Owns The West?

 Posted by on 12 November 2008 at 12:28 am  Cool, Economics
Nov 122008

This map shows clearly how much of the Western US is owned by the federal government:

The United States government has direct ownership of almost 650 million acres of land (2.63 million square kilometers) – nearly 30% of its total territory. These federal lands are used as military bases or testing grounds, nature parks and reserves and indian reservations, or are leased to the private sector for commercial exploitation (e.g. forestry, mining, agriculture). They are managed by different administrations, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation or the Tennessee Valley Authority.

This map details the percentage of state territory owned by the federal government. The top 10 list of states with the highest percentage of federally owned land looks like this:

1. Nevada 84.5%
2. Alaska 69.1%
3. Utah 57.4%
4. Oregon 53.1%
5. Idaho 50.2%
6. Arizona 48.1%
7. California 45.3%
8. Wyoming 42.3%
9. New Mexico 41.8%
10. Colorado 36.6%

The following thought then occurred to me. One day, the US is going to face a financial crisis due to the insolvency of Social Security that will make the current mortgage crisis look like chump change in comparison. And everyone who advocates privatizing Social Security also points out that there would be huge transition costs.

So the question is whether those costs (or overall transition costs of moving from the current mixed economy to a fully consistent system of laissez-faire capitalism) could be covered by selling off those Federal lands? It might conceivably have to be done in stages to avoid depressing the market by dumping all that land on the market at once.

But there is something appealing about the idea of paying for the transition costs of privatizing our economy by a method which also privatizes a big chunk of US government assets.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha