Government land acquisition: Socialism by a landslide

Published August 1, 2002

If put to a vote, Americans would likely reject socialism by a substantial majority.

Those same Americans, however, are voting by a substantial majority to allow governments to acquire more and more land and to tighten the controls on the private lands that remain.

Socialism, classically defined, is “government ownership and/or control of the sources of production.” Land is the source of all production. A vote for acquiring more private land by government, or tightening government’s control of the remaining private land, is a vote for socialism in America.

Of course, it’s not called socialism; it’s called “protecting the environment.” But it doesn’t matter what it is called; the result is the elimination of private property and the transfer of the sources of production to government control. The result is socialism.

Governments already own 900 million acres—40 percent or more—of the total land area of the United States. Nearly 200 million acres are designated as “wilderness,” off-limits to humans. More than 50 bills have been introduced in Congress to expand the wilderness area, and another 50 bills are now being considered to authorize more land acquisition by governments.

States, too, are authorizing land acquisition to “protect” open space, watersheds, shorelines, and the environment in general. Not one of the bills is labeled “The Transition to Socialism Act.” Nevertheless, each of these bills has the effect of destroying the foundation of freedom in America and effecting the transition to socialism.

Every time private property is acquired by government, tax revenue from that land stops. This forces an increase in the taxes paid by the remaining private property owners. Even worse, the free market is further diminished.

The United Nations believes government control of all land use is “indispensable.” Environmental organizations have convinced the public, Congress, and the administration that the planet is on the brink of biological collapse, and that the only way to ensure a planet for posterity is to stop logging, mining, ranching, driving, boating, snowmobiling, barbequing, and eating meat and sweets, and to restore the land to pre-Columbian wilderness and force humans to live in low-rise, high-density, managed “sustainable communities.”

No thank you

This is a socialist agenda. No, thank you—very much!

Instead of plotting to acquire more private property, Congress and state legislatures should be working to divest the massive land inventories they already hold. Get government land into private hands—as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Article 1, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution specifies the kinds of assets the government may own; all governments should adhere to this principle.

Government cannot adequately manage the land it owns now. Divestiture could provide a windfall of revenue to build schools, reduce debt, or simply refresh the Social Security Trust Fund. Private landowners would happily pay reasonable property taxes. And private owners would undoubtedly “protect” their property far better than the government has protected “public” assets.

The Nature Conservancy and other “conservancy” organizations should be required to pay full taxes on their land holdings. Governments should be prohibited from providing them with grants to acquire private property. Without their government subsidies, their appetite for land acquisitions would likely diminish.

Private property: Foundation of freedom

Land—in private ownership—is the foundation of freedom in America. Ownership means the freedom to use the land that is owned. Government control of private land—to “protect” so-called “endangered” species of weeds and bugs—is a feel-good mask that hides the sinister effect of transforming America into a socialist nation.

Socialists have tried throughout the century to establish federal control of land use. This idea has been rejected in the past. Americans have been blinded by the “protect the environment” ruse, and for a generation they have allowed socialism—government land acquisition and control—to guide public policy.

Many, if not most, Americans believe it is perfectly correct for government to own land and to prohibit use of the land to keep it in its pristine condition. Few who hold this belief will declare just how much land is the correct percentage for government to own. Every candidate for public office should be asked to publicly declare just how much land he or she thinks the government should own. Voters should make their decisions accordingly.

The rate at which private property is being acquired by government or placed under government control is nothing less than a landslide—a landslide to socialism.

Henry Lamb is executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization and chairman of Sovereignty International.