Many Republicans in Congress made political hay by labeling the Green New Deal as “socialism.” Surprisingly, too many of these same Republicans are now the leading supporters of a major piece of socialist legislation. Unlike the Green New Deal, which was defeated in the Senate with 57 votes against and none in favor (with 43 Democrats voting present), the Senate is on the verge of passing the Great America Outdoors Act with Republican support, plus almost unanimous Democratic support.
What makes the bill socialist policy? Socialism means a lot of things to people today but has historically been defined as government ownership of the means of production. Land is an indispensable means of production. The Great America Outdoors Act would socialize private land on an unprecedented scale. In the rest of this article, I’ll call it the Land Grab bill.
The Land Grab bill contains two titles. The first would spend $9.5 billion over five years to reduce the backlog of maintenance and restoration on existing federal lands. That should be a clue that the federal government is not good at taking care of what it owns.
The second title is the overtly socialist part. It would dramatically increase the rate of government acquisition of private land and make it permanent. Currently, Congress makes annual appropriations for federal, state, and local acquisition under the authority of the Land and Water Conservation Fund of 1965.
Land socialism, as practiced since the Land and Water Conservation Fund became law, is a peculiar kind of socialism. Traditionally, when the means of production are socialized, production is intended to continue. For instance, when Britain nationalized steel mills and coal mines in the 1950s, they continued producing steel and coal (although in practice, production tended to go down, and then down some more). But when the four federal land agencies — the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management — buy private land, the purpose is to take it out of production and “preserve” it.
In short, modern land socialism perversely locks up the means of production.
Private property is a necessary condition of freedom and limited government. Among types of private property, land ownership has always been considered the most or among the most important for maintaining freedom and limited government. The United States already has far too much socialized land. The federal government owns 640 million acres or 28% of the country’s total acreage. In the 11 Western states and Alaska, the four federal land agencies control more than 50% of the land. Some rural counties are more than 90% federally owned, and many more are more than 75%.
The consequences of all this government land are just what you’d expect from socialism. The environmental condition of the vast Western, federal estate ranges from fair to poor to dismal. The economic effects are uniformly dismal. Rural counties with lots of federal land (which are exempt from property taxes) struggle as resource producers are pushed off the land.
This environmental and economic devastation will only get worse as $900 million in annual funding from the Land Grab bill eventually buys millions and millions of acres of private land. But socialists care much more about power than about the environment or the economy.
Read full article at Washington Examiner.