Privatizing National Parks

Wonders never cease. China, once the poster child for socialist nonsense (remember the backyard steel furnaces?), seems determined to experiment with a wide variety of privatization ventures – some in advance of anything the United States has ever seriously considered.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />


That point was made evident in a Washington Post story, “Privatizing China’s Parks,” (July 5, 2001). Large sections of the area where Confucius was born are managed by the Shenzhen Overseas Chinese Town Economic Development Co., a firm best known for running a “Disney World-like theme park” in the southern city of that name. The Chinese government wasn’t happy about all this but wasn’t willing to put up the money to protect the areas itself. The story points out that Huangshan – “what the Grand Tetons are to the United States” – when controlled by the state was a “mess” filled with trash, unmanaged logging, and polluted streams. But “today Huangshan is spotless”. Things have shaped up under private management because as one commenter noted, “If you have no money, how can you protect anything?”


The Chinese are considering expanding this privatization initiative “at a terrific pace,” according to the story. Among the sites now being considered for private management is one on the UNESCO World Heritage list! A prominent U.S. environmentalist working in China noted, “What has gone on in some of these places was never even considered in the United States…” The leading proponent of privatization, Li Zhi noted: “What we’re doing is now just an experiment for China…It’s an experiment for the whole world.”


Exactly – now if we can just persuade the Bush administration to stop putting more land under government control, then America too might consider whether letting Washington, D.C. manage our national treasures makes sense. Free marketers have been too conservative. If China can take such steps, then we should be able to also. After all, Disney is already in America, and that company knows far more about running parks then the National Park Service ever will.