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May 18, 2006

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Chris

Part of the problem associated with losing historical and environmental sites to private interests can be mitigated by selling the lands to like-minded organizations. i.e. selling national forests to Sierra Club and historical sites to historical societies.

When you approach the problem that way you balance the interest that set government into the activities in the first place with the self-interest of those private parties.

I have no doubt that if you gave ANWR to the Sierra Club that they would extract oil. I think similar compromises would be reached on most other sites, but with less emphasis on profit over preservation.

For example, while Sierra Club would certainly drill in ANWR they may use that income to offset the costs associated with maintaining the Everglades which generate no income at all.

Alan Brown

Or create a corporation that owns all these monuments and give every citizen a chance to buy one share in it. Then the owners can decide what to do with their property.

Either way, I think there are a lot more important fish to fry and most people would prefer to have these national treasures under government control. I am not so sure I disagree.

I do think there is a lot of waste and corruption happening with public lands though. Especially where logging and mineral rights are given away for a fraction of their real worth.

Josh

My public choice theory analysis of this post would lead me to believe that Professor Miron's real agenda, being a good libertarian, is to buy the FDR memorial once it is privatized.

After some reconstruction, tourist can pay Miron a small fee to visit the new FA Hayek memorial at the site where the FDR memorial once stood.

Eric H

Er, yet another possibility is to have the BLM sell the land but retain a conservation easement to it. That's the way The Nature Conservancy frequently operates: either by selling land that they have bought or been given while retaining the easement, or by buying just the easement. The outcome is the same. The easement could specify that the land is never broken up, that certain areas have to be maintained in a "primitive state", etc.

In fact, I wonder if it isn't possible to sell the land and the easement in two separate auctions: in one, Weyerhauser may buy a huge forest, and then the Sierra Club might buy the easement. They would have to work together for each to make the most of its investment, and the result may be either a greener Weyerhauser, a more profit-motivated Sierra Club (or more corrupt, a separate issue), or both.

Of course, Weyerhauser might buy both sets of rights, but this puts the industrialists into an interesting game with the conservationists: each has limited resources and therefore needs to pick their battles accordingly. For every easement Weyerhauser has to buy, they lose the ability to bid on more land. They would want to maximize their investment, and so would the Sierra Clubs. Obviously, auction design would be important to this scheme.

In any case, the BLM could be relegated to being an enforcer of property rights for both land and easement owners. Yikes! A government agency charged with enforcement rather than selective violation of property rights? How radical is that?

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