In his chapter on "Public Land" in Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom, Ron Paul argues that federal land should be turned over to the states so that it can be sold to private interests.
page 233, Paul anticipates an objection to this idea: "Some argue that
in the West, the land has to be managed by the federal government due to
the natural resources available. They argue that these resources
belong to the people and shouldn't fall into the hands of a few rich
individuals." I raised a similar concern about the privatization of the
seas in my post here.
how does Ron Paul respond to this objection? First of all, he says
that, under the status quo, a few politicians control the land, and that
"special interests...benefit from bureaucratic and political schemes"
(page 233). That's the sort of argument that I've heard a number of
times from libertarians: that big government benefits rich special
interests. What caught my eye, though, was Paul's second
argument----that private ownership of land can lead to less wealthy
people benefiting. Paul states on pages 233-234:
"Texas is a good
example of how private ownership of land facilitated the development
and use of its natural resources----especially oil, gas, and coal. In
the beginning, the Spanish land grants allowed large blocks of land to
fall into the hands of a few. But over time, for economic reasons, this
land was broken up into smaller and smaller pieces. Ownership of the
oil was divided according to private property rights, which allowed many
less wealthy people to benefit. The risks were taken by the
entrepreneurs and the benefits were spread generously to small
landowners with mineral rights and to the workers who labored in the
industry. Before joining the union----probably a mistake----the
Republic of Texas owned very little land. Texas never needed the
federal government to manage its progress, whether it concerned natural
resources, agriculture, or ranching."
In my opinion, this
is probably the best point in Ron Paul's book. Against the argument
that private ownership leads to the concentration of wealth and power
into the hands of a few, Paul presents a historical example in which a
lot of land was initially held by only a few people, but economics led
to that land becoming more widely distributed. A lot of times,
the libertarians I read argue that government fosters monopoly and
income inequality by supporting rich corporations, but they do not
address the concern that a laissez-faire economy would itself result in
survival of the fittest and the concentration of wealth and power into a
few hands. Ron Paul, at least, does address that concern. But I wish that he had gone into more detail, explaining what economic factors led to the land becoming more widely distributed.
quoting that passage from Paul's book, I had to include the part about
how the Republic of Texas joining the union was a mistake. Ron Paul
offers some pretty unconventional views on American history in this
book! On page 211, he discusses the erosion of limited government in
America, an erosion that he considers to be a bad thing. He states:
"The erosion started early, and it could be argued that even the
Constitution itself weakened this principle that was embedded in the
Articles of Confederation." This is the second time in the book that
Paul speaks highly of the Articles of Confederation.
Was Jesus a pacifist?
2 hours ago