"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
One of the toughest parts about freedom is that it necessarily means that you have to put up with things you do not like, or do without things you might prefer. For example, in Texas, they have very loose zoning laws, so that you can have a neighborhood of homes right next to an amusement park. Loud, bright lights, lots of traffic, but people are free to do that if they choose.
Take a look at this picture. Its a graphical representation of how much land in each state is owned by the federal government in the United States:
As you can see, everything in the rocky mountain states and westward suddenly becomes vastly controlled by the federal government (other than Hawaii). Nevada, in particular, is almost entirely "federal land," at nearly 85%.
This hearkens back to a time when all land was considered the king's land, and people could by dispensation be given land of their own, but it would revert to the king if there were no heirs or they did something the king really didn't like.
Most of that land taken from each state is either military bases and testing facilities, federally designated "wilderness areas," national parks and monuments, or freeway lands. Each president takes more of that land away, and always in the West, using the 1906 Antiquities Act which allows the president to designate land as a national monument or park without even consulting congress or notifying the American public of his intentions. That's how President Obama was able to just call Mount McKinley "Denali Mountain" with an announcement.
THE FACEBOOK RESPONSE
Now, when I posted this image on Facebook, several people responded positively: I like parks! What's wrong with that?
Which was just jaw dropping to me. I was simply astounded that nobody seemed to understand that the federal government owning more than 50% of 12 of the biggest states in the union was a bad thing. They thought it was just wonderful!
The problem here is that they are thinking in terms of "ooh pretty" rather than ownership, liberty, and the constitution. People have become so accustomed to having things taken from them and then "given back" by the government that they have no basic gag reflex when it comes to liberty.
I like parks, too. I like wilderness areas, and in my youth used to hike deep into the Oregon mountains to camp and explore. Beauty and the amazing scenery of the United States is worth preserving and sharing with future generations. But you know what matters more? Having the liberty to enjoy that beauty and travel to those areas.
All the parks in the world are useless without liberty. Unless you have freedom, it does not matter how much is preserved and set aside for posterity, because you'll never go there to see and enjoy it. The only people who'll have a chance will be the most powerful and wealthy, the most connected to political office.
Let me try to put this in perspective. Let's say you have a nice house and it has a really great bunch of rooms in it that are well decorated. It is, supposedly, your house, and not only is there an iron clad law that protects your ownership, but people fought and died to protect it. Now lets say the government decides your house is beautiful and others ought to be able to enjoy it, too. So they seize 75% of the rooms in your house, declare them a national monument, and now you can only go in there if you pay a fee, can only engage in certain activities, cannot change anything, and must allow others into it.
That's what's happening with these states. There is no support in the US Constitution for the idea of the president simply and arbitrarily taking pieces of states away from the public and setting them aside with rules for their use. And there is no way to appeal the process.
Wyoming and Alaska, annoyed at the way the federal government kept taking pieces away from them, managed to get legislation passed modifying the Antiquities Act. For example, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act requires congress to approve grabs of areas of greater than 5,000 acres.
Right now, Oregon is facing an attempt to seize more than two million acres by the federal government. Only one thing stands in the way: a ranch owned by a private citizen in between two federal areas. So the Bureau of Land Management is using every trick possible to remove the ranch, including convicting the rancher of terrorism for burning out some intrusive plants.
See, congress decided that it was fine for the president to just pick areas to take away from private owners based on Article IV, Section 3 of the US Constitution which allows the federal government to create new states from territories controlled by the federal government. Part of that section includes these lines:
power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States.
Congress decided that means "you can do whatever you want to any land in the US without even bothering to ask the people living there." Now, that is pretty debatable, since the founding fathers clearly did not mean for the federal government to be able to do whatever they chose within state boundaries, but that's a separate issue.
Notice that this section is in Article IV which deals with the US Congress. It specifically and exclusively is about congress, not the presidency or the supreme court. Under no circumstances is one branch of the US federal government allowed to exercise powers granted it under another branch.
The president cannot legally and constitutionally, no matter what laws are passed by congress, simply decide how land is going to be used. That power is reserved for the congress by the constitution.
Now, by this point in the nation's history, the constitution is basically waste paper
. The only time it comes up is when someone wants to score political points, and its otherwise totally ignored. Recent Supreme Court decisions have utterly demolished the last pathetic shreds of constitutional authority, so this is all academic.
But it wasn't in 1906. And nobody did anything about it, because they were focused on preserving those amazing features like the Grand Canyon and others astounding areas of beauty and nature in the west. Railroad builders saw what they were passing through and were determined to protect that awesome wonder, so they made sure it would happen.
The problem for folks is that they don't understand that this is not about oooh pretty, parks, its about freedom and states having the right to decide what happens within their borders. The love of beauty is something that should drive protection of these areas, not federally seized, illegal power. Private owners have for millennia protected and preserved areas of natural beauty and shared them with the public.
Now, some will say "If we didn't have this law, then places like Big Sur and Mount Jefferson would be covered with condominiums, or would eventually! Only the rich and connected could enjoy the grand canyon, just like you say will happen if government gets too powerful, how is that better?
And that's possibly true - not necessarily, after all, the US is very vast and huge areas are still quite protected and unblemished by business and corporate interests despite being not controlled by the federal government. And the US Constitution does not prohibit state governments from declaring areas parks and wilderness areas.
But, again, there's another, more powerful force to protect these areas than government decisions. Freedom requires a moral character, a public with virtue and honor. Instead of leaving that up to officials to punish us for straying from and pass requirements for us to follow, freedom forces us to grow up and be virtuous from inside. That's tough, and its scary, and it requires us to be better people rather than simply servile and obedient people. People who do the right thing do not require government pressure to control them.
DEALING WITH FREEDOM
Freedom means having to put up with stuff you don't like, such as a McDonald's on the rim of the Grand Canyon. It also means having to not have stuff you'd prefer, like access to climb El Capitan on Yosemite. And every single thing that the federal government gains in power means less freedom for you and I. Every single loss of liberty that everyone suffers is always done in the name of a "good cause."
Its always for our good that they argue we must give up our liberty. Its never "because we hate you and you need to be slaves" but "we need to do this for x good reason." And each little piece of liberty you lose means more power for the government and a generation raised to never have known or understood that freedom in the past.
The government only moves in one direction unless forced back by great effort and even violence. The founding fathers understood this all too well from personal experience. They used terms like "fire" and "devouring" to describe the government because they knew each new bit of power the government gained meant it was hungry for 3 more. The government never, ever surrenders power voluntarily, it always seeks more control, more power, and more of your freedom given up.
Every small liberty surrendered to the government means it is hungry for more, spreading like oil on water, until it covers everything.
And every person raised in that setting comes to not only expect the government to be that big and intrusive, but is bothered less and less by greater expansions. And even worse, they come to rely on and depend on that government power to a greater degree. So after a few generations, the feds owning 53% of Oregon is normal and completely reasonable.
And nobody even knows or remembers what was lost. Remember: after life, property is our greatest right. The ability to own and control something is precious and not to be surrendered without exceptionally great cause.
And perty parks is not enough.