October 16, 2012 by Anders Ingemarson
This week, let’s get away from the sometimes poisonous air of the election and get out in the open. Let’s visit one of our fabulous National Parks. I love National Parks; I have probably visited close to thirty, I think. Maria and I recently spent a week touring southern Utah which is in a class by itself when it comes to natural wonders. If you haven’t been, I strongly recommend adding it to your bucket list. The view from Angel’s landing in Zion will be with you for the rest of your life.
While driving through the amazing landscape I started pondering what will happen to our National Parks when we separate state and the economy. Compared to the size of most other government entities, our National Parks are marginal. But they are huge emotionally. We’re talking about a “national treasure” here. Nothing stirs the emotions as reading about uranium mining in the Grand Canyon and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (I know it’s not a National Park, but you get the point). But from a principled point of view, they should be separated from the state. Why? Because National Parks are not part of the core government functions required for the protection of our individual rights. And we don’t have the right to force our fellow Americans to pay for what some may not consider a value. After all, the value of a “national treasure” is only the sum total of the value individual Americans put on it, and that value varies from person to person; for some it’s zero, for others huge.
Who says we cannot have privately owned National Parks? I suspect the visiting experience would be significantly improved with more entrepreneurial involvement. No, I’m not necessarily lamenting the efforts of some dedicated people at the National Park Service (NPS). But it is a government agency, and the red tape tends to curb the enthusiasm of even the most committed individuals.
So how does one go about the separation? I suggest taking NPS public, issuing one share to each American of voting age. This would include other national designations under the NPS umbrella as well such as National Monuments, National Historic Sites, etc. As part of the package, we’d remove all federal regulations and restrictions, and face out federal funding over a few years. Then we’ll sit back and watch what happens. Or get involved if this is an area that is close to your heart.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I suspect we’ll see National Parks Inc. becoming more focused on its core assets, the top 20 or so sites, while selling off others to other individuals or groups (I would put a ban on selling to state and local government entities; separating state and the economy applies to all levels of government, and just shifting level doesn’t do us any good). I strongly believe we’d experience a surge in private investments. Not only for potential monetary profit, but for immaterial gains, as a lot of people put a personal value on our national parks, monuments and historic sites. Speaking for myself, I’d love to adopt a hoodoo in Bryce, support a grizzly in Grand Teton, or sponsor a gondola to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.