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Why the Feds (Still) Own so Much of the Country by Steve H. Hanke

The recent “occupation” of government-owned lands in Eastern Oregon by disgruntled ranchers’ motivated Quoctrung Bui and Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times to produce an edifying essay on January 6th. It was aptly titled “Why the Government Owns So Much Land in the West.” Curiously, the NYT essay fails to mention one of the most significant, recent, and contentious attempts to “dispose” of federal public lands.

When Ronald Reagan was elected president for his first term in 1980, he received strong support from the so-called Sagebrush Rebels. The Rebels wanted lands owned by the federal government to be transferred to state governments. Their champion was James Watt, a self-proclaimed Sagebrush Rebel who became the Secretary of the Interior.

When I was operating as one of President Reagan’s economic advisers, an early assignment was to analyze the federal government’s landholdings and make recommendations about what to do with them. This was a big job. These lands are vast, covering an area six times that of France.

These public lands represent a huge socialist anomaly in America’s capitalist system. As is the case with all socialist enterprises, they are mismanaged by politicians and bureaucrats dancing to the tunes of narrow interest groups. Indeed, the U.S. nationalized lands represent assets that are worth trillions of dollars, yet they generate negative net cash flows for the government.

I first presented my findings and recommendations publically at the annual Public Lands Council meeting of September 1981 in Reno, Nevada. The title of my speech was “Privatize Those Lands” — privatize being a word Mrs. Hanke, a Parisian, had imported from France.

My Reno speech caused a stir. James Watt, the Secretary of the Interior, was furious because he wanted to hand over the lands to the state governments — exchanging one form of socialism for another. Needless to say, I thought I was in deep trouble. Hoping to avoid political immolation, I rapidly sent my analysis to the President.

Reagan instantly responded, taking my side. Better yet, he swiftly made my proposals the Administration’s policy. The president endorsed privatizing federal lands in his budget message for the 1983 fiscal year:

Some of this property is not in use and would be of greater value to society if transferred to the private sector. In the next three years we would save $9 billion by shedding these unnecessary properties while fully protecting and preserving our national parks, forests, wilderness and scenic areas.

reagan in his own hand book coverIt turned out that Reagan had already thought about this issue. The book Reagan, In His Own Hand (2001) makes that clear. This volume contains 259 essays Reagan wrote in his own hand, mainly scripts for his five minute, five-day-a-week syndicated radio broadcasts in the late 1970s. Reagan, In His Own Hand contains several essays on the subject that clearly foreshadowed his policy statement on privatizing public lands. His 1970s musings on public lands echo the writings of Adam Smith. While Reagan never cited Smith, he employed similar reasoning.

Indeed, Smith concluded in The Wealth of Nations (1776) that “no two characters seem more inconsistent than those of the trader and the sovereign,” as people are more prodigal with the wealth of others than with their own. In that vein, Smith estimated that lands owned by the state were only about 25% as productive as comparable private holdings. Smith believed Europe’s great tracts of crown lands to be “a mere waste and loss of country in respect both of produce and population.”

Unfortunately, political opposition — largely from ill-informed environmentalists and some Sagebrush Rebels, too — stopped Reagan from privatizing. U.S. nationalized lands remain ill-used and a constant source of dispute.

This post fist appeared at Cato.org.

Steve H. Hanke

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) Was Behind BLM Land Grab of The Bundy Ranch

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Neil Kornze, Principal Deputy Director, Bureau of Land Management.

A article by Kit Daniels from InfoWar.com outlines in detail how corrupted Senator Reid was behind the land grab of the Bundy Ranch. It turns out that Neil Kornze, who was raised in Elko, Nevada, was a former senior advisor on Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid’s staff. Kornze joined the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2011 and had been leading the agency as the Principal Deputy Director. He was subsequently appointed Director of the Bureau of Land Management, by a US Senate vote of 71 to 28. The BLM oversees more than 245 million acres of public lands nationwide, including 48 million acres in Nevada.

So why did Senator Reid’s aide who owed his appointment to his old boss go after Cliven Bundy’s cattle ranch that had been in the Bundy family since 1870?

It turns out that in 2012, Harry Reid’s son, Rory Reid who is lawyer with the prominent Harvey Whittemore law firm in Las Vegas, became the chief representative for a Chinese Communist Energy Giant, ENN Energy Group. Journalist Marcus Stern with Reuters reported that Senator Reid was heavily involved in a “DEAL,” as well as his oldest son Rory Reid who works for lobbyist Harvey Whittemore. Whittemore was convicted in 2013 of illegally funneling $100,000 to Senator Reid’s campaign.

Rory and his father were both involved in an effort to get the ENN Energy Group to build a $5 billion utility scale solar energy facility and panel manufacturing plant in the Nevada desert. Rather than helping a US energy company benefit from such a development, Harry Reid helped the Chinese develop a utility scale solar energy plant. Marcus Stern wrote that that Senator Reid has been the most prominent advocate of recruiting the Communist Chinese Energy Giant, ENN Energy Group on his trip to Communist China in 2011. It was during this same time frame that Senator Reid placed his senior senate advisor, Neil Kornze, in the BLM as the Principal Deputy Director.

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Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)

Marcus Stern reported that Harry Reid applied his political muscle on behalf of developing the ENN project in Nevada (Regional Mitigation Strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone : Technical Note 444). Then in 2012, Rory Reid facilitated ENN in developing plans to build the $5 billion solar plant on public land in Nevada by helping the ENN locate a 9000 acre desert site that it planned to buy well below the going market value of land sold by Clark County. Rory Reid as the former Chairman of the Clark County Commission helped facilitate the deal.

Unfortunately the problem with the area was that the 908 head of cattle in the herd on 67 year old Cliven Bundy’s family Bundy Ranch roamed and grazed free as they had been doing since the 1870, their grazing on open range would interfere with the Chinese Communist Energy Giant, ENN Energy Group’s solar field.

So Rory Reid, working with Neil Kornze, trumped up the bogus charge that the grazing cattle were destroying an endangered species, the desert tortoise. The desert tortoise were proliferating (they were not in danger), despite the fact that the cattle from the Bundy Ranch had been grazing in their habitat for over 140 years, in fact the Interior Department had implemented euthanasia of the desert tortoise to keep the population from getting out of control.

The BLM’s official reason for encircling the Bundy Ranch and family with sniper teams and helicopters was to protect the endangered desert tortoise which the Interior Department had been killing in mass for some time. Journalist Dana Loesch wrote “The tortoise wasn’t of concern when US Senator Harry Reid worked with the BLM and his former senior aide, Neil Kornze, who was now in charge of the BLM when they were literally changing the boundaries of the tortoise habitat to accommodate the development plans of the Communist Chinese Energy Giant, ENN Energy Group and the second most powerful man in Nevada, after Senator Reid, Harvey Whittemore,” who just happened to be the employer for Rory Reid’s and Rory’s three brothers (Harry Reid’s four sons).

Unfortunately, the media establishment spun the story so Americans would view Cliven Bundy as grossly violating federal regulations and a law breaker, not the true story of how Senator Reid was facilitating a Communist Chinese Energy Giant to come into the United States, displacing any possibility of a US Energy Company from getting to develop solar energy in Nevada.

Reid arranged for the Communists to get ownership of US public land in Nevada below the going market price, while using Gestapo-style tactics to illegally remove a Patriotic Cattle Rancher off the land his family owned since the 1870s in violation of the rights accorded him by the US Constitution, the Tenth Amendment, and the Bill of Rights. It should have been a story about the overreach by yet another bloated, corrupt, and out of control bureaucracy that was doing absolutely nothing to manage the overgrowth on public land that they were supposed to be doing. In fact, the cattle from the Bundy Ranch were feeding on the overgrowth keeping the overgrowth under control.

The principle and courageous stand by Cliven Bundy in the face of an oppressive BLM and the prosecution by Holder’s Justice Department, while fining him $1 million, illegally rustling 400 cattle of his herd, surrounding his family with snipers, knocking down his pregnant daughter-in-law, grinding Clive’s head into the dirt with boots on his head, arresting his son for taking photos of the Gestapo-type tactics, and tazing his son three times. Cliven Bundy’s principled stand was a seminal event, Patriotic Americans from all over the Republic mobilized, rode to the aide of the rancher with American flags flying, and supported the Bundy Ranch against an out of control government bureaucracy.

When Neil Kornze realized the magnitude of the opposition he and Reid engendered from throughout the Republic, resulting in over 3000+ armed Americans who had arrived on the Bundy Ranch (with thousands more enroute), in opposition to his 200 federal armed guards, Kornze released the 400 rustled cattle he intended to sell, and pulled his 200 federal armed guards back from the brink of an armed conflict with very angry American citizens from throughout the Republic, who now had their own snipers in place at the ranch aimed at the 200 federal armed guards. This attempt at grand larceny by the BLM, and violation of Cliven Bundy’s freedoms all Americans are afforded by the US Constitution requires a Congressional investigation and actions in the courts to charge the BLM.

We wonder if the Republican leadership in Congress will do anything about this attempt by an agency of the US Government to support a group in Nevada commit grand larceny on behalf of the Chinese Communist Energy Giant, or will they just let it ride, and hope it goes away?

RELATED STORIES:

The Bundy Ranch: This is Obama Paying Back China With Our Oil and Gas

Bureau Of Land Management Versus Cliven Bundy Post Mortem

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of InfoWars.com.