Chairman Don Young (R-AK) of the House Resource Committee, with considerable help from George Miller (D-CA) and his cadre of environmentalists, were recently successful in passing the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA), HR 70 1. Senator Murkowski (R-AK). is preparing to secure passage of the same legislation in the Senate as S 25, CARA would provide money for purchase of private property by federal, state, local governments, Indian tribes, and environmental groups. $2.4 billion per year would be made available from offshore oil revenues. Opponents of the bill say it would eventually eliminate ownership of private property in America. In so doing, it signals the end of Congress as an independent branch of government. The debate on HR 701 for all its exuberance avoided the fundamental question. Why does the government need our land? Basic economics tells us all wealth originates in the land and by extension the sea. The hallmark of a free society has always been citizen ownership of land. The hallmark of a totalitarian society has been government control of land.

A free society is, of necessity, a society in which the government must come to the people for its operating budget. A government that must depend on the people for its income must listen to what the people and their representatives have to say. The US was originally structured on the strict premise that the government be limited in land and resource ownership. Indeed, history shows us that free societies and private ownership of the resource base are inseparable, the degree of freedom and the degree of private ownership being basically proportionate.

Coercive or totalitarian societies demand government ownership or control of the resource base. If government controls means of production it has a source of income independent of the people and does not need permission of the people to justify its actions. In a coercive or totalitarian society, the people do not need representatives or a Congress to protect property rights that do not exist. They do not need a common law of property because the people have no property. They do not need a Constitution to limit the power of government to intrude into the peopleÕs property rights because the people have no property rights. Government is total; totalitarian. It can, and does, rule by decree.

It has often been stated the only reason for government is to protect property. The founders of the US system of constitutional government often expressed this concept. The statement is just as true of a coercive form of government as it is of a free society. In a free society, government functions to protect the peopleÕs property from government. In a coercive society, government functions to protect the governmentÕs property from the people.

The US, which was founded on the concept of representative government, has evolved toward a coercive form of government. The US government which originally was limited to owning land necessary for forts, dockyards, and other needful buildings, and then only by purchase from the states with the consent of that stateÕs legislature, has emerged today as the ostensible owner of 43% of the nationÕs land. When land ownership by states and local governments is added, private citizens own less than 50% of the nationÕs resource base.

This erosion of private control of means of production in the US has been growing throughout the nationÕs history with a major change coming after the Civil War when Western lands began to be nationalized as collateral to secure the nationÕs foreign debts. National forests and national monuments joined the original national parks, but the biggest increase in nationalized lands corresponds with birth of the environmental movement. Laws passed to ÒprotectÓ endangered species, clean air, clean water, etc., have one primary function. That function is to drive US citizens off the resource base. What were once domestically owned mines are now mostly owned by international conglomerates. Domestic oil and gas producers have largely been absorbed by energy producing corporations of global proportions. Domestically owned timber production has been largely eliminated, leaving large corporate and international interests in control of the nationÕs timber resources.

If we follow the money, we find the international corporate entities, which have come to control so many of the nationÕs resources, are themselves tied to international banking and financial institutions. The global economy has come of age and the independent domestic producer of natural resources is rapidly disappearing from the American landscape. Where he still remains he is maligned as a despoiler of our mother earth and regulated into economic strangulation.