Objectivism and the National Parks

Posted by empedocles 5 years, 3 months ago to Philosophy
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Having learned about Atlas Shrugged through the movies and subsequently through a reading of the book, I'm struggling to reconcile the National Parks along with her pro-business views. For example, what are your thoughts on Hetch Hetchy? I struggle with it as a backpacker and a businessman.
SOURCE URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hetch_Hetchy


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  • Posted by  $  Temlakos 5 years, 3 months ago
    Very simply: we would not have government parks. Instead, if people wanted to save a parcel of land apart from development, let them form a company for that purpose, to subsist on private donations if necessary. (For in the Objectivist universe, taxation would limit itself to a voluntary fee for the support of whatever police protection the park would require, that the company would not provide by itself.)

    Rand did, to be sure, propose continued development. But a parkland might support itself on fees that certain groups might pay to it for opportunities for organized group tent camping, hiking, riding, and other activities involving "outdoor survival" skills. So long as enough people know those skills have value, they will want a place to practice them. And they will pay for it. Directly, not buried in some budget along with a lot of "pork." And I imagine that artists will pay for it, too, to have vistas where they can go for inspiration.
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  • Posted by LionelHutz 5 years, 3 months ago
    National parks seem like a form of eminent domain. Eminent domain is necessary, but ought to be kept to a minimum in order to maximize the freedom of the people to enjoy their pursuit of life, liberty, and property.
    I've got no issue with the fed gov carving up a chunk of land for a military base - it's a necessary function. Ditto for something like Washington DC office space. However, I think you're getting into frivolity when you're declaring tens of thousands of acres off limits because "it looks pretty".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_lan...

    Excerpt: "As of March 2012, out of the 2.27 billion acres in the country, about 28% of the total was owned by the Federal government..."

    I don't think the founders would approve.
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    • Posted by  $  Solver 5 years, 3 months ago
      As long as it is for the greater good, eminent domain is necessary, just like fraud and the initiation of force against innocent individuals are also necessary. Necessary, to break the bonds of limited government. Necessary, to negate individual rights one by one. Necessary, for statism to flourish.
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      • Posted by 5 years, 3 months ago
        The greater good is a slippery slope.
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        • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years, 3 months ago
          Correctamundo. For example, there are a few examples (and increasing all the time) of one private property owner having his property seized merely to be given to another private owner who promises to develop it and provide a higher tax payment. I know of at least 2 of these situations where the land confiscated via eminent domain were never subsequently developed and now sit empty (and likely not on the tax rolls at all).

          Greater good is merely a euphemism for "what I want, and to hell with you."
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          • Posted by katrinam41 5 years, 3 months ago
            Yes, Robbie, there are a few examples out there, even a little one like the one our tiny little beach community was involved in. the county decided it wanted to make our community's private beach into a public access and so cut down all kinds of foliage (against their own laws) to make a parking lot in the sand. They also moved the cement blockades. We rented a backhoe, put the blockades back in place and stood there waiting for trouble to develop. The police showed up, with a K-9 unit (!), but we were just standing there on our own property, so they did nothing. It was all caused by a county councilman who decided that the county owned 7% of the 100foot beach and therefore had the right to do anything it wanted without anyone's permission... It's been a battle ever since, with lawyers going to court and no judge bothering to look at the deeds and paperwork that govern the land.
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    • Posted by  $  winterwind 5 years, 3 months ago
      Lionel -
      WHAT?! "eminent domain is necessary"??!" defend that statement, if you can. I don't think it can be done without twisting yourself into a collectivist pretzel.
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      • Posted by LionelHutz 5 years, 3 months ago
        I suspect you have in mind the active taking of land away from individuals, and that's not really where I'm going here. I might be using the wrong term - that's why I said federal ownership of land "seems like a form of" eminent domain. The end-result is the same: a property the people can never own because the government does. I gave examples: Washington DC and military bases. I'm not really up on the subject, but I imagine a state simply cedes control of this territory to the federal government to create these zones. Not sure what the mechanism is for national parks. Just saying the federal government does need to own land, and they do need to get it from somewhere, and that amounts to a taking even if it looks like a give-away, and it is necessary because otherwise we can't even have functional government offices.
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        • Posted by  $  winterwind 5 years, 3 months ago
          Thanks for the clarification.
          I don't know how it works in state-to-federal government transactions. I don't know if anybody knows.
          Just keep in mind, [A] no government gets money to buy things from anywhere except taxes and fees. [B] Do they decide that they get what they say they need? Remember 20th Century Motor Co!
          Governments are omnivorous monsters, devouring anything in their paths, and most of what they leave behind is deep footprints and poop.
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        • Posted by ewv 5 years, 3 months ago
          The National Park Service has taken millions of acres of private property by eminent domain and constantly lusts for more.

          This is illustrated by the travesty imposed by the National Park Service in the Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio, which was the subject of an older Jessica Savitch PBS Frontlines documentary "For the Good of All" that you can watch at the American Land Rights website http://www.landrights.org/VideoGoodOfAll... The travesty at Cuyahoga is unique only in that it was caught on film by documentarians. It illustrates the mentality of the bureaucrats very well.
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        • Posted by Zenphamy 5 years, 3 months ago
          Lionel: "and it is necessary because otherwise we can't even have functional government offices" They could always pay rent. Might even let taxpayers see more of the actual costs of the government as it grows.
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        • Posted by  $  Zero 5 years, 3 months ago
          Interesting point about military bases.

          As you've seen, most OBJ's abhor eminent domain - but what about seizure of land for military purposes.

          Assuming the need is objectively genuine, I think we'd probably have to weigh on the side of defense then.

          Anybody...?
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    • Posted by khalling 5 years, 3 months ago
      Well it was initially "purchased " or won in a war by a government which fullfills the definition of improvement. I don 't know how often eminent domain has been used for military bases but I know in many cases the govt purchases the land. Recently Ft. Carson wanted to expand but did not get cooperation from many ranchers even though the majority of land owners were receptive. They had to drop it.
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  • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years, 3 months ago
    The fact that the gov't failed to anticipate future needs and thus allowed homesteading of such areas is no excuse. Once the area has been homesteaded, it becomes private land. At such point, if the gov't wants it for other purposes, then it needs to purchase it from the rightful owners. Eminent domain is evil. It says that nothing is truly your property, it is merely on loan to you from the gov't which can revoke such loan at its whim.
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  • Posted by m082844 5 years, 3 months ago
    Objectivism's view in politics is very clear. The only proper role of government is to secure individual rights and not to violate them. Government owned parks doesn't meet that standard -- that activity has nothing to do with securing rights.
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  • Posted by  $  Flootus5 5 years, 3 months ago
    This is a topic that I have paid a lot of attention to. Living in the State of Nevada that is purported to be 87% "owned" by the federal government, this has been a big issue affecting the quality of life for citizens.

    The issue is very simple, the history of how it has all been usurped is long and complex. But in short Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 outlines under what terms the federal government can own land within a State. Post Office lots, arsenals, forts, dockyards to serve the federal government's limited duties. Embedded in the Constitution in the Property, Supremacy, and General Welfare Clauses - those much abused excuses for rampant, unlimited federal expansion - is the Equal Footing Doctrine. This Doctrine is simple. Any new State admitted to the Union does so on an Equal Footing with the original 13.

    Did the federal government own land within the original 13? No, the colonies preceded the federal government, so all that was owned within the early States was sites for those exact enumerated purposes - forts, dockyards, arsenals, post office lots, etc. And requiring cession from the State wherein the property may lay.

    So, we come to the Territories acquired by purchase under Treaty. Louisiana Purchase, Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, etc. The language in the treaties specifically state that the lands will be held in trust, as was held in the original Northwest and Southwest Ordinances, until such time that these territories be admitted to the Union as States on an Equal Footing as the original 13. The feds have no such power to retain "ownership" of public lands within a State.

    Now, what if the federal government should create a National Park before such region be admitted as a State? One might be tempted to argue, as in the case of Yellowstone created before Wyoming was admitted as a State, that the Park could stand as a Park. However, there is no enumeration in Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 empowering the federal government to create National Parks.

    That is the purview of the States, for which the Tenth Amendment reserves all other matters not specifically delegated to the feds. While we may enjoy the Parks and Monuments and may wish to maintain them as such (or not), this is a State matter alone. So, the 87% of Nevada that has been purloined by the federal government is actually State public lands for the benefit of Nevada citizens and others. And this through privatization of various rights and titles - or State Parks. Anything less renders the citizens of the State of Nevada as second class citizens to those of other non-public land States.
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    • Posted by ewv 5 years, 3 months ago
      Is there any state constitution that empowered a state to create parks? The tenth amendment leaving powers to the states not explicitly granted in the Constitution to the Federal government, but that does not make it proper for state government to be statist and collectivist. A big factor that prevented reforms in the 1980s of Federal land was the infighting within the sagebrush rebellion over whether the Federal land should revert to the states or to private ownership in states like Nevada.

      The 'equal footing' of the newer states in the west was subverted by agreements, as a condition of statehood, to turn over all the unowned territorial land to the Federal government. At that time it was still expected that the policy of settlement and claiming of unowned land would continue, but with the process administered by the Federal government instead of the territories as they became states. That changed dramatically with the onset of the early progressive movement in the last part of the 19th century when the Federal government reversed the policy of settlement to entrench permanent Federal control over the unowned land.

      As for the National Parks, they were initially carved out of 'public' lands in the west, then taken from private land, often by eminent domain. The state legislatures have routinely consented to the ceding of land in the states to Federal control under Article 1, section 8, paragraph 17 (even though there is no Constitutional authority for National Parks there or anywhere else). The National Park Service was created by Congress as an Executive agency in 1916 under the progressives. By the 1920s and 30s thousands of people in entire communities were being displaced, along with seizing the timber lands, in the east at the Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks. They have continued that policy ever since, which has only been politically slowed by public resistance.

      The problem of Federal land in western states like Nevada is only a part of the more general problem of losing private property rights everywhere, including the threat of Federal eminent domain and regulatory takings of private property driven by the viro movement.

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      • Posted by  $  Flootus5 5 years, 3 months ago
        Good points and good history. The equal footing of a State such as Nevada has been said to be subverted by agreements, in this case the Enabling Act for Nevada in 1864 that was approved by Congress and the Territorial Government in effect at the time of the Act. The enabling act indeed has language leaving the public lands with the federal government and after Territorial Status. The key thing to know is that an action by the Territorial Government is not binding on the subsequent State. Look to the enabling act for Oklahoma where the Territorial government attempted to stipulate that the State capitol would be Guthrie, Oklahoma. We know how that turned out.

        The reason that Territorial Acts are not binding on the subsequent State is just that: The Equal Footing Doctrine. Nevada passed its NRS Statutes 321 series acknowledging this power and jurisdiction and laying claim to the public lands. You are correct that politics, primarily sell out politics of those favoring federal hegemony and largesse undermined the 321 statutes by leaving it to the discretion of the Attorney General. In Nevada, the Attorney General is an elected position and the battle has been on to ensure the statists have always controlled that seat. But ownership is there for the taking, if the State showed enough backbone.

        As for a State constitution empowering a State to create parks, no need, that is one of the many powers left to the State, hence the many numerous State Parks in many States. The wisdom of such collectivism is another matter of debate, but at least when at the State level, it is closer to the People affected.

        There is also another Constitutional Doctrine regarding the abdication of Constitutionally separated delegated powers. The separation of powers both horizontal and vertical cannot be abrogated between branches of government and between the States and the federal government. i.e., the consent of State legislatures to the ceding of land to the federal government within their borders is unconstitutional and null and void from the get go.

        The solution of course is in the wisdom of our Constitution - if it were to be followed. When not followed, in every arena and endeavor it creates a mess, a milieu of corruption, influence, coercion, bribery, and all to the general degradation of the life, liberty, and happiness of We the People.

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  • Posted by  $  Susanne 5 years, 3 months ago
    The O'Shaugennessy dam was a solution that worked - provided a water source for what was then a major metro area (for the early 1900's) and generated power for it as well. Without that power and water the industry (and military base) that grew up in the SF Bay area would never have happened.

    As a natural preserve - while the Hetch-Hetchy valley is, indeed, flooded it is still a beautiful and striking area. It truly serves a dual purpose of a recreational area and a lifeline for a few million people.

    What makes me laugh is the starry-eyed people who clamor "Destroy the dam and restore the valley". That piece of dirt has been underwater for some century or so... even the most determined restoration effort (at how many billions of OUR tax dollars) it will never look or be as when John Muir hiked through it. It can *never* be "restored" - just drained, planted, reseeded, maybe move dome rocks around, add some concrete to bolster the bottom of the many falls, and make it a Disneyland.

    Yeah, had it never been dammed - then it would be different. But it was. And people now need it for their lives and businesses. Considering it is a link in a system designed to water a desert peninsula (and state), when the state has so many ongoing water problems, killing it - would be akin to a death sentence for a large chunk of California.
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  • Posted by teri-amborn 5 years, 3 months ago
    Even though we frequent the National Parks, there remains the principle that government shouldn't own land at all.

    When government began creeping into land ownership it began the violation of individual property rights.

    As for the Hetch Hetchy Valley dam and subsequent flooding thereof, 1934 was before the invention of desalinization plants.
    I've often quipped that our government can spend money frivolously in California for a railroad across the desert and LA will drain Owen's Valley for its water resources but won't spend money on desalinization plants for Southern California.
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  • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years, 3 months ago
    The National Parks are completely counter to AR values. I love the national parks, but the first thing I would do as president would be to sell them to the highest bidder.
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    • Posted by katrinam41 5 years, 3 months ago
      jb, please keep those bidders in this country...too many acres are already under the control of other nations like China or entities like the U.N. Even better, return them to the states in which they sit and let the states take care of it. :)
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    • Posted by khalling 5 years, 3 months ago
      That's the very first thing you would do?
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      • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years, 3 months ago
        OK, I would put them on the market. There are many things that I would do on the first day. Debt reduction is critical. Selling all federal land, other than some defense bases and nuclear facilities, would unleash a few Ellis Wyatts and Ken Danaggers. Trickle down economics starts properly from those who are able to obtain the natural resources from which to make products.
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        • Posted by khalling 5 years, 3 months ago
          Well I think you 'd need Congress's approval j. Actually this is kind of fun. I 'd dismantle the majority of federal agencies and the others I would hamstring into a regulatory bill of rights. I 'd repeal ACA by executive order and change interstate commerce laws to allow people to move with their insurance. I 'd send lots of reinforcement to the southern border. And release all non -violent drug offenders from prison. I 'd also get DoJ on all recent anti trust cases and release those jailed or reduce those fined. I 'd sign orders to regionalize Federal offices significantly reducing the importance of DC. Oh I 'd getstarted on pork bills like abolishing farm subsidies. Ok your turn...

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          • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years, 3 months ago
            The national parks were established via executive order, so they should be . In order to free up the Wyatts and Danaggers, I would have to also revoke prior executive orders that the EPA now administers.
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            • Posted by ewv 5 years, 3 months ago
              National Parks are established by acts of Congress, not executive order.
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              • Posted by  $  jbrenner 5 years, 3 months ago
                I stand corrected.
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                • Posted by ewv 5 years, 3 months ago
                  You may have been thinking of National Monuments, which the president has the authority to decree for any Federal lands (including the entrapment of private inholdings). That power is a corruption and abuse of the Antiquities Act of 1906 which was originally sold as preserving small historic sites such as Indian artifacts on Federal land in the west, but which has been exploited ever since to lock up massive amounts of land.

                  Clinton did that at the end of his administration -- along with pardoning terrorists, etc. --at the almost 2 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, cutting off massive deposits of coal in a controversy still being fought in the courts. There is a real danger that Obama will repeat this pattern before his term of office is over -- including collaborations with wealthy "private" viros and their pressure groups buying land as a "gift" to the government in order to impose Federal control. Once a National Monument is established, it is politically easier to turn it into a National Park.

                  A new National Park requires Congressional approval, but once they have it, the President, his Interior Secretary, and the National Park Service bureaucracy have enormous arbitrary powers including eminent domain.
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  • Posted by tkstone 5 years, 3 months ago
    One thing I find interesting for in studying the history of the valley is the reference to the "native" people who were there before the Europeans. Apparently they were fighting over the property rights long before us. The question is what initiates a property right. Force? Productive ability? What would have happened if the Europeans had respected the land rights of the first people there. Apparently they had a system of production in place that the new comers did not appreciate. Once property rights are not respected a viscious cycle begins until that respect is restored.
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    • Posted by ewv 5 years, 3 months ago
      The Indians were tribalist collectivists with no concept of private property rights. Their control over land they mostly wandered through was a primitive form of political control, not ownership. They had no land rights to "respect". They weren't fighting over property rights, they engaged in constant senseless wars between tribes.

      You can't 'steal' something from someone who has no concept of ownership, only tribalist control, and there is no 'right' to maintain collectivist control anywhere. Anyone had a right to settle the unowned land and establish a more individualist form of government. Unowned land in the wilderness was properly claimed by individuals settling and using the land.

      In the early history of the settlers, much of the problems in claiming land were obstructions from "grants" of land from royalty in England giving their cronies the privilege to control vast areas they had no moral right to, and who then tried to impose a form of feudalism and quitrents to be paid by settlers. It lasted for a very long time in some places, but was eventually broken up, even though the system of taxes on land continued. There was a lot of government corruption and statism (including theocracy in the earliest period), causing controversy and resistance from the people in the evolution of the American colonies which isn't normally taught in school history.

      Remember that the earliest centuries of settling the American continent were pre-Enlightenment, but it was still a more advanced stage of civilization and personal individualism than the primitive tribalism of the Indians.
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    • Posted by khalling 5 years, 3 months ago
      Improvement. Even buying an empty lot and reselling it is an improvement because you had to bring your value into the purchase. Same with the next buyer. I 'm not sure about all cases, but I know where Pueblo Indians had established permanence and farms, we not only respected most of those communities we helped protect them from other nomadic tribes. Nomadic peoples tend to pillage. After all the have little infrastructure to store and tend to live closer to starvation. The creation of national parks is nationalistic not capitalistic. We enjoy them at our expense but not our decisions. Most are run like military installations.
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      • Posted by  $  jlc 5 years, 3 months ago
        Actually, we almost exterminated them - I think pretty late in the game ~ 1890 or so. They lost so many people that they had to purchase wool yarn from Pennsylvania (which is how I came across the data - I was trying to track the origin of 3-ply yarn. Three ply yarn is termed 'Navaho ply' by us white folk; apparently the Navajo call it 'white man ply'.).

        Jan
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    • Posted by Robbie53024 5 years, 3 months ago
      The homestead principle is the principle by which one gains ownership of an unowned natural resource by performing an act of original appropriation. Appropriation could be enacted by putting an un-owned resource to active use (as with using it to produce a product), joining it with previously acquired property or by marking it as owned (as with livestock branding).

      The Homestead Act of 1862 gave 160 acres to people (many qualifiers) who applied for a land grant.
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    • Posted by teri-amborn 5 years, 3 months ago
      For the Native population it was more like "territory protection" rather than "property rights" as we know them today.

      Much like all aboriginal peoples they thought of themselves as being part of the land. The idea of land ownership was a foreign thought.
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  • Posted by  $  jlc 5 years, 3 months ago
    The Nature Conservatory and other organizations are providing for wilderness areas buy buying land that is for sale. This is the way that I think parks should be created. If someone wants to buy a big chunk o'land and dedicate it to regulated public use and put together a trust to control it down the years...that is something that provides for the desire of people to camp in nature once a year - but in this case, the hunk of nature is not owned by any government.

    So, Yes on the public parks idea but No on the Federal parks idea. (I have learned more about federal parks and land use on this list than in any other venue.) On the State parks...I am not so decided. I think it depends on 'how the State got the land'. Could a private party give the state a park under the condition that it would administer it? That might be a fair deal.

    I do not hold that the Indians are the actual owners of the land. The current Indians are not the original inhabitants - they took the land from predecessors, just as our European ancestors migrated into Europe and conquered land there.

    Jan
    (But if you ever donate to the Nature Conservatory, they will hound you longer than an alumni association.)
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    • Posted by ewv 5 years, 3 months ago
      The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is a major source of pressure for government control. They operate as a real estate front for the Federal government, flipping land to agencies like the National Park Service and the US Fish & Wildlife Service, exploit insider connections to set priorities for government acquisition, and are thoroughly entrenched in government controls in all states and many foreign countries. TNC lobbied for and got state preservationist laws restricting private property in all the states and even planted its own personnel in state agencies to run them. Do NOT donate to TNC.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 5 years, 3 months ago
    A thing of beauty becomes less so if you cannot raise crops, drink water or feed yourself. There are many reasons to sustain the growth of population through natural resource management. Everything the government does, and that includes National Parks, can be done better and more efficiently, and probably cost less by private enterprise. Remember just a little while ago, how Obama closed National Parks and monuments for no legitimate reason? The government has way too much power in every aspect of its endeavors. It's an octopus invading every aspect of our lives with its tentacles, and we are its sustenance.
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  • Posted by flanap 5 years, 3 months ago
    The National Parks project is just another exercise in deception where the "benevolent" gov't beguiles the populous with preservation for "beauty" while seeking increased control of the same.
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  • Posted by  $  blarman 5 years, 3 months ago
    I don't believe there should be National parks at all. State parks, yes. National parks, no - with the possible exception of Washington, D.C. I'd like to turn most of that into a park...
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    • Posted by ewv 5 years, 3 months ago
      Restore the Potomac wetlands, yes, but state parks are still government run parks with eminent domain authority to get the land and taxes to support them.
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  • Posted by tkstone 5 years, 3 months ago
    My point exactly. The natives were managing the valley to produce a specific set of plants to harvest and attract game. Inefficient use of land to be sure, but still a claim wouldn't you say? To truly be respected should not their ownership be recognized?
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  • Posted by  $  winterwind 5 years, 3 months ago
    "What on your thoughts on Hetch Hetchy?" is a huge question. Do you want to know what I think about National Parks and Monuments generally? on the dam/restore this canyon specifically? On the selling of electric power from the dam machinations?
    We could talk about even these questions for days [and probably will] but how about starting with a smaller, more specific question?
    point for asking for our "thoughts" rather than our "feelings" or "beliefs". [If you don't know, that's the little number to the left of your name. You get them for saying something interesting, bringing up an interesting topic, and sometimes for a brilliant turn of phrase. It's not a "like", it's a "may I have some more, please?".
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    • Posted by 5 years, 3 months ago
      This is the philosophy section of this site, so I have high expectations.

      The Hetch Hetchy question requires the reader to inform themselves about it and come up with an opinion.

      Some simple questions to think about. Should it have been dammed? Should we have National Parks? Then, how do you reconcile your answers with your thoughts on objectivism?
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      • Posted by  $  winterwind 5 years, 3 months ago
        I also have high expectations. One of them is that a member raising an unfamiliar subject inform those he wishes to engage in discussion and pose a question that can be covered in this forum in a day or two.
        I read the article you posted, and was curious about which subject, of the many in the article, you were interested in discussing. The question "what do you think?" remains too broad. Your revised questions are better.
        Should it have been dammed? I have no idea - there's no way to wrap my mind around every single element of that decision. In general, if done correctly, I am in favor of hydroelectricity.
        National Parks? My very first philosophy teacher - a escapee from Soviet Russia - said that the very first thing that should be done in discussion is to define the terms, so we know what we are talking about. So....
        National Parks. Who originally owned the land? How was it acquired? How are its various facilities maintained? Who has access? Who makes the rules, who can influence those rules, and how? in shorter words, what is a National Park?
        When I know what you'd like to talk about, I'll see about breaking the time free to talk about how that relates to Objectivism. There's lots to talk about here.
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  • Posted by tdechaine 5 years, 3 months ago
    Govt. should only own land required for those legitimate functions that protect rights. NPs would then exist to the extent that private enterprises deemed it profitable to purchase the land and open it to the public.
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