The Case for a Basic Land Guarantee
By David Henderson
Reading Chapter V, “Of property,” in John Locke’s “Of Civil Government” for a conference a few months ago, I had an idea for getting the federal government to disgorge much of the property it owns: a Basic Land Guarantee (BLG).
We have heard much about the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG). Co-blogger Scott Sumner’s brief discussion here overlaps my discussion here. One big problem that both Scott and I point to: any BIG that has a chance of being implemented would cause a huge expansion of federal spending and taxes.
The higher taxes result from the fact that the government has to take the money from people.
What about having the government give up some of what it already owns? The U.S. government now owns over 600 million acres of land. Let the government keep all the national parks and the various federal buildings and the land the buildings are on, as well as all the military and veterans’ cemeteries. Throw in other categories I haven’t thought of and the odds are that you would have the government keep no more than 200 million acres, which is 300,000 square miles. That leaves 400 million acres to be given to people. There are approximately 325 million people in the United States, about 300 million of whom are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. So every one of the 300 million U.S. citizens and permanent residents could get an acre. The government could hold a lottery to decide which acre a U.S. citizen or permanent resident got. Of course, some acres would be worth close to zero and some might be worth a couple of hundred thousand dollars. People would be free to sell their acres and various buyers would aggregate to do something useful with the land. Some acres, of course, might be subdivided.
As noted above, one big benefit of my BLG proposal is that it would get land out of the hands of the feds and into private hands.