Avalanches Start Small   2 comments

The federal government is a perfect example of piling mistakes upon errors. Like two parallel lines which diverge only slightly, the passage of time demonstrates that a jog of only a half-degree will, over time, create a yawning gap.

To see this, we need to investigate a fundamental constitutional error that affects Alaska, creating its own tradition and momentum lasting well over a century, to the point where few even bother to investigate the merits of the controversy: federal property.

Article I, Section 8, clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution gives very lmited license to the federal government’s possession of real property:

To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and acceptance of Congress, become the seat of government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings.

Many constitutional scholars maintain that the federal government can only own the District of Columbia, post offices, federal buildings, military docks, factories and storage warehouses. The debate over “loose” versus “strict” construction of the Constitution often comes into play here. The 9th Amendment to the federal constitution interprets this clause “loosely” in regards to individual liberty while the 10th Amendment interprets it “strictly” in regards to federal power. For clarity in such constitutional balancing acts, we usually look at the Federalist Papers to assist us. James Madison, known as “The Father of the Constitution,” confirmed this in Federalist #45 when he stated that federal powers were to be “few and defined”.

Then how did the federal government come to own the millions of acres in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, battlefields, wild and scenic rivers, and the like? That certainly doesn’t sound “few or defined”.

History – we should know it, so we can learn from it.

In 1872, Yellowstone was created as the world’s first national park. Yes, the world’s FIRST national park! It was the middle of Reconstruction, just seven years after the end of the American Civil War, which subjugated not only states rights, but also much of the Constitution. Prior to the war, the government never would have attempted such a blatant violation of Article 1, Sec. 8, Cl. 17 of the US Constitution. The people would have been up in arms. The fact that national parks became and remain popular is beside the point that they are and always were unconstitutional.

Having established this beachhead while the states and the people were thoroughly cowed by the outcome of the Civil War and a large percentage of the country remained under martial law, the Progressive Era commenced to build new parks, the National Forest system, and then wildlife refuges and monuments. Western states were delivered increasingly into federal control, making the development of resources a matter of corporate influence in Congress. Individual citizens had no voice whatsoever against such power and the states had been muzzled. It took time, of course, to change the system, to do away with the gold and silver standards, the Homestead Act, ranching and the industrialization of America. During that transition time, prospectors, merchants, settlers and entrepreneurs were able to gain property in the West in a meaningful way, temporarily obscuring the long-term effects of the policy.

We didn’t see it coming and because we don’t study history, we don’t understand what we’ve lost … unless you live some place like Alaska where the industrialization of American never came about — then you see the long-term effects and wonder …

Whatever happened to America?

2 responses to “Avalanches Start Small

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  1. This was another one of Joe’s hot button points.

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