Government Should Begin Liquidating Its Assets

Bill Lockwood 


The current debt crisis brings to the fore some basic common sense principles. In the case of families and/or individuals that are drowning in debt, unable to fulfill financial obligations, financial counseling involves liquidating assets.  Ironically, the government itself would demand this of private citizens. After all, the government wishes us to be solvent enough to pay taxes.  Likewise, Uncle Sam, racking up the debt to 30+ trillion dollars, should be urged to sell its assets—unconstitutionally held land measuring up to 75% of the western states.  


The Constitution 


Article 1, section 8, clause 17 of the Constitution provides the right to Congress to exercise authority over public lands purchased within the various states. What the Constitution does not allow is the wholesale confiscation of vast territories of the west and barring private ownership. If the federal government is serious about relieving the debt crisis it will sell off to private American investors the millions of acres of National Forests and Bureau of Land Management tracts. Consider the following.  


First, the states themselves were to retain title and usage of all lands within its boundaries unless for the specified purposes listed in the Constitution, namely, the “erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock yards and other needful buildings.”  What about vast corridors of wilderness locked away from private ownership by the feds in the name of “protecting the environment?”  Not there. What about massive federal stakes in the west? Not constitutional.  


Second, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 required that all new states coming within the jurisdiction of the United States would be inducted on the basis of equality.  Citizens of such territories therefore should have retained title to all lands except for purposes specified in the Constitution.  If the Federal Government had wished to acquire lands for those purposes, payment would be given to the states. Every acre of land therefore, belongs to the states unless purchased by Washington, D.C.  


Third, when Ohio was admitted into the Union in 1803, the government unconstitutionally retained title to all public lands.  It had planned to “pay off” the national debt with the sell of those lands, promising to expedite this process as quickly as possible. Promises. Promises. 


Fourth, when the territories of the western states later came into the Union from Mexico, Congress refused to sell the vast tracts of those lands. The result is that today, more than 75% of the territory of the western states is owned and managed by the federal government—inclusive of Indian reservations. Wilderness areas, national forests, national parks and other federally managed properties make up federally held lands.  


Excluding Indian reservations, the federal government ought to begin liquidating its land assets of the west to private American investors and citizens. This would not only show honor to the Constitution, but be a sober effort to relieve Biden’s monstrous spending problem. For, as we all know, when one is required by circumstances to liquidate his holdings, he will be more careful with his future spending. To ignore this simple solution while bumping up the debt limit shows no real effort to curb the problem now, nor come to grips with spending in the future.  

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