by Wayne Hage, Chairman

Don Young (R-AK) of the House Resource Committee, with considerable help from left wing extremist George Miller (D-CA) and his cadre of environmentalists, were recently successful in the passage of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA), HR 701. Senator Murkowski (R-AK), is preparing to secure passage of the same legislation in the Senate as S25. CARA would provide money for the purchase of private property by federal, state, local governments, Indian tribes and environmental groups. 2.4 billion dollars per year would be made available from offshore oil revenues. Opponents of the bill say it would eventually eliminate the 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 that all wealth originates in the land and by extension the sea. The hallmark of a free society has always been citizen ownership of the land. The hallmark of a totalitarian society has been government control of the 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 source of income is one that must listen to what the people and their representatives have to say. The United States 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 the means of production it has a source of income independent of the people and certainly does not need the 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 people's 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 that the only reason for government is to protect property. The founders of the United States 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 people's property from government. In a coercive society, government functions to protect the government's property from the people.

The United States, which was founded on the concept of representative government has evolved toward a coercive form of government. The United States 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 the state legislature has emerged today as the ostensible owner of 43% of the nation's land. When land ownership by states and local governments is added, the private citizens of the nation own less than 50% of the nation's resource base.

This erosion of private control of the means of production in the United States has been growing throughout the nation's history with a major change coming after the Civil War when western lands began to be nationalized as collateral to secure the nation's foreign debts. National forests and national monuments joined the original national parks, but the biggest increase in nationalized lands corresponds with the birth of the environmental movement. Laws passed to "protect" endangered species, clean air, clean water, etc., have one primary function. That function is to drive the United States citizens off the resource base. What were once domestically owned mines are now mostly owned by international mining 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 nation's timber resources.

If we continue to follow the money, we find that the international corporate entities, which have come to control so many of the nation's 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.

If one were to attempt establishing a birth date for the modern day environmental movement, the evidence clearly points to the early and mid 1960's. Almost overnight we went from the long held premise that the world and its resources were created for the benefit of man and that private ownership of resources was the best method to insure resource conservation and renewal; to accepting the dogma that resources of and by themselves have some heretofore unrecognized mystic value and only collective control of resources under government can adequately protect them.

Another event of world significance took place as the modern environmental movement was being formed. That event was the collapse of the Bretton Woods agreement. The synergism of these two events has had a greater impact on the constitutionally protected rights of Americans than any other two events in the nation's history. Under the guise of protecting endangered species, endangered habitat, wild rivers, old growth timber, clean water, clean air and a host of other frauds; property, wealth and personal freedom is being confiscated by government at an ever accelerating rate.

The Bretton Woods agreement emerged from a meeting of the allied nations of WWII as the war was concluding. The meeting held in Bretton Woods, New Jersey in 1944, was prompted by the urgent need for a stable world foreign exchange system to deal with postwar rebuilding. The world's foreign exchange system had been experiencing various degrees of instability, sometimes bordering on chaos, since the breakdown of the world gold standard at the onset of WWI. That instability had been a major contributor to a worldwide depression and a second World War. The US was so impacted by the collapse of the gold standard and the ensuing depression of the 1930's that in 1933 President Franklin Roosevelt invoked the War Powers Act and by executive order confiscated gold held by American citizens. This gold was used to back the foreign exchange capabilities of the US in world trade.

Prior to 1933, a US citizen held gold and gold denominated currency and bonds as primary forms of money. Currency and bonds were freely convertible to gold upon demand. After 1933, if a US citizen was caught with a gold coin in his possession, he was subject to a $10,000 dollar fine and or 10 years in prison. Gold-backed debt instruments of the US were converted to non-gold backed debt instruments. This posed a major dilemma for holders of US treasury bills, bonds and notes. The question became if treasury debt instruments are not convertible to gold, what are they convertible to? The federal reserve notes they would have to be redeemed in were again nothing but lower denominational debt instruments. Where was the real collateral value behind this debt? The standard answer to that question was-the natural resources and all other assets of the US provided the collateral value backing treasury debt. Bondholders were assured that there was far more oil, gas, gold, silver, iron, copper, timber and other resource values in the federal lands of the western US and Alaska than there was debt. Bondholders were, if anything over collateralized. Besides, they were assured; because the debt was internalized, meaning only US citizens could own US debt, we in fact owed the debt to ourselves. The new treasury debt offerings even though not backed by or convertible to gold were adequately if not abundantly secured.

Under the Bretton Woods agreement the US dollar, convertible in foreign exchange for gold became the world's key currency. Foreign holders of US dollars could demand gold convertibility and it would be honored. It remained illegal for US citizens to hold gold. The Bretton Woods agreement held together for twenty years but by the early 1960's signs of disintegration of the arrangement became apparent. As the US continued to borrow money on its assets and to issue debt currency and other dollar denominated debt instruments, foreign holders of dollars became uneasy as to the ready convertibility of their holdings to gold. Francis Charles de Gaul was the first to sound the alarm demanding that France's dollar holding be exchanged for US gold.

This uncertainty was aggravated by the excessive borrowing brought on by the US involvement in the Vietnam War and huge domestic spending to support the "great society" programs of the Johnson administration. The selling of US debt to foreign interests (externalizing the debt) was necessary to support these efforts. There was insufficient lending capacity domestically to support this massive increase in spending.

When it became apparent to foreign holders of dollars and dollar denominated US debt instruments that the US may not be able to redeem these holdings in gold, foreign cashing of dollars for gold increased. When Nixon took office in 1968 the problem of convertibility was at a crisis stage and the Bretton Woods agreement was rapidly falling into disarray. On Aug 15, 1971 Nixon sounded the Death bell for the Bretton Woods agreement by closing the "gold window."

Alarm quickly spread among foreign holders of US debt. They asked the obvious question. If US debt was not convertible to gold, what was its value? What collateralized US debt? In an effort to stave off a world financial crisis, the natural resources and other assets of the US were pledged as collateral for foreign held debt. This, in effect, left domestic holders of US debt unsecured. Their collateral base shifted to secure foreign held debt and stave off a massive liquidation of US debt instruments by foreign debt holders.

This action, in turn, raised further questions by foreign debt holders. If the natural resources of the US were the collateral for foreign held debt; why were domestic mining companies, oil companies and timber companies continuing to develop that same resource base? This question had been anticipated during the previous decade and had manifested itself in the passage of the Wilderness Act by Congress in 1964. It led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency by executive order in 1970; the official sanction for the environmental movement had occurred.

The environmental movement has accomplished two major goals since the 1960's. It has been effective in driving domestic mining, oil and timber companies off the resource base and into the hands of international entities which also represent the holders of massive amounts of US debt obligation.

The environmental movement has also been very effective in forcing the transfer of private land into the hands of government. When one follows the money trail to find out where the environmental groups obtain the means to finance litigation, legislation and propaganda to achieve these ends that trail leads to major corporations, banks, and foundations whose investment portfolios are top heavy in unsecured US debt obligations. Only a massive increase in the government's asset base can make that unsecured debt good.

In simple terms, the resource base of the US has been mortgaged by a profligate central government and the creditors are positioning themselves for foreclosure. The environmental laws passed by Congress have facilitated this process. Since the breakdown of the Bretton Woods agreement, Congress, by following the environmental agenda, has reniged on its primary charge of protecting the citizen's private rights and has unwittingly engaged in the plunder of the people's property.

HR 701 and its companion bill, S 25, represent the latest and most blatant activity of Congress to disenfranchise the American public from the cornerstone of all civil rights; private property. Ironically many of the members of Congress, who have loudly decried the president's use of executive orders, to circumvent the will of Congress, voted for the passage of CARA. When the executive branch of government gains control over a major portion of the productive capacity of a nation it no longer needs the approval of its citizens or their representatives to determine policy. It can rule by decree.

Congress, by its failure to exercise its constitutional charge to protect private property, has created an executive branch that no longer is dependent on the approval of the people or their representatives to make policy. The executive branch has gained independence from the people and Congress with an independent asset base and ability to borrow against that asset base. Rule by presidential executive order has often rendered the role of Congress irrelevant. HR 701 and S 25 would complete the process by making possible the conveyance of virtually all private property into the hands of government. This legislation amounts to a death wish by a Congress that long ago forgot the essential principles upon which a free society is based.

Permission to reprint is granted in whole or in part with attribution to 
Stewards of the Range. Copyright 2000.

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Last Modified June 22, 2002