Q&A Friday #86: Protecting National Parks

Question: “What does Hawkins think about this subject: I am usually a pretty average hybrid libertarian-conservative about things, but the hardest thing for me to reconcile with that (especially when talking to the other side) is land use and parkland. I can’t picture too many of the great parks (Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier) having arisen out of the market alone. I find the thought of living in a place with only a smattering of small, private parks like you might find in nicer housing developments depressing.

To a lesser degree, I also value some of the land-use restrictions that have allowed the protection of charming places (like California’s Central Coast) from the housing tracts and strip malls that would no doubt otherwise pave them over.

Am I just being greedy or is what we have done to acquire public parkland and protect places from normal development reasonable within conservatism?” — oldch

Answer: All in all, I think we go way overboard on the land restrictions. Restrictions of that sort are one of the factors that drives housing prices sky high in certain areas. Moreover, federal and state governments own something like a 1/3 of all the land in the United States. That’s just ridiculous.

That being said, I don’t think they should fill up the Grand Canyon with cement and build a mall there or plug up Old Faithful so that they can put a mall on that spot. National Treasures of that sort should be protected.

Some few people might see that position as “unconservative,” but to that I’d reply, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” We do need to protect our crucial monuments, national parks, and key wildlife refuges and we shouldn’t oppose doing so just because it would require the federal government to act. There is a time and place for government intervention and protecting sites like the Grand Canyon is worth it in my book.

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