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Private Groups "Monopolizing" Public Lands:

Public lands are supposed to be for the public. Yet an Interior Department audit found that many so-called public lands are effectively monopolized by private clubs, according to the Washington Post.

The National Park Service has for decades allowed members-only beach, yacht and sports clubs -- including New York City's largest beach resort -- to "monopolize" public lands that by law should be open to all, an Interior Department audit shows.

The audit also found that the Park Service did not consider "environmental consequences" for 18 of 20 sites included in the survey.

The clubs "have enjoyed exclusive rights to public lands through restrictive and costly memberships that deny the general public the same benefits," the report says. "In some instances, the National Park Service has authorized this exclusivity for 30 or more years."

This finding should not be particularly surprising. "Public" lands are political lands. Management and access rules are ultimately driven by political considerations, and this gives concentrated interest groups and well-heeled organizations a leg up. This means resource using groups have disproportionate influence on management of federal lands used for resource extraction, and environmentalist organizations and private clubs have a disproportionate influence on management of the National Parks.

More broadly, the National Park system subsidizes recreation for well-off Americans. Most visitors to national parks are upper- or middle-class, and their recreation is subsidized by general tax revenues. (I plead guilty as a subsidy-sucker here, as I am a frequent visitor to National Parks.) Those with more limited economic means are more likely to visit state and local parks than those run by the NPS -- particularly the jewels of the system, such as Yellowstone, to which most Americans must travel a substantial distance to visit. These are "public" lands that are not enjoyed by much of the public.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. National Park Fees to Increase:
  2. Private Groups "Monopolizing" Public Lands:
jimbino (mail):
I have visited most of the National Parks and Forests in the West. I have long noticed that there are almost no faces of American minorities to be seen among the tourists -- no American Indians, no Mexican Americans, no Black Americans. This is true even of Chaco Canyon, Anasazi territory right in the heart of old Spanish America. Last time I was in Mesa Verde along with some 250 other tourists viewing the pueblo ruins, I asked the guard why the USSA prohibited minorities from attending its parks. He denied there was any discrimination, but was embarrassed to note that all the guests were lily white. I had roughly the same experience when last visiting the Liberty Bell, right in the heart of Philadelphia.

All in all, our national treasures, including citadels of higher education, effectively exclude our minorities who, nonetheless, participate in paying the bills. It's high time to sell them all off to folks like Ted Turner or even Bob Jones, who would no doubt practice better husbandry at no cost to our minorities, who could then use their share of the loot to put food on their kids' table.
4.29.2007 12:34pm
Billy Budd:
Maybe this is true for some public parks, but I've been to a lot of them, and they're fairly open to the public.
4.29.2007 1:06pm
dearieme:
We foreigners get to enjoy your National Parks too. On the other hand, US Nationals get to enjoy our public land in Britain which, echoing jimbino, our ethnic minorities largely eschew.
4.29.2007 1:08pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
Is this a surprise to anyone? It would've seemed obvious to me that the goal of most people in the NPS is to minimize use of the land. Limiting it to small, exclusive clubs effectively accomplishes this while funding their attempts to manage mother nature.
4.29.2007 1:17pm
EKR (mail) (www):
A few points:

- It may well be true that the demographics of the national parks skew towards the middle and upper class (though since the "middle class" constitutes around half the population of the US, I'm not sure that the claim that "most visitors" are upper or middle class is very meaningful.) but it's not clear that this is a matter of accessibility rather than preference. Camping and backpacking are one of the cheapest ways to vacation which is part of why they're so popular with college students. You can easily spend a week backpacking with no cost other than your food and the gas you spent to get there.

- The national park service isn't the only federal agency running outdoors areas. Indeed, some of the nicest areas are in national forests, not parks.

- It's obviously true that the "crown jewel" national parks are going to be more expensive for some to get to than others. However, there are quite nice national parks/forests all over the US. To take one (probably not exactly representative) example, all of California (pop 36 MM) is within easy driving distance of one or another amazing national parks/forests: Shasta/Trinity in the North, Yosemite in the Bay Area, and Joshua Tree in the South.
4.29.2007 1:30pm
David Krinsky (mail):

More broadly, the National Park system subsidizes recreation for well-off Americans. Most visitors to national parks are upper- or middle-class, and their recreation is subsidized by general tax revenues.


I don't think this is more than tangentially relevant to the issue the rest of the post raises, but I'm also not sure it's true or problematic.

First, it ignores entrance-fee revenue. Although it is true that entrance fees only cover about 10% of the expenses of national parks, see GAO, National Park Service: Major Funding Trends App. II, at 55, those fees come disproportionately from the big-name parks that people tend to come visit from far away. See Yosemite Ass'n Press Release (Dec. 5, 1998) (citing $5,473,000 operating budget and $22,421,000 fee revenue for Yellowstone NP in FY 1998; I couldn't find newer figures in a quick Google). The biggest subsidies thus appear to go to parks whose draw is more local—and, I would guess, less wealthy.

Second, the national parks are hardly the preserve of a wealthy few. You are probably correct that most of the very poor lack the means to get to them and to take the time to enjoy them, but I suspect that NPS visitors pretty well cover the rest of the income spectrum—do you have data to the contrary? I would be surprised if NPS visitors don't include significant numbers of people from all income levels that earn enough to pay income tax—and at that point, the NP system can hardly be characterized as a subsidy to wealthy vacationers. (It's worth noting, by the way, that the most visited national park—by a factor of 2—is Great Smoky Mountains NP in NC/TN, not one of the big western ones. In my experience, visitors to that park are mostly daytrippers—from a not-particularly-wealthy part of the country—who appear to cover a variety of income levels.)

Third, I would argue that recreation is not the sole or even the primary purpose of the National Park system. Protecting the environment and preserving our natural treasures for future generations benefits us all, whether or not we have the means or desire to visit. There are large protected areas that are de facto—and in some cases, I think, de jure—inaccessible to all, and I would argue that this is a good thing, not a waste of recreational dollars.
4.29.2007 1:43pm
frankcross (mail):
Third, I would argue that recreation is not the sole or even the primary purpose of the National Park system. Protecting the environment and preserving our natural treasures for future generations benefits us all, whether or not we have the means or desire to visit. There are large protected areas that are de facto—and in some cases, I think, de jure—inaccessible to all, and I would argue that this is a good thing, not a waste of recreational dollars.

This may well be true, but it furthers Adler's point. I think you will find that, even above park visits, the value placed on maintaining the environment for future generations is very progressively valued, i.e., the rich place much greater importance on this goal than the poor.

None of this demeans the national park system, but it is to be kept in mind as another example of the government redistributing income in a way that benefits the better off, not the poor of society.
4.29.2007 2:17pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):
There is a vast difference between a place like Yellowstone, which may be difficult or expensive to get to it's not like they can move it somewhere more convenient), and granting a private club exclusive use of a public area.The ones cited in the article appear to have ceded the property to the NPS for tax purposes, never intending it to actually be "public". They pay a pittance for the space.
4.29.2007 2:30pm
gabor (mail):
What is the difference between private clubs on National Park lands and private ranchers grazing (at heavily subsidized rates) on public lands? In both cases, politically privileged, and for the most part, wealthy, individuals or corporations are using public lands, and the attitude of "entitlement" on evidenced here surely runs circles around that of any recipient of aid to the poor or disabled.
4.29.2007 2:43pm
Letalis (mail):
Grazing? The Taylor Grazing Act is a pittance compared to the huge corporate give-aways of the 1872 Mining Law.

As for selling the public lands, that is the most bone-headed idea of all. Once they are sold, they will be developed and my kids will never get to see them again except in pictures. We have toured a bunch of parks in the Southwest and did it on a pauper's budget. Ted Turner or Bill Gates or Warren Buffet (who is presently fighting tribes over dams and fishing rights) are not friends of the common American.
4.29.2007 3:24pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
" I think you will find that, even above park visits, the value placed on maintaining the environment for future generations is very progressively valued, i.e., the rich place much greater importance on this goal than the poor.
"
Uh...any possibility that there is a direct correlation? i.e. thinking ahead and planning are traits which tend to make people more economically successful.

"...and environmentalist organizations and private clubs have a disproportionate influence on management of the National Parks."

I's like to see the facts on how many "Special Use Permits" for private clubs actually exist. As to "environmentalist organizations" having large influence on National Park management -- I say that's good and they probably ought to have more.
4.29.2007 3:30pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
When I worked at Interior, Parks folks mentioned that they had several houses in parks that were more or less reserved for members of Congress. A nice vacation getaway, for free, as a way of ensuring favorable votes on parks budgets and other issues.
4.29.2007 3:30pm
K:
I have only a passing acquaintance with the topic.

But I do know that in some national forests there are private cabins. The lease terms are trivial, there are no taxes, and the property can be inherited. For all practical purposes the land has been given away.

I believe all these were established decades ago. But, as with any free goodies, you can bet it is considered a 'right' by those who benefit.
4.29.2007 3:32pm
anonymous (mail):
Jimbino rambles:"all the guests were lily white".

You know why that is, Jimbino? Because the only people in the USA who are interested in something other than crack, malt liquor, cervesa and cheap drugs are lily white.
4.29.2007 4:28pm
Pete Zaitcev:
I would like to observe that since rich pay the vast majority of taxes, they in effect subsidize the recreation for the middle class and the poor whenever taxes are used for maintenance of a public park.
4.29.2007 4:31pm
JB:
David Sucher: To enjoy a national park you need:

1) A car and/or car rental
2) Airfare to get to the national park
3) Vacation time

1) Poor people are less likely to have cars, and if they do are less likely to be able to afford to rent cars on top of that.
2) Unless you live within driving distance, you need to fly, which is nontrivially expensive for the poor.
3) Most poor people are paid hourly, which means no paid vacations. Thus time spent vacationing is money out of pocket, and they have little enough of that.

Your dig at the planning abilities of the poor, while it may be true, is irrelevant here.
4.29.2007 4:36pm
guest (mail):

He denied there was any discrimination, but was embarrassed to note that all the guests were lily white.


Darn right. Anyone who is white should be ashamed of themselves.


I had roughly the same experience when last visiting the Liberty Bell, right in the heart of Philadelphia.


Yep. Right in the heart of lily white Philly, minorities are being prohibited from gawking at the Liberty-for-whitey Bell.

I'm not sure how the asians that made up about 25% of the people I saw at the Grand Canyon last year snuck past the guards, but I'll look into it.
4.29.2007 5:10pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
This is only tangentially relevent, but one reason I hope to specialize in eminent domain as a lawyer is that I want to royally screw the NPS.

I hope everyone knows how when Pres. Eisenhower died, they tried to evict Mimi and take the farm... (they got it eventually, but were forced to bide their time till she died)
4.29.2007 5:22pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
Oops, Mamie.
4.29.2007 5:28pm
Nikki:
@anonymous, 4.29.2007 3:28pm: Condoleezza Rice, Alfredo Gonzalez, Colin Powell, Janice Rogers Brown ... only interested in "crack, malt liquor, cervesa and cheap drugs"?

Just wondering. (If you were attempting to be sarcastic or ironic, your post didn't come across that way, at least to me.)
4.29.2007 5:32pm
WHOI Jacket:
I think that was sarcasm, Nikki.

I just am recalling being stuck between 3 tour buses of Japanese tourists at Canyon de Chelly. That made for interesting overlook sequences.
4.29.2007 5:42pm
The Grich (mail):
I really hope that the comment above ("Darn right" and "lily-white Philadelphia" was tongue in cheek, and am disappointed that the the anonymous commenter further above brings down the otherwise intelligent and reasonable discussion that goes on here.
I am quite maddened that the government seems so willing to offer up public land for restricted private use for so little money. However, any discussion here arguing that the current system of public national parks, such as Yellowstone, being unfair because they use public funds but only "rich and white" Americans seems to me to be unreasonable.
The public parks and forests are there for use to enjoy into the future. I believe it was right for the government to reserve a large chunk of land from development, and to manage it according to that purpose (which I would argue also includes managing the timber to prevent catastrophic forest fires, but that's another discussion). Opening that land up to the public is natural, but saying it's unfair for low income people because of the costs of getting there isn't a reasonable argument.
Think about this: most of the tax dollars supporting those parks comes from the top 10% of wage earners anyway. If you only see it once in your life, or only get to one or two federal parks in your life, while the rich and well off get to do so many times in their life, doesn't that make some sense?
Anecdotally: I've been to Yellowstone twice in my life. Once with my Mother and sister when I was going to college (because it was on the way) and once recently so I could share that treasure with my own kids. In both cases I could describe my family as middle class (definitely not upper-middle). In both cases we drove, and in both cases we stayed in lodging outside the park to save money. In both cases, visiting the park was only one stop on a larger trip, in which the main point of the trip was something other than visiting the park itself.
I've never visited the Great Smokey Mountains national park. Nor do I think I ever will. I've seen pictures of it, though, and am happy that some of my tax dollars are going into protecting such a beautiful place.
All this to say, I think visiting public monuments of beauty is all in how you prioritize your life. Students cross the country on a shoestring budget, not because they feel like they have the money to blow, but because they prioritize the journey as more important than investing in their life at the place they started from.
Almost all the people I know who are poor who have the ability to visit some very beautiful public lands right outside the city, but never do (excepting those who's confinement is due to physical disability). This isn't because of their economic state, but their priorities.
I think that Mr. Anonymous above, had he any sense of dignity, was trying to say something like this. Although I know so many black, Hispanic and Asian people who have very good priorities (or at least those that don't include drugs) that the statements he makes offend me to no end.
4.29.2007 5:55pm
jimbino (mail):
There are some things just too important to let the government control and manage them. These include:

1. Choice of mate
2. Rearing of children
3. Education
4. Healthcare
5. Recreation
6. Property

Who in his right mind wouldn't rather have Ted Turner or Warren Buffet manage them than the Federal Government, which can't teach kids math, deliver the mail or even fight wars?
4.29.2007 6:13pm
calmom:
1. The National Parks do have mostly white visitors (with the exception of bus tours of Japanese). But I think it has more to do with preference than expense. Even free urban public museums, like the St. Louis Art Museum, the free History Musuem in St. Louis, the free Science Museum in L. A. and the free Getty Museum in Los Angeles, have very few minority visitors. Same for low cost Los Angeles area state parks, such as Topanga or Malibu State Parks.

2. Would anyone really argue that just because minorities choose not to avail themselves of these educational and recreational opportunities that taxpayers shouldn't subsidize them?

3. The National Parks are not primarily recreational areas anyway, and they should not be judged by how many or which people visit them each year. They are there to preserve unique, irreplaceable wilderness for the wildlife and for future generations.
4.29.2007 6:35pm
David Krinsky (mail):
I think you will find that, even above park visits, the value placed on maintaining the environment for future generations is very progressively valued, i.e., the rich place much greater importance on this goal than the poor.

None of this demeans the national park system, but it is to be kept in mind as another example of the government redistributing income in a way that benefits the better off, not the poor of society.

This is an interesting argument: do you mean to suggest that furthering goals that rich people would vote for, when they think they are voting altruistically, is equivalent to subsidizing their activities? That strikes me as a bit of a leap.

On the merits, I also think you're probably wrong--that is, I am skeptical that environmental goals are more important to wealthier people.
4.29.2007 7:14pm
jimbino (mail):
Calmom: Of course the gummint shouldn't be in the business of subsidizing any museums, whether art, science or history, much less when they are de facto discriminatory. Do you get the concept of "de facto discriminatory?"

Nor should the gummint subsidize education or recreation.

How would you feel if the gummint taxed us all to subsidize rap schools, chitlins and menudo? Or booze? Or churches? Would you be happy with the argument that it's OK and non-discriminatory since anyone could partake?

And who do you think is maintaining the American Bison? Not the gummint, but Ted Turner!

Do you think the attractions of Disney World and MGM, not to mention Las Vegas, would attract millions of folks of all races, colors and nationalities if they were run by the gummint? Liberals just don't quite get the idea that the gummint can't run anything well, including a war, and certainly not those most important things, like your sex life or internet life! Are you happy with the post office?
4.29.2007 7:20pm
Nate F (www):
Jimbino,
"Who in his right mind wouldn't rather have Ted Turner or Warren Buffet manage them than the Federal Government, which can't teach kids math, deliver the mail or even fight wars?"

I pray that was tongue in cheek. Isn't the government's impact on the way math is taught only indirect? And the federal government can't deliver the mail? Are you serious? USPS is arguably the most efficient national postal system in the world.
4.29.2007 7:26pm
flicka47 (mail):
Lawyers,wannabe lawyers and "offended" people, jeese,is it just the weather or do all you folks just WANT to be offended??? You all sound like whiney 6year-olds "Johnny got a popcycle and I didn't"!

In the first place something like 70% of the land in the US is owned by the Federal gov't. Nobody wants it! You want to buy land in Calif? You can do so from the Feds for less than $1000/acre. The fact that it is 50 miles+ from any road,town,or utilities and the fact that it is not productive for farming,ranching ,or industry,makes it pretty much useless.But the Feds own it all,and will sell it pretty cheap(fair market value!). But for the most part nobody wants it.

Once again ,if you want to lease ground from the BLM or NPS, they will do it really cheap,to any one that wants to bother.It has nothing to do with "monopolizing" or "privilege". It has to do with the fact that they have lots of land that nobody wants,and when somebody does,for the most part,the money is then used to help defray costs of husbanding useless,non-profitable land.

This post sounds like someone is jealous of someone-else-that-they-don't-know,but-must-have-$$$(or something that you don't!)You want your own "club" or whatever on Federal land, then LEASE the dam* land from the feds and build your own! Anybody can do it.

As far as National Parks,anyone that wants to can go there. It also is cheap, something like $75/yr will buy you a pass that gets your whole vehicle onto every park,every day of the year. National forest entry is free.

As far as privately owned property within National Parks and National Forests, in probably 99.9% of those cases the land was privately owned before the land became a designated Park or Forest(as in the preceding paragraph someone bought or homesteaded Federal property before it changed designation,and it wasn't worth the bother or the cost to the Feds to change the status of the privately owned land,so it is still privately owned).
4.29.2007 7:26pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
JB.
1. In the USA, many minorities own cars and some national parks such as Mount Rainier or Yosemite are fairly close to major cities.
2. My remark on planning was a response to a prior post.
4.29.2007 8:18pm
Apep (mail):
I live in one of the largest urban areas in the U.S. When I visit the city parks, especially during holidays like Independence Day, they are packed with minorities. When I've visited some state parks, they were packed with minorities. Others were devoid of minorities. Excluding those parks where prices are prohibitive, e.g. Yellowstone, a lot of it probably has to do with preferences.
4.29.2007 8:46pm
wm13:
Most of the activities described in the linked article seem to me more fairly described as "public-private partnerships" than "oorrupt giveaways." I.e., most of them involve private organizations that had land or other property and a set of goals that harmonized well with the goals of the Parks Service. So they made a deal. What's wrong with that?
4.29.2007 9:24pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):

Most of the activities described in the linked article seem to me more fairly described as "public-private partnerships" than "oorrupt giveaways." I.e., most of them involve private organizations that had land or other property and a set of goals that harmonized well with the goals of the Parks Service. So they made a deal. What's wrong with that?



What's wrong is that they have a sweet-heart deal to use public lands that no one else gets to use. We aren't talking about land "50 miles from the nearest road", land no one else wants anyway, but prime locations that they are getting to use for their own privileged few at our expense. It has nothing to do with whether or not minorities or anyone else visits some National Park or historical site or not.
4.29.2007 9:58pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):
And btw, some of the racist crap being spread by some commentators on this blog recently is disgusting.
4.29.2007 10:00pm
hey (mail):
To me it looks rather like jimbino is attempting to hoist liberals by their own disparate impact petard. Everyone is aware that facially neutral rules can be held to be unconstitutional discrimination based upon results, and that this doctirne is propagated by the Left. Trying to destroy National Parks and the whole government property owning system (a goal I whole heartedly approve of) using the language of the Left is excellent. None of the posts have said that those darn "x's" are bad because they don't use national parks, or dont use national parks because of some bad trait common to group x. It's rather that technical minorities (South and East Asians aren't "real" minorities because they do well, and discrimination against them is a good thing according to the federl government and court system) and whites use national parks, while "minorities" and the poor don't. Having the government serve taxpayers, rather than the poor, is a good thing, as is having the governmen do as little as possible. However this demonstrates that Liberals, especially those that are focused on equalitarian and redistributivist economics and equalitarian racial bargaining cannot support the NPS or most of the rest of the operations of the Department of the Interior.
4.29.2007 10:51pm
Le Messurier (mail):
K:
I do know that in some national forests there are private cabins. The lease terms are trivial, there are no taxes, and the property can be inherited. For all practical purposes the land has been given away.


Out here in the West many acres in National Forest Lands are in fact privatley owned. Why? Because when the railroads were built in the 1800's they were given lands that resulted in the "checkerboard" pattern which you probably read about in your US History Classes in High School (if they taught "real" US History). Any number of these squares ended up in hands other than the railroads (that was the purpose), some of them have become recreational property. I only offer this as one possibility of how lands that appear to be NFS lands, are in fact owned by private individuals.. This does not speak to the original post which is a different matter entirely.

It seems to me that the acerage being discussed is
de minimus. Now it might be "prime" land, and if there is no other alternative for public use that's one thing. Otherwise, what's the big deal? So some people have "privilege". I know it isn't going to effect my life, and I very much doubt that some poor person is very much denied his "rights". More than likely, what is being talked about is a grandfathering of access. Again BIG DEAL. I really don't see an abuse here other than in the minds of the overwrought
4.29.2007 11:28pm
MountainGoat:
There's little doubt that adding an entry fee reduces visitation. The Forestry Service added a $10/day visitation fee to several areas here in Colorado, and visitation dropped 20-30%. Two local reservoirs, built at public expense, saw similar drops in visitation when they started charging a daily visitation fee. These fees do very little to offset the cost of maintaining the areas, and quite a bit to limit visitors.
4.30.2007 12:51am
Visitor Again:
This is just another example of the dual system of public services that is developing in this country--one for the financially well off and one for the rest. Examples are toll roads, street paving, sidewalks, schools, police investigations, private judges and even jail cells.
4.30.2007 1:51am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
But I do know that in some national forests there are private cabins. The lease terms are trivial, there are no taxes, and the property can be inherited. For all practical purposes the land has been given away.

May be "inholdings," some privately owned and built up, and Forest Service found it cheaper not to try to condemn and take them when the surrounding federal land was dedicated Forst land.
4.30.2007 1:54am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
In the first place something like 70% of the land in the US is owned by the Federal gov't. Nobody wants it!

Depends. There's a lot of desert land west of here that indeed nobody would pay a dollar an acre for. Not fifty miles from noplace, a hundred miles from noplace, hot as hell, and if there is a water table, you're gonna have trouble finding a drill that long.

But my city (Tucson) is hedged by National Forest and Park lands on two sides, and has built right out to the boundaries. You could see that land, and land atop Mt. Lemmon, for fortunes. In fact the very wealthy have made it a point to buy land right on the edge.

One of the local rackets is land swaps. Most federal agencies can't just sell land, but they can swap it. So a developer with lots of political clout buys a bunch of desert, and swaps it for fewer but far more valuable acres. Or gets a legislator to order the agency to expand this or that unit in a way that ensures it has to buy the land the developer already owns (then the legislator gets to pose as the guy who expanded this or that park or protected this or that import land). The values are supposed to be identical, but with a little juggling of appraisers (whose work on desert land is largely guesswork) -- use a guy whose estimates are always low for the gov't land, and one whose estimates are always high for your land), it can come out very well.
4.30.2007 2:04am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
This is only tangentially relevent, but one reason I hope to specialize in eminent domain as a lawyer is that I want to royally screw the NPS.


A splendid mission! With a bit of luck, might even build a national practice around it. (Make sure to have some other fields to keep you going for some years until that comes thru).

I was amazed at Interior to find that Park Service even has some Clean Air Act powers. They can (in some way or manner, now I forget) shut down air emissions that are merely visible from a Park. There were rumors that in some areas they'd keep the cost of eminent domain down by claim to only take a "scenic easement." You get to keep the land -- you just can't build anything on it. (I have no idea of the veracity of that rumor).

DTH
GS-14 defending US Fish and Wildlife Service
While always looked upon Parks as overfunded, overpowerful
and overly snooty.
4.30.2007 2:08am
Joe Bingham (mail):
I pray that was tongue in cheek. Isn't the government's impact on the way math is taught only indirect? And the federal government can't deliver the mail? Are you serious? USPS is arguably the most efficient national postal system in the world.

Good Lord, man, where do you live? Why do you think the USPS prohibits competition? And no, each public math teacher is an employee of the state. Thus the word "public."
4.30.2007 3:24am
Joe Bingham (mail):
I resent someone posting as "JB" in a thread where he could be mistaken for me :-p
4.30.2007 3:25am
Hattio (mail):
Joe Bingham,
The USPS prohibits competition. Has anyone told Fed Ex? And if what they're doing is illegal, can we punish them by making them take they're stupid whiteboard commercials off the air?
4.30.2007 3:31am
Joe Bingham (mail):
Hattio,

Wow, you're really out of the loop. The USPS prohibited private service for a long time. They finally legalized part of the market; FedEx now dominates because it's better than the USPS. Private letter-carrying service on non-urgent is still illegal; carrying on "urgent" letters has a price floor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USPS#Statutory_monopoly

The whiteboard commercials are for UPS, not FedEx. And I like them.
4.30.2007 3:48am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
One of the local rackets is land swaps. Most federal agencies can't just sell land, but they can swap it. So a developer with lots of political clout buys a bunch of desert, and swaps it for fewer but far more valuable acres. Or gets a legislator to order the agency to expand this or that unit in a way that ensures it has to buy the land the developer already owns (then the legislator gets to pose as the guy who expanded this or that park or protected this or that import land). The values are supposed to be identical, but with a little juggling of appraisers (whose work on desert land is largely guesswork) -- use a guy whose estimates are always low for the gov't land, and one whose estimates are always high for your land), it can come out very well.
Showing my partisan leanings, but I wonder why the name of Harry Reid jumps to mind when the subject of land swaps comes up?
4.30.2007 10:06am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
At least with our primier Nat. Park here in CO (Rocky Mtn Nat. Park), there has been a concerted attempt by the NPS to buy out, often using eminent domain, the inholders. One poor lady thought that they had agreed to life estates, instead of an estate for years, and was being evicted off of land that her family had held probably held since before the park was created. It took a lot of public support, numerous articles in the paper, and an act of Congress to allow her to live there for the rest of her life.
4.30.2007 10:15am
RigelDog (mail):
The idea that private clubs are entitled to monopolize attractive public space is very disturbing. I can't imagine a good justification for this practice.
I am left scratching my head about the reference to Philadelphia, however. I live there and work in Center City. The population of Philadelphia is over 50% minority, and this fact is reflected in the typical mix of persons walking around downtown---right past the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall; admission is free.
4.30.2007 1:52pm