The fires rage. At least two people have been killed. People struggle, worry, lose livelihoods and cherished property. 330 homes have been destroyed.
Nearly 500 square miles of New Mexico land and the flora and fauna on them have been turned to smoke and ash.
This is an important American issue. It is not isolated to the good folk fighting in New Mexico.
Two blazes that grew into New Mexico's largest ever wildfire were both started by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the agency said on Friday, prompting the state's governor to demand the federal government take full responsibility for the disaster.
Forest Service investigators determined the Calf Canyon Fire was caused by a ‘burn pile’ of branches that the agency thought was out but reignited on April 19, the Santa Fe National Forest said in a statement.
The horror and loss are incredible, and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is justified in expressing her anger.
But she is not innocent in this.
As a state governor, she swore an oath to protect and defend both her state's constitution and the U.S. Constitution, and she should have been aware of a key facet of the U.S. Constitution that, if she had acted to abide by her oath, would have seen her oppose the presence of the “US Forest Service” and any federal claim on “parks,” “national monuments,” and other “wildlife refuges” in NM that have been claimed by the feds.
As I have noted for MRCTV, the U.S. Constitution only grants the federal government the power to control three forms of land:
- The ten-square-mile area of the national capitol, aka Washington, D.C.
- Land used for military garrisons.
- Territories, prior to them becoming states.
That’s it. No “parks,” no “wildlife refuges,” no “rivers and streams and lakes,” no “national monuments,” no “offshore reserves” that are oft-wanted by oil companies and turned into political levers by the politicians looking for election donations from various interest groups. It’s clear, and Americans might want to learn this.
Certainly, Governor Grisham shows no sign that she either has learned this or, if she has, that she cares to exercise her responsibility to abide by the U.S. Constitution.
And when a territory becomes a state, there is no mandate within the U.S. Constitution demanding that said new states must cede land to the feds. Even if there were, we note, again, that there is no “power” in the U.S. Constitution allowing the feds to run such lands, even if the states handed them to the D.C. politicians as some sort of “gift.”
And this is a point that not only bears on her lackluster – nay, nonexistent – adherence to her oath, but on the economics of human action and ethics.
Economist F.A. Hayek in 1974 won the Nobel Prize for his work exposing the problems of central planning, work that put the limelight on what many understood in practice: the larger the sphere of political control (and, usually, any kind of controlling system, even private) the less efficient it will be, the less tied the central authority will be to the information on the local level, the higher the likelihood of errors, and the more people will be harmed by bad decisions.
We can add to that the political principle of the “right to exit” – which stresses that each person has the right to not be part (he or she should not even have to EXIT, since no one has a right to “include” another person in a plan without that person’s consent) of a system. The larger the sphere of control, the harder it is for dissenters to escape.
And, let’s face it, it’s unlikely that a politician sitting in Washington, coming from, say, Brooklyn, knows as much about the local landscape and people in a small New Mexico town than the people in that town.
Likewise, and more important, it’s likely that no politician knows what is best for you, and, morally, it’s not the place of another human being to tell a self-controlling adult how to live his or her life.
While the U.S. Constitution did not insure as much state autonomy as its predecessor, the Articles of Confederation, it did specifically lay out the powers of D.C. and the promise that anything not granted to the DC hacks was left to the States and the people therein.
The practical outcome of over a century of “national park” breaches of the U.S. Constitution -- with its “Forest Service” and “Interior Department” and “EPA” and controls over what will be done on vast stretches of states (the feds claim “ownership” of over one-third of New Mexico land) – has been repeated mismanagement, land erosion, fires, and debates over how the land should be used.
And this problem is not isolated to New Mexico. As I have written for MRCTV, the government-granted power monopoly of California, PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric), runs its spark-tossing core lines over government land, and it has been in those poorly-managed lands that the vast majority of California wildfires have occurred over the last five years. The situation has become so bad that in 2019 the corporation actually announced that it would institute “rolling blackouts” to try to reduce the potential of fires.
Hayek’s research and conclusions continue to be proven important and valid.
And the answer is not to just leave the land in state control. Even if state governments were to take over these vast areas of land that the feds have unjustifiably claimed, the risk of mismanagement, though likely minimized compared to the federal leviathan’s handling of it, would still be higher than if private parties owned the lands.
Only through private ownership and the recognition of private property claims can people in the market reveal what they value most and claim recompense if their property is damaged.
The state has no incentive to be careful, because, as has been the case with most government wrongdoing, its agents claim “sovereign immunity” from liability should a civilian be harmed by government action.
It’s a concept that goes back to the days of European monarchies, wherein the royal would claim that he or she represented “the state” and that the state was “soverign” – rather than the sovereign individual.
This New Mexico tragedy is – as the feds have admitted – the fault of government. But it’s a safe bet that the government will give more money to its “Forest Service” next year.
How about we carry this lesson to others, like Governor Grisham, and try to turn at least one aspect of this horror into something that can bring about positive change?
Follow us on Twitter @MRCTV