The Louisiana Purchase was 524,800,000 acres of some of the richest farm land in the world. After acquiring the Louisiana Purchase, it is a widely known historical fact that the United States government then embarked in one of the greatest experiments of allocating abundant resources in the history of the world: they gave the land away for free. The Homestead Act of 1862 made it possible for an applicant to receive 160 acres of federal land for free. In order to qualify you had to be 21 years old, a head of a household, and build a home and make improvements on the land for 5 years.
The agricultural production of this land is high enough to feed the entire population of the United States and still end up with surpluses that are exported to the rest of the world. Even as we face an extensive drought in 2012, Americans do not worry that they will starve. They will just be inconvenienced with marginally higher prices for some commodities.
While America does import food, it does so as a luxurious choice as opposed to a desperate necessity. The private ownership of this land by individuals and corporations has led to scientific industrialization of agriculture that has continued to dramatically increase the productivity of these lands. While some might be opposed to the effects this industrialization has had on the health of the populace, many of the same technologies behind the industrialization of our food supply are also responsible for the scaling of the organic/whole food trend. Ultimately when it comes to food in America, abundance is everywhere.
Would this be the case if the United States government had held onto the land that it owned in the 13 states that made up the Louisiana Purchase?
Unfortunately, we can look to restrictive federal land policies in the West to come to the conclusion that our country would be much poorer if the federal government had not given up hundreds of millions of acres for FREE!
How can this be? The government gave away some of the best farm land in the world for free, and yet the wealth that has resulted from this giveaway is staggering. As this crown jewel of natural resources was developed by millions of Americas over the last century and a half, the wealth was created that led to the industrialization of the country through the turn of the 20th century. As this industrialization in turn increased the productivity of agriculture, a virtuous cycle was created. Less and less of the labor force worked in agriculture at the same time that human and financial capital were made available to build railroads, highways, skyscrapers, aircraft carriers, microchips, software, etc. Indeed the massive surpluses that resulted from the government’s magnanimous gift of free land has had repercussions that still reverberate today in the form of a multi-trillion dollar economy, the strongest military in the world, and an innovative and diverse labor force that have placed the United States on the bleeding edge of a century and a half of technological progress.
And yet, despite this stunning success story, the federal government has still ended up with about 500,000,000 acres of land that it manages. In other words the federal government still owns another Louisiana Purchase worth of land in the American West. Imagine the wealth that would be created if the federal government relinquished these holdings to millions of private owners.
As the inaugural post of the Post Scarcity Alliance, we want the juxtaposition of 500,000,000 acres that the government gave away against the 500,000,000 acres that it refuses to let go provides one of the most distinctive examples of two thought paradigms for approaching the allocation of our nation’s abundant natural resources:
- The Scarcity Mindset – By now, if you have been paying attention at all to the environmental movement that has been growing in power since the late 1960s, you are familiar with the scarcity mindset. This is the mindset of the typical left-wing environmental operation. In short they identify a resource that is facing unacceptable scarcity, and use the fear of loss to marshall support for their cause. Of course they have been very effective. While their ascension to power was in some ways a historical necessity, following the scarcity monger’s ideas to their logical conclusion reveals the limits of their paradigm. Ultimately, the end goal that these organization seek is to micromanage the environment down to the molecular level, restrict human behavior from conception to interment, and to preserve the impossible Utopian ideal of a pristine wilderness against the fabricated ravages of human progress.
- The Abundance Mindset - The abundance mindset recognizes that the resources that are available to us are truly and exponentially abundant. Where economics is classically seen as the study of the allocation of scarce resources, this classical mindset has been consistently subverted to the point that it is time to explore shaking economics from this foundation. At the epicenter of this paradigm earthquake is technological change, and most notably the advances in computing technology. While the abundance mindset doesn’t deny the existence of scarcity, it simply admits that a single-minded focus on scarcity is as inefficient as it is destructive. Instead of relying on conservation, restriction, and rationing to allocate resources, an abundance economy relies on innovation, freedom, and sharing to succeed.
At the Post Scarcity Alliance our mission is to relegate the scarcity mindset to the annals of history. Abundance is our future, and the economics of abundance are what will ultimately solve our biggest problems. Energy, health care, immigration, environmental devastation, national security, and fiscal strength are all areas where replacing a scarcity mindset with an abundance mindset will bring wealth and freedom to a nation and a world that desperately need a recharge in these areas. It is time to let go of scarcity. It is time to tear down the walls of scarcity that are built with the bricks of regulation and ignorance that are holding back the flows of abundance that will solve our biggest problems. It is time to boldly move forward to a post scarcity world.