Anybody Want to Buy Alaska?

The Washington Post Sunday Outlook section led with a “Modest Proposal”-like piece suggesting we sell Alaska back to the Russians, or maybe to the Chinese or Arabs, to defray our debt. (I commented on it at the Corner.) If it were a straight, Jonathan Swift style tongue-in-cheek, it wouldn’t be worthy of notice, but something in it caught my attention.

The author genuinely seems to equate transferring one of the 50 states to a foreign country with auctioning off some of the ridiculous amount of land owned by the federal government. That kind of land sale would be a good idea — it would raise funds and at the same time shrink Washington’s footprint.

Now, there are complications, of course — national parks and military bases (at least those bases we actually need) won’t go on the auction block. And selling a lot of land at one time would depress the price, yielding less revenue. But a steady, sustained project of selling off public lands, as the feds routinely did in centuries past to raise funds, has much to recommend it.

But the fact that a mainstream liberal reporter would unselfconsciously equate the transfer of sovereign territory with the sale of excess federal government property to private buyers — “selling off the national furniture” is how he puts it — is revealing. It suggests a worldview where the government rightly owns everything, and any diminution of the size of the state is a loss, a tragedy.

No wonder we’re in such trouble.