The Farce of Public Ownership

Here is a great perspective on the politics and economics of ANWR. What is really relevant for New Mexico is this (just substitute “Otero Mesa” or “Valles Vidal” for “ANWR” and “Quail” or “Rattlesnakes” or “Spotted Owls” or whatever turns you on for “caribou”):

…the ANWR debate ….. would not be an issue if the land were privately owned. If we abandon the farce of “public ownership” and if private individuals owned the land, we’d find out pretty darn quickly whether caribou migration or drilling is more valuable, given the available technologies.
So here’s my policy proposal: privatize ANWR. Better yet, have the federal government grant the title to the land to a joint venture of the Nature Conservancy and the residents of the area, and let them figure it out. Then if it’s worth it to drill, let the firms interested in drilling make them purchase offers. That will satisfy those worried about income distribution effects of “big oil” being able to buy their way in. Establish the property right on the other side. But if we believe Coase, establishing the property right and reducing the transaction costs will end up with the optimal combination of drilling and caribou migration.

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