A Billion Trees

This good news is incomplete. According to the article, developing countries are leading that way. UNEP spokesman Nick Nuttall speculates “… they more intimately understand the wider benefit of the forests from stabilising water supplies and soils up to their importance as natural pharmatives as well as the importance of trees in combatting global warming.” How nice and PC.

The UN has encouraged the planting of a billion trees this year, but how about some perspective? Southern U.S. landowners plant more than a billion trees EVERY year.

I love trees and I am glad that these guys are now planting some. I am glad that it is a big news story if that encourages more of the same. But when you look at the big picture you have to wonder why something is so extraordinary in one place and routine in another. The key but prosaic explanation is private property rights and how land ownerships works well in successful places. In twelve southern states we routinely, every year, plant a billion trees. And we care for our forests. And I seriously doubt that developing country governments understand the benefit of trees in stabilizing water supplies, soil etc better than we do. If they do, you have to wonder how they got in that treeless mess in the first place.

It is also one thing to plant the trees and quite anther to be ABLE to protect them. Big PR events and passionate speeches are great theater, but the best way to protect forest resources is through the protection of property rights. That is because when all the speeches are done, the party is over and the activists have moved on to the next cause, if you have property rights somebody still cares intensely and personally about each acre of trees. It is no coincidence that the worst cases of predatory logging occur on lands that are publicly or communally owned or where property rights are not well respected. It is a classic case of the tragedy of the commons coupled with the predatory mentality of transient firms, the cupidity of bureaucrats and the corruption of governments.

Property rights, protected by the rule of law, are crucial to the most kinds of progress. If you look at a list of the most pleasant and prosperous countries of the world, they vary in terms of types of governments, ideology, geography and culture. What they all share in common is that every pleasant and prosperous place protects property rights.

Strong property rights protect forests, human rights and other living things. I know this goes against some conventional TV-inspired wisdom, but it is clearly the case. That is not only the experience of the southern pine states, but also of the U.S. in general as well as Europe, Australia and other countries with strong property rights protection.

Lest somebody make the extrapolation, protecting property rights to private forest land does NOT preclude the establishment of public parks or preserves. In fact, it enhances it. You can logically set aside special places that need to be protected only if don’t declare everything special. When everything is special, nothing is special and any talk or protection is just talk and no more. Many corrupt countries have on their statute books beautiful and comprehensive laws to protect natural resources, but you cannot find these rules manifest anywhere on the ground.

In fact, I have noticed that in general the very best sounding laws are in places where the rule of law is not protected. They can enact what they want, because they know they will not have to carry it out.
So protect forest property rights and you will have forests now and forever. It will not have the same PR impact, but it will ensure forests for today and tomorrow.

Those who have been part of planting billions of trees every year for dozens of years welcome the newcomers. Keep it up. Make it a routine so that it doesn't even get noticed by the media. A word of advice to the UNEP and the governments involved in this noble endeavor. If you want those seedlings to grow to be healthy mature trees, make sure you protect the property rights under them.

Posted by Jack at November 29, 2007 7:42 AM
Comment #239593
Southern U.S. landowners plant more than a billion trees EVERY year.
Got a link?


Posted by: leatherankh at November 29, 2007 9:33 AM
Comment #239598


Jack, I like the thrust of your essay and of course am all in favor of property rights like every common sense individual, to encourage trees and forests.
But reading your piece I am vaguely remembering reading something during the past 12 to 18 months that explained that trees, at least some types of them,actually withdraw water from the ground in excess of their need for it. In other words they might well be water-balance negative.
Do you know anything about that?

Posted by: frederik engel at November 29, 2007 11:26 AM
Comment #239604

Jack, as one who has a degree in forestry from U. of Wisconsin I enjoyed your enlightened article. I would encourage everyone to read, “A Sand County Almanac” by Dr. Aldo Leopold who is considered the father of modern forestry. Love of land and private ownership is expressed in wonderful prose by Leopold. It would make a great Christmas gift for anyone regardless of political persuasion. By the way, Dr. Leopold has been dead for many years but his wonderful book is still available.

Posted by: Jim at November 29, 2007 12:07 PM
Comment #239610

I have little doubt that you are an excellent steward of your loblolly forest and bald cypress grove, and that YOUR private ownership of that land is its best guarantee of being productive and earth friendly for years to come.

Your extrapolation that private ownership is therefore the silver bullet to assure stewardship worldwide, however, is naive and simply not borne out. It is true that you can find instances of environmental disasters perpetrated on a huge scale on “non-private” land by governments such as China, who can’t possibly have the interest of a few acres here or there at heart as could a local private owner. But the definition of private does not mean local, nor does it mean private citizen. Often the private owner is a corporation, sometimes a foreign one, and the question of stewardship may not square with the interest of the owner. Not for instance if that owner is Massey Energies in West Virginia whose interest in the land is what lies beneath it.

Sure we do a better job in the United States on average of providing stewardship to our lands than what is typical in the developing world. But would you deny that the western world’s appetite for energy and goods is a leading financial force in the despoliation of lands around the world which we don’t have to see on a daily basis? Even if those lands are owned by local citizens (which they usually aren’t), if they are being offered easy money to allow the bulldozer come in, and need to feed their families, they may not make the earth-friendly decision that’s so much easier for you or me to make.

I would not so readily disparage the efforts of inspirational figures such as Wangari Maathai who lead people to resist the easy money and do the right thing in the face of huge obstacles. I am not anti-private, I am pro-stewardship, regardless of the source of that stewardship, and I applaud UNEP for its elevation of this issue.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at November 29, 2007 1:10 PM
Comment #239612

Trees are bad for the environment. We should not be planting them but cutting them down.

Posted by: Liam at November 29, 2007 1:19 PM
Comment #239616


southern pine facts. BTW – it is not only in the south. America’s forests are generally well managed and replanting is constant. There is also natural regeneration.

Do this. Check out a landscape photo from around 1900. Look at the same place today. Unless it has suffered urban development (not a forestry practice, BTW) you will almost always see that the tree cover has increased. The return of the American forests in the last half of the 20th century is one of the great untold success stories.


Trees require water and nutrients, as do all plants. Forests are not appropriate everywhere. There are some places where trees do not grow naturally and probably should not be made to grow. A forest ecosystem, however, is generally very good in regard to soil and water conservation.

BTW – no system, natural or man-made is eternal. A forest is a living and changing ecosystem. At some points it will pull nutrients, at other times it will restore them. It is all about balance.


I studied forestry at UWSP. I did not graduate with that degree. I recall a rather depressing talk at the Department. They told us that finding jobs as white males (this was 1974 with affirmative action strong) would be very difficult. If we wanted to work in forestry, we would probably have to move to the south and/or buy a forest. Ironically, although I never went into forestry as a profession, I have now done both.


I do not mean to disparage the heroic efforts of Wangari Maathai. But I also want to point out that we need to seek systemic solutions to problems such as deforestation. It is analogous to Mother Teresa and poverty. She did a lot of admirable work to mitigate poverty, but her efforts did little or nothing to alleviate it.

Private property rights alone are not sufficient to protect the environment, but without property rights environmental protection is impossible in the long run.


See above. There are some sorts of trees that create specific changes in soils and water. Pine trees, for example, will change the Ph of the topsoil. Maple trees “sweeten” the soil and draw up nutrients from the subsoils.

The article you link makes the valid point that trees will not be the panaca for global warming. The extrapolation that trees should be cut down is just a little silly and I suspect you are joking.

Posted by: Jack at November 29, 2007 2:08 PM
Comment #239628


I studied forestry at UWSP. I did not graduate with that degree. I recall a rather depressing talk at the Department. They told us that finding jobs as white males (this was 1974 with affirmative action strong) would be very difficult. If we wanted to work in forestry, we would probably have to move to the south and/or buy a forest. Ironically, although I never went into forestry as a profession, I have now done both. Posted by: Jack at November 29, 2007 02:08 PM

Jack, I graduated from UWSP in 1975 so we were classmates. Dr. Trainer was the dean of the Dept of Natural Resources at that time and a great man and teacher. Following graduation I couldn’t find a job in the field as wished, after turning down offers to be a border guard, of all things, I partnered with a buddy and began publishing a hunting and fishing magazine in Wisconsin which I did for many years. I featured Dean Trainer in one article and he wrote about his annual visit to Germany to study their forestry practices. I am still on the UWSP mailing list and keep up with the activities even though I have lived in Texas for the past 24 years. Jack, it’s great to run across a fellow UWSP alumni. Jim

Posted by: Jim at November 29, 2007 4:36 PM
Comment #239638

Good stewardship is ,indeed,good. Walker is better at putting it than I am,but property rights are at best a mixed bag. Property rights have long been used to resist timber management plans for example. It depends on the owner.
In the Philippines property rights work to the detriment of the whole country. 80-90% of the property belongs to a very few powerful families most of whom could care less what happens to the land so long as the money keeps pouring in.The PI has laws about logging etc. but they are ignored through bribery,patronage or other forms of corruption and intimidation. An enviormental activist in the PI is a very brave individual.Believe me,those owners have every intention of maintainning their “rights” even if it causes massive and fatal mudslides.
National Geo. did a study and found a major carbon sink in the Eastern US caused by the regrowth of forrest after the the agricultural base move to the plains states. Their conclusion was that growing forrest,not mature forrest,sequester carbon well and expanding timber production could be a major proactive tool in controlling carbon caused climate change so long as the trees harvested are replaced and wood produced is used for long term purposes like constuction. As a carpenter,music to my ears.

Posted by: BillS at November 29, 2007 7:07 PM
Comment #239642

Jack, personal property rights protection is a necessary thing for stability between the people and their democratic government. However, it in no way precludes the wisdom and value of Teddy Roosevelt to set aside public preserves, which in most, if not all democratic societies are very well protected.

The Chisos Mountains in the Chihuhuan Desert would have been denuded had the Big Bend National Park not been established. Wood in that are is scarce. In private hands, the profitability of cutting and selling that wood would have made quick work of denuding the mountains, as the Creosote companies put themselves out of business by virtually eradicating the creosote bush for 100’s of square miles in the first half of the last century.

The Alaska National Wildlife Refuge are would be a potholed mess of roads, wells, pipelines, and refuse long before now, had the area not been protected as public land.

Your article makes many good arguments, but, its overarching argument that public land is inferior to private land across the board, does not wash. Environmental protection is a regional issue and dependent upon many factors like the marketability and replenishability of the natural resources found in that region.

Whole mountains are being permanently removed from American maps by mining companies. Which is appropriate in certain places, but certainly not all. Mt. Rushmore for example, should mining grade minerals exist inside the heads of our Presidential icons. Some mountains are worth preserving, like those surrounding Denver, which have enormous economic and climatological benefits for the area by their presence.

I don’t accept your apparent underlying thesis that public lands are anathema to the benefits of private land and benefits thereof. The liberty and freedom and isolation and peace I experience camping with my family in the forests on BLM land in Southern Colorado near the Colorado Springs area, is priceless. Local ranchers benefit from this BLM land, 10’s of thousands of citizens enjoy these lands every year for vacations, hunters enjoy these lands, and the local wildlife of mountain lion, bear, moose, deer, and many more enjoy the benefits of this publicly owned and administered lands. The portion of my income taxes spend in the preservation and maintenance of these lands is one of the best bargains I receive for those tax dollars.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 29, 2007 8:28 PM
Comment #239655


Good to know. I liked it at UWSP. It was a nice environment, although I wasted a lot of time drinking Point Special. They seem to have changed the recipe. Last time I was up there, it did not seem to have that familiar skunky taste. The downtown has changed so much I hardly recognize the place.

As I mentioned, I didn’t graduate in forestry. I gave up after they gave us that “no jobs” speech. Maybe you attended the meeting. It sounds like you also were a victim of the rampant affirmative action of the times, but both of us, it seems, did okay.


I understand you point and I think I need to clarify. The way property rights have evolved in most developed countries is different from that of developing countries and I think that the developments are not coincidental, i.e. the property rights help create developments and the reverse.

In most developing countries, property rights really are NOT secure or more precisely they are secured by political influence more than by rule of law. Large owners defend their interest through the political process and expropriations occur if they do not. Beyond that, property rights are constrained. For example, it may be difficult or impossible to sell the property. It is very important that property be transferable, otherwise you really do not have ownership.

Of course no property owner anywhere in the world enjoys unlimited rights on his property. Purists would say that even paying taxes on it means you do not own it. I think we need to take a reasonable standard.

Your comment about growing forests is exactly right. Well managed forests are a resource for today and tomorrow AND they take more CO2 out of the air when they are young, healthy and fast growing.


I agree. In fact, as I wrote, strong property rights are paradoxically crucial to being able to set aside land for public use. My observation is that in places where property rights are constrained public lands are also a mess. The two are NOT opposed, but actually complimentary. Places like the old Soviet Union or socialist developing countries are almost always environmental disasters on their public lands too.

The overarching theme of my articles, as I saw it, was to show the often overlooked support for a prosperous country and a sound environment is a mundane and seemingly unrelated thing like property rights.

You probably have figured out by now that I do not believe in any ideal system. I do not think it is necessary, possible or even desirable to seek perfection. In the real world, property right protection works very well to achieve both our economic and environmental goals.

A secondary theme, BTW, was to squash that PC garbage and sanctimonious anti- Western thought expressed by the UNEP guy. My general rule of thumb is that the more anyone or anybody is praised by international bureaucrats, the more messed up they are. I do not think the bureaucrats running the UNEP really understand how the system works. They really do believe their own rhetoric. We should not join them in drinking that Kool-Aid. You know a country whose conservation program works well in the real world is Botswana. You do not hear much about it because (1) it really works so it limits the scope for celebrity grandstanding and (2) it works by giving people property rights to include wild animals, which goes against the ideological grain of the chattering classes. When you allow regulated hunting and ownership, you can avoid much of the poaching.

Posted by: Jack at November 30, 2007 12:07 AM
Comment #239656

Jack, you didn’t go very deeply into this, but a relatively high percentage of privately owned forests (at least in the part of the country I’m most familiar with them—the Pacific Northwest) aren’t always noticeably different from public lands when it comes to public use. Timber companies own the land and harvest the trees, but they allow horse-back riding, hunting, fishing, camping, etc. on it.

David, you could take your family camping in many a private forest and not notice any difference from your experience in a park.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 30, 2007 12:25 AM
Comment #239660

Loyal Opp., perhaps many, but, the private campgrounds I have attended are commercialized for profits, convenience, and so crowded as to have reservation systems months ahead.

To me, these are big differences. The land of the free, should have some free land, unexploited for profits and personal gains.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 30, 2007 12:49 AM
Comment #239667

David & LO

I have hunt club on my land. They pay $700 a year for the 178 acres of hunting for the year. It ALMOST pays the property taxes, but they help take care of the land and they take out an insurance policy.

The threat to your use of private lands are the GD lawyers. I would not mind people hiking on my land, but I fear the lawsuits if somebody trips on a rock. MOST people do not sue, but one can create fear of thousands.

Fortunately Virginia has decent laws limiting liability for owners of undeveloped land, but clever lawyers can find a way so we have posted no trespassing signs.

Re campgrounds - all popular campground, public or private, are crowded. Have you been to Yosmite or Shenandoah?

Posted by: Jack at November 30, 2007 8:39 AM
Comment #239670


Recently on NPR there was an article on the “One Square Inch Project”.


It’s goal is to preserve, not only the forest, but the sound scape within the forest as well.

My experiences recently (within the last 20 years) are that people seem to want to drag the city with them when they come to the forest. They can’t seem to leave the trappings of home behind them.
When I camp I don’t really need to hear the noises I left behind, and I take offence at the ATVs, the buses, the stereos, etc.., that I came to the forest to escape.
I recently moved from Phoenix to Prescott AZ. I moved here not just to escape the heat, but the city as well.

Perhaps I am just selfish, but I go camping in the forest for solitude, and I think wilderness should be just that, wilderness. No roads, just walking trails.
Camping, to me, involves a backpack, a sleeping bag, and a good pair of hiking shoes. If I can’t carry it on my back, I don’t need it.
People that need more than that should either stay in the city, or stay in a hotel, because their city trappings aren’t enhancing their forest experience, just degrading the experience for everyone else.

Now, all that said, I have no problem with the “plantations” of trees that are planted and harvested, like a cash crop, for lumber, in the proper areas.
Let’s leave the wilderness areas alone for those that enjoy them.

Posted by: Rocky at November 30, 2007 9:06 AM
Comment #239676

“Jack, you didn’t go very deeply into this, but a relatively high percentage of privately owned forests (at least in the part of the country I’m most familiar with them—the Pacific Northwest) aren’t always noticeably different from public lands when it comes to public use. Timber companies own the land and harvest the trees, but they allow horse-back riding, hunting, fishing, camping, etc. on it.” Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 30, 2007 12:25 AM

LO, that has been my experience also. The National Forests are managed under a multiple-use plan providing economical benefit, preservation, and recreation. Enlighted private ownership of huge tracts of forested land attempt to do the same. Renewable natural resources are a national treasure and for the most part are well managed by both the Federal and State Governments providing something of value for every interest without depleting the resource.

Posted by: Jim at November 30, 2007 10:51 AM
Comment #239700

Human population growth will be a determining factor in the amount of land that is forested.

Where I live, the national and state forests provide ample recreational opportunities. Mead Corporation is the largest private owner of land and their properties are fenced and posted. No one goes on their property. Both the government have begun to systematicly cleare cut their properties. The government is letting the natural hardwoods replenish their clearcut areas but, Mead is replacing their deciduous trees with Jacks Pines.

Posted by: jlw at November 30, 2007 2:35 PM
Comment #239707

Just one question, How do trees stabilize a water supply? I confess ignorance.

As a geotechnical engineer I am aware that trees suck large amounts of water from the soil, such that when they are removed, the saturation of the surrounding clay (assuming the soils are clay) soils causes the soils to heave, thus creating problems for building foundations.

Posted by: googlumpugus at November 30, 2007 3:50 PM
Comment #239709


It depends on whether you are talking about an individual tree or a forest and where both are.

A forest stabilizes water supplies in part by sucking up the water, as you say. In addition, the trees prevent the rain from pelting the bare earth and create shade that slows evaporation. The roots hold the soil and the dead leaves or needles insulate it from extremes.

If you look at the runnoff from a forest, you see that the water comes off much more evenly. Rain falling on bare earth or even a lawn runs off quickly. Streams go from nearly dry to raging torent to nearly dry again. A forest stream is less capricious and flows more evenly as water is slowed, going through leaves, a-level of soil humus, roots etc. If you have been in the woods when it rains, you know that you feel the drops less strongly, but water slowly drips from the leaves long after the rain has passed.

A forest is a living system and is more than the trees. The trees change the composition of the soil, temperatures, humidity etc. generally moderating them.

A tree covered watershed is the best way to ensure steady supplies of clean water because the living system of the forest protects it.

Posted by: Jack at November 30, 2007 5:03 PM
Comment #239725

Rocky, you reflect my thoughts on vacation camping in the national forests precisely. No boom boxes, TV dinners, electric refrigerators, lounge chairs, RV generators for us. Bird song during the morning, the silence of the afternoon, the coyote’s wail after sunset, and the patter of desert mice feet in the night are ample enough sounds for us. And we appreciate hearing the rattlesnake’s warning before coming too close, and the warning snorts of Havalina should we inadvertently wander too close, or rustlings of black bear 100’s of yards away allowing us to raise binoculars in awe, rather than find ourselves playing dead while being mauled.

I wonder how many campers have been injured or killed by wildlife due to their wearing CD headphones, or being so intoxicated and boisterous as to fail to hear the warnings of the local residents. I was taught that the object of camping in remote areas was to rejoin the natural world and experience it as the local wildlife do, with senses and faculties attuned to the surroundings.

When I first started camping in bear, mountain lion, and havalina country, every sound in the night woke me with anxiety. Through the years, I have learned to pretty accurately identify what each sound is, to the point that most of them don’t even wake me now.

A few still do and should, like the heavy hoof of Moose in rutting season. It is an exciting and awesome experience to meet nature face to face in situations where ignorance could cost you life or limb, but confident awareness and appreciation prevents that from being a concern.

Nothing has taught me awareness and appreciation for the need of it, like camping in the wilds alone. Camping with the wildlife and my living with my family are the two loved experiences I shall weep over the loss of at my end of time on this earth.

In my view, living things are the senses of God, through which, God experiences its own handiwork. Which makes my camping experiences of creation integral to god’s experience, and just as infinite. The natural world is a religious experience unto itself. An experience distinctly different than that of the man made world of concrete, money, and congestion in urban environs.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 30, 2007 6:45 PM
Comment #239726


Those soils would heave whether the trees were there or not. It is a characteristic of the soil itself.

In addition to what Jack said, trees slow down the runoff of water, so that it has a chance to soak into the soil and more of it enters the water table, where it becomes a more steady supplier of water to rivers and lakes by seepage and springs.

Also, this slowing of runoff reduces the loss of topsoil, and thereby the silting in of lakes and rivers. again improving the supply of clean water.

Posted by: Ben at November 30, 2007 7:00 PM
Comment #239728


Check out this link:


1.6 billion trees were produced by nurseries in the US. Of the top eleven tree planting states, 9 are in the South, which accounts for 79% of the US total. 2.6 billion acres were planted in the US in FY 1998.

Posted by: Ben at November 30, 2007 7:18 PM
Comment #239736


You are correct that clay soils heave when saturated, but there is an additional effect if trees are removed from a site because the natural moisture content rises. That is something a geotechnical engineer must take into account in his design considerations.


While i agree a watershed is less prone to erosion if it is vegetated, I’m not quite sure how trees stabilize a water supply unless your talking about the extremes of barren earth and a vast forest. Even then it has more to do with local weather patterns and soil structures, in my opinion. Maybe you like trees a little too much and want to ascribe good qualities to them. I think you’re reaching a bit.

I do think your main point that trees are a good thing is correct, as to strong property rights, I’m all for them. That property rights preserve trees is another bit of a stretch. TR understood that. I suspect a good understanding in the community of the value of forest preservation might be a better tool.

I was wondering since you believe in strong property rights, shouldn’t there be some form of restitution to Native Americans for the losses they incurred in the eagerness to pursue Manifest Destiny and the trampling of their property rights?

Posted by: googlumpugus at November 30, 2007 9:56 PM
Comment #239753


Different environments require different things. The forest is a particularly good watershed protector because it is multidimensional. The forest might reach 100 feet into the air and the roots may extend dozens of feel below the ground surface. A lawn might only go a few inches in each direction and of course bare ground or pavement is just the surface centimeters. A hundred feet provides more stability than a few inches.

If you work with constuction you know that if you cut down the trees on the hill, you will have more problems with water, it being too dry or too wet, but rarely just right. And cutting down trees around you may cause your basement to flood and in the longer run your well to run dry. It is just practical experience.

The private property and forest protection is based on experience. In places where private property is strong, forests are well protected. Most of the abuse occurs where property rights are weak. As I mentioned above several times, private property strengthens the capacity to protect public lands. They are complementary. That seems a paradox to those who have not thought it through, but it is true.

Re Indians – that is a different debate, but there is an important lesson to the subject at hand. Indians did not have a developed system of property rights, which added to their grief. If you carefully consult the historical record, you will also find that Native American practices were sustainable only because of their low population density. Even in this benign environment, lack of defined property rights led to continual endemic war and raiding among the tribes as they infringed on what each considered its hunting grounds. War was low intensity, but never ending and every man had to be a warrior ready to defend himself and his tribe with violence. That is, BTW, what warriors do. Our modern generally peaceful society recognizes the word but not the context or consequences.

Posted by: Jack at December 1, 2007 12:32 AM
Comment #239757

Jack said: “Even in this benign environment, lack of defined property rights led to continual endemic war and raiding among the tribes as they infringed on what each considered its hunting grounds.”

As opposed to modern 20th and 21st century endemic and continual war in the world for arable land, water, oil hunting and pumping grounds, right?

Private property is no damned prophylactic to war, Jack. Sheesh!

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 1, 2007 1:16 AM
Comment #239768


War predates human civilization and probably human being. It is an intensely human activity. Private property AND the ability to buy and sell mitigates the economic basis for war. It does not eliminate it but big changes in relative wealth would probably have provoked war in earlier ages. The rise of China, Japan or India just means some currency transfers.

I was just riffing off what googlumpagus said. We have that myth of the noble saveage. We kick ourselves because we have wars and soldiers. In primitive tribes EVERY man is a warrior and it is war without end. It is useful to remind ourselves lest we base our decisions on error.

Posted by: Jack at December 1, 2007 9:07 AM
Comment #239769

Yikes, Me think he smokum tree leaves.

This reminds me of the cartoon where Wiley Coyote is running in the air after going over a cliff.

The Indians did not have well developed property rights? As opposed to who? The Europeans who brought their fights over land and power to America over land and power?

That is White European myth. Actual history doesn’t show that at all, Jack. Yes, Indian tribes fought and some tribes were nomadic. Just like Europeans.

Trees have little to do with Water Supplies or Sheds, except erosion control.

Property rights have little to do with tree preservation or stealing Indian lands and genocide.

Inspite of your great experience and “history”, reality shows me otherwise.

Posted by: googlumpugus at December 1, 2007 9:11 AM
Comment #239781

Intresting thing occured in N. CA. a while ago. There is an old company ,Pacific Lumber.here abouts. It had been a family controlled redwood timber concern upwards of a hunderd years with vast trcts of land. It was managed quite well although because of legacy most of their equiptment was designed for large,really large,tree processing. In order to get the needed capital to modernize the mill to deal with smaller second and even third growth trees the family took it public. Result was it was bought up by Maxim Corp in a hostile takeover useing junk bonds. Maxim then proceeded to start “timber mining” to pay off the bonds. Eventually the state entered to restrict their property rights by purchaseing a large tract of old growth for a lot of money and imposeing a strigent timber harvest plan still often contested.
Of interest,seems reseachers have determined that coast redwoods actually put water into the ground in the summer months collected from fog.

Posted by: BillS at December 1, 2007 12:32 PM
Comment #239790

Jack said: “In primitive tribes EVERY man is a warrior and it is war without end. It is useful to remind ourselves lest we base our decisions on error.”

Jack, in some tribes every woman was the hunter, the men were village keepers, and war was not an issue, due to the absence of population pressures between rival tribes for limited common resources. Anthropology is not nearly so clean and neat as your broad brush summary statement above implies.

Hunting is not War. War in primitive times was to be avoided wherever possible. The enemy was the elements and lack of technology to provide dietary needs. No village was advantaged by the loss of their hunters.

Enter culture and religion. With the advent of well developed language, arose communication and explanations of the world based on faulty information and understanding of the world and its resources and changes. As with the Greeks concept of myriad gods moving humans actions on an earthly chess board, so very much of what people did and why was justified by the ‘will of the gods’. Aztec’s were an extreme case of the marriage of power with divine intervention to create a culture of war and power which remained secure - until the Europeans arrived.

The point being, that it isn’t until populations grow to the extent that competition for land and water based resources becomes a threat, that war even develops a basis or rationale for existence as a justifiable human activity.

Today, some of our species are struggling to address this issue through technologies that can accommodate vast populations of demand with sufficient supplies without war being necessitated while others of our species continue to advocate the war solution to the problem of too many people, not enough resources.

This lies at the philosophical core of the differences between liberal and conservative philosophies in part. Conservative philosophy is predicated on might to secure needed resources while liberal philosophy is predicated on the technology and population solutions to the problem.

Democracy, being a liberal concept, and growing in the world of nations, is trending toward the abolition of war by pooling resources to fund the technologies to limit population growth and advance production of basic necessities to meet population demand.

Of course, democracy is a highly sophisticated and complex form of government over authoritarian style governments predicated on armies to secure both power and resources, instead of technologies to slow reduce population growth and increase supply of basic needs.

The United States finds itself at this very moment caught in a struggle between these solutions as evidenced by the rule of the GOP vs. the rule of Democrats. The Republican model is predicated on the most powerful military in the world securing resources with it. The Democratic model is predicated on increasing supplies through a pooling of resources and diverting military resources to that effort.

In a nuclear weapon age, the species must move to the Democratic model of voluntary birth control and pooling resources, or reap the rewards of vast and sudden population decreases through nuclear war fostered by the Republican model, thereby increasing supply by reducing demand.

The election shift in 2006 at its root, is evidence of this shift from the Republican model (war in Iraq for oil) toward the Democratic model (technology shifts to oil independence using home based non-foreign resources).

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 1, 2007 4:27 PM
Comment #239792


We have little to talk about since we obviously do not understand each other and see reality differently.

I can let the differences in historical interpretation slide, but you really should study up a little more on ecology and trees, since your profession evidently impacts them.

What do you have against trees anyway? Because somebody on the red side advocates conservation you have to be against it?


The state did not restrict property rights. It bought that land. It respected property rights. I have no objection to the action as you describe it nor to the process. It probably did a good thing.


I think your characterization of liberal and conservative is written for a very liberal point of view.

As a conservative, I certainly believe in the application of technologies to increase prosperity. Market economies do that better than any other systems. The market also mitigates the economic reasons for war. Why risk your life taking by force what you can buy? Take the example of Japan. In 1941 Japan tried to seize by violence territories and resources it felt it needed to make it rich. In today’s open markets, the Japanese are much richer than they dreamed of being back then and they buy what they need and invest in those places they once tried to conquer. No invasions are necessary. The same is true of Germany. They have secured through trade and investment the resources Hitler thought he could only have by force.

War is uncertain and bad for business. The Iraq war is about securing oil, but not in the way you think. Saddam would have sold us all the oil we needed at prices lower than we are paying now. We did not need to seize that oil by force. If the war was about that, there would be no war. Oil, however, gives the holder resources that can translate into other sorts of power. W/o the power of oil, Saddam would have been no threat and so there would have been no war. So oil is the root of the problem, but the problem was not how to get oil.

Good luck with the Democratic model, BTW. With the proper incentives, the market will deliver those results. If the Dems don’t screw it up, they can take credit.

Posted by: Jack at December 1, 2007 5:10 PM
Comment #239795

Property rights are no pannecia in fact can hold back progress. As in most things societal,it depends. The PI is an example of a place where the concentration of property rights is holding the country back.That country has good ports,natural resources,a hardworking educated population. One of the reasons it is not a properious place is because of property rights.They despartly need for the property rights of the few to be infringed upon to provide property rights for many.You speak of Japan. Were not the large fuedal estates broken up after WW2?

Another interesting property rights question. When Gulliani was mayor of NYC he launched a campaign to “clean up” Times Square. To do so he violated the property rights of the owners of the strip clubs in the area. They were engaged in a legal bussiness and were told to stop or be penalized . Value was taken from their private holdings by the state with no recompense. What do property rights advocates have to say about this?Should the owners have recieved damages from the city? Should they be allowed to re-open their bussinesses?

Posted by: BillS at December 1, 2007 5:44 PM
Comment #239800


You really should read my posts before commenting on them and then making condescending remarks.

I like trees, as I stated. They are beautiful, abate noise and cool the ground in summer.

My point which you apparently cannot refute is that your post reveals your eagerness to expound upon trees but makes a few mistakes in talking about watersheds and water supplies as synonyms, thinking that trees somehow stabilize them by “sucking” water, that Indians didn’t really “own” their ancestral grounds, and that Europeans were superior to them. Oh Yeah, and that property rights had anything to do with preserving trees. Other than those little factual errors, great post.

Posted by: alien from the planet zorg at December 1, 2007 7:52 PM
Comment #239801

Your dancing around again. The Iraq invasion and occupation is about CONTROL of oil,not supply.That Saddam would have sold it to us is irelevant although his terms would not have been nearly as good for US oil concerns as the terms extorted from the current Iraqi puppet regime.History will see this as but one more oil war in a long stream of them,a stream of them that will continue for generations unless we get serious about finding alternate sources of energy.

Posted by: BillS at December 1, 2007 8:05 PM
Comment #239802

Jack said: “As a conservative, I certainly believe in the application of technologies to increase prosperity.”

I think what more accurately reflects your opinion based on previous writings is you believe in the application of technologies to increase profits, which you believe will trickle down to others.

That is a very different perspective than the liberal one which asks everyone to pool some share of resources to advance technology for the benefit of all in the future. It is the difference in tax and economic policies that divide Republicans and Democrats. And it is a very large difference.

The Republican approach is exemplified by the Big 3 Auto manufacturers who lobbied intensely to forestall the current energy bill’s mandate for 35 mpg, claiming it would eat into their profits. Hence attempting to impede technological advancement in auto production.

The Democrat’s approach in this Bill is to stick a middle finger to the Big 3 and say, 35mpg is the least you can do to compete with foreign manufacturers producing 45mpg already. And if the Big 3 bankrupt, so be it. The American consumers will get their higher mpg either way because it is best for the nation and the future.

A bankrupt auto manufacturer will see its capital assets sold to someone who will produce the higher mpg AND make a profit. We know this by the American consumer’s demand for Toyotas and Hondas with higher mpg vehicles already.

As BillS said, the Iraq invasion was about Control of oil, an insurance play against Saddam who at some point may have withdrawn Iraqi oil production in protest to treatment by the U.S. or other governments. It is still about resources, and the overpopulated demand for their finite capacity and production.

Over population creates shortages which drives up profits. Republicans oppose abortion and many oppose birth control. Republicans elevate the importance of the individual relative to society as a whole. Coincidence? Not really.

Democrats seek and enable voluntary population growth control, and pooled taxation revenues to solve the limited resource problems and equalize demand and supply which tends to reduce, but not eliminate profits. Democrats elevate the society relative to the individual. Coincidence? Not really.

Just different values at play at the core of their philosophies on economic and social policy.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 1, 2007 9:02 PM
Comment #239818

My mention of control was not specifically as an insurance against Saddam. We want control to keep others from having it,ie.China and to reduce any leverage Russia may try and use. Our leaders are playing Global Domination and control of energy resources is like owning Park Place and Boardwalk.

Posted by: BillS at December 2, 2007 3:11 AM
Comment #239823


I don’t believe I commented on anything you wrote, unless you also write under a different name.

Re trees sucking up the water, I was not the one to first use that term and it was not an important part of my post. I tried to explain that a forest provides hundreds of feet of environment above and below the soil surface. The forest moderates the climate. Do some research. Stand in a forest on a hot day and in an open field. In which do you feel more comfortable. Do the same in cold weather or at night. You will feel the difference and that affects the soils, water, air and everything else.

I really do fail to see your point about trees and forests.

Re Indian property rights, they had no concept of property rights the way we use the concept today. They did not understand the concept of buying or selling land. You can judge this to be good, bad or indifferent. My point is only that it led to trouble when they were confronted with a civilization that had a more complex system for them.


The modern concept of property rights is only been around for a few centuries. A feudal lord did not own his property in the sense we use the term. He controlled the land as the vassal of the king or maybe another lord. He could not freely sell it or any part of it and held it on the obligation of specific services. If you cannot buy and sell it, you do not own it in the modern sense.

It is true that in parts of the world, the old medieval past laid its dead hand on the future. You know that I had communism with a passion, but one thing they did that was useful is to expropriate some of the vast hereditary properties. It was a jump start, however, not something you can make a policy.

BillS 2

The terms that we could have bought oil under Saddam were better than the ones we have today. The oil price is an international price. Saddam was willing to undercut it a little. The war for profit makes no sense if you just count the costs and the potential profits.

BillS 3

The best strategy in Monopoly is to own the red properies (Illinois, Indiana & Kentucy). They are the productive ones. The blue properties (Boardwalk, Park Place) are old money. People don’t land there often.


New technologies do not trickle down. I think the applicable metaphor is an expanding ink spot. Those who figure out how to use new technologies benefit faster than those who do not or adopt them later. This is the way all innovation works, whether you make money on it or not. A few people adopt it first and only later, if it works, do others take it up. Of course, many innovations do not work. Those who adopt it early are often left with no profits at all.

This kind of ink blog thing works in all human and natural systems. It is not likely that anything affects everybody equally or at the same time. Some come in front and some follow behind.

Re the big three – who were the biggest advocates for them in the House and Senate? What party?

Re philosophy - equality of results indeed is not very important to me. I prefer free opportunity, which will lead to unequal results.

Posted by: Jack at December 2, 2007 6:40 AM
Comment #239837

BillS, and Saddam was like an owner of Boardwalk and Park Place who would be willing to lease them to political allies and withhold them from adversaries. Control is what it was about, control of the government in control of the oil. Saddam could not be made compliant to U.S. dictates, and he made that abundantly clear.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 2, 2007 12:51 PM
Comment #239839

Jack said: “New technologies do not trickle down.”

Jack, why do you make such absurd blanket statements? Of course it trickles down. If we raise the CAFE standards to 35 mpg, wealthier new car buyers will buy them. And in 5 years, those same cars will be filling used car lots at substantially lower ownership costs, and the less wealthy will become their new owners. New technologies do trickle down in many cases such as this.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 2, 2007 12:54 PM
Comment #239856


I argue with the image of trickle down. It implies that those already rich employ some new innovation and then they trickle to the poor. In fact the causality is not that way. Innovators get rich BY their successful innovation. Those innovation then spread to those who figure out how to use them. Innovation tends to change the distribution of wealth. People with high incomes who do not innovate are replaced by people who used to make lower incomes but do innovate. It is more like an ink blot than a trickle.

Think of an innovtion such as computers or internet. The rich were not a high proportion of initial users. I knew (as you must have) many young people who managed to get new technology. They were not rich then, but after figuring out how to use the innovation, many of them are rich now. It is dynamic.

The car example is true, but not a good example of innovation. A person today, on the used car lot, can buy a car that gets 45+ mpg. He can also choose to drive less, car pool etc. There are lots of options.

I do not find that the well off necessarily buy the more expensive cars. Poorer people, unfortunately, are willing to borrow money in order to drive cars they cannot afford. Overweaning love of automobiles is one thing that helps keep the poor in relative poverty.

Posted by: Jack at December 2, 2007 4:55 PM
Comment #239866

The price paid for oil from a given lease is set largely when the lease is negotiated and does not neccessarily reflect the current international price . I did not mean to infer that the war was started for profit although that was and is a factor. The war was started as a move in a global geo-political offensive to gain control of oil supplies, not actual supplies ,not immediate profits for the oil trust,but control.

Posted by: BillS at December 2, 2007 10:09 PM
Comment #239875

Jack said: “I do not find that the well off necessarily buy the more expensive cars.”

Drive through the parking lots of buildings on the edge of Central Park, NY, or around the Montchanin, De. where incomes per capita range from $600,000 and up.

Your definition of well-off and mine seem to differ. I don’t see folks making $80,000 a year or less driving Jaguars, Bugattis, Ferrari’s, Zonda’s, Koenigsegg’s or Porsche’s, do you?

Lexus, Hummers or Cadillacs, sure at $55,000 or less. But, these aren’t in the same class as the previous group, not by a long shot since, $100,000 or several more, separates their new car pricing.

But compare mpg ratings.

Range Rover gets (combined) 14 mpg. Cadillac Escalade 14 mpg. Lexus IS250, small car, 21 mpg.

Ferrari, 599 GTB, 12 mpg. BMW Alpina 16 mpg.

On vehicles like these your oft promoted carbon tax makes a huge amount of sense. Like cigarette taxes, your carbon taxes could wean people off of the bad habit. Though, many would argue that cigarette taxes are appropriate, but equally prohibitive carbon taxes on expensive mpg vehicles would not be, since it limits choice.

What’s good for the poorer isn’t good for the wealthy in many circles. Like abortion bans, which would prevent the poor from having them, but, the wealthy would simply fly to a country where they are legal.

If it limits the wealthy it limits choice. If it limits the poorer, it’s good for the nation and for the poor folks own good. What hypocrisy.

Sorry, I have drifted off your comment’s topic. Trickle down does trickle down, but, the wider the gap, the less trickles down. More billionaires have been created in the last 2 decades than in any previous. But wages for the working middle class have stagnated for most of that same period. We are not talking sloth or lack of work ethic here, when talking of the middle class. Trickle down doesn’t work in our time and economy, because much of the wealth accrued is not recirculating in our our economy and creating higher paying jobs. Much of that wealth is being invested overseas and much of the jobs created are lower paying than exported jobs. Trickle down is not working at the macro level.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 3, 2007 3:51 AM
Comment #239937


Yes, a forest is cooler, and may effect a local climate (unless we are suddenly talking about forests that cover the entire US) In fact, your just repeating what I said. The point, however, that you are dancing around is the falsehood that a forest effects in any significant way (with the exception of erosion) a watershed or water supply. You keep saying I need to study it, an effete way that is telling of your own lack of facts to back your overstatement.

The absurd statement that it was Native Americans lack of a European understanding that planting a flag in America suddenly deemed them owners of land that led to “trouble”. It is well documented that many treaties were either ignored, swindles at the outset, or simply a facade for aggression.
You either have never read beyond High School history or simply are unable to accept the priori intent of Europe to make America a conquest. To assert that the Native Americans had no concept of European “ownership” is simply bizarre. I suppose if you were as bigoted and intent on annihilation as the Europeans, then this statement would make some sense. Millions of Europeans streamed into the US killing and taking Native American ancestral lands. Native Americans mostly were treated as subhuman creatures, they fought, but were overwhelmed by the weaponry, diseases and the massive influx of the Europeans.

Jack, this post has revealed biases in your thinking that seem to be inurred to any relationship to fact at all. I’m dissapointed.

Posted by: googlumpugus at December 4, 2007 9:40 AM
Comment #239959


As you can tell, I like trees. I own a forest. I have been planting trees all my life. I have seen the difference a forest can make. A windbreak of trees can significantly affect the evaporation off a lake or reserviour. All over the world, people prefer forest lands for watershed protection. I am sorry that I cannot share experience with you and I do not know how to say it in ways you understand. You really DO need to study it more before you can understand. You are trying to put me in the postion of proving to you that the sky is blue or dawn is in the east. If you choose not to believe it, I don’t care since you are not in postition to cause serious harm to forest policies. I’ll plant my trees; you do not have to.

Re Indians, yes they were conquered by the Europeans and generally mistreated. I got considerably beyond HS history and I understand that was the nature of the world for most of world history and not unique. I do not believe that strong concepts of property rights would have protected Indian land from all agression unless the Europeans choose to respect them. My only point is that they did not have them. It was impossible to buy and sell land. That led to many misunderstandings and probably exacerbated an already bad situation.

The Indian concept of ownership was like that of people all over the world who have lots of space and not many people. It works in those situations, but the hunter, gathering small farmers always lose out.

Posted by: Jackj at December 4, 2007 1:51 PM
Comment #239988


It is quite easy to define the color or the sky as refraction of light that causes us to see the wavelength associated with blue, as it is quite easy to prove the rotation of earth causes the sun to “rise” in the east. I don’t have to believe in them. It is about scientific fact. Your statement here quite clearly inidcates the lack of foundation in science for your gross overstatement. It isn’t about belief.

You most certainly suggested that it was property rights that led to the loss of Native American lands. I accept your acknowledgement of your errors, as difficult as that may have been for you. I generally like your posts and find many of your arguments reasonable. As you well know, here, that doesn’t give you a pass.

Posted by: googlumpugus at December 4, 2007 7:29 PM
Comment #240521


We are talking past each other.

I do not know if you read anything by William James. He was annoyed by the philosophical arguments based on definition and wordplay. In his pragmatic philosophy, you worried about the actual affects. In the old philosophical argument about transubstantiation, for example, whether or not the communion host actually becomes the body and blood of Jesus or is just a metaphor, the pragmatist just doesn’t care. It tastes like bread.

I can live my life very well knowing that the sky is blue and the sun rises in the east. If these things are not technically true, it matters as much to me as transubstantiation. I know from practical experience that trees are good protectors of watersheds. Everybody else who has the same experience agrees. It would be nice if I had a complex theory as to why this is true, and I suppose there is somebody who has one, but I don’t need it.

BTW - I do not think any angels can dance on the head of a pin and if I really questioned my existence enough to have to say “I think” to prove that “I am”, I would be retarded. Why doubt in your theories what you know to be true in your experience?

Posted by: Jack at December 11, 2007 12:33 PM
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