National Parks: Welfare for Middle-Class White People

By Mike Tront – Support Mike on Patreon

For those of us who believe government that governs less, governs best; welfare seems to be a huge bugaboo. Talk to any conservative or libertarian about reducing spending; and some sneer about welfare is sure to come out of their mouth.

Unfortunately, this disdain for welfare is usually directed at the poorer class. However, entitlements for the poorest Americans are only a fraction of welfare given out, since social security, medicare, farm/business subsidies, and of course corporate welfare are more often given to the middle and upper class.  With this in mind, the last thing a small government advocate should worry about is food stamps.  Especially if they’re trying to win over hearts and minds.


Which brings me to this little gem from NPR on how the National Parks have a minority problem. The irony of NPR calling out the National Parks for being too white is funny, considering 87% of NPR’s terrestrial listening audience is white.  But that article is for another day.

So what’s the point?  According to the above NPR article: “Collectively, minorities made up just over 20 percent of the visitors to national parks, despite the fact that they made up nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population.”

There’s plenty of reasons given for this, one is the lack of public transportation to the parks, another is the lack of signs in Spanish, and of course another reason is the cost. There’s even a section of the article on how the National Park staff is just too darn white!  All of these are valid concerns I’ll admit, but these shouldn’t be the concerns of the public, they should be the concerns of the future owners of the park.

The fact is, it is not fair for people who don’t use the parks, minority or otherwise, to pay for the parks.  This is one of the fundamental flaws of government.  Government forces people pay for things they otherwise wouldn’t pay for and often times don’t even enjoy!

“But without government, we wouldn’t have these beautiful National Parks!!!” you might say.  That is total B.S., we would have National Parks, but it would be no different than any other amusement park.  Why doesn’t the government fund Disney World or Cedar Point?  Because the people that actually go there fund it.  Not only does Disney World NOT cost taxpayers billions of dollars a year, and force minorities and to pay taxes to support them for whites to enjoy, but Disney World PAYS millions in taxes per year!

So if you’re a conservative or libertarian that hates big government, the solution is easy, sell off the National Parks and let businesses run them.  That will reduce spending by billions every year, and bring in billions from the sale.

If you’re a liberal or libertarian that hates oppressing minorities and hates welfare for the middle-class and wealthy, then the solution is easy, sell off the National Parks.  Stop forcing the millions of people, whether minorities, or poor, or just hate the outdoors, who don’t use them to pay for them.


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  1. We shouldn’t worry about welfare or food stamps because it is such a small amount of the budget? Unless the US park service has a larger budget than those… the rest of your argument makes absolutely no sense. The entire National parks budget is $3 billion, a quick google search reveals:

    “How much government spends on welfare?
    The federal government spends $668 billion dollars per year on 126 different welfare programs (spending by the state and local governments push that figure up to $1 trillion per year).”

    At the federal level alone, parks are less than half a percent of what welfare costs.

    1. Spending is only a small aspect. I lump the parks in with other welfare for middle and upper class like business subsides, corporate welfare, etc.

      Main reason against government owning parks is moral. It’s not right to force people to pay for something they don’t us

    1. Thanks for reading!

      Of course people love parks. New Yorkers love Central Park and it’s probably one of the main reasons real estate is so valuable around it. My issue is moral, it’s just not right to force people to pay for something just because we feel it is nice or would benefit them.

      Let the market take over Centeal Park and it wouldn’t go away, it would probably get nicer without the bureaucracy of government involved. And it’d still be free, just supported with shops, advertising, etc. Plus the crime problem would be dealt with since crime is bad for business.

      1. I work at a small national historic site. We charge a small fee, no more than a movie ticket, for folks to enjoy our historic buildings, hiking trails, and museum. Historic buildings are costly to maintain (ours were built from 1867-1879), and we receive shockingly little from the federal government. Our cost of upkeep and cost of improvements (you gotta buy stuff with which to stock those buildings to look authentic) is funded almost entirely on entry fees and donations. I’m sure that other parks are operated in the same manner. Businesses might be able to serve the same function better (and maybe not — plenty of businesses suck), but in the meantime what would happen to my job? I’m supporting a family on not a whole lot of pay, and the government health benefits have saved our asses on a couple of occasions. The bottom line, though, is that my major concern is that all of the places that fall under the umbrella of the National Park Service — monuments, battlefields, scenic trails, parks, historic sites, etc. — are our nation’s culture and history. Preserving these places is extremely important to our national identity, and I just don’t think that they should be thrown up into the air like what Libertarians are proposing. I agree with the platform on nearly every other issue.

        1. Thanks for reading and commenting Lauren. Parks and historic sites are amazing and necessary and definitely in demand. Just like any other service, however, putting it in the hands of politicians and bureaucracies increases the costs and lowers the quality. Not to mention it’s simply not right to force people who don’t like or visit parks to subsidize those who do like parks. You already said in your comment that your site and many others are funded mostly by user fees. That’s exactly how it should and would work if they were totally left up to the free market. In fact, many parks and sites could become cheaper for people in a freer setting. Parks could get corporate sponsors, focus more on concessions and other profitable activities, and who knows what other innovations the owners could come up with. More people coming in would mean more profits, so it’s in their best interest to get as many people coming as possible. Every other industry that is largely left alone to develop and profit off their goods and services ends up giving the consumers (us) a higher standard of living at a lower price. Historic sites and other parks left up to the free market could give us untold benefits. Plus having a profit motive would drive owners to share their site or park with as many people as possible. Thus it could mean more jobs in your field, not less.

  2. The federal government shouldn’t own any land outside of D.C. anyway. It should be privately owned or at most county/state land.

  3. For one adult Disney costs $105 for one day. For Yellowstone National Park an entrance for one carload of people is $30 for a week. What is more preferable to the American family on vacation? Privatizing the land would most likely greatly increase the price and further discourage people from going. The budget of the park service is $3 billion, yet it brings in roughly $13 billion to gateway communities, why get rid of that? Claiming that the gateway economies were remain intact in some sort of massive land sell is lunacy. Parks like Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, were established by those who explicitly thought that private ownership of the most iconic natural, historical, and cultural sites in America, was a bad idea because they had seen locations squandered by odious commercial interests. To see a place like Yellowstone for example, the only complete ecosystem left in the temperate world, sold off piece by piece to the super rich would be a travesty. It would mean an end to the bison, wolves, and bears, which in the best case scenario would simply become zoo animals. If big business had had its way the bison of Yellowstone would have been exterminated, the geyser ruined for geo-thermal energy (as what happened in Iceland wherein half of their geyser were destroyed), even the Grand Canyon would have been turned into a dead lake for hydrothermal power. The national park ideal is a distinctly American idea that has traveled around the world. Your “moral” point about what tax dollars are spent on would spit in the face of a uniquely American idea, destroy local economies, fragment the last wilderness areas of the US, see the extinction of iconic wildlife, and severely restrict American public access to the American landscape. However, I really don’t have to make this argument, the last century has shown these parks are protected and maintained the way they are because that’s what the American public wants. Proposals such as yours demonstrate perfectly why the libertarian party will remain just another example of the many crank parties that have risen and died in American politics because their ideals don’t past common sense muster with most Americans.

    1. Reading this article made me so angry I felt I had to leave a comment, something I never do. Then I read this comment from Patrick Boyce and it summarized my feelings precisely. Mike Tront your opinion that the National Parks would be better off in the hands of private entities with no government intervention is laughable at best and dangerous at worst. Read a little history of the fights, that have happened and continue to happen, to protect these lands from the very entities you propose to turn them over to before you publish this mindless dreck.

      1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. History shows us that the federal government is the largest polluter in the world. They are also terrible stewards of their land as they often allow private companies to pollute on public land. Private companies that would never pollute on land that they actual paid for and own. When land, or other resources are owned by the public we have the tragedy of the commons problem where people and companies don’t lose anything for destroying these lands.

    2. Thanks for commenting. Yes, without government subsidies (welfare) the parks would cost more to visit. I just don’t see how it’s right to force people who don’t visit a park to pay for those that do.

      I can’t say what would happen to the Grand Canyon or Yellow Stone Park if they were sold, but I imagine the profit and loss motive would lead the owners to utilize these resources in the best possible way for the most possible people same as any other private resource or business.

      As far as animals, the federal government has a terrible track record of protecting animal species. In fact, private entities are already stepping up and doing what a massive federal bureaucracy can’t, or won’t, do: Here’s a quick 5 minute video from Reason The Plan to Create a Giant, Privately Funded Nature Reserve by Selling Beef

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