There is a difference between libertarianism and anarchy. Some people who want to argue philosophy with me might say that I am just a republican or democrat in disguise, or I only believe in the non-aggression principle when it is convenient. Here is what I really am: a realist. I lean libertarian on most issues, though I am not a card carrying member of any political party. I want to keep my guns, AR-15, high capacity magazines and all. I don't care what two or three or ten consenting adults do in the bedroom or if any of those folks regardless of sex want to marry one another. I also don't think that the government should force anybody to bake any cakes. I think that income tax is immoral as it basically amounts to extortion (read: theft). And I think that if we cut back on our military spending (stop playing Team America World Police) we could very likely figure out a way for the federal government to pay for things without the use of extortion. We just need to get creative, as opposed to continuing to act like income tax is the way we've always done it. In 1913 the income tax was created. We had a military, schools, roads etc before then. We now live in the age of the iPhone. I'm sure if we really put our brains to work we could sort something out...

This is not a political blog, so let's skip the rest of the things I think government should and shouldn't do. I do believe that protection and conservation of our natural resources is something government ought to be involved in. I believe that conservation efforts, largely spearheaded by the federal government, have been an overall success. In terms of wildlife conservation alone, today, there is talk of delisting the grizzly bear due to rising populations in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Wolves, as contentious a topic as they are, are thriving, despite being hunted in those states. Species that were once brought to the brink of extinction have haunted my favorite campgrounds in the Idaho forests recently, and that's a good thing. I think government, big and small, tends to do a poor job at a lot of things. Conservation and wildlife management are not on that list. That we are even having debates about depredation of wolves and grizzly bears is a testament to that.

That is not to say that there haven't been setbacks, or mistakes made by the Feds. For example, despite the best intentions of conservation’s founding father Teddy Roosevelt, our early lack of understanding of the role wildfires play in nature has led to catastrophic consequences. If we put out every fire, thinking we are protecting the environment, we are actually harming the environment in some cases by not letting those fires burn. The consequence of doing so for the last 100 years has played a major role in the intensity of some of the fires we have seen in recent years. Climate change gets a lot of blame for this, but often that is being parroted by people in the media who don't know much about wildfire mitigation or the practices we have utilized for the last 100 years.

There are other examples of mismanagement. "Wildlife Services" is a great example. This is a government agency, part of the Department of Agriculture, whose job is to kill nuisance animals... Hell, I'm not even saying some of those animals shouldn't have been killed. But, if it needs to get done, why spend tax dollars on helicopters, and poison, and traps, and men with guns, when we could sell tags and permits to licensed hunters and generate revenue as opposed to spending it...? All of this is because ranchers (some of whom probably don't allow hunting on their property) rely on this "service" to protect their livestock, thereby passing the costs of their business on to taxpayers. I believe a business should stand or fall by its own merit, not on government handouts and assistance. Perhaps it is that the ranchers don't want hunting near their livestock. Perhaps it is that the government doesn't want to admit that wolf reintroduction has done well. Either way, issue tags, or special permits for depredation hunts and everybody wins while the government saves money.

There are certainly inefficiencies with regard to public land management that must be noted, and addressed, but I don't believe that means we should just abandon ship. What is left of the American West is a Treasure. It is worth protecting. I know that some on the libertarian/anarcho-capitalist side would argue that there are free market solutions to managing these lands. Some would argue that those free market solutions would do a better job of protecting our resources. Many of those solutions include expensive hunting leases and very limited access for the general public due to the cost. I have lived in a few regions in this country. I didn't hunt in Massachusetts, access was difficult. I didn't hunt in Texas, access was difficult and really expensive. I did hunt in Washington, on private land, where hunting access was allowed under guidelines. That went okay (and perhaps should be used as a model if a major land sell off is to happen). But, in many states throughout the country hunting is limited to property owners, or people who spend thousands and thousands of dollars on leases each year, on top of their licenses and tags etc...

Even if that is the "free market solution", at this point in time, as a libertarian, I still say to hell with that. Because that makes me and future generations less free to go into these currently protected public lands in pursuit of game or fish, or other time spent in nature. I said that what is left of the American West is a Treasure. It may in fact be the last bastion of freedom in this country. Untouched. Rugged. Wild.

Advocating for a land sell off, the way some Republicans have done, with some support from libertarians and anarchists, is thereby advocating for less freedom which seems counterproductive to furthering the philosophy of freedom. Even the Libertarian Party has not fully endorsed a sell off. Gary Johnson said during his 2012 campaign that he thinks we should look at selling some BLM land, but not Forest Service land. Some in the LP have advocated for privatizing parks, but the Party itself has not decided to die on that hill. Which is good, because there are so many issues for Libertarians to take a stand on that are more pressing for the evolution of the liberty movement. Right now libertarians couldn't even convince 5% of the country to vote for a Libertarian candidate when his opponents were Trump and Clinton. The. Two. Worst. Presidential. Candidates. Ever. So if my fellow libertarians out there have a goal of winning hearts and minds, and society taking steps in a more-libertarian direction, then: Focus on Military Spending. Focus on Taxes. Education. Criminal Justice. Immigration. Hell, focus on the ways the Forest Service and BLM can improve and be effective and efficient stewards of public funds. Don't encourage a sell off of our national treasures to the highest bidders who will very likely put up a bunch of No Trespassing signs where we all could once walk freely, and a bunch of developments where natural habitat once was.