The Faithful Execution of Our Public Trust: Fully Funding the National Parks Through Taxes


  • Daniel L. Dustin
  • Thomas A. More
  • Leo H. McAvoy


national parks, public trust, democracy, citizenship, social capital, individualism, collectivism


We live in a time when tax support for public parks and recreation is on the wane (Crompton, 1999). Anti-government sentiment, increasing resistance to taxes, a highly skewed distribution of wealth and income among the citizenry, and a general withdrawal from public life all have contributed to an atmosphere of distrust, an atmosphere favoring the private sector and laissez-faire capitalism over the public sector and government-sponsored initiatives. Consequently, federal, state, and local agencies charged with administering public lands have resorted to the private sector practice of fees and charges to cover costs. In so doing, they have treated what heretofore were considered public goods as merit goods, and, increasingly, as private goods, suggesting a trend toward the privatization of the public estate. Our intent here is to reaffirm the public good of one of the most critical components of that public estate—the national parks—and restate the case for their full funding through taxes. We do this by first reviewing the historical context out of which the national park ideal evolved, and then by discussing the significance of the national parks to our democratic way of life. Finally, we examine the cost of fully funding the national parks through taxes; a cost, we conclude, that would be both a bargain and a wise investment in our collective future.





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