The Corner

Uncle Sam’s Auction?

Niall Ferguson writes in Newsweek that the federal government needs to begin selling assets to pay off its massive debt, as some state governments have done (such as Indiana selling one of its highways) to help balance their budgets. Ferguson points to land and other physical assets the federal government might sell, but I’ve always thought the fiscal crisis would eventually lead to the expanded production of oil and gas in the U.S., such as on the “sacred” space of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Some economists estimate that the federal government would collect more than $1 trillion in royalties from expanded oil and gas production on public lands. At some point, even liberals will have to decide whether they want to continue to backstop environmentalists, or preserve the welfare state from complete collapse. Faced with such a choice, I think the welfare state will win.

Steven F. Hayward — Stephen F. Hayward is a senior resident scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of a two-volume political history, The Age of Reagan.

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