Advocates for a fee-based definition of all value are having spasms of ecstasy over the plans for giant increases in entrance fees at the nation’s most popular national parks. The America Feesters, as these patriots call themselves, praise interior secretary Ryan Zinke for his courageous politically incorrect decision, which the Feesters believe is another big step toward establishing the principle that the ability to pay should determine who has access to all things—or does not.
Under Zinke’s plan the entry price per vehicle could be as high as $70 at favorite parks like Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Great Smoky Mountains. The money collected would go toward the badly lagging maintenance and infrastructure needs of the decrepit park system.
The tree huggers and the usual suspects allied with them are in a tizzy over this, of course, even though these malcontents have been yammering forever about the deteriorating condition of the parks. But when Zinke, with president Trump’s support, proposes to do something effective about it, they protest. Apparently that’s the only thing they know how to do.
Yes, as the huggers also complain, the bloated fees will tend to drive low-budget folks away from the parks. But that too is something the huggers should welcome, since they have been fretting for decades about environmental damage done by the swarms of park visitors.
The America Feesters don’t fuss over any such concerns. They see the fees as a solution to everything that ails the parks. For the Feesters the ideal outcome would be a fee so high that it would repel all vehicles but one each year at each park bearing an oligarch able to pay an entry fee covering the park’s entire budget: Proper maintenance. No overcrowding. No environmental damage. Preservation of the nation’s natural heritage. With an option—in appreciation for these benefits conferred by the oligarch—to conduct occasional mining, drilling and logging operations.
According to the Feesters a similar approach to health care would swiftly end the current policy squabbles and the baffling details of the various insurance programs. The solution is a simple fee-for-service system. If you’re sick you pay the doctor or hospital for a fix. Or you pay them for keeping you from getting sick. If you can’t or won’t pay you get no service. Neat, efficient. And this method would soon improve the country’s general health, because it would weed out the defectives.
Fee-based definitions of value could apply to all functions of government, even ones not traditionally subject to these calculations, such as foreign affairs and military matters. Fuzzy notions like national interest, balance of power and global order have provided very uncertain, ambiguous guidance.
Instead of wandering in this fog, let fees decide. If somebody thinks an intervention, subversion, regime change, war, whatever is necessary or advantageous, let them put up the money to pay for it. With this system shrewd, calculating investors will succeed and vain, ego-poisoned bullies will launch foolish gambits that fail. The investors who triumph will be those paying the fees only for ventures that secure tangible returns in the form of captured oil fields and other resources. They won’t be wasting fees on the fancy trappings of empire and the glitter of glory.
Rigorous application of the fee principle could even terminate the tedious wrangling over global warming and climate change. No need to decide if any of this is real or who to assign blame for it. Instead, just fashion a fee schedule for projects to offset the effects. Anybody concerned enough to pay for protection gets it, while skeptics and deniers can choose to do without.
And be willing to allow special arrangements in unique circumstances. For instance, suppose someone who’s president happens to own a Florida beachfront resort threatened by sea level rise. And suppose he often vacations there, even conducts diplomatic and other official functions there. The value of these activities is so great that this property ought to receive credits canceling the fees otherwise due for the extensive dikes, drains, moats and channels required to secure it from flooding.
These protective measures against the sea would also function like the fortifications of a medieval castle isolating and protecting its inhabitants from turmoil arising in the surrounding countryside. The America Feesters would have spasms of ecstasy over this benefit too.
David Underhill lives in Mobile, Alabama, where efforts to turn the nearby swampy river delta into a national park have faltered for decades. He can be reached at email@example.com.