Subsidized liquidation of old-growth forests. Grazing rights leased at below-market rates. Mineral and energy resources extracted with trifling royalty payments or none at all. Water developments built with interest-free loans.
These uses of the federal lands serve private corporate interests extremely well, but inflict massive costs on society at large. Plundered Promise presents a thought-provoking history and analysis of public lands management in the United States, describing how we arrived at the current situation and examining what we can do to rectify it.
How and why the U.S. Constitution promotes the well-being of individual private citizens instead of the common good.
How corporations gained Constitutional rights in the 19th century, becoming legal "private citizens." Thereafter, the Constitution favored corporate welfare over the common good, as well.
How corporations transformed "free market capitalism" into "corporate capitalism."
How corporate capitalism savages American consumers: the tragedy of "hyperconsumption."
How corporations came to dominate American politics in the 20th century.
How all this "institutional overshoot" plays out on the federal lands: incalculable public wealth in federal lands resources-- timber, minerals, forage, water, oil and gas-- is captured and liquidated by private, corporate interests. But the social costs of degraded land and the direct costs of land management, protection, and restoration are borne by the public, whose great common asset has become a net liability. (This is the "plunder.")
Why and how the federal lands can be a source of public services instead of private wealth. (This is the "promise.")
From the book jacket:
"This unique combination of social criticism, institutional analysis, history, and political science is guided by a strong moral compass bolstered by rigorous scholarship. Plundered Promise is must reading for anyone interested in the past or future of our public lands, or in the influence of contemporary politics and capitalism."
From the reviewers:
"Finally, a book that brilliantly diagnoses how Americans have lost control of their most precious common assets - the publicly owned forests, rivers, mountains, and grasslands that constitute one-third of the American land mass. The book is a clarion call to reclaim the public lands for the public good." - David Bollier, author of Silent Theft and Director, Information Commons Project, New America Foundation
". . . an unblinking critique of corporate capitalism's dominance of the American economy and our federal government's complicity in corporate plundering of public resources." - Paul Hirt, Professor of History, Washington State University, and author of A Conspiracy of Optimism: Management of the National Forests Since World War Two
". . . this book is fresh and original. [The author] is far more explicit about the influence of corporations and capitalism . . . a sound set of proposals, compellingly set forth." - Charles Wilkinson, Distinguished University Professor, Moses Lasky Professor of Law, University of Colorado, and author of Crossing the Next Meridian, Fire on the Plateau, and others.
"It is not common for researchers examining environmental problems to seek causation in the Constitution and in a privileged class's manipulation of law and culture. But this is precisely what Behan has done, and good on him." - Richard Grossman, co-founder and co-Directory, Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy
"His clarion call for an enlightened new agenda . . . makes this the preeminent book on environmental policy for the new millennium: scholarly, provocative, and compelling." - Carl Reidel, Sanders Professor of Environmental Policy, Emeritus, University of Vermont; former Vermont state legislator; former President, American Forestry Association