President Obama’s recent visits to some of our most prestigious National Parks serve as an important reminder that some of America’s finest achievements have had nothing to do with private enterprise. Even (perhaps especially) in times of economic hardship, Americans have acted corporately–yes, through their government–to great effect. The National Parks have not only enriched life in America, the idea has been one of our most significant contributions to world culture.
A lot of conservative argument today takes as an unquestioned premise that whatever government does it must do incompetently and inefficiently. The National Parks were born of a more optimistic age, when leaders like Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot believed in and worked for an intelligent and capable government, efficiently seeking the public good. And do you know what? It worked.
So if you should join the increasing numbers of Americans rediscovering the National Parks, take a moment to remember our progressive political heritage as well. They saw that the American people could be better stewards of the wilderness than private investors. And because of them you can visit the Grand Canyon instead of Pepsi Water Park and Reservoir.