Sunday, October 17, 2010

Save America, Sell Alaska

The United States of America is more deeply in debt than any nation in the world. The national debt, which is really just government debt, is about $13.6 trillion.

For practical purposes Americans became the world's aristocrats after World War II, when the factories of every other nation had been bombed to smithereens. We had it all. Some of us had more of all of it than others of us, but I'll leave that issue aside today.

Like aristocrats we began to feel the lifestyle we had once earned by military conquest was our right, even if we did not work very hard or invest very wisely. In the 1960s we started running up debts, and then we just kept running them up.

2010 now: Surprise! Everyone has factories, even nations that had none before World War II. Only Iraq and Afghanistan have been bombed back to the stone age. Americans have no special economic advantage in the world. But we still want to spend like we used to back in the good old days. So we spent the first few years of the new century borrowing money and spending it.

Some people say we should get back to thrift and hard work, we should earn our place in the world again. But we are Number 1! We are the world's aristocracy! We have other options. Like the old landed aristocracy, we can start selling off what we bought and developed when we were kings.

That already happened a little bit in the late 1980's, when we sold off some real estate at very, very good prices to the Japanese, who lived to regret most of their American purchases. Now, however, it is not just a matter of myriad personal debts. Our government owes $13.6 trillion dollars, and much more if you count future obligations. Selling a golf course or two won't solve this problem.

We have to think big, and much as I would like it, I don't think we'd be able to sell Texas or even California.

But we could sell Alaska. Not very many people live in it, less than a million, or about 1 per square mile, so few that if all of them want to emigrate to the 49 real states it would not be a problem. We would be selling a lot of acres, 663,268 square miles worth of them. At 640 acres per square mile, that is ... um ... where's that calculator? What does 4.245 with a raised 8 mean? Oh, 424,500,000 acres. Nowhere near trillion acres, well south of half a billion.

I think China, Russia, and Japan would all be willing buyers, maybe even Canada. We could get a bidding war going.

Alaska was known as Seward's Folly when we bought it from the Russians for just $7.2 million in 1867. What a great investment. I think we could easily sell it for $500 billion to a trillion dollars.

That money could be used to pay down the national debt, but people will want to use it for other stuff, I suppose. Rich Americans will want ever lower tax rates. The Pentagon will want to fight Iran or Venezuela. Welfare bums will want more bum. Whiny working class kids who want a college degree so they can become middle class will want more state-subsidized tuition. Socialists will want the money to be used by the government to buy up the healthcare system.

But if we could resist such spendthrift impulses, and we did get a cool trillion dollars from the Chinese (let's guess they would be the high bidder), we could pay down the national debt to only $12.6 trillion.

Wouldn't that be great? Then again, maybe we should hold out for $1000 per acre. That would get us $4.2 trillion. For that price maybe we could throw in Puerto Rico, which isn't even a state.

Be sure to forward this essay to your friends, or a great idea for saving America will be lost among all the stupid ideas for saving America written by other bloggers.

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