President Obama’s Parting Economic Shots


President Barack Obama’s executive actions during the two and a half months of his lame duck, post-election time in office provide the perfect exclamation point to his entire presidency. His antipathy for private property has never been clearer.

Look at these two actions: On December 20, President Obama declared millions of acres in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans to be forever off-limits to development of the massive hydrocarbon resources that are there. (“Forever”? Are you kidding me?) Then, on December 28, Obama designated 1.65 million acres of land in Utah and Nevada as “national monuments,” effectively blocking them from economic development, too.

Those two executive actions aren’t surprising. The outgoing president has spent the last eight years pushing a socialistic agenda of government control over economic activity.

Obama’s socialist ideological orientation was well documented in my colleague Paul Kengor’s biography of Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis. Examples of Obama’s efforts to adopt aspects of Karl Marx’s 10-point platform for socializing an economy can be found here and here. Point one is government ownership of all land, and even though Uncle Sam already owned more than a third of U.S. territory when he took office, Obama has asserted control over more acreage than any other president (553 million acres—three times the size of Texas).

Obama’s blocking of fossil fuel development under the oceans is both disingenuous and misanthropic—disingenuous when Obama asserts that those submarine energy deposits are uneconomical (if so, why would any corporation waste time drilling there?) and misanthropic because the historical evidence shows a tight linkage between the consumption of abundant, affordable energy and rising standards of living. Like the “mean green” that he is, he still wants to take Americans down a few pegs economically by scuttling the development of energy resources.

Indeed, Obama’s radical green beliefs overlap his socialistic agenda. As Brian Sussman wrote in his book, Eco-Tyranny, one of Obama’s executive orders was designed to lay groundwork for a future America divided into vast undeveloped areas and people increasingly confined to smaller areas (a variation on Marx’ point which holds that the elite should control where people live).

As for the lands designated as monuments, Obama stated that the purpose of his order was to protect lands sacred to Native Americans.  There are a couple of problems with this:

First, the enabling statute (the Antiquities Act) states that historical landmarks “shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” The vast majority of Americans have no problem with protecting burial sites from desecration or archeological artifacts from ruination, but those features are present on a tiny fraction of the 1.65 million acres Obama set aside.

The second problem is that while one Navajo leader expressed a sentimental attachment to the land because his ancestors found safety there, nobody expressed concern about the sad plight of contemporary Native Americans living dreary lives on government reservations. In fact, with socialism becoming increasingly popular among some younger Americans, there needs to be more exposure to daily life on reservations. There we see what life is like when human beings are permanently “cared for” wards of the state.

President Obama’s most recent land grabs seem to represent a final, emphatic poke in the eye to private property as he leaves office. As soon as Donald Trump takes office, he should work with Congress to rescind those final examples of Obama overreach.

Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, Mark Hendrickson, is Adjunct Professor of Economics at Grove City College and Fellow for Economic and Social Policy at The Center for Vision & Values. He is also a contributing editor of The St. Croix Review, sits on the Council of Scholars of the Commonwealth Foundation, and is a Featured Contributor at

Mr. Hendrickson’s most recent books include: Problems with Picketty: Flaws and Fallacies in Capital in the 21st Century (2015), Famous But Nameless: Inspiration and Lessons from the Bible’s Anonymous Characters (2011); and God and Man on Wall Street: The Conscience of Capitalism (with Craig Columbus, 2012).

Mark Hendrickson’s Archives.