Open main menu

Page:Quarterlyoforego10oreg 1.djvu/405

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
369
Finances of Oregon

should be learned' by the Oregon people. These lands were a tangible public interest and the outcome with them should make clear the attitude to be taken and the course followed with the more intangible resources the public is ever developing. So the real significance for this generation of Oregon's public land policy lies not in what "might have been" done with this particular resource, that for the public has been so largely squandered, but rather in the suggestion it gives of the need of the public spirit and intelligence that arouses the imagination to take hold of the problem of conserving the common and collective good latent at every stage of social evolution. Every day brings a turn of events in which the genuinely loyal and competent citizenship will find opportunity. The present day stock of public resources in timber, water power, and public utilities generally, should challenge enlightened thought and patriotic purpose. The whole status of property rights in its relation to the welfare of democracy should be clearly comprehended.

It goes without question that it was most salutary that the valley lands and the arable uplands of Oregon should have passed as rapidly as possible into the hands of the actual cultivator. Little valid objection can be raised even to the giving away of vacant lands under conditions that bring them into use by the independent husbandman. What the national homestead act contemplated was sound public economy. It was particularly so if the farming it gave opportunity for was not characterized by soil butchery and soil wastage. But the disposition of vacant lands for the nominal sum of $1.25 per acre under conditions which resulted in their being massed into larger holdings, in their being largely exempt from taxation, and in bringing communities under the blighting disadvantage of sparse settlement and long continued isolation, while the land speculator was amassing a fortune through unearned increments — such a policy of quick sale of public domain has none of the redeeming features of the normal working of the homestead law.