Thomas Sowell

We in America have some of the most magnificent national parks in the world -- Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and many others.

Sadly, however, our government has turned over to private monopolies the operation of many of the services and accommodations available to visitors in our national parks.

For example, the same monopoly controls not only the lodgings but even tourist buses and taxi services on both the north rim and the south rim of the Grand Canyon. A different monopoly controls lodgings and other services at Yosemite.

Monopoly is bad news, whether in the private marketplace or in government. But it is easier for government bureaucrats to deal with a monopoly than with an ever-changing array of competing enterprises, such as are common in the private economy.

Yet the competition and turnover among businesses vying for the consumers' favor are what produce both greater efficiency at a given time and more progress over time.

When you check into monopoly-controlled lodgings at Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, you are told that one dollar of what you are being charged goes to support some private group that pushes its own agenda for the national parks -- unless you specifically object.

Who are these anonymous groups being funded by this back door method? They have high-sounding names expressing concern about national parks, but that is about all you know about them.

Why can't they get their money from their own members or by making a direct appeal to the public, stating their case, instead of by an unofficial tax on park visitors for a private lobby?

Although the national parks are supported by the taxpayers and are governed by laws passed by elected officials, there are outside pressure groups trying to impose their notions of how other people should experience these parks.

It is the same kind of arrogance expressed in the back door "contributions" collected when you check into monopoly lodging.

My own recent experience visiting the Grand Canyon revealed some more of the problems created by monopoly.

When I became ill at a motel just outside Grand Canyon National Park, my wife phoned for a taxi to take me to the nearest medical facility, which was in the park.

But the taxi refused to pick me up at my ground floor room, since their arbitrary policy is to pick up passengers only at the entrance to a hotel or motel.

This was one of those large, sprawling motel complexes, and my ground floor room was the equivalent of about two blocks away from the motel entrance -- a distance which I was in no condition to walk.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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