On Monday, President Trump announced he was reducing the size of two Utah national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. This unprecedented move, which shrinks the monuments by almost 2 million acres, is a disappointment. It may well be illegal, and it was immediately challenged in court. But it is not a surprise. It reflects a vision of America that has been gaining ground in recent years, one in which our collective American identity is reduced to isolated individuals and the federal government is seen as a distant enemy rather than the representative of the people. (It also continues a long tradition of disregarding the interests of Native Americans, but that is a different point than the one we address here.) Explaining why he reduced the monuments, Trump said that “the natural resources of Utah” should not be controlled “by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington.” That’s one way one of looking at it. The idea that all decisions should be made at the lowest possible level—by states, or towns, or private individuals—has a long history in American thought. But it is not actually the fundamental American idea. The first American act—the declaration of independence—is an… Read full this story
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