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Mustangs: a case study in government stupidity
by Ira Hansen
Dec 27, 2008 | 713 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Once upon a time, common sense was not that uncommon, and Americans prided themselves on their low taxes and strong self-sufficiency. Take horses, for example. Horses provided the bulk of the power for transportation, and the bond between man and beast was strong. Whether plowing fields or leading a cavalry charge, horse and man were like one. Still, there was a practical side. Older horses were used as food for other animals or to up breed the stock. People paid extra for blooded stallions; careful breeding helped create superior animals.

In Nevada many horses were allowed to run wild on the public domain. When needed, people called “mustangers” would round them up, gather up the good ones and cull out the bad. The poorer stallions were either rounded up or shot outright, and blooded stallions turned out to produce high-quality animals.

Through this process, the horse herd remained trim and healthy, consumer needs were met, the range was moderately grazed and tax dollars for both local use and Uncle Sam were generated. Naturally, they used the most efficient and effective means possible. Although the horse’s well being was important, some horses would suffer, but the overall result for the bulk of the animals would be positive.

Through the years, as modern machinery replaced horses, their value dropped and many were released into the wild to fend for themselves. Inbreeding, crossbreeding and other genetically harmful practices became the norm, and the overall quality of the animals declined. “Mustangs” were then held in contempt. Some were still good, but overall, they were a poor species of horseflesh.

Still, there was some demand for them, and mustangers would still round them up, selling the good ones for saddle horses and the poor ones for dog food. Some of their methods, using modern tools like trucks and even planes, were highly efficient, but for the poorer animals, the chase led to exhaustion and sometimes death.

Enter the humanitarians. Outraged by the brutality but ignoring the benefits, do-gooders demanded change. Led by well-intentioned but shortsighted mainly older women with too much emotion and too little common sense, they bombarded Congress to outlaw the private roundups. At this time in the late 1960s, “ecology” was the catchphrase and green-colored “peace signs” with the demand of “Ecology Now” were frequently seen in car windows, killing two birds with one stone — protesting Vietnam and the alleged “raping” of mother nature. In such a climate, the mustang issue was a political godsend. Politicians could outlaw a practice affecting almost no one, and please the blue-haired old ladies and hippies with no political fallout to speak of. So, in 1971, mustangers passed into history.

Problem was, and is, horses still roamed the wild, reproduced and expanded exponentially. With no natural predators to speak of, horse populations continued onward and upward.

What to do? Congress allocated funds to round them up, but initially attempted to use only “harmless” means. Needless to say, this proved totally inefficient and extremely costly, with poor results to boot. Soon, Congress modified the rules. “Cruel” practices, such as chasing the mustangs with airplanes or helicopters, were back in. Hurt or older animals were “put down,” politically correct speech for shot and killed. Horse herds were temporarily reduced.

But what to do with the surplus was the next debate. Couldn’t sell the crummy ones to the dog food factories anymore — too heartless. So, in spite of costing taxpayers more than $1,000 per head to round them up, the government practically gave them away — for about 10 percent of the actual cost to gather them in the first place.

Still, a surplus of mainly older, poorer animals existed that no one wanted. Soon collection pens were, and remain today, overflowing.

Next brilliant step: The government began to release the unwanted, genetically inferior horses back onto the already overcrowded ranges. Removing the best, turning out the worst and letting them breed was the government solution; a perfect example of how to further ruin the gene pool.

Today, the herds are in reality uncontrolled, taxpayers spend millions feeding unwanted animals, the range suffers from year-round unlimited grazing, lazy bureaucrats have soft jobs “managing” it all, and nothing is done efficiently or cost effectively — an excellent object lesson in the differences between the public and private sector.

Remarkably, despite such case studies, many deluded fools still believe government should run the entire economy …

Ira Hansen is a lifelong resident of Sparks and owner of Ira Hansen and Sons Plumbing.
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