The Dogs of Interior: Bringing the real brain trust to work

The Dogs of Interior: Bringing the real brain trust to work
Gathering of wisdom and talent. (Image: Screen grab via Townhall)

People do different things on Cinco de Mayo.  Some, like the Los Angeles City Council, vote to support impeaching Donald Trump.

Others, like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, make resolutions that are, frankly, pretty odd, and perhaps even defy explanation.



And believe you me, those folks like Mike Huckabee get plenty of blowback from concern trolls for the resolutions.  (Which — I’m just saying — I wouldn’t make, at least not in public, if I were Mike Huckabee.  Or anyone else, for that matter.)

But at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Trump’s Secretary Ryan Zinke — former Navy SEAL and Republican congressman from Montana — inaugurated what we can hope will be a new tradition: Bring Your Dog to Work Day.

“Doggy Day,” for short, appears to have been a hit.

Who doesn’t like dogs, after all?  And never fear, Secretary Zinke is a friend to all animals, and reportedly is open to bringing other animals to work (if, presumably, on separate days.  Bringing cats and dogs to work on the same day could have interesting consequences.  Turtles are said to be in the hopper as well).

Zinke didn’t exactly bring his horse to work on his first day at Interior, on 2 March 2017.   But he did ride a horse into Washington, D.C. that day, in company with the Park Police who now work for him.

The Doggy Days at Interior are likely to catch on.  Zinke says having dogs in the workplace can reduce stress, which intuitively one would accept without demur.  And that’s a good enough reason, certainly.

But the presence of all those dogs roaming the DOI building got me to thinking.  I’ve long recalled a quip from John F. Kennedy’s remarks at a dinner in 1962 honoring the Nobel Prize winners of the Western hemisphere:

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.

And I’m thinking, move over, Tom.  You’ve met your match in the “dogs of Interior.”

Bear with me on this.  The dogs could be our best asset in sorting out one of the thorniest problems of modern life: one well-known to the Interior Department, and the property owners, husbandmen, farmers, and conservationists of our Western states.  America was a pioneer in the project — essential to economic freedom — of regularizing the definitions, obligations, and protections for land ownership.  In fact, no other nation has done it as well, or built up a body of law and civic expectations so thoroughly, and with so much respect for the rights of the people.

But in some key respects, we have lost our way over the last 50 years, letting regulatory bodies increasingly do things to undermine property rights that were never intended by lawmakers.  At the same time, nations around the world have been wrestling with how to improve their own legal infrastructure for land ownership.  The body of U.S. law has been considered a benchmark, but it was hard-won, from a long and convoluted process.

How to get to that kind of framework from where many nations start has been a problem of overwhelming dimensions.  It is only complicated by the UN’s “Agenda 21” concept, which in many ways is in direct opposition to the empowering effects of land ownership, and actively thwarts them in developing nations.

I’ve never forgotten a passage from Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto’s 2000 book The Mystery of Capital,* in which he wrote about being in Indonesia, and being invited to talk about potential ways of regularizing property ownership there, into a single, unified legal framework.  This is what he wrote:

I was in Indonesia to launch the translation of my previous book into Bahasa Indonesian, and they took that opportunity to invite me to talk about how they could find out who owns what among the 90 percent of Indonesians who live in the extralegal sector.  Fearing that I would lose my audience if I went into a drawn-out technical explanation on how to structure a bridge between the extralegal and legal sectors, I came up with another way, an Indonesian way, to answer their question.  During my book tour, I had taken a few days off to visit Bali, one of the most beautiful places on earth.  As I strolled through rice fields, I had no idea where the property boundaries were.  But the dogs knew.  Every time I crossed from one farm to another, a different dog barked.  Those Indonesian dogs may have been ignorant of formal law, but they were positive about which assets their masters controlled.

I told the ministers that Indonesian dogs had the basic information they needed to set up a formal property system. … (pp. 162-63)

Granted, the project of political and legal arrangements is not as purely simple as that.   But here’s what the dogs know, at its most basic level: that everything men do with land is about human desires for that land.  No matter what you say your purpose is, it’s not really “about” the Delta smelt, the prairie chicken, or the desert tortoise.  It’s not about nature being in charge.  It never is.  It’s about you.

And the dogs know that.  They know that when a different dog barks because a man on foot has crossed from someone’s ranch to “conservation land,” it may be a different dog barking, but it’s the same reason for barking on both sides.  It’s because humans are exercising mastery there.

So let’s hear it for dogs at the Department of the Interior.  We can use their wisdom.  It was said of Thomas Jefferson, according to President Kennedy, that he “was a gentleman of 32 who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, and dance the minuet.”   Jefferson was a man of many parts.  But even he couldn’t do what the dogs can do: relieve our stress, while volunteering to guard our interests — and help us cut our crap.


* Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital. New York: Basic Books (2000)

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


For your convenience, you may leave commments below using Disqus. If Disqus is not appearing for you, please disable AdBlock to leave a comment.