The idea of giving returning veterans plots of land is hardly a new one. Resurrecting this old idea today would be a terrific way to thank our returning veterans and to give them the wherewithal to return to civilian life as productive members of society.

Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are the largest jobless demographic in America today.

Their official unemployment rate is just over 20 percent, but that excludes veterans who have become discouraged and have given up looking for work.

Unfortunately, both the Obama administration and Congress have placed job creation way down on their priority lists (it appears No. 1-10 on that list are: getting re-elected). What little they have done regarding job creation and underemployment has not worked.

One thing they could do through modest legislation and an executive order is to offer each jobless veteran title to free land that the federal government owns.

The federal government owns more than 40 percent of all of the land west of the Mississippi River, or more than 400 million acres. Among other agencies, these public-domain lands are administered by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and the Defense Department.

The 40-percent figure does not include recreational lands, such as national parks, monuments, wildernesses and seashores.

In return for, say, 50-100 acres of land and a low-interest loan to build on it and/or develop the land and/or its resources, each recipient would have to contribute a certain percentage annually of his or her revenues/profits from their land to a national pool, which would then be divided equally among veterans whose land profits fell below a certain level, mindful that some land grants are going to be more lucrative than others. There could be a “clawback” provision for veterans that do nothing with the land.

We did something like this in the 19th century through Homestead Acts, and Civil War vets were among the biggest beneficiaries. On a corporate scale, we also accelerated development of the Midwest and West through land grants that enabled construction of railroads and establishment of large public universities, both of which then gave a tremendous boost to the U.S. economy.

The idea of giving returning veterans plots of land is hardly a new one. The early history of the idea was a bit rocky. It goes back to 143 B.C., when the Roman Tribune Tiberius Gracchus, grandson of the great Scipio Africanus, the victor over Hannibal, attempted to do just that and got clubbed to death for his effort.

Ten years later, his younger brother, Gaius, also elected Tribune and tried the same thing with the same tragic result. It took another 26 years until the first Consulship of Marius, Julius Caesar’s great uncle, achieved the long-sought result. Land for service proved hugely successful in the Roman Republic. The army was vastly expanded, veterans had something to look forward to upon retirement or disability and their ownership stake in Roman society caused the economy to progress rapidly and trickle over and down throughout the empire.

Why not allot some of this public land to our unemployed veterans to do with it whatever they wish, be it farming, leasing it out for grazing rights (the Feds do a lot of this), selling surface and subsurface mineral rights, offering timber concessions or anything else that is not illegal, immoral or unconstitutional?

A lot of this land produces revenue right now from these various rights and uses. The government would lose relatively little in terms of overall revenues and would gain a new army of taxpaying citizens.

Resurrecting this old idea today would be a terrific way to thank our returning veterans and to give them the wherewithal to return to civilian life as productive members of society.

Moreover, doing something like this for those who sacrifice so much only to return home to chronic unemployment would have many collateral benefits for society. In addition to increasing government revenues, it would also decrease payouts of unemployment insurance, veterans’ benefits and reduce our budget deficit.

Just a thought. Like any idea first launched, it would, of course, need “massaging.”

“Voices” is a regular feature offering insights and reflections from local residents of Canandaigua, N.Y.