I think this article is a wonderful microcosm of how much our country has changed in the last 150 years. It should be studied by high school and college history classes.
First, people 150 years ago literally lined up for free land. Very few people now think of land itself as a productive resource.
Second, the motivation for giving the land away is amazingly different. Whereas before our country wanted to expand it's effective territory, now the idea is to bring in tax revenues for schools. Of course this would just be a matter of shuffling money from one district to another. There is no net gain implied anywhere, no particular purpose acheived.
Third, the proposed costs and benefits for the recipients is markedly different. In the 19th century pioneers wanted to start their own businesses and farms and work for themselves. Now people wonder where the "jobs" will come from. I suppose people think they magically come down from the skies. Business is now something that is bestowed on people rather than created by them.