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Opening Arguments

This land is whose land?

A consensus seems to have been reached about the Cliven Bundy case: 1) He has no legal leg to stnd on in his creative interpretation of government authority leading him to believe he doesn't have to pay no stinkin' grazing fees. But, 2) The federal government so overreached in its reaction (tasering a woman from behind, for God's sake) that it had no choice but to stand down in the face of public disgust. Recently I've heard some conservatives distancing themselves from the man, arguing that the rule of law should be paramount. What Bundy is doing isn't libertarianism -- it's downright anarchy.

But consider:

. . . that does not mean that the law of the land he is opposing is a good one.

As I have written before, the fact that the federal government currently owns a full third of the surface area of the United States is nothing less than a scandal that directly results in countless economic opportunity costs as well as inefficient, uninformed management practices and environmental degradation. For decades, eco-radicals flying the banner of “environmentalism” and “conservation” have been using the auspices of the federal government to slowly take lands out of the hands of private individuals and rural communities and instead put them in the hands of a politically-driven, top-down gigantic bureaucracy wielding the hammer of regulatory power, usually in the name of saving the sage grouse or something.

[. . .]

The federal government hasn’t even designated the requisite cash it takes to properly manage the property it already owns, resulting in a major maintenance backlog, and yet it is constantly acquiring more land — largely via the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which President Obama has oh-so-proudly declared he will fully fund to the tune of around $900 million a year. Perhaps instead of using that money to acquire more land and thus expand those restrictive land-use policies, the feds could instead use that money to better steward the existing federal estate? And hey, while they’re at it, perhaps they could actually sell off some of the federal estate, or even just relinquish some of it to state control, the better to service that $17 trillion debt in which we’re floundering? Maybe?

And just saying the law is against Bundy is not to make the moral case against him. As a conscious lawbreaker, he's in some preetty good company. Let's not forget that the government is supposed to be our servant, not our master:

Of course the law is against Cliven Bundy. How could it be otherwise? The law was against Mohandas Gandhi, too, when he was tried for sedition; Mr. Gandhi himself habitually was among the first to acknowledge that fact, refusing to offer a defense in his sedition case and arguing that the judge had no choice but to resign, in protest of the perfectly legal injustice unfolding in his courtroom, or to sentence him to the harshest sentence possible, there being no extenuating circumstances for Mr. Gandhi’s intentional violation of the law. Henry David Thoreau was happy to spend his time in jail, knowing that the law was against him, whatever side justice was on.

Progressives dismiss property rights as less important than other so-called "civil" rights or human rights. But they're just as important, and on my more contrarian days I'd argue they're even more important. The right to private property -- to keep what is ours -- is the foundation of keeping government limited and in its proper place, which is why those who favor bigger and more controlling government always disparage private property.

There is more than one way to weaken the concept of private poperty. One is with insane court decisions of the Kelo type that keep stretching the definition of "public use." Another is to just get property off the books by making it public land. If something is public, that means it belongs to all of us, which means it really belongs to none of us. One-third of all American surface area in the federal government's hands -- a scandal indeed.


Rebecca Mallory
Wed, 04/16/2014 - 12:08pm

Cliven Bundy is the contemporay example and proof of Thoreau's "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience."

Thoreau writes , "Thus the state never intentionally confronts a man's sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength."

Thoreau also states that the only place for a truly honest man is in jail.  Perhaps what the govertnment really does not like about Mr. Bundy, is that he is an honest man who refuses to be a gear in the machine of government.

That refusal, not the grazing fee, is the genesis of government's grievance.

In the meantime, Al Sharpton who is alleged to owe $2 million in back federal taxes does not have armed men surrounding his home, federal agents seizing his property, FAA- declared No -Fly Zones around his house, or government-assigned First Amendment zones for his supporters.

Cliven Bundy is Henry David Thoreau. And, for government, people like Mr. Bundy are the most dangerous.