Apr 11, 2014

Law Abiding Rancher? Or Criminal Trespasser?

Dave Bundy , son of rancher, shown kicking law enforcement canines
This week the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) repossessed 900 head of cattle over a dispute regarding grazing rights. Back in 1993, BLM and the Bundy Ranch to continue grazing as long as the ranch remained less than 250 head of cattle and a restricted 150 acres land while paying federal grazing fees. The Bundy Ranch agree to the compromise and then almost immediately ignored it growing the herd and grazing range past the agreed upon limits, while refusing to pay the grazing fees. Clive Bundy, the owner of the Bundy Ranch, claims that the ranch had been grazing on the open range since the 19th century and therefore is his right to continue to use the land without limit since the Ranch predates the BLM. Then where is Bundy's title to the land? Claiming that he has unlimited grazing rights to public (ie government owned land) lands just because he always has had that right. Based upon that logic Native Americans would really like their continent back, and is unlikely that the Bundy Ranch will revert back to the tribes that lived there in the pre-Colombian era. Mr. Bundy is even quoting acknowledging that federal agency is usurping state rights when regarding to the Federal Government owned land:

“I’m a producer,” Cliven said. “I produce edible commodity from the desert forage, and all of these things are governed under state law. So, in other words, this type of government has eliminated all of our state law, eliminated our state sovereignty, and has took control over our public lands and even took control over our Clark County sheriff. They’ve taken the whole county over. The whole state, almost.”

How dare the Federal Government tell him whether or not his cattle can trespass on Federal owned land?!?
Sarcasm aside, the militia movement and other right-wingers have come to support this self-entitled interloper but mostly just to spit in face of the Federal Government (which they have a right to do) but pragmatically speaking how do they transition to their ideal of no or very limited government while still maintaining property rights? The government owned lands, that had been being utilized by the Native Americans for a millennia though without the Western styled property rights, the title of those lands came into existence only from federal government action not ranchers declaring it be. Government activity (whether US Federal government or Royal Spanish forces) forced onto the land the Western concept of private property, reserving vast lands of the Western states to remain under the stewardship of the Federal Government whether the individual rancher that buys a fraction of land necessary to maintain a herd sized to their desire. How ever many acres the Bundy Ranch actually owns should be the limitation of how large the herd is, and his whining over not being able to trespass as he has always done is simply a thief demanding he is entitled access to someone else's land.

So Federal Government that made the concerted effort to attain these lands should just be handed over to private owners without payment? The Bundy Ranch should get title and deed  because they need it and the government has it? "From those with abilities to those of need", is absolutely evil according to the right-wingers except when those with abilities happens to be of the Federal Government. Individual rights seem to be doled by right-wingers entirely based on race, imagine an African-American disputing with the government over a million dollars (only $300,000 had the Bundy Ranch paid the grazing fees and kept the herd within restrictions agreed upon in 1993), would the militia movement come to their aid or would they simply characterize as welfare-queens with a million dollars of ill-gotten goods? Mitt Rommney, Paul Ryan, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachman, et al have been bashing government programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, Section 8, Headstart, and any other program that benefits the least among us as being freebies given away as a means to get their votes; when a white man gets a million dollars of government benefits and expected to pay for those benefits there is nothing but incredulity "The Federal Government has overreached, demanding that this law-abiding* citizen can't let his over-sized herd graze on public (ie Federally owned) land!"

Even if the government was overreaching when trying to wrest control back of their land from a rancher that had gotten used to using someone else's land (or at least not his own land if you want to consider government land to be owned by the public), where the land his herd was trespassing on was privately held land would it have been overreaching after 20 years of the herd trampling the rights of the private landowner for that private landowner to take the herd as his own? If the title owner of land kept having to deal with a herd of cattle from down the road grazing on his land, the title owner has the right to the herd after the rancher welshes on paying for the access to landowner's land for 20 years straight. To assume the opposite ignores a right to property just because the entity that owns the land is the Federal government, moral relativism at it's worst.

But libertarians are adamant to never acknowledge the practical existence of the government, they believe in the Pollyanna-ish view of the world that there is a magic wand where government will no longer exist and never consider how to pragmatically transition  to that ideal. Federal government activity was essential to existence of property rights being imposed on the Western states before the wagoners made their way to those states, just to remind you that Lewis and Clark were hired by the Federal Government while the contemporaneously the American hinterlands were modern day Tennessee. So to claim that one doesn't need the government now, also needs to accept the benefits and assets that have been accumulated by the government prior to the epiphany that the government should be disbanded. Libertarians need to come up with a path to transition from our current status of "overreaching" government to disbanding of that government with all the property dispersed in a fair and equal manner-- you know if they actually believed in fairness and equality.