Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, says Timothy Egan in the New York Time, is an unpatriotic “Deadbeat” who “refuses to recognize his landlord”. Egan is upset that Bundy’s cattle are drinking water Egan thinks he has part ownership over. He is angry that Bundy, whose family has lived and worked on the land since the 1880s, is not paying rent to have his cattle grazing on land Egan also thinks he also has part ownership over despite never having worked or even set foot on it a day in his life.
The recent standoff between the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Bundy and his supporters, Egan writes, “has brought out the worst of the gun-waving far right”. The situation as he describes it was that “Hundreds of heavily armed, camouflaged supporters of the scofflaw turned out Saturday in Nevada, training their rifles on public employees who were trying to do their job. The outsiders looked like snipers ready to shoot the police…. With their assault rifles and threats, the thugs in the desert forced federal officials with the Bureau of Land Management to back down from a court-ordered confiscation of Bundy’s cattle.”
And Ron Paul proved “stunningly ignorant of the public lands legacy created by forward-thinking Republicans a century ago” by saying the Bundy family “had virtual ownership of that land because they had been using it.”
And then there is the “poor desert tortoise”, which, Egan says, “is disappearing because of abusive grazing on that same 96,000 acres.”
Unlike Bundy,the other ranchers in the area dutifully “pay their grazing fees on time and don’t go whining to Fox or summoning a herd of armed thugs when they renege on their contract.” See, “most ranchers play by the rules” and therefore “are heroes”. “The good ones would never wave a gun in the face of a public servant”.
Of course, Timothy Egan has no problem at all with “gun-waving”, so long as it is the government doing it. He expresses no concern about the heavily armed, camouflaged government thugs training their rifles on and threatening to initiate violence against American citizens who want nothing more than to mind their own business and make a living.
Here’s what Cliven Bundy’s son had to say about the decision to carry arms, as reported by a local CBS affiliate:
Ammon Bundy, Cliven’s son, insists things should remain peaceful and his family doesn’t condone violence.
“We’ve asked that we don’t carry rifles in camp. We love sight arms, but just leave your rifles in your trucks,” Ammon Bundy said.
However, after federal BLM officers tased Ammon twice and family member Margaret Bundy Houston was thrown to the ground, the militia men say they aren’t taking chances.
“I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it,” Thornton said.
There is a big gathering slated to take place Saturday at 9 a.m. The Bundy’s insist it will be peaceful.
And, of course, Egan has no problem at all with the fact that the federal government’s claim to the land was derived through its resort to violence. The government claims to have held title to the land since 1848 — before Nevada joined the union (in 1864) — under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American war, which was, like so many of its wars, a U.S. war of aggression based on a pretext of lies. (A war of which Abraham Lincoln wrote, “Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, — ‘I see no probability of the British invading us’; but he will say to you, ‘Be silent: I see it, if you don’t.'”) Egan criticizes Bundy for violating some imaginary, abstract “contract” but, of course, has no problem with the U.S. government violating its contract with Mexico, the Adams-Onís Treaty (initially signed with Spain and then ratified by Mexico after Spanish recognition of its independence) and taking Mexican territory by force.
Again, we see that guns in the hands of government is fine. It’s only guns in the hands of citizens wishing just to be left alone to live their lives that Egan has a problem with.
Let’s move on to Egan’s description of Ron Paul as “stunningly ignorant”. Here is what Ron Paul said about it:
Government ownership of land means that land is in theory owned by everyone, but in practice owned by no one. Thus, those who use the land lack the incentives to preserve it for the long term. As a result, land-use rules are set by politicians and bureaucrats. Oftentimes, the so-called “public” land is used in ways that benefit politically-powerful special interests….
A government that continually violates our rights of property and contract can fairly be descried as authoritarian. Of course, the politicians and bureaucrats take offense at this term, but how else do you describe a government that forbids Americans from grazing cattle on land they have used for over a century, from buying health insurance that does not meet Obamacare’s standards, from trading with Cuba, or even from drinking raw milk? That so many in DC support the NSA spying and the TSA assaults on our privacy shows the low regard that too many in government have for our rights.
So Ron Paul is “stunningly ignorant” for recognizing an abusive government when he sees it and for understanding the concept of homesteading. (As Murray Rothbard explains, there are two fundamental principles of this concept: “1) Everyone has absolute property right over his or her own body; and 2) everyone has an absolute property right over previously unowned natural resources (land) which he first occupies and brings into use (in the Lockean phrase, ‘Mixing his labor with the land’).” But we are supposed to think that Egan — who evidently has no understanding of the principle of homesteading or the fundamental rights upon which it is founded, and who thinks that he is part owner of the land where Bundy’s cattle graze despite never having set foot in it much less worked it a day in his life — is the enlightened one here? Seems to me Egan is the one who is stunningly ignorant. As Ilana Mercer expounds:
The Bundys of Bunkerville, Nevada, had homesteaded the disputed land, southwest of Mesquite, in 1877. Bundy’s forefathers had lived off the land well before the Bureau of Land Grabs came into being. The feds subsequently passed laws usurping Bundy’s natural right to graze his cattle. The elderly rancher offered the following rejoinder: “’I have raised cattle on that land, which is public land for the people of Clark County, all my life. Why I raise cattle there and why I can raise cattle there is because I have preemptive rights,’ among them the right to forage.”
… Government has the power to put a lien on Bundy’s property. Whether it has the right to so do is far from established. And therein lies the rub: The government has a monopoly over making and enforcing law— it decides what is legal and what isn’t. Thus it behooves thinking people to question the monopolist and his laws….
Naturally, and without knowing it, Bundy speaks the language of natural law. His case against the federal occupier, moreover, cannot stand or be understood without reference to a free man’s natural, unassailable right to own himself and that which sustains his life, free of unprovoked aggression.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe eloquently puts it this way:
An elementary yet fundamental moral observation must precede the answer to this question. Since socialism cannot arise without the expropriation of assets originally “created” and owned by individual homesteaders, producers, and/or contractors, all socialist property, ill-begotten from the very start, should be forfeited. No government, even if freely elected, can be considered the owner of any socialist property, for a criminal’s heir, even if himself innocent, does not become the legitimate owner of illegitimately acquired assets.
And with Hoppe’s argument in mind, Dan Sanchez comments, “Bundy has a better claim than the Federal government, and that is all that matters in this question. The bureaucrats who staff the state and did nothing to work the land productively, have a far weaker claim, and should in no way benefit from the proceeds of auctioning the land.”
Of course, we are talking about a government that doesn’t respect our rights and the pro-government thought controllers who have no understanding of them. When the federal officials arrived with the intent of stealing Bundy’s cattle, the BLM and National Park Service’s answer to the large number of protesters who met them was to “accommodate” them by setting up two “Free Speech Zones” — or as the signs set up around them stated, “First Amendment Area”. As National Park Service spokeswoman Christie Vanover said, “we identified two areas where the public could safely and conveniently express their opinions without having to go through the codes and ordinance process and apply for permits.”
In other words, freedom of speech is not recognized as a right by the federal government. Instead, it is a privilege granted to the serfs by their benevolent overlords who graciously “accommodate” the peasant class by allowing them to speak freely within small fenced-off areas distant from the scene where the BLM confrontation would go down and implicitly threatening to use government force against them if they disobeyed orders and protested elsewhere, since, you see, the serfs can only speak freely with the government’s permission.
Oh, and about those tortoises. First of all, the threat to these animals doesn’t come from cattle grazing the land. The threat to them comes from the destruction of their habitat to make way for “strip malls, new homes and solar plants”, as the AP explains. The use of the land for grazing protects it from being developed for such other purposes.
Furthermore, the threat to the toroises is also derived from having made their habitat “public’ land. As the AP further explains, “The animals were once so abundant that tourists would scoop them up as souvenirs.” But they didn’t make such great pets, and people handed them over to public officials to care for. However, “Most of these animals are not suitable for release, either infected with disease or otherwise too feeble to survive.” As the AP reported last August, “the pampered desert dweller now faces a threat from the very people who have nurtured it.” In fact, the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center was slated for closure and officials planned to euthanize hundreds of tortoises that can neither be cared for any longer nor returned to their natural habitat. (Oh, and then there’s this: these tortoises are “late-emerging victims of budget problems that came from the same housing bubble that put a neighborhood of McMansions at the edge of the once-remote site” — you know, the housing bubble created by government intervention in the economy.) Had this habitat been recognized as private property, it would not have been open for these tourists to go hiking through and taking these animals home as pets in the first place.
But wait, there’s more! When the BLM agents went to steal Mr. Bundy’s cattle, they not only destroyed his property like water tanks, water lines, and fences, but they shot and killed two of his cattle. The BLM claimed a bull was shot because they were dangerous and could gore their horses. But they also shot and killed a cow in its pen. (It was two prize bulls killed according to Fox, but one of them appears to me to have been a cow, not a bull. It is labeled a cow in the photo from BenSwann.com, but, then, the bull is mislabeled a “cow” there, too. Looks like one bull and one cow to me.) Oh, and the BLM agents also ran over a tortoise den while running around threatening Bundy’s supporters with their gun-waving and destroying his property.
Yay for the federal government saving the endangered desert tortoise. Way to go.
Egan was not alone in his enmity for Bundy and his supporters, of course. Senator Harry Reid called them “domestic terrorists”. Paul Krugman said they were “Moochers” who espoused a “perversion of the concept of freedom” because, see, “For historical reasons, the federal government owns a lot of land in the West” and “Like any landowner, the Bureau of Land Management charges fees for the use of its property.” Krugman, of course, doesn’t get into those “historical reasons”, which we’ve already discussed.
And the only difference Krugman perceives between this ostensible government “ownership” of the land and leasing private property is that “government charges too little”. He has a valid point here. As he notes, “In effect, the government is using its ownership of land to subsidize ranchers and mining companies at taxpayers’ expense.” Which, of course, brings us right back to what Ron Paul said about how “Oftentimes, the so-called ‘public’ land is used in ways that benefit politically-powerful special interests….” How “stunningly ignorant” of Dr. Paul to make such observations! Notice that Krugman, by contrast, is only making the same observation to further his statist viewpoint that government should extract even more of the fruits of their labor from the serfs than they already are.
Krugman comments further: “Suppose he had been grazing his cattle on land belonging to one of his neighbors, and had refused to pay for the privilege. That would clearly have been theft — and brandishing guns when someone tried to stop the theft would have turned it into armed robbery.” Of course, we can go back again here to those unmentioned “historical reasons” for why the U.S. government came to claim “ownership” over this land once “owned” by its neighbor (Mexico), and how the U.S. federal government came to claim “ownership” over it through what was clearly theft, brandishing guns and using them to take the land by force. And, again, of course, the BLM agents arrived on the scene brandishing guns to take Mr. Bundy’s cattle, also clearly armed robbery.
Then there was Gail Collins, who wrote: “When government agents, acting on a court order, tried to remove Bundy’s cows, they were met by armed resisters. The agents wisely withdrew rather than risk bloodshed….” No mention of the fact that the “resisters” were armed precisely because the government agents showed up with AR-15s and other weapons threatening to use force to take Mr. Bundy’s property.
As a postscript, there was also the matter of Mr. Bundy’s controversial comments about “Negroes” and comparing the slavery of the past with the poverty and welfare of the present. Krugman called him a “crude racist”, Collins called his remarks “racist”, and Charles M. Blow said he “doesn’t reject only the federal government; he rejects history”. I’ve no wish to get too deeply into Mr. Bundy’s comments, as they are tangential to my point with this post. Suffice to say they were indeed “crude”. Whether racist or not is a different story. I saw now indication in his comments (selective portions of which were taken out of their context by the media) that he attributed the poverty of the black people he was speaking about to their race, or their being on welfare to the color of their skin, etc. While clearly foolish comments to make, the uproar over them deliberately missed the point, which was, as Bundy subsequently clarified, “What I am saying is that all we Americans are trading one form of slavery for another.”
I’ll just leave the final word on this (tangential) issue to Jason Bullock, a black man who joined Bundy and volunteered to be his bodyguard to protect him from the threat of armed federal agents. Here is a CNN interview with Bullock that went terribly wrong for the thought-controller asking the questions. The CNN reporter failed to take the lesson from law that you don’t ask witnesses on the stand questions you don’t already know their answers to (transcript follows):
CNN REPORTER: You’re protecting this man and he’s wondering whether African-Americans would be better off as slaves. How does that strike you?
JASON BULLOCK, BODYGUARD FOR CLIVEN BUNDY: It doesn’t strike me any kind of way. This is still the same old Mr. Bundy I met from the first day of all this happening.
CNN REPORTER: But aren’t those offensive comments to you?
BULLOCK: Not at all.
CNN REPORTER: Not offensive?
BULLOCK: Because Mr. Bundy is not a racist. Ever since I’ve been here he’s treated me with nothing but hospitality. He’s pretty much treated me like his own family.
BULLOCK: I would take a bullet for that man, if need be. I look up to him just like I do my own grandfather.
CNN REPORTER: Why?
BULLOCK: Because I believe in his cause and after having met Mr. Bundy a few times, I have a really good feel about him and I’m a pretty good judge of character.