April 13, 2014

Consistency on Trial: The Bundy Affair a Moment of Truth for Conservatives

By In Articles, Politics

No doubt the reader has seen the headlines of what took place in Nevada last week.  The social media world refuses to let such things go by without notice.  And good thing too, for we saw on display, for all who were watching, the sheer absurdity of Federal Government overreach —the nature of the central State behind its well-marketed image and fairy-tale rhetorical promises.  If social media has contributed to modern illiteracy and an inability to have a complete thought expressed in a complete sentence, we must not forget that has also opened up a new means for public knowledge of government evils; that is, it has taken it upon itself to enforce Obama’s promises of transparency in his administration.  The Obama Government is quite secretive, even more so than Bush, but imagine where we’d be without social media, the internet, to cheerfully keep an eye on legalized crime State activity.

This is a glorious thing.  We can see into places and scenarios where the political class would prefer us to be blind.

The Bundy affair is simple.  Cliven Bundy is fed up.  His family had been in an area that is now within the jurisdiction of the State of Nevada since the late nineteenth century.  They were, and are, quite literally, cowboys.  They had grazed cattle for over a century, peacefully creating wealth for themselves and their trading partners.  The early-nineties brought the Bundys face-to-face with the power and might of the Federal Government and one of its thunderous tentacles: the Bureau of Land Management.  The great Will Grigg writes of the history (recommended read) of the situation: “In 1993, acting on an infallible ecocentric pronouncement, the Bureau of Land Management decreed that the land on which Cliven Bundy and his neighbors had long grazed their cattle was actually the “habitat” of the desert tortoise.”

As part of the Federal takeover of this private land during this time, a variety of fees for land use were sought by the BLM.  Grigg writes: “While ranchers fought the grazing fee increase, Babbitt [Interior Secretary at the time —CJE] and company created “Range Reform ’94,” a cluster of proposed federal land use and environmental regulations which Pendley [who wrote War on the West—CJE] describes as ‘A Thousand and One Ways to Get Ranchers off Federal Land.’”

Grigg continues with the history and brings us up to the present:

During the late 1990s – a period in which Babbitt, appropriately, was mired in a scandal involving decades of federal fraud, embezzlement, and graft in the Indian Trust Fund System — ranchers rallied to hold off the federal assault. But like the Plains Indians, the ranchers were facing an implacable enemy unburdened with respect for the law and blessed with access to limitless resources.

Of the 52 ranchers in his section of Nevada, Cliven Bundy is the only one who has refused to go back to the reservation. So the heirs to Sherman and Sheridan have mobilized an army to protect hired thieves who have come to steal the Bundy family’s cattle with the ultimate purpose of driving him from the land.

Bundy was the last man standing at the Alamo in 2014.

Last week, RT News reported:

After 20 years of battling the US government for use of his family’s land, a Nevada rancher’s “one-man range war” may soon end. The family says heavily-armed federal agents have surrounded the ranch as “trespass cattle” are removed from the disputed land.

Cliven Bundy – the “last rancher in Clark County, Nevada” – has since 1993 refused to pay fees to the federal government for the right to raise cattle on land his family has ranched since the 1870s, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

After years of legal wrangling, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) attained a federal court order to have Bundy’s nearly 1,000 head of cattle removed, according to the family.

Bundy says the government is taking the task seriously, arming the agents with military-style weaponry.

“They’re carrying the same things a soldier would,” he told the Free Beacon. “Automatic weapons, sniper rifles, top communication, top surveillance equipment, lots of vehicles. It’s heavy soldier type equipment.”

Carol Bundy, Cliven’s wife, said hundreds of armed BLM and FBI agents are set up around their property, as helicopters circle the area, and nearby roads remain off limits.

“We’re surrounded,” Carol Bundy said. “We’re estimating that there are over 200 armed BLM, FBI. We’ve got surveillance cameras at our house, they’re probably listening to me talk to you right now.”

This is a military invasion by the Federal Government into a jurisdiction (that is, private land —and way over in the State of Nevada no less!) that is not their own.  There is no constitutional permission for the existence of the BLM agency, the “Range Reform ’94” regulations, the fee structures, or the land grab.  Moreover, there is certainly no stipulation under the powers delegated to the Federal Government for it to invade one member state of the union.  The entire affair is a demonstration of imperial and military might levied against one family (under the laughable guise of protecting tortoises).

The good news at this point is that the Bundy family, and various community members have said “no more.”  They had formed a blockade and made an effort to keep the invaders out.

civilians-standing-down-blm

It was reported yesterday: 

 A deal has been reached between the Bundy family and the Bureau of Land Management over the cattle that the agency rounded up earlier this week.

After some tense moments Saturday afternoon, the BLM agreed to release the confiscated animals back to the family.

The BLM announced it would stop the roundup of cattle owned by rancher Cliven Bundy Saturday morning.

Now, all the above information can be found around the internet.  I have contributed nothing new.  But I do have a leaving thought.  It is an important one.  It is this: the Bundy Affair is a Moment of Truth for the Conservatives.  From non-libertarian conservative friends and bloggers, I have seen nothing but support for the “patriots” in Nevada for daring to stand up to Federal Government authoritarianism and invasion.  I agree with them.  Things like this are not examples of seeking to overthrow the established order; they are efforts to uphold the rule of law, to make the Federal Government realize that it has a Constitution that it is legally bound to.  That is to say, this is by nature a conservative stand, it is categorically the same as the American stand against English overreach.  It is not like the French Revolution, which was socialist in nature and which sought to overthrow the government.  It is defensive, not offensive.

The premise that the Conservative supporters of the Bundys are (rightly) holding to is this: if any person or organization, such as a Central Government, invades the property of a family, it is the right of the family to defend itself and its land.  This is an entirely agreeable premise.

But here is the million dollar question: where will Conservatives stand on imperial actions taken by the Federal Government elsewhere, besides Nevada?  Will the mainstream conservatives take part in a self-examination, consider the implications of opposing Federal Government overreach?  Opposing tyranny in our time, no matter where in the world the imperial nation-state, is a matter of conservative honesty.  This ain’t the Federal Government’s first imperial rodeo.

When the United States government invades foreign lands —Iraq and Afghanistan specifically — do the families there, the communities have have roots going back hundreds of years, have a right to fight back, to protect themselves and their land?  And if they do throw sticks and stones against United States drones in an effort to break free of an authoritarianism conducted by the same government that went on a hot pursuit against the Bundys, must Conservatives advocate their destruction?  We see middle east retaliation all the time.  Should the aggressor put down its weapons and retreat or should the victim be overpowered?  Does the same standard apply to the rouge American Government when it invades foreign lands as when it invades the Homeland?

It is my contention that the Nevada residents and the Iraqis have the same natural right to protect their property against foreign invasion.

Conservatives who have felt the urge to rally in support around the Bundys —and I am certainly one of them— must face this question.  NO! Don’t ignore it.  Is or is not the American Federal Government the imperial government worldwide that it showed itself to be in Nevada?  Why is the Federal Government tyrannical in Nevada but heroic in Iraq?

The mainstream conservative may have a long way to go until he reaches the libertarian position.  I was once a full-fledged neo-con.  Look at me now: a far-right cultural conservative and a happy political libertarian.  I love conservatives and consider myself one.  My challenge to the non-libertarian conservative is to be more consistent on the invasion issue.

Let this be a stepping stone.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com