Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thoughts on Bundy Ranch: The Errors of Both Parties

Events in southeastern Nevada have shown how wrong both sides can be in a disagreement. 

First we are a county of law and order.  The rule of law allows us to get along as a civilized society.  For the greater good, laws should be enforced and followed.  At the same time, however, laws should reflect as best as possible the will of the people and protect the interest of the people.

Federal control of large areas of territory within sovereign states has the potential to cause a number of problems.  Laws and administration of the land is not based primarily on the desires or interests of the local population.  Think back to the British administration of the American colonies.  Laws and policies formulated by those seemingly a world away naturally generated dissatisfaction and resentment among the colonists.

We are seeing this play out on the Bundy Ranch today.  Cliven Bundy, his family, and his supporters resent the intrusion of the federal government into the cattle business.  For more than a century cattle ranchers managed to prosper in the area without the federal government.  With the transition to federal control of the property and the introduction of increasingly onerous regulations, the cattle industry in the area has vanished.

Without any proof at hand, my guess is that most local citizens, if not most Nevadans, would support the interests of the Bundy family and other cattle ranchers.

Second, the Bundy family has handled the situation poorly in terms of threats they’ve made against the federal government.  In the face of such threats federal authorities have little choice but to take it seriously.  Whether or not the laws are wise or the move to confiscate cattle well considered, once they made the decision to move in they were forced to move in with force sufficient to protect their agents and their contractors.

Moving forward, the citizens in the West and elsewhere should take note of federal laws and actions, particularly as it touches the administration of federal lands.  While there are some rational reasons for the federal government to have control of some pieces of territory in individual states, control of broad swaths of land will not protect the interest of the local population.  Rather it has the potential to generate significant resentment through the loss of local control.

Significant legal steps should be taken to remedy the situation insofar as it is possible.  Federal control of lands in the West should be reduced to those areas that directly impact the role of the federal government such as national security.  Control of land just for the sake of controlling it and protecting it should not fall to the federal government.  Creation of federally protected areas and any future national parks should be subject to the approval of the local state through a statewide referendum.

The current situation on the Bundy Ranch is unnecessary.  While legal in the technical sense, perhaps, it represents a significant overreach of federal authority as originally envisioned by the U.S. Constitution and Founding Fathers.  Federal authorities and members of U.S. Congress should rethink their entire role in the area.  The federal government should be required to make a case to the people of Nevada to justify federal control of those lands.

The Bundy family should back down their rhetoric and stop any and all threats.  Civil disobedience may help to bring the level of attention necessary to make real changes in the current situation.  It may, however, be too late for the Bundy Ranch.—another casualty of an overreaching federal government.  Rather than blame the federal government, the people of Nevada and the United States should blame themselves for allowing the servant to take control of the master.

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