Here is something I find deeply ironic: On the exact same day that Conservatives were flocking to the desert to protest Cliven Bundy's eviction from BLM land, San Francisco progressives were gathering in the streets to protest tenant evictions by a Google executive. To my eye, both protests were exactly the same, but my guess is that neither group would agree with the other's protest. I think both protests are misguided.
In the case of Cliven Bundy, I agree with John Hinderaker, right up to his big "But...."
First, it must be admitted that legally, Bundy doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The Bureau of Land Management has been charging him grazing fees since the early 1990s, which he has refused to pay. Further, BLM has issued orders limiting the area on which Bundy’s cows can graze and the number that can graze, and Bundy has ignored those directives. As a result, BLM has sued Bundy twice in federal court, and won both cases. In the second, more recent action, Bundy’s defense is that the federal government doesn’t own the land in question and therefore has no authority to regulate grazing. That simply isn’t right; the land, like most of Nevada, is federally owned. Bundy is representing himself, of necessity: no lawyer could make that argument.
It is the rest of the post after this paragraph with which I disagree. He goes on to explain why he is sympathetic to Bundy, which if I may summarize is basically because a) the Feds own too much land and b) they manage this land in a haphazard and politically corrupt manner and c) the Feds let him use this land 100 years ago but now have changed their mind about how they want to use the land.
Fine. But Bundy is still wrong. He is trying to exercise property rights over land that is not his. The owner gave him free use for years and then changed its policy and raised his rent, and eventually tried to evict him. Conservatives and libertarians don't accept the argument that long-time tenancy on private land gives one quasi-ownership rights (though states like California and cities like New York seem to be pushing law in this direction), so they should not accept it in this case. You can't defend property rights by trashing property rights. Had this been a case of the government using its fiat power to override a past written contractual obligation, I would have been sympathetic perhaps, but it is not.
I would love to see a concerted effort to push for government to divest itself of much of its western land. Ten years ago I would have said I would love to see an effort to manage it better, but I feel like that is impossible in this corporate state of ours. So the best solution is just to divest. But I cannot see where the Bundy Ranch is a particularly good case. Seriously, I would love to see more oil and gas exploration permitted on Federal land, but you won't see me out patting Exxon on the back if they suddenly start drilling on Federal land without permission or without paying the proper royalties. At least the protesters in San Francisco likely don't believe in property rights at all. Conservatives, what is your excuse?
I suppose we can argue about whether the time for civil disobedience has come, but even if this is the case, we have to be able to find a better example than the Bundy Ranch to plant our flag.