I wrote yesterday about the weekend's developments in Cliven Bundy's stand-off with the Bureau of Land Management. John Hinderaker returns to the subject:
To begin with, his family has been ranching on the acres at issue since the late 19th century. They and other settlers were induced to come to Nevada in part by the federal government's promise that they would be able to graze their cattle on adjacent government-owned land. For many years they did so, with no limitations or fees. The Bundy family was ranching in southern Nevada long before the BLM came into existence.
Over the last two or three decades, the Bureau has squeezed the ranchers in southern Nevada by limiting the acres on which their cattle can graze, reducing the number of cattle that can be on federal land, and charging grazing fees for the ever-diminishing privilege. The effect of these restrictions has been to drive the ranchers out of business. Formerly, there were dozens of ranches in the area where Bundy operates. Now, his ranch is the only one.
The land and its "public" ownership is the issue here. The federal government owns over 80 per cent of Nevada.
That's about 90,000 square miles - or the entire land mass of the United Kingdom, or, if you prefer, the size of Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic combined, which is to say a big chunk of the Habsburg Empire.
The United Kingdom is a pretty big country the way things are trending these days. A lot of Scots think it's too big and are minded to vote to go it alone in this year's referendum. If they do, the new independent nation of Scotland will be about one-third of the real estate owned by Washington in Nevada. The US Government owns most of the west.
So the blandly named "Bureau of Land Management" is managing an area the size of Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Portugal combined. Just in Nevada.
In total, the Bureau of Land Management rules over one-eighth of the land mass of the United States. That's about the size of South Africa - or about three-sevenths of the G7: France, Germany and Italy combined.
You know the way governors like to say, "If California were a country..." or "if Texas were a country..." it would be the twelfth biggest economy in the world or whatever it is? If the Bureau of Land Management were a country, it would be the 26th biggest country in the world - out of 200 or so. Maybe that's why the BLM needs such a lavishly equipped army (see picture above). Maybe it should join Nato and send a division or two to protect the Baltic states.
If BLM were Microsoft or Standard Oil, there'd be an anti-trust investigation. Instead, the BLMpire is the biggest collective farm in history, beyond the wildest dreams of Soviet commissars. Except that, as the Bundys have discovered, no one's allowed to farm it. It's serfdom without the perks.
The incoming Emir of the United BLM-irates is apparently some buddy of Harry Reid. Where do you go to vote him out? In the one-eighth of the United States he reigns over, there is not a single polling station. And in the seven-eighths where there are, he's not on the ballot.
Poor old Cliven Bundy is probably doomed to end his days in jail or destitution or both. But he will have done his nation a great service if his sacrifice brings to an end this affront to accountable government.
~Speaking of serfdom, this spring marks the 70th anniversary of Friedrich Hayek's The Road To... It's an important work, and as timely as ever. I quoted him in After America (personally autographed copies of which make a delightful and thoughtful gift):
"There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought," he wrote with an immigrant's eye on the Britain of 1944. "It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel. The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one's neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority."
And as I then commented:
Within little more than half-a-century, almost every item on the list had been abandoned, from "independence and self-reliance" (40 per cent of Britons receive state handouts) to "a healthy suspicion of power and authority" â€” the reflex response now to almost any passing inconvenience is to demand the government "do something", the cost to individual liberty be damned. The United Kingdom today is a land that reviles "custom and tradition", requires criminal background checks for once routine "voluntary activity" (school field trips), and in which "noninterference" and "tolerance of the different" have been replaced by intolerance of and unending interference with those who decline to get with the beat: Dale McAlpine, a practicing (wait for it) Christian, was handing out leaflets in the town of Wokington and chit-chatting with shoppers when he was arrested on a "public order" charge by Police Officer Sam Adams (no relation), a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community outreach officer. Mr McAlpine had said homosexuality is a sin. "I'm gay," said Officer Adams. Well, it's still a sin, said Mr McAlpine. So Officer Adams arrested him for causing distress to Officer Adams.
In Britain, everything is policed except crime.
Big Government can transform the character of a people, and very quickly.
~I have the misfortune to be flying US Airways in a couple of days. If it comes down where this flight did, no one's ever gonna hear the black box.