A Rancher's Armed Battle Against the US Government is Standard Libertarian Fare
Cliven Bundy's standoff with the BLM is over a paltry monthly grazing fee. But it's also over more - the idea of the public interest
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of American democracy is the magnificent estate of public land that it reserved from the very beginning for the use of all citizens, rich or poor. There is nothing like it in the democracies of Europe, which came into being with nations already carved up into private fiefdoms. The Great Idea that hundreds of millions of acres of forests, deserts, rivers and prairies should be owned by, and managed for, the public interest has had a profound and lasting influence on American culture.
But not everyone has accepted it.
Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff with the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the latest flare-up in a long, ongoing, often-paranoid revolt against federal ownership public lands, even the idea of a public interest at all.
He's part of a small group of extreme libertarians, corporate profiteers, armed militia members and livestock ranchers who have tried before to seize control of public lands, who nurture an intense hatred of the federal government, and who have a long history of violent eruptions going back to the failed “sagebrush rebellions” of the 20th century and before.
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