I have never been more ashamed to be a part of the liberty movement than over the past week. Conservatives and libertarians have been rallying to the defense of Cliven Bundy, a rancher who refuses to pay grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management and grazes on public land he is not allowed to graze on nor does he own this property in question. Bundy refuses to accept the authority of the United States government and says he will only pay fees to the state of Nevada and the county. Federal judges have been ruling against the man’s absurd arguments for years. Cliven Bundy has no respect for the rule of law and he is certainly not someone worthy of defense. The fact that conservatives and libertarians have been defending this man is a disgrace and illustrates of the failures of the right as a movement and an ideology.
I remember when conservatives and libertarians believed in the rule of law. I remember when they believed every citizen, regardless of their background and privilege, had to obey the same set of laws and those laws were enforced fairly and equally. I remember when the right believed that the proper way to change a law was to use the legal and political process, not calling an armed militia. The rule of law is a necessary component of a free society. No person should be above the law, whether it be the government or an average citizen. If we encourage government to selectively enforce the law instead of trying to change it just because we disagree with it, that invites tyranny.
Even more disturbing than defending a man who has no regard for the laws of the United States is the refusal to condemn the presence of armed militias. The Bundy Ranch incident I fear has introduced the gun and the armed mob into American politics just as the Freikorps introduced the gun and the armed mob into the politics of Weimar Germany and we saw where that led. A private armed militia with no public accountability is as much of a danger to liberty as any police force or standing army, in fact probably more so for the simple fact that in our represenative Republic, we can fire the civilians who are in charge of the police in the military. There is no replacing a commander of a self-proclaimed militia through elections or appealing to his civilian supervisors.
Equally troubling are the frequent calls to revolution. We the people have representation through our House of Representatives and Senate. We elect a president every four years. Like it or not, Barack Obama is the legally and legitimately elected President of the United States. I’m sorry to disappoint the far right, but he didn’t steal either election instead he persuaded a majority of Americans to vote for him. The birth certificate is also real. If you want to change the laws and the system and have some legitimacy while doing it, go out and win some elections by persuading the American people to vote for you. To threaten to engage in armed revolution or mobilizing militias to threaten and intimate Federal law enforcement when there are peaceful ways to change policy is not just merely immoral, but is tyrannical as well. This demonstrates that they believe they should be exempt from the same laws that we should follow. Before you engage in revolutionary acts to change the law, you have the moral responsibility to use the political and legal process to achieve your goals peacefully.
I want a much smaller government on all levels. I want individuals and families making more decisions instead of bureaucrats and politicians. I want a lot fewer laws than we have now. I also want everyone accountable to the same laws whether they are a politician, policeman, or a rancher; regardless of their background. In America, no man is the law nor are they above the law, or at least that what it should be. There is no room in a free society for the politician or policeman who abuses the law nor is there room for the vigilante who sees themselves as above the law.
When we as conservatives and libertarians embrace mob rule, we are essentially turning our backs on liberty and freedom. While mob rule can be accomplished by the ballot box through an unrestrained democracy, in history it has more often than not been accomplished with the sword. One of the reasons we create governments is to keep the mob in check.
While we must remain eternally vigilant against tyranny, we must also reject the mob mentality like we saw on display at the Bundy Ranch. Instead, we need to rededicate ourselves to the first principles of individual liberty, the rule of law, constitutionally limited government, a strong civil society, and most importantly, a society where disputes, disagreements, and change are solved and accomplished peacefully. To be frank, this means rejecting the grievance chasing pundits and hatemongers who have characterized the right for 20+ years.
It’s time for the right to return to principle and abandon the hate and the perpetual outrage.