We live in a nation of laws, Cliven Bundy

Cliven Bundy says he and his family have used public lands for grazing since their ranch began. Photo provided by Bundy Ranch.

Cliven Bundy says he and his family have used public lands for grazing since their ranch began. Photo provided by Bundy Ranch.

By Savannah Marie
@savfmarie
April 21, 2014

God bless America.

At least that’s what has been going through my head since news broke of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the federal government. According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bundy owes the federal government more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees he allegedly hasn’t paid since 1993, and they are coming to collect.

Bundy, whose family has owned his 160-acre ranch in Clark County, Nevada since the 1870s, doesn’t have enough land of his own to sustain the nearly 1,000 cattle he owns. So they’ve been grazing on law owned by the federal government. Because he’s refused to pay those grazing fees, the BLM has successfully taken Bundy to court numerous times over the last two decades. And recently, with the blessing of a judge, they moved to confiscate his cattle because he refused to abide by court-ordered sanctions.

But Bundy apparently doesn’t recognize the federal government’s sovereignty on that land. Rather, he insists the state of Nevada owns the land, and has in fact paid the state government fees associated with his cattle grazing there. He has reiterated time and again, however, that he will not pay the federal government a single cent.

Too bad these things called “laws” exist.

Cached image of BLM web page describing the impact of trespass cattle in northeast Clark County, Nevada.

Cached image of BLM web page describing the impact of trespass cattle in northeast Clark County, Nevada. Click to enlarge.

States’ Rights vs. the Federal Government

The issue raises an interesting question relating to the age-old debate of states’ rights versus the power of the federal government. Bundy received a slew of support from like-minded protestors, who allegedly were armed, as the BLM captured nearly 400 of Bundy’s trespassing cattle. Facing fears of potential violence — Bundy said he would “do whatever it takes” to defend his land and his cattle — the bureau eventually returned the cattle and left the Bundy Ranch.

While one could perhaps find Bundy’s stance admirable, the fact of the matter remains that we live in a nation of laws. Nobody wants to pay to register their cars, for instance, but we have to, because it’s the law. Nobody wants to pay income taxes, but we have to, because it’s the law. Bundy and his supporters believe that he’s above the law.

One could look at Bundy as a man of conviction. After all, he says that he recognizes the sovereignty of Nevada and abides by state laws while saying that he doesn’t even acknowledge that the federal government exists. It should be noted, however, that the Nevada Constitution says residents should swear their first allegiances to the federal government. As a citizen of the United States, Bundy has a responsibility to adhere to those laws – no matter his personal view of government.

But is he a man — like many other men — who simply don’t want to pay their taxes or other fees the government requires by law?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) seems to think so. Following the bureau’s abandonment of Bundy’s ranch earlier this week, Reid issued a statement indicating that Bundy shouldn’t be celebrating quite yet.

“It’s not over,” Reid told reporters after the situation deescalated, “We can’t have in America people who violate the law and just walk away from it, so it’s not over”.

The Realities of Living in America

Benjamin Franklin is a man who is universally accepted by scholars on both sides of the aisles as being a critical figure in the founding of a sovereign American state. Perhaps most famously, Franklin said that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. While nobody wants to fork over their dollars to pay taxes — after all, the one-percenters seem to get out of paying taxes all the time, leaving the working class to shoulder most of the load — the truth of the matter remains that taxes are inevitable. We have to pay them if we want to be part of this great nation.

It remains to be seen what the future will bring in regards to this issue. But if we as a nation let people so blatantly disregard the law and get away with it, then what have we truly become?

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