A month or so ago, I was having dinner in South Dakota with some old timers. There was a nice old western gentlemen sitting on the other side of me, a few seats to the right. Nice, that is, until politics came up, at which point all hell couldn’t stop the anti-government rants. He was particularly enamored by Cliven Bundy, a rancher out west who refuses to pay taxes. He grazes his cattle on public land and will not pay the token, de minimus amount that the government requests. According to this article, the cost of maintaining the public lands (so that anti-government folks like Cliven Bundy can graze on them) costs tax payers $123 million per year. Plus, the ranchers have a bee in their collective bonnet – er, cowboy hat – because there are (by their estimation) too many wild horses on the public lands. Removing these horses will cost millions more, and, of course, what the hell do you do with them?
So, the gist: Ironically, these anti-government folks are benefiting from a government run, tax-funded program.
It’s an ideology and approach doomed to failure, by the contradictions obvious to any fair-minded person looking in from the outside. But it does raise some interesting points.
I’m no fan of big government, but I’m much less a fan of the good ‘ole boys, the salt-of-the-earth kind of folk, who use their anti-government rhetoric and philosophy simply to pad their pockets. Under the guise of a perverse leave-us-be libertarianism, they end up destroying our home, the natural world, for their own personal profit. And in this case – as in so many others – it is actually the government that is subsidizing their profits. And historically, the government has cooperated (more times than not) to let people rip up and consume the hell out of the land, water, and soil.
There are many ways in which big government is coercive and dangerous. But. It is a healthy use of government when we, the people, are protected against tyranny and violence, when our eco-systems are preserved so that future generations can flourish. This should be a basic point, and hopefully it will be a lesson that we as a culture eventually take to heart.
Toxic ideologies usually toxify not only our politics but also our land and water and soil. They kill the spirit along with the diversity of other species. Discernment and wisdom is preferred.