Paul has offered a good account of the standoff under way in eastern Oregon, but everyone should take in the analysis of Randall O’Toole of the Cato Institute, an Oregon native with special expertise on forest and rangeland bureaucracy. Randall doesn’t think there are any good guys here:
There are no good guys to cheer for in the militia takeover of an Oregon federal office building on January 2. The ostensible issue is the re-sentencing of two Oregon ranchers–Dwight Hammond and son Steven Hammond–for arson, while the underlying issue is federal land ownership of much of the West.
Randall reports on some of the facts that the media seems to be skipping over, and concludes thus:
Property rights advocates who want to change public views need to find ranchers more appealing than the Bundys, who want to overgraze other people’s land without paying for the right to do so, or the Hammonds, whose unauthorized fire on federal lands threatened firefighters’ lives. Without better representatives — preferably ones willing to pay their own way and not rely on taxpayer subsidies — they won’t be able to capture the hearts and minds of the American people, which means the future of ranchers who depend on federal lands is dim.
Do read the whole thing. Meanwhile, I revive a question I posed in Forbes last spring:
The controversy between the federal government and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy appears to have receded from the front pages for the moment, but it is useful to step back and ask a simple question: how come these highly charged political standoffs seldom if ever occur in New York, or Pennsylvania, or Indiana? How come there is no “Cornbelt Rebellion” to match up with the west’s “Sagebrush Rebellion”?
The answer is obvious: the federal government owns too much western land (and virtually none in the east), and should devolve it to the states or to private owners. Read the rest of my Forbes article for the hows and whys of this issue.