It’s tough getting everyone to pay their fair share

2014.07.10

Photo credit: www.boiseweekly.com

Photo credit: www.boiseweekly.com

Ranchers in Idaho are threatening to face off against the government once again…and this time, it’s over some birds. The US government is considering listing the sage grouse as an endangered species, which could have a sharp impact on the very generous arrangement that the ranchers currently enjoy. Much of the cattle ranching in the western US is currently done on federal land, which the government leases out to the cowboys, allowing them to avoid paying expensive private rents. An endangered listing for the grouse would turn large amounts of that federal land into protected wildlife habitat, putting an end to the cozy relationship between ranchers and the government. Ranchers are not happy about this, and are threatening to ‘fight’.

This is a little reminiscent of the stand-off at the Bundy ranch a few months ago – you’ll remember Cliven Bundy as the massively racist redneck who managed to get a posse of men together to point weapons at the Bureau of Land Management when they came to reclaim federal land for which Bundy had been refusing to pay fees. Once again, we see an argument over federal land and grazing rights for ranchers.

There is much we could say about what seems to be a new right-wing, anti-government political movement currently forming. But one of the most interesting aspects of it is the insight it gives into the psychology of these ranchers, most of whom would instantly claim to be self-sufficient and without any need for government, were you to ask them.

The key point to note is that these people who claim to be so in support of freedom and liberty and non-interference from the government are, in fact, the biggest leeches of government funds in the country – they absolutely do not pay their fair share. The ranchers are enormously subsidized by the federal government – the fees they pay to graze their cattle are based on prices in 1966 (seriously!), while the actual market rate of the private land they would otherwise have to rent can be sixteen times higher. On top of that, the ranchers currently have no exposure to risk of any kind – if they overgraze the ecosystem in one part of the state, they can just move to federal land in another part for the same ultra-cheap price. This is one of the most absurd subsidy systems in America, much worse than the oft-maligned social security or unemployment benefits.

In fact, I’ll go even further – these ranchers are basically benefiting from something that is almost a form of agrarian communism mixed together with the free market ethos of America. Much like in Mao’s China, the government owns the land, determines who can work on it, and allows them to do so for practically nothing. The only difference is that the ranchers can then sell their products on the free market, making profit for themselves and leaving the state operating at a loss. And yet when the government tries to stop this gravy train and ask the ranchers to pay fair market rates and truly allow their products to compete on the free market, the ranchers have the nerve to complain that they will no longer be given free money!

Ultimately, we should take this as an important lesson for the future – whenever someone tells you they are a right-wing libertarian or that they support rancher movements like those led by Cliven Bundy, you should immediately understand what this means. It means they will never be satisfied until everything is handed to them on a plate by the government, even if it means taking away the rights of other people and other species. These ranchers, and other people of similar political persuasions, have no concept of society, fairness, or equality, or even a true understanding of what a free market is, and we should remember that next time they pipe up with unfounded complaints. It’s time for them to play fair and live by the same free market rules the rest of us must abide by.

 

Article prepared by John Wish

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