What do you call somebody who steals from the public — welfare fraud, or pilfering social security checks or breaking into city hall and emptying the treasurer’s safe — and he gets caught, goes to trial, and loses. And this goes on for years over and over.
One name for a guy like that is “Cliven Bundy”. He’s a thief who’s been grazing his cattle on public land for decades without paying for it like everybody else does.
A great deal of land in the western US is owned by the federal government. How did that happen?
In the first decades of the 20th century farming started to become more mechanized. Huge amounts of grassland in the west were plowed, using tractors, and crops were planted. Other areas were overgrazed when ranchers put more cattle on the land than there was grass for them to eat.
Then there was a drought. Droughts are cyclic events, of course, but this time the deep root systems of the plains grasses — root systems that held water and kept the soil intact — were gone. That part of the world can be pretty windy, and the soil blew away; it was a large-scale disaster with its own name: the Dust Bowl.
The land became valueless, countless farms failed and banks foreclosed on the mortgages. Then the banks failed. That’s how the government came to own the land. The next step was that the government instituted, in the 1930s, programs like the WPA and the CCC (the “New Deal”) to restore the land with huge efforts planting trees and grass over thousands of square miles.
Isolated individuals, “free” to be as shortsighted and greedy as they wished, destroyed the value of vast swaths of land. Collective effort, in this case in the form of government programs, saved both the people and the land.
Now, who exactly are the “patriots” in the Bundy Ranch situation?