So by now, most of us know about the controversy in Nevada over one rancher's refusal to pay a fee for allowing his cattle to graze on federal lands. In fact, he now owes the government over a million dollars in taxes and/or fees.
At the heart of Cliven Bundy's refusal to pay these taxes is his proclaimed notion that rights to the use of those lands rightfully belong to those who resided there first.
Additionally, he has often times inarticulately expressed the notion that the collection of these taxes or fees by the federal government is an infringement on personal rights.
On the other side of the fight, such as with those of us here, the majority of the outrage stems from the fact that since the land effectively belongs to all Americans, these actions, and Bundy's refusal to pay for his actions, are no different from any other defrauding of the government.
Given all these points, here is my modest proposal:
Return the disputed federal lands to Native American groups.
If Bundy is telling the truth about wanting the lands to be rightfully controlled by the people who resided there first, and that his refusal to provide any sort of compensation for using those lands is based on paying taxes to an illegitimate federal government, then he should have no more qualms if the land was controlled by Native Americans. After all, their claims to the lands precede those of the Federal government, but also those of any other European settler by thousands of years.
On the other hand, while Bundy has a problem with paying taxes to the federal government, and ultimately stealing money that belongs to all Americans, as a follower of sovereign rights, he should respect if the Native Americans choose to charge him for using their lands for his cattle, assuming they allow him to use them at all.
Let's not forget that the US in general owes the Native American population, who even knows how to calculate how much the US owes, over land seizures, genocides, and countless humiliations. The million dollars that Bundy owes the US, and any additional value in the land, can be considered chump change compared to the value engendered by this gesture of goodwill, repairing relations, and, as a first step, righting some monumental wrongs this would show the world.
Apparently there is some outrage in Bundy's camp that this whole thing is a conspiracy so politicians or the Chinese or something can profit from it. Well, returning these lands would prove that charge wrong, as no one would ostensibly be profiting from such a move. Unless you count the Native Americans, which, considering the last few centuries, I would say they are still at a considerable deficit.
Apparently the actions of the Federal government have also been hysterically called some sort of conspiratorial land grab. Again, it would be hard to call it a land grab if the government is actually giving that land away (technically, returning it to its rightful owners, to use the Bundy parlance).
There is also some outrage here over the possibility of an ulterior motive for the Bundy Rebellion. Namely, the use of the federal lands by mining, oil, and shale companies. Some may question whether the land is more likely to be preserved environmentally by Native Americans than the federal government. After all, there's no reason the Native American groups to whom we return the land couldn't just go and deal with the private companies themselves (Unless of course, we set it up in some sort of treaty....).
From an environmental perspective, this may in fact be a better alternative. After all, the federal government's track record of protecting public lands from private ventures and polluters is spotty at best. On the other hand, Native Americans have been among the strongest supporters of combating climate change, and this makes sense considering they are also disproportionately impacted by the climate change for which these companies are responsible.
But even after all that, if Cliven Bundy still refuses to go along with the government or the Native American decisions, he can always take it up in tribal court. I'm sure he'll have a better chance there than he did in US court.
9:36 AM PT: To address any comments there have been and will be expressing interest in seeing the use of force, on Bundy, his supporters, or his cattle:
Isn't this the very site that often protests against the militarization of police/federal government?
What of the outrage over the Albuquerque PD? Of the crackdown on Occupy movements? Of stop and frisk and drug raids and every other instance of police or federal strong-arming? But if it's against a Conservative defrauder, vile and selfish though he is, it's ok?
No, I would much prefer the government declare that at no point will they threaten, use, or display in force any violence as a means of resolving this issue. Let the militias stand there with their guns and threats and see how that endears them to the American populace. Let the record show that the government has attempted time and time again to resolve this matter in a judicious manner, and Bundy's response has been nothing but contempt for the government and institutions on which we all rely and have built our society.
After all, settling disputes through peaceful means, and through a structured and regulated and equitable government; what better way is there to refute all that encapsulates Conservative ideology?