OPINION – The mask of benevolent bureaucracy slipped earlier this week in the simmering range war near Bunkerville, Nev. It’s getting tougher to pretend that the federal government is our servant in any real sense.
The real face of government was revealed when government sharpshooters trained their rifles on unarmed families who were peaceably videotaping and taking photos outside of a designated free speech zone. Government agents then threatened, intimidated, and arrested a man for refusing their orders to leave.
As ugly as it was, this may actually have been a good thing.
The ongoing seizure of rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle by Bureau of Land Management agents and hired contractors has been immensely polarizing. It has led the opposing sides to portray one another in distorted caricatures that paint Bundy and the BLM in the most exaggerated terms possible.
This polarization has kept our attention focused primarily on Bundy’s popularity or the legality of what the feds are doing. It has distracted us from the larger issue of whether the federal government now exists to protect and guarantee our natural rights or to forcefully serve its own interests.
This is a question that goes far beyond the Bundy’s land use situation.
Are we morally bound to obey a government that is no longer abiding by its foundational principles and limits?
Our government increasingly cloaks its actions in secrecy and grants itself immunity from having to take responsibility for any harm it causes. From the food we eat to how our toilets flush, every aspect of our lives is becoming subject to its increasing regulations. And its enforcement of those regulations is becoming noticeably more aggressive.
Would government acting in its proper role fine a family $90,000 for raising rabbits? Would it arrest and imprison a man for paying his employees in gold and silver? Would a government that protects freedom send a SWAT team to raid an Amish farmer over the selling of raw milk?
Since 9/11, we’ve seen our federal government intensify its focus on national security to the point where it is actively eliminating our freedoms.
It spies on us in violation of the Fourth Amendment. This done in spite of the fact that each of us has an inherent natural right to privacy and a right to be left alone unless probable cause exists that we are party to a criminal act.
Whether boarding a plane or purchasing a firearm, the federal government views every citizen as a potential criminal or terrorist until they have submitted to its screening. Its agencies are arming themselves at an unprecedented rate.
These types of over-reactive atrocities can only occur when government ceases to be accountable to its citizens. When government becomes abusive or unresponsive to the concerns of the governed, it loses its legitimacy. There comes a point where obedience is no longer a virtue.
John Locke in his Second Treatise on Civil Government described the circumstances under which we have no moral obligation to obey:
[T]herefore whenever legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they (the officials of the government) put themselves in a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience and are left to the common refuge which God hath provided for all men against force and violence.
The rationale for separating from an oppressive government outlined in our Declaration of Independence was simply summarizing the philosophy of Locke.
Just because a law has been duly enacted or an official pronouncement has been handed down from a federal bench does not mean it is proper or beneficial. If it takes away or destroys our property, it is wrong. Likewise, when agencies are allowed to exercise arbitrary power without accountability to the voters, we are reduced to a type of regulatory slavery.
At this point, government is no longer our protector and a guarantor of our rights. Instead, it becomes our adversary and sees itself in conflict with the people it is supposed to be serving.
After seeing the lengths of intimidation and force to which the feds are willing to go to take a rancher’s cattle for refusing to obey their rules, we should have a better feel of how our government views us.
No matter how a person may feel about Cliven Bundy, his cattle, or land use issues, he is not the one pointing guns at innocent people and treating them as an enemy.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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