One story that the media seem to be missing out on over here is the occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon by a group of self-styled “militia” who are threatening to remain there until some vague demands about “big government” are met….indeed they’ve not really been very specific about what their demands were.
Initially they said something about getting two people jailed for arson released (but both disowned any connection between themselves and this group) then they made some comment about wanted to see federal land returned “to the local community”. This relates to a libertarian myth that the government is bared from owning land (not actually true!) and that people can just take over land and ignore the government simply by choosing to do so.
And what do the local community think? They are in fact urging the FBI to go up the mountain and kick these inbreed redneck racist’s out. There two main industries in the local town, tourism and the various federal contracts that arise from managing the national and state parks nearby. Needless to say these “militia” threaten both businesses, indeed the main occupants of hotels right now are FBI agents and journalists, not tourists. Those who work in the refuge can’t return to their jobs, so you can understand local frustrations.
What these “militia”, or indeed most libertarians, don’t seem to understand is that with ownership comes responsibility. If the “local community” owned the land then they’d be responsible for it, and that means paying a lot of costly bills (road maintenance, flood protection and water management, wildlife protection, etc.) notably the cost of protecting it from forest fires (a costly bill, in the order of many million of dollars a year). This is the whole reason why the US has this thing called “the National Parks Service”. They manage large amounts of public land on everyone’s behalf. And crucially, the bill for their services is paid nationally (i.e. spread out across the country with everyone paying a fare share of it) rather than burdening a handful of locals with these costs.
One also has to mention the stand off in Oregon over various environmental issues. Ranchers and loggers want to be allowed to clear cut land, but both state and federal authorities oppose this. In part because of the obvious environmental concerns, but also because if the logging was allowed to continue, then they’ll eventually run out of trees and the industry will collapse anyway. And clear cutting forests also increases the risks of flooding downstream (a cost the government needs to pay for) amongst other things. So authorities have been trying to encourage more sustainable forestry in the state, but that seems not to compute with those who are allergic to the word “sustainable”.
Something that these “militia” driving around in their luxury SUV’s whining about “big government” don’t seem to get is that few are more dependant on welfare than those who live in rural areas (indeed many of this very group are ranchers who are in receipt of federal subsidies). As I mentioned in a prior post many Republican leaning states in the US tend to be net receivers of government money, with many democratic states being net contributors. Well we can iterate this down further. If you live in rural areas (where voters tend to lean to the right) the costs of providing public services tends to be a lot higher per person than in the cities (which tend to vote democrat). And of course wages (and hence tax revenues) tend to be higher in cities, than in the countryside.
While its a bit of a generalisation, but in most western country’s there tends to be a movement of money from the cities to rural areas via the government. The logic is that we all use the countryside either directly (e.g. when you go for a hike or use roads in rural areas) or indirectly (water management, farm produce, etc.) and it would be ludicrously unfair to expect those living there to cover all the costs. And we only have to look at developing nations to see what the consequences of these libertarian policies would be.
You might well hear NGO’s who work in third world countries talk about “the rural poor”. This reflects that in the developing world, they don’t have a “big government”, nor a national parks service, nor a department of agriculture doling out farm subsidies. So people in rural areas tend to be exceptionally poor, even by the standards of a third world country. Many have a precarious existence, surviving via subsistence farming in living conditions little changed from the middle ages. And when their luck runs out, they end up being forced to migrate to massive shanty towns on the outskirts of the cities, often getting piss-poor jobs making things….such as those nice winter woolies these militia types are wearing!
So if I could think of any advice to these militia men, why don’t they go live in a Favela for a few weeks and then see how they like that? Or maybe they just migrate to Somalia. If libertarians were right Somalia, which has been without “big government” for decades would be the wealthiest country in the world. Instead its one of the poorest and most dangerous places in the world.
And here in the UK we see the same thing playing out. You would think that anyone who works or lives in the countryside should vote to stay in the EU. The UK receives billions a year in farm subsidies, which we will lose if the UK leaves. Farming bodies have pointed out that this would likely lead to the end of certain types of farming (notably hill and cereal farming).
Well a number of euroskeptics are trying to con those in rural areas, all too aware about how they can push certain buttons with people here (as in the US the countryside tends to vote conservative in the UK and the towns lean towards labour), into voting for the UK to leave….even though this would devastate these communities.
As discussed before, stirred up into a frenzy by various right media pundits (who are also perhaps ironically dependant on a particular form of welfare) many on the right are gripped by the urge to “act out” their political fantasies….much like how serial killers get caught up with similar urges!