But a substantial amount of federal land ownership is essential to maintaining what’s left of this country’s ecological integrity—something we nearly destroyed in our slash-and-burn, 19th-century westward foray. And should federal ownership be surrendered (an extreme hypothetical), what’s to stop characters like the Bundy clan from seeking more? What’s to stop them, for example, from demanding the rights to federally protected Native land?

At the end of the day, the Bundys seem to care less about the preservation of constitutional rights and more about the preservation of their  own right to use land, wherever and however they might wish. It’s about money and profits and feeling entitled to resources in a land that was never theirs to begin with. For all his “pioneer mentality,” Cliven Bundy is a hardly a struggling frontiersman. These men are driven by the same greed and narcissism that inspired the original seizure of Native American land and usurpation of non-American sovereignty.

Dismiss them as one-offs at your own peril.

Unfortunately, these constitutional-illiterates speak for a lot of ignorant people—the heirs to manifest destiny are plentiful and opinionated and loud. Regardless of your feelings on federal land ownership, this is a cultural poison that must be contained. It’s a mess centuries in the making, and we’re still struggling to clean it up.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.