Before we talk about how to increase personal financial autonomy, let’s be very clear on the current state of financial autonomy for the vast majority of Americans today.
A few Google searches produce a frightening collection of articles, books, newscasts, editorials, and government statistics all pointing to a condition never before experienced by the United States of America–WE ARE BROKE. WORSE, WE ARE IN UNRECOVERABLE DEBT.
The United States government has put the nation in debt several times before over the past 200 years.
But it was always recoverable. Today not only are we swimming in a bottomless pit of national debt, the middle class has adopted the policy for their personal affairs.
Over the past year, I have interviewed every couple in my classes and in other environments (over 150 couples now) to assess their financial health. These couples range from low to high middle-class income levels, which means anywhere from $40,000 to $500,000 gross annual income.
Virtually every family I have interviewed has admitted to living at or above their income.
This translates to having no discretionary income and almost universally spending all income on consumer debt maintenance.
Few of these couples have any kind of retirement plan beyond a nominally preforming 401k and more than 75% of these couples have no will or revocable trust in place.
This phenomenon was the focus of a Forbes Magazine article in early 2013. I quote, “we are on the precipice of the greatest retirement crisis in the history of the world. In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly Americans, the Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty. Too frail to work, too poor to retire will become the ‘new normal’ for many elderly Americans. ”
The author goes on to say:
Corporate America and the financial wizards behind the past three decades of so called retirement innovations, most notably titans of the pension benefits consulting and mutual fund 401(k) industries, are downplaying just how bad things are already and how much worse they are going to get.
Americans today are aware that corporate pensions have been virtually eliminated and that the few remaining private, as well as the nation’s public pensions, are in jeopardy. Even if you are among the lucky few that have a pension, you cannot rest assured that it will be there for all the years you’ll need it. Whether you know it or not, someone is busy trying to figure how to screw you out of your pension.
Americans also know the great 401k experiment of the past 30 years has been a disaster. It is now apparent that 401ks will not provide the retirement security promised to workers.
As a former mutual fund legal counsel, when I recall some of the outrageous sales materials the industry came up with to peddle funds to workers, particularly in the 1980s, it’s almost laughable—if the results weren’t so tragic.
The National Institute on Retirement Security published a report in June of last year entitled: The Retirement Savings Crisis: Is It Worse Than We Think?
Here are a few highlights:
1. Account ownership rates are closely correlated with income and wealth. More than 38 million working-age households (over 45%) do not own any retirement account assets, whether in a employer sponsored 401k type plan or an IRA.
2. The average working household has virtually no retirement savings external to employer sponsored programs.
3. The collective retirement savings gap among working households age 25-64 ranges from $6.8 to $14 trillion, depending on the financial measure. Based on recommended retirement account assets (retiring by age 67), 92 percent of working households do not meet targets.
What Do We Do About It?
First we have to change our thinking. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again–expecting different results. We are going to have to take charge of our own financial futures and begin thinking for ourselves. This is much harder than it reads on this page.
It was Adler who said that, “Anyone who has done any thinking, even a little bit, knows that it is painful. It is hard work, in fact the very hardest that human beings are ever called upon to do. It is fatiguing, not refreshing. If allowed to follow the path of least resistance, no one would ever think.”
Herein lies a primal cause of much of our financial dilemma.
Too many of us have voluntarily allowed others to do our financial thinking for us.
Our first step then in taking control of our financial thinking is to acknowledge that the retirement schemes that we have been taught in school and that permeate our culture and workplaces are misrepresentations as best — fraudulent and criminal at worst.
We find ourselves in this dilemma because we have forgotten our heritage and the principles that America was founded on.
The founders understood that financial standing impacts political standing.
To be free politically you have to be free financially.
To change our thinking we need a different kind of financial education. This is were my friend and fellow freedom fighter Stephen Palmer enters the picture.
Stephen Palmer is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Business Week, and Amazon bestselling author of several books and hundreds of articles.
An avid entrepreneur and investor, Stephen has stunning insight into the laws of wealth and how to apply them at any level.
Because of his background and passion for freedom, Stephen has created a free online financial freedom education course entitled Financial Freedom 2.0: The Fastest & Safest Way to Escape the Rat Race.
If you want to change your financial thinking and establish your own family financial legacy, CLICK HERE.
Stephen’s free educational course consists of four thought-provoking and enlightening videos:
Video 1: What is Financial Freedom?
Can we make sound decisions if we do not have all the facts or our understanding is limited? Some people define financial freedom as, “being out of debt”, or “having all the money you need.” But those are not accurate definitions of financial freedom. Learn the technical definition of financial freedom that changes EVERYTHING about how you look at money.
Video 2: The Only 4 Ways To Become Financially Free
Learn the only four ways to escape the rat race (earned income or linear income), and the magic word of wealth creation. This concept alone will transform your thinking.
Video 3: The Traditional Plan That Stifles Financial Freedom
Learn why you can NEVER become financially free following the traditional “Nest Egg” accumulation plan. Learn the latest government statistics regarding retirement and why America is in retirement crisis.
Video 4: The Best Vehicle to Achieve Financial Freedom
Learn the fastest and safest ways to achieve financial freedom within 15 years. Even if you think this can’t help you, what about your children and grand children.
For every retiree who is doing well and is financially secure—three are not—that’s a 75% failure rate. This has direct to you and your children. But there are solutions.
This course will change the way you look at money, personal finances, and retirement forever. I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes and watch a couple of these free videos.
I mentioned in Part One that there can be no political autonomy without financial autonomy. I think the collapsing of American political autonomy is clear to the most casual observer, but what exactly is financial autonomy?
If I have a job and can pay my rent and have enough money for food until my next pay check – isn’t that being responsible? Aren’t I free to do as I please?
What Is Financial Autonomy?
Let’s take a minute and really drill down on this definition.
Financial refers to the monetary resources of a government, a company, an organization, or an individual; revenue.
Autonomy is of Greek origin and literally means “having one’s own laws;” self -governing or not being subject to outside control. It refers to a kind of independence or freedom known to few in America today.
The word “free” has Saxon and Hebraic roots.
In Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language, free is defined as, “being at liberty; not being under necessity or restraint; not enslaved; not in a state of vassalage or dependence.”
Since our language has the capacity to describe a certain state of being – that of financial Autonomy, I ask the question – Why are so few Americans financially free?
Why are so many of us, a pay check or two away financial disaster? America is the freest nation on earth…or is it?
We certainly have the freest system of government, the freest system of protection of rights, and a culture more free of a class system than any in the world –but if we voluntarily place ourselves under the control of another power, the freedom guaranteed by our system of government is meaningless.
If we structure our lives in such a way as to be constantly dependent or at the biding of institutions, what does it matter that our politically rights are intact–if we never use them.
One of the first indications of a dependent people is that they stop asking questions and challenging norms. To question and challenge (which was a virtue 100 years ago) established money and government systems was at the very heart of the American Revolution–just read the Declaration of Independence–it is right there in print. But today it is almost unpatriotic to not have your money in the bank or to insist on paying-off debt or being debt free.
Misery really does love company.
When debt is a normal part of daily life, when governments have debts that are impossible to pay-off, when businesses cannot survive without debt, when it is normal to carry an on-going (usually maxed out) credit card balance even for things such as clothes and food, that society is dependent on and indeed in vassalage to whomever is providing the money.
Speaking of government or other powers, Alexis de Tocqueville said:
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild.
It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing.
For their happiness such a government [or bank] willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?
Financial Autonomy then can be defined as the ability to fund your life by-way of private business or investment, without dependence on governmental subsidy or corporate salary. This does not mean being rich, but it does mean living within one’s means, or having achieved enough monthly residual income from private sources to meet monthly expenses independent of any outside influence.
Financial Autonomy means avoiding the trap of Clason’s Law – always living right at or above your income. By the way, if you have little or no savings (60% of Americans have less that $25,000 saved for retirement) or lack a solid retirement plan (minimum of $1.5 M) or if you have a long-standing credit card balance–you are living Clason’s Law.
Technically, if you hold a balance on a mortgage or are making payments on a car or a boat, you are in the clutches of Clason’s Law.
Being independent means just that—being dependent on no one or institution.
So if I have a job, am I independent or not?
I have heard this question a hundred times, “Well if I don’t have a job, how will I get money?” Therein lies the problem.
Remember, we fought a war over this very issue 239 years ago, renewed the concept during the American Civil War, and again we revitalized the idea during WWII and the subsequent Cold War. (By, the 1990’s our wars were not being fought for independence but rather, they were wars fought to maintain the very institutions predicted by Tocqueville above).
In fact, the pre-American and American civilization and culture of the 1700’s and the 1800’s and into the first quarter of the 20th century were in complete abhorrence to Clason’s Law. The first credit card was not available until 1952 and consumer credit was seen as a very bad idea until the 1980’s. Americans lived a comparatively lower standard of living during this time, but American 18th, 19th, and early 20th century quality of life and psyche of liberty were much higher than today and very much in tune with our definition of Financial Autonomy.
Part three coming soon….
I’ve been angry for a while now.
When I turned 50, I took pause and reflected on my life, presuming that I was at the halfway point (yes, I intend to live to see 100).
I thought about my childhood in the 60’s and early 70’s.
I reminisced my high school years and realized that my topsy-turvy life to that point had pretty well mirrored the turbulence of the era.
I remembered my fear of possibly being drafted into the Vietnam Conflict (I missed it by several years, but the possibility still seemed very real at the age of 15) and my full participation in the Cold War aboard a nuclear submarine shadowing Soviet ships of war.
Shortly after my military discharge, I became painfully aware of the poor state of my country and just how much had been lost, and I dedicated the balance of my life to the restoration of the America given us by her founders.
But then came 9/11 and the torrent of bad choices made by the American citizenry and its political leaders following that tragedy. The Patriot Act, the continuation of wars that we could never hope to win with the adopted management policies—that were and still are being used—the gargantuan unjustified economic bailouts and the rapid decline of the US dollar by the alarming leadership of the Federal Reserve, and the unabashed implementation of socialized medicine by all three branches of the federal government destroying any hope of restoring liberty and personal responsibility.
So by the beginning of 2011, I was disgusted with our “stage four” situation and began contemplating what could be done about it. Obviously, there was no political party to look to, and political activism by concerned citizens was having no more real impact than it had during the previous two decades.
By 2013, the pain I was feeling in my heart about the decline of my country began to turn to indignation towards those responsible for leading my country down this slippery slope. Short of building our college and impacting a few hundred students a year, for which I still feel very determined, I felt powerless regarding the country at large until fate brought a few outstanding individuals into my life that sparked some real creativity, turing my indignation into a steady slow fury, and leading to my current process of thinking. What follows is that process.
Considered one of the ten most influential books in the United States, Man’s Search for Meaning, has sold over 10 million copies and has been translated into 24 languages.
In this pivotal volume, Viktor Frankl chronicles his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II.
At one point he states that freedom is a dangerous and destructive force unless it is tempered or harnessed by personal responsibility.
Think of it—without an active, personal sense of responsibility, the almost proprietary concept of American freedom could actually be a destructive force that does harm and diminishes human dignity.
The message of this series of posts is—freedom—political, economic, religious, gender, and racial.
My goal is to give you a lot to think about, and to motivate you to make some changes in your current approach to financial and political autonomy.
This is not another rant about politics, political parties, or Washington discord; as much as those topics might warrant another hearing.
I respect and honor all actively involved citizens regardless their political leanings because the greatest act of citizenship and the strongest check on abusive government is the actively involved citizen.
I do not see others with different political views from mine as the problem. The problem—are those who do nothing.
This post is about the attack on the American family and the millions who allow it to happen by default. I am choosing the word “attack” because whether is it intentional or not, the end result of American politics today is the serious assault on small business owners and the American family. And the majority of the country is watching it happen without lifting a finger. Few would disagree when I say that the fault is our adulterated political system and its political parties.
Speaking of political parties—which party is safeguarding the sanctity and financial stability of the family? Which party?
Neither. Unless you see more and more government subsidy as the right solution.
Which party puts the interests of our children ahead of their own power struggles?
Neither. In fact, both republicans and democrats are heavily promoting an educational system that seems more interested in mining student and family data than preparing our children for successful, secure, and happy futures.
Both parties continue to pass mountains of law that make it harder and harder to provide an honest family living. As true as this is, it could not be happening if the majority of Americans took a stand against it.
So why are most Americans standing idly by watching the destruction of our once most beloved nation? That is the question that I want to take a few posts to explore.
America is sick. The test results are back and they confirm that our beloved nation is suffering from a potentially fatal illness called Enervation. Enervation is the lack of desire or the inability to do those things that must be done to protect ourselves and our families from corporate and/or governmental abuse.
To give you an example, let’s talk about the adoption of Universal Health Care! Or Obamacare! Or The Affordable Healthcare Act! Whatever you want to call it.
There are two clear opinions. You either love it or you hate it.
But that’s not the problem.
The problem is that in a democratic society like ours, these kinds of things should be part of the daily discourse. Something this divisive should stimulate tons of adult dialogue, sit-ins, shaved heads, local political debates, protests…And on both sides of the aisle.
Where is the heated and loyal support in favor of such a social remedy? Where are the avid public supporters of Universal Health Care? On the other hand, where is the public outrage against such a measure? Where are the protests? Those against this law should not rest until it has been abolished. Those in favor should stay vigilant against it being over turned.
The illness of Enervation from which America suffers is a lack of political will. Political will or political autonomy is a by-product of personal responsibility. When we cease to be personally responsible for our surroundings and our communities—our reality, we lose power to maintain or change it.
But how do we lose our sense of personal responsibility? The loss of personal responsibility occurs when we lose our financial autonomy. How does this happen? How do the citizens of a nation with the greatest system of government and the most freedoms of any nation on earth, become so apathetic?
To answer this I want to share some predictions from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy In America. In the 1830’s during his first American tour, Tocqueville, a French aristocrat and jurist said that if Americans did not vigilantly guard their freedoms through personal responsibility, they would lose them
[Americans] are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free.
As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once.
They devise a sole, tutelary [guardian], and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people.
They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage [guardianship] by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians.
In other words, because Americans wanted to avoid personal responsibility, Tocqueville predicted that they would create governmental institutions that would protect them from cradle to grave. But because they wished to remain free, they would naively believe that by retaining the power of suffrage they could control the very individuals who would keep them in this enervative state.
Tocqueville uses the term “guardian” several times, so I looked it up to get a better perspective:
A person lawfully invested with the power, and charged with the duty, of taking care of a person and managing the property and rights of another person, who for defect of age, understanding, or self-control, is considered incapable of administering his own affairs. – Black’s law Dictionary, 6th edition
According to Tocqueville over 170 years ago, government dependence leads to the eventual need for 100% federal guardianship including health care to housing to food to personal finances. When Financial Autonomy is gone, our sense of personal responsibility weakens and shrivels. Shrinking personal responsibility will always lead to a lack of political will.
Since 87% of all American hate their jobs and the vast majority are experts at living Clason’s law (living above one’s income), the average American finds themselves in financial “survival mode” and feels little hope of securing the American Dream of Financial Autonomy. As they cannot succeed at providing properly for themselves, they cannot even conceive of how to help others or the nation at large.
Watch for part 2
This post is one that will separate our readers into two groups. You will either read it and say, “wow, that makes so much sense, I see why Monticello College has a farm and teaches the manual arts,” or you will read a part of it, become bored, and drift toward leaving the site.
Either way, I strongly encourage you to stay the course and read this post to the end.
Joe Salatin, in his book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal, writes a very compelling argument (for the first group) supporting the return to common sense and being grounded.
He starts on page 36:
One of my messages in this book is to try to awaken a thirst and hunger for some basic food and farming knowledge before our appetite for cerebral and academic techno-subjects crowds out all of this historically normal knowledge.
Wouldn’t it be as valuable to go process your Thanksgiving turkey, or at least spend some time with it in the field, as it is to face-paint your five-year-old and stick colored feather shaped construction paper in her hair?
Farms and food production should be, I submit, at least as important as who pierced their navel in Hollywood this week.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who believes this. Please.
As a culture, we think we’re well educated, but I’m not sure that what we’ve learned necessarily helps us survive.
I’m talking about the skills and knowledge contained, for example, in the Foxfire books. The back-to-the-land books of the hippie era are still some of the best living manuals out there.
Country craft and farmsteading enjoy an interest revival every time things look bleak. To me, it seems prudent to acquaint ourselves with some of this information before a meltdown occurs.
A rudimentary, basic knowledge of things won’t crowd out celebrity information or keep us from knowing how to use a cell phone. Trust me, it won’t.
I love people, and I love learning. And it seems to me that an educated person should know a few basic things about farm ecology. Not much, just a little. I offer the next examples in the spirit of explanation.
“You don’t have roosters with your laying hens? How do they lay eggs?” Dear folks, chickens don’t need roosters to lay eggs.
They need roosters to hatch eggs, but not to lay them. Just like women don’t need men to lay eggs; they just need a man to hatch one.
A mere century ago, not one in a hundred would have been ignorant of this common agrarian knowledge.
The next common one: “oh, there’s the bull, ‘cause he has horns.” Dear hearts, horns do not make a bull. It ain’t what’s on top of the head that counts. It’s what’s between the legs. I don’t know if horns have anything to do with horniness, but they sure don’t have anything to do with masculinity.
A farmer friend of mine told me recently about a bus load of middle school children who came to his farm for a tour.
The first two boys off the bus asked, “Where is the salsa tree?” They thought they could go pick salsa, like apple and peaches.
Oh my. What do they put on SAT tests to measure this? Does anybody care?
How little can a person know about food and still make educated decisions about it? Is this knowledge going to change before they enter the voting booth? Now that’s a scary thought.
Do you know the difference between hay and straw? Straw is the stalk and leaves of a small grain plant. Stover is the leftovers of a corn plant. Hay is solar-dried forage. In order to get hay equally dried, it is windrowed to let the air blow through it and get the underneath leaves turned up to the drying sun.
A windrow is a long tube of hay. A baler picks up the windrow and forms the hay into packages; round bales, little square bales, little round bales, or large square bales. Each of these has a different machine and different reason for use.
How do you herd cows? Cows have a flight zone. Since their eyes are on the sides of their head, they have far more peripheral vision than people.
They can see about 300 degrees around themselves. If we could do that, it would be equivalent to having eyes in the back of our heads.
Depending on our approach to the cow, she either wants to go past us, turn around and stand off at us, or turn tail and run away. All these responses are a result of how we approach her flight zone.
Trees grow out, not up. They only grow up right at their buds. That is why you can put a rope on a tree and it stays at the same height. Once bark forms, the height does not change.
The cambium grows the tree horizontally, in diameter, but not vertically.
Otherwise, that hammock we stretched between those two trees this year would be a foot higher next year and a foot higher a year after that. Wouldn’t that be funny?
Farmers speak in precise language. A cow is a female who has had two calves. A first-calf heifer is a female who has had only one calf. A heifer is a female who has not calved. A bred heifer is a female who is pregnant but has not yet calved. A bull calf is a young uncastrated male.
A bull is an uncastrated male old enough to bred—and that is far from full-grown, believe me. A calf is an unweaned bovine of either sex. A heifer calf is a female calf; a bull calf is a male calf. A stocker is a weaned calf prior to finishing. A finisher is a calf almost big enough to slaughter—it’s being finished.
An open cow is one that is not pregnant. A dry cow is nonlactating. A fresh cow is one that has very recently calved, and a freshening cow is one that is just about to calve. A bull can cover (bred) about thirty to fifty cows.
Folks, that just cows. And believe it or not, virtually every American knew all this lingo a scant century ago. Every species has this same level of nomenclature.
Not long ago, common knowledge included the difference between a wether (castrated male sheep) and a ram (breeding age male sheep). A ram lamb and ewe lamb.
[Blogger’s Note: Several of these words show up in spell check as misspellings, have we strayed that far?]
A shoat (castrated male pig) and a gilt (unbred female pig). Sow and boar.
And then you have the whole grouping thing: herd, flock, gaggle (geese).
And if that’s not enough, the birthing takes on distinctives: cows calve, sheep lamb, rabbits kindle, hogs farrow, horses foal.
Can you name four vegetables that grow underground? Potatoes, carrots, beets, salsify, parsnips, turnips. How about four that grow above ground? Corn, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, green beans, lettuce, peas, melons, squash, cucumber. Tomatoes are a fruit.
Which vegetables can handle frost? Which ones have to be planted after frost? Which ones are legumes? Which ones grow tall? Which ones need trellises? Which ones are perennials? Asparagus, rhubarb.
Everywhere children and gardening mix, the enthusiasm for learning this heritage agrarian knowledge is insatiable. To interact with nature and food in this visceral functional way is foundational to developing common sense.
When people lose touch with these cornerstones of existence, their thinking gets all screwy. Staying grounded, very literally, and staying anchored in sensibleness require relationships with food production.
Along with our academic and leadership goals, Monticello College has the goal of instilling common sense into each and every student by helping them develop a solid relationship with nature and food production.
Let me take a couple of lines to bring you current with Monticello College news.
My daughter Amber and I spent the greater part of 5 months (Jan-May 2014) in California teaching a program called Personal Financial Autonomy (the Utah segment begins in September).
We met with great success and taught over 400 students in 12 locations.
We arrived back on campus just days before students began arriving for the first hybrid online/on campus program.
Along with regular academics (30-40 hours a week of study and classroom discussion) we spent the next three weeks kicking off life on campus by building temporary summer cabins to live in (three cabins are now complete).
We also honed our blacksmithing skills, planted the experimental garden, introduced students to small arms safety training, developed a daily farm chores routine, engaged in daily physical training, learned wilderness survival skills, and slaughtered a 300-pound hog!
Fund raising was so successful, that by mid- June we had begun the construction of the central structure on campus…the dining hall (thanks to Olde School, LLC construction company).
After a very successful first trimester, we began preparations for the 4th Annual Monticello College Family Retreat.
As this is always a small event (we can not accommodate more than 150 participants), seventeen families joined us this year to enjoyed classes in blacksmithing, alpaca wool working, herbal medicine, a low ropes course, hiking, ball room dancing, choral singing, economics, government, and number of other topics.
As with every year, the highlight of the Retreat was the food prepared for us by the Hartvigson family.
In just over a week students will once again come on campus for a three week session.
We will be building stone walls, learning about permaculture, butchering turkeys, and of course, lots of academics. We are already gearing up for enrollment for 2015 so be sure to begin the process early and contact us at 435 587-2593 or apply online by clicking here.
The next few posts will be surrounding the Cliven Bundy issue in Nevada. I will be including my own comments and articles from other writers.
Is this a case of a free loading rancher or is this what he claims it is–an issue of State’s Rights?
Fundamental to this growing discussion are two philosophies of governments: Federalism and Nationalism. Federalism is the philosophy promoted by the framers of the Constitution based on the idea of sovereign states and limited federal government (Art. 1 Sect. 8 and the 10th amendment).
Nationalism is the concept that a large and powerful central government should regulate and govern all aspects of life from food production to housing to taxation to land use and property ownership. Historically, America adhered to Federalism up through the American Civil War, and then transitioned into Nationalism from 1865 to 1913. Many people struggle with understanding the differences between these philosophies or the particulars of the States Rights stance as most Americans have been educated from a Nationalistic perspective.
A government funded education system is going to promote the interests of that government. This has been the case for all countries rich enough to provide such an public service. It was only when the states (under federalism) were responsible for education that privates schools and church schools provided a wide variety of education opportunities at the local level and people were very involved in the actual educational process of their children, much like the home schooling movement today.
By Michael Lotfi – “Who Actually Owns America’s Land? A Deeper Look At The Bundy Ranch Crisis”
Tortoises and cows have absolutely no relevance to the situation in Nevada. Does the Constitution make provision for the federal government to own and control “public land”? This is the only question we need to consider. Currently, the federal government “owns” approximately 30% of the United States territory. The majority of this federally owned land is in the West. For example, the feds control more than 80% of Nevada and more than 55% of Utah. The question has been long debated. At the debate’s soul is Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Constitution, which is know as the “Property Clause.” Proponents of federal expansion on both sides of the political aisle argue that this clause provides warrant for the federal government to control land throughout the United States.
The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States….
Those who say this clause delegates the feds control over whatever land they arbitrarily decide to lay claim to are grossly misinterpreting even the most basic structure of the Constitution.
It is said the Constitution is “written in plain English.” This is true. However, plain English does not allow one to remove context. Article IV does not grant Congress the power to exercise sovereignty over land. Article IV deals exclusively with state-to-state relations such as protection from invasion, slavery, full faith and credit, creation of new states and so on.
Historically, the Property Clause delegated federal control over territorial lands up until the point when that land would be formed as a state. This was necessary during the time of the ratification of the Constitution due to the lack of westward development.
The clause was drafted to constitutionalize the Northwest Ordinance, which the Articles of Confederation did not have the power to support. This ordinance gave the newly formed Congress the power to create new states instead of allowing the states themselves to expand their own land claims.
The Property Clause and Northwest Ordinance are both limited in power and scope. Once a state is formed and accepted into the union, the federal government no longer has control over land within the state’s borders. From this moment, such land is considered property of the sovereign state. The continental United States is now formed of fifty independent, sovereign states. No “unclaimed” lands are technically in existence. Therefore, the Property Clause no longer applies within the realm of federal control over these states.
The powers of Congress are found only in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. With the exception of the less than two dozen powers delegated to Congress found within Article I, Section 8, Congress may make no laws, cannot form political agencies and cannot take any actions that seek to regulate outside of these enumerated powers.
Article I, Section 8 does lay forth the possibility of federal control over some land. What land? Clause 17 defines these few exceptions:
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of Particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings– (Emphasis added).
Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 is known as the Enclave Clause. The clause gives federal control over the “Seat of Government” (Washington D.C.) and land that has been purchased by the federal government with consent of the state legislatures to build military posts and other needful buildings (post offices and other structures pursuant to Article I, Section 8). Nothing more.
State permission being a requirement, state authority was explicitly emphasized while drafting this clause. The founders and respective states insisted (with loud cries) that the states must consent before the federal government could purchase land from the states. Nowhere in this clause will you find the power for Congress to exercise legislative authority through regulation over 80% of Nevada, 55% of Utah, 45% of California, 70% of Alaska, or any other state. Unless, of course, the state has given the federal government the formal authority to do so, which they have not.
If a state legislature decides sell land to the federal government then at that point the Enclave Clause becomes applicable and the federal government may seize legislative and regulatory control in pursuance to the powers delegated by Article 1, Section 8.
In America’s infancy, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Founding Fathers’ understanding of federal control over land. Justice Stephen J. Field wrote for the majority opinion in Fort Leavenworth Railroad Co. v. Lowe (1855) that federal authority over territorial land was “necessarily paramount.” However, once the territory was organized as a state and admitted to the union on equal ground (equal footing doctrine – footnote 1), the state government assumes sovereignty over federal lands, and the federal government retains only the rights of an “individual proprietor.”
This means that the federal government can only exercise general sovereignty over state property if the state legislatures formally grant the federal government the power to do so under the Enclave Clause with the exception of federal buildings (post offices) and military installations. This understanding was reaffirmed in Lessee of Pollard v. Hagan (1845), Permoli v. Municipality No. 1 of the city of New Orleans (1845) and Strader v. Graham (1850).
However, it did not take long for the Supreme Court to begin redefining the Constitution and legislating from the bench under the guise of interpretation. Case by case, the Court slowly redefined the Property Clause, which had always been understood to regard exclusively the transferring of federal to state sovereignty through statehood, to the conservation of unconstitutional federal supremacy.
Federal supremacists sitting on the Supreme Court understood that by insidiously redefining this clause then federal power would be expanded and conserved.
With Camfield v. United States (1897), Light v. United States (1911), Kleppe v. New Mexico (1976) and multiple other cases regarding commerce, federal supremacists have effectively erased the constitutional guarantee of state control over property.
Through the centuries, through the use of judicial review, we arrive at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada. The Founding Fathers never imagined the citizens of a state would be subject to such treatment at the hands of the federal government. Furthermore, they certainly never imagined the state legislatures themselves would allow such treatment to go unchecked.
The latest updates appear to show that Bundy has won his battle against the feds– for now. However, it remains a damn shame that the state of Nevada would allow for such a situation to arise in the first place.
What does Nevada’s Constitution say about property? Section 1, titled “Inalienable Rights,” reads: All men are by Nature free and equal and have certain inalienable rights among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; Acquiring, Possessing and Protecting property and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness (Emphasis added).
In Section 22 of the Nevada Constitution, eminent domain is clarified. The state Constitution requires that the state prove public need, provide compensation and documentation before acquiring private property. In order to grant land to the federal government, the state must first control this land.
Bundy’s family has controlled the land for more than 140 years.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is an agency created by Congress, claimed that Bundy was “violating the law of the land.” Perhaps the agency has forgotten that the law of the land is the Constitution, and the only constitutional violation here is the very modern existence of the agency’s presence in Nevada.
Michael Lotfi is a Persian, American political analyst and adviser living in Nashville, Tennessee where he works as the executive director for the Tenth Amendment Center (TN). Lotfi founded TheLibertyPaper.org, which is an online news source that is visited daily by readers in over 135 countries. Lotfi also writes a column at The Washington Times called “American Millennial”. Lotfi graduated in the top 5% of his class with top honors from Belmont University, an award winning, private university located in Nashville, Tennessee.
1-The Doctrine of the Equality of States, (also called Equal Footing), is based on Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which says:
“New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”
Additionally, since the admission of Tennessee in 1796, Congress has included in each State’s act of admission a clause providing that the State enters the Union “on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever. (Wiki)