On Ammon Bundy & Folk Libertarianism

On June 18, 2021, Ammon Bundy, the son of the controversial Cliven Bundy, announced his intention to run for Governor of Idaho under the Republican banner. Only 7 years ago, Ammon was a central figure in what has become known as the ‘Bundy standoff’, a seemingly wild west-level dispute that arose between the cowboy Bundy family, and the Bureau of Land Management.

The origins of the dispute date back to 1993, when Cliven Bundy declined to renew his permit for cattle grazing in protest of new regulations. Bundy then, without a permit, continued to graze his cattle on public lands. Several failed legal battles later, the ATF, FBI, and various Nevadan agencies combined to confront the Bundy family and a cohort of various militias in Bunkerville, Nevada. But this was not the only time events like this would occur involving the Bundy’s. An armed conflict occurred in 2015 in Priest River, Idaho, and in 2016, Ammon Bundy (now the leader of the bloc) and several others occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in protest of the federal occupation of public lands.

After a series of denunciations of President Trump’s immigration policy, the concept of nationalism itself, and support for Black Lives Matter – the Bundy agenda for Governor seems, on the surface, an odd direction for Trumpism if remotely successful. Instead of an emphasis on Hamiltonian economic nationalism and governance, like that which has been attributed to Trump, it feels incredibly Jeffersonian.

In many ways, the Bundy platform is largely akin to that of the paleolibertarians, who consequently, draw from Jefferson’s early thought. Tho Bishop of the Mises Institute outlines this distinction most clearly in his “To Stop the Left, America Needs a Rothbardian Right” piece by comparing the statism of Tucker Carlson’s conservatism to the anti-state libertarianism of Rothbard;

“A key plank of Rothbard’s right-wing populist platform is “Abolish the Fed; Attack the Banksters,” highlighting a significant difference between himself and Mr. Carlson. While the latter often offers scathing criticism of the predatory nature of modern financial markets, it is the former who offers a direct attack on the primary force that has enriched Wall Street at the expense of Main Street: a politicized monetary regime established by the political and financial elite.”

Although Trump’s instincts are more aligned with Carlson, the base he appealed to was considerably different. One can remember the Tea Party-to-MAGA pipeline that occurred during the 2016 campaign as a prime example of this in action. So, should it be shocking to anyone if the Bundy for Governor initiative works better than the various national populists running in the same cycle? It should not, especially when there is a deep historical precedence for a “folk libertarian” base.

Bundy represents the purest form of this aforementioned “folk libertarianism”. T. Greer in his “The Problem with the New Right” essay, explains that while many in the Twitterverse assume the popular appeal of Trump came in his caudillo disposition, they in doing so fail to explain his unanimous support with the ancestors of the independence-minded American. Greer elaborates while analyzing the work of David H. Fischer’s Albion’s Seed;

“The New Right critique of the American tradition assumes that liberalism and libertarianism are rationalist abstractions foisted by ideologues onto an unsuspecting people. Fischer, with his eye towards Captain Preston, would argue the counter case: America’s libertarian tracts were foisted on no one. Rather, they are simply an attempt to articulate in the language of philosophy the common-sense attitudes and practices long embedded in the customs of the people themselves.”

This pioneer spirit is one that traveled with the Appalachian Ulster-Scots during the American Revolution, the Ohio Settlers soon thereafter, and finally the Homesteaders. The Bundy family, heterodox Mormons in their own right, represent to a certain extent the cultural continuity of homesteader pioneerism.

With the rise of anti-Californiacation occurring in Idaho as more and more move to the state, it would be unsurprising to me if a Bundy campaign focused on folk libertarianism and “of the soil” analogies is successful. Opinions on his past aside, in which they are justifiably suspect, the spirit carried with him through his conflict with the government was undeniably one of hardiness.

The rise of Bundy, and the opposition to him from the State, media, and coasts appears conclusive to Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis;

“American democracy was born of no theorist’s dream; it was not carried in the Susan Constant to Virginia, nor in the Mayflower to Plymouth. It came out of the American forest, and it gained new strength each time it touched a new frontier. Not the constitution but free land and an abundance of natural resources open to a fit people, made the democratic type of society in America for three centuries while it occupied its empire.”

Perhaps we live in a time now where our mores and institutions have developed to a point in which the rigid, stern approach of the pioneer is no longer acceptable. I am content in believing as much – however, with the appeal Trump had to folk libertarians and the pioneer West – a populist figure that leans into his roots, adapting them for modernity is the natural populist answer to a suit-and-tie elite. An American caudillo, one without historical precedence to the culture of any territory past the Ohio River and before it, is something figures like Bundy prove to be unlikely.

12 thoughts on “On Ammon Bundy & Folk Libertarianism

  1. Why does he support BLM and defund the police yet claims to be conservative?? Asking for a friend

    1. Time to put the boot to fake Conservatives like this cheating loser…Bundy…..We all know about the Bundy name in the Northwest, its trash. Ted Bundy has nothing on what this clown is capable of…..

      1. In a time of renegade federal overreach, Bundy is the kind of fighter America needs to neuter tyrannical bureaucracies and get this country back onto the Constitutional rails.
        Bundy may be a “clown” but at least he ain’t a rinocrat traitor.

    2. D’Ann

      Can you provide a reference WITH CONTEXT, regarding Bundy’s supposed support of BLM Marxism, or the Marxist defund the police movement?

      I ask this, because the trademark of establishment conservativism and RINO’s, is a trade in half-truths or 3/4 lies. Smears are the bread and butter of the Idaho GOP-e. Bundy (as well as Trump) represents an existential threat to Idaho’s GOP establishment.

      Your comment may be entirely legitimate, but the way you expressed it makes it looks like a predictable GOP-e smear.

      As a Christian, I’m anti-Mormon. As a conservative, I’m anti-RINO, and VERY anti-Utah-GOP-e. However, I’d give Bundy a real, unbiased hearing, particularly so when the Idaho GOP is led by such fakes as Governor Little, AG Wasden, and McConnell’s own pair of Idaho GOP-e Senators, Risch and Crappo.

      If ever Idaho conservatives needed change, they do now. If Bundy is that change, I’d support him 100%. However, as Reagan said about the Soviets, and unfortunately, applies in spades to the those carrying the “conservative” label, “Trust, but verify.” We’re still in the verification phase with Bundy.

  2. Bundy is just a proud individualist who refuses to bow or take a knee to politicians and unjust legalities. I am happily on his side in that regard. We are given the individual rights we have by God, not the government although in these trying times I believe they dispute this.

  3. Here is the deal ; If bundy can make changes …even if “supporting” the BLM garbage…changes in that the fed god gets taken down a bunch of notches and it’s corrupt system that installed lord senile darth biden it will be worth supporting same. Knowing history we all should know governments will always creep and get bigger and more authoritarian and oppressive . You know in the name of this or that cause and or for the children or some such political contrived crisis diatribe of lies.
    Currently the USA is infested with marxists , lazy millennial trash with low IQ’s to include welfare cogs right down to the rancid deep state apparatchiks. Something has to gve presently as our constitution is being ignored by the left…while they scream the opposite…we are all not so stupid or asleep to not see their collective chicanery.

  4. I think the author here is reading the Bundy’s wrong. I remember the events that this person speaks of and am a resident in Oregon so am intimately familiar with events that predated the stand off at the wildlife refuge. Not only did the author neglect to mention that the entire disbute was over the final family of landowners in the region being forced off their land so that Hillary and her ilk could get to the Uranium that was under that land,, but he failed to mention that there was an unarmed patriot who was standing on principles who was killed by an FBI Sniper.

    Would I vote for Ammon Bundy? Sure I would. This man has no qualms of standing up for the values and principles that made America the most free country in the world. We need more men and women who will not grovel at the feet of life long politicians and their lap dog media or their big donor corporations. Groveling at the feet of people such as those, is what got the US in the mess it is in today. Our speech is being silenced, yet we are told silence is violence. Our 2nd Amendment is being attacked, yet they want to defund the police. Our taxes are going up, yet they want to teach our children to hate their class mate based on things not in their control.

    We need strong people in our government that will fight for We The People, That will stop the insanity that is coming out from all the seats of government, We need people who will put our children’s futures before the political limelight, because what we teach our children today, will be how our future shakes out as we get to be elderly. Never Forget, America was founded on ALL MEN ARE EQUAL. Yes we have had dark periods where that was a struggle. But never have times been as dark as they are right now and only by uniting in the face of this political attack on ALL AMERICANS can we defeat this monster.

  5. It seems after reading the article about BLM, that it’s more nuanced than Bundy supports BLM. He supports their idea of defunding the police because he thinks the police have too much power now and that we are a police state. If I was a an Idahoan, I’d seriously consider voting for the man. Even if he leans a little too far to the libertarian side for me, the other side has gone full blown cray cray. We need that counterbalance just to move the needle a little bit back into sanity or we have lost this country forever. I’ve been a federal law enforcement agent for almost 25 years, and Bundy is right that police do not need tanks and the agencies are the ones going to take away your civil liberties.