Posted with permission from Bob Livingston, published by Personal Liberty Media Group

Back in 2014, thousands of conservatives and liberty movement activists converged on a farmhouse in Clark County, Nevada. The purpose was to protest the incursion of federal government agents onto the private property of the Bundy family, who had defied pressure from the Bureau of Land Management to stop allowing their cattle to feed on "federal land" in a form of free ranging. It was a practice that had been going on for decades and one that was required for the Bundy farm to survive.

The Bundy family had been improving on the area with aquifers and other measures for generations without interference. The claim by the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies was that the farmers were destroying wildlife habitat with their cattle, yet the Bundy's land improvements had actually allowed wildlife to thrive in areas where animals would find life difficult or impossible otherwise.

The federal government became fixated on the Bundys and decided to make an example out of them. Their defiance of the sudden crackdown on their use of the land was met with extreme measures, including their farm being surrounded and sniper teams placed in the hills nearby. The liberty movement saw this as the last straw, and so reacted at a grassroots level. The concern was that Bundy Ranch could become another Waco. They locked and loaded and went to defend the Bundys.

I completely agreed at the time with the efforts surrounding Bundy Ranch and I still agree with them today. The federal government had overstepped its bounds on multiple occasions when it came to rural farmers in sagebrush country and everyone had finally had enough. The feds were faced with a group of armed liberty movement members and eventually ran away. They even gave the Bundys back the cattle the feds had initially tried to confiscate. This event showcased the power of the people to repel tyranny when necessary.

The claim that the public is powerless against government force was summarily trounced.

Of course, Bundy Ranch was not well organized at all. It was a mess; with different narcissistic personalities vying for attention and press, as well as people positioning for leadership roles within the spontaneously formed group. There was no real vetting of the activists that arrived there. Most were let in without much filtering or background checks. Some of them were disasters waiting to happen, and some were informants.

It wasn't some kind of conservative Utopia, but it served its purpose at the time and sent a message to the establishment that if you try to assert an unconstitutional force against the citizenry there is a chance a Bundy Ranch scenario might happen again, and next time it might not simply be a defensive measure.

I mention Bundy Ranch because I want to remind conservatives of their roots. We are a constitutional movement. We are a small government movement. We believe in individual rights, states' rights and the 10th Amendment, as well as strict limitations placed on the federal government and state governments when they try to violate the Bill of Rights.

No government, whether state or federal, supersedes the boundaries placed upon them by the constitution. Once they violate those boundaries, they must be put in check by the citizenry, for the constitution is merely an object that represents an ideal. It can't defend itself. If a government undermines constitutional protections, it is not a failure of the constitution, it is a failure by the public to act.

Sadly, there are people who supported the efforts at Bundy Ranch in 2014 who are now calling for federal overreach and martial law today. The very same people who argued vehemently against unconstitutional actions back then are arguing for bending or breaking the rules of the Constitution now. This is something I have been warning about for years...

The greatest threat to freedom is not the government, extreme leftists or the globalist cabal; the greatest threat is when freedom fighters abandon their principles and start rationalizing tyranny because it happens to benefit them at the moment. If the freedom fighters stop fighting for freedom, who is left the pick up the mantle? No one. And thus, the globalists and collectivists win the long game.

Right now, there are two sides calling for martial law-like restrictions on the public, and both sides think they are doing what is best for society at large. They both believe they are morally justified and that totalitarian actions are necessary for "the greater good." Both sides are wrong.

The Pandemic Puritans

On one side, we have a group made up primarily of political leftists but also some conservatives who say that the coronavirus pandemic creates a scenario in which medical tyranny must be established to protect the public from itself. Leftists enjoy control in general and the pandemic simply offers an opportunity for them to act out their totalitarian fantasies in real life.

These are the people who wag their fingers at others on the street or in the park or at the beach for not "social distancing" properly. These are the people that inform on their neighbors or inform on local businesses for not following strict guidelines. These are the people that get a thrill from forcing other people to conform.

There are a few conservatives that play into the pandemic informant culture by claiming medical tyranny is a "necessary evil." The reality is that these folks are not actually concerned for others, they are terrified of the virus and they are letting their fears overwhelm their sense of moral and constitutional duty.This is not to say that precautions are not warranted, they certainly are.

However, these precautions must be up to individuals, not enforced by bureaucracy. The moment you hand government ultimate power to dictate people's health decisions, personal daily activities and their ability to participate in the economy, you have given the government the ability to destroy our very culture. No government should be allowed to have that kind of power.

The issue here is one of the greater evil, not the greater good. What is the greater evil? To avoid unconstitutional measures and avoid violating individual rights and allowing the virus to spread faster than it normally would? Or, to completely throw out the Bill of Rights and individual liberty in the name of a brand of "safety" that is ambiguous and undefined?

As I write this, the state of New Jersey among others is now implementing a draconian response against businesses that defy lockdown orders. New Jersey just arrested the owners of a gymnasium who refused to close down. Even though they used social distancing measures and applied their own guidelines, the state has decided that citizens are children that must be controlled rather than adults that can make their own reasonable decisions. This sets a dangerous precedence for the whole country.

Understand that small businesses that are not deemed "essential" by arbitrary decree from the state are on the verge of bankruptcy and collapse. Millions of people are having their livelihoods threatened by the lockdowns. Millions of jobs are at risk. Is the coronavirus really worth destroying our own economy? Because that is exactly what is happening right now. The U.S. economy was already suffering from destabilization, and now the pandemic response is putting the final nail in the coffin.

Only 13 to 18 percent of small businesses received loans through the last government bailout program. So, the claim that affected businesses are protected is a lie. They have every reason to remain open and defy the lockdowns. If they don't, they will not survive.

If the economy completely tanks, far more people will die from the resulting crisis of poverty, crime and civil unrest than will ever die from the coronavirus pandemic. When you look at the big picture, how can anyone justify medical tyranny and martial law? There is simply no logical explanation for violating the economic and personal freedom of Americans in response to the pandemic. If some people die from the virus, so be it. It's a small price to pay to keep our freedoms intact. And I would stand by that argument even if I get sick from the virus.

Sock Puppet Conservatives

There are people out there that like constitutional rights and civil liberties "in theory," but in practice, they do not appreciate the idea of restricting themselves from totalitarian actions. For these so-called "conservatives," the Bill of Rights is only for peacetime. When war rolls around, our rights are suddenly forfeit.I use this metaphor often, but I really can't find a better one: Government power is like the "one ring" in Lord of The Rings. Everyone desperately wants control of it. The side of evil thirsts for it. The side of good thinks that if only they had it, they could use it for good; they could use it to defeat evil. They are wrong.

The "one ring" (government power) corrupts all. It cannot be controlled. It cannot be used for good. Eventually, it warps the minds of those who hold it, twisting them into something evil. Good people who exploit the ring end up becoming the very monsters they were trying to defeat, and evil wins.

Right now, through the Trump administration, conservatives are being tempted with the one ring. We are being tempted with ultimate government power. The leftist hordes and their actions are at times egregious. They present a viable threat to the freedom and safety of others. Their communist ideology and mindless zealotry are destructive, and they openly seek the collapse of western civilization. But in the end, this doesn't matter.

The only solution that I see being presented in conservative circles lately is the use of federal power to crush the protests and riots. Again, this might seem like a reasonable action in the face of so much lawlessness, but the greater implications are horrifying.

Conservatives are cheering the deployment of federal officers to cities like Portland in the name of stopping civil unrest, but there is a fine line between law enforcement and martial law. And by martial law, I mean any government force that is designed to suppress or break civil protections. This does not only include a military presence, but it can also include federal agencies overstepping their bounds, just as they did at Bundy Ranch.

In Portland, federal agents have been snatching protesters off the street in unmarked vans without identifying themselves. This is the kind of behavior that real conservatives traditionally despise.

Yes, some of these protesters did in fact loot or participate in property damage; some of them did absolutely nothing. This is being done under 40 US Code 1315 which was signed into law by George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks as part of the tidal wave of unconstitutional Patriot Act measures that were railroaded through during mass fear and panic.

Conservatives have been warning for years about the potential for misuse of these laws to violate people's rights. Will we now support them merely because they are being enforced against people we don't like? I will say this: If an unmarked van with unidentified armed people tried to grab me off the street, I would do everything in my power to put a bullet in each and every one of them, and I would not hold it against any person who did the same, even if they were my political opposite.

The use of such tactics opens the door to terrible consequences, and I believe if we allow the feds to bend the rules now, we open the door to incremental martial law in the near future. By extension, labeling looters or rioters as "terrorists" also has dangerous implications. As conservatives, we must understand that every extreme use of government power we support will eventually come back to haunt us.

Consider this: We might feel righteous in violating the civil liberties of social justice Marxists because of their mindless behavior and the threat they pose to the stability of the country, but what happens when the roles are reversed? During Bundy Ranch, conservatives were also being labeled "terrorists," and who is to say we won't find ourselves in that position again, perhaps in the face of pandemic lockdowns?

There are other much better solutions than martial law for the leftist riots. Multiple rural communities have already done it. Communities that stage an armed presence in the face of Black Lives Matter and Antifa protests have all escaped riots and property damage. Sometimes Antifa decides they won't even show up. We don't need a federal presence or a military presence to get the job done. We can do it ourselves. We already have proof that this strategy works.And if the lefties want to burn down their own neighborhoods and cities and local governments don't want to stop them, then I say let it happen. It's sad for the people in these places that had no dog in the fight, but maybe this will teach the locals to speak out against Black Lives Matter or Antifa instead of remaining silent or virtue signaling their support in the hopes that their businesses won't be attacked.

Only cowards demand everyone else give up their freedoms just so they can feel safe. Beyond that, establishment elites are trying to pit the American people against each other as a means to pave a path to tyranny. I believe what the elites want more than anything else is to trick conservatives into forsaking their own principles. If we do, we become hypocrites that can no longer sustain a movement for freedom. By becoming the monster to fight the monster we hand our enemies victory. This is unacceptable.

To truth and knowledge,

Brandon Smith