The Economics Behind Bundy's Militia

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Members of a militia occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon over the past month.

In early January, an armed group took over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon, in protest of the federal government's control of the land. 

The standoff, led by brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, came to a head this week when several militia members were arrested. After a nearly month-long stalemate, Ammon Bundy urged the remaining protesters to "go home." Even so, the situation continues to evolve.  

So what's at the heart of this standoff? About a century of history, some suspected arson, and a whole lot of economics.

Over the course of it, the militia members have been demanding that the Malheur land controlled by the federal government be turned over to the local government. In more basic terms: give the land back to the ranchers and loggers who can then live off and prosper from it. Unfortunately in today's economy, that might not work.

This week on Money Talking, host Charlie Herman talks with James Surowiecki with The New Yorker and Zoë Carpenter from The Nation about the motivations fueling the militia movement and what benefits, if any, the protest has prompted.