Title

Go Away Closer: The Collision of Culture and Governance

Document Type

Contribution to Books

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

The relationship between citizens and government in the Great Basin is riddled with paradox. Resistance to government is a habit of mind so deep that it has become a leading marker of a distinctive culture within the Basin even within the context of.the popular celebration of attributes such as rugged individualism and self-reliance throughout the American West. In the Great Basin a complex public infrastructure composed of county, state, and federal governments supports human activities of every kind, but all but the smallest of them are viewed with suspicion. Especially in the desert outback, counties have evolved as the popular expression of the Jeffersonian ideal of government closest to the people, and they have been used as blunt instruments to contest federal, and sometimes state, authority. The region's counties have been embroiled in a sometimes acrimonious relationship with federal land management agencies and state legislatures for some time, yet they are heavily dependent upon both. A major source of friction is that counties do not possess the resources to provide adequate government services over vast, thinly populated geographic areas, yet local officials resent the larger governments on which they depend. This dependence fosters a "go away closer" dynamic fraught with tension and turmoil.