I Love Vermont More Every Day

Once again, I find the the sav­ing grace of the US is Ver­mont. A propo­si­tion has start­ed to gain pop­u­lar­i­ty in the state to secede from the US.

As Frank Bryan’s elo­quent and per­sua­sive essay on the Ver­mont Com­mons Web site puts it:

What this coun­try needs is a good swift slap along­side the head.
A lov­ing slap, self-administered.
A slap that says, “Clean up your act or we’re gone.”
Ver­mont is just the state to give it.

He deliv­ered part of his argu­ment at the Blue Moun­tain High School in Wells Riv­er as they cel­e­brat­ed the burn­ing of their mort­gage for the new school build­ing, which stood in stark con­trast to the inter­est on the US nation­al debt, which he points out “threat­ens to take one-third of our tax mon­ey each year. To retire the debt would require a stack of thou­sand ­dol­lar bills more than two hun­dred miles high.”

He also answers some of the objec­tions to seces­sion quite well:
Isn’t this going against some con­tract with the Fed­er­al Government?

Leav­ing the Union will involve the break­ing of no promis­es. Our con­tract with Amer­i­ca made two hun­dred years ago has been repeat­ed­ly ignored by a nation­al gov­ern­ment with an unquench­able thirst for pow­er. When we signed on, the Amer­i­can Con­sti­tu­tion ensured us that “The pow­ers not del­e­gat­ed to the U.S. by the Con­sti­tu­tion nor prohibit­ed by it to the states, are reserved to the states respec­tive­ly, or to the peo­ple.” Is there any­one left in Amer­i­ca today over the age of six who does not under­stand that the reserved pow­er clause has become a joke? The author of a lead­ing col­lege text­book puts it this way: “Actions by Con­gress and the Fed­er­al Courts have grad­u­al­ly under­mined the 10th Amend­ment. It now bears lit­tle rel­e­vance to the configura­tion of Amer­i­can Fed­er­al­ism in the 1990s.”

Ver­mont is too small to be a nation again.

Sit­ting in the Unit­ed Nations today are the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of twen­ty nations with pop­u­la­tions small­er than Ver­mon­t’s. Each of these nations has vot­ing rights in the Gen­er­al As­sembly equal to those of the Unit­ed States of America.

Vermont’s tiny econ­o­my would be swal­lowed up by giant inter­na­tion­al trad­ing systems.

In actu­al­i­ty, small nations have great advan­tages in the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket­place. Gary S. Beck­er, a high­ly respect­ed Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go pro­fessor, writes, “Big­ger isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly bet­ter.… Small­er coun­tries tend to be more nim­ble traders in inter­na­tion­al mar­kets, off­set­ting their lack of economies of scale.”

A lit­tle state like Ver­mont is too depen­dent on the fed­er­al dole to go it alone.

…for every dol­lar Ver­monters pay in fed­er­al tax­es, we get most of it back in cash but the rest in the form of a loan the gov­ern­ment has extract­ed from the Amer­i­can peo­ple, which includes us. If we kept our orig­i­nal buck we would­n’t have to make out appli­ca­tions to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment in order to spend it, and if we need­ed more we could decide whether or not to bor­row it on our own terms. Best of all, we could spend the whole damn thing as we see fit.

It is true that Ver­mont ben­e­fits from some­thing we might call “nation­al in­frastructure,” the most obvi­ous exam­ples of which are the mil­i­tary and the inter­state high­ways. But think of the 1.3 bil­lion Ver­mont tax dol­lars that go toward U.S. defense-relat­ed expen­di­tures each year. Ver­mont will need no army after seces­sion. A cou­ple of dozen more state troop­ers and a mili­tia orga­nized from local fire and res­cue orga­ni­za­tions, at no expense to the Repub­lic, will be enough. Think we could come up with some oth­er ways to spend that 1.3 billion?

If we tried to secede, the Unit­ed States would invade.

Amer­i­can tanks rolling into Ben­ning­ton? It’ll nev­er hap­pen. All we have to do is sim­ply assert our indepen­dence and leave. Our very act of seces­sion will be our great­est strength. We have an open bor­der to the north with a coun­try that owes us for our benign neglect dur­ing the War of 1812 and to a province of that coun­try with seces­sion­ist ideas of its own

It takes big gov­ern­ment to solve big issues.

My oppo­nent in the 1991 seces­sion debates, Ver­mont Supreme Court Jus­tice John Doo­ley, stat­ed that, “Acid rain won’t be end­ed by cute lit­tle nations like a new Repub­lic of Ver­mont.” Wrong. The his­to­ry of the last two decades has shown an increas­ing inca­pac­i­ty of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to make progress where real con­flicts among the states exist. Medi­oc­rity is the best you can hope for when prob­lems and bene­fits are dif­fused over large systems.

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment likes to “facil­i­tate” coöper­a­tion and then take cred­it for nat­ur­al impuls­es for consen­sus that are local­ly inspired. It is the states and local­i­ties that are “putting Wash­ing­ton to shame,” as one publi­cation put it, in the field of envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. In Ver­mont we find again and again that Washing­ton is a hin­drance to attempts to pro­tect the envi­ron­ment. It can be argued, for instance, that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment caused the acid rain prob­lem because it was forced to com­pro­mise over smoke­stacks and scrub­bers when it sought to pro­tect Mid­west­ern cities from their own pol­lution in the 1970s.

The fact of the mat­ter is that Ver­mont’s influ­ence as an inde­pen­dent repub­lic would be vast­ly greater than even the best efforts of our sen­a­tors in Wash­ing­ton can pro­duce. Internation­al coöper­a­tion rather than intra-nation­al action is the emerg­ing dynam­ic in envi­ron­men­tal pol­i­cy. The twen­ty-first centu­ry must devel­op a glob­al per­spec­tive on the envi­ron­ment. Both Ver­mont and the world of nations would ben­e­fit from our active and equal par­tic­i­pa­tion in this.

What About the Bill of Rights?

Many of the peo­ple attend­ing the seces­sion debates seemed wor­ried about giv­ing up the pro­tec­tions guar­an­teed under the Bill of Rights in the Fed­er­al Con­sti­tu­tion. One won­ders why. Vermont’s record on civ­il rights and lib­er­ties is far stronger than Amer­i­ca’s. It was our con­sti­tu­tion that first out­lawed slav­ery. It was our con­sti­tu­tion that first pro­vid­ed uni­ver­sal vot­ing rights for all freemen.

It was Ver­mont that pro­vid­ed much of the lead­er­ship in the anti-slav­ery move­ment. Lin­coln fought the war to save the Union. Ver­mont fought the war to free the slaves.

It was from Ver­mont that the first anti-Chris­t­ian book ever pub­lished on the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent was penned.

It was a Ver­mont Sen­a­tor that led the fight to cen­sor McCarthy. It was in Ver­mont that gays were first pro­vid­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to form civ­il unions. It is in Ver­mont that a cit­i­zen’s Bill of Rights guar­an­tee to keep and bear arms is strong­ly defended—not for hunt­ing, not for per­son­al pro­tec­tion against way­ward cit­i­zens, but for what is was intend­ed: to insure that free cit­i­zens always have a means to pro­tect them­selves against gov­ern­ments, a pro­tec­tion that takes on spe­cial mean­ing as our civ­il lib­er­ties come under attack from Wash­ing­ton, the cen­ter of our own nation, our beloved America.

Well, that last bit had me a lit­tle puz­zled, but I guess if the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment starts to look more and more like a Dic­ta­tor­ship run by a guy named George over a pre­dom­i­nant­ly rur­al Colo­nial hold­ing, the idea of bran­dish­ing mus­kets starts to have a cer­tain ring to it…

At any rate, Pam has said many times that the place in the US that we near­ly end­ed up in if things had not gone quite so wrong should sim­ply either secede, or do en masse what we as a cou­ple did: join Cana­da. It sounds like some who do live there would agree. In fact, one report had polls tak­en in Ver­mont in favour of seces­sion some­where around 13%.

The sto­ry was not lost on Fox News, who ridiculed it.

4 Replies to “I Love Vermont More Every Day”

  1. Dav­ey me lad–long time no see!

    Well, as you can imag­ine, we at Schmaltz und Grieben had some­thing to say about Ver­mon­t’s “seces­sion” too:

    http://schmaltz.typepad.com/blog/2007/06/trade_you_a_ver.html

    I think a LOT of Amer­i­cans would­n’t mind get­ting rid of Ver­mont (except for the Ben & Jer­ry’s tar­iffs it might necessitate).

    Now, as to my own plan: It might suck for you guys if you had to dri­ve across part of the US to get to the rest of Cana­da. And a real down­side is that you can bet that the good old USA will have to save Ver­mon­t’s bacon when the ter­ror­ists start mov­ing in.

    But it might be worth a try, irregardless.

  2. Hi Pete! Long time, no see. 

    Y’know, you might be on to some­thing there. Mind you, I’ve not been to Alber­ta yet, and I bet might be worth hang­ing on to it. Any­way, Stephen Harp­er prob­a­bly isn’t too keen on trad­ing one of his favourite provinces with a state that he prob­a­bly feels the same way about as you do. 😉

    Hope you’re hav­ing a good sum­mer, despite all of the mess in Wash­ing­ton, et. al. Any plans for a vis­it up to the Great Sog­gy West?

  3. Hey David,

    I don’t know about the trip right now. My best friend from Spokane (who has been liv­ing near Seat­tle for the past few years) is mov­ing to Mon­tana, so there goes any con­ceiv­able excuse for a trip to Seattle.

    OTOH, my wife–did you know I got mar­ried last year?–is dying to go to Van­cou­ver because she sees it fre­quent­ly on the Food Net­work. And per­son­al­ly I’ve always been fond of Van­cou­ver, as I think you know. So a trip there is not out of the ques­tion. I’ll keep you in the loop.

    Alber­ta is absolute­ly freak­ing gor­geous, so I don’t doubt that PM Harp­er does­n’t plan on giv­ing it away–even for Ver­mont (heh). This sum­mer you and Pam ought to take the high­way (I think it’s Cana­da 1) through Kam­loops and Rev­el­stoke and over to Banff and Cal­gary. Due to the per­pet­u­al­ly moun­tain­ous ter­rain, it’s going to take you a cou­ple of days to get there. But you’ll be look­ing at one of the most beau­ti­ful parts of the entire plan­et. (You will thank me.)

    You might even want to head south to Trail and drink some Koka­nee at one of the sullen bars I used to fre­quent there when I lived in north­east­ern Wash­ing­ton State.

    Mess in Wash­ing­ton? What mess in Washington? 😉

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