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.