Voluntary Union

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The nature of the "union" preserved by Abraham Lincoln is on the front page yet again. Although the stories do not bear such headlines, the facts are there for all to read.

Specifically, two states — Nevada and South Carolina — are unwillingly on the receiving end of federal shipments of nuclear waste.

The State of Nevada, acting through its governor, vetoed a proposal by the federal Department of Energy to store nuclear waste in Nevada. The State of South Carolina, meanwhile, will be compelled to store weapons-grade plutonium. This plutonium is allegedly to be converted into fuel for nuclear power plants.

In both cases, the citizens of the states were overruled by their federal masters. It isn’t hard to understand why. Politicians from states other than Nevada and South Carolina have an easy case to make: this stuff has to go somewhere, our "experts" tell us to put it there, and the victim states were out-voted 48 to 2 (in terms of states, that is).

Both states are "special cases," of course. The federal government owns nearly eighty percent of the land in the State of Nevada. Yes, eighty percent, as in eight out of every ten acres. (Perhaps the cash-strapped politicians could sell this land to pay off the debt, and save American taxpayers some interest and tax dollars? Nah.). In summary, Nevada is not populous.

South Carolina, meanwhile, must perpetually be shown a lesson where Washington, DC and its power elite is concerned. Forget the important battles fought in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War (Haven’t heard about this? Go rent The Patriot, or visit Fort Moultrie). The Palmetto State dared declare its independence, and remains attached to the idea that it did the right thing in fighting for its independence from 1861 to 1865. Do not think for a moment that many bureaucrats in DC are losing sleep over shipping nuclear waste to the home of secession. In summary, South Carolina is not popular in Washington.

There is a certain irony to the fruition of Lincoln’s involuntary and unconstitutional faux-union of servile states.

Environmentalists, by and large, tend to favor strong centralized governments. These governments, the erroneous thinking goes, will force allegedly free citizens to take environmental actions that might not otherwise be taken. Recycling, for example, has been largely accomplished by government dictates. The reason for this is that recycling, by and large, is an uneconomic waste of energy.

In the two cases of federal nuclear waste in the headlines today, it is doubtful that environmentalists in Nevada and South Carolina are thrilled with the wonders of coercion from on high.

As the Washington Post reports:

opponents [of the Nevada storage plan] called the [Bush] administration plan “the big lie,” a project riddled with technical and transportation problems that will not solve the waste storage problem because spent fuel will continue to pile up at nuclear power plants around the country even with a centralized repository.

But one must understand practical politics: it does not matter whether the plan will work! It only matters that politicians can go on TV and claim that they are "doing something."

In two years, how many voters will even remember the issue, let alone have taken the time to research whether it was a successful plan? Likely only a few.

The governor of South Carolina has aired radio ads claiming that South Carolina will not back down in the face of federal bureaucrats. Such a general statement is fine, but how about a specific plan of action?

A suggestion to the sovereign states of Nevada and South Carolina: their federal senators and representatives should co-sponsor legislation for Nevada and South Carolina to leave the union.

No nuclear waste, and no tax dollars to pay for such waste.

South Carolina has a rather rich history of nullification and secession to which it, and Nevada, can turn for guidance.

If South Carolina and Nevada want to be rid of unwanted nuclear waste, carpe diem. And Deo Vindice.

Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.

© 2002 David Dieteman

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