• Break Up America Secession is the Path to Freedom

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    that classic Beatles riff of the 1960s: “You say you want a
    revolution?” Imagine this instead: a devolution. Picture an
    America that is run not, as now, by a top-heavy Washington autocracy
    but, in freewheeling style, by an assemblage of largely autonomous
    regional republics reflecting the eclectic economic and cultural
    character of the society.

    There might
    be an austere Republic of New England, with a natural strength in
    higher education and technology; a Caribbean-flavored city-state
    Republic of Greater Miami, with an anchor in the Latin American
    economy; and maybe even a Republic of Las Vegas with unfettered
    license to pursue its ambitions as a global gambling, entertainment
    and conventioneer destination. California? America’s broke,
    ill-governed and way-too-big nation-like state might be saved, truly
    saved, not by an emergency federal bailout, but by a merciful carve-up
    into a trio of republics that would rely on their own ingenuity
    in making their connections to the wider world. And while we’re
    at it, let’s make this project bi-national – economic
    logic suggests a natural multilingual combination between Greater
    San Diego and Mexico’s Northern Baja, and, to the Pacific north,
    between Seattle and Vancouver in a megaregion already dubbed “Cascadia”
    by economic cartographers.

    Devolved America
    is a vision faithful both to certain postindustrial realities as
    well as to the pluralistic heart of the American political tradition
    – a tradition that has been betrayed by the creeping centralization
    of power in Washington over the decades but may yet reassert itself
    as an animating spirit for the future. Consider this proposition:
    America of the 21st century, propelled by currents of modernity
    that tend to favor the little over the big, may trace a long circle
    back to the original small-government ideas of the American experiment.
    The present-day American Goliath may turn out to be a freak of a
    waning age of politics and economics as conducted on a super-sized
    scale – too large to make any rational sense in an emerging
    age of personal empowerment that harks back to the era of the yeoman
    farmer of America’s early days. The society may find blessed
    new life, as paradoxical as this may sound, in a return to a smaller

    This perspective
    may seem especially fanciful at a time when the political tides
    all seem to be running in the opposite direction. In the midst of
    economic troubles, an aggrandizing Washington is gathering even
    more power in its hands. The Obama Administration, while considering
    replacing top executives at Citigroup, is newly appointing a “compensation
    czar” with powers to determine the retirement packages of executives
    at firms accepting federal financial bailout funds. President Obama
    has deemed it wise for the U.S. Treasury to take a majority ownership
    stake in General Motors in a last-ditch effort to revive this Industrial
    Age brontosaurus. Even the Supreme Court is getting in on the act:
    A ruling this past week awarded federal judges powers to set the
    standards by which judges for state courts may recuse themselves
    from cases.

    All of this
    adds up to a federal power grab that might make even FDR’s
    New Dealers blush. But that’s just the point: Not surprisingly,
    a lot of folks in the land of Jefferson are taking a stand against
    an approach that stands to make an indebted citizenry yet more dependent
    on an already immense federal power. The backlash, already under
    way, is a prime stimulus for a neo-secessionist movement, the most
    extreme manifestation of a broader push for some form of devolution.
    In April, at an anti-tax “tea party” held in Austin, Governor
    Rick Perry of Texas had his speech interrupted by cries of “secede.”
    The Governor did not sound inclined to disagree. “Texas is
    a unique place,” he later told reporters attending the rally.
    “When we came into the Union in 1845, one of the issues was
    that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.”

    Such sentiments
    resonate beyond the libertarian fringe. The Daily Kos, a liberal
    Web site, recently asked Perry’s fellow Texas Republicans,
    “Do you think Texas would be better off as an independent nation
    or as part of the United States of America? It was an even split:
    48% for the U.S., 48% for a sovereign Texas, 4% not sure. Amongst
    all Texans, more than a third – 35% – said an independent
    Texas would be better. The Texas Nationalist Movement claims that
    over 250,000 Texans have signed a form affirming the organization’s
    goal of a Texas nation.

    feelings also percolate in Alaska, where Todd Palin, husband of
    Governor Sarah Palin, was once a registered member of the Alaska
    Independence Party. But it is not as if the Right has a lock on
    this issue: Vermont, the seat of one of the most vibrant secessionist
    movements, is among the country's most politically-liberal places.
    Vermonters are especially upset about imperial America's foreign
    excursions in hazardous places like Iraq. The philosophical tie
    that binds these otherwise odd bedfellows is belief in the birthright
    of Americans to run their own affairs, free from centralized control.
    Their hallowed parchment is Jefferson's Declaration of Independence,
    on behalf of the original 13 British colonies, penned in 1776, 11
    years before the framers of the Constitution gathered for their
    convention in Philadelphia. u201CThe right of secession precedes the
    Constitutionu2014the United States was born out of secession,u201D Daniel
    Miller, leader of the Texas Nationalist Movement, put it to me.
    Take that, King Obama.

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    20, 2009

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