Freedom And Unity
April 5, 2013 7:27 AM   Subscribe

U.S. Out Of Vermont!

The Montpelier Manifesto
The Small Nation Manifesto
Secession Is All The Rage, From The Deep South To Basque Country
The Spectre Of Sepratism Haunts Europe
Secession Fever
Catalonia is seriously considering a divorce from Spain. Scotland feels the same way about the maybe-not-so-United Kingdom. And on a White House website, a flurry of post-election petitions have been filed by all 50 states asking for permission to secede from the Union. [previously on MeFi]
Madrid, Catalonia Play Down Secret Talks On Independence
Is Secession Legal?

The Ardor of Secession - "Secessionist petitions are not a rejection of, but a desperation for, an intimate union with the state."

A Secessionists Guide: 10 Steps For Making A Breakaway State

Vermont, previously
posted by the man of twists and turns (48 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
See also: Cascadia.
posted by seemoreglass at 7:35 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm. The Scottish independence debate is often bad-tempered, but no-one is getting blown up. Greenland kinda seceded from Denmark in 2009 without bloodshed.

Splitting into smaller states can be done peacefully. It doesn't always have to be like Partition. And I write this as a supporter of the UK.
posted by alasdair at 7:42 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


You forgot Canada and Quebec.
posted by srboisvert at 8:00 AM on April 5, 2013


You forgot Canada and Quebec.

You sure don't when you live in Quebec. :)
posted by Kitteh at 8:02 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which shows there are nutters on both sides of the political spectrum
posted by Postroad at 8:03 AM on April 5, 2013


alasdair: "Greenland kinda seceded from Denmark in 2009 without bloodshed. "
The transition of Greenland into an independent post-colonial nation is a process that has been ongoing since the late 70s and which isn't quite done yet. (For example, Greenland left the EU in 1985.) What happened in 2009 was that Denmark officially recognized that the people of Greenland are a separate people as defined by international law, not Danish as they had been considered before.
posted by brokkr at 8:04 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Imagine if both Vermont and New Hampshire seceded! Just awesome!

There is much more sense behind secession for European countries like Catalonia and Scotland than U.S. states, well assuming they retain E.U. membership.

As I understand it, the SNP mostly destroyed Scotland's chance at secession by lying about remaining inside the E.U., very sad. As an aside, Scotland always wished to stick with the British pound anyways, rather than adopting the Euro, or their own currency, so not sure they'd gain as much as they'd like. I do hope the SNP losing their independence referendum does not let England screw up the Scottish NHS, Universities, etc.

Also, Catalonia has not so much need for real independence. As the economic center of Spain, they simply take whatever autonomy they desire.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:06 AM on April 5, 2013


My mom was quite indignant that Bernie Sanders had to turn up to debate his opponents, none of whom really had a hope in hell and who included a woman whose entire platform was about marijuana, a guy who wanted to secede, a bloke who just seemed to be promoting his book and a Republican, but I think the Republican might have been the guy with the book. On the plus side, the Vermont senate race debate is televised.
posted by hoyland at 8:08 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


That said, my mom probably would be up for secession.
posted by hoyland at 8:08 AM on April 5, 2013


As a Texan, I endorse this effort to bring the crazy elsewhere and get us out of the spotlight for a bit.
posted by item at 8:08 AM on April 5, 2013


Vermont imports 100 percent of its fossil fuels, including $700 million a year in propane and heating oil. Gaelan Brown told me that the 250,000 homes in the state could be heated entirely with wood, using 1.2 million cords annually from a renewable supply of 117 million standing cords in Vermont’s forests.

Someone's not being realistic.
posted by arcticseal at 8:10 AM on April 5, 2013


As an aside, Scotland always wished to stick with the British pound anyways, rather than adopting the Euro, or their own currency, so not sure they'd gain as much as they'd like.

One curious fact about the currency in the UK is that English stores do not have to accept Scottish currency despite them all being GBP. I was completely stunned (gobsmacked even!) when a Birmingham Poundland refused to accept Scottish notes.
posted by srboisvert at 8:10 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't people from California talk about breaking up into three states from time to time?
posted by Melismata at 8:12 AM on April 5, 2013


Said it before, will say it again: Faith in institutions that obviously aren't working for humans is declining across the board.
posted by DU at 8:16 AM on April 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Jessamyn West for Librarian General of this new nation!
posted by Danf at 8:20 AM on April 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


"a Princeton-educated yak farmer"....

Well, I learned something. Princeton evidently has a yak farming degree.
posted by HuronBob at 8:20 AM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Don't people from California talk about breaking up into three states from time to time?

Breaking off from the mainland and becoming an island state due to a major earthquake along a fault line isn't the same thing as deciding to secede.
posted by item at 8:23 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Vermont imports 100 percent of its fossil fuels, including $700 million a year in propane and heating oil. Gaelan Brown told me that the 250,000 homes in the state could be heated entirely with wood, using 1.2 million cords annually from a renewable supply of 117 million standing cords in Vermont’s forests.

Sounds reasonable; it's not as if Vermont's whole economy depends on those trees he'd cut down and burn.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:29 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


California will never split without blood being shed, because nobody wants to be in Southern California, even the people down as far south as you can get.

All the water's up north, all the crops are in the middle, but the people, the voters are in Southern California, and they will not let the other parts go.

This is another price we're paying for the Civil War; it's been declared, in blood and fire, that you can't leave this country once you're in, and that you can most certainly be bound by deals your great-great-great-great-grandparents signed.
posted by Malor at 8:34 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Previously: The North American Separatist Convention.
posted by spaltavian at 8:38 AM on April 5, 2013


As I understand it, the SNP mostly destroyed Scotland's chance at secession by lying about remaining inside the E.U., very sad. As an aside, Scotland always wished to stick with the British pound anyways, rather than adopting the Euro, or their own currency, so not sure they'd gain as much as they'd like. I do hope the SNP losing their independence referendum does not let England screw up the Scottish NHS, Universities, etc.

Did the SNP lie so much as make an assumption and then get screwed by Spain? Spain has to ensure an independent Scotland wouldn't get automatic EU membership because if Scotland gets it Catalonia gets it. But logically, if you peacefully leave a member state, you should probably get EU membership for free.

I believe Scotland's public services are insulated by devolution, so I don't see how they're affected by the referendum, unless the SNP gets totally hammered as a result of losing the referendum and Labour want to cut.
posted by hoyland at 8:40 AM on April 5, 2013


"a Princeton-educated yak farmer"....

I think it was a confused response to the Yale Yak.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:55 AM on April 5, 2013


Popping in to point out that The Untied States Of America covers quite a bit of the post material; Enriquez has a little primer on former countries that split into two towards the beginning of the book.

(p.s. LOL TEXAS AMRITE)
posted by lineofsight at 8:55 AM on April 5, 2013


I believe Scotland's public services are insulated by devolution, so I don't see how they're affected by the referendum

Same as most independence movements: if you're one of the Scottish elite, you'll get to be In Charge. This is obviously a good idea for the Scottish elite, those that don't think they have a chance of running the UK at least (Labour is against independence).

A comparison is with English Euro-sceptics: they might or might not think the UK would be better off outside the EU, they'll certainly argue it would be, but it isn't really the point. The point is about Who Is In Charge.

When the King makes his big speech on the eve of the battle, it's all about being in it together and how we're all brothers. After he's won, you'll be back on your peasant farm. Maybe it's better if the other King wins and your country becomes part of his?
posted by alasdair at 9:00 AM on April 5, 2013


I have a "U.S. out of VT!" t-shirt. It gets me some looks.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:30 AM on April 5, 2013


I have no direct knowledge of the movement, but on the level of the manifesto at least the 2nd Vermont Republic folks were some of my favorite political utopians of recent years and I'm sorry to hear the update about Naylor. As the (surprisingly fair-minded!) Prospect article notes this is a seemingly fertile new meeting-place for the left and the libertarian right, with potentially interesting new ideas and policy platforms (like the stuff the article describes about valuing the commons), a real new direction compared to the technocratic/techno-libertarian/"there is no alternative" anti-utopian right turn of post-'60s politics. But I fear this kind of political experimentalism thrives only in times of prosperity — in an economic climate like we're living in now, where corporations thrive by playing states against each other for tax incentives and jobs, the writing is too clearly legible on the wall about the economic consequences of a move like secession. A state like California or Texas would have a much better shot at true economic independence.
posted by RogerB at 9:42 AM on April 5, 2013


The real question is whether Chittenden county is included in Vermont for the purpose of this debate.
posted by maryr at 9:49 AM on April 5, 2013


I'd be happy if all New England except for the portion of Connecticut in Yankees territory seceded, but I doubt we ever could get enough agreement to manage that.
posted by A dead Quaker at 10:29 AM on April 5, 2013


Well, I learned something. Princeton evidently has a yak farming degree.

No you dope--they mean he farms Princeton-educated yaks. I believe they mostly major in Communications.
posted by yoink at 10:35 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are secession movements in many U.S. states but it's puzzling why rational adults invest so much effort into it. For one thing, the last time it happened we fought a war, in part, to establish the point that the Union is indivisible. And after that war, the Supreme court ruled pretty clearly that secession is not an option.
posted by beagle at 10:54 AM on April 5, 2013


Princeton-educated yaks. I believe they mostly major in Communications

. . . don't talk back.

Don't you give me no dirty looks
Th'Supremes are hip, they know what cooks
The Constitution you should read
Cuz legally you can't secede . . .

 
posted by Herodios at 11:02 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


No empire lasts forever, beagle; I get the impression that most secessionists aren't so much intending to force the issue as to wait for a moment of federal weakness.

The federal government can talk all it wants about how indivisible the union is, but that's just, like, its opinion, man. Every government says that, and yet regions still manage to break away from the metropolis every now and again.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:06 PM on April 5, 2013


So... uh... I don't know if this works the other way around, but could we like, disinvite Florida from the union?
posted by stenseng at 12:16 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


But, if Vermont secedes, what happens to Vermont American, maker of power tool accessories and This Old House sponsor?
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:19 PM on April 5, 2013


Nothing. They'd still be in America, just not the United States of.
posted by stenseng at 12:38 PM on April 5, 2013


The federal government can talk all it wants about how indivisible the union is, but that's just, like, its opinion, man.

The specific opinion is Texas v. White:
The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to 'be perpetual.' And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained 'to form a more perfect Union.' It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?
...
The act which consummated [Texas'] admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:09 PM on April 5, 2013


Vermont imports 100 percent of its fossil fuels, including $700 million a year in propane and heating oil. Gaelan Brown told me that the 250,000 homes in the state could be heated entirely with wood, using 1.2 million cords annually from a renewable supply of 117 million standing cords in Vermont’s forests.

We're mad about pollution, so let's burn a bunch of one of the only things more environmentally devastating than oil or coal!
posted by General Malaise at 1:20 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I look forward to the wood burning cars we'll have to construct if we want to quit our dependence on fossil fuels.
posted by maryr at 4:02 PM on April 5, 2013


You joke, but the technology exists, and was put into wide use during WWII.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:24 PM on April 5, 2013


Nobody expects the Duchy of Grand Fenwick!

And after that war, the Supreme court ruled pretty clearly that secession is not an option.

What does "not an option" mean, exactly? I don't have much of an opinion about any specific secession movements I've heard about, but suppose that, in some region or state, the populace overwhelmingly wanted to construct an independent political entity. In what sense is this "not an option"? In the sense that the US government would tell itself that it was justified in using violence to thwart the construction of that independent entity? At most, that Supreme Court decision says that secession is illegal, which is a non-starter from the point of view of a people who want to replace externally-imposed legal authority with their own political and legal system.

In what other sense is it "not an option"? Supreme Court decisions aren't laws of nature. Disallowing secession is pretty bald-faced authoritarianism, especially in a (highly hypothetical, I'd guess) situation where there is broad support for secession/independence.

In practice, it seems that secession from the US is a serious economic Bad Idea, and that a lot of supporters in various states are motivated by creepy or backward or unworkable ideals (though this seems to be less true of the Vermont versions, perhaps), but, although the specific reasons that some people have for being secessionists might be crazy, or even kind of evil, the idea of self-determination for a group of people that wants it is certainly not inherently crazy.

Sort of unrelatedly, the ideas summarized in the Small Nation Manifesto as follows are worthwhile:

Arguably the United States, China, Russia, and India are among the most destructive nations on the planet. Their combined population is over 3 billion which represents 43 percent of the world’s population. Together they account for 53.35 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions and they consume 36.38 percent of world consumption of petroleum.

Although China, Russia, India, and the other meganations are not nearly as wealthy, militaristic, violent, or imperialist as the United States, they too are too big, too powerful, too undemocratic, too environmentally irresponsible, too intrusive, too insular, and too unresponsive to the needs of individual citizens and small local communities. They also share a ravenous appetite for the planet’s finite supply of natural resources. They are all unsustainable.


This all seems to be a summary of an actual state of affairs that causes actual problems for many actual people. It's circular to say that the legal arm of an institution that (secessionists claim) causes some of those problems has the authority to bar people from attempting their own solutions. It seems to me that people who recognize a problem are entitled to try to solve it, as long as they don't unduly cause new problems of the same magnitude for other people.
posted by kengraham at 9:25 AM on April 6, 2013


I don't have much of an opinion about any specific secession movements I've heard about, but suppose that, in some region or state, the populace overwhelmingly wanted to construct an independent political entity. In what sense is this "not an option"? In the sense that the US government would tell itself that it was justified in using violence to thwart the construction of that independent entity?

You mean like this? Very probably.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 11:03 AM on April 6, 2013


You mean like this? Very probably.

Of course. But where would the US get the moral as opposed to the legal* authority to use violence in the unlikely event of, say, Vermont peacefully seceding? Do the rest of the US people have the right to require hypothetical secessionists to be USese? If not, does the US government have this authority? If the answers to these questions are "No, yes", when did the US government become able to claim authority on the basis of something other than the popular will (officially)? If the answers are both "yes", in what sense is Bizarro-Vermont different from a prison colony, governed by a tyrranical (national) majority against the will of the (local) majority, in this scenario?

Did beagle mean "not an option, practically, because the US government is one that would crush even a peaceful attempt at local self-determination by force"? Do USese people think that this is an okay way for a government "by the people, for the people" to operate, officially, rather than just in imperfect practice?

*Which is irrelevant in the event of secession if one buys the premise that legal authority derives from then consent of the governed and whatever.
posted by kengraham at 12:18 PM on April 6, 2013


The conference’s attendees included an ecofeminist named Lierre Keith, co-author of Deep Green Resistance, who reported that “capitalism is literally insane” and urged the collapse of industrial civilization; a man in a kaffiyeh who enthused over a recent story about a rural Vermonter who, faced with police harassment over his use of marijuana, mounted his tractor, drove into town, and crushed seven sheriff’s cruisers under the treads of the behemoth machine; a musician who sang a tune called “Totalitarian Democracy”; a thespian garbed in 18th-century blouse and boots and cravat who re-enacted Ethan Allen, the farmer-soldier who led Vermont’s war of secession against New York in 1777; and a troupe of female dancers from the radical Bread and Puppet Theater, dressed all in white, who chanted a series of poems about “upriser calisthenics.”
Sounds like something out of a Tom Robbins novel
posted by the hot hot side of randy at 5:16 PM on April 6, 2013


Did beagle mean "not an option, practically, because the US government is one that would crush even a peaceful attempt at local self-determination by force"?

Beagle was just referring to the United States Supreme Court, but the question that arises in all these things is, what kind of unit, under what circumstances, should ever be allowed to secede? It is a question not just of self-determination but of consent by those left behind. The case law and Civil War experience basically say, once you're in, you're in, and don't even think about leaving. This is not a revolving door. But, you say, what if Vermont overwhelmingly decided it wanted to secede — you want to let us out? But what if it's Kansas, smack in the middle of the country? What if it's Hawaii, way out there, who cares about them, let them go? What if it's Virginia and Maryland, leaving our capital district marooned? What if North Dakota, currently in an economic boom of some kind, decides it would be better off part of Canada? What if Long Island decides to go it alone? How about if Key West decides it wants to join Cuba?

The point is, to let any piece out, the rest of us have to go along and let them out. It's not just self-determination. In the end, the wiser course will be the realization that we are better off hanging together than hanging separately, as Ben Franklin suggested.
posted by beagle at 7:49 PM on April 6, 2013


The Untied States Of America

Not recommended, sorry. I humored his total disregard for normal writing conventions for a hundred pages or so, but the insight/convention-flouting tended to zero.
posted by seemoreglass at 8:35 PM on April 6, 2013


But, you say, what if Vermont overwhelmingly decided it wanted to secede — you want to let us out? But what if it's Kansas, smack in the middle of the country? What if it's Hawaii, way out there, who cares about them, let them go? What if it's Virginia and Maryland, leaving our capital district marooned? What if North Dakota, currently in an economic boom of some kind, decides it would be better off part of Canada? What if Long Island decides to go it alone? How about if Key West decides it wants to join Cuba?

Well, it's certainly not my place to impose my will on other people, except in very specific circumstances where it is very obviously justified. Those instances are few and far between when the other people are strangers far away. Whether I want to let y'all out has little bearing on the question of whether y'all are entitled to leave, and I submit that the same is true with me replaced by anyone else, as long as the people trying to leave aren't harming others in their attempts to do so. ("Harming others" means harming specific people, and doesn't include challenging the power of institutions, since institutions exist to serve all of the individual people, and not vice versa.)

If the people of Long Island who want to go it alone manage to work it out with the rest of Long Island so that they are concentrated in one place, and have plans in place to make a serious effort to go it alone, without unduly interfering with the lives of those who want no part of their plan, and are prevented from doing so with the threat of violence, in what sense are they not simply prisoners? If people feel they are not being served by an institution, is the institution really justified in denying them the option of peacefully divorcing themselves from the institution?

Isn't an affirmative answer to the latter question contrary to the institution's own stated ideals (albeit not contrary to the institution in question's laws), in this highly hypothetical case?

(The American Civil War itself isn't too relevant, really, to the present discussion, because there are too many confounding factors. The Confederacy committed an act of straight-up international aggression early in it's existence -- to my not-an-expert-on-international-law eye, the attack on Fort Sumter was a war crime by modern standards. There are issues beyond secession complicating a discussion of the American Civil War. Since this discussion is about secession in principle, it doesn't make sense to complicate it. It's really unlikely, as has been pointed out, that secession in the US will ever be something that is talked about other than in principle.

A better discussion from that era would be: what if, in Bizarro-U.S. history, the southern states had not seceded, but instead a large number of slaves succeeded in seizing a piece of territory and declaring it an independent nation. Would the US government, or the affected state government, have been justified in destroying that hypothetical nation, and reimposing slavery on its inhabitants? According to its own laws, either of those governments would have been so justified, but it seems clear that interfering with the new nation would have been unjustified from the point of view of principles that are more basic than laws.

Perhaps an appeal to "basic" principles is literally radical -- related to roots -- in a way that's not too compatible with a pluralistic society, since, obviously, people disagree on basic principles. A mutable legal system is great, because it means we don't have to hash basic principles, too much, first. Instead, folks hashed out meta-principles for the operation of a dynamic system of laws to try to balance everyone's interests, etc.

However, a bug in the rule of law is that it's perfectly possible for heinous ideas, like slavery, to be enshrined in law, and it's very difficult to remove them. The rule of law has so many advantages over historical alternatives that it's certainly worth tolerating bugs, but it seems to me that there has to be some sort of safety valve whereby people for whom a certain political and legal environment is really oppressive can quickly try an alternative. It doesn't do an oppressed individual or group any good to have the arc of the moral universe take longer than their lifetime to bend toward justice, so it seems reasonable to argue that in such situations people are justified in trying something new.

It's of course not at all clear that Bizarro-Long Island, or the situations Naylor describes, constitute such situations. I'd also say it's pretty clear that lots of other modern secessionists are motivated by the desire to oppress others more freely, so these people are ridiculous.)
posted by kengraham at 9:51 AM on April 7, 2013


maryr: I look forward to the wood burning cars we'll have to construct if we want to quit our dependence on fossil fuels.

A neighbor/friend (built my barn) of mine here in Vermont already built one. The only online link I can find doesn't seem to be working though. It wasn't very practical, but he built-it mostly as a proof of concept because he wanted to find a method of providing power to his construction power tools when working in remote areas, but he also wanted a challenge. Oddly enough he also built a bike that could easily transport his tools.
posted by terrapin at 5:54 PM on April 10, 2013


Vive le Vermont Libre - "Could the most left-wing state in America survive as an independent country? A growing movement of secessionists thinks so."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:30 PM on April 24, 2013


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