Secession: How Vermont and All The Other States Can Save Themselves From The Empire by Thomas Naylor
When the topic of secession came up in the immediate aftermath of the 2012 presidential election most people associated those sentiments with the southern states, “tea baggers”, republicans in the Western States, angry conservative white men, racist rednecks, survivalists or any combination of those demographics. Most people would be surprised to know that liberal-leaning Vermont is actually the state with the most viable secession movement in the United States.
This book is more of a manifesto than a real brass-tacks book on secession and I have to admit that author Thomas Naylor lays out a pretty good case for Vermont jumping ship. He starts off by outlining some of the looming problems facing the United States such as foreign policy blunders, peak oil, globalization, the culture of consumption, environmental problems, dwindling democracy and the high potential for an economic crisis. The book concludes with a Q & A format on some of the technical issues of secession.
While Vermont is currently economically and politically at the low end of America’s totem pole, Naylor argues that Vermont’s smallness is exactly what would make Vermont successful as a sovereign nation. There’s currently a culture of self-reliance intertwined with a localized communitarian spirit in Vermont that would allow them to adopt to the kind of scaled down economy envisioned in James Howard Kunstler’s World Made By Hand (Kunstler is even referenced in this book) – Naylor describes parts of Vermont that don’t seem like they’re too far away from already living like that. Naylor also makes a case that globalization has been particularly damaging to Vermont and being able to control their own economic policies rather than those of Washington might be beneficial to Vermont.
The book describes Vermont and being socially and politically out of step with Washington and mainstream American society. I believe it’s the only state with an independent congressman and the style of democracy preferred in Vermont tends to be at the local level (i.e. the annual town meeting day tradition) and highly populist.
His take on foreign policy is interesting – he dedicates a few pages to the Vermont Air National Guard’s F-16s and how it would be nice to have those gone. I thought this was kind of funny because in my own state of Iowa they were talking about shutting down an ANG fighter wing and apparently the governor or a senator or someone worked out a deal to get a drone base to replace the F-16s and keep those jobs around. Anyways, Naylor makes a case that current American foreign policy is detrimental to Vermont in terms of dollars, blood and goodwill and that if Vermont was a sovereign nation, no one would want to come harm them anyway.
He brings up a point that if states like Alaska or Hawaii (which have secessionist tendencies, of course) wanted to leave the union, the federal government wouldn’t take it lightly due to their strategic importance. Vermont on the other hand has very little economic importance and definitely no strategic importance, so they might actually take it a little better. Who knows?
The subtitle is “How Vermont and All The Other States Can Save Themselves From The Empire”. What’s implied by this is that bold action from a state like Vermont could force the rest of the United States into some deep soul-searching on the way we’ve been doing business. I certainly agree that what this country needs is a lot more decentralization one way or another.
As far as the book itself goes, I have to say I felt a little cheated by the price. I think I paid $9 and some change for a download for 1200 lines and most of it was opinion. I think a lower price would be a little more reasonable, but if you’re interested in the topic of secession it does give some great food for thought on the subject. It’s a good read, but I can see how someone would feel a little let down by the price for someone’s manifesto.
I also have to say that the author did a great job of portraying Vermont’s uniqueness. I’ve never been there or anywhere near there, but he does make it out to be a part of the country with a very distinct culture, history and way of life. Oh, I also got a chuckle out of the author basically calling Ben and Jerry sellouts. I’ll still destroy a pint of “Everything But The…” every now and then, but yeah, they totally sold out.