Politics/Law/Government

Choose one: Bang ( ) Whimper ( )

A couple of weeks ago Slate did an entertaining if occasionally dopey series on how America might end. Frankly, SF authors have done a much better job on this theme, and it’s a bit disappointing that Josh Levin, who authored the series, spent most of his time interviewing academics and think-tank nerds and reasonable-sounding secessionists rather than speculative writers who have thought seriously about this—-because many of the commentators that he does quote don’t seem to know what they’re talking about. Sadly, this tends to weaken what would have otherwise been a pretty thought-provoking series.

A case in point is  How is America Going to End? Who’s most likely to secede? It’s kind of an interesting piece, I guess, but not nearly as interesting as it could have been. This is mainly because Levin spends virtually no time talking to the loonybirds on the hard right. Rather, he spends much of his time talking about possible natural fragmentations along ethnicity, or along geography, or along one of the metrics used by Joel Garreau in his Nine Nations of North America way back in 1981.

Now, these are worthy subjects, but really, I’m not too interested in a discussion of how America might fragment because of the end of its cheap-energy economy (to take one of many examples that Levin throws in) without some further discussion of what the implications of that might be. Yes, this sort of fragmentation is highly likely—-but what then? Granted, Levin returns to this issue in another section of the series–but it’s all a bit fragmented, frankly. Plus, I’m already convinced that some of these scenarios are more likely than others—certainly the end of the cheap energy economy is the most likely scenario in my mind, but there are others. Sadly, Levin treats many of them with equal balance. The notion that we might fragment linguistically, propounded by several of Levin’s sources, strikes me as being a barely more likely scenario than the one in which some regions do better economically than others and leave because of that, or, much more implausibly, start invading each other. What does that mean? Some regions are already doing better than others, but it’s a more complicated story than Levin either understands, or (more likely) than he has room for. This is actually an important point, though, and we’ll return to it below.

First, though, how does Levin deal with the nutjobs?

That’s not to say that everyone who lives in America is content with the state of the union. As Wikipedia’s “list of U.S. state secession proposals” indicates, there’s no shortage of groups that want the country to split up. American secessionism, however, is less a populist movement than a collection of cranky, lonesome idealists. Thomas Naylor, the brains behind the Second Vermont Republic—a group that bills itself as “perhaps the foremost active secessionist organization in the country”—bemoans the fact that his movement shares the separatist marquee with less serious-minded folk. Naylor mentions one squadron of Long Islanders who’ve given their “new country” a national animal (Atlantic blue marlin) and a national crustacean (blue crab). The League of the South is also a perpetual source of heartburn for Naylor—the retro-Confederate group insists on singing Dixie at meetings and has a strange obsession with returning American spelling to its traditional Southern roots.  By contrast, Naylor likes what he sees out of the Texas Nationalist Movement. That independence-espousing organization doesn’t appear to be racist, homophobic, or violent, Naylor says, though on the last count “you can never be sure.”

Leaving aside for the moment the question of what else “traditional Southern roots” might be, let’s just concede right out that there are groups out there that make the League of the South (whose website appears to not be working these days, whatever that means) look like the Southern Poverty Law Center. I have lots of favorites here, but I’ve always had a special fondness for Christian Exodus, which had plans to take over the state of South Carolina. Things haven’t exactly worked out as planned, sadly, but A for effort. And they’re still trying, although it now appears as if they’ve reduced the scope of their ambitions to one county, and even there it’s not clear how well that’s going. They’ve sort of stopped generating newsflow, sadly. But I wish them luck. The group seems to be hampered by the difficulties the group’s leader had in getting work, so there have been some side issues. And there’s some question whether they’re going to Idaho or not. It’s hard to keep up, frankly.

Actually, Levin’s article would have been helped considerably by some interviews with these people. He does spend time with Thomas Naylor, who comes across as a not unreasonable, but pretty disconnected and a bit fusty, sort of guy. But he doesn’t sound really angry, which is not the case with a number of these groups. Perhaps spending some time around the next secessionist convention, assuming there is one, would be time well spent for Levin if he’s continuing with this. The website says nothing as to why the 2008 conference wasn’t held, but we suspect that it had something to do with the economy–that was everyone else’s excuse, anyway.

Which gets back to economic issues that affect individual states, and how this might affect their willingness, or not, to stay in the union, assuming they have a choice. Levin comments:

Let’s say there’s an American revolution—who leaves first? Once the feds “start imposing just huge taxes,” (Peter) Schiff says, the states that have to pay more in than they’re getting back out will pull their stars off the flag. Schiff lists Texas and California as potential pull-out candidates, whereas “Florida probably wants to stay because of all the Social Security money.”

If taxation doesn’t cause a mass revolt, economic polarization could yank everything apart. “The Sun Belt states and the interior West are growing faster than the Midwest,” says secession scholar Jason Sorens. “If they get rich enough, they might see their membership in the U.S. as burdensome if they have to support dying industries in Ohio and New York.” (Sorens apparently hasn’t considered the possibility that Cleveland and Buffalo will become America’s oases thanks to global warming.)

There are a couple of things wrong here, aside from the basic one of what “an American revolution” might look like. In fact, the thinking here is a downright muddle, mostly because it seems inexcusably ill-informed. Consider that line in the first paragraph about states paying more than they get back. Here the data compiled by the Tax Foundation comes in handy. Now, the Tax Foundation is not exactly a progressive outfit, but their data analysis is first-rate. And they compile a convenient list of states by who get more tax dollars back from the Federal government per dollar collected by the Federal government, and who gets less. In other words, there are winners and losers here–overall it’s a zero sum game, but state by state it’s not even close. The Tax Foundation calls them takers and givers, which is the same thing. So here’s the list for 2005, the most recent year for which they present the data:

Federal Spending per Dollar of Federal Taxes by State

  1. New Mexico $2.03
  2. Mississippi $2.02
  3. Alaska $1.84
  4. Louisiana $1.78
  5. West Virginia $1.76
  6. North Dakota $1.68
  7. Alabama $1.66
  8. South Dakota $1.53
  9. Kentucky $1.51
  10. Virginia $1.51
  11. Montana $1.47
  12. Hawaii $1.44
  13. Maine $1.41
  14. Arkansas $1.41
  15. Oklahoma $1.36
  16. South Carolina $1.35
  17. Missouri $1.32
  18. Maryland $1.30
  19. Tennessee $1.27
  20. Idaho $1.21
  21. Arizona $1.19
  22. Kansas $1.12
  23. Wyoming $1.11
  24. Iowa $1.10
  25. Nebraska $1.10
  26. Vermont $1.08
  27. North Carolina $1.08
  28. Pennsylvania $1.07
  29. Utah $1.07
  30. Indiana $1.05
  31. Ohio $1.05
  32. Georgia $1.01
  33. Rhode Island $1.00
  34. Florida $0.97
  35. Texas $0.94
  36. Oregon $0.93
  37. Michigan $0.92
  38. Washington $0.88
  39. Wisconsin $0.86
  40. Massachusetts $0.82
  41. Colorado $0.81
  42. New York $0.79
  43. California $0.78
  44. Delaware $0.77
  45. Illinois $0.75
  46. Minnesota $0.72
  47. New Hampshire $0.71
  48. Connecticut $0.69
  49. Nevada $0.65
  50. New Jersey $0.61
  51. District of Columbia $5.55

In other words, lucky New Mexico, whose Congressional delegation is obviously doing a fine job, gets back $2.13 in money from the federal government for every $1 it pays in federal taxes. Unlucky New Jersey, whose Congressional delegation clearly hasn’t gotten the memo yet, only gets back 76 cents for every $1 it sends off to Washington. Notice, by the way, that there are only 17 giver states (15 of which voted for Obama), as opposed to 32 taker states (21 of which voted for McCain). Not that we’re counting.

Now, if we leave out the District of Columbia, which is something of a special case, a certain pattern emerges here. If we think in terms of Blue states and Red states, a lot more Red States are takers, and a lot more Blue states are givers. It’s not a perfect correspondence, but it’s still pretty compelling. Actually, if we look at it in terms of the remains of the Confederacy and the Union, it’s even more compelling–of the 11 states in the Confederacy, nine are takers, with only Texas and Florida as givers, and not by a whole lot as compared with, again, New Jersey. Of the 21 states in the Union, seven are takers, one is flat (Rhode Island), and 12 are givers. And if we consider the five border states (Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, Kentucky and West Virginia, which were sort of aligned with the Union but claimed by the Confederacy, and of whom four were slave-owning states), four of those five are takers, with Delaware the only giver state.

So some states already subsidize other states. This has been a pattern for some time now. Schiff’s quote has no real basis in economic reality. Of course, things could change, but it seems more likely that the tax issue alone will not be sufficient. Most of the old Confederacy relies heavily on Federal tax subsidies in a very broad way. In fact, why we haven’t seen a proposed Constitutional Amendment from some giver state senator calling for some sort of equalization baffles me a bit—something along the lines of “No state shall receive more in federal tax aid than it pays out in federal taxes.” If there is one, it’s certainly not going to come from one of the taker states. And yes, it’s true, as a commentator on an earlier version of this post has indicated, that most of the taker states are rural, low-tax states. But that doesn’t account for why so many of them are Red States.

This raises a problem for “secession scholar” Jason Sorens’s comment as well. Yes, the Sunbelt is growing, as is the interior west, but these are states that generally takers, at the expense of states like New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Minnesota and pretty much all of New England. Their growth, in other words, is being subsidized. Instead, let’s turn the question around. Why does Sorens think this will become an issue for the Sunbelt states, who presumably are not unaware of their economic bonanza? Of the entire sunbelt swath across the US, only three states (California, Texas and Florida) are givers–and Texas and Florida, again, not by a lot. Why would the other Sunbelt states blow this up? It’s probably more the case that the Sunbelt should be worried about New Jersey and the rest of the giver states getting fed up with loser states that can’t support themselves.

In fact, let’s take this a step further. We can all speculate and pontificate on the “outrage” among those who seem to be worried about socialism or whatever under an Obama presidency, but we all know what this is about. We’re still fighting the Civil War. The part of the country that declared war on the United States, and lost, has never given up. I did a post on this several years ago, and nothing at all has changed. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, ten of the eleven Confederate states have murder rates that are above the national average (Virginia being the only exception).  Nine states of the Old South have unmarried mother birth rates higher than the national average, and ten of them are above the national average in births to teenage mothers. Only Virginia and Georgia are below the national average on forcible rapes. Only Georgia and South Carolina have divorce rates below the national average. So the part of the country that seems to have the highest murder, rape, divorce and illegitimate birth rates is also the part of the country that wants to bring the rest of America Creationism, guns in bars (and now political rallies), and some of the crappiest politicians the world has ever seen. And it seems to expect to be subsidized while doing so.

I had to laugh when Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, joked and got all cute about secession a couple of months ago. The next time any of these smarmy clowns brings this up, I say we call their bluff. Let them go. Let’s see how they deal with global warming over the next 30 years without the rest of us subsidizing a bunch of murderous deadbeats who hate marriage and either can’t keep their pants zipped up or can’t say “no,” and who have consistently shown that they can’t even pay their own bills without help from the rest of the country. Then the rest of us can get on with the work of actually trying to fix what’s broken.

The stamp above was issued by the US Potal Service in 1965 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the US Civil War. As if.

46 replies »

  1. I’ve long dreamed of Michigan seceding and joining Canada (where we belong). There might be some naval skirmishes while we establish a perimeter around Lake Michigan…i don’t worry too much about the sliver of Superior because i figure that Minnesota will be coming along and that’s fairly easy to defend. It’s probably the only way to protect the Great Lakes from the sunbelters and southerners anyhow.

    Or maybe it’s just because i’ve always wanted to build a wall between us and Ohio/Indiana…as far as i’m concerned, the Deep South starts in Toledo.

  2. I hate talk of secession, but damn, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in a nation that wasn’t constantly at the mercy of the ignorati. What if I lived in a nation where stupid wasn’t so much of a virtue, where so much policy wasn’t driven by one form of racism or another. After the 2004 election somebody put together a LiveJournal community called the United Blue States of America. Had a map and everything. I gotta tell you – this isn’t the worst thing I can imagine.

    Of course, the South/Takers would secede, and in two years the wheels would have fallen completely off. They’d blame that damned liberal nation to the north – and invade….

    The South’s gonna do it agin, I reckon.

  3. Great post! One note. If you were to exclude Northern Virginia (basically, everything north of Fredericksburg and east of the Blue Ridge, these days) from the Virginia stats, I think you would find that Virginia’s stats would closely mirror those of its former Confederate sisters. So, maybe everything south of Fredericksburg would secede.

    • JS: And if you look at my home state, the issue is less about region than city/rural. Charlotte, the RDU triangle, even the Triad have been pretty progressive for awhile (Jesse Helms won a lot of elections, but he did it without the cities).

  4. Garreau’s book was a seminal read for me long ago, when I was an edit-page editor. It persuaded me to rotate subscriptions to newspapers in each of his nine “nations.” I learned in daily detail how they differ.

    Today, those “nations” still make a great deal of sense geopolitically, economically and culturally.

    Congress created states with equity in size or population (and pro or con slavery) in mind. (For an instructive read, try “How States Got Their Shapes” by Mark Stein.)

    I’d argue that rearrangement, not secession, would make more sense.

    A great piece, Wuf. Thx.

  5. We New Jerseyians have missed a lot of memos, it seems.

    While I enjoy my South bashing as much as the next guy, I think you’re going a little out of control here. Okay, so they may be hypocrites with bad teeth and worse check books, but what does this have to do with the Civil War exactly?

    Anyway, I’m a little surprised we didn’t see anything regarding civil liberties make this post. I don’t necessarily mean something race- or sexual identity-based, either. I can’t come up with a scenario for that one off the top of my head, but I’ll definitely think it over.

  6. Christian Exodus is still viable, though the numbers we had hoped for at first have so far failed to materialize. We are focusing on core tactics, and making friends with other like-minded communities. There was a secession convention in 2008 in New Hampshire, but no plans for 2009.

  7. Great post Wufnik, interesting analysis.

    Lex – see you in Canada 🙂 We’re headed there too.

    JS – Parts of Virginia are really in flux. Look at the county results in the 2008 election. I cannot recall a time so much of the state went blue. Almost (not quite) a corridor between Arlington and Virginia Beach with a big blue section in Albemarle, Nelson and even Richmond! You might have to divide the state east/west now to get the old split.
    http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/states/president/virginia.html

  8. Those are interesting stats, yes, but what KIND of money are the “taker” states getting from the Feds?

    I suspect a lot of it is military-related. If so, some of those would-be secessionists might be justified in saying you shouldn’t count money spent to support an “army of occupation”. Think about it.

    Some of the more conservative states might even say that you shouldn’t count money spent in the public schools, since those schools mostly exist to indoctrinate the young in the beliefs popular in the “giving” states.

    Go through the entire budget, and I’ll bet you’ll find a lot of stuff that the people in the “taker” states didn’t want but is being forced upon them by people from “giver” states who think they know what’s best for everyone.

    Just wonderin’.

  9. I like the whole SC state outline with the back lit cross on the Christian Exodus site, but the “personal secession” sections sounds like it was written by the Rainbow Family. Is this place a hippie commune or an Old Testament wonderland?

    I’m intrigued by the “guerrilla warfare” podcast, but i’m afraid that downloading it will either give me Jebus cooties or alert the DHS to my presence. To wit: “It is a Biblical principle that God prefers to use small groups of dedicated men to effect change in the world, and this applies to the culture war as well.”

    So, um, just like al Queda except for the correct God, right?

  10. Great post. I’ve been saying exactly what you wrote for a long time now. It’s going to sound political but the south is loser central. I know that there are a lot of good individuals there but they are apparently the minority, at least in voting power. And it’s going to sound racist but it’s southern whites that are the reason the south is loser central. It’s their issues that are responsible for much of the agony the rest of U.S. must endure. On top of the items you mention they are the core of other regressive and destructive ideas. Here’s a look at what their country would look like if the south eventually did seceed.

    https://home.comcast.net/~professorplum/watch020.html

    And here’s yet another right wing gift to the country. MLMs, a.k.a. direct marketing scams: “Little has been written about the MLM industry’s similarly extraordinary influence with Congress and the Republican Party (which was the majority from 1994 to 2006) . This influence has enabled MLM companies to run their endless scams year after year, under the disguise of “direct selling.” It has primarily been managed and financed by the Direct Selling Association on K Street and the Amway Corporation. Amway and its top promoters and owners are listed as among the very top contributors to President Bush’s campaign and to the national Republican Party. The Amway yacht is used by Republican national conventions as a lobbying meeting place.”
    http://www.pyramidschemealert.org/PSAMAIN/resources/MLMMirrorsFinanceCrisis.html
    Much more here: http://www.pyramidschemealert.org/psamain/news/MLMInfluenceBuying.html

    I have often wondered if Lincoln made a mistake in bringing them back into the fold. Wouldn’t we be much happier without them and their constantly trying to infuse dark age thinking on the country? The problem is that if they suceeded then we would have a real enemy next door. And since conservatives tend toward threats of guns and violence if they don’t get their way I could see our having to erect a wall of sorts. Also what would we do when the confederates start enslaving non white races again? What would we do when they begin wholesale deforestation to (temporarily at least, until the trees run out) prop up their failing economy? I say confederates because for all their talk about patriotism I believe that they are actually the biggest tratiors to the United States there are. Look at all the secessionist movements they have engendered. Look at their love of the confederate flag and all it represents. I’ve not seen any movement at all within the Republican party to repudiate these nuts.

    Another big issue is that simply creating a Confederate States of Amerika would not necessarily solve our problem, and that’s because there are vast areas north of the Mason-Dixon line that are chock full of them, especially the central states. I don’t expect that they would just leave to move south. So then we’d still be stuck with ’em in making trouble our states AND have an enemy nation to the south.

    So what’s the solution?

  11. Byron,

    I know you didn’t ask me, buut this is what I see as a potential solution, as I posted in Reconstitution a few weeks back 🙂

    http://reconstitution.us/rcnew/?p=5591

    We have an entire region of the country convinced that the failed policies of the last 8 years were successes, so much so that they are now talking about killing people to defend those failures. I don’t think it’s worth shedding any blood over; if they want to go, maybe it’s time to let them. We could have a window of perhaps 18 months open for people to relocate to wherever they want to go, after which we could seal off the borders. The north and most of the midwest could exist better without the constant burden of having to subsidize “red” America anyway, and “red” America would finally have a chance to set up that third-world hellhole they all seem to want. The northern regions could continue to progress and move forward, while the southeast and parts of the southwest could impose their Jesusistani Sharia and head back to the Middle Ages.

    The premise of this post, BTW, could not be more right. Like it or not, every bit of this-the “teabaggers,” the “healthscare” idiots, and the stimulus whiners….. racists to a man or woman. They’ll deny it, but we all know how they had no problem at all with Chimpy’s drunken sailor spending sprees.

  12. Dawn:

    Well, Albermarle is a special case because Charlottesville and the University of Virginia community is there, and it’s also (as I recall) surprisingly non-white — African Americans make up a surprisingly large percentage of the population. Same with Richmond and the Hampton Roads area. Heck, my county is about 52/48 white/black, and the presidential vote was about 52/48 for McCain. Brunswick County, on the NC border, is about 70% or so black, and it went for Obama. So did neighboring Greenville County, and for the same reason (these were old slave-owning tobacco counties). Nelson County really surprises me. I don’t know what that’s about.

    So maybe I should have said that the white folks who aren’t part of an elite university community south of Fredericksburg are still “The South.”

  13. Dawn,

    I discovered this map showing percentages of African-Americans by county. Note how it lines up with counties that went for Obama.

    A much closer relationship than I expected, really.

  14. “… But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security…”

    They had a name for folks like you back during the Revolution, LOYALISTS!

    Sorry dude, but I’ll take Thomas Jefferson’s eloquence over your lame attempts any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

    So… you think that the states should remain in the Union because of MONEY?

    Is that how it is? We’re supposed to continue allowing the Federal government to BUY OUR COMPLICITY?

    Maybe they can buy yours, but I’m not so inclined.

    Maybe YOUR state can’t continue to get by without handouts from people who ROBBED taxpayers to get the money in the first place, but personally, I’D be ashamed to admit it if I were you.

    But maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s ludicrous to expect that people who VOLUNTARILY JOINED THE UNION should be ALLOWED the opportunity to leave it…

  15. Thanks for the comments.

    Jolly Roger–I agree completely. Probably need two-three years, though, especially to close down and relocate all that military crap (especially whatever nukes are lying around places we don’t even know about), move the CDC to, say, Celevland, that sort of thing.

    Byron– I agree, this in and of itself won’t solve all our problems. But it would remove a major impediment to getting anything done at all. The time we don’t waste debating creationism in schools, for example, is time spent on something more worthwhile–there are real opportuntiy cost issues here. And yes, there would be some who wouldn’t move from the North or West–but the time spent on the distraction that they would pose would be much more manageable. Yes, you might still get a Dover, Pennsylvania–but it’s actually a lot less likely without the broad support of Southern churches–who would have their hands full, probably, dealing with the fallout of no more gravy train from Washington.

    Keith–I’m glad you guys are still around. That state of yours needs help! Starting with the governor, of course, but look–you’re number 7 in births to teenage mothers, number five in births to unwed mothers, you have one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country, and the highest violent crime rate of any state. You’ve got work to do. Good luck!

    CorkyAgain–very good question, what kind of money it is. Yes, I imagine much of it is military–my own US military experiences were in South Carolina, Texas and Maryland. But there’s also things like social security–how much of Arizona’s growth has been fueled by retirement? And it’s still a taker state. Smarter people than me have probably disentagled this, but I haven’t actually tried to find out. The thing to keep in mind, though, would be how much is under direct Congressional control–earmarks and the like–and how much is from overall federal mandates relating to things like, oh, school lunches and bridge safety, that sort of thing. A lot of the military presence in the South, for example, is because of the longevity of Southern politicians like Mendell Rivers back in the day. I wouldn’t know where to begin there. The more general point, though, might be this–these are generally low-tax states, in part because they are rural and have lots of poor people. But also because, maybe, they have politicians who have figured out how to game the system–they can keep state taxes low because they get all this money from Washington. If we removed that option, what then? I certainly wouldn’t want to inflict pain on populations, but we’ve made it too easy for the anti-tax crowd, which is well represented in this part of the country. No wonder–it’s easy to be anti-tax when you’ve got more money coming in than going out.

    Tom–well, it depends on my mood. When I’m listening to the Allman Brothers, I’m fine. But then Tom DeLay or Newt Gingrich comes along and spoils my mood. I guess my bottom line is this–if Bobby Jindal’s having attended an exorcism is regarded by a part of the country as being sure-fire sign that he’s presidential timber, I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of that part of the country actually getting Bobby Jindal as president.

    Lex–you could always move to Beebe Plain, Vermont: http://proudgeek.wordpress.com/2009/03/03/strange-maps-beebe-plain-vermont-no-quebec-uh/

  16. I was starting to give up any hope for the viewpoints expressed on this posting, but then after somehow managing to stick with it – through 14 comments – I found James’ response. Not only is he knowledgeable about our history, but he’s able to make the most significant point of all – it’s not about money, it’s about our liberty. Three simple points of mine to complement his:

    1. There is no doubt whatsoever that the sovereign States have the absolute right to decide for themselves if they want to withdraw from the Compact among the States that we call the Constitution.

    2. Should there ever be just one – or gloriously even a few States – deciding to do so, these liberty loving free States would most likely return to a constitution as envisioned by our Founders, and if that happened, the productive in our country would flock to that environment. The parasites that now feed off the productive would be stuck to finally fend for themselves.

    3. I continue to be amazed that both liberals and conservatives can’t seem to come together on the one issue of individual liberty and freedom from an all consuming powerful central government invading every microscopic aspect of our daily lives.

    Live free or die!

  17. “I agree, this in and of itself won’t solve all our problems. But it would remove a major impediment to getting anything done at all.”

    I think the problem with this is the assumption that once we divided up the country we would still find that, lo and behold, lots and lots of them are still here, and since the United States would still be a democracy, of course, they would simply continue to use the system to push their agenda. I mean it’s not like once division took place the United States would cease to be a democracy and would become a one party dictatorship which forbid groups from promoting their agenda. Free flow of good AND, unfortunately, bad ideas are inherent and protected in a democracy. Thus division may solve nothing more than get some of the most vocal troublemakers out and into a place where they can do whatever they want. Perhaps it could be done but it would be mighty tricky. Meanwhile the south, or wherever the division occured WOULD be a dictatorship.

    It’s a weird paradox that those who scream the most about “values” often in practice have the lowest ethics. Hypocrites. Those Puritans and Quakers sure did a number on this country.

  18. So James’s assertion that the Government “robs” us is the only “intelligent” response here? Sh*t responses like this one are the reason that those who describe themselves as “patriots” (and are anything but) must be dismissed with the ridicule that they deserve.

    To a man or woman, they all love their schools, and their prisons, and their police and fire protection, and a huge number of them love those wars we are fighting-but when it comes time to serve in our Armed Forces, or even to PAY for this bling that they all love so much, they scream “COMMANISM!!!” The so-called “conservatives” of today are a parasitic freeloader class who seem to think that “personal responsibility” means that some other person can stand responsible for the debts they all love to run up.

  19. An additional thought on my previous post, the new United States would probably need to amend the Constitution such that issues that have been repeatedly brought up in the past no court waste any more time on in the future unless there is a major change. For example, barring a visit from some deity the courts will not waste any more time on Creationism unless the scientific community as a whole agrees to. No more political roadblocks to climate change legislation will be tolerated. No more Uzis or AK47s in the hands of non-military population, things like that. A Constitution wherein science and common sense takes a much larger role. Define the most divisive issues (and they are divisive because the Constitution is not clear about them – I mean the document, wise as it is, is over 200 yrs old) and work on them. And for God’s sake do something about all those lobbyists and all that graft in Washington. But however it was done, it would have to be done in a way that is not autocratic but still preserves the democracy.

  20. James–I’m sorry, perhaps I wasn’t clear enough, and I think you misunderstood. I would certainly prefer if the states who are takers would actually leave–then people like me wouldn’t have to keep subsidizing them. Sadly, I suspect they won’t, though–that’s my point. Nothing would make me happier than to see the southern rim of the country go away and form whatever kind of government they want. The problem is, I don’t think they can afford to, unless Florida and Texas are willing to pick up the slack. Somehow, I bet Rick Perry won’t be quite so cavalier about secession once he figures out that the deadbeats to the east of him will continue to want handouts. Am i willing to pay them to go away? Sure. I pay them now as it is, but they sure don’t seem to appreciate it.

  21. Way back in response #11, it was said, “it’s southern whites that are the reason the south is loser central.” I guess it’s OK for liberals to bash the South.

    In response #19, it was said, “The so-called “conservatives” of today are a parasitic freeloader class who seem to think that “personal responsibility” means that some other person can stand responsible for the debts”

    I’m rather conservative and don’t consider myself to be a freeloader, as it’s the people of my ilk who are the ones paying for all of your programs.

  22. Still wondering about the money and where it goes when it comes back from DC.

    Who benefitted from the infamous bridge to nowhere? The average Alaskan, or some developers, construction company owners and chamber of commerce types with connections to the senator who got that money “for his state”? I’ll bet many secessionists see people like that as just so many carpetbaggers — another aspect of the “army of occupation” I referred to before.

    School lunches, welfare and the like? Again, where does the money really go? How many state bureaucrats, “social workers” and “consultants” are skimming off that cash flow? And I remind you once again that most conservatives see the public schools and welfare as tools of their enemies, and wouldn’t count money spent in that area as an unmitigated good. What strings are attached to the federal largesse, and how much are those strings used to override the way the people in the states might choose to do things if left to themselves?

    James and Liberty Frog have it right. Federal money is being used to buy our complicity and subvert our liberty. It isn’t so much that states where more federal money is spent are “takers” as it is that those are the states where more money is being spent in order to squelch any incipient resistance to federal domination. The local politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats, social workers and consultants I mentioned above are being bought off. None of them wants to stop getting that payola, so none of them is going to step up to lead an independence movement.

    The only place that leadership can come from is the ordinary people — and as we’ve seen here, people like that have been consistently smeared as ignorant rednecked racists, hillbillies who probably live in a rundown, cluttered old trailer somewhere in the backwoods. Because, of course, their real fault is that they’re not urbane, cosmopolitan sophisticates like the people smearing them. They’ve been marginalized out of the economy and now are being mocked for their poverty!

    What happened to the Left that it no longer has any sympathy for the ordinary, common man?

  23. Jeff, indeed, there’s plenty enough hyperbole and stereotyping from the left. We the People are pretty well at each others throats for some good reasons, not a few bad reasons, and sometimes no reasons at all. (Take my comment with a grain of salt. Many a person on my travels has said, “You’re not really American, are you? You’re from Michigan.)

    Maybe we are too big to continue on in the way we exist now. And there could be something to a union more along the lines of the articles of confederation rather than the constitution. But to attempt a serious rearrangement would necessitate several large changes…the first being a drastic reduction in the armed forces and an end to foreign adventures. Such a confederation could only, realistically, raise a defense force.

    The “Liberty…blah blah blah” shtick only flies with me (and i’m pretty Jeffersonian) if the people saying it have been saying it through the last couple of administrations.

  24. “Because, of course, their real fault is that they’re not urbane, cosmopolitan sophisticates like the people smearing them. They’ve been marginalized out of the economy and now are being mocked for their poverty! What happened to the Left that it no longer has any sympathy for the ordinary, common man?”

    I think you have that backwards. The Republican party has clearly become the party of the rich. Thus it’s just bizarre that so many average Joes from the “lower class” identify with them. I can only attribute that to the fact that the rich have learned how to pull their strings. The current health care debate is a good example. Studies show clearly that the exorbitant cose of health care is responsible for an epidemic of bankruptcies and homelessness (and the cost of private insurance is set to DOUBLE in cost in the next decade) yet here we have poor people shaking in their boots about a program that would actually make their health care way more affordable. The bogeyman used to be communism, now it’s socialism, wait a minute, make that “death panels”. Anything to distract from the real issue. No it’s certainly not the Republican party that is looking to make life bearable for the poor, it’s the Democrats and the left.

    http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2005/bankruptcy_study.html

    What many on the left find so frustrating is the failure to communicate to these average joes that they are being blatantly played and used by the Republicans who are in bed with corporations. These people don’t care about the poor or they wouldn’t be fighting so hard to abolish the minimum wage and school lunches for them would they? They wouldn’t be polluting their water and air with toxic waste would they? They wouldn’t be firing (excuse me, downsizing) them just to move their jobs overseas where slave labor will do it for pennies a day would they? etc etc etc.

    The point of ths article I think is to point out that the very people who scream the loudest about taxes are quietly also the biggest benefactors. They have no problem with taking from the government, but just don’t ask them to give a cent back. Nevermind the fact that Social Security is a government program. That schools and libraries and fire and police protection and roads and street lighting and labor laws and safety regulations national parks and mail delivery are all good government programs from which they benefit.

    I wonder sometimes what this country could be if it weren’t for all the endless fighting over innane issues.

  25. OMFG, talk about a muddled argument. S&R used to be good, but then you guys took this whole “progressive” thing way too seriously and now you are a caricature of your former selves. This article is completely lame. As others have pointed out, it’s about liberty and the Constitution. I know it’s considered normal in “progressive” (translation: “I wouldn’t dare call myself ‘liberal’ anymore”) circles to be blase about such things as individual freedom, adherence to constitutional principles, etc. But really? The Civil War explains the motives of secessionists? You have a typically unnuanced understanding of your own history, as if your only exposure to it was a high school history class. I’m not saying that you didn’t study history beyond high school. Heck, you may even have a degree in history. But your knowledge and understanding of that period belies a simpleton’s concept of a very complex period of US history.

    You utterly fail.

  26. Oh come on, Ooga Booga, both sides threw out the Constitution a long time ago and only bring it up when it suits their purposes…and then usually a bastardized interpretation of the Constitution that assumes everything to be exactly the same as it was in the late 18th Century.

    And of course, the Constitution was written by and for men who mostly had a deep grasp of the classics, were well rounded men who spent their free time doing important experiments, designing buildings and the like. Find me someone in government today who even comes close to matching the thought ability of the founding generation. It was a complex period, but the battle cry of “personal liberty and the Constitution” is the same brand of simplification.

    The system was established based on intelligent people debating and finding a compromise, not who can shout loudest. And the compromise was not a foregone conclusion that everyone agreed on. (Both Virginia and New York included the ability to withdraw from the compromise in their ratification referendums.)

    And i can’t believe that you didn’t find some way to blame the Jews in your “progressive” rant.

  27. Some general comments. First, I guess I’m a bit puzzled about why “liberty” becomes the meme here. I didn’t addresss it because it’s not relevant to the arguments I was making. To recap, my argument was basically this–that it was absurd to think that the US would fragment because, as one of the people I quoted stated, the Sunbelt would get tired of supporting dying industries in the midwest. As the data show, it’s actually the reverse. As Mark Kleiman so eloquently put it, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. And the facts do not support many of the foolish assertions in the Slate piece. So the commentators who object to the economics here, or the fact that economics were involved–it is what it is. Seventeen states (mostly blue states, which may or may not be a coincidence) subsidize everyone else (who are largely red states). And it’s patently absurd to think that those other states have any economic incentive to voluntarily do anything to upset this little gravy train. There may be valid reasons why America might fragment, but the Sunbelt being tired of supporting the midwest is not one of them, if for no other reason that it’s clearly false.

    Second, its is also a fact that many of the taker states–particularly in the South–have rather unpleasant demographic trends–high crime rates, unappealing marriage statistics, low educational achievement, whatever. People may differ on why this might be, and I’m not about to speculate. But the numbers are what they are. I always enjoyed the irony that Massachusetts, that state that conservatives love to hate, has the lowest divorce rate of any state.

    Third, I don’t recall, during the past six months, much blather about secession coming from, say, Oregon, or New Jersey, although it’s true that Staten Island tried to secede from New York City again–but they’re always doing that. I do recall such blather coming out of elected politicians in Georgia and Texas. Now, there’s always such talk floating around–even in new Hampshire and Vermont–and Sarah Palin’s husband was a member of a political party that wanted Alaska to secede. And there are secessionist movements all around the US–including Long Island, where the Suffolk Country controller (a Republican, if that matters) wants Long Island to secede from New York on the grounds that it contributes more to the state gvoerment than it receives. Interesting concept. But, of course, Texas and Georgia have a bit of a history here.

    So all of this is pretty straightforward, I think. But I could be wrong, and if so, details are always appreciated, general comments like “this is about liberty” aren’t, because they lack the specifics that would allow serious discussion. If, to take a random example, they were about the government’s right (or lack of it) to regulate the possession of automatic weapons in primary schools, that would be a subject for discussion. What that has to do with secession, however, remains a bit unclear to me.

  28. One thing I have learned this year: the ignorant are a powerful ally. There are a lot of them, most are armed, and they are very loud. But before we start drawing the boundaries of Dumbassisstan, we have to ponder what the world would be like with four of five seperate States of America. I will be offering the hand of brotherhood and magic rings to all in beautiful Hargrovia. For a pledge of fealty, of course. And gold. Gold never hurts.

  29. We have freedom in this country, so when I hear people still loudly yelling for “Freedom!” and “Liberty!” it makes me wonder, what is it that they want the freedom to do but which the law is currently stopping them from?

    I once read that Abraham Lincoln said something to the effect that “When the southener speaks of freedom he means the freedom to enslave his fellow man”.

    I would add that there are a host of other “freedoms” some people would like which are impermissible by law. And rightly so. It usually boils down to some kind of abuse.

  30. Byron,

    I’ve often asked the same question: What, exactly, are you not free to do that you want to do?

    Growing up, the whole issue was about segregation. I wonder what it’s about now?

  31. Righto JS. Maybe I sound like an apologist for “big government”. Nope. I too wish I could have total freedom. No government telling me what I can’t do. Freedom to live and go wherever I want regardless of cost. Freedom from the daily work grind, Freedom from having to buy food for myself and my family. Freedom from the increasing crowds of people. Freedom from worry about the state of the world.

    Unfortunately, the kind of world I would be happier in no longer exists. Gone many thousands of years ago. I live in a country with more than 300 million other people (and growing) so I recognize that boundaries on what I can and can’t do are necessary if we are not to decend into utter chaos and lawlessness. I also recognize that some laws are just innately, ethically right. A lawless world is a dangerous world. Someone doesn’t like the way someone else looks, heck just shoot ’em. Someone wants to steal from another, go ahead. Rape, pillage, human exploitation, biosphere trashed etc etc.

    Republicans are always railing against rules and regulations, as if they long for the free-for-all wild west. But they are non-specific. Maybe a good study would be to ask them if there are any laws whatsoever that they agree with. Which, if any, do they agree are necessary, and which specifically do they want done away with? If they suceeded in seceding what laws would they put into place in their new country? We, and they, might discover more about them.

  32. I think you hit the nail on the head, dude.
    I used to have this psycho history teacher in high school (in Oklahoma) that ranted and raved about the Civil War. (Mostly he ranted and raved about why our generation didn’t give a crap.) He got absolutely livid, veins popping out of his neck and stuff. Part way through the year it dawned on me that he personally was pissed off about the Civil War. He screamed and yelled. Funny how he didn’t really teach us anything about the Civil War…

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