Monthly Archives: October 2012

A New Vision of the Future for SVR

Over the past nine years SVR has evolved beyond the stage of simply wanting to free Vermont from the clutches of an immoral, unsustainable, ungovernable, unfixable empire.  It now views itself in a much broader context.

Vermont, like most small nations and most aspiring nations, finds it increasingly difficult to cope with the chaos of a meganation world under the cloud of empire.  Fifty nine percent of the 7.035 billion people of the world live in one of eleven countries which has a population in excess of 100 million people.  These megacountries bear the primary responsibility for a plethora of global megaproblems including the 2008 financial meltdown (ongoing), the euro crisis, the threat of terrorism, imperialism (particularly American imperialism), excessive population growth, poverty, peak oil, and climate change. Continue reading

What Is Iran’s Geopolitical Model?

The demonization of Iran and its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by the White House, the State Department, Bibi Netanyahu, AIPAC, and the American media reminds me of the vilification of blacks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the American South by white racist politicians in the 1960s.

According to the received wisdom to which most ill-informed Americans subscribe, Ahmadinejad is a world class Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying, anti-semite who is building a nuclear weapons program to blow the state of Israel off of the face of the earth. But I don’t buy this; just as I never bought into the idea that blacks were inferior, even though I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi back in the 50s. Continue reading

A New Niche for the Moribund Non-Aligned Movement

As Secretary-General of the fifty year old Non-Aligned Movement, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be in a unique position to inject new life into the moribund 120-member organization by positioning it to confront the American Empire and its principal apologists – Israel, England, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and NATO.

The NAM was organized in 1961 by the leaders of Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, and Yugoslavia as an independent voice for so-called Third World nations between the Western and Eastern blocs in the Cold War. The organization has never been very effective, but even less so since the Cold War ended in 1991. Continue reading

The Small Nation Manifesto

A small-state world would not only solve the problems of social brutality and war; it would solve the problems of oppression and tyranny. It would solve all problems arising from power.

Leopold Kohr
Breakdown of Nations

We the small nations and aspiring small nations of the world find it increasingly difficult to escape the clutches of the largest, wealthiest, most powerful, most materialistic, most environmentally irresponsible, most racist, most militaristic, most violent empire in history which does little to support the vast majority of its citizens other than the superrich. Through corporate, state, and military might, political elites manipulate our lives. We have become mere pawns of a global system of dominance and deceit called technofascism in which transnational megacompanies and megastates control us through money, markets, technology, and media, sapping our political will, civil liberties, collective memory, traditional cultures, sustainability, and political independence, and as victims of affluenza, technomania, cybermania, megalomania, globalization, and imperialism, we hereby issue and proclaim this

Document of Grievances and Abuses

American Foreign Policy

The American Empire has no single integrated foreign policy, but rather at least four quite different foreign policies – one for the Middle East, one for China and Russia, one for Canada, Europe, and Japan, and one for Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Israel maintains almost vice-like control over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. It tells Washington what it wants and, give or take a bit of face-saving waffling, usually gets what it wants. It actively supported the war on terror against Muslims, two wars against Iraq, and the NATO attack on Libya. And since Israel is the “exceptional” nation in the Middle East only it is entitled to have nuclear weapons, and Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons project must be taken out.

On the other hand, the United States looks the other way whenever Israel engages in acts of terrorism, genocide, or ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians whose land was confiscated in 1948 in order to create the State of Israel.

Vetoing virtually every U.N. Security Council resolution that is critical of Israel, Washington’s unwavering position is, “Israel can do no wrong.”

As for China and Russia, one gets the impression that the Cold War never ended. U.S. foreign policy towards these two meganations is grounded in mistrust, demagoguery, tit-for-tat, and ignorance. With 80,000 American troops in Europe, 36,000 in Japan, and 30,000 in Korea the U.S. is relatively flexible and accommodating towards these allies as well as Canada.

However, American foreign policy towards Latin America, Asia, and Africa is based on pure neocolonialism. Its primary interest lies in preserving access to natural resources by propping up dictators, autocrats, or anyone else who might be in charge of countries in which Uncle Sam has an interest.
The United States, the world’s leading arms dealer, accounts for 41 percent of global military spending.

U.S. foreign policy is arguably immoral, often clandestine and illegal, and based on full spectrum dominance, military overstretch, might-makes-right, and the proposition that the rest of the world wants to be just like America. It is supported by 1.6 million troops stationed at over 1,000 bases in 153 countries, Special Operations strike forces (Seals, Delta Forces, Rangers, Green Berets) deployed in 120 countries, and a proliferation of pilotless drone aircraft world wide for reconnaissance and stealth attacks. And then there are the nasty little undeclared wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and (via Israel) Palestine, the threat of war with Iran based on our deliberate acts of provocation, and the endless war on terror largely aimed with racial overtones at Muslims and cheered on by Israel.

With its penchant for death, deception, and war, the White House can order the assassination of anyone, anywhere, anytime who shows up on the White House kill list –no questions asked, no trial, no due process – just pure law of the jungle.

Meganations

The driving force underlying global technofascism is the United States in collaboration with the ten other meganations which have populations in excess of 100 million. In descending order of population size they include China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia, Japan, and Mexico. Fifty-nine percent of the people on the planet live in one of these eleven behemoths. Seventy-three percent reside in one of the twenty-five nations which have a population in excess of 50 million.

Although the world is totally dominated by meganations, 85 of the 242 countries listed in Wikipedia, not all of which are politically independent, have populations which are less than one million. Seventy-six are smaller than the tiny state of Vermont, which has a population of 625,000.

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.

International Institutions

The United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and NATO are among the international megainstitutions which have evolved since World War II to deal with such issues as national security, peace keeping, international finance, economic development, and international trade. The track record of these highly bureaucratic, top-down behemoths, tightly controlled by their more affluent members, has not been impressive.

For example, how many wars has the U.N. prevented? Certainly none in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Palestine, or Africa. Global political problems are too complex for an assembly of 193 international political leaders to sort out in a public forum. This is even more true if China and the United States refuse to budge from their positions of national self-interest. Some have cynically suggested that the U.N. is little more than an extension of the U.S. State Department.

Nothing better illustrates the ineffectiveness of the United Nations than the fate of three U.N. sponsored conferences on climate change which took place in Kyoto in 1997, Copenhagen in 2009, and Cancun in 2010. No one was committed to anything, least of all the U.S., China, and Russia.

So long as the veto power of the U.N. Security Council remains tied to the past rather than current realities, the U.N. will remain impotent.

NATO is a Cold War anachronism which has been unable to find a new mission to justify its post Cold War existence. Thus far its primary aim seems to be to antagonize Russia by enticing former Soviet Republics into its ranks and thus surrounding the Russian Bear with what it perceives to be a hostile force. More recently NAO has diversified its portfolio to include the war on terror, e.g., its foray into Libya in 2011. NATO appears to be on the brink of invading Syria at the bequest of Turkey.

The Global Economy

To minimize public scrutiny, government regulation and the possibility of prosecution Wall Street created a Frankenstein-like monster – an ingenious, complex, international network of hedge funds, derivative contracts, credit default swaps, and exchange-traded funds all based on sophisticated mathematical models. The greed driven maze was supported by a network of interconnected financial institutions linking every country to every other country and everyone to everyone else. The U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve Bank, IMF, World Bank, and WTO were all committed to transforming the world economy into a giant global growth machine regulated by an international gambling casino in which resource allocation decisions were driven by a high-speed, multinational, high-tech crap shoot.

So complex was this unwieldy monster that literally no one understood how the separate components fit together. So long as it worked and Wall Street and the rest of the world were enjoying unprecedented prosperity, no one complained. Indeed, Wall Street declared that it was good, very good.

But once the system was broken, as was the case in 2008, no one seemed to know how to fix it. Satellite communications, fiber optics, and the Internet made it possible to transform specific, manageable localized problems into global problems overnight. Leading academic economists were clueless as to what to do. The system was simply too big, too complex, too inflexible, and too conducive to mismanagement and fraud to survive in its original form.

The Federal Reserve began printing money as though it were going out of style. By monetizing the growing national debt and providing cheap credit to bail out banks, the Fed increased the money supply to the point where the future value of the dollar and the rate of inflation were highly uncertain. The contagion soon spread to Europe putting pressure on the EU economy and the euro.

The ill-conceived European monetary union is being kept afloat by duct tape, smoke-and-mirrors, and a series of lies, leaks, and rumors. Financial markets are pumped up by the expectations of the next meeting of the European Central Bank, the European finance ministers, or the German Chancellor with either her French or German counterpart. Each meeting holds out the hope of a silver bullet fix for the euro. But it has yet to happen.

When the euro was first introduced in 1999 it was supposed to unite Europe, promote federalism, and lead to collective economic prosperity. As the euro faces the real possibility of complete collapse, it seems to be pulling Europe further apart. An increasing number of political leaders in the EU are now calling for the break up of the $17 trillion political and economic union with a population of nearly 500 million.

The broken integrated global economy is uncontrollable, unstable, unsustainable, and unfixable. And it is likely to continue to meltdown until it reaches a state of disintegration which is sustainable, and that could take a very long time.

Sustainability

There is increasing evidence that global agriculture, forests, water supplies, fossil fuels, and other natural resources are no longer sustainable. And that climate change may very well be the most complex socio-economic, political, scientific problem ever confronted by the inhabitants of the planet earth.

Global problems such as overpopulation, poverty, famine, peak oil, environmental pollution, and climate change do not lend themselves to solutions negotiated by a couple of hundred heads of state at a forum sponsored by the U.N. or the World Bank. Rather solutions will require the constructive engagement of the perpetrators of these problems by their victims.

A Redress of Grievances

Dissolution of Meganations

We the small nations and aspiring small nations of the world refuse to continue condoning the plundering of the planet by the meganations in pursuit of natural resources, treasure, and markets to quench their insatiable appetite for consumer goods and their lust for political, economic, and military power. We have become weary of being jerked around by the arrogant American Empire and its fellow meganations who pretend to be interested in the environment, climate change, peak oil, poverty, and population growth but in reality are interested only in consuming more and more stuff.

We hereby respectfully call for the peaceful dissolution of countries such as the United States, China, Russia, India, and Brazil.

In the words of Leopold Kohr:

Instead of union, let us have disunion now. Instead of fusing the small, let us dismember the big. Instead of creating fewer and larger states, let us create more and smaller ones.

Small Nation Independence

We also call for the small nations of the world to begin withdrawing from the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the IMF, the European Union, and NATO. These international megainstitutions are morally, intellectually, politically, and spiritually bankrupt.

A small group of peaceful, sustainable, cooperative, democratic, egalitarian, ecofriendly nations might lead the way. Such a group might include Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

What these five European nations have in common is that they are tiny, very affluent, nonviolent, democratic, and socially responsible. They also have a high degree of environmental integrity and a strong sense of community. Although Denmark and Norway are members of NATO, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland are neutral. Once considered classical European democratic socialist states, the four Nordic states in the group have become much more market-oriented in recent years. Not only is Switzerland the wealthiest of the lot, but it is the most market-oriented country in the world, with the weakest central government, the most decentralized social welfare system, and a long tradition of direct democracy. What’s more, all of these countries work, and they work very well. Compared to the United States they have fewer big cities, less traffic congestion, less pollution, less poverty, less crime, less drug abuse, and fewer social welfare problems.

Three other small countries which might also join the party are environmentally friendly Costa Rica, which has no army, ecovillage pioneer Senegal, and the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Since 1972 the king of Bhutan has been trying to make Gross National Happiness the national priority rather than Gross National Product. Although still a work-in-progress, policies instituted by the king are aimed at ensuring that prosperity is shared across society and that it is balanced against preserving cultural traditions, protecting the environment, and maintaining a responsive government.

A group which has never lived up to its full potential, and which might contribute to the small nation discussion, is the so-called Non-Aligned Movement. Formed during the Cold War, the NAM views itself as independent of the U.S., Russia, and China. The 120-nation group represents nearly two-thirds of the independent nations of the world, most of whom are small and poor. However, the NAM does include five meganations – Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan.

We propose that the Non-Aligned Movement become a major advocate for the small nations of the world.

Aspiring Small Nations

There are 250 self-determination, political independence movements throughout the world including nearly 100 in Europe, over 70 in Asia, 30 in North America, a dozen in Latin America, and 15 or 20 scattered across various islands spread around the globe.

The small nations of the world should do everything within their power to encourage these aspiring small nations in their quest for self-determination and recognition by the global community.

A Radical Community of Small Nations

Countries like Bhutan, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland must come to terms with the fact that they share nothing in common with meganations such as the United States, China, Russia, and India. They should not only stop trying to appease them, but they should avoid emulating them at all cost. What is called for is a community of small, radical, nonviolent, sustainable, socially responsible nations.

These small nations should organize themselves into what might be called the Small Nations’ Alliance (SNA) to encourage (1) the nonviolent breakup of meganations such as the United States, China, Russia, and India; (2) the peaceful coexistence of a community of small, sustainable, cooperative, democratic, socially responsible, egalitarian, nonviolent, ecofriendly nations; and (3) the independence of small breakaway states such as Quebec, Scotland, Tibet, and Vermont.

One thing is for sure, if there are to be any solutions to global megaproblems such as poverty, peak oil and climate change, they will not originate with either the United States, China, or Russia, each of which is obsessed with protecting its own respective self interest. So long as New York, London, and Tokyo maintain hammerlock control over international financial markets, international finance and banking reform will remain an illusive fantasy.

We do not envision the SNA as an international governing body with the power to impose its collective will on others. Rather we see it as a role model encouraging others to decentralize, downsize, localize, demilitarize, simplify, and humanize their lives. Membership in the SNA will be open to those nations who subscribe to the principles of the SNA and are approved for membership by a consensus of SNA members. The only mechanism available for enforcing policies endorsed by the SNA would be expulsion from the organization for noncompliance.

The issue is human scale. The hour is very late. The small nations of the world have sat silently on the sidelines for all too long allowing the world’s meganations to set the global agenda. It is indeed high time we rebél against the meganations, take control of our destiny, and demand a place at the table. The future of the planet depends on it.

An International Small Nation Convention

As an initial step towards addressing the grievances outlined in this manifesto, the small nations of the world should convene “An International Convention on Small Nation Self-Determination.”

Such a convention might have six objectives:

  1. Identify global problems associated with meganations.
  2. Evaluate the performance of international megainstitutions.
  3. Examine the track record of small sustainable nations.
  4. Delegitimize the world’s meganations.
  5. Encourage self-determination among small aspiring nations.
  6. Organize a community of small nations.

Among the possible actions which it might pursue are:

  1. Launch an international campaign challenging the influence and authority of the meganations of the world.
  2. Begin withdrawing support from failed international megainstitutions such as the UN, WTO, World Bank, IMF, European Union, and NATO.
  3. Initiate the process of designing more participatory, more democratic alternatives to the failed behemoths.
  4. Design a process which an aspiring small nation might follow in order to achieve self-determination and recognition by the global community.
  5. Create a Small Nations’ Alliance (SNA) to encourage (1) the nonviolent breakup of meganations such as the United States, China, Russia, and India; (2) the peaceful coexistence of a community of small, sustainable, cooperative, democratic, socially responsible, egalitarian, nonviolent, ecofriendly nations; and (3) the independence of small breakaway states such as Quebec, Scotland, Tibet, and Vermont.

The most obvious location for the convention is Geneva, Switzerland, home to dozens of international institutions, in what many consider to be the most sustainable country in the world.

We small nations and aspiring small nations invite you to (1) reject the immoral, corrupt, decaying, dying, failing meganations of the world; (2) seek their rapid and peaceful dissolution before they destroy the planet; and (3) encourage the development of small sustainable nations everywhere.

Thomas H. Naylor
November 1, 2012

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.
www.vermontrepublic.org.

The World is Coming Unglued at the Seams, But Maybe That's Not All Bad

We should devote our efforts to the creation of numerous small principalities throughout the world, where people can live in happiness and freedom. The large states… must be convinced of the need to decentralize politically in order to bring democracy and self-determination into the smallest political units, namely local communities, be they villages or cities.

Hans-Adam II
Prince of Liechtenstein
The State in the Third Millennium

Notwithstanding three decades of nonstop hype extolling the virtues of a united, highly interconnected, one-size-fits-all world, there is increasing evidence that the world is actually coming unglued at the seams. Currently, there are over 250 self-determination, political independence movements in play worldwide including nearly 100 in Europe alone, over 70 in Asia, 40 in Africa, 30 or so in North America, a dozen in Latin America, and 15 or 20 scattered across various islands spread around the globe. To put these figures in perspective, the United Nations has 193 member nations.

Although not all self-determination movements buy into nonviolence, those which do are likely to adhere to some of these principles:

  1. If a state is to be true to itself, it has no other choice than to maintain its commitment to the humanity of its citizens.
  2. Just as a group has a right to form, so too does it have a right to subdivide itself, or withdraw from a larger unit.
  3. Nonviolent self-determination is a radical act of rebellion grounded in anger and fear tempered by a positive vision of the future which involves denunciation, disengagement, demystification, and defiance.
  4. Although nonviolent self-determination may be completely justifiable morally and legally, ultimately it is a question of political will – the political will of the withdrawing unit versus the political will of the entity from which it intends to withdraw.
  5. Radical nonviolence can undermine power and authority by withdrawing the approval, moral support, and cooperation of those who have been dealt an injustice. It derives its strength from the energy buildup and very real power of powerlessness.
  6. Rebellion provides us with the faith to create meaning out of meaninglessness, the energy to connect with those from whom we are separated, the power to surmount powerlessness, and the courage to confront death.

Ironically, Europe, the continent most highly touted for its commitment to unification and integration, is the one region of the world which is most awash with self-determination movements. At least part of this development is attributable to the split of the Soviet Union into fifteen independent republics, many of which now have their own independence movements such as Chechnya, one of Russia’s most aggressive and often violent separatist movements. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Slovenia all became independent nations as a result of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, all of which helped raise the expectations of European separatist movements such as those found in Bavaria, Belgium, Bulgaria, England, Italy, Lapland, Poland, Romania, Scotland, and Spain. The Basque region of Spain is but one of eleven Spanish regions calling for more autonomy.

However, it is the demise of the 29-nation European Union and its 17-member Euro Zone currency, the euro, that has contributed the most towards the call for the disintegration of Europe rather than for more centralization.

When the euro was first introduced in 1999 it was supposed to unite Europe, promote federalism, and lead to collective economic prosperity. As the euro faces the real possibility of complete collapse, it seems to be pulling Europe further apart. An increasing number of political leaders in the EU are now calling for the break up of the $17 trillion political and economic union with a population of nearly 500 million.

The three most high-profile self-determination movements in Europe, Scotland, Flanders, and Catalonia, each flow directly from the weakened condition of the European Union economy and the euro. They each claim they pay significantly more into the national treasury than they receive in benefits as government services are cut back to meet EU austerity targets.

Although Northern Ireland and Wales have active self-determination movements, the Scottish National Party has actually called for a 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. Catalan President Artur Mas recently called for early regional elections and a referendum on Catalan self-determination.

Belgium went 535 days without a properly elected leader because of the toxicity in the relationship between the wealthier Dutch-speaking Flanders majority and the poorer French-speaking Flemish minority. It was not until after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s credit rating that Belgian politicians finally formed a coalition government in response to pressure from international financial markets.

In Asia Bangladesh, China, Myanmar (twelve), India, Indonesia, Japan, and Pakistan all have political independence movements. Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang are the best known self-determination movements in China. Kurdish separatists can be found in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. Indonesia granted East Timor its independence several years ago and also reached an agreement with Aceh which led to its dropping its claim for self-determination and eventually resulted in its dissolution.

India is also awash with separatist movements. Although Kashmir has the best known such movement in India, Sikkim and most of the states in Northeast India have active separatist groups. These include Assam, Bodoland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland. These states are not contiguous with the rest of India. Then there is also Khalistan, a global political self-determination group to create a separate Sikh state.

Hundreds of African tribes are trying to shake off artificial boundaries imposed on them by nineteenth-century European colonialism. Igbo, Ijaw, Ogani, and Yoruba are all separatist movements located in Nigeria. Sudan recently split into two parts.

For reasons which are not entirely clear, there seems to be less interest in Latin America in self-determination and political independence than in any other part of the world. Although there are a half dozen or so separatist movements in Brazil such as the City of São Paulo, the United States of Northeast, and Rio Grande do Sul, one does not have the impression that any of these groups are going anywhere. The one exception to the rule in Latin America is the Zapatista movement in the State of Chiapas in Mexico, the poorest state in the country. Since the 1990s, under the leadership of subcommandante Marcos and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), the Zapatistas have sought to transform Chiapas into an autonomous self-governing region which supports the political rights of Mexico’s native Indian population.

After a near-miss in its 1995 referendum to achieve independence from Canada, the Quebec separatist movement fell into the doldrums for over 15 years. However, in September 2012 the Parti Québécois won a victory of sorts in the Quebec provincial election and was able to put together a weak coalition government. The stability of the new government remains somewhat in doubt. In 1998 the Canadian Supreme Court issued a ruling declaring self-determination to be constitutional and outlining the necessary steps which must be taken by a province to split from the Confederation. There are also self-determination movements in Alberta and British Columbia.

So strong was the political backlash against the presidency of George W. Bush that when Barack Obama came to power in 2009 there were over 30 separatist movements in the United States. Four years later a half dozen or so of them remain politically viable and show promise for the future. They include Alaska, Cascadia (WA, OR, and BC), Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Texas, and Vermont. Most supporters of Obama believe that only the federal government can solve all of America’s problems all of the time, failing to see that the federal government is, in fact, the problem.

In the words of Leopold Kohr:

Instead of union, let us have disunion now. Instead of fusing the small, let us dismember the big. Instead of creating fewer and larger states, let us create more and smaller ones.

Of the 250 self-determination movements, over 40 of them belong to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization in The Netherlands, which is committed to promoting self-determination and political independence.

And as Leopold Kohr further noted, “as long as the Italians and Germans were organized, or disorganized in little comic-opera states,” they were a threat to no one. “They not only gave the world the greatest masters of comic opera but, as in England during the time of Elizabethan political insignificance, an unrivaled string of immortal lyricists, authors, philosophers, painters, architects, and composers.”

Germany only became dangerous when it was unified first by Bismark and then by Hitler. Once again Germany is unified and its Chancellor continues to call for a unified Europe. But will the center hold? Maybe. Maybe not.

I love small nations
I love small numbers
The world will be saved
By the few.


André Gide

Thomas H. Naylor
October 28, 2012

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.
www.vermontrepublic.org.

Self Determination

We should devote our efforts to the creation of numerous small principalities throughout the world, where people can live in happiness and freedom. The large states… must be convinced of the need to decentralize politically in order to bring democracy and self-determination into the smallest political units, namely local communities, be they villages or cities.

Hans-Adam II
Prince of Liechtenstein
The State in the Third Millennium

The Case for the Self-Determination of an American State

1. If a state is to remain true to itself, it has no other choice than to maintain its commitment to the humanity of its citizens.

2. It must resist being subsumed by an undemocratic, materialistic, racist, militaristic, megalomanic, robotic, imperialist, technofascist, global empire.

3. The U.S. government has lost its moral authority. It is owned, operated, and controlled by Corporate America and Wall Street. It has no soul.

4. America has become unsustainable economically, politically, militarily, socially, culturally, and environmentally. It is ungovernable and, therefore, unfixable. The endgame is near.

5. It has become the largest, most powerful, most materialistic, most environmentally destructive, most racist, most militaristic, most violent empire of all-time.

6. The American Empire has a 500-year history of racism. It was built on the backs of black slaves imported from Africa on land stolen from the Indians. Five hundred years later, our racist treatment of Indians continues unabated.

7. Under the guise of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny our government is engaged in a highly racist War on Terror against all Muslims, a war based on the policy of full-spectrum dominance.

8. The U.S. Government provides unconditional support for the racist, apartheid, terrorist state of Israel to enable it to carry out its policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Palestinians.

9. America was supposed to have been immortal, but in the end it can not deliver.

10. Do we go down with the Titanic, or do we seek other alternatives while there are other options on the table?

11. “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and institute a new government,” said Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

12. Just as a group has a right to form, so too does it have a right to subdivide itself, or to withdraw from a larger unit.

13. It’s time peacefully to rebel against the money, power, speed, greed, size, and tyranny of Corporate America, Wall Street, and the U.S. Government.

14. Nonviolence is a proactive approach to conflict resolution that goes straight to the heart and soul of power relationships and demands strength, courage, and discipline, not idle pacifism.

15. Fundamental to what it means to be an American is the right of self-determination. The time has come to free ourselves from the American Empire – (1) to regain control of our lives from big government, big business, big cities, big schools, and big computer networks; (2) to relearn how to take care of ourselves by decentralizing, downsizing, localizing, demilitarizing, simplifying and humanizing our lives; and (3) to learn how to help others take care of themselves.

16. Self-determination is a radical act of nonviolent rebellion grounded in anger and fear tempered by a positive vision of the future which involves denunciation, disengagement, demystification, and defiance.

17. Although self-determination is completely justifiable morally, legally, and constitutionally, ultimately it is a question of political will – the political will of the withdrawing state versus the political will of the Empire.

18. Radical nonviolence can undermine power and authority by withdrawing the approval, moral support, and cooperation of those who have been dealt an injustice. It derives its strength from the energy buildup and very real power of powerlessness.

19. Rebellion provides us with the faith to create meaning out of meaninglessness, the energy to connect with those from whom we are separated, the power to surmount powerlessness, and the courage to confront death.

20. When all is said and done, there is but one morally defensible option for the Empire – peaceful dissolution.

Thomas H. Naylor
October 13, 2012

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.
www.vermontrepublic.org.

The Vermont Brand: Green Not Mean

Jet Fighters daily screeching across the Vermont sky? Lockheed Martin vying for control and influence? Burlington policemen shooting at unarmed citizens? I am shocked by the militarism in this state. I recently moved here from the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area to escape the military-industrial complex and endless talk of wars, military contracts, bases, Guard, etc.

Vermont is known throughout the rest of the country for its natural beauty, outdoor recreation, peacefulness, small town life and independent-minded citizens. This is Vermont’s BRAND. This is what makes the state unique. So imagine my surprise as a new subscriber to the Free Press when I almost daily read key stories, editorials and citizen comments on various results of militarism.

I ask the citizens of Vermont to step back and analyze where things have gotten to and whether this is the Vermont they envision. Debates should not be about particular noise levels of fighter jets but whether we should even have fighter jets in our midst. Is that part of Vermont’s BRAND? A brand that has been carefully and successfully developed for decades? Vermont has a strong, varied and resilient economy compared to other states. Any discussion about job creation and sustainable economic activities should center around and support the Vermont BRAND. And new directions coming from city, state and federal levels should be evaluated by the same – does this support the brand and image Vermonters aspire to? Or, conversely, does that new directions or initiative take away from who we want to be?

I came to Vermont to live out my remaining years in a better way. I came with an idyllic image looking from the outside in. Now that I am an insider, I receive almost daily shocks to that image. Will we end up like the rest of the country or will we preserve and nurture a better way of living? I, for one, will pull for the latter. And I ask all fellow citizens to prioritize and hold high our unique, attractive and successful Vermont BRAND.

Greg Paradiso

Greg Paradiso lives in Burlington. This piece originally appeared on BURLINGTONFREEPRESS.com as “Militarism Hurts Vermont’s Brand,” August 22, 2012.

The Catastrophe of Complexity in Law and Policy

Upon reflection, it is clear that American public and private institutions have been corrupted beyond management or reform. Governance is dehumanized, regulatory authorities captured, leaders unapproachable. As a result, ordinary Americans suffer. The weight of odious debts, the repressive prison-industrial complex, and illegitimate wars have become increasingly unbearable for us all.

Political and economic elites, by contrast, have no difficulty in getting policy makers to respond to their exploitative demands. This is abundantly clear from the endless corporate and bank bailouts, regulatory and tax structures that encourage extractive greed, and the adamant refusal of the Department of (In)Justice to prosecute torturers and white collar criminals. Instead of providing relief from predation, the legal system amplifies injustice and inequality. Meanwhile, academic “experts” ideologically legitimate the system with convenient lies and ruthless elitism.

Many have taken the difficult step of acknowledging the bleak reality that modern America is a parasite feeding on its former self. Yet, rejection of the conventional narrative of American democracy will produce hopelessness, alienation and fear without an understanding of the Corporate-State and a path to liberation from it. The way forward may actually emerge from a seemingly unlikely place: evolutionary biology. The characteristics of evolution in the natural world reveal the origin and dynamics of political distress.

Our political system is currently experiencing a natural phenomenon described by biologist Stuart Kauffman as the “complexity catastrophe.” The political system is so complex that it can no longer function for the common good. Like a cancer that emaciates and eventually kills the body host, the system is doomed to collapse under the weight of its own unsustainability.

Kauffman’s model of evolutionary systems allowed him to develop schemas demonstrating how “fitness” is achieved through adaptation of particular features to changing environments. The feature can range from physical attributes such as beak size, to products of human imagination, such as policy initiatives. On the conceptual “landscape,” possible alterations to the given feature traverse over the landscape towards greater fitness, and thus adapt to the environment. The shape of the landscape itself, including the number and ruggedness of peaks and valleys, is determined by the interactions between the studied feature and the other possible factors that can affect it.

Kauffman discovered that when there are only a few possible factors that will affect the feature, the landscape has few fitness peaks that are very tall. The system is simple but highly adaptable. When these factors are more numerous, which occurs when the system is more complex, the landscape becomes more rugged, with numerous but shorter peaks. Thus, the greater the complexity in a system, the lower the possible fitness the system as a whole can achieve. Eventually, the system’s relative adaptiveness becomes so poor that the system collapses.

Although developed in the context of evolutionary genetics, the models reflect universal natural principles and thus shed light on the workings of evolving political and legal systems. There is no question that our political system, especially the federal government, has grown vastly more complex over time. The proliferation of bureaucracy and increasing convolutedness of legal principles attest to this fact, but nothing illustrates it so dramatically as the sheer number of local, state and federal laws – 40,000 passed last year alone! This increasing complexity has produced a self-perpetuating behemoth State, an entity whose sheer scale is larger than the ability to comprehend.

As the State grows larger, the complexity catastrophe diminishes government’s ability to fulfill human needs. Instead, the State is commandeered by parasitic elites, who take advantage of its size and complexity in order to manipulate and defraud the masses. Left behind are broken communities and demoralized souls.

The complexity catastrophe reveals previously obscured truths about law and politics. First, left-right ideological debate is pointless and obsolete. It distracts from the basic truth that the size of the State matters far more than the nature of its endeavors. Centralized, top-down “solutions” imposed from Washington will always serve the elites to the detriment of ordinary people. It matters not whether social control originates from left or right, because the resultant loss of freedom, self-sufficiency and community is universal and bipartisan. Concerns of size, scale and complexity must be included in the core of political dialogue. They have been discarded in favor of ideology for far too long.

Second, simplicity is beautiful. The more faith we put in the State to control outcomes, the less control we actually gain. Political pathology stems from the hubristic conception that the State can change nature, that the government can sanitize the messiness of being human and streamline the inefficiencies of community life. As the Corporate-State grows larger, it starves human culture. Complexity of the State generates monoculture and nihilism in the community. By contrast, simplification empowers the individual and allows the cultivation of meaning.

Liberation occurs with the realization that existential pain is intertwined with political dysfunction. The futile struggle to reform the un-reformable can finally be abandoned. An unconditional embrace of nature – with all its imperfections – can replace the self-defeating drive for perfection and control.

Caryn Devins
October 3, 2012

Caryn Devins is a third year student at the Duke University Law School who grew up in Vermont.

Pink Floyd, The Wall, and Camus


So ya thought ya might like to go to the show. To feel the warm thrill of confusion that space cadet glow. Tell me is something eluding you, sunshine? Is this not what you expected to see?

The Wall

Pink Floyd

During the thirty years I taught economics and computer science at Duke University, it is safe to say that I rarely found myself on the cutting edge of popular culture. For example, I discovered the Beatles on a flight to London in the late 70s, ten years after they had broken up. I subsequently became a big fan.

Thanks to a recent Sixty Minutes interview with Roger Waters about his live worldwide tour of the The Wall, I was introduced to the 60s rock bank Pink Floyd at the age of 76. Since that chance encounter I have immersed myself in the subtle, sophisticated, pulsating sounds of the band’s music and the haunting lyrics of several of its albums which almost perfectly embody the philosophy of French writer Albert Camus, namely that, “Life is absurd, rebél, live, and try to die happy.”

Camus’ philosophy rests on three interconnected theories: a theory of the absurd, a theory of rebellion, and a theory of death.

What we are all up against is the human condition, God’s gift to us in the Garden of Eden from which there is no escape – separation, meaninglessness, powerlessness, and death. Not a pretty sight. To Camus it was absurd that we are all separated, our lives are meaningless, we are powerless to influence our fate, and we are all going to die and face nothingness.

In response to the absurd Camus admonishes us to confront the human condition and peacefully rebél against it. Rebellion provides us with the faith to claw meaning out of meaninglessness, the energy to connect with those from whom we are separate, the power to surmount powerlessness, and the strength to face death rather than deny it.

Beginning with his first novel A Happy Death, which was not published until after his death in 1960, Camus returned over and over again to the theme that the purpose of life is not to be happy, as man would have us believe, but rather to die happy. In Camus’ novel The Stranger, as well as in his four plays, Caligula, The Misunderstanding, State of Siege, and The Just Assassins, the theme was always the same – die happy.

But if one expects to die happy, one must first rebél. Above all, according to Camus, there must be “a will to live without rejecting anything of life, which is the virtue I most honor in this world.”

To die happy one must first assume personal responsibility for the meaning of one’s life. Living means coming to terms with, rather than avoiding, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical pain and suffering. To have a happy death we must confront the human condition through rebellion. The very existence of Pink Floyd was the personification of rebellion.

Founded in London in 1965, Pink Floyd included Syd Barrett (guitar), Roger Waters (bass guitar), Richard Wright (keyboards), and Nick Mason (percussion). As the mental health of Barrett deteriorated, a second guitar player, David Gilmour, joined the band in 1967. When Barrett left the group in 1968, Roger Waters became the band’s lyricist, principal songwriter, and conceptual leader.

Under the leadership of Waters Pink Floyd produced four albums which would define its place in history – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), and The Wall (1979). It was in these albums where the existentialist themes of Camus were most pronounced, but particularly so in The Wall.

Born in 1943, Roger Waters was still in high school when Camus won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 and died in an automobile accident in France on January 4, 1960. That a well-educated war-generation lad such as Waters would be drawn to Camus should have come as a surprise to no one. Camus’ The Stranger, The Myth of Sisyphus, and The Rebel were immensely popular among young European intellectuals.

Waters and Camus shared a number of things in common, not the least of which was the loss of their fathers to war and mothers who were unavailable to them. Camus’ father was killed in World War I and Waters’ in Italy during World War II. Catherine Hélène Sintès-Camus could neither read nor write and behaved as though she were practically mute. Waters’ mom was a controlling, manipulative ideologue about whom he wrote in The Wall, “Mother’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true. Mother’s gonna put all her fears into you.” Waters must have resonated to Camus’ most famous quote, the opening paragraph of The Stranger:


Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday.

Before his father’s death Roger’s father had been a coal miner and a Labor Party activist, a devout Christian, and a member of the Communist Party. Prior to becoming editor of the French Resistance underground newspaper Combat in Paris during World War II, Camus had been a member of the Communist Party also. Although Camus was an agnostic, he struggled with Christianity throughout his life. But he had an uncanny grasp of the human condition and an unwavering predisposition towards rebellion against it. There is considerable evidence to suggest that Roger Waters got the message.

And finally, Camus and Waters shared a strong affinity for the sun. For Camus it was all about the Algerian sun, but for Waters it seemed to be at least partially related to a certain sense of awe concerning the sun’s position in the cosmos. Among Pink Floyd’s many songs about the sun were “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” “Fat Old Sun,” “Eclipse,” “Two Suns in the Sunset,” “Time,” and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”

In 1969, no doubt as a precursor of what was soon to come, Pink Floyd produced a three part instrumental piece “Sisyphus.” The Myth of Sisyphus, of course, epitomized Camus’ concept of the absurd.

But it was in the legendary 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon in which Pink Floyd first confronted the human condition, alienation, Camus’ absurd, rebellion, and death. And to make sure listeners got it, the opening piece of the album began with the sound of a heartbeat symbolizing the human condition.

Right up front in “Breathe” we have the Pink Floyd equivalent of Sisyphus:


Run rabbit run
Dig the hole forget the sun
And when at last the work is done
Don’t sit down its time to dig another one

Also included in the Dark Side of the Moon album is the classic song “Money” which is about affluenza and selling out for a life based on having – owning and possessing more and more stuff. “I’m in the hi-fidelity first class traveling set and I need a Lear jet.”

About death Camus said, “We know it ends everything,” and results in eternal nothingness. “Eternal nothingness is made up precisely of the sum of lives to come which will not be ours.” In “Time” Pink Floyd sang “The time has gone the song is over thought I’d something more to say.” And what else could the dark side of the moon be than “eternal nothingness.” This is pretty heavy stuff for an album which sold over 30 million copies worldwide and which until recently still sold over 250,000 copies a year in the United States nearly forty years after its initial release.

The second album in the series of four, Wish You Were Here, trades heavily on themes of separation, alienation, and meaninglessness. “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl year after year running over the same old ground,” proclaims the album’s title piece. Another piece from the same album, “Welcome to the Machine,” welcomes an aspiring young rock musician to the competitive rat race which characterizes the rock music world. Much of what Pink Floyd was rebelling against was the highly competitive, commercially oriented, self-serving, back-stabbing rock music culture.

The album Animals is much more about the two-legged variety rather than the four-legged species. The song “Dogs” rebels against the dog-eat-dog frenzy of the marketplace. “You have to be trusted by the people that you lie to, so that when they turn their backs on you, You’ll get the chance to put the knife in.” That’s real alienation, and it reflects the cultural mores of the early 70s long before affluenza and technomania had become as rampant as they are today, when cybermania was still unknown.

Next Waters turns from corruption in the market to corruption by the state as illustrated by “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” who are into money, power, and greed. The pigs followed by “Sheep“ who are separated, powerless, and so fearful of being killed by dogs that they behave just as stereotypical sheep are expected to behave, “Meek and obedient…follow the leader down well-trodden corridors.” The behavior of Pink Floyd’s sheep strongly resembles that of their sheep like human counterparts in today’s world who all think the same, vote the same, watch the same TV programs, visit the same web sites, subscribe to the same religious dogmas, and buy the same consumer goods. And what did Pink Floyd do about all of this, rebél.

And last, but most importantly of all, there is The Wall. New England poet Robert Frost may not have gotten it right in his famous poem “Mending Wall” when he said “Good fences make good neighbors.” Neither walls nor fences make very good neighbors, rather they engender feelings of separation, alienation, meaninglessness, and powerlessness as evidenced by Jeremy Bentham’s octagonally designed panopticon prison or more recently the six million people under “correctional supervision” in the United States (more than were in Stalin’s Gulag Archipelago), including more black men than were in slavery in 1860 and 50,000 men in solitary confinement in “supermax” prisons; not to mention the Berlin Wall, the insidious Israeli Wall in Palestine, and gated communities throughout the United States.

But not all walls are physical. Take for example the wall separating the 99 percent from the 1 percent about which Occupy Wall Street speaks so often. This wall is part economic, part political, part social, and part psychological.

Pink Floyd’s wall is nothing short of a brilliant metaphor for the human condition, the absurd. “All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.”

The first song of The Wall begins with the album’s protagonist, Pink, confronting a crowd of inebriated rock music fans at a large stadium in which he says. “Is something eluding you sunshine? Is this not what you expected to see?” Throughout the album Pink rails against rock music, education, government, thought control, war, television, consumerism, his girlfriend, and his mother in particular, who helped build the wall, and to whom he says, “Mother, did it need to be so high?”

In a surprising turn of events Pink is arrested, jailed, and convicted of “showing feelings of an almost human nature,” in reality a complete lack of such feelings for his controlling mother. In Camus’ The Stranger the prosecutor focused not on the murder Meursault was accused of committing, but rather on the fact that he did not cry at his mother’s funeral. “Tear down the wall!” was the judge’s order thus stripping Pink of his alienation, his meaning, and his soul, sentencing him to eternal nothingness. “I didn’t mean to let them take my soul,” said Pink.

On July 21, 1990 The Wall was staged and performed in Berlin to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall in front of a live audience of a half a million and viewed on television by an estimated half a billion in thirty-five countries. Throughout 2010-2012 Roger Waters took The Wall on tour to some of the largest and most important venues in the world. The supreme irony of this cannot be ignored, because it was Waters’ utter contempt for Pink Floyd’s fans back in the late 70s which motivated him to write The Wall.

Throughout this piece we have focused primarily on the philosophical message of Pink Floyd’s lyrics. But without the intense, wailing guitar sounds produced by David Gilmour, none of this would have been possible. He often created the mood which enabled one to process Pink Floyd’s sophisticated lyrics.

Will 69 year-old Roger Waters die happy? Maybe, maybe not. But if he does not, it will not be due to a lack of very hard work for over four decades. And he is still at it. A truly remarkable quest. As Camus once said, “Being aware of one’s life, one’s revolt, one’s freedom is living,” but “the point is to live.”

Thomas H. Naylor
October 3, 2012

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.
www.vermontrepublic.org.