There Is No Longer Any Moral Justification for the American Empire

Notwithstanding the fact that the United States is the largest, wealthiest, most-powerful, most materialistic, most environmentally irresponsible, most racist, most militaristic, most violent empire in history and has shown little or no concern for the distribution of income, wealth, or political power among its citizens, nine years of trying to convince skeptical Vermonters of the merits of secession as an alternative to empire have proven to be quite challenging.  Secession is a very tough sell in Vermont and elsewhere.

Abraham Lincoln really did a number on us 150 years ago.  He convinced most Americans on the political Right as well as the Left that secession is a complete anathema.  Secession is thought by most to be immoral, illegal, and unconstitutional.  Never mind the Declaration of Independence, the fact that the United States was born out of secession from England, the tenth amendment to the Constitution, and the escape clauses which three of the original thirteen states had built into their respective constitutions.  Secession immediately conjures up images of slavery, the Civil War, racism, and violence.  Many otherwise intelligent Americans neither know how to pronounce or spell the word secession.  More often than not it is pronounced as though the correct spelling were s-u-c-c-e-s-s-i-o-n.

Because of the perceived absurdity of tiny Vermont confronting the most powerful empire of all-time, the Second Vermont Republic has arguably attracted more attention outside of Vermont than within.  It’s classic David and Goliath.

Since its inception SVR has employed two quite different parallel strategies in its efforts to promote secession – a hard sell approach and a soft sell approach.  Neither has proven to be particularly effective.

The hard sell paradigm confronts the issue head-on.  Because of its size, the United States government has become unmanageable and unfixable.  Our nation has lost its moral authority and is unsustainable.  A state such as Vermont either goes down with the Titanic or seeks other options.  Secession is one such option. But because of its association with the Civil War, secession is toxic as hell.  The mere mention of the word brings forth the charges of racism from the political left.  It is virtually impossible to have an intelligent conversation about the subject with a liberal ideologue.

The alternative paradigm speaks of political independence as though it were some desired state of being achievable in the future only after a state such as Vermont achieves economic, energy, and agricultural independence.  Middlebury College environmentalist Bill McKibben has wrongheadedly convinced many Vermonters that political independence is an impossible dream without food and energy independence.  McKibben is apparently unaware of the fact that Japan, the third largest economy in the world, imports every drop of oil which it consumes as well as most of its food.  Secession is not a synonym for economic isolationism.

The problem with the soft sell paradigm is that its supporters are so busy planting organic gardens, building root cellars, cutting their own wood, acquiring solar panels, and driving their Priuses that they don’t even notice the nine hundred pound gorilla in the room, namely, the American Empire.  So benign is the soft sell approach that its adherents never get around to talking about political independence.

Nine years of experience with the Second Vermont Republic have convinced me that the real issue is neither Vermont, states’ rights, secession, political independence, energy independence, agricultural independence, nor economic independence but rather the American Empire itself.  In the words of economist Paul Craig Roberts, “The United States is an immoral country, with an immoral people and an immoral government.  Americans no longer have a moral conscience.  They have gone over to the Dark Side.”

There is no longer any moral justification whatsoever for the existence of the United States.  The only morally defensible alternative to empire is peaceful dissolution.

Since dissolution would be nationwide in scope, not state-specific, it would arguably be less self-centered, less ethnocentric, and, therefore, less racially charged and ultimately less toxic than secession.  But benign it would not be.  The primary focus would be on ending global dominance and the military madness, stopping the exploitation of the poor and the middle class by the superrich, curbing the use of fossil fuels and other natural resources, curtailing the dependence on economic growth at all cost, reining in corruption and deceit, and ending the suppression of civil liberties.

Peaceful dissolution could be initiated at the state, regional, or national level through some combination of demonstrations, strikes, protests, tax revolts, civil disobedience, and possibly even secession.  The U.S. Congress could also initiate dissolution, but don’t hold your breath over that alternative.

To be sure we have no illusion that a large number of Americans will embrace dissolution any time soon.  Our problems will have to become a lot worse before that happens.  But the time to start the conversation is now!  Planned, orderly dissolution is surely preferable to unexpected collapse and utter chaos.

If the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street eventually figure out that the U.S. government is unfixable, might they both some day turn to peaceful dissolution as the only game in town?

Thomas H. Naylor

April 9, 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.