Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Decline and Fall of the American Empire

One of the leading decentralist critics is Thomas H. Naylor, who writes for the Vermont independence website (The Second Vermont Republic). In an essay, entitled "What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire," he shows how America's lust for "empire" has exacerbated the four greatest environmental challenges of our time: peak oil, climate change, mass extinction (of plant and animal species), and overpopulation.

With Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting the United Nations today, another one of Professor Naylor's essays is especially timely: "Iran: The Final, Fatally Flawed Shoe to Fall." Is it prophetic? We'll see. You be the judge. Just consider it as a possibility...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Quotes without comment

From George Orwell:

"Speaking the Truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act."

"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people
what they do not want to hear."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Big Brother

This story, by Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post* , is so horrifying and unbelievable that I have to quote the beginning of it verbatim:

“The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials.

“The personal travel records are meant to be stored for as long as 15 years, as part of the Department of Homeland Security's effort to assess the security threat posed by all travelers entering the country.”

Civil liberties advocates have rightly noted that this collection of data is a violation of the Privacy Act (5 USC 522a(e)(7), which forbids the Feds from collecting data related to First Amendment rights, such as choice of books or friends. The data collected were from John Gilmore, a privacy advocate in San Francisco, whose file was released by Homeland Security at his request.

Fact of human nature: If a government has the means to play Big Brother, it probably will. An individual (usually) lacks the resources to do what is necessary to reverse a trend like this.

It would be much harder to do this in the Republic of Ohio. Why? Because individuals like us will have 26 times as much influence over the national government as we do now.† It is unlikely that Ohio voters and legislators would provide funding for such an effort.

* Two caveats: (1) Please read the article carefully before commenting on the “liberal Bush-hating mainstream media,” and (2) Login is required to the Washington Post site.

Do the math: Divide the U.S. population (300 million) by Ohio’s (11.5 million).

Friday, September 21, 2007

Whatever happened to sound money?

For the first time since 1976, the Canadian dollar has risen in value to one U.S. dollar. At the same time, according to the Associated Press, the U.S. dollar hit a new all-time low against the euro, and long-time lows against the British pound and the Indian rupee.

It’s not hard to figure out why this is happening. Overextended personal credit, a national debt exceeding $9 trillion, and years of trade deficits with the rest of the world are eroding confidence in what was once the world’s reserve currency.

An Ohioan President, William McKinley, led the United States to prosperity during his Presidency (1897-1901) by insisting on a sound dollar backed by gold. It appears that the idea that banks can create money whenever they wish is proving not to be such a good idea…

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why secession now?

The tiny State of Vermont has the most advanced secessionist movement in America today, formulated along the principles I described in my Welcome post. The September issue of their publication, the Vermont Commons, describes very clearly why secession should be an important issue for all of us.

The United States is living out a tragedy. The sooner it ends, the sooner we can resume our unique lives, true liberty, and the pursuit of real happiness.

License to steal

One of my favorite columnists is Froma Harrop, of the Providence Journal. Today, her column points out the hidden costs of purchasing cheap goods from China. Among other costs, she cites:

  • High environmental costs, including air pollution that the Pacific sometimes takes as far as California;
  • Use of toxic chemicals in products;
  • Sweatshop conditions that even price the Mexicans out of business; and
  • Wal-Mart's pressure on all suppliers to lower costs, regardless of the consequences.

Her conclusion:

"The solution, ultimately, is for Americans to vote with their credit cards against a production system that trolls the earth for the most downtrodden labor force and lowest environmental standards. Rather than zero in on one country or company, let’s zero in on ourselves. American consumers must understand that low prices come with a price."

Resources are abundant, but are not infinite; or as Mohandas Gandhi once said:

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed."

A related issue in Ohio is the environmentalist concern over conditions suffered by chickens at egg farms. Now, I am not a vegan by any means; but, it stands to reason that the quality of our meat and poultry will be better if animals are treated with a small measure of respect, including a clean home, sufficient and appropriate feed; and with mammals such as cattle and horses, a measure of love.

The common denominator in both comments is respect for life. Not only life before birth, but after it. Respect for the lives and health of working people, respect for the lives and health of consumers, and respect for the lives and health of animals.

These goals can best be achieved in decentralized societies, based on local economies. They also require promoting an ethic that observes the truth that real prosperity lies, not in how much junk you own (or eat); but in the personal satisfaction and wise use of resources that comes from purchasing products for their quality and durability -- at a higher monetary price, to be sure; but at a much lower human one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

License to steel

According to the Columbus Dispatch, a Russian steelmaker wants to build a $1 billion plant either in Ohio or Qu├ębec.

I am all for building a plant, for the jobs and supplier business it would provide, but the profits would still go to Russia. My question for Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (who is also Director of the Department of Development) and Ohio’s remaining steelmakers is: What opportunity did the Russians see that we are missing?

I am even more for one of our steelmakers building a plant -- keeping the profits, as well as the jobs, here in Ohio.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why I do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance

Following is the text of a speech I delivered to my Toastmasters club today. Small portions have been edited out for brevity.

I am standing before you today to confess that I do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, and have not done so in the last 17 years. My refusal to do so should not be construed as contempt, either for the flag or for the Republic for which it stands. When it is recited, I usually stand in silence, out of respect for the flag and for the others in the room.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy as part of a public school program in celebration of Columbus Day 1892. His original pledge read,
“'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In later years, “my Flag” was changed to “the flag of the United States of America” and the words “under God” were added.

I have no problem with the phrase under God. I understand why atheists find it offensive, but since an overwhelming majority of the American people profess belief in a Supreme Being, the majority’s beliefs should be respected.

Anyone, anywhere, can swear loyalty to their nation. From 1933 to 1945, millions of Germans showed their enthusiastic loyalty by raising their arms and shouting “Heil Hitler!” So what is the moral difference between America today and Germany then? The difference lies in our loyalty, not to a flag or a territory, but to the ideas on which our nation was founded.

My throat sticks on the word indivisible. That is, I believe in the right of a State to secede from the Union. …

So, in Septemer 2007, why should anyone care?

The writers of our Constitution understood human nature. People want power; and given the opportunity, they would let their lust for power override their ideals and sense of fairness. Powerful people would want to strip away our liberties when those liberties became inconvenient for them. The Founding Fathers asserted that the States were sovereign, because, if the ultimate power were left to the States and to the people, that of the Federal Government would be limited. They held that the States, because they were closer to the people, would reflect their needs and beliefs, and would be more responsive to their will.

In spite of this, the Constitution faced heavy resistance from those who believed that an effective Federal Government was a threat to the rights of the States and the people – so much so that five states (New York, Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Texas) explicitly reserved to themselves the right to secede in their ratifications of the Constitution.

As a Georgia Supreme Court judge wrote in 1868 [dissent in Chancely v. Bailey and Cleveland, 37 Georgia Reports 532],
“If any prominent advocate of the Federal Constitution had … intimated an opinion, that by ratification of the Federal Constitution, the states surrendered their separate individuality and sovereignty as States, such was the extreme jealousy for the maintenance of State sovereignty, [that] such an opinion… would have led to the prompt and overwhelming rejection of that instrument.”
The idea that this nation is indivisible did not occur to anyone prior to the Civil War.

I will not recite the Pledge of Allegiance, because it violates the spirit of the Constitution that protects our freedom. Our own Ohio Constitution, in Article I, Section 2, states one of our most essential rights in this fashion:
“All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform, or abolish the same, whenever they may deem it necessary…”
Thus, by implication, the framers of our State Constitution agreed that our Republic is not “indivisible.” Secession is an essential right, to be used only as a last resort; to protect our people from a Federal Government when it becomes so powerful that it is no longer accountable to the people. To state that the Union is indivisible is to suggest that preservation of the Union is worth sacrificing our freedom. I do not believe this, and I hope you don’t either.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Welcome to the Ohio Republic!

The purpose of this blog is to advocate the peaceful, legal independence of Ohio from the United States of America. This will be done by discussing the philosophy that will underlie the new political system; the emotional, legal, and practical issues involved in achieving independence; and highlighting news of differences between the State of Ohio and the United States Government. I shall also take a look, where appropriate, at existing secessionist movements in the United States for the lessons they may teach us. In the near future, I plan to add sections for interesting documents and links of related interest.

At this early stage, I envision a Republic, consisting of Ohio alone, that will have limited powers; delegating and reserving most of the domestic functions of government to the counties, the municipalities and townships, and to the people themselves. The general philosophy is known as decentralism, as promoted by the Middlebury Institute (a secessionist think tank) and the E. F. Schumacher Society. However, “pure” decentralism is designed for very small populations. We shall need to modify it to meet the needs of Ohio’s size, diversity, and culture.

Following a period of discussion, given sufficient interest, a movement will be organized to carry the struggle to the people of Ohio. I invite your comments as we move forward.

Here are some of my thoughts on what our independence movement should look like:

It will advocate independence by peaceful, legal means. Initially, I see it as a movement that eventually will put on the Ohio ballot an issue to call a convention to dissolve the Union between Ohio and the other states; but it is possible that legal issues could develop which would necessitate the formation of a political party for that purpose.

Such a movement is not seditious. The Government in Washington will remain in power – may they rule in peace – only not over us. Speech advocating peaceful secession is protected by the First Amendment.

This movement is non-racial. Everyone of every color and faith shares the same basic needs. While some previous movements for secession and states’ rights were intended to promote the supremacy of one race, the movement for the Ohio Republic is intended to end our relationship with a Federal Government that, despite claims to the contrary, actually oppresses minorities as much as (maybe more than) the rest of us. In future posts, I shall explain why this is so.

While the principal effort will be focused on political change, a successful independence movement will also have cultural and economic components. A distinct culture will turn a seceded State into a nation in its own right; encouraging the development of local economies will reduce our dependence on foreign sources of goods and services and minimize the need to “compete” in the global economy of cheap goods created by underpaid labor.

The ultimate purpose of independence is to restore a sense of community, which experience has shown to be a spiritual necessity for all people. This community will come from preserving, for ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of Liberty granted by God and articulated by the framers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutions of the United States and of Ohio; and by restoring the influence each of us as citizens once had on the government of our community and nation.

This is not a sudden whim. I have been thinking about this subject since 1989, but many necessary ideas remain undeveloped or underdeveloped. I invite you to join me to turn these ideas into the building blocks of a new nation that is small in population, but great in heart.

Harold D. Thomas