This secession…being forced on constitutional and lifestyle traditionalists because the federal government and its obliging subordinates at the state level have been on a power trip for decades. In the name of fighting discrimination and working toward “social justice,” administrators and politicians have worked to control every detail of our social life, including our private associations and what we can say to each other. At the same time, the power elite has opened the flood gates to Third World immigration, creating an emerging electoral majority that benefits from the victim industry. Hart believes that given the political and demographic turns undergone by Americans since the 1960s, it is no longer possible to reverse the direction of our “liberal democracy.”
Hell of a good idea, me thinks. At least it it a step in the right direction. We just need to work out the details of how to “get ‘er done.”– jtl, 419
An astrophysicist who is perhaps best known for his 1979 best-seller (that sold over 50,000 copies) Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in World History, Michael H. Hart (1932-) has just brought out a new work, Restoring America that seems as stimulating as earlier publishing success. In this book, Hart elaborates on a detailed plan for enabling the US to split into two different political entities. This division would occur without violence, and the American federal government from which the secessionists would be withdrawing would be confronted by an accomplished fact by the time the new American state would be formed. A constitution would be framed and elections to office would take place even before the break was completed; and those who choose to live in the new federal republic would transfer their allegiance to it while still technically under the US government.
This secession, according to Hart, is being forced on constitutional and lifestyle traditionalists because the federal government and its obliging subordinates at the state level have been on a power trip for decades. In the name of fighting discrimination and working toward “social justice,” administrators and politicians have worked to control every detail of our social life, including our private associations and what we can say to each other. At the same time, the power elite has opened the flood gates to Third World immigration, creating an emerging electoral majority that benefits from the victim industry. Hart believes that given the political and demographic turns undergone by Americans since the 1960s, it is no longer possible to reverse the direction of our “liberal democracy.” His pessimism may be fully justified. And unlike the author, who intermittently equates “conservatism” with adhesion to the GOP, I would argue that our bogus “conservative” establishment is at least partly responsible for government overreach. Throughout the West fake opposition parties are happily cutting deals with the totalitarian Left while persistently marginalizing serious opposition.
If secession is still an option for those who don’t want to continue the march into a rigidly administered multicultural society, Hart sketches what may be a possible plan for separation. The “red” secessionists (personally I wish that Hart hadn’t adopted these fox-news tags.) would give the feds the most populous and most heavily industrialized regions, including valuable territory on and around the two coasts. The “reds” would move into those parts of the country in which they were already dominant, thereby ceding to the feds enormous initial advantages in accumulated wealth and resources. Since the more populous states would fall into the “blue” column, Hart insists that fairness requires that counties, not states, be allowed to choose on which side they wanted to go. For example, it shouldn’t be necessary that the rest of Michigan live under a regime that the inhabitants find oppressive but which is elected by a left-wing majority in the Southeast corner of the state, plus Lansing and the inner cities of Benton Harbor, and Grand Rapids. Deciding who lives under what government at the county level, argues Hart, seems more just, even if it means that some people may be obliged to transfer their residences in order to find a congenial regime.
At least initially the USA, although demographically and territorially reduced, would enjoy overwhelming assets in relation to the secessionists. Not only would it possess a larger work force and most of the industrial and natural resources. It would also remain in control of the majority of first-rate universities, large banks, and economically useful professionals, many of whom lean toward the political Left. But eventually these advantages would be outweighed by the destructive force of an inept collectivist state nurtured by an expanding welfare class and largely unrestricted Third World immigration. These negatives would work against the success of the blue administration, while the combination of limited government, traditional lifestyles, and well controlled borders in Hart’s American Federal Republic would allow the “reds” to pull ahead.
Hart does insist that once choices are made, they should have permanent effect. Thus if intelligent, wealth-gathering Jews with screwy leftist politics decide to stay with the old regime, they should have to live with their initial choice, even if they later change their minds. Only those who opt to go with the reds when the new constitution is put into effect, will be allowed to become citizens of the AFR. Hart is also aware that leftist groups that move into more conservative regions usually try to change the political and social climate. Thus if the AFR intends to survive, it will have to be “very choosy regarding whom they allow to become naturalized citizens.” Because of the higher incidence of violence in this group, Hart would also be reluctant to encourage the immigration of Moslems; and given the difficulty of assimilation, he would favor granting citizenship only to those who would be most likely to fit into the AFR. Even then, Hart points out “a naturalized citizen should not be given the vote at once, but only after a long waiting period.” Although Hart perceives the advantage of the very restricted franchise that operated in early America, he rightly understands that it may be hard even in his ideal republic to return to that practice. But also given the regime he would be setting up, few minorities or embattled feminists would elect to join. Those in these categories who came over would be foregoing the anti-discrimination benefits they now enjoy in the USA. Welfare support would also be minimal, and employers would be free to hire and fire whomever they wanted.
Hart also seeks to avoid certain inherent defects of democracy, such as the rise of demagogues and having the party of numbers expropriate the incomes and resources of the more prosperous. He intends to avoid these defects by filtering the popular will through councils that would be empowered to make spending decisions and select the president. Elections to the spending council would be based on the once tried and tested nineteenth-century principle of having the higher-income and presumably most heavily taxed citizens determine who gets to draw up budgets. If the Council of Spending refused to raise taxes for programs deemed necessary by Congress, the latter would be allowed to override them in some stipulated instances. It would also be possible for Congress to delegate the payment of medical benefits to employers, as part of the cost of hiring low-income workers. Although some of Hart’s schemes for controlling taxes may strike one as strange, his end, which is limiting the state’s powers to redistribute income as a matter of social policy, is entirely clear.
Hart is also noticeably suspicious of executive power and places severe restrictions on the scope of presidential prerogative under the new constitution. The chief executive is elected by a Council of Elders for a two-year renewable term, but at any point in his tenure if the president is thought to have acted inappropriately, the Council may remove him from office. The Council will not be thrown together at random but will be composed of former presidents, governors and congressmen. Needless to say, presidents will not be allowed to act extra-constitutionally; and their success will be judged by their willingness and ability to maintain a stable national existence. Gaudy presidential campaigns will be avoided, because the chief executive will not be chosen by a popular vote.
Hart’s ambitious scheme for secessionism has much to recommend it. It is a valiant effort to return to a stable form of limited constitutional government in this country. It is also an attempt to save what is still salvageable in what my book After Liberalism presents as the Western model of the nation state as it existed in the nineteenth century. This commendable model has been denatured under the impact of mass democracy and administrative empire-building. But Hart’s work skirts two problems. One, the US government is no more likely to accept Hart’s secessionist project than it was what the Southern secessionists attempted in 1861. In fact, the federal government is now more massive, better armed, and more exhaustively supported by advocates of big government than it was in the mid-nineteenth century. Unlike the Confederacy, moreover, Hart’s AFR will not be established in contiguous regions held together by a long shared history. It will be an effort to create a nation state out of scattered populations that are trying to break away from a distasteful central government.
Two, Hart shows little awareness of the lines of division that already existed in the US before what he highlights as the crisis of the 1960s. Like other traditionalist Americans from the Northeast (including myself), Hart sees American government and American society as having turned bad in the 1960s. That was when the feds and their allies in state governments got into massive social engineering and unleashed an immigration flood from the Third World, which resulted in a radicalized electorate. But the fissures that Hart is addressing are older, a fact that he acknowledges in some spots but never comes to terms with. He hardly mentions the Civil War and its effects in deepening regional division and promoting government consolidation. Hart correctly points out that “black America” has had its own historical narrative, which has differed from the white American one. Significantly, this black “historical memory” has now been imposed or accepted by the rest of American society, and in a far more extreme fashion than the relatively benign narrative offered by Hart.
In recounting what the historic American nation once believed, Hart sometimes makes startling statements : e. g., “Because of our industrial prowess, we were able to intervene in World War I and prevent the German militarists from dominating Europe.” What about the militarists on the other side whom we enabled to triumph, at the cost of more than 150,000 American lives?” I had to ask myself as I read Hart’s American narrative. I also recognized this narrative as the mainstream liberal historical interpretation of American history that Hart and I were likely to have encountered in American public schools in the 1950s.
This narrative does not really flow out of an “historical memory,” in the same way that emancipation from slavery may at one time have done for blacks or the Lost Cause for white Southerners. It was part of a civil religion that was drilled into us for the purpose of welding together a country out of diverse groups. White and black Southerners and New England Yankees had real historical memories rooted in the American experience. Our historical memory was manufactured by the state and transmitted by public educators. This story-line worked as ideological glue in the postwar years; it was, however, gradually replaced by various PC narratives that are now flourishing through our culture and educational system. But the point that needs to be underlined is the following: the signs of American disunity that Hart lists in his book have been around for a while. He and I only became aware of this breakdown when it reached a tipping point in the last two generations.
The Essence of Liberty Volume I: Liberty and History chronicles the rise and fall of the noble experiment with constitutionally limited government. It features the ideas and opinions of some of the world’s foremost contemporary constitutional scholars. This is history that you were not taught at the mandatory government propaganda camps otherwise known as “public schools.” You will gain a clear understanding of how America’s decline and decay is really nothing new and how it began almost immediately with the constitution. Available in both paperback and Kindle versions.
You might be interested in the other two volumes from the three volume set: The Essence of Liberty Volume II: The Economics of Liberty and The Essence of Liberty Volume III: Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic.