Friday, December 6, 2013

Reasons for Separation

The New England States have the following
reasons for proposing separation from the
United States of America:  (The maritime
provinces will list their own from Canada.)

I.  The government of the U.S.A. in its
executive, legislative, and judicial branches
has ceased to function.

II.  The mission of the armed forces of
the U.S.A. is unclear.

III.  The agencies of the U.S. government
have increased their control of the lives
and actions of citizens.

IV.  The national debt of the U.S.A. is
forecast to expand forever.

V.  An increasing number of citizens
are entirely dependent on taxpayers for
their subsistence.

VI.  The federal department of Labor,
Education, Energy, Health and Human
Services, Housing and Urban Development
are unconstitutional creations.

VII.  The provisions of the first ten
amendments to the constitution of the U.S.A.
are no longer supported.

VIII.  The executive branch of the federal
government has usurped the law-enacting
function of Congress.

IX.  The constitution of the U.S.A. does
not permit a "no confidence" removal
of elected officials.

X.  Federal judges and Supreme Court
Justices unlawfully direct executive actions.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Collapse of the U.S.A.

As we near the end of 2020,
It may be instructive to review
The events of five years ago
That led to collapse of the U.S.A.

In 2014, the nation continued
To struggle with the enrollment
Of individuals in the federal and
State health insurance exchanges.

Large numbers of very sick people
Sought insurance heretofore unattainable.
Young people stayed away in droves,
Thus running up the potential costs.

With the mandate of 2015 looming,
Corporations and other organizations
Threatened to throw their employees
Into the individual coverage pools.

The net result was a sharp rise
To the expected national debt.
Panicking, Congress decided to tax
Employer sponsored health care.

That led to a taxpayer revolt,
Wherein the rebels refused to file
Tax returns for the year, overwhelming
The enforcement mechanisms of the IRS.

Meanwhile, college students took that cue
To refuse to pay their loans, quickly
Followed by support from those
Who still owed substantial sums.

Within a year, the national debt
Was forecast to increase by two trillion.
Congress refused to approve it,
And the U.S.A. fell into default.

The rest is history.
Texas led the way out of the union,
Followed by Cascadia, California,
And The Republic of New England.

The latter is getting along very nicely.
They solved much of the health care issue
By encouraging the drug store chains to
Set up primary care clinics in their stores.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Observations on Obamacare

George, you just caught me listening to Susan Boyle singing "The Winner Takes It All", an ABBA
song -- very apropos to the ACA situation.  Now that some probably very ill people have been able
to sign up for health insurance, it can never be taken away from them without triggering political
repercussions.  The health insurance companies are now administrators of a federal scheme.

Entitlements have proven to be irreversible.  Universal health care is the goal.  Wouldn't Teddy be
proud!  Step by step, a single payer system has crept in to full enactment.  Sometime soon everyone
will be issued a card like my Medicare one, now twenty years old.  The problem arises -- where and
how can they be honored?.  That's where the U.S.A. is in danger of sharply reduced medical care,
as new practitioners fail to enter the health professions.  The low-cost ride of our generation is soon
to end.

It is almost too late for reasonable alternatives.  The best of them proposes taxpayer support for
local clinics to replace ordinary care in the emergency rooms for people without insurance.  My
local guy is the only one left of four in private practice.  The others retired early.  And he will
get whacked by the reduction of Medicare reimbursements.  They I will have to rely on a
walk-in clinic that I used to frequent.  Just like good old Army medicine.  Not bad, not too good.

You may remember my recent piece, "Providence and the Nutter."  The president deserves
neither credit nor blame for his eponymous health law.  History will reward him.

The rector of my church just returned from a three week holiday in England, meeting with old friends
from his early stay in the UK.  He reports that the National Health Service is in such disrepute that
the government has permitted private practice to return.  Harley Street is doing a brisk business.
We call that option "concierge practice."

Canadians are enthusiastic about their quick and satisfactory primary care.  Their complaints
are the delay and rationing of surgery.  The premier of Ontario is insisting on further cost
reductions.  So is our governor of Massachusetts.  Here there is some cost control voluntarily
by our MDs who refuse to open their practices to any more Medicare and Medicaid patients.
I have primary care from my new wife's doctor.  She got into a closed dermatology practice by
marrying me.  Otherwise:  "I'm sorry, Doctor XXX is not accepting new patients."  MassCare
is seeing an increasing number of individuals paying the penalty rather than buying one size
fits all insurance.  That includes insuring men for pregnancy care, whether they like it or not!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 Update

Speaking of The Republic of New England, our board of conveners has
tackled (and solved, we hope) the problem of the national debt in our
negotiation with the U.S.A.  Our stated policy is to repudiate any share
of their debt.  We consulted international lawyers and got some support
from the example of the Baltic republics in reestablishing their independence
after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Inasmuch as Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania were formerly established
nations, they were under no obligation to share the financial burdens of
a reconstituted Russia.  If the U.S.A. ceases to exist after the separation
of a number of its states, it may be simply an aggregation with no joint
financial obligation.  The so-called European Union is an example of that.

Our precedent will be the short-lived Republic of Vermont, which existed
until ratification of the U.S. constitution.  It has now a secession movement
which can be the legal nucleus of a larger republic.  We eagerly await
developments in Texas, which has an even stronger case for separation.
There is also some talk of booting California out of the U.S., but that seems
to come more from outside the state.

Of course, we might manfully step up and assume some responsibility for
the U.S. national debt, provided we get to keep all the military installations
and equipment.  We would write a no-interest, balloon payment note, payable
in 30 years.  By that time, we figure the value of the dollar will be such that
we can pay off the note by subscription from patriotic citizens.  We don't
plan to incur any provincial or federal debt, period.  We pay cash.

The board has twice postponed our constitutional convention, pending
possible improvement in the governance of the U.S.  Alas, it has gone from
bad to worse.  No need to detail the woes.  Interestingly, this week sees the
assembly of the Global Anglican Future Conference in Nairobi, which
will feature the de facto separation of most of the Anglican churches
from the Anglican Communion.  The creation of a rival Anglican entity
in the U.S. provides another example of tragic schism.

We keep a sharp watch on newly established nations, whose success
varies according to the parsimony of their founders.  We like Slovenia
for its mountainous landscape, first-class skiers, and beautiful prime
minister; but it has run up severe banking problems.  We like Lithuania
for its sturdy fiscal management.  As New Englanders, we subscribe to
our ancient mantra:  "Use it up, wear it out; make it do, or do without!"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Providence and The Nutter

In my opinion, this president
Is not simply a nutter,
Serving out the second term
Of a predecessor from Georgia.

Instead, Providence has rewarded
His messianic ego, leading to
Accomplishments that may assure
Him of an honored place in history.

Remember that his predecessor
From Arkansas was dragged,
Kicking and screaming, to sign a
Law requiring welfare recipients to work.

That turned into a resounding success,
Whereas the efforts of a predecessor
From Texas to spread national freedom
To benighted Arabs has failed.

Our present maximum leader,
Who simply pronounces, "Let it be so!"
Has a good chance of seeing his wishes
Turn into worthy achievements.

That is, in the eyes of the populace,
Who cheer the withdrawal from the Middle East,
And resolve never to support another
Adventure in foreign nation-building.

He was the president who
"Got us out of the wars in the desert!"
He may be the president who
"Brought health care to all citizens."

If the new program establishes a foothold,
And then is tweaked to solve problems
Caused by unintended consequences,
Public opinion may support its continuance.

Then we will finally have what has been
Sought by many for years, health care
For all, administered entirely by
A department of the federal government.

Those of us who have been required
To use Medicare for primary treatment
Can testify that it is simple to use,
And covers all our needs, up to now.

Expand that to all citizens, and reduce
The costs by triage and rationing,
And you have a system previously
Employed by the Soviet Union.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Professor Crabby

On a nice warm afternoon on Cape Cod, I'm taking a little nap, when the
phone rings, and my wife hollers up the stairs: "The West Point Association
of Graduates wants to talk to you!"  Well, I know that no one is calling me
just to welcome us to the reunion, so I picked up the phone in a somewhat
crabby mood.  Sure enough, a young male voice told me that he was calling
in reference to a letter from General Hagenbeck that I should have received.
I had forgotten it, of course, but I knew what the call was for.  Whereupon,
I informed this young man that I made a sizeable gift at my 50th reunion, and
was not interested in giving more.  Thank you, and goodbye.

I'm sure he said to himself:  "What a grouch!" and moved on to the next call.
This episode got me to thinking -- what are our donations really accomplishing?
I saw the notice that the class officers are debating whether or not to continue
financing foreign study trips by cadets.  That doesn't strike me as high on the list
of charitable contributions, but who am I to judge.

There are things going on at West Point that bother me, which is appropriate for
an old grad.  There are also developments which make the whole experience
superior to what we had.  I was firmly in favor of admitting women to USMA.
But I am not in favor of cadets canoodling on an academy sponsored ski trip;
then a young lady charges six months later that she was raped.  Both these
youngsters should have been booted out.  Worse yet, is the unseemly episode
at USNA, where she was so drunk, she didn't know what was happening.

Why are certain cadets singled out in cow year and named "command sergeant
major" or something like that, which means automatically that they will be given
high cadet rank as first classpersons?  Then an opposite message seems to be
made to all firsties by making them all cadet lieutenants.  Does that raise their
self-esteem and assure them that they all have equal chances for high rank in
the service?  We cadet sergeants certainly were more perspicacious.  We knew
not everyone was going to be a general, so we would have to find our own niches
in which to serve.

Why is USMA prep moving to West Point?  Academic preparation is helpful
to those with inadequate schooling.  But spending a year on the reservation
without being able to participate in what's going on at the Academy seems
to me to foster a bad attitude.

How can WP justify graduating 1000 second lieutenants when the army is
facing a 25 percent reduction in force?  That may mean that a significant number
will be washed out in the competition for regular army billets, after serving the
required tour.  Perhaps more cadets should be permitted to opt for other types of
service upon graduation.

Then there is the Army Athletic Association.  I throw away their mailing as soon
as I get it.  Why should USMA be playing Division 1 football against the
semi-pros?  Everyone considers the NCAA rules a joke, not a scandal.  Those
boys in the big name schools are entitled to a good salary for what they do.

I was disturbed to read that one of my Armor friends is in a nursing home.
I wonder if someone tried to call him to pry out some money.  Shouldn't there
be a statute of limitations on that sort of thing, say after your 60th reunion?


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Mary Matalin and James Carville
Are well-known political strategists
Who met and married after working
For opposing presidential candidates.

They continue to pursue separate careers
While raising their two daughters in New Orleans.
They appear together only occasionally.
They say they never talk politics at home.

How can this be?
Doesn't a strongly held position
Alienate oneself from civil discourse with
Those who are of different minds.

Perhaps the Carvilles simply respect each other's beliefs
And do not let differences harm their affections.
Does the holding of opposing views
Require disdain for the other party?

Have we reached the point in our society
Where expressing a definite position on a current topic
May be regarded as a hostile act --
Even prosecuted as a hate crime?

A dichotomy is a mutually exclusive set of opinions.
Are those who hold opinions unable to, or forbidden
To try to understand the logic and the passion
Of their opponents in public debate?

We need to respect the opinions of others
Even if we cannot agree with them.
Out of respect comes tolerance,
Rather than hatred and verbal abuse.

Divergent opinion on hot button issues
Such as abortion or gay marriage
Can never be reconciled in compromise,
But they can be tolerated in the larger whole.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Keeping Score

For those of us who like to keep track of such things,
Following is a list of events in Washington
Which may indicate a return to fiscal sanity.
It is open-ended to recognize new developments.

A bipartisan agreement fostered by
Senator Mitch McConnell and VP Joe Biden
Made permanent the present income tax rates
For all but the highest one percent of payers.

A small reduction in federal spending
Required by the President went into effect.
Unless deliberate action otherwise is taken,
Reductions will increase annually.

A funding resolution for continuing the
Operation of the federal government
Passed Congress, without alteration to
The previous acts described above.

Now the battle of budgets unfolds.
None will be sufficiently acceptable.
A "compromise" may be passed that
Will be face-saving but ineffectual.

(Updated April 11, 2013)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

DoD Budget

A recent poll shows public sentiment
Shifting toward a balanced budget.
If true, this portends cutbacks
In all federal expenditures.

For the third time since World War II,
The Department of Defense
Is facing a major hit.
Where will the reductions come from?

For particulars, I ask opinions
From my esteemed colleagues
Who made military service
Their lifetime calling.

I can only offer an observer's views,
Starting with public opinion
On the national defense budget:
The people will not support another foreign war.

That would seem to argue for
Severe reduction in force for the U.S. Army;
And recasting the size and mission
Of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Will the Air Force become mainly
A technological and unmanned operation?
Are bombers and fighters yesterday's tools?
Will transport be the fliers' main role?

The Navy might be a winner, by virtue of
Its ability to monitor the hot spots on the seas
And deploy an instant attack force.
But are their ships too vulnerable?

Where does that leave nuclear weaponry?
We say that we will never use it
But maybe soon somebody will.
What do we if a putative ally is threatened?

Incidentally, lost in this big picture
Will be the fate of our service academies.
Will the Army still need eleven hundred
New officers from USMA every year?

Maybe it is time to dust off my
Previous warning that the fate of West Point
Again will be in jeopardy, leading to
Privatization to keep it functioning.

That would be a minor matter
In the large scheme of things, but symbolic
To the extent and dimensions of
Halving the U.S. budget for national defense.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Populist

He is not a bad man;
He is an intelligent man.
But he is ignorant,
And thus incompetent.

He is the Peter Principle writ large,
Rising to the highest level of incompetence,
Above any role that he was prepared for,
Nor than he can manage successfully.

His ego tells him that he is the anointed one.
He surrounds himself with hacks
Who are as ignorant as he is
About the workings of the economy.

In meetings with those who do,
He becomes embarrassed by his ignorance,
Changes the subject abruptly
And dismisses them quickly.

He has noble aims, like all populists,
To better the lives of the common people.
He is perfectly willing
To bankrupt the country to do so.

He delegated to Congress
Full authority to spend as they please,
So they fashioned programs that are
Huge, unworkable systems.

The people love him, the majority that is,
Because they believe he can do magic.
When they confront their situations,
They will realize they have been cheated.

The due bill is enormous;.
Someone has to pay it.
That can only come from
Higher costs and reduced income.

However, all is not lost.
There are grownups around
Who will chip away at
This wall of misguided governance.

More important, this is America.
The animal spirits are still alive.
Those who can, will work around
Whatever obstacles are in their way.

The economy can still arise
From its deep slumber,
In a way that is harsher
Than the people expect.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

April First Breaking News

April 1, 2013

The coup d'etat in the U.S. is now in its second week.
In New York, Acting President David Petraeus
Calls for calm among all citizens, as
Order is slowly being restored in Washington.

Units of the 82nd Airborne Division
Are being returned to Fort Bragg, NC
While the cleanup of the National Mall
Is being supervised by D.C. police.

The United Nations building in New York
Now functions as temporary capitol of the government.
The last of UN staff and foreign representatives
Have relocated to Brussels, Belgium.

Mr. Petraeus retains the portfolio of defense
While Acting Secretary of State, Sarah Palin,
Continues her tour of European capitals to
Explain our situation to their leaders.

Inasmuch as the U.S. Congress has been dismissed,
Federal departments will issue orders as needed.
Acting Treasury Secretary Mitt Romney
Has promised all funds will be distributed as scheduled.

This week the final transfer of federal reserve funds to
The Bank of the United States will occur.
Formerly known as Citicorp, the new bank plans
To sell off gradually its hoard of dubious derivatives.

Mr. Petraeus states that he plans to call
A new constitutional convention in the fall of 2013
To replace the broken system of government with
A more responsive parliamentary scheme.

Mr. Petraeus denies that he will be president for life,
But he did say that he and Paula prefer living in NYC
For the night life and the Broadway shows.
On Good Morning America tomorrow, Paula will sing:

"Don't cry for me, North America.
The truth is, I never left you.
All through my wild days,
My mad existence, I kept my promise,
Don't keep your distance,
I love you and I hope you love me."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Financial Apocalypse

No politician can be elected, or reelected
On a platform of taking something from the public.
Once enacted, temporary subsidies become "entitlements,"
Which must be financed forever by the taxpayers.

The so-called "welfare reform" is often cited
As an exception, but even that has been eviscerated.
All other schemes live on and are forecast
To ruin the country's exchequer within decades.

Only a crisis forces the politician's hand:
When galloping inflation ruins the economy,
When the country is unable to borrow,
When international corporations pull out.

Then "austerity measures" are proposed
That citizens riot in the streets against.
In a parliamentary system, a new weak government
Follows the old weak government in wringing their hands.

In our system of fixed terms for politicians,
War breaks out between competing factions.
The sober, sensible budget balancers
Are pilloried as destroyers of the common weal.

Therefore nothing can be done, or will be done,
Until the public is willing to sacrifice by
Getting less in "entitlements," or giving more in taxes,
Or some unholy combination of both.

The underlying fact is that global competition
No longer permits an elevated standard of living here.
What we enjoyed as a competitive advantage
In productivity is no longer present.

A necessary corollary is that government
Will no longer be able to save and protect us
From all the ills that flesh is heir to,
Nor defend us from all external threats.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Origin of The Republic of New England

This is the article that became the origin of The Republic of New England:


The Wall Street Journal

June 13, 2009

Divided We Stand

What would California look like broken in three? Or a Republic of New England? With the federal government reaching for ever more power, redrawing the map is enticing, says Paul Starobin


Remember that classic Beatles riff of the 1960s: “You say you want a revolution?” Imagine this instead: a devolution. Picture an America that is run not, as now, by a top-heavy Washington autocracy but, in freewheeling style, by an assemblage of largely autonomous regional republics reflecting the eclectic economic and cultural character of the society.

There might be an austere Republic of New England, with a natural strength in higher education and technology; a Caribbean-flavored city-state Republic of Greater Miami, with an anchor in the Latin American economy; and maybe even a Republic of Las Vegas with unfettered license to pursue its ambitions as a global gambling, entertainment and conventioneer destination. California? America’s broke, ill-governed and way-too-big nation-like state might be saved, truly saved, not by an emergency federal bailout, but by a merciful carve-up into a trio of republics that would rely on their own ingenuity in making their connections to the wider world. And while we’re at it, let’s make this project bi-national—economic logic suggests a natural multilingual combination between Greater San Diego and Mexico’s Northern Baja, and, to the Pacific north, between Seattle and Vancouver in a megaregion already dubbed “Cascadia” by economic cartographers.

Devolved America is a vision faithful both to certain postindustrial realities as well as to the pluralistic heart of the American political tradition—a tradition that has been betrayed by the creeping centralization of power in Washington over the decades but may yet reassert itself as an animating spirit for the future. Consider this proposition: America of the 21st century, propelled by currents of modernity that tend to favor the little over the big, may trace a long circle back to the original small-government ideas of the American experiment. The present-day American Goliath may turn out to be a freak of a waning age of politics and economics as conducted on a super-sized scale—too large to make any rational sense in an emerging age of personal empowerment that harks back to the era of the yeoman farmer of America’s early days. The society may find blessed new life, as paradoxical as this may sound, in a return to a smaller form.

This perspective may seem especially fanciful at a time when the political tides all seem to be running in the opposite direction. In the midst of economic troubles, an aggrandizing Washington is gathering even more power in its hands. The Obama Administration, while considering replacing top executives at Citigroup, is newly appointing a “compensation czar” with powers to determine the retirement packages of executives at firms accepting federal financial bailout funds. President Obama has deemed it wise for the U.S. Treasury to take a majority ownership stake in General Motors in a last-ditch effort to revive this Industrial Age brontosaurus. Even the Supreme Court is getting in on the act: A ruling this past week awarded federal judges powers to set the standards by which judges for state courts may recuse themselves from cases.

All of this adds up to a federal power grab that might make even FDR’s New Dealers blush. But that’s just the point: Not surprisingly, a lot of folks in the land of Jefferson are taking a stand against an approach that stands to make an indebted citizenry yet more dependent on an already immense federal power. The backlash, already under way, is a prime stimulus for a neo-secessionist movement, the most extreme manifestation of a broader push for some form of devolution. In April, at an anti-tax “tea party” held in Austin, Governor Rick Perry of Texas had his speech interrupted by cries of “secede.” The Governor did not sound inclined to disagree. “Texas is a unique place,” he later told reporters attending the rally. “When we came into the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.”

Such sentiments resonate beyond the libertarian fringe. The Daily Kos, a liberal Web site, recently asked Perry’s fellow Texas Republicans, “Do you think Texas would be better off as an independent nation or as part of the United States of America? It was an even split: 48% for the U.S., 48% for a sovereign Texas, 4% not sure. Amongst all Texans, more than a third—35%—said an independent Texas would be better. The Texas Nationalist Movement claims that over 250,000 Texans have signed a form affirming the organization’s goal of a Texas nation.

Secessionist feelings also percolate in Alaska, where Todd Palin, husband of Governor Sarah Palin, was once a registered member of the Alaska Independence Party. But it is not as if the Right has a lock on this issue: Vermont, the seat of one of the most vibrant secessionist movements, is among the country’s most politically-liberal places. Vermonters are especially upset about imperial America’s foreign excursions in hazardous places like Iraq. The philosophical tie that binds these otherwise odd bedfellows is belief in the birthright of Americans to run their own affairs, free from centralized control. Their hallowed parchment is Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, on behalf of the original 13 British colonies, penned in 1776, 11 years before the framers of the Constitution gathered for their convention in Philadelphia. “The right of secession precedes the Constitution—the United States was born out of secession,” Daniel Miller, leader of the Texas Nationalist Movement, put it to me. Take that, King Obama.

Today’s devolutionists, of all stripes, can trace their pedigree to the “anti-federalists” who opposed the compact that came out of Philadelphia as a bad bargain that gave too much power to the center at the expense of the limbs. Some of America’s most vigorous and learned minds were in the anti-federalist camp; their ranks included Virginia’s Patrick Henry, of “give me liberty or give me death” renown. The sainted Jefferson, who was serving as a diplomat in Paris during the convention, is these days claimed by secessionists as a kindred anti-federal spirit, even if he did go on to serve two terms as president.

The anti-federalists lost their battle, but history, in certain respects, has redeemed their vision, for they anticipated how many Americans have come to feel about their nation’s seat of federal power. “This city, and the government of it, must indubitably take their tone from the character of the men, who from the nature of its situation and institution, must collect there,” the anti-federalist pamphleteer known only as the Federal Farmer wrote. “If we expect it will have any sincere attachments to simple and frugal republicanism, to that liberty and mild government, which is dear to the laborious part of a free people, we most assuredly deceive ourselves.”

In the mid-19th century, the anti-federalist impulse took a dark turn, attaching itself to the cause of the Confederacy, which was formed by the unilateral secession of 13 southern states over the bloody issue of slavery. Lincoln had no choice but to go to war to preserve the Union—and ever since, anti-federalism, in almost any guise, has had to defend itself from the charge of being anti-modern and indeed retrograde.

Jack Molloy

The U.S., as envisioned by some percolating secessionist movements.

But nearly a century and a half has passed since Johnny Rebel whooped for the last time. Slavery is dead, and so too is the large-scale industrial economy that the Yankees embraced as their path to victory over the South and to global prosperity. The model lasted a long time, to be sure, surviving all the way through the New Deal and the first several decades of the post-World War II era, coming a cropper at the tail end of the 1960s, just as the economist John Kenneth Galbraith was holding out “The New Industrial State,” the master-planned economy, as a seemingly permanent condition of modern life.

Not quite. In a globalized economy transformed by technological innovations hatched by happily-unguided entrepreneurs, history seems to be driving one nail after another into the coffin of the big, which is why the Obama planners and their ilk, even if they now ride high, may be doomed to fail. No one anymore expects the best ideas to come from the biggest actors in the economy, so should anyone expect the best thinking to be done by the whales of the political world?

A notable prophet for a coming age of smallness was the diplomat and historian George Kennan, a steward of the American Century with an uncanny ability to see past the seemingly-frozen geopolitical arrangements of the day. Kennan always believed that Soviet power would “run its course,” as he predicted back in 1951, just as the Cold War was getting under way, and again shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed, he suggested that a similar fate might await the United States. America has become a “monster country,” afflicted by a swollen bureaucracy and “the hubris of inordinate size,” he wrote in his 1993 book, “Around the Cragged Hill: A Personal and Political Philosophy.” Things might work better, he suggested, if the nation was “decentralized into something like a dozen constituent republics, absorbing not only the powers of the existing states but a considerable part of those of the present federal establishment.”

Kennan’s genius was to foresee that matters might take on an organic, a bottom-up, life of their own, especially in a society as dynamic and as creative as America. His spirit, the spirit of an anti-federalist modernist, can be glimpsed in an intriguing “mega-region” initiative encompassing greater San Diego County, next-door Imperial County and, to the immediate south of the U.S. border, Northern Baja, Mexico. Elected officials representing all three participating areas recently unveiled “Cali Baja, a Bi-National Mega-Region,” as the “international marketing brand” for the project.

The idea is to create a global economic powerhouse by combining San Diego’s proven abilities in scientific research and development with Imperial County’s abundance of inexpensive land and availability of water rights and Northern Baja’s manufacturing base, low labor costs and ability to supply the San Diego area with electricity during peak-use terms. Bilingualism, too, is a key—with the aim for all children on both sides of the border to be fluent in both English and Spanish. The project director is Christina Luhn, a Kansas native, historian and former staffer on the National Security Council in Ronald Reagan’s White House in the mid-1980s. Contemporary America as a unit of governance may be too big, even the perpetually-troubled state of California may be too big, she told me, by way of saying that the political and economic future may belong to the megaregions of the planet. Her conviction is that large systems tend not to endure—“they break apart, there’s chaos, and at some point, new things form,” she said.

The notion that small is better and even inevitable no doubt has some flavor of romance—even amounting to a kind of modern secular faith, girded by a raft of multi-disciplinary literature that may or may not be relevant. Luhn takes her philosophical cue not only from Kennan but also from the science writer and physicist M. Mitchell Waldrop, author of “Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos.”

Fighting to Secede

From Texas to Hawaii, these groups are fighting to secede

American secessionist groups today range from small startups with a few laptop computers to organized movements with meetings of delegates from several states.

The Middlebury Institute, a group that studies and supports the general cause of separatism and secessionism in the U.S., has held three Secession Congresses since its founding in 2004.

At the most recent gathering, held in New Hampshire last November, one discussion focused on creating a new federation potentially to be called “Novacadia,” consisting of present-day New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. An article highlighted on the group’s Web site describes Denmark as a role-model for the potential country. In the months following the convention, the idea “did not actually evolve into very much,” says Kirkpatrick Sale, the institute’s director.

Below the Mason-Dixon Line, groups like the League of the South and Southern National Congress hold meetings of delegates. They discuss secession as a way of accomplishing goals like protecting the right to bear arms and tighter immigration policies. The Texas Nationalist Movement claims that over 250,000 Texans have signed a form affirming the organization’s goal of a Texas nation.

A religious group, Christian Exodus, formed in 2003 with the purpose of transforming what is today South Carolina into a sovereign, Christian-run state. According to a statement on its Web site, the group still supports the idea, but has learned that “the chains of our slavery and dependence on Godless government have more of a hold on us than can be broken by simply moving to another state.”

On the West Coast, elected officials representing greater San Diego County, Imperial County and Northern Baja, Mexico, have proposed creating a “mega-region” of the three areas called “Cali Baja, a Bi-National Mega-Region.”

Hawaii is home to numerous groups that work toward the goal of sovereignty, including Nation of Hawaii. The group argues that native Hawaiians were colonized and forced into statehood against their will and without fair process, and therefore have the right to decide how to govern themselves today. In Alaska, the Alaska Independence Party advocates for the state’s independence.

There is also a Web site for a group called North Star Republic, with a mission to establish a socialist republic in what today is Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

A group of American Indians led by activist Russell Means is working to establish the Republic of Lakotah, which would cover parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska. In 2007, the Republic presented the U.S. State Department with a notice of withdrawal.

Even for the hard-edged secessionist crowd, with their rapt attentiveness to America’s roots, popular texts in the future-trend genre mingle in their minds with the yellowed scrolls of the anti-federalists. “The cornerstone of my thought,” Daniel Miller of the Texas Nationalist Movement told me, is John Naisbitt’s 1995 best seller, “Global Paradox,” which celebrates the entrepreneurial ethos in positing that “the bigger the world economy, the more powerful its smallest players.”

More convincingly, the proposition that small trumps big is passing tests in real-life political and economic laboratories. For example, the U.S. ranked eighth in a survey of global innovation leadership released in March by the Boston Consulting Group and the National Association of Manufacturers—with the top rankings dominated by small countries led by the city-state republic of Singapore. The Thunderbird School of Global Management, based in Arizona, has called Singapore “the most future-oriented country in the world.” Historians can point to the spectacularly inventive city-states of Renaissance Italy as an example of the small truly making the beautiful.

How, though, to get from big to small? Secessionists like Texas’ Miller pledge a commitment to peaceful methods. History suggests skepticism on this score: Even the American republic was born in a violent revolution. These days, the Russian professor Igor Panarin, a former KGB analyst, has snagged publicity with his dystopian prediction of civil strife in a dismembered America whose jagged parts fall prey to foreign powers including Canada, Mexico and, in the case of Alaska, Russia, naturally.

Still, the precedent for any breakup of today’s America is not necessarily the one set by the musket-bearing colonists’ demanded departure from the British crown in the late 18th century or by the crisis-ridden dissolution of the U.S.S.R. at the end of the 20th century. Every empire, every too-big thing, fragments or shrinks according to its own unique character and to the age of history to which it belongs.

The most hopeful prospect for the USA, should the decentralization impulse prove irresistible, is for Americans to draw on their natural inventiveness and democratic tradition by patenting a formula for getting the job done in a gradual and cooperative way. In so doing, geopolitical history, and perhaps even a path for others, might be made, for the problem of bigness vexes political leviathans everywhere. In India, with its 1.2 billion people, there is an active discussion of whether things might work better if the nation-state was chopped up into 10 or so large city-states with broad writs of autonomy from New Delhi. Devolution may likewise be the future for the European continent—think Catalonia—and for the British Isles. Scotland, a leading source of Enlightenment ideas for America’s founding fathers, now has its own flourishing independence movement. Even China, held together by an aging autocracy, may not be able to resist the drift towards the smaller.

So why not America as the global leader of a devolution? America’s return to its origins—to its type—could turn out to be an act of creative political destruction, with “we the people” the better for it.

—Paul Starobin is the author of After America: Narratives for the Next Global Age, recently published by Viking, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.