A citizen movement committed to restoring Vermont to an independent republic, free to pursue life, liberty and happiness unimpeded by the demands of an imperial, corrupt and disintegrating United States.
I know that many people in this movement for secession and decentralization are libertarian-leaning, and are invested in the movement because of their dissatisfaction with overreach of the federal government. I understand their qualms. The federal government’s over-spending and borrowing to pay interest is akin to the behavior of a crack addict. I would estimate that a maximum of 10% of this spending actually helps people. The rest of the spending consists of corporate hand-outs, environmental destruction, international state-terrorism and of course, interest on the debt. This can understandably leave a bad taste in people’s mouths and convince people that any spending by any form of government is usurious and destructive.
However, I believe that a genuinely democratic government acting honestly on behalf of the citizens can tax and spend strategically for the benefit of society. In any country other than the US that statement wouldn’t be in the least bit controversial. Because of two factors, there is a strong under-current of right-wing libertarian and market-anarchist sentiment. The first is the great swindle engineered by a secretive clan of slave-owning lawyers who may or may not have all been free masons. In US history, we call these con-men the “founding fathers.” They set up a constitution that made it seem like the citizens would have genuine liberty, but would actually forestall wealth redistribution and public works, thus allowing the rich to accumulate ever greater wealth and power while the poor work under deteriorating conditions. People are indoctrinated to worship these con-men and thus some people have adopted their “libertarian” viewpoint as an inalterable creed. I already brought up the other reason for the widespread view in the US that government spending is inherently bad: In the US, federal government spending so often is bad that people feel as though they’ve learned from experience.
One of the great hypocrisies of the modern empire is what they call the “Washington Consensus.” They borrow, spend and subsidize as much as they can to deflate the prices of American feed, but they use every tool at their disposal to prevent any third world government from doing anything to protect their local farms. They end up pricing the local farmers out of businesses. Since most of the population in these nations used to work as farmers, this causes unspeakable suffering. The purpose of this charade is to skyrocket unemployment. Once unemployment is elevated, the empire can employ a few people growing the cash crops it wants on land that used to feed the whole nation, and everyone else must move to the mines or to the city to compete tooth and nail for jobs. In Liberia, for example, unemployment is 85%.
Then we can look at the example of Malawi. In 2003, Malawi was the most famine stricken nation in the world. The government was in debt to the IMF and was accepting their one year deal not to subsidize any industry involved in agriculture in exchange for a lower interest rate. By the end of that year, the famine was getting extreme enough that the government couldn’t let it continue. Whether it was their human decency or their fear of revolution (probably both), they decided they had to act. They said that they would toss out the IMF deal, even if it meant defaulting a few years down the road. The put a subsidy on fertilizers. This small subsidy alone was to put farmers back to work and tip the balance against the US imports that only half the population could afford. By 2005, Malawi was sending emergency food aid relief to Mozambique and other neighboring countries.
Other striking examples of government intervention against the Washington Consensus and on behalf of the people can be found across Latin America. In what the US media called the “pink tide” socialists and left-wing nationalists got elected to one country after another in Latin America. They switched from US dollars to local currencies, they nationalized mineral wealth, they spend on health and education and they tariffed US imports to subsidize local agriculture. Within years of these changes taking place, unemployment, infant mortality, crime and preventable diseases were down and standards of living, working conditions, women’s empowerment, education and healthcare went up.
Venezuela has had some particular difficulties. Some of this is, admittedly due to governmental mismanagement. This shows that protectionism of locally owned private businesses can function better than nationalization, particularly in smaller, diverse businesses. However, much of the strife in Venezuela can also be attributed to Wallstreet. As was attempted under Allende, foreign corporations the people still depend on can create price fluctuations and then create propaganda in foreign and even domestic media blaming the hostile government. Venezuela has been particularly targeted because of the bombastic rhetoric of the late Hugo Chavez. This vulnerability to foreign sabotage only makes localization more imperative. That said, Venezuela still has a much smaller wealth divide and stronger education and healthcare than before it’s “Bolivarian Revolution.”
Protectionist and left-wing nationalist policies are still showing their strength in Ecuador, Uruguay, Chile and particularly Bolivia.
Vermont can and should implement these revolutionary policies to protect itself from corporate imperialism. Many of these policies are forbidden by the US constitution with the “Interstate Commerce Clause” but there are ways around this federal over-reach. Vermont could raise sales taxes on a certain class of goods and use the revenue to subsidize local production of that class of goods. Some of that subsidy could be in the form of discounts on the product in question for purchases with food stamps. This would counter the somewhat regressive nature of sales taxes on everyday goods. Other immediate measures the state should take to protect our food sovereignty would be to tax processed products that only get made on a massive, unsustainable scale. Taxes on products like corn syrup, soy lecithin, artificial sweeteners, etc can be easily justified as public health initiatives as well as supportive measures to our local agricultural economy. (Full disclosure, a tax on soy lecithin would be particularly beneficial to me, as I’m allergic to soy.) Revenue from these taxes could fund reskilling and education, and subsidize local industries. After state support for food sovereignty is well established, clothing and light industry should follow. I have beautiful dreams of a day when Vermont puts a sin-tax on cotton to subsidize our flax, silk, wool and specially licensed hemp industries.
As we begin to push harder for independence, there will come a time when the state must directly violate federal authority. I believe that doing so will eventually become essential and inevitable in order to free ourselves completely. Once we are ready to take that leap, full blown tariffs and subsidies on US goods would be an excellent first step. As with all protectionist measures, these should be phased in gradually, which gives consumers time to adjust and gives local industries time to grow enough to meet local demand.
One of the first things I would propose once we secede and become an independent nation would be to nationalize the IBM plant. The new national government could take hold of the plant for free, and hold on to it for, say, 18 months. In that time, it should cut into its own profit margin to double the salaries of the lowest wage workers at the plant while cutting the manager’s salary. Make the technical processes of the plant ecologically sustainable, teach the workers about the principles of democratic decision making and then sell the plant back to the workers to run as a collective. The same applies to General Dynamics and all the other foreign owned manufacturing operations in Vermont.
With assertive economic policies like these, we could win real freedom from the empire. Too many nations have fallen victim to post-colonial imperialism. They take down the flag of the evil empire that once ruled them and put up their own flag of liberation, but most of the working population still works for enemy business interests while many starve and suffer in unemployment. We can’t let Vermont fall into this trap. We have to secure ourselves with protectionist measures both before and after political secession, so that we can win genuine freedom and sovereignty.
Thomas Gram is a butcher in training, a beginner blacksmith, a ‘theoretician’ or ‘nerd-of-all-trades’ and an activist for a decentralized maker-culture of local empowerment. He is a native of the capital of a Republic under occupation by an Empire aka Montpelier, VT (for now) USA.