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Who is Kirkpatrick Sale?

November 26, 2010

Kirkpatrick Sale is a leader in the modern secessionist movement. He is a New Yorker, a former Left-wing radical and an anti-modernist. He and Vermont secessionist leader Thomas Naylor wrote the Middlebury Declaration in 2005 and Sale leads the Middlebury Institute, a secessionist think-tank.

Sale has written extensively about the topic of secession. In 2005 he wrote an essay called The Case for American Secession: Still A Good Idea which included a “what if” scenario involving state secession and Federal reprisal:

The federal government might not want to let California go, for fear that Cascadia (Oregon and Washington) and New England (and who knows how many disgruntled others?) would follow suit. If it still had the military means and the loyalty of the remaining troops, it might be expected to contrive a way (a Gulf of Tonkin or WMD excuse) to justify an invasion.

And yet, it is hard to believe that Washington would actually command its troops to mow down Los Angelenos and San Franciscans the way they do the civilians of Fallujah and Najaf, or withstand the barrage of criticism, domestic and international, if it did. Such an act would more likely propel additional secessions than gain support. It is harder still to think that the troops would actually carry out such an order, killing (ex-)Americans on (ex-)American territory. And if the troops did actually succeed in conquering and occupying an independent state, the population would be virtually uncontrollable: If it is not possible to win the hearts and minds of Vietnamese and Iraqis by invasion, think how much less possible it would be to win over people who had voted for secession with the full knowledge that it might lead to war.

It is not fantastic, then, to imagine that, instead of a futile war, Washington would be willing to negotiate a settlement in the hopes that, by giving concessions on, say, autonomy and self-regulation and by demonstrating the extent of federal dollars lost, it could win a secessionist state back into the Union. In some cases, that might well happen, and, if it failed, it would at least show a government intelligent and confident enough to act as a future ally rather than a marauding warmonger. And as an ally, it might be able to establish diplomatic and trade ties that would allow it to continue using such resources and talents of the new state as it wanted, perhaps even the bases it had previously used—with the additional benefit of no longer having to maintain federal offices, regulators, highways, parks, dams, and such, and even presumably with a negotiated fee in compensation for these lost assets.

Antiwar Radio interview of Kirkpatrick Sale (28 February 2010)

Kirkpatrick Sale, director of the Middlebury Institute, discusses Vermont’s secessionist movement that derives from the state’s unique historical independence, the need to scrap the US Constitution due to its failure to preserve freedom and liberty, the inverse relationship between population size and the ability of government to function properly, the strong secessionist language enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Liberal tradition of supporting a strong national government to enforce civil rights despite the (at best) mixed results.

Click here for audio (33.33 minutes)

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  • Ginny

    The idea that the federal government might not want to let one state go for fear that others would follow suit is exactly what a friend and I were discussing yesterday. We were saying it in a positive way. It always takes one very, very courageous person to start something. Then a couple more willing to stand with the first, and then it’s all over – people will join in. Maybe the time isn’t yet here, but we feel that as soon as one state attempts to secede, others will follow.


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