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Bye Bye, Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America's Political Map Paperback – July 10, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
It's not exclusive to those nostalgic for the Confederacy: secession has adherents from sea to shining sea. Kauffman samples proponents historical and contemporary of separation from the Union, discovering as bewildering a cast of constitutional autodidacts, rural rebels, and pastoral potheads as will be found in the current-affairs genre. The homogeneity within such heterogeneity is a view that the tax-collecting, regulation-issuing, and expeditionary-force-dispatching power centers of Washington or Sacramento are inimical to Jeffersonian self-governance. Do-it-yourself democrats march through Kauffman's pages, advocates for a riven New York, a fissiparous Kansas, three Californias, or a U.S. truncated by a (Second) Republic of Vermont. The don't-tread-on-me spirit assuredly attracts its share of mad tinfoil hatters and ornery independents, but there are also plenty of solid-citizen types here. Kauffman's exploration in political heresy is an amiable, vocabulary-bending jeremiad that exalts the local over the global, extols the two-lane road over the interstate highway, and simply defies a Left-Right dichotomy. An entertaining rant for the political set.
Throughout American history, the right of states to secede has been considered alternately sacrosanct and treacherous, and despite the Civil War, the idea has never quite left the American mindset. Modern secessionist movements appear periodically (an independent Texas or Vermont; a separate South; calls from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Alaska to split from the union; and movements to divide large states like California and New York). Kauffman, whose politics are "localist, decentralist, libertarian," offers an unabashedly pro-secessionist slant to his reports on the many movements, but readers can discern, through all his editorializing, a thoughtfully researched exploration of legitimate grievances and possible redresses against large government entities. Kauffman is a staunch advocate of local government and minimal federal involvement and that stance colors all he writes, but he's also intelligent and extremely funny; even people who disagree with his politics will embrace his voice, and history and political science enthusiasts will find this thought-provoking and intensely enjoyable. Kauffman may not cover all the nitty-gritty of secession (diplomacy, energy policy, and interstate highways to name a few), but readers get a strong sense that this movement isn't nearly as antiquated as our textbooks would have us believe.
"History doesn't stand still, no matter how many times you sing 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' Bill Kauffman brings an antic verve to the sobering question of America's ability to hang together as one nation. He correctly perceives that the end of one story is the beginning of a whole new one."--James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency and World Made By Hand
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Top Customer Reviews
The closing chapter on Vermont is the best, and the chapter on the South the most thought provoking. The hodge-podge section that covered a handful of secessionist movements is tantalizing in it's brevity.
You may feel like these folks are all tilting at windmills, but no empire lasts for ever. These people are laying the groundwork, if only by offering up their dreams as a framework for the future- for more human scaled world.
If you're interested in secessionist movements, particularly from a Backporch Republic/Small is Beautiful perspective, pick up this book.
This volume combines introductions to various historic and contemporary American secessionist movements, and key figures behind them, with Kauffman's own thoughts on the questions of unity and separation. Though a believer in the right -- and sometimes the desirability -- for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another (to quote Mr. Jefferson), he is far from an uncritical admirer of everything that might result. But then, that's exactly the point. As he writes in a discussion of same-sex marriage in Vermont, "devolution is the great defuser of explosive issues: Let Utah be Utah, let San Francisco be San Francisco, let Vermont be Vermont" (p. 230). Or, elsewhere, "The Hawaiian islands are almost five thousand miles from my Genesee County.Read more ›
But I found myself throughout wishing for more. I felt as if he didn't go to where I think his book would have been great instead of good. It seemed to me, reading the book, as if all these various secessionist movements had some characteristics in common. But this is never discussed explicitly. Yes, the author points out that these groups have different points of view, but I would have liked to learn what is in common between someone wanting a Texas Republic and someone thinking of the State of Jefferson have in common besides a desire for their regional characteristics and a dislike of large centralized governments.
And I also found myself asking throughout if these smaller states could exist and support themselves. It's all well and good to quote proponents of various secessionist movements that they can support themselves, but it is another matter to ask, and answer, the question of how this could work.
My final concern is one of terminology. The movements he chronicles range from people wanting totally independent countries (or even cities) to commonwealths, to new republics to only new states. And sometimes more than one of these options live in the same area. I would have liked to see some explanation of the differences and what they mean.
We are presented with history and data here, excellent stuff, but it needs to be brought together into some sort of conclusion. But perhaps that is another book.
It's an interesting idea but author Bill Kauffman is much too sympathetic to their cause. After reading a few glowing chapters on rugged patriots standing up against big government the book becomes dull and through it all I wonder why Kauffman is not willing to acknowledge the darker sides of some of these movements.
I would have liked to give this title a 4 star rating but I just had a tough time reading the author's verbose and adjective laced text at times. When introducing people central to each situation the reader is often presented with 3 or 4 adjectives before even reaching their name and then followed up by commas and clauses that made me have to re-read many sentences.
The author certainly is not shy about reveling his political slant which may turn off some readers when they see flippant comments about certain present day public figures. If you can be comfortable reading things you may not agree with in order to learn something then you will likely find the author's conversational style "down to earth". Blunt statements don't particularly bother me, even the injection of political commentary, as long as it relates to the topic. I think this title would have benefited from a editor less tolerant of the "side-banter". It would have tightened up the text and maybe given more space to explaining the often convoluted circumstances behind some of the presented movements.
Overall, its good for the obscure educational content but could have been presented in a smoother manner.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting and entertaining review of regional differences and some of the conflicts that could lead to dissolution of the United States into networks and confederations of... Read morePublished 6 months ago by C. Lee
This was not Kauffman's best work, but enjoyable nonetheless. I'm a fan of Bill Kauffman and fellow traveler as far as his sort of paleo-conservative/left-conservative/libertarian... Read morePublished on December 29, 2013 by E. Field
The term "American Empire" is commonly used by critics of U.S. global involvement and efforts to meddle in the affairs of other countries (a viewpoint I tend to share). Read morePublished on May 22, 2013 by William Henley
This book is about a wide variety of groups, with a wide variety of ideologies. Most are advocates of seceding from the U.S. Read morePublished on October 27, 2012 by Lost Gecko
Time was, Americans believed that if they didn't like how their country was being run, they could just overthrow it and start a new one, or at the very least decide they were no... Read morePublished on August 14, 2012 by Eric San Juan
The "American Empire" referred to in this title is not what contemporary polemicists, from Noam Chomsky to Ron Paul, mean when they refer to the "American Empire. Read morePublished on January 17, 2012 by Peter B. Nelson
Given the current division our nation and everyone in it is living with, it's an interesting read.
We're living in one of several states that seems to continually push the... Read more
I selected this book on a whim- I am NOT disappointed, but it proved the point of pro-South books I have been reading from the 19th & early 20th centuries!! Read morePublished on September 21, 2011 by CMW-Tzvi
I thought that Bill Kauffman's Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin (Lives of the Founders) was one of the best histories I've read in a long time. Read morePublished on July 23, 2011 by Michael Lima