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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

3.7 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. END

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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.



Publishers Weekly-

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (July 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933392800
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933392806
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #814,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason A. Gagnon on July 26, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a journey through the quirkier quarters of the contemporary American political landscape - well, the American landscape that isn't too enamored with being America anymore.

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.
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In one sense, "Bye, Bye, Miss American Empire" is a book for and about people for whom the main problem with Tom Woods' great Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century is that it doesn't go far enough. And yet, while objection to, and reaction against, Leviathan is a fundamental part of this book and a key motivator for many of the people and movements it profiles, there's something still deeper going on here too. That, as anyone familiar with Bill Kauffman's work could tell you, is a powerful love of the small, the immediate, the local. That, ultimately, makes this book not so much an argument *against* empire (although it's certainly that) as it is an argument *for* political communities on a human scale.

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.
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I have say that while I expected something different from this book, I liked the author's wonderful rhetorical style and appreciated the care and sympathy with which he described secessionist movements and the history. I liked that he included things from the recent past and that, while he is clear about his own beliefs and political leanings, he gives a fair portrait of people and movements where he is less sympathetic.

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.
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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!! The author, being from the North (New York- state, not city) has imbibed of the anti-South prejudice spread since 1796 by the leaders of New England (read Massachusetts) which prepared the rest of the country for the WAR ON THE SOUTH they hoped to (& ultimately did) create.

Most of the separation movements of note, Southern, Hawai'ian, Vermont, NYC, Texan, Yooper, Puerto Rican, Lakotan, Oregonian, Alaskan, & the various Californian groups are covered in this book. It is not a small humorous book, but generally a serious tome of 240 pages of text (expanded to 271 with footnotes, 285 with index).

My only problem with the book is the subtle anti-Southern tone tinged with New-England superiority that creeps in when discussing the League of the South & the Southern National Congress, implying a lingering responsibility for any racism is the fault of the South & the South alone (ignoring the fact- as shown in the book COMPLICITY- that it was NEW ENGLAND & NEW YORK who supplied the ships & sailors of the American slave trade, and that the entire economy of that area was DEPENDENT upon that trade. Why do you think they insisted on allowing the slave trade until 1808 instead of 1800? Also don't forget that they continued the trade- ILLEGALLY- until the eve of the war on the South).

As you can probably tell, I consider myself a Confederate. I have seen the websites of the League of the South & the Southern National Congress, but have not joined either of those organizations.
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