Envying the Scots

Some who know me but have not followed my writings closely might be surprised that I have written in opposition to secession movements because they introduce more borders and thus introduce more differentiations between “us” and “them.” Such differentiations seem to help the ruling elite stay in power and to give them something to fight over—which they have done more or less continuously since the Neolithic. Most profoundly, borders seem to declare that people on one side of a border or the other are somehow less entitled to human rights than their counterparts, based solely on their location.[1]

I don’t really oppose secession movements. I’m an anarchist and probably the only way anarchism can work is with local people collectively making decisions in their own communities. A weakness in my dreams is that I don’t know how to scale this idea up—I am unpersuaded by the examples of anarcho-syndicalism which seem limited to workplaces—even to cities with millions of people, let alone a world with over seven billion people. Reducing the scale of societies is, in my estimation, at least a step in the right direction.

Accordingly, I was somewhat disappointed when Tim Draper’s idea to split California into six states failed to qualify for the ballot.[2] I didn’t like how he would split up the state. Geographically, his proposal might favor conservatives politically by lumping relatively compact liberal areas in with much larger conservative areas. At the very least, we would likely now have six polarized states where we now have one. In addition, E. A. Weiss, pointing to the money in one of Draper’s proposed states, Silicon Valley, argues that the plan would exacerbate economic inequality.[3] Draper mostly argued for the idea claiming that California was too big to be run well and its government runs poorly or that the state is mismanaged.[4] In doing so, he lost sight of one his original arguments, the one I found interesting, that California is severely under-represented by population in the U.S. Senate: His proposal would replace two senators with twelve who would, at least in theory, be accountable to more local and more average-sized constituencies.[5]

California might be badly run but it seems like a mean, clean machine relative to the U.S. government, which despite leftist hysterical pleadings for people to vote and rightist hysterical efforts to disenfranchise people, has long since become an oligarchy: The rich now have an outsized voice that dwarfs all others.[6] But more fundamentally, the failings of so-called U.S. democracy appear in the two-party system. Howard Zinn argues that this system confines a range of acceptable political opinion to a narrow range and limits progress.[7] Indeed, if one wants a president who will actually work for peace, or for social justice, or for the environment, neither party will offer such a candidate.  If one even wants a sense that the government works for ordinary people, the answer may be found in widening social inequality,[8] domestic spying,[9] militarized police,[10] and civil asset forfeiture.[11]

I’m not in Scotland and I don’t know anyone there, but given all this, it would be hard for me not to hope that Scots will vote yes for independence from the United Kingdom on Thursday (September 18). Writing for Foreign Policy, Emile Simpson complains that the rest of the British—Welsh, English, Northern Irish, and even Scots who no longer live in Scotland—will have no say in the outcome.[12] Advocates might well respond that Simpson and the British politicians who now hasten to tell Scots what a tragedy a break-up would be[13] should have thought of all this before decimating Scottish manufacturing,[14] appropriating Scottish North Sea oil,[15] and offering Scots a choice between “neoliberal Labour or neoliberal Tories”[16] in “a system in which all major parties are complicit, which offers no obvious exit from a model that privileges neoliberal economics over other aspirations.”[17]

I envy the Scots. With this referendum, they have some leverage. I hope they use it well.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Humans Without Borders: A Paradox,” October 15, 2013, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/2013/10/15/humans-without-borders-a-paradox/
  2. [2]Jim Miller, “Six Californias initiative fails to make 2016 ballot,” Sacramento Bee, September 12, 2014, http://www.sacbee.com/2014/09/12/6702457/six-californias-initiative-fails.html
  3. [3]E. A. Weiss, “Why creating Six Californias is 6 disasters waiting to happen,” Daily Dot, July 16, 2014, http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/six-californias-disaster-waiting-to-happen/
  4. [4]Kurtis Alexander, “Plan to split California six ways is closer to vote,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 19, 2014, http://blog.sfgate.com/stew/2014/02/19/plan-to-split-california-six-ways-is-closer-to-vote/; Carla Marinucci, “Six Californias measure heading for 2016 ballot, backers say,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 14, 2014, http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Six-Californias-backers-say-it-s-heading-for-5621377.php; Valerie Richardson, “‘Six Californias’ plan doable, could be on November ballot,” Washington Times, February 4, 2014, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/4/six-californias-plan-difficult-but-doable-assessme/
  5. [5]Gregory Ferenstein, “Tim Draper Wants To Split California Into Pieces And Turn Silicon Valley Into Its Own State,” December 19, 2013, http://techcrunch.com/2013/12/19/tim-draper-six-californias-secede-silicon-valley-ballot-initiative/
  6. [6]Noam Chomsky, “The U.S. behaves nothing like a democracy,” Salon, August 17, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/08/17/chomsky_the_u_s_behaves_nothing_like_a_democracy/; Travis Gettys, “Study: Popular movements strangled by influence of the wealthy elite in Congress,” Raw Story, April 18, 2014, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/04/18/study-popular-movements-strangled-by-influence-of-the-wealthy-elite-in-congress/; Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” Princeton University, April 9, 2014, http://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20materials/Gilens%20and%20Page/Gilens%20and%20Page%202014-Testing%20Theories%203-7-14.pdf; Brendan James, “Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy,” Talking Points Memo, April 18, 2014, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/princeton-experts-say-us-no-longer-democracy
  7. [7]Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present (New York: HarperPerennial, 2005).
  8. [8]Lee Adler, “Still 1.4 Million Fewer Full-Time Jobs Than in 2008,” Naked Capitalism, September 9, 2014, http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/09/still-1-4-million-fewer-full-time-jobs-2008.html; Adriel Bettelheim and Jay Hunter, “50 Richest Members of Congress: The Wealth Keeps Growing,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, September 13, 2013, http://www.rollcall.com/news/50_richest_members_of_congress_the_wealth_keeps_growing-227598-1.html; Henry A. Giroux, “Beyond Neoliberal Miseducation,” Truthout, March 19, 2014, http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/22548-henry-giroux-beyond-neoliberal-miseducation; Henry A. Giroux, “Neoliberalism and the Machinery of Disposability,” Truthout, April 8, 2014, http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/22958-neoliberalism-and-the-machinery-of-disposability; Henry A. Giroux, “Neoliberalism’s War on Democracy,” Truthout, April 26, 2014, http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23306-neoliberalisms-war-on-democracy; David B. Grusky, “4 Myths About Poverty,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 24, 2014, http://chronicle.com/article/4-Myths-About-Poverty/144819/; Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, “What Krugman & Stiglitz Can Tell Us,” review of End This Depression Now!, by Paul Krugman, and The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future, by Joseph E. Stiglitz, New York Review of Books, September 27, 2012, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/sep/27/what-krugman-stiglitz-can-tell-us/; Elias Isquith, “‘Bloodiest thing the world has seen’: David Cay Johnston on inequality’s looming disaster,” Salon, May 22, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/05/22/bloodiest_thing_the_world_has_seen_david_cay_johnston_on_inequalitys_looming_disaster/; Paul Krugman, “The Forgotten Millions,” New York Times, December 6, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/07/opinion/krugman-the-forgotten-millions.html; Paul Krugman, “The Excel Depression,” New York Times, April 18, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/19/opinion/krugman-the-excel-depression.html; Paul Krugman, “The Big Shrug,” New York Times, June 9, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/opinion/krugman-the-big-shrug.html; Paul Krugman, “Defining Prosperity Down,” New York Times, July 7, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/08/opinion/krugman-defining-prosperity-down.html; Paul Krugman, “Free to Be Hungry,” New York Times, September 22, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/23/opinion/krugman-free-to-be-hungry.html; Paul Krugman, “Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted,” New York Times, September 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/27/opinion/krugman-plutocrats-feeling-persecuted.html; Paul Krugman, “Rage of the Privileged,” New York Times, September 26, 2013, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/26/rage-of-the-privileged/; Paul Krugman, “Does He Pass the Test?” review of Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, by Timothy F. Geithner, New York Review of Books, July 10, 2014, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/jul/10/geithner-does-he-pass-test/; Paul Krugman, “Springtime for Bankers,” New York Times, May 18, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/19/opinion/krugman-springtime-for-bankers.html; Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, “Getting Away With It,” review of The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery, by Noam Scheiber, Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right, by Thomas Frank, and The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics, by Thomas Byrne Edsall, New York Review of Books, July 12, 2012, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jul/12/getting-away-it/; Robert Reich, “Tim Geithner and the Wall Street Bailout Redux,” May 13, 2014, http://robertreich.org/post/85654652535; Barry Ritholtz, “Economic Inequality Is Not An Accident, It Was Created,” Big Picture, July 9, 2013, http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2013/07/economic-inequality-is-not-an-accident-it-was-created/; Jim Tankersley, “As rich gain optimism, lawmakers lose economic urgency,” Washington Post, May 20, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/as-rich-gain-optimism-lawmakers-lose-economic-urgency/2013/05/20/0e4104d2-bf09-11e2-9b09-1638acc3942e_story.html; Matthew Yglesias, “Statistical Discrimination Against the Long-Term Unemployed,” Slate, April 23, 2013, http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/04/23/long_term_unemployed_face_ferocious_statistical_discrimination.html
  9. [9]David Benfell, “We are the enemy,” Not Housebroken, March 23, 2014, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=6193
  10. [10]Matt Apuzzo, “War Gear Flows to Police Departments,” New York Times, June 8, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/09/us/war-gear-flows-to-police-departments.html; Rosecrans Baldwin, “Personal Kill,” Morning News, November 18, 2013, http://www.themorningnews.org/gallery/personal-kill; Radley Balko, “‘Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book’: The new warrior cop is out of control,” Salon, July 7, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/07/07/%e2%80%9cwhy_did_you_shoot_me_i_was_reading_a_book_the_new_warrior_cop_is_out_of_control/; Andrew Becker and G. W. Schulz, “Local police stockpile high-tech, combat-ready gear,” Center for Investigative Reporting, December 21, 2011, http://cironline.org/reports/local-police-stockpile-high-tech-combat-ready-gear-2913; Daniel J. Bier, “Overkill: Militarizing America,” Freeman, September 15, 2014, http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/overkill-militarizing-america; Center for Investigative Reporting, “Military Equipment for Local Police,” June 9, 2014, http://centerforinvestigativereporting.tumblr.com/post/88311141923/m-16s-armored-vehicles-grenade-launchers-and; Democracy Now!, “From Dorner to Waco to MOVE Bombing, A Look at Growing Militarization of Domestic Policing,” February 15, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/2/15/from_dorner_to_waco_to_move; Justin Elliott, “How the feds fueled the militarization of police,” Salon, December 24, 2011, http://www.salon.com/2011/12/24/how_the_feds_fueled_the_militarization_of_police/; Henry A. Giroux, “Neoliberalism and the Machinery of Disposability,” Truthout, April 8, 2014, http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/22958-neoliberalism-and-the-machinery-of-disposability; J. David Goodman, “Lesson for the Police: Be Careful What You Tweet For,” New York Times, April 22, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/23/nyregion/new-york-police-reach-out-on-twitter-but-receive-a-slap-in-the-face.html; Jens Erik Gould, “A Sleepy Campus in Crisis: Pepper Spray at UC Davis Sparks Online Uproar, Calls for a Chancellor’s Resignation,” Time, November 21, 2011, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2099919,00.html; Matthew Harwood, “To Terrify and Occupy: How the Excessive Militarization of the Police is Turning Cops Into Counterinsurgents,” TomDispatch, August 14, 2014, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175881/tomgram%3A_matthew_harwood%2C_one_nation_under_swat/; Natasha Lennard, “Militarization creep: Texas cops get army tanks,” Salon, September 30, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/09/30/militarization_creep_texas_cops_get_army_tanks/; Dara Lind, “Why the feds are putting grenade launchers in the hands of local cops,” Vox, June 9, 2014, http://www.vox.com/2014/6/9/5793204/why-the-feds-are-putting-grenade-launchers-in-the-hands-of-local-cops; Caitlin MacNeal, “#myNYPD Backlash Spreads To Other Cities,” Talking Points Memo, April 23, 2014, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/mynypd-backlash-cities-world; Chase Madar, “The Over-Policing of America: Police Overkill Has Entered the DNA of Social Policy,” TomDispatch, December 8, 2013, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175781/tomgram%3A_chase_madar%2C_the_criminalization_of_everyday_life/; Eric Nicholson, “Dallas County Now Has Its Very Own Bulletproof, ‘Mine-Protected’ Military SUV,” Dallas Observer, September 27, 2013, http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2013/09/dallas_county_now_has_its_very.php; Aaron B. O’Connell, “The Permanent Militarization of America,” New York Times, November 4, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/05/opinion/the-permanent-militarization-of-america.html; Kyle Paoletta, “Listen up, police officers: Real life isn’t like ‘Breaking Bad’,” Salon, April 13, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/04/13/listen_up_police_officers_real_life_isnt_like_breaking_bad/; Kent Paterson, “Challenging a Militarized Police State in the U.S.,” Center for International Policy Americas Program, May 7, 2014, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/11967; William Rivers Pitt, “Weaponized Cops and the Future of Freedom,” Truthout, April 25, 2014, http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23303-weaponized-cops-and-the-future-of-freedom; Steven Rosenfeld, “How Obama Became a Civil Libertarian’s Nightmare,” Alternet, April 18, 2012, http://www.alternet.org/story/155045/how_obama_became_a_civil_libertarian%27s_nightmare; Fernanda Santos, “Justice Dept. Accuses Albuquerque Police of Excessive Force,” New York Times, April 10, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/11/us/albuquerque-police-report-justice-department.html; Bruce Schneier, review of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, by Radley Balko, Schneier on Security, August 13, 2013, http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/08/book_review_ris.html; Naomi Wolf, “The coming drone attack on America,” Guardian, December 21, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/21/coming-drone-attack-america
  11. [11]Christopher Ingraham, “You really can get pulled over for driving while black, federal statistics show,” Washington Post, September 9, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/09/09/you-really-can-get-pulled-over-for-driving-while-black-federal-statistics-show/; Robert O’Harrow, Jr., and Michael Sallah, “Police intelligence targets cash: Reports on drivers, training by firm fueled law enforcement aggressiveness,” Washington Post, September 7, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/07/police-intelligence-targets-cash/; Robert O’Harrow, Jr., and Michael Sallah, “They fought the law. Who won? Many drivers faced a long ordeal in court to try to get their money back from police,” Washington Post, September 8, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/08/they-fought-the-law-who-won/; Michael Sallah, Robert O’Harrow, Jr., and Steven Rich, “Stop and seize: Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes,” Washington Post, September 6, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/06/stop-and-seize/; Scott Sonner, “Rural Nevada county settles suits with I-80 motorists; reviewing cash seizures in stops,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, March 14, 2014, http://www.startribune.com/nation/250423111.html; Sarah Stillman, “Taken,” New Yorker, August 12, 2013, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/08/12/130812fa_fact_stillman
  12. [12]Emile Simpson, “The Moral Tragedy of Scottish Independence,” Foreign Policy, September 15, 2014, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/09/15/the_moral_tragedy_of_scottish_independence_referendum
  13. [13]Jason Cowley, “The Scottish independence surge has forced a complacent and smug elite to take notice,” New Statesman, September 8, 2014, http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/09/scottish-independence-surge-has-forced-complacent-and-smug-elite-take-notice
  14. [14]Economist, “A class act: How we got to the Scottish referendum,” September 12, 2014, http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2014/09/scottish-nationalism
  15. [15]Brett Arends, “Scottish Independence: England’s Shameful Secret,” Forbes, September 12, 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/brettarends/2014/09/12/scottish-independence-englands-shameful-secret/
  16. [16]Ronan Burtenshaw, “Scotland Is Seeking Independence From the Political Establishment,” Truthout, September 16, 2014, http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/26226-scotland-is-seeking-independence-from-the-political-establishment
  17. [17]George Monbiot, “England the Brave,” September 9, 2014, http://www.monbiot.com/2014/09/09/england-the-brave/

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