BD: What is the primary objective of the movement?
TN: Independence. To extricate Vermont peacefully, legally, and democratically from the United States as soon as possible and create an independent nation-state based on the Swiss model.
BD: Does that mean secession?
BD: Why does Vermont want to secede?
TN: First, the United States suffers from imperial overstretch and has become unsustainable politically, economically, agriculturally, socially, culturally, and environmentally. Second, Vermont finds it increasingly difficult to protect itself from the debilitating effects of big business, big agriculture, big markets, and big government, who want all of us to be the same-just like they are. Third, the U.S. Government has lost its moral authority because it is owned, operated, and controlled by corporate America. Fourth, American foreign policy, which is based on the doctrine of full-spectrum dominance, is immoral, illegal, unconstitutional, and in violation of the United Nations charter. Fifth, as long as Vermont remains in the Union, its citizens face curtailed civil liberties, the risk of terrorist attack, and the risk of military conscription of its youth.
BD: But isn’t secession unconstitutional?
TN: No. "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government," said Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. Just as a group has a right to form, so too does it have a right to disband, to subdivide itself, or withdraw from a larger unit.
The U.S. Constitution does not forbid secession. According to the tenth amendment, that which is not expressly prohibited by the Constitution is allowed. All states have a Constitutional right to secede.
BD: To which other principles does the Second Vermont Republic subscribe?
TN: Direct democracy, Swiss federalism, sustainability, economic solidarity, quality education, humane health care, nonviolence, political neutrality, and international solidarity with its neighbors New Hampshire, Maine, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces of Canada. Notwithstanding its policy of neutrality, the Second Vermont Republic does not rule out some form of political alliance with the aforementioned states and provinces.
BD: Does the Second Vermont Republic want to take over the government of Vermont?
TN: Absolutely not. The people of the independent Republic of Vermont will decide how it is governed. Unlike the Free State Project in New Hampshire, our aim is not to take over the government. For that reason, the Second Vermont Republic takes no official position on such controversial issues as abortion, gay marriage, school prayer, and legalizing marijuana. These are issues for the citizens of the independent republic to decide.
BD: Could Vermont survive economically as an independent nation-state?
TN: Unquestionably. Of the 200 or so independent nation-states in the world, 50 of them have a smaller population than Vermont’s 620,000. Five of the ten richest countries in the world as measured by per capita income are smaller than Vermont: Liechtenstein, Iceland, Luxembourg, Bermuda, and Cayman Islands. Independence does not mean economic or political isolation. Over 600 Vermont firms export nearly 24 percent of the state’s gross state product. We see no reason why this should change after independence.
BD: Is Vermont independence politically feasible?
TN: Yes. Ultimately whether or not Vermont achieves political independence is a question of political will. Is the will of the people of Vermont for independence strong enough to overcome the will of the U.S. Government to prevent them from achieving their goal?
In 1989 six Eastern European allies of the Soviet Union unseated their respective Communist governments and seceded from the Soviet sphere of influence. With the bloody exception of Romania, this all took place nonviolently.
The Second Vermont Republic has been particularly influenced by the solidarity movement in Poland, and Czech leader Vaclav Havel’s concept of the "power of the powerless."
BD: What are the necessary steps?
TN: The Vermont Legislature must be persuaded to authorize a convention of the people to vote on rescinding the petition for statehood approved by the Vermont Assembly in January 1791 and ratified on March 4, 1791. To be credible, the vote should pass by at least a two-thirds majority. Articles of Secession should then be submitted to the U.S. President, Secretary of State, President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House. Diplomatic recognition should be sought from Canada, Quebec, Mexico, England, France, and the United Nations. And then the moment of truth-Vermont would start behaving like an independent nation-state.
BD: How can one learn more about secession and the Vermont independence movement?
TN: See John Remington Graham’s book A Constitutional History of Secession and Thomas Naylor’s The Vermont Manifesto. For more information, visit the websites of the Second Vermont Republic at www.vermontrepublic.org and Vermont Commons at www.vtcommons.org.
BD: What if the Vermont independence movement fails?
TN: Vermont still provides a communitarian alternative to the dehumanized mass production, mass consumption, narcissistic lifestyle that pervades most of the United States. Vermont is smaller, more rural, more democratic, less violent, less commercial, more egalitarian, and more independent than most states. It offers itself as a kinder, gentler metaphor for a nation obsessed with money, power, size, speed, greed, and fear of terrorism.
Order a 30 minute DVD film called "Independence Trilogy",featuring Vermonters talking about independence.
Benjamin Dangl is the editor of www.towardfreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events.