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Book Data

ISBN: 9781933392806
Year Added to Catalog: 2009
Book Format: Paperback
Dimensions: 6 x 9
Number of Pages: 320
Book Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Release Date: July 12, 2010
Web Product ID: 503

Also By This Author

Bye Bye, Miss American Empire

Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and Their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America’s Political Map

by Bill Kauffman

Reviews

 

Wordbasket - April 25, 2011

When in the Course of Human Events...

Few Americans today remember Reuben Kemper, a failed businessman and outlaw who forged our national identity.  William C. Davis, author of The Rogue Republic, would like to remedy that.  But in a way, Davis does more than that: he reminds us of why America used to be a place ordinary people could hope to make more of themselves.  When did we lose that?

Thomas Jefferson thought the Louisiana Purchase included West Florida, comprising parts of today’s Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.  So did the primarily English-speaking Americans who settled and farmed the land.  St. Augustine’s Spanish governor disagreed.  Several Presidents failed to resolve the problem.  So Reuben Kemper, like any red-blooded American boy, organized a revolution.  More remarkably, he won.  Eventually.

Naysayers might claim that the Republic of West Florida set standards of American expansionism, proxy wars, and imperialism.  But it also proclaimed that, in America, ordinary people can build a nation.  People could make names and meaning without kowtowing to authorities.  More important, a small nation with a sparse population makes room for heroes and rewards outsized personalities.

Yet we apparently outgrew men like Kemper.  Women and men of his ilk existed for a long time.  Men like Teddy Roosevelt stood for such resilience long after the country changed.  In his biography of TR’s post-presidential years, Colonel Roosevelt, Edmund Morris details how one of America’s greatest personalities kept fighting after his country thought it no longer needed him.

Roosevelt stood for chest-thumping autonomy and fortitude.  When he left the Oval Office, under national pressure to bid for a third term, he left for a year-long African safari, because he still felt he had character to prove.  But the country he left behind fell into the hands of small leaders like Taft and Knox.  The frontier closed, and the country laid new foundations that would pay of in the ignominy of World War I.

When Roosevelt got back to Oyster Bay, he found his old home couldn’t hold him anymore, and as the 1912 election proved, America preferred academics like Woodrow Wilson to Roosevelt’s highly public bravado.  So he turned outward, mapping new Amazon tributaries, in lands where small populations and incomplete maps gave titanic souls room to prove.  Sadly, this proved his ultimate undoing.

Maybe we’ve grown too big.  Maybe we’ve outgrown any place for strong, determined individuals.  Maybe a small country produces heroes, while a big nation produces meaningless midgets.  Therefore, maybe the time has come to turn America’s focus to the local and small again.  Bill Kaufmann looks at several small but growing movements in that direction in his keen, acerbic Bye Bye, Miss American Empire.

High school history claims that the Civil War closed the book on American secessionism.  Kaufmann disagrees.  Several factions today still push to split the nation; others still believe in the federal system, but want to move power to the local level.  Some seem naive, like the utopian Hawaiian independence movement.  Others seem likely—even desirable—like the State of Jefferson, which wants to hang a new West Coast star on the flag.

Remarkably, these movements emphasizing home and community produce meaning in people’s lives.  While America’s massive federal system creates vacuous TSA patdown jobs, regional movements build bridges and strengthen bonds.  Perhaps, in shifting focus from the macro- to the micro-scale, we can reclaim the meaning we enjoyed in our nation’s early days.

Were we better off in Reuben Kemper’s day, when people made their own names and knew they mattered?  Consider, Kemper was hailed as a hero, but kept fighting after his republic no longer existed.  We have more ease today, we can get more done, but our lives have descended into aimless routine.  People like TR who still try to make meaning find themselves stymied, beating fists against a sky that’s now appallingly low.

A small nation produces big citizens.  A huge nation produces midgets.  We set our sights low today because we have nothing else left.  TR knew this, and tried to fight it.  He built himself up, at great cost, and while his efforts ultimately killed him, the life he lived, while short, held meaning most of us lack.

Maybe we should throw away the map, in more ways than one.  Small nations, or a big nation that trusts communities and local people, could produce depth and meaning like we seldom see anymore.  Two hundred years ago, we lacked ease and luxury, but we had heart.  Our nation has changed; now it’s time to change it back.

Read the original review.


Hearts and Minds Books - January 31, 2011

Bye-Bye Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and their Underdog Crusade to Redraw America's Political Map  Bill Kauffman (Chelsea Green) $17.95 Well, this is going to be a hard-sell, having you honor our awarding this for anything more than the season's longest subtitle. And I'm not even sure how to explain the darn thing.  A lot of this is history, all of it shaped by author's quirky passion for localism, decentralization, and "front-porch anarchism." (Not to mention his penchant for word-play, song allusions, and overall clever wittiness.  His friend James Howard Kunstler says he writes with an "antic verve" which puts it mildly.)  I've said before that I will read anything this guy writes, and find his crotchety, wacky, long-winded sentences to thrill my mind and fill my heart.  That is, he is on to something, giving voice to a third way that is so far left, it is right (or so far right, it is left.)  Or, better, he's something then again, not concerning himself with being left or right. He seems even beyond communitarianism or libertarianism to a small-is-beautiful patriotic pacifism.  Remember the 18th-century debate between the Federalists and the Jeffersonians?  Bigger centralized government vs smaller local folk?  Kauffman is way (way) on the side of the little guys.  An earlier book of his which I couldn't put down carried the torch of some outspoken prophets of the colonial era ---especially one from Maryland named Luther Martin---who were against the ratification of the Constitution; they were in favor of the Articles of the Confederation, not wanting to give the Feds too much power.  Tell that to the Christian right these days that some early founders opposed the Constitution!  I Samuel 8 isn't my favorite verse in the Bible for determining wise statecraft, but Kauffman gets it, and without the lingo of subsidiarity (Roman Catholic) or sphere sovereignty (Kuyperian/Calvinist) he sees to invoke the spirit of Wendell Berry and Dorothy Day and the aforementioned Thomas Jefferson and  Luther Martin and wants everybody to do as they please in their own backyard, free from the colonization of unneighborly Empires.  

This, then, leads him to the topic of this can't-put-down travelogue through the most fascinating counter-culture I've found in a long time.  He's reporting on his journeys to the various conventions, movements and efforts of those who want to secede from the Union.  I'm telling you, this is one rock-n-roll road trip and he reports, argues with, argues for, and tells us about the history of folk who don't want to be homogenized by Uncle Sam and Wal-Mart.  The story of secession---from populists in West Kansas to the indigenous Lakota people---is much more interesting (and reasonable and plausible) than the scowling history books and mainstream media wants us to believe.  Kauffman is our man to make it plain.  And, as one reviewer said, make it "intensely enjoyable." And Bye-Bye was certainly that for me.

From those wanting independence for Hawaii to those who think that New York or California ought to each break into two states, from the neo-Confederates (some who are black, by the way) of the deep south to the freedom lovers of crunchy Vermont, from the First Nations peoples of the contiguous states to the Alaskan Inuits, each group makes a strong case for being left alone and argues the justice of their call for freedom.  Why should Washington DC determine laws for people in the Middle of the Pacific?  Why, for that matter, should people in Manhattan care one whit what local zoning rules are in, say, Kauffman's beloved small home-town of Batavia NY?  (He tells the story of his leaving big-time Beltway politics and returning home to fight Wal-Mart and coach a Little League team in the endearing Muckdog Gazette.)  It will be hard to take, but Abe Lincoln is not a hero in this telling of the tale, and although Kauffman is a sentimental patriot (he'd rather sew another star on the flag than take one off) he thinks people, especially those bound by local traditions, faiths, and cultures, have the right of self-determination.  Cheers for Tunisian independence?  How about Texas?  What is sacred about the Union, except the mythology of the importance of Lincoln keeping us together?  This is one heckuva book, rollicking, wild, funny, and very, very informative, about people, beliefs and movements I have rarely considered.  It deserves a couple of awards, but I don't know in quite what.  Trouble-making? Iconoclasm? Common sense? Crazy-long sentences? A cool title?  Yep.  All that and more.  He's a great writer, and amazingly aware historian, and a deep down good, good guy.

Read the original review.


Breaking Up Isn’t Hard to Do

The American Conservative - January, 2011

By Thomas DePietro

Most conservatives want big government in all its bureaucratic remoteness to be shrunk. But few entertain the obvious solution: reduce the number of citizens and the dimension of the places governed. Ridiculously simple? Hopelessly utopian? Bill Kauffman doesn’t think so. And this, his latest work of spirited social criticism, brings to bear all his talents—his historical smarts, his journalistic acumen, his muscular prose—upon his bracing argument for a perennial idea: secession. Let’s break up gigantic states, he says, and let some simply leave the Union. It’s a notion as old as the country itself and as fresh as the recent champions of the Second Vermont Republic, independent New Englanders who hope to bring government back to human scale.

Read the original review.


Rebellion Blog - December 17, 2010

How do we escape from a corrupt, overbearing, and wasteful central bureaucracy, while repudiating the welfare-warfare state headquartered in the District of Columbia? By downsizing! In the 21st century, we are finally recognizing that small is indeed beautiful, and the gargantuan is the enemy of peace and freedom. Self-described anti-Imperialist author Bill Kauffman introduces the various secessionist organizations throughout the DC Empire. While he gives the League of the South a few undeserved pokes in the eye, he consistently argues that the overgrown USA needs whittling down.

Kauffman argues that the sheer size of the American Empire makes it do imperial things, like invading other countries willy nilly. Thanks to its overreaching, the American Empire is dying, says Kauffman, describing how those rising up to topple that empire are a surprising mix of conservatives, liberals, regionalists, and independents who — from movement to movement — may share few political beliefs but who have one thing in common: a sense that our nation has grown too large, and too powerfully centralized, to stay true to its founding principles.


The trend is accelerating. Know hope.

Read the original review here.

 


 

 

BOOK REVIEW: 'Bye Bye, Miss American Empire'
Lively Account of Past and Present Attempts to Fashion a Kindlier, Gentler 'Little America' from Gigantic Nation
 
Reviewed By David M. Kinchen

Huntington News - December 17, 2010
 
One Hundred and fifty years ago this Monday, Dec. 20, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. Its northern neighbor, North Carolina, was the last Southern state to leave the Union, on May 20, 1861. Like western Virginia -- later the state of West Virginia -- the North Carolina mountains were Unionist territory. True fact: despite strong Unionist sympathies, the Tarheel State contributed more soldiers to the Confederacy than any other state.
 
In his quirky, entertaining and very readable "Bye Bye, Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and Their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America's Political Map" (Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT, 336 pages, $17.95) self-described little American anti-Imperialist author Bill Kauffman traces the historical roots of the secessionist spirit and introduces us to the often radical, sometimes quixotic, and highly charged movements that want to decentralize and re-localize power.
 
During the eight long years of the George W. Bush administration, he says, frustrated liberals talked secession back to within hailing distance of the margins of national debate, a place it had not occupied since 1861. Now, secessionist voices on the left and right and everywhere in between are amplifying. Kauffman: “The noise is the sweet hum of revolution, of subjects learning how to be citizens, of people shaking off . . . their Wall Street and Pentagon overlords and taking charge of their lives once more.” It’s been almost a century and a half since a critical mass of Americans believed that secession was an American birthright. But breakaway movements large and small are rising up across the nation. From Vermont to Alaska to Puerto Rico to Hawaii activists driven by all manner of motives want to form new states — and even new nations.

Read the entire review at Huntington News.net.

 


 

 

'Bye, Bye, Miss American Empire'

AnarchoRob Blog - December 9, 2010

Just in time for Christmas, Bill Kauffman --author of Aint My America: The Long, Noble History of Anti-War Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism and countless articles-- has a new book out. The title alone makes one stroke his chin and nod his head: Bye Bye, Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and Their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America’s Political Map.

Kauffman is a writer who, like many who tell the truth and reject the American welfare-warfare state, is incredibly under-appreciated. He is witty, articulate, funny, piercing, and is always shooting arrows at statist and corporatist targets. I don't always agree with him, but he represents a conservatism of the Old Right tradition, of localism, decentralized government, and a fondness for the "little platoons" of society; small is beautiful. It is a shame that libertarianish conservatives like him have been replaced by the David Frums and Sean Hannitys, who love the state as long as it's in Republican hands.

I'm looking forward to reading it. Eventually, at least, since my tax-slave budget requires a lot of frugality. And after reading the Front Porch Republic's review of the book, I think I can already recommend it. Here's a snippet:

This is a book about secession.  A little of the past, a lot of the present, a dash of hoped-for future.  If nullification—the topic of Tom Woods’ new book—is a tough sell to the realistic-minded, secession is much more so.  To his credit, Bill admits this: “Yeah, sure, I know: Breaking away is impossible.  Quixotic.  Hopeless.  So was dancing on the Berlin Wall.”  He’s got a point.  No one saw that one coming.  But one near-impossibility becoming reality is not necessarily the harbinger of another occurrence.

Still, the unsustainability of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may bode ill for our own imperial union.  As Bill puts it, “You can’t bloat a modest republic into a crapulent empire without sparking one hell of a centrifugal reaction.”  Yes, but don’t underestimate the power of bread and circuses.  The Roman Empire lasted for 500 years.  Perhaps the Kremlin paid too little attention to buying off the poor and entertaining the masses.  In America, we have welfare for everyone—poor, middling, and wealthy.  Financial dependence, and its attendant co-optation, is an equal opportunity federal project.  Hollywood and Madison Avenue numb what can’t be bought.

So I don’t know about the prospects of secession.  When decentralists begin to fill arenas and stadiums instead of hotel conference rooms and public library meeting rooms, then we will know that something major is afoot.  One of the things I like about Bill Kauffman is his indefatigability in the face of stiff odds.  He exudes a cheery optimism in regard to lost causes—which seem to be most of his causes.  He, veteran of the Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader campaigns.  The lover of small towns, obscure statesmen, and intellectual railway stations long abandoned by the mighty train of Progress.

Read the original review here.

 


 

 

On the Porch with Bye, Bye, Miss American Empire

Posted By Jeff Taylor On December 9, 2010

Two porchers discuss Bill Kauffman’s latest book.

—-

by Jeff Taylor

The subtitle of Bill Kauffman’s new book doesn’t reach Rod Dreheresque levels of mouthfulness but it comes close.  The themes implied by the words ought to warm the hearts of Front Porchers.  For good reason.  As always with Bill’s writings, Bye Bye, Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and Their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America’s Political Map is an excellent read.

This is a book about secession.  A little of the past, a lot of the present, a dash of hoped-for future.  If nullification—the topic of Tom Woods’ new book—is a tough sell to the realistic-minded, secession is much more so.  To his credit, Bill admits this: “Yeah, sure, I know: Breaking away is impossible.  Quixotic.  Hopeless.  So was dancing on the Berlin Wall.”  He’s got a point.  No one saw that one coming.  But one near-impossibility becoming reality is not necessarily the harbinger of another occurrence.

Still, the unsustainability of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may bode ill for our own imperial union.  As Bill puts it, “You can’t bloat a modest republic into a crapulent empire without sparking one hell of a centrifugal reaction.”  Yes, but don’t underestimate the power of bread and circuses.  The Roman Empire lasted for 500 years.  Perhaps the Kremlin paid too little attention to buying off the poor and entertaining the masses.  In America, we have welfare for everyone—poor, middling, and wealthy.  Financial dependence, and its attendant co-optation, is an equal opportunity federal project.  Hollywood and Madison Avenue numb what can’t be bought.

So I don’t know about the prospects of secession.  When decentralists begin to fill arenas and stadiums instead of hotel conference rooms and public library meeting rooms, then we will know that something major is afoot.  One of the things I like about Bill Kauffman is his indefatigability in the face of stiff odds.  He exudes a cheery optimism in regard to lost causes—which seem to be most of his causes.  He, veteran of the Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader campaigns.  The lover of small towns, obscure statesmen, and intellectual railway stations long abandoned by the mighty train of Progress.

From the perspective of political science and history, I am interested in the subject of secession, especially as related to the CSA and to the USA’s imperial acquisitions three decades later.  As a Midwestern transplant to the Heart of Dixie, I find Bill’s chapter on the League of the South particularly fascinating.

I want to praise Bill as a writer.  He’s a master stylist.  He brings encyclopedic knowledge to each of his books.  The breadth is often astonishing.  It’s not just the unfamiliar, presumably antiquarian, words.  (“This was once an active member of the English language?!”)  It’s the pop culture allusions, the arcane biographical details, the rich political history.  Coupled with an understanding of context.  How things fit together.  You also get a foundation of wisdom.  The eternal and the temporal matters that really matter.  Love.  Justice.  Peace.  Place.  Liberty.  Family. Community.

It’s all wrapped up in a style that is fluid.  Never labored.  You don’t sense a thesaurus at work for the sake of being clever.  There’s wit.  There’s a little vulgarity in the service of righteous indignation.  There’s good humor even when dealing with enemies.  Individuals who come in for strong, well-deserved, excoriation are not dehumanized.  You don’t sense hatred or bitterness.  He has a bold yet good-natured stance, even weaving his own life experiences into the narrative.

It’s refreshing.  Some of my favorite subjects, examined from a good perspective, with panache.  I could see someone enjoying a Kauffman book even if he or she has little initial interest in the subject.  It pulls the reader in.  I suppose some may find his frequent asides and parenthetical detours annoying, but I don’t.  It’s the way the human mind, and human heart, tend to work.  In the age of hyperlinks, such moving from one subject to a related one is a familiar activity.  As a political essayist, Bill Kauffman ranks right up there with Dwight Macdonald and Gore Vidal.  I can see why Vidal is an admirer.

The subtitle of an earlier Kauffman book—Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists—inspired the name of our website, albeit in diluted form.  Over at the left-wing CounterPunch site, Christopher Ketcham has recently given us a fine overview [2] of efforts by liberal secessionists in Vermont.  He even mentions the publisher of Bill’s book: Chelsea Green Publishing of White River Junction, Vermont.  Of course, it takes more than a relative handful of thoughtful activists on the Right and the Left to make a majority, or even a sizeable enough minority to effect political change . . . especially of a dramatic nature.  That’s the challenge for those of us who believe in grassroots democracy, political decentralization, and community-based economics.

****************************************

by Katherine Dalton

Bill has been called (to his eternal delight) “the Sage of Batavia,” but really that’s too formal a title for a man who likes to be photographed holding a can of Genessee.  I prefer to think of him as a much-needed dumpster-diver of American history.  He is particularly willing to dig for those forgotten or thrown-away arguers for political liberty and limits, to his great credit.

As the book’s reason for being is to present the arguments for secession and dissolution, we hear from those who didn’t want to add states beyond the lower 48, who resisted the fiscally advantageous but politically impotent no-man’s-land of territorial status for Puerto Rico, and who grieved at the calls for secession in the 1840s and 50s but preferred divorce to invasion and pillage.  Like a sand castle in the midst of the Bay of Fundy, their causes were flattened by the strong tide of “progess,” business opportunity and empire.  But if the champions of these lost causes left no victories, they left a record, and Bill has done his best to remind us of it.

Bill profiles recent secessionist movements as well, small and oft-berated as they are.  Jeff raises the question—and he will not be alone—that given the unlikelihood of any secession movement getting anywhere even in the polls, even in Vermont, why write about it?  Why would Bill spend his limited time researching the topic, or why should we read about it?  One must read to see; the book makes a strong case for the necessity of its subject.  It is important to remember how undemocratically Hawaii and Alaska entered the union.  Or how recently it was a jailable offense to fly the Puerto Rican flag in Puerto Rico.  Or how many of the political arguments used against the South in the early and middle 19th century have justified expansionism and empire in the century and a half since.

While Bill is a rabid fissionist (he’d take two New Yorks in a heartbeat) he is not a willing secessionist, other than being happy to release the noncontinguous states 49 and 50.  Like his relatives who fought on the winning side of the Civil War, Bill is a Unionist at heart, and forgetting that no state has a pristine record on racial matters, he cannot mention a Southern state or Southern man without reminding the reader of what is unforgiveable in our past.  Every single time.

Still, Bill quotes the best arguers for Southern secession living and dead, and many of his best quotes on the right functions of statehood and the risks of empire come from Southerners.  And that should be no surprise, because nullification and secession are the necessary outs in our political system for any state that finds the federal government all too willing to meddle and control what that state deems to be its own essential business and welfare.  The fact that such arguments have been used to defend policies some of us greatly dislike does not make the arguments less justifiable.  Without nullificiation and secession, federalism has no teeth.  I’ve argued that before, and I’m glad to read a book that gives me occasion to argue it again.

Finally, I have to mention Bill’s love for a ten-dollar word.  He didn’t ask me for a quote for his dustjacket, but if he had, here’s what I would have written:

“Out of the Cimmerian political fog in which we live, rising like an eidolon rived from the center of the gelid dark, this paen to the fissiparous sounds a tocsin of old, and contumaciously tossing aside the cerecloth of our not-dead-but-sleeping Republic, it disdains the mingy orts and crusts tossed to quiet us by the yeggs who offer us nothing but a Connecticut nutmeg in exchange for the auric freedoms our forefathers bequeathed us in this our virid and pleasant land–our United States (takes a plural).”

I value a writer who makes me read with a dictionary.  Godspeed the man with a memory.

****************************************

postscript by Jeff Taylor

In reading Kate’s fine contribution, I see that I may have left the impression that secession is not worth writing about because it’s unlikely.  That wasn’t my intent.  To quote Jefferson Smith, in one of my favorite movies, lost causes are “the only causes worth fighting for.”  Theologically, we know this isn’t completely true because the Kingdom of God will eventually triumph once and for all.  But, in the present age, noble causes are often on the losing side.  There’s no waste in writing, thinking, and acting on good principle, in fair weather or foul.  Bill Kauffman knows this, and this is why he likes underdog crusades.

Read the original review at Front Porch Republic.

 


Vermont Commons

Review by Ron Miller

November 5, 2010

The conventional story of American democracy celebrates the “empire of liberty” (to use Jefferson’s own phrase) that spread democratic ideals across a continent and beyond. Each new star added to the flag and each war fought to save the Union or its ideals generally are considered to be necessary steps in a historical march toward freedom. Yet, throughout American history and increasingly in the current political climate, a dissident minority has challenged the assumption that an empire can promote liberty or democracy. These critics of expansionism argue that whenever the mechanisms of governance become too far removed from the distinctive concerns and cultures of local and regional communities, the tendency – always – is toward the centralization and concentration of power at the expense of genuine, participatory democracy.
    
In Bye Bye Miss American Empire, Bill Kauffman illuminates this neglected thread of American history. He asserts that “We are a nation born in secession, consecrated to the right of a free people to rule themselves, and our inherited radicalism has never quite been extinguished.” He shows that in the early years of the republic, citizens and political leaders, especially in New England, had second thoughts about the political consolidation of the states as they saw sectional rivalry develop between North and South, and westward expansion accelerate. Before the Civil War linked secession, in the national mind, to the violent defense of slavery, it was northern abolitionists who insisted that the Union be sundered so that free states would not be obligated to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law. Many argued that turning the North into a refuge for escaped slaves would hasten the demise of the anachronistic institution. Kauffman resurrects these long-forgotten voices and muses that the “general and peaceful abolition” they envisioned would have been preferable to the wholesale slaughter of the Civil War.

Read the whole review here...


The Western Confucian

Sunday, September 26, 2010

By Joshua Snyder

I had my doubts whether fellow Western New Yorker Bill Kauffman could pull it off with his latest — Bye Bye, Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America's Political Map. The topic, I thought, might be too narrow compared to the previous works of his I'd read. I was wrong. This is perhaps his best book to date.

In it, we are introduced to everyone from the folks behind the Hartford Convention "during the War of 1812 in which New England's opposition to the war reached the point where secession from the United States was discussed" to the contemporary Second Vermont Republic movement. We meet the restless natives trying to restore the Kingdom of Hawaii and the culturally conservative Catholics like Pedro Albizu Campos at the founding of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, not to mention those who've attempted to liberate West Kansas from Topeka, Upstate New York from Downstate (and vice versa), and Brooklyn from New York City.

As in all of Mr. Kauffman's books, countered is the dictum that "might makes right." The losers in political debates of the past, those relegated to the footnotes of history, deserve a hearing, and often they make more sense than the winners. (Why is California one state not three?) Also, we learn our history with belly laughs; about mutual hero Grover Cleveland he interjects: "Just another three-hundred-pound lardass from Buffalo sitting on a barstool and cursing the Bills? I don't think so."

I'm happy to have added this great book to my Kauffman library.

Read the original article here.

 


 

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bye Bye, Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and Their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America's Political Map

Bill Kauffman, Chelsea Green, $17.95 paper (320p) ISBN 9781933392806
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. (Aug.)

 


 

Booklist Review
By Gilbert Taylor

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.— Gilbert Taylor

Read the original review here...

 


Utne Reader
September-October 2010

By Elizabeth Ryan

The New Secessionists

The secessionist spirit is alive and well, migrating beyond southern borders to permeate Alaska, Hawaii, and Vermont. Bill Kauffman tours anti-imperialist hotbeds from New England to Kansas, and although his hopeful cheerleading is sometimes exhausting, perhaps it's time for us to become attuned to the momentum of these radical movements, for he has a point: "You can't bloat a modest republic into a crapulent empire without sparking one hell of a centrifugal reaction."



20prospect.wordpress.com

August 4, 2010

I’ve been reading “Bye, Bye, Miss American Empire” by Bill Kauffman the noted writer from Batavia North Elba, N.Y. (Like Napoleon, the good citizens of B-town exiled him there). I’m not usually inclined toward political books, but I do have a soft spot for front porch localism and human scaled economics, so this pitch hits right in the sweet spot of the bat. If you aren’t interested in picking through the whole book, here’s an link to a excerpt he published in Orion Magazine back in 2007.

Kauffman is his usual loquacious, cantankerous self, and never fails to amuse me. But I have always had a soft spot for eccentrics, and folks that are not quite cut from your standard run of the mill cloth. I’m not sure why but I have always shopped for friends on the the factory defect rack. I find the misfits, and outcasts to be far more interesting people, even if I am about as boring as a white oxford shirt myself. Of course if you are one of those friends and you are reading this, rest assured I am not referring to you. It’s all of my other batsh!t crazy friends that I am talking about.

As politics go, I have a bad tendency to tune out to the debate. It’s the cynical X-er in me, but I can’t stand to listen to the folks on Fox News, or the N.Y. Times editorial page tell me what to think. Listening to them just makes me frustrated and angry. The fact is that I get enough politics at work. Not that Corporate America has a monopoly on interoffice politics. Just ask anyone that has ever gotten involved at their Parish, or local PTA. One of the more fascinating parts of becoming an adjunct teacher is seeing the interpersonal power struggles that rage inside of academia. No, to be human is to be political. We just pick and choose the places where we choose to play the game. I save my politicking for my Dark Corporate Overlords. All the better to subvert their nefarious plans for world domination. (Insert evil laugh here)

And speaking of said Dark Corporate Overlords, I will be flying back to Eastern PA / New Jersey for a few days to do their bidding and satisfy my craving for a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee and a Boston Crème donut. Hopefully, more of the latter than the former. When I return we will begin loading up the family truckster for our sojourn to the Northwoods. This year my daydreams of quitting corporate America and moving to the woods have started before the trip has even begun. Not a good sign. Mrs. 20 P may need to tranquilize me to get me back in the car when it’s time to come home.

Read the whole article here...


Kauffman's latest explores secession movement

Daily News Online
July 24, 2010

Bill Kauffman is at it again.

"The American Empire is dead," writes the Elba author, whom Gore Vidal describes as "a romantic reactionary." 

In Kauffman's latest book, "Bye Bye Miss American Empire" (Chelsea Green Publishing), he traces the historical roots of the seccessionist spirit and introduces readers to the modern-day radical and highly-charged movements that want to decentralize and re-localize power.

"The book really developed out of my long-time interest in the politics of New York State, and specifically in the prospect of dividing it into two states: New York City and the rest of us," says Kauffman, the author of 10 previous books ranging from local history to politics.

An essay published by Orion, an environmental magazine, also led to the book. The essay, which shares the title of the book, sprung out of a conference in Burlington, Vt., that brought together people from Alaska, Hawaii, Texas and elsewhere to talk about their states actually breaking off from the Union and setting up independent countries.

"That piece got a lot of attention," Kauffman says. "It was great fun to write, since these folks tend to be VERY colorful."

Kauffman will discuss the book during a reading/celebration scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Lift Bridge Book Shop, 45 Main St., Brockport. The event is free; copies of the book are expected to be available. For more information, call (585) 637-2260, or go to www.liftbridgebooks.com

Read the whole article here...


Go Buy Bye Bye

Front Porch Republic
28 July 2010
Jeremy Beer

Reader alert: FPR editor Bill Kauffman’s latest is now available. Titled Bye Bye, Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and Their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America’s Political Map, it is vintage Kauffman. It also sports a splendid cover and carries a blurb from James Howard Kunstler. My blurb, had I been asked, would have been, “This is the book that will finally land Kauffman on the No-Fly List!” And with that, let me be the first to say hello to all the good folks at Homeland Security and the FBI who may be reading this. Glad to have you aboard.

In case the title isn’t sufficiently descriptive for you, the book is about America’s many secession movements — including movements to separate parts of states from other states, and movements to separate certain states from the Union. The individual portraits, the history lessons, the vocabulary enrichment — so many reasons to pick up the book. And you may be surprised at where Bill’s sympathies do and do not lie. In any case, the efforts he discusses are certainly worth trying to understand. They are full of people — honest-to-God patriots — worth taking seriously, and they make arguments worth considering.

We’ll have more coverage here at FPR as time marches on, including, I hope, an excerpt.

Read the whole article here...


 


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