I’ve spent most of the morning reading sections of Leopold Kohr’s book, The Breakdown of Nations (1957). I’m trying to see into his work the prospect for local economy and free market in Chattanooga, Tenn., my hometown in which I have lived most of my life as writer and journalist.
By David Tulis / Hot News Talk Radio AM 1240 FM 101.1
Activists this week in California are bringing attention to their desire for secession, angered at the election of Donald Trump, second in the U.S. as a polarizing figure only to Hillary Clinton. The election of Abraham Lincoln spurred secession votes across the South. A peaceful devolution, however, may not be as near as activists might wish.
My speculations about national breakup (or breakdown) hinge on several points in which Kohr specializes, primarily the success of small nations vs. the warlikeness, aggression and expansion of big nations and empires such as the United States.
Kohr favors a multitude of city-states or confederations of tiny nations or states. Is there a prospect of Chattanooga or Hamilton County or a portion of Southeast Tennessee, perhaps, in league with other nearby regions outside the state, forming a commercial and economic alliance as the Washington’s interest in the city and its people fades?
In a way, the concept of trans-state governments drives the Thrive 2055 program which envisions an economic and administrative union among 16 counties in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. The effort by area elites disregards geographical boundaries with the same ease of the U.S. government. Thrive 2055 has its origins in a desire to more efficiently draw free money from Washington. If they organize regionally, supplicant administrators present a more coherent body through which cash and control from Washington can be administered. http://thrive2055.com/
But Thrive 2055 looks backward to the world of block grants, HUD rules and social engineering from Washington. It’s just another bureaucratic layer to make more efficient a coagulating process of obtaining free money from its source in the federal district.
But regional independence arising from what Gary North calls “the great default” looks forward. As the U.S.’s cartelized economy and deep state become more brittle, the geopolitical forces of decentralization may be unleashed. Ahead lies a financial trainwreck for Washington, with Among these is the increasing brittleness and financial wreck that is the national government come up with F$19.7 trillion owed to bondholders and obligations running perhaps past $200 trillion. Increasingly, Americans have come to loathe the U.S. government, its congress and presidents, explaining the election victory of outsider Trump.
In thinking about the future of Chattanooga, I have been reading Robert D. Kaplan, author of 16 travel books and political commentaries. Right now I’m in the middle of The Ends of the Earth; a Journey at the dawn of the 21st Century (1996).
In discussing the decrepitude of nation states in Africa and the Middle East, Kaplan outlines the societal forces at play that rise from the connection of geography, population growth and culture.
I also have in mind the commentaries of agrarians who are sympathetic with the South’s effort to find Independence from the northern states in 1861. Further assuring myself of the decline of the United States and the very weak claims of Tennessee government upon the hearts of the people, I have the important book by Martin Van Creveld, The Rise and Decline of the State, (1999).
In this breakdown of nations, Kohr says small nations are more prosperous, more peaceful and more creative. He says in a small form a nation can work whether it is socialistic, monarchical, democratic or anarchistic. If size controls, its form of government limits damage it can do to its own people and people of neighboring lands. A small nation is flexible, mobile, accountable than a big, he says.
Large nations he says are prone to the necessity of expansion and the accretion of greater power to help maintain the power that earlier expansions obtained. Large nations are warlike and rely on increasing use of force to obtain policy goals. They tend to be hostile to their own people, at war with their own people, points asserted in detail by Martin Van Creveld in describing their appearance as early as the 1650s. See The Rise and Decline of the State, 1999.
Kohr says that as political entities and groups aggregate power and real estate, they become oppressors. Changing ideology or people in office don’t prevent that oppression. What prevents oppression and allows for prosperity and liberty is a return to the small, Kohr says. He says foreign wars allow for increased power concentrations at home. War is a collectivizing process and large-scale collectivism is inherently warlike, he says, quoting Professor Henry C. Simons.
If not militarist by national tradition, highly centralized states must become so by the very necessity of sustaining at home and inordinate, “unnatural” power concentration, by the threat of their governmental mobilisation is felt by other nations, and by their almost inevitable transformation of commercial intercourse into organized economic Warfare among great economic-political blocs. There can be no real peace or solid world order in a world of a few great, centralized powers.
Kaplan in discussing Iran offers a telling sentence.
“The toppling of the Shah, like the downfall of Communism in the Soviet Union, is an example of how when states become too rigid over too great a land mass, they crack open at the seams.”
Rigid states collapse, and will “bring varying degrees of chaos, or perhaps newer more ingenious forms of authoritarianism,” Kaplan says. “Larger populations and intense competition for jobs and other opportunities may make the possibility of stable democracies problematic in lands where they have never existed.”
Chattanooga is part of a state incorporated in 1796 as the 16th member of the Washington, D.C.-led union. For it to find independence from the national government or even from the state, it will have to be severely buffeted and its people severely tried by disaster and ruin, their hopes in rescue and organization dashed by the failings and corruption in Nashville and Washington. Until this disappointment occurs, and until the revulsion of remote authority occurs, the prospect of Chattanooga being at the center of an independent city-state is remote.
Several circumstances will delay or prevent this prospect. Among the reasons for the difficulty of attaining Independence and direction is a flaccid, consumer-oriented and passive way among Tennesseans who once were among the agricultural and industrial dynamos described by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1830s in his book Democracy in America.
And though the south is marked by Christianity, the vigor of that system of life and thought has been strongly diminished by the premillennial dispensationalism thinking that began in the 1780s with J.N. Darby. Despite the disability in Southern Christianity, the South is stronger in character and holiness than other sections of the country. Kaplan in Imperial Grunts points out that the American military is comprised largely of Southerners. Southern men are more alive, tough and patriotic than those in other states. They gladly serve the federal imperial war machine, even though it destroyed the Southland in its drive toward unitary national control over the states. They come from the Scots-Irish warrior tradition.
So in that part of Southern character I would see a certain strength that would tend toward independence, if it is possible the coming financial disaster arranges the hearts and minds of the people in that direction.
Kaplan quotes Chicago geographer J. Brian Harley as saying that cartography has an argument to make. Maps are propaganda.
“Cartography deploys its vocabulary… So that it embodies a systematic social inequality. The distinctions of class and power are engineered, reified and legitimated in the map… The rule seems to be the more powerful, the more prominent.” To those who have strength in the world she’ll be added the strength of the map,” says Dr. Harley. Kaplan tries to see humanity in each locale as literally an outgrowth of the terrain and climate in which it was fated to live (Page 7).
This insight is less true in societies such as that of Americans where social mobility is prized and people easily relocate in following the job. But my argument for local economy and identification with place helps ease the effects of rootlessness and placelessness.