November 30th, 1999 by Clark Humphrey

YESTERDAY, we discussed the protesters attempting, starting today, to disrupt the World Trade Organization’s international conference here in Seattle.

The protesters’ main beef: The WTO helps turn soverign governments into mere stooges, handservants to almighty Business.

However, despite the overwhelming influence business has over governments (influence-peddling and campaign cash at home; pro-corporate entites like WTO internationally), some folks still hold onto the opposite idea–the idea that mean ol’ Big Government’s still not de-fanged enough, that poor pathetic Business must be rescued from Government’s horrific machinations.

That’s the line you get from some Microsoft defenders; including Byte scribe Jerry Pournelle (who makes pains to insist that, unlike certain other “independent” observers who’ve spoken out for MS, he’s not being paid off by MS’s fake-grassroots PR lobby).

And it’s the line still being offered, after all these years, by “secessionist” advocates trying to carve out new counties or even states in rural and suburbanizing regions scattered across the country.

Around here, various outfits calling themselves names like “Freedom County” have attempted to form new legal jurisdictions in which land developers, forest clearcutters, gun vendors, and other valiant entrepreneurs would get to do all they want, with no pesky environmental laws or anti-sprawl zoning bureaucrats getting in the way. (So far, they’ve gotten nowhere; and the Washington State government says it won’t accept any new-county requests in the future, no matter how adamant.)

There’s a similar, if higher-stakes, effort being waged in northern California, by guys who want their own state.

This has nothing to do with the proposal in Mother Jones to split up the Fool’s-Golden State so it could get more U.S. Senators.

Rather, the advocates of “Jefferson State” (which would grab pieces of southern Oregon as well as California’s northernmost tip) want a regime that would be even friendlier to developers, miners, loggers, and factory-farmers than the already mightily business-friendly power structures down in Sacramento, CA.

Actually, the “Jefferson State” people don’t express grievances against the Calif. state government as vehemently as they do against the federal government, coming in and telling rugged-individualist businessmen they can’t do this or that because it’d threaten some endangered species or ruin a few more watersheds.

Exactly how they’d get federal environmental protections gutted for one new, small state that wouldn’t have the direct backing of the Calif. Republican establishment is a mystery the Jefferson guys don’t fully explain. But then again, tactical logic isn’t these guys’ strong point. Like the WTO opponents, the secessionists are mainly in it to make a statement and to communicate a vision, albeit an outmoded vision.

Seceding for the right to pollute and overdevelop seems, on the surface, to be less morally reprehensible than, say, seceding for the right to maintain slavery, but still not the best idea around there.

IN OTHER NEWS: Days one and two of the WTO protests went by Sunday and Monday with a few unfortunate sideshows of Lifestyle Left self-aggrandizement. (Spray-painting anti-meat slogans on a McDonald’s or dressing up in Chiapas-style bandana face masks has just about nothing to do with the topic of international tariff negotiations.) But the vast majority of the actions were well-intentioned and well-organized, and did a good job of bringing disparate factions (enviros, labor, churches, intl.-democracy advocates) together around the simple message that Business Isn’t Everything.

TOMORROW: Physical mementos of bank mergers.


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