I come from a small, bitterly cold New England state called “Vermont,”the eighth generation of my family to do so. The largest city is Burlington, with a whopping 39,000 inhabitants. After that comes Rutland at 17,000. Not exactly Tokyo and Mexico D.F. in terms of scale.
Vermont is a fiercely independent place, home of the first republic on North American soil for seventeen years until we generously allowed the scraggly thirteen colonies to join our party, a move we have regretted from time to time. That spirit of independence is kept alive in many of our social policies, by which we make it totally legal for same-sex couples to get married and then carry any amount of weaponry they choose – up to and including surface-to-air missiles, mobile artillery and some tactical nuclear weapons.
How do you keep the fires of independence burning? We have a system called “town meeting” in which direct democracy takes place in each of Vermont’s villages. The mundane issues of the town are dealt with directly by our neighbors, things such as snow plow budgets, road naming, posting of hunting territory, normal stuff. Occasionally people move to impeach the president, but Tinmouth, Vermont, as it so happens, lacks the power to carry through on that kind of thing. More often, pie is served; neighbors say hello; the generally terrible conditions of dirt roads are lamented; budgets are agreed upon. You are likely related to half of the room. This system has worked since before the creation of the First Vermont Republic.
Compare this with our current governmental model. We started a not-war-but-there-will-be-missiles-and-stuff without consulting Congress just this week. Today, the Wall Street Journal tells us that the International Monetary Fund wants to become the second “lender of last resort” in conjunction with the U.S. Federal Reserve to lend out U.S. dollars in the case of “crises.”
Creating such a swap line would involve significant political and economic challenges, including changing the fundamental bylaws of the IMF, which require an 85% majority vote among IMF members.
“Significant political and economic challenges” indeed.
Here is why I juxtapose the Vermont town meeting system with the proposed two-headed hydra of the Federal Reserve and the IMF. WHO THE HELL CAN ENVISION WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT? Our economies are dependent on these systems, and they are reaching a level of complexity that is increasingly comical. What is the percentage of humanity that can even comprehend enough of what is being proposed to have an opinion? 0.0001%? Polls say that only around 10% of Americans know who the Speaker of the House of Representatives is, a person who is nominally third in line of the Presidency. Who among the rest could even understand this WSJ article?
In Vermont, we meet, look each other in the eye, figure out how much money we have and buy stuff with it.
In our global financial system, we have two un-auditable organizations that are assembled by committee in a grouping of allied national interests that prevent the potential shock of things and stuff by creating transfers of……ah, never mind.