The State of Jefferson

52 thoughts on “The State of Jefferson”

  1. Hi Johnny and other commenters,
    Is this what the “Convention of the States” is all about? I don’t live in USA but have a reli there who has gone all in. Cheers

  2. This is an very interesting slice of life, slice of (a) society, story. It’s these anecdotal stories that establish stereotypes and/or objective trends.

    A ‘live and let live’ ethos really can be hard to stick to as time intersects with change and ego.

  3. It used to be that selfish well off people wanted to be separate from less well off people, so they didn’t have to share the taxes they paid. Many of those local separatist movements succeeded.

    The new trend is delusional less well off people seeking to secede from the people forced to subsidize the hell out of them. That’s what happens when local politicians pander for a few decades by claiming that it is the subsidized who are being forced to pay for others.

    President Trump recently recommended that people from Upstate New York leave the state, because Upstate is being forced to subside Downstate New York. All those active and retired state and local government workers Upstate probably agree with him.

    1. Larry – that is a common position taken in many other states. SE MI (and to a lesser extent the Grand Rapids region) tax revenue subsidizes the other rural 75% of the state land area (comprising probably about 33% of the State population,. though). Same in IL, Chicagoland is 75% of the State population and clearly subsidizes the other 25% of a mostly rural State. When I lived in IL people outside Chicagoland complained that it dominated State government and “it should just be its own State.” Ha. The remainder of the State would be destitute then. It even filtered down to the County level. There was big pushes periodically in northern Cook County, IL (in which Chicago is located and many of the suburbs) to break into another County, which could be more feasible until they ran the numbers on setting up the ‘infrastructure’ (buildings, staff, codes/policies, politics, etc) for entire new County.

      It’s all interesting rhetoric that I’ve experienced first hand – born and raised in rural NE lower MI, educated in Ann Arbor, MI, lived 8 years in Chicago anbd two Chicago suburbs and for the last 8 years on the edges of two OH metros (Dayton then Cleveland/Akron).

    2. In places like Colorado and Texas, wealthy enclaves try to wall themselves off in little townships and villages to avoid sharing tax revenue. So at least fiscally they seceded. California prohibits this. When a new polity forms, a kind of exit fee is imposed to cover the costs of infrastructure and services provided by the original polity during a transition period.

      Of course cross subsidy happens at the federal level too. The deceptively low taxes of many poorer states are to some extent covered by richer states. The rich states know this, but the poor ones don’t.

  4. I grew up on a 125 acre parcel of land that my parents still live on. Never had any issues with any neighbors — although there have been strangers camping in the woods and hunters tracking wounded deer on to the property. Not a place known for its hippies.

    I’ve only ever experienced neighbor issues in two of the cities I’ve lived in and both were folks not much different in outlook than your one neighbor – they were all about property rights (where the fence line was) and property value (please don’t rent your house out). If you were taking their patrimony from them (in their minds), woe on to you. Both neighbors were also older than 60 at the time — maybe thinking a little about their patrimony or how best to run it down until the end.

  5. I grew up on a 125 acre parcel of land that my parents still live on. Never had any issues with any neighbors — although there have been strangers camping in the woods and hunters tracking wounded deer on to the property. Not a place known for its hippies.

    I’ve only ever experienced neighbor issues in two of the cities I’ve lived in and both were folks not much different than your one neighbor – they were all about property rights (where the fence line was) and really property value (please don’t rent your house out). If you were taking their patrimony from them (in their minds), woe on to you. Both neighbors were also older than 60 at the time — maybe thinking a little about their patrimony or how best to run it down until the end.

  6. Fascinated by this sort of issue. Probably because I live in one of the slowly decrepitating rural areas you describe. I’m more than a mile down a private dirt road in rural Central Maine. Most of my neighbors are kind to a fault and more helpful than I could possibly have hoped for. We have a road association that is also very good and helpful composed of these neighbors most of whom show up for monthly meetings.

    That said, our road and my neighbors are a disaster zone. Garbage including toxics like used oil and solvents, old tires, and car parts litter much of the area. The best neighbors are living moderately well on retirements of some sort, but most are poor, and a few are drug addled armed crazies. Unfortunately, the minority sets the agenda and security is at a premium. The increasing use of opiods added to an already thriving market in meth and alcohol means that a small but growing minority of people, seems like 1 in 15, are high or drunk 100% of the time. Law enforcement is nonexistent and seems to cause more trouble when they do intervene. I’ve actually been told by a sheriff’s deputy that we are essentially on our own; “if your really need an officer call 911 and say someone trying to kill you, that might work.”

    Ditto for code enforcement. They initially did everything to keep my house from being build but are now nowhere in sight as junk, toxics and literally collapsing houses abound. I’m not sure how this ends in the U.S. This is exactly what rural Alabama was like when I lived there in the late 2000s. The U.S. will have to figure out a way to deal with this, or, well, maybe not. Maybe this is what collapse looks like. No way our taxes are going to pay for the policing, code enforcement, clean up and other assistance that would be required to bring my neighborhood back to the level of social welfare that existed say in even an early 2000s working class suburban neighborhood.

  7. This has been happening in the US for at least 235 years. Google “State of Franklin”; see also Texas Republic and, of course, California Republic.

    The Wikipedia article on Franklin is not far from your assertion about “another West Virginia”. Being over the mountains from the seat of government has always been a “situation” people try to solve.

    It reminds me of the double-edged sword in the Chinese proverb “The mountains are high and the emperor is far away.” That seems to be the goal of people of a certain mindset when they settle their remote acres far from government control…but then they complain that the government ignores them.

    “Complain” seems to be the unifying theme and you captured it well.

  8. These sorts of secession movements are nothing new. Eastern Washington has been rumbling about separating from Seattle and the Puget Sound for a long time. I expect the State of Jefferson will gain momentum now that both OR and CA have veto-proof Dem majorities in the legislatures. Wikipedia has a long list of such proposals:

    None of it will ever happen, of course, because of the consequences to the US Senate and Electoral College. Not to mention the practical aspects. It makes as much sense as Brexit.

    I have family down in Medford and Grants Pass which I assume falls into this proposed state of Jefferson. They were big on the whole pot legalization thing. Now that the big money growers have arrived and prices have plummeted, not so much.

    This is really all a part of the big sorting going on in the US. Youth have been fleeing these rural areas for decades. It is happening all across the country. I’m not sure what the end point is going to be but every region of the country is going to be plagued by these increasingly desperate and left behind rural areas.

    1. Brexit makes all the sense in the world when you realize it is about sovereignty, not economics (the economics of it will work out in the end, but they are not the issue). The people simply want out of the Oligarchy that is the EU.

      A lot of that same mindset is at play here, but with a decidedly negative focus. Loss of autonomy, for example, is by far the biggest factor in “assisted suicide” cases. People aren’t killing themselves because they hurt too much; they’re killing themselves because they see a loss of control coming that they cannot stand. I think the common element here is people who are getting old and seeing that society is not protecting them as they expected and hoped. They no longer have control over their situation and they project that “need” on those around them. Given the trajectory of society, I expect this trend to continue.

      Johnny’s 9:15am comment below is spot-on. I would amend it in one way: “He’s just trying to reconcile the life he >>was told he would have<< with external reality." I think the gulf between what we are told and what actually happens will only get wider and wider.

  9. Thanks for your analysis of the State of Jefferson and neighbors. Insightful as usual.
    Most of our neighbors are better than okay. Where we live is semi-rural similar to your area in Sonoma. Most live here for the reasons you listed and most get along well. A few are like your neighbor. A few years ago the property at the end of the road was taken over by a commercial nursery. On the average weekday there are 5-10 trucks carrying trees, shrubs, mulch, and water. The local water system stops at the end of the pavement. One neighbor frequently chases the trucks yelling at them to “Slow down”. She has called the Sheriff, and other county agencies, about noise, odors, and dogs, so many times I doubt they would respond in the event of an actual problem.
    When we moved here more than 15 years ago, a different neighbor got very angry about our cat. It got pretty ugly. I decided to not respond to the threats that were made. Later the guy put an apologetic note in our mailbox which looked like it had been written by a 4th grader. He has not talked to me much since, which is fine, and like your neighbor, both of mine are high most of the time. Either prescription drugs, alcohol, and perhaps meth.
    Currently I am helping a friend replace rotted wood on his house. He and his family are moving to Oregon. Mostly because about 8 years ago they were blessed with a neighbor from Hell. Who is a fraudster and practices the “Best defense is a good offense”. The neighbor has called the city and police on them numerous times for very minor things that could have been resolved with a short conversation. He got himself on the HOA board and caused more trouble. Most that live nearby want to get rid of him, but even though the police visit regularly for “domestic disputes” and failure to appear in court, he is probably going to be there quite a while.
    I expect your neighbor will probably be gone in the next recession when the local building dept is looking around for things to do.

    1. I like my neighbor and wish him well. He’s just trying to reconcile the life he wants with external reality. The two don’t line up. His frustration is spilling over to my side of the property line since someone else must be to blame. We’ll both ride it out until it concludes one way or another. I see his situation as a reflection of the larger society. Brexit. The Yellow Vests. The Wall. As I’ve described in other posts, these things tend to come to a head in unpleasant ways. Then we’ll all be humbled and settle in to more reasonable times.

      1. “He’s just trying to reconcile the life he wants with external reality. The two don’t line up. His frustration is spilling over to my side of the property line since someone else must be to blame.” A most accurate assessment that describes a lot of people. As you have mentioned, Johnny, it’s very wise to have a “Plan B”. Or even a Plan C if A and B don’t succeed. Most do not even have a Plan A. They have some vague expectations with little in reality to back them up.
        About property lines see the Bonzo Dog Band, “My Pink Half of the Drainpipe”.

  10. The real worry here is that since you are a remote absentee landlord (at least most of the time) he might vent his hostility at your tenants instead, possibly driving them away. Now that would be a real problem.

    1. My tenants aren’t easily flustered. The guy next door is basically a 17 year old stoner trapped in an old guy’s body. He isn’t menacing at all. Like I said, I like him – most of the time anyway.

  11. Some years ago, there was a movement to have the San Fernando Valley secede from the City of Los Angeles. There was a vote.

    One thing that was made abundantly clear was that if the Valley seceded, it would owe enormous sums to the City of Los Angeles for infrastructure that existed, and as for fire and police, well, they’d be on their own. The vote lost badly. The Valley stayed as part of the city.

    For the state of Jefferson to be formed, legislatures of both states would have to agree, as would Congress. This would be a daunting task to accomplish.

  12. Yeah, let Jefferson go and become Wyoming West. By 2149, the thriving city states of Franciscamento, Irvineangeles and Diegojuana will officially join together for mutual defense in the Pacifica League, after the last ailing American Battleship leaves Diegojuana harbor.

    Up in Franciscamento, ballots are prepared in three official languages – Cal English, Espanol, and Mandarino – for the upcoming election to decide the important issues of the day, such as wildfire districts, water contracts with the Southland and whether to denounce the “Chinese Concession” at Hunter’s Point, risking ruffling the feathers of our largest trading partner and ally…

  13. Johnny,
    Always appreciate your snapshots of the moment which are often placed into a larger historical or cultural perspective. Heck, I thought WE were The State Of Jefferson!

    We live in (the original) Appalachia, 45 minutes from the WV border. Always amusing to see the Tesla S with “GAS NO” pass me on the highway, knowing it’s fueled by coal plants just upwind.

    We work hard in our little holler’ to give each other space, but watch each other’s backs and lend a hand. Not always easy, but easier in the long term.

    Your essay reminded me of Greer’s wonderful little read, “Retrotopia”. McPhee’s “Into The Country”.

  14. Heaven is other people. Full of saints, rather than sinners. That’s why we’re moving to Utah County, Utah. More Saints there than anywhere!

  15. Heaven is other people. Be careful who you live around. We’re permanently moving to Utah County, Utah next month. No matter what you think of the Latter Day Saint religion, we’ve found temporarily living in neighborhood full of Latter Day Saints to be our best experience ever.

    1. I’m so glad you have a good experience with your Latter-day Saint neighbors. But I should warn you that Utah County is like nowhere else on earth. Even other LDS think it is a pretty weird place.

  16. California is one of a few that are too big to be single states. As transportation costs rise, government will eventually decentralize and become more local, or just fail and disappear. Probably after the end of the USA and the west coast becomes 1 or 2 new nations, the Jefferson area may have some leverage in staying in the Californian nation or joining the Cascades as a new state or similar district.

    1. My theory for the long long long term is that little city states will emerge with associated hinterlands, while the distant rural landscape devolves toward something with far less government or infrastructure. But in the medium term we’re likely to see far more control as society tries to manage ever increasing stresses.

      1. Hereeeeeeeeeeeeeee’s Johny, Well it looks like “your chickens have come home to roost”, you skirt the “rules” all the time. Can you say, Hawaii garage with NO HOME. We will just FOOL the County…HAHA HELLLLOOOOO. The Housekeeper from SF, sure has his panties in a bind NOW

      2. Until and unless the city states become self-sufficient, they will have to cooperate economically and will still need to secure the transit of goods between them – to get avocados to San Francisco and apples to LA. Therefore, they will have a strong incentive to impose at least enough control in the rural areas that lie between the city states (i.e. the California Central Valley) to ensure that.

        Basically, the city states can’t let things get so bad in the spaces between them that highwaymen rob their commerce. But securing the transit doesn’t mean these areas would necessarily thrive, though, just that they are kept in control one way or another.

        1. Yes – and no. Cities with sea ports can draw resources from anywhere on the planet that also has a port. So timber, fuel, and food from Canada and Chile might be easier and cheaper to procure than the same items from Fresno and Bakersfield. Cities can (and always did) maintain small navies to protect sea routes. Pirates are less trouble than dealing with the the hill people.

  17. I live in ‘The State of Jefferson’ and I can tell you that it could as well be called Appalachia West. I refer to the general mindset here as Logger Mentality. Why do I stay? Grandkids.

  18. If Hunter Thompson was a gonzo journalist you, Johnny, are a gonzo geographer.

    Many of the people in this part of California are only a few generations removed from the crazy fucks who walked here.

    The only time in my life I have been threatened by someone with a gun was in the Sierra foothills. We were in high school and walking from a public parking area to the Yuba river along a trail that ran near the border of some guy’s private property. He made it very clear that he would use lethal force if necessary to defend his “claim”…just like his prospector grandfather probably did.

  19. Two of my five children actually live in the proposed State of Jefferson (1941 boundaries) but they aren’t the secessionist type; they moved there for jobs and not to get away from people. I bet a lot of energy that used to go toward the Jefferson project — not that there ever seems to have been much to start with, though it is a charming idea — is now being directed toward getting wealthy from the cannabis trade.

    1. I hear mom and pop growers and dealers are getting hammered as vertical integration and consolidation transform the marijuana industry. Get big or get out as they say in the ag biz.

      1. I moved from Ca to Oregon 2 years ago. There is a glut of legal pot here – the store prices are a fraction of the street price in Ca was for much higher quality. I’m sure it’s not coming from small growers.

  20. Former Lake Country resident here. The county supervisors actually put this on their agenda because of constituent demand (an advisory measure on the 2016 ballot to support joining the Jeff State bandwagon). Many of them are also staunchly ignoring climate change. And of course, they never view the State of Jefferson as the next West Virginia.

    Then the supervisors realized how badly it looked after the fires of 2015 (Rocky, Jerusalem and Valley) after the state of CA picked much of the costs incurred for fighting the fires and the clean up. To quote the Lake County Democratic club: “They failed to take into account the state funding received by the county as well as direct support from state agencies, access to California’s higher education system, and branding for agricultural products. The importance of this support was particularly evident during the wild land fires that devastated the county during the past summer.”

  21. Good cultural software can ameliorate petty I/O conflicts like property rights disputes. When people of different political faiths, familial circumstance or cultural outlook feel a shared kinship under the flag of Jefferson, a true hippie-redneck nexus, united by a shared loathing of big government, or at least a rebellion against overreach, we turn on each other less frequently. Our sense of what is worth getting angry over is more rightly ordered.

    Politics is downstream from culture. Establish friendships at the fenceline first, break bread together, then raise the pirate flag. Your neighbor is doing it backward, unfortunately.

  22. The Jefferson types actually have a point. The people who live in those counties, as well as the other inland counties that are too far south to be considered part of Jefferson territory, do believe themselves to be dominated by the coastal cities, and, in fact, they are. Jefferson could probably survive as a Wyoming like state.

    But your neighbor isn’t necessarily a Jefferson type problem; he’s just a jerk. For years I lived next to such a person in the SF Bay Area before retiring up north. The only way to handle them is to tell them to ‘eff off. It does work. I’m not a big guy but I’ve gone toe to toe with a couple of obnoxious neighbors way too similar to your situation, and they’ve backed down. Living in an area that has gone somewhat affluent but wasn’t always so means that there will be a few old timers around who may not like how things have changed. They’ll push you verbally, but it’s unlikely some guy in his 60s will punch you, though you do run the risk of him doing something behind your back. If he doesn’t back down or if he becomes threatening carry some pepper spray or get a restraining order. But life is too short to just deal with such nonsense time and time again. Refuse to deal with it and you might be surprised how fast he folds.

    1. The trajectory of any future State of Jefferson is predictable. It will quickly switch from being dominated by “pointed headed liberal urban elites” to conservative extractive enterprises that squeeze the territory for lumber, minerals, and cheap easily manipulated labor. Basically West Virginia – or Wyoming. Fine by me. I’m all for it. Cut the hinterland free. Cities will still be the market for rural products. Cities will still be dependent on the countryside for food and raw materials. The two need each other. The question is how to balance the different cultures.

      The residents of Jefferson should be prepared for onerous regulations and high taxes to be replaced by mine slag flowing across their 40 acre lots and all the fish going belly up. There is no perfect arrangement. Just trade offs between different masters. Shrug.

      1. A large portion of the territory of any theoretical Jefferson would continue to be owned by the Federal government just as it is now and regulated by the Feds. In any event, it’s a yelp of frustration though there’s little likelihood of the state ever being formed, nor is there much sympathy for the yelps on the part of those who would need to give their consent.

    2. Or, he might be like MY neighbor, who grew increasingly fond of his firearms as he grew increasingly distant from reality. According to another neighbor, who was a mutual friend, eventually every conversation ended up back on his experiences serving as a Marine in the Korean War. When I complained about the mosquitos breeding in his neglected swimming pool, he angrily countered that, no, they were actually breeding in my vegetable garden! (I don’t irrigate it.) I wasn’t going to challenge him.

  23. First, are you sure you mean to use a terrifying term Lebensraum to describe what you are seeking, especially in the context of your last post highlighting of historical amnesia of the horrors of the recent past. Lebensraum wasn’t the result of individuals like you seeking stability, peace and resilience. It was a state-backed policy of domain expansion of a particular ethnic group by dislocating and murdering others, much like Manifest Destiny was used against American Indians in the United States. I really can’t put your endeavors in the same sentence as that, but perhaps you were just using it hyperbolically.

    But otherwise, I wonder if what you are experiencing with your neighbor is more banal: inter-generational conflict. That your neighbor projects his real stress and anxiety (borne of either his or our society’s inability to plan for his circumstance, and also perhaps a bit of his own entitlement) is in the context of you, a younger-than-him new-arrival who appears at least to have the resources to get by better than he can.

    You see that pattern in a lot of places (urban and rural) where there is demographic tension between older and younger populations. Sometimes it’s wealthy baby-boomers who want to keep things exactly how they found them so that (only) their children can inherit their experience. Sometimes it’s less well off baby-boomers who didn’t fare as well as the more well subset of their generation, and were forced to more far flung places, and are making a “last stand” of sorts.

    1. I used the term lebensraum intentionally. It was meant to be provocative. Make of that what you will.

      Yes, my neighbor is a Boomer and I’m Gen X. He is both “winning” in the present since he already owns property in a highly desirable location and is protected from increases in his property taxes by Prop 13. He could be sitting pretty. But he’s also “losing” since his cash flow to maintain what he has is in steep decline and a cliff is on the horizon. I’m not privy to all the particulars, but I do know that he’s refinanced his home and probably doesn’t have much untapped equity left. That means he has debt payments each month and can’t sell and relocate because he wouldn’t walk away with enough cash to start over elsewhere. He borrowed against the future to buy himself time. Welcome to “later.”

    2. Good Lord. Snowflake.

      “…..It was a state-backed policy of domain expansion of a particular ethnic group by dislocating and murdering others…….” In other words, like just about every culture on the face of the earth has conducted at one time or another.

      Look at the plus side…….our host can use that term and his readership knows to what he is referring. There are no poorly-read, ill-informed dum dums here at the GS. LOL

      That orchard looks a damn sight better than when peacocks roamed it. And much more bountiful. (BTW…what are those green fruits? Passion Fruit? ) Forget the lawn —- I would think your orchard comports well with the neighborhood’s character….it appears to be semi-rural to some degree (i.e. no sidewalks) Doesn’t appear many of the neighbors have lawns either.

      BTW…….Mine slag? Seriously? Those redneck types in far NoCal are actually a lot more “pro-environment” than a lot of people give them credit for. Even if the Jefferson fantasy were to come true, I seriously doubt you would see many open-pit Vibranium mines.

      1. It’s one thing for neighbors to have a shared appreciation for the natural environment. It’s another thing for them to be able to organize enough to regulate the corporate organizations that want to extract the resources and dump the waste… not to mention the potential criminal organizations that might want to extract resources and dump waste.

        1. Right. The concept of the ‘Commons’ exists across human history, geography and political regimes because it’s innate in the DNA of human civilization. Once the ‘West’ reached the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, it became mandatory for civiliation’s survival to manage the Commons through the Rule of Law.

      2. > BTW…….Mine slag? Seriously?
        I think he was probably just being provocative to make a point. Nobody here took that literally.

  24. Johnny, seems like your neighbor is a very unhappy person no matter what interactions he has. If the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow sat in his front yard, he would probably say that it is in the wrong place. I’ve seen people like this, but never in 80 years had to live next to one. Sigh. We all have to bear our own crosses, as the Bible sez.

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