Secession is in the air. In Texas, a Republican governor has dared breathe the word. Vermont has an active and growing secessionist movement. Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia already call themselves Cascadia. Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal led off with a piece on secession. The author, Paul Starobin, wrote that

The present-day American Goliath may turn out to be a freak of a waning age of politics and economics as conducted on a super-sized scale – too large to make any rational sense…

Is this all mere fancy, another amusing idea with which to wile away the summer? Fourth Generation theory suggests there is more to it than that. The crisis of legitimacy of the state has not passed America by. Washington pretends to offer “democracy,” but both parties are largely one party, the Establishment party. Its game is remaining the Establishment and enjoying the pleasures thereof, not governing the country. The only politics that count are court politics; America outside the beltway exists only as an annoying distraction. As both the economy and the culture crash, the Establishment says, “What is that to us?”

A collapse of the American state is not impossible. But the lines along which most secessionists see it breaking up are overly optimistic. Paul Starobin writes in the Journal,

The most hopeful prospect for the USA, should the decentralization impulse prove irresistible, is for Americans to draw on their natural inventiveness and democratic tradition by patenting a formula for getting the job done in a gradual and cooperative way.

Fat chance.

Instead of a restored Vermont Republic, Cascadia, and perhaps a new Confederacy, if America breaks up it is likely to do so along non-geographic lines. Fourth Generation theory suggests that the new primary identities for which people are likely to vote, work, and fight will not be geographical. Rather, they will be cultural, religious, racial or ethnic, ideological, etc. Following the sorts of massacres, ethnic cleansings, pogroms, and genocides such Fourth Generation civil wars usually involve, new geographically defined states may emerge. But their borders will derive from cultural divides more than geographic ones.

The fact that a second American civil war would be nastier than the first – itself no picnic – does not mean it won’t happen. That depends on whether the Washington Establishment can recognize it has a legitimacy problem, get its act together and provide competent governance. It is currently failing that test, and I expect it to continue to fail. Any member of the Establishment who dares subordinate court politics to the good of the nation or advocates more than very modest change quickly finds he is no longer a member of the Establishment.

I spent most of last week at the Congress on the New Urbanism, which I have attended for many years. New Urbanism seeks to build new villages, towns, and urban neighborhoods as alternatives to suburban sprawl, an essentially conservative endeavor. This time, something new came to the fore: making such communities agriculturally self-sufficient. Why? Because there is growing recognition among New Urbanists and others that only a local food supply may be secure as things fall apart. A few people at the Congress were looking toward the next logical step: giving such communities an ability to defend themselves. If the future brings the end of the empire, how do we get ready for the Dark Ages?

Again, if this sounds fanciful, Fourth Generation war theory says it is not. It is by no means inevitable, but it is one possible outcome of the Establishment’s misrule.

My most recent book, The Next Conservatism, talks at some length about these matters. In the mid-1990s, I wrote a novel, Victoria, about an American Fourth Generation civil war and its aftermath. It never found a publisher, perhaps because the idea seemed so outlandish, more likely because it is a face shot at Political Correctness. Political Correctness, which is really the cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School, has lost none of its ability to intimidate publishers. But the idea of an American break-up is no longer off the charts. It may yet prove time for President Davis to think of returning to Richmond, and for New Urbanists to design some good castles.