Liberty Commentary

Demand secession as a political right

by Wolfgang Alders, Examiner

Gaining the right to secede would be a tremendous milestone in the history of human liberty.

What is meant by secession?

Secession is an act of choice. It is the carrying out of one’s desire to no longer live under the government that one was born under. It can be on a large scale, with several regions choosing to secede, or it can be on the smallest scale, at an individual level.

If you affirm large-scale secession, you must also logically affirm individual secession, both for the exact same ethical reason: No one should be forced to participate in something they wish to abstain from. So, if Washington State was to secede from the US, every individual in Washington should still have the right to secede individually from Washington State. Anything less is hypocritical.

Why would anyone want to stop secession?

If you yourself oppose secession on any level, ask yourself: Do you have the right to force someone to belong to an organization that they desperately want to leave? Would you like it if someone forced you to belong to the Dental Association of America, and pay dues every month? Secondly, why would you want anyone on your team who doesn’t want to be there in the first place? Maybe as a little child, it is understandable to get angry when someone doesn’t want to play with you. But as mature human beings, if we really respect our fellow man, we need to be able to let him go.

Why isn’t the current system good enough?

In America today, there is much liberty. You may travel wherever you please, and you may even choose to leave the United States, renounce your citizenship, and live under whichever government you wish. But this is not enough. Sure, the United States is no Iron Curtain. But for humans to have true liberty, we must have the right to literally remove ourselves and our property to outside the jurisdiction of the United States of America. There is an ethical reason for this, and a pragmatic reason as well.

Ethically, land belongs to those that cultivate it. The government holds claim over all the land in the State, but it is the individual that gives the land it’s value. By building on the land, farming the land, and trading the land, the individual confers on himself legitimate ownership. All the government ever did was conquer the land. Which act to you seems the most ethical and the most preferable way to determine ownership, if we desire a peaceful society? Obviously it makes more sense to recognize ownership based on peaceful contractual agreements.

So therefore, you are under no ethical obligation to allow your property to remain under the jurisdiction of the United States should you choose to secede. The US government becomes the aggressor once you declare your intention to exist under another government, but your property remains trapped within the boundaries of the United States.

Pragmatically, there is a tremendous reason to allow secession, for anyone who thinks that freedom is important. This is because secession actually effects the government, whereas simply leaving the country does not. If you leave America and become a Swiss citizen, your property either is sold, and is now owned by another American, or your remain control of it, but it still is under US law. Either way, it is taxed and expropriated as the government sees fit.

But, if the government stood to lose something, there would be two main benefits:

First, the government would have to start behaving like any other business. It would have to start taking good care of its clients, in this case, the citizens. It would realize that its very existence depends on how well it can attract citizens to tax. So you would see actual political change.  Whatever government becomes like, it would be guaranteed to be far more responsive to the needs of the people that choose, voluntarily, to be ruled by that government.

Second, the natural result would be competition between governments for potential citizens. Obviously, the American government could not satisfy everyone, no matter how good it becomes. So secession will most certainly occur once it is allowed to happen peacefully.

Seceding as an individual, while a natural right that everyone should have, will be very difficult for most people, due to the very interwoven nature of modern society. Only a few people living in more remote areas would be able to successfully secede as individuals and live at the same level of comfort.

Instead of seceding as individuals, most people will choose to secede with a group. Most likely, these groups will be centered in certain regions of the US, and will reflect cultural and geographic similarities. And from that point on, there will be competition between the regional governments to attract citizens.

This would be the flowering of human society. Just as competition in business drives companies to make better, more efficient, cheaper products, competition between voluntary governments would drive innovation and efficiency in health care, military defense, city planning, banking, police services, education, and technology.

Very importantly, there would be far fewer wars, and almost no wars of aggression. Defending a nation always takes fewer resources than invading and occupying a nation, so economically, it makes far more sense to focus on defense than it does to try to conquer other nations.

Modern states like America today can only afford wars of aggression because they can foist the tremendous cost of such a war upon unwilling citizens. American citizens who didn’t agree with invading Iraq, for instance, were forced to pay for it anyways. Even if they moved to Canada, property taxes were stilled collected on the property they once owned.

If secession were allowed, it would only make economic sense for the new, free governments to pursue a defensive foreign policy focused on diplomacy. If the government started an unpopular war, the citizens could simply leave the government and reform, making their new nation on the exact same spot but excluding the old government.

Why secession must be peaceful, and recognized as a political right.

We have seen violent secession already, and it was not pretty. The Civil War in America was the bloodiest war in American history. Violent secession is not preferable because in order to secede with enough military strength to defend the new nation and ensure it’s survival, the new nation must have these three undesirables:

1. A militaristic mentality that undermines personal liberty. The only way for the Confederates to survive for some time against the Union army was by centralizing command and drafting soldiers.
2. Large size. Because of the need to wage war, small-scale secession is not possible when secession must be violent. Therefore individual secession and regional secession could not exist.
3. Laws against secession. Of course, the Confederate States would not allow individuals or regions in the South to secede, even though their nation was a product of secession. This, again, was to preserve the military might of the South. In any nation that is imperiled by war, secession from that nation would probably not exist.

This is why secession must be recognized as a political right for it to succeed. I would support an international convention to recognize secession as a political right in all nations.