Blogs > Liberty and Power > Causes Which Impel

Nov 5, 2004 12:29 pm

Causes Which Impel

[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

As the blood-red electoral tide oozed across the map of America's heartland, many in the blue states were starting to think about secession (see, e.g., here and here). Most such talk has been meant as a joke, but it might be worth taking more seriously. As I've suggested before (see here, here, and here), secession is an attractive solution to problems ranging from terrorism to anti-gay laws. The blue states certainly have the population and the economic might to make a go of it on their own; and the division in the country is so strong right now that people who ordinarily wouldn't consider secession as a serious option might now be more willing to give it a listen. Plus, a successful secession by the blue states would make it easier for black (i.e., anarchist) and sea-green (i.e., libertarian) regions to secede from them. And even an unsuccessful secession campaign would at least give issues of consent, sovereignty, and legitimacy a much-needed airing. So in Rothbard's words:"U. S. Out of the Bronx!" (For a general discussion of secession see David Gordon's anthology Secession, State, and Liberty.)

Chuck Munson objects that secession advocates would be abandoning anti-Bush residents of the red states:"If we want to change minds of the folks living in Bush Country, we should support progressives, radicals, and anarchists living and agitating out here." As a resident of an extremely red state myself, I have no eagerness to be abandoned either; but secession need not equal abandonment. Before the Civil War, many abolitionists favoured secession by the North in order to end the covenant with death and agreement with hell represented by the Constitution's fugitive slave clause. But they certainly didn’t intend thereby to abandon the slaves; on the contrary, they expected to be able to combat Southern slavery better from outside the Union than from within it. I expect that political activists in seceding blue states would likewise continue to seek influence over events in the Union, just as Europeans tried (unsuccessfully, alas) to influence this past election. (By the way, when Americans complain that Europeans have no business telling Americans how to vote, they seem to be forgetting -- even leaving aside considerations of humani nihil a me alienum puto -- that the United States is rapidly transforming itself into a world government, and that other countries have accordingly as good grounds for lamenting their lack of representation in American politics as American colonists in 1776 had for lamenting their lack of representation in the British Parliament.)

For those who still find talk of secession far-fetched, Charles Johnson makes a good case for a less extreme form of activism: trying to get referenda on the ballot. Charles writes:

Nearly half of the states in this country empower you and [me] to gather signatures and put laws straight on the ballot without having to lobby legislators or roll logs or hope the least-worst major candidate might consider making a speech about it sometime. … [W]hen I vote on an initiative I don't have to worry about spoilers, parties, trade-offs between candidates, or anything of the sort. It's a simple up or down and I can make my choices on each issue on the ballot independently -- rather than trying to figure out which dude will line up with more of my choices on the whole than the other (and whether that dude can get elected or whether I should vote for someone who's a bit worse but in a position to win, and…). … We've been building a vast network of interlinked volunteers with a do-it-yourself political ethic …. [H]ow about we start putting those resources to work in the 20-odd states with voter initiatives? (And while we're at it, bringing them to bear on the state legislature in states that don't yet have voter initiatives.)
So there’s my suggested solution for the Blues of the Blues: referenda in the short run, secession in the long run. Let's get to work.

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David Gross - 11/5/2004

"I have heard some of my townsmen say, “I should like to have them order me out to help put down an insurrection of the slaves, or to march to Mexico – see if I would go”; and yet these very men have each, directly by their allegiance, and so indirectly, at least, by their money, furnished a substitute.

"The soldier is applauded who refuses to serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust government which makes the war; is applauded by those whose own act and authority he disregards and sets at naught; as if the state were penitent to that degree that it hired one to scourge it while it sinned, but not to that degree that it left off sinning for a moment.…

"Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform. Some are petitioning the State to dissolve the Union, to disregard the requisitions of the President. Why do they not dissolve it themselves – the union between themselves and the State – and refuse to pay their quota into its treasury?"

If you need a hand in dissolving the union between yourself and the State, I've got some pointers at