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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13255/can-secession-succeed/

Can Secession Succeed?

July 14, 2010 by

Following on the heels of the excellent discussions during Secession Week at Let A Thousand Nations Bloom, my new Forbes column discusses secession at the state level. Specifically, a state legislator in Alabama has been looking into what it would take for Greene County–and the entire 7th Congressional District–to secede and form a new state. I don’t think there’s any chance Tuscaloosa County (home of the University of Alabama) or any part of Jefferson County (where Birmingham is) would secede, but I think it could be a very productive discussion.

Then, serendipitously, Mike Gibson at Let A Thousand Nations Bloom links to this article from the San Francisco Chronicle arguing that “The Bay Area needs to act like a city-state” and pointing out that if the Bay Area seceded, “it would instantly become the world’s 25th largest economy, ahead of Austria, Taiwan, Greece, and Denmark.”

Practicality aside, would secession be the right move for Alabama’s 7th Congressional District or California’s Bay Area? I don’t know, but it could be an interesting discussion. Just as long as Zombie Bob Murphy doesn’t get involved.


Gil July 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Shouldn’t that be “let no nations bloom”?

Russ July 14, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Many smaller nations would be both more likely and much better than what we have now, assuming they don’t all institute protectionist tariffs with respect to one another. The possibility of voting with your feet = more competition = more freedom.

mpolzkill July 14, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Hear, hear. The perfect should not be allowed to be the enemy of the good.

Russ July 14, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Is this sarcasm, or do we actually agree on something???

mpolzkill July 14, 2010 at 10:29 pm


newson July 15, 2010 at 4:31 am

peace in our time.

Gil July 14, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Ha ha! You contradicted yourself! No, a phsyically smaller nation is more conductive to freedom than a larger one. Either you’re free to go about your personal business or you’re not.

RWW July 15, 2010 at 12:32 am

I don’t think anyone here would say that one state can’t be more free than another.

Gil July 15, 2010 at 9:11 am

That should read: “No, a phsyically smaller nation is no more conductive to freedom than a larger one.” * sigh! * X(

Gil July 15, 2010 at 9:13 am

Many of the most illiberal nations of the world are considerably smaller than the U.S.A.. North Korea is piddly in size with the U.S.A. in all respects yet personal freedom is practically non-existent.

Russ July 15, 2010 at 9:46 am

I agree that a smaller nation is not necessarily more free, but it’s not necessarily less free, either. And I agree that North Korea is very unfree, but that is due to cultural and historical differences, not size.

Imagine the US broken into 50 actual States (i.e. nations, as they were originally intended to be prior to 1789), not just 50 administrative sub-units of one nation as they essentially are now. Yes, each State would probably have some laws that would rub an anarchist the wrong way. But each would probably have a slightly different set of annoying laws, and so by moving you could choose the set of laws that annoys you the least. And States that have too fascistic laws will find their populations bleeding away to freer States, except for those few people who like fascism and who would stay. So there would be a natural competition that would encourage more freedom.

This is supposed to be the way things are now, of course, where the Federal government should only concern itself with conflicts between States, protect citizens from unconstitutional State laws and edicts, and take care of diplomacy and defence. But since any accumulation of power naturally attracts more power, like a black hole naturally attracts more matter and increases its mass, this isn’t the way it works in practice. Secession would be the only way to actually have this kind of competition in government.

Of course, this black hole effect means that secession is not likely, without some very strong pressure in the opposite direction, such as extreme economic disintegration, a popular movement, etc.

Les July 14, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Maybe it would be better if 350 million Americans seceded.

Darcy July 14, 2010 at 10:13 pm

350 million Americans shouldn’t be doing their own plumbing, let alone protecting themselves.

There is a point where more secession is not more economical.

Peter July 14, 2010 at 11:20 pm

AFAIK, government doesn’t supply plumbing services anyway. Why would 350 million seceding Americans have to do their own plumbing?

newson July 14, 2010 at 11:46 pm

plumbing trumps freedom.

RWW July 15, 2010 at 12:30 am

I think Darcy’s point is that protecting yourself is harder than doing your own plumbing. Of course, that point is both incorrect and irrelevant.

Peter July 15, 2010 at 1:59 am

My point was: you don’t have to do your own plumbing, even though the government doesn’t do plumbing; I wonder why Darcy would think you had to do your own protection if the government didn’t do protection. (Actually, the government doesn’t to protection; it purports to do protection, which is a different thing).

I suspect he (she?) is thinking: if the plumber’s in another “country” (everyone has seceded individually), you can’t hire him, for some readon: but what reason would that be?

newson July 15, 2010 at 4:30 am

plumbers are notorious for sparking xenophobic and mercantilistic reactions.

mpolzkill July 15, 2010 at 4:49 am

You’re on a tear there, Newson. Haha.

“unbridled American-style capitalism”

Argh. Most people’s views on American capitalism are about as veracious and charitable as most rappers’ views on women.

David C July 14, 2010 at 9:05 pm

In truth, a good start would be … instead of having one district succeed, or working on one at a time, put forth an amendment to have them all succeed. From a practical strategic standpoint, every district would look at their current status, and 90% of them would probably realize that they would indeed be way way better off if they left.

Darcy July 14, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Districts have no social reality. It would make more sense if companies or churches seceded.

Nicholas Gray July 14, 2010 at 10:53 pm

As a practical example, here in Australia Leonard Casley, of Hutt River Principality, seceded from Western Australia in 1970. I used to wonder if it was real, or just a tourist gimmick. Then I saw, on Prince Leonard’s News Update site, photocopies of letters supposedly from the australian Taxation Office, which mentioned that Leonard Casley was not considered to be a resident of Australia! Since he lives in Nain, the center of Hutt River Principality, which is within the territory of Australia, and was born here, and never emigrated anywhere else, is this a confirmation that his property is, in fact, a separate nation?
I think the law that allowed this to happen has been changed now, but it worked for him and his family! This shows it can be done, even today! I realise that America is different, and you fought a war against secession, so you might not have his luck. If you can’t secede, you can emigrate! Prince Leonard might have jobs for you, tax-free!

newson July 15, 2010 at 12:24 am

elvis lives at hutt river, too, and i’ve seen photos on the web, so i know it’s true.

the “principality” is a joke. the trinkets they sell attract gst (australian goods and services tax), and receipts include an abn (australian business number). hey, so i guess i’m a prince, too. that “prince” lionel be a tax resident for tax purposes or not is immaterial, his business is, and he is subject to australian sovereignty. try and find a “hutt river” consular office, and let me know if qantas will let you travel overseas on a hutt river “passport”.

order a souvenir from hutt river, and study the “tax invoice”. i live in western australia, for the record.

anyway, do you really think you could secede just like that without canberra and perth coming down on you like a ton of bricks. haven’t you heard of sedition?

Nicholas Gray July 15, 2010 at 1:31 am

So what are you saying, Newson? That Elvis doesn’t live at Nain? I’ll bet you don’t believe in Santa Clause, either, or The Man in The Sky! As for Sedition, don’t many WAers want to secede from Canbra?!

newson July 15, 2010 at 4:07 am

sure plenty of sandgropers want to, and probably elvis, too. just try doing so and watch the swat team swing into glorious action. hell, you could even get on the nightly news.

newson July 15, 2010 at 4:20 am


bit of colour and a nice bus-stop for the coach and caravan brigade.

Tad July 14, 2010 at 11:46 pm

In the 1860′s, Lincoln had the benefit of a very low national debt and the ability to use slavery as the mechanism to “justify” the Civil War. The present situation is much different. Even so, the Federal Government had to violate the no direct taxation clause of the Constitution in order to prosecute the war. Although a secession movement by one or a group of states could still lead to violence, I don’t think the Federal Government could prevail under the conditions that exist today, especially if the predicted hyper-inflation becomes reality or if the government defaults on its debt.

Brandon July 15, 2010 at 3:09 am

here’s a great article i stumbled across a while back: http://news.santacruz.com/2009/09/14/welcome_to_new_bohemia

Capt Mike July 15, 2010 at 4:50 pm

As an ex- ‘Cruzer, I gotta remark that the guy’s idea of a ‘down-side’ to the plan is “too many rich people”.

Stoopid Commie! Who’s gonna finance this thing if not “rich people”.

Brandon July 26, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Haha! Only in Santa Cruz…

Brandon July 15, 2010 at 3:19 am

…and another one from my neck of the woods: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/04/20/IN296671.DTL

Modorok July 15, 2010 at 3:38 am

Secession works. Take a look at the native cherokee, which seperatet an built up a hole new nation within 100 years. There are many parts in the world, the most of them in america, that are existing seperate to the nations they officially belong to. Even in first world countries within in towns, that inhibit millions of people, seperation ist possible. Think of southern france, parts of paris in which the french government has lost control a long time ago. A better example is berlin, which is the second biggest turkish town outside of Turkey. In Berlin live 500.000 of turkish immigrants. 500.000 is as as big as nuremberg. German police has got no control or rights over there, the turkish people do their own business, don’t pay that taxes they should, they’ve got their own laws, and if german police enters that areas, they get thrown out. You can finde those places al over the world.

Secession without violance? Dream on. You can’t seperate from a facist state without violance. You need a homogene group of people, that start flooding a selected area. From the point your people are the majority, then you can create your own liberal state. Unproductive people will leave the area, because the new state serves no longer social health care. Only productive an busy people will try to join the new state because they prefer freedom. Unproductive will leave.

There is no chance to convince the majority of the US-people of a liberal country. There is no chance to do so in europe. The loss of genetical potencial is to high in those countries and with that the intelligent quotient is to low for that.

It is all about productivity and unproductivity and the will to live in freedom.

Take the rest and seperate.

Regards Modorok

PS: Keep misspelling, english is not my first language.

Jim Davidson July 15, 2010 at 4:38 pm

“don’t pay that taxes they should”

No one should pay any taxes. If you can avoid paying taxes, that would be best. Theft is wrong.

J. Murray July 15, 2010 at 5:32 am

Constitutionally speaking, it would be difficult for Alabama’s 7th to seceed. From Article IV Section 3:

“New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.”

Basically, the Alabama state legislature would have to agree to allow the 7th District to pull off and form a new state, which would still have to go through the same process of statehood as any other state or territory to be admitted as the 51st. Such a complex process basically makes the whole thing a pipe dream. It would require both the Alabama legislature AND Congress be of like mind and willing to dilute power on both fronts. Dilute power by removing population from Alabama and dilute power by adding two more Senators.

Peter July 15, 2010 at 6:15 am

But why would they want to join the union? The constitution doesn’t say they can’t secede and be independent, which would be better for them!

Tad July 15, 2010 at 8:57 am

Actually, Peter, it does give them just that power to secede and form independent nations. It is in Amendment x.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Since the constitution does not delegate or forbid, the power to secede is reserved to the states or the people.

Peter July 15, 2010 at 7:19 pm

‘s what I said.

Gil July 16, 2010 at 1:56 am

Didn’t the Confederate States think the same thing once upon a time?

Ohhh Henry July 15, 2010 at 11:09 am

“The Bay Area needs to act like a city-state”

That’s fine, but it would of course mean an immediate end to the local welfare programs in the Bay Area and/or an end to their designations as “sanctuary cities”. If San Franciscans actually had to pay for everyone’s welfare and medicare out of their own pockets then watch how fast people would rediscover their inner libertarian.

Or are these people like Quebec secessionists, many of whom are under the impression that they will be able to get all their city-state cake, and also continue eating federal cake subsidies?

George July 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm

“Or are these people like Quebec secessionists, many of whom are under the impression that they will be able to get all their city-state cake, and also continue eating federal cake subsidies?”

Let ‘em secede.

michael July 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Not only should secession be both permitted and easy, I think we ought to take a closer look at ejection.

I’d get up a petition among the other states to eject Texas. Too pushy. Doesn’t fit in well.

Matthew Swaringen July 15, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Wow michael, as a Texan I actually have something to agree with you on. I personally wouldn’t mind being pushed out at all.

Bill July 15, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Informal secession is easier and more likely than formal secession from a state or from the US. Even though some of the things people will do to informally secede will be against the law, which they shouldn’t break, I am sure lots of people will break it anyways.

To secede informally they will move their economic dealings to the black market, dealing under the table in cash, gold, silver and other anonymous means. This is already common practice in Argentina and lots of other places.

They will move their legal disputes, both civil and criminal, out of the official court system and into the hands of well respected local leaders who lead with persuasion not force. I remember seeing a documentary about informal neighborhood dispute resolution existing outside the formal legal system in the grittier areas of NYC but I can’t remember the name of it right now. It looks like Berlin and Paris have a similar phenomenon.

Darcy is probably right about needing more social reality than a congressional district to have a functioning separate legal system. Each secessionist group will have to be very closely connected, like the immigrant populations mentioned by Modorok, to settle legal disputes. Economic secession doesn’t require such strong ties.

tungsten watches July 23, 2010 at 4:13 am

I also agree that a smaller nation is not necessarily more free, but it’s not necessarily less free, either. And I agree that North Korea is very unfree, but that is due to cultural and historical differences, not size.
Small country but also should have their freedom, not by outside interference can solve the problem of history, because there are various reasons.

Texas Attorney July 29, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Matthew,I guess that Michael is from one of those progressive states with a state sales tax and all of that. He is probably just too enlightned for us old hick Texans who do not believe in a sales tax…I am with you I would not mind too much if we were pushed out. I read somewhere that Texas would become the 12th largest economy on the planet it were on it’s own.Check this out:Texas wrangles top spot in CNBC’s survey of top states for business 2010

newson January 26, 2011 at 12:04 am

i’m emotionally in favour of it, but am aware of the pitfalls, too. it may not work.

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