In the wake of the presidential elections, petitions have been circulated on the Whitehouse.gov website advocating for the peaceful secession of numerous states. Texas seems to have the most signers at the moment, with nearly 80,000 signatures at the time of this writing. Given that secession is making headlines again, I suppose it is worth going over the philosophy of secession in order to head off some misconceptions about it.
Whenever a secessionist movement reaches the media headlines, it is virtually always associated with the U.S. Civil War. In the minds of most people, advocating for secession is akin to advocating for slavery. Nothing could be further from the truth. A case in point being the U.S. Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence is a document of secession, whereby the U.S. states decided that they did not want to live under rule of the British Crown. Without secession, the U.S. federal state wouldn’t even be around today.
Typically secession occurs between state actors, but the principles behind it aren’t limited to just state actors. Individuals can also decide that they don’t want to abide by the dictates of people that others have appointed to rule them. Of course, when individuals decide that they don’t want their lives to be controlled by mob elected rulers, it typically results in them being caged for tax evasion, refusal to obtain permits and licenses, drug law violations, along with a host of other victimless crimes that states create to control the resources of their citizens.
Secessionist movements virtually always aim to achieve greater local control of governance, along with an increase of individual freedoms. Likewise, secessionist movements are virtually always opposed by those who stand to benefit the most from the redistribution of resources that results from a larger state apparatus. Even in the U.S. civil war, the southern states weren’t upset enough to go to war over the north’s abolition of slavery, but they were upset enough to secede from the union because they didn’t feel they should have to pay taxes or abide by northern tariffs when the north wasn’t holding up its constitutional obligations to catch run-away slaves.
Lincoln was quite clear about his reasons for invading the south when he wrote, “What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union…” From which it should be clear that Lincoln’s priority wasn’t about freeing slaves, but rather making sure his political power and federal tax base remained intact. Contrary to popular folklore, Lincoln was actually a rather ardent racist. I feel pretty confident in saying that if the south had chosen to ignore federal laws outlawing slavery, yet continued to pay their federal taxes and tariffs, the northern politicians never would have bothered invading and destroying them.
Today, we have a similar situation arising with many individual citizens. As the petitions clearly demonstrate, there are a great many people who feel that the amount of money, resources and liberties that the federal government is taking from them greatly outweigh any possible benefits that they may be deriving from the federal state. From their perspective, it would be better to have more accountable local governments control those resources, rather than some bloated and distant federal bureaucracy. Are those people any different from the people who advocated secession from the British monarchy? I think not.
At their core, articles of secession are articles begging for peace. Petitions for secession are petitions for the federal state to stop pointing its guns at its own citizens. “Please Mr. IRS Agent, stop threatening me. Please Mr. DEA Agent, stop pointing that gun to my head. Please Mr. FDA Regulator, let me drink my raw milk in peace.” That’s what articles of secession are really all about – peace, and the right to be left alone.