By Robert Wenzel
A commenter at the post, What if the Separatists Succeed in Catalonia?, writes:
To argue that Catalonian secession would diminish Catalonians' collective freedom would be to argue, as a corollary, that the Spanish state currently safeguards Catalonians' freedom.
I'm not sure that's an argument that libertarians should be making.I believe that at the heart of this comment is the foundation of the "secession is always good" faction of the libertarian movement.
It is thinking in terms of some type of "collective freedom," by which what is really meant is
not freedom of the individual but simply coercion by a different ruler over a given region.
It is not about "the Spanish state currently safeguards Catalonians' freedom." For the libertarian, it is about what ruling body will interfere the least in a regions freedoms. By all indications, the separatist movement in Catalonia is being led by socialists that would move the region away from the freedoms that do exist under Spanish rule.
How can a libertarian possibly think this is a good for people in Catalonia who prefer to live under the least oppressive state?
I have previously pointed out that it is not necessarily an "all or nothing" good or bad when it comes to secession.
I have argued that to an outsider (outside the region of the secession) smaller governments are almost always good since smaller governments have fewer men and resources to launch wars.
However, what goes on internally in an area of secession is not necessarily good.
If country X is relatively free, but region Z institutes harsh socialist rule after secession, it is not an advantage to the people of region Z who prefers the freedom of country X.
Libertarianism is about the non-aggression principle. It is not about a ruler who rules over fewer subjects being always preferable to a ruler who rules over more subjects.
No one who appreciates liberty is going to pick up his bags and leave the United States to move to North Korea because Kim Jung-un rules over fewer people than Donald Trump.
Further, libertarianism is not about majority rule, if 51% of the people in region Z desire socialism, while 49% desire free markets, no libertarian in good standing can think that socialism is okay in that region based on some type of "collective freedom" to march toward socialism---when it would clearly violate the desires and non-aggression principle for 49% of the people, when the alternative is to remain in a freer larger state.
I repeat, libertarianism is not about the size of the ruling state, it is about more liberty.
Finally, the last desperate defense for those who hold the view that "separation is always good" argue that a separation of a more totalitarian region would result in less of a totalitarian "drag" on the remainder of the country. This might be the case for specific secessionists movements but is not a general rule.
Let us take for example, again, take democratic country X which, we now add, has a population close to that of Spain of around 47 million with a region Z, desirous of breaking away, with a population of some 8 million (similar to Catalonia). If 51% of the people are for breaking away in Z and are desirous of a more socialist government, then that population's voting power in the country X amounts to approximately 4 million or approx. 8.5%. Thus that vote in itself will not necessarily be a socialist drag on the entire country X. It would be dependent on the voting mix of those outside of region Z and whether the additional 8.5% would put socialist ideas into play.
So again, we see that there is no general rule here about secession and "drag" but simply different outcomes based on the specifics of the situation.
The idea that being ruled by a leader who has no respect for NAP, but rules over fewer people than a ruler over a larger region that allows more freedom is a faulty libertarian position.
There is no such thing as "collective freedom," that is simply a code word for majority rule. One would think that libertarians would get that the basic idea that libertarianism advances is freedom for the individual and that it is not some game of musical chairs where under certain circumstances, "collective freedom" can result in less freedom that should be cheered on.
Specifically, with regard to Catalonia, I believe Daniel Lacalle based on the above notions makes a very strong case why secession is not a desirable outcome for the people of Catalonia.
Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics and on LinkedIn. His youtube series is here: Sunday Morning with Robert Wenzel.