Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Do Catalonians Have the Right to Secede?

At the post, “Silent Catalonia” Rises Up Against Secessionists, unkown asks: 
Bob, would you agree that, even though you think they shouldn't and it will result in a negative outcome if they do, Catalans have the right to secede? 

My reply is multifold.

First, I don't believe
in the concept of "natural rights," so I reject the question on that foundation.

Second, individuals act not regions. Thus, I see no reason to cheer on a majority who want to march into hell. I will stick with my libertarian brothers even if there is only one and there is at least one who chooses to stay under the rule of Spain, which appears from all reports a much freer proposition than the government that would develop under a separate Catalonian state.

Finally, it is important to make clear to libertarians that secession is only a tool. It can move a region toward more freedom or away from it.

It is silly to cheer tools. A hammer, which is a tool, can be used to bang nails into wood to build a house, a good thing. A hammer can also be used to hit a victim over the head during a robbery, not such a good thing.

Whenever a tool is used, we should ask, Is this tool being used for good or bad?

Using secession to march a region into a radical leftist regime does not appear to me that it is something a libertarian would want to cheer on.



  1. As to the question of whether the Catalans have the "right to secede," it's important to recall that secession is the flipside of rule. In other words, one could and probably should re-frame the question as "Does A have the right to rule B against B's will?" (I agree with Robert that you need to bring this down to the individual level, since only individuals rule and are ruled). If the answer is "No," then B is justified in rejecting A's rule, i.e., in seceding from A's rule.

    With respect to this core question, to ask it is to answer it (or, put another way, it is not possible to logically justify one man having the right to rule another against his will). No one in Madrid has the right to rule anyone in Catalonia against their will, and everyone in Catalonia is therefore justified in rejecting such rule.

    But, equally, anyone in Catalonia is free to agree to be ruled by someone else in Catalonia, by someone else in Madrid, or by no one at all. Thus those Catalans who want to secede from Madrid and be ruled by other Catalans have the right to do so, and those Catalans who want to continue to be ruled by Madrid have the right to be so ruled. My real sympathy, however, is with those Catalans who wish to be ruled by neither, since that choice is not presently even being discussed. That said, once secession discussions are brought out into the open, there is some chance that it will lead to such musings, which is one libertarian goal.

  2. Let's try the same response for the tools named "violence" and "the threat of violence".

    "Whenever a tool is used, we should ask, is this tool being used for good or bad?"

    Do you see what Wenzel did here? He pushed the problem behind the question of good vs bad. What is good vs bad? Is violence by the State acceptable when the State does it for the "good" of individual people?

  3. Secession is just the description of one option in exercising the right of association (i.e., to not associate).

  4. RW, the Wikipedia article on NAP shows 6 justifications, natural rights being one of them. I'm sure you have an article describing yours, and a link to it would be appreciated.

  5. If secession is a tool non-grata or not on the index card of allowable opinion should we not want it to be something that is acceptable so that tool may be used for libertarian or PPS movements?
    What good is a tool if you aren't allowed to take it out of the toolbox? Secession is often viewed as some horrible act. Aren't we better off having that tool be accepted no matter how well the tool is used?

  6. Hands up all those who were in favour of Brexit. So if The UK Can dump the EU and thats good (even though the British Govt has proven itself over a 1000 year history to be terrible) the Catalans can't leave Spain.
    Hands up all those who thought Yugoslavia staying together or the soviet union. Even on an individual level who here has divorced a spouse? Should you have been forced to stick together because things might go badly?

  7. So, is the mainstream narrative that the secession of the Southern states from the US was bad because it allowed them to continue practicing slavery... actually correct?

    And would world government be potentially desirable since it could eliminate your North Koreas, Venezuelas, Cubas, etc?

  8. Why do we have to be for or against in this case? As far as Catalonia is concerned, I am Swiss--neutral

  9. Libertarianism is about individual rights, not a group or a state's right to rule a territory. Some argue secessions necessarily lead to less overall centralization of power and greater freedom. The facts say otherwise.
    When the 7 Deep South states seceded from the Union, the first anti freedom consequence was the passage of the Morrill Tariff, since the Democrat controlled Senate that had blocked its passage no longer existed. Tariffs were historically low before this.

    Then those 7 state's governments seized federal property in their territory, especially needing to fight for it Charleston, South Caroline at Ft. Sumter. It was only after those seizers of federal property, angering most Northerners, that Lincoln could raise enough troops to lead the decimation and occupation of the South. Before that, Lincoln couldn’t have led an invasion of the South if he wanted to. There were only around 16,000 US troops before the secessions.

    So, no secessions, no Morrill Tariff, no troops available for Lincoln to lead an invasion and occupation of the South by the US government. The Southern secessions made life worse for whites in the South, not better.

    1. I don't understand your point about the Morrill Tariff. This anti-freedom legislation did not apply to the South because it had already seceded. The purpose of secession is to free the seceding party from the prior authority, which this did. It's odd to blame the decreased freedom in the Union on the South's secession; why should the seceding region be responsible for what the remaining region does subsequently?! If some in the remaining region don't like what happens next, let them secede too.

      As to Fort Sumter, there is plenty of historical evidence to suggest that Lincoln actively sought to provoke South Carolina to attack the fort to provide the pretext for an invasion, and that Lincoln purposely refused to negotiate over the fort when South Carolina sent representatives to see him. Besides, no one was injured in the attack on Fort Sumter, so to then raise an army and invade the South seems like a ridiculous over-reaction (further confirming this was just a manufactured "crisis"). Maybe South Carolina was foolish to do this -- although (despite the US government's imperialism today) why should any country be obliged to accept the presence of a military base of another? -- but it was a minor incident relative to a full-on invasion.

    2. Fair point, although that’s only true for the 7 Deep South States, not the Upper South States that later joined the Confederacy.

      I first need to clarify/correct that even after the Ft. Sumter attack, the decision by Robert E. Lee and the other Southern States to fight the Union made matters far worse for the South than they would have been had they done nothing. The attack on Ft. Sumter just started things, poked the bear so to speak. It certainly was foolish; it wasn’t defensive; and libertarianism isn’t about the right of one state to grab the state property of another. What the Union army did to the South of course was unjust, but the point is that doesn’t happen if the southern states don’t secede, and aggravate and fight the stronger North.

    3. To your last sentence, secession was a peaceful act (in state-speak). Lincoln chose to invade the South because he wanted to keep the Union together to finance his buddies in the North and probably also for his own ego; the evidence suggests that if Fort Sumter hadn't happened he would have found another reason (see his First Inaugural Address). I don't think you can find fault in the South for defending its territory from the invading Lincoln army. Sure, if the South had immediately surrendered the war would have been less horrific, but since when are those attacked supposed to give up vs. defend their property?