Friday, October 13, 2017

Examining the California Secession Question

At the post, It's Time to Support Our Libertarian Brothers and Sisters in Catalonia, r Shook asks this question:
Along these same lines would you oppose the secession of California if the masses there decided it would be in their best interest? If not, please explain.
First, I must point out that secession is
only a tool. It can be used for good or bad, just like, say, jury nullification.

Jury nullification is very often a positive from a libertarian perspective if the jury denies a guilty verdict in a case where the government charged an individual with action that was not a violation of the non-aggression principle, say the selling of marijuana.

However, consider this scenario, a jury nullifies the conviction of an individual who stole a truck from a corporation because the corporation was "making too much in profits" by serving its consumers and the corporation doesn't get its truck back.

This would be using the tool, nullification, in a non-libertarian manner and should be objected to by all libertarians. Whenever jury nullification occurs, there is a plus in that more become aware of the concept of jury nullification, but there is more to the situation, namely, does a particular nullification move us in the direction of liberty or away from it.

The same goes for secession.

 r Shook poses his question in the form of what " if the masses there [California] decided it would be in their best interest [to secede]," but I am not in favor of majority rule. I am in favor of respect for private property and allowing individuals to do whatever they please on their property. That is, I am in favor of the Private Property Society.

And most certainly here in California, where I reside, I would not be in favor of a secessionist government that created all sorts of regulations that further limit my liberty. So if a California secession movement would appear to be moving in the direction of liberty, I would be in favor of it. That is using the secessionist tool to advance liberty. However, I would be against using the secessionist tool if it appeared to be moving in the direction of a more oppressive government.

This is basic realpolitik analysis. The ideal is a PPS. However, if the PPS is not going to be gained in the short-run, we must always support moves that are in the direction of liberty and recognize that tools such as jury nullification and secession are only tools, that should  be used or discarded, depending upon the circumstances and whether the tools are being used to advance or shrink liberty.



  1. Let's say that theoretically the Republicans were more liberty minded than the Democrats and California secession would lead to a massive weakening of the dems in the new USA. The new government of California would likely be moving away from liberty while the USA would move back toward it. While it would suck for those stuck in Cali, wouldn't it make sense to support such a thing?

  2. Sadly, the realpolitik is that the only people willing to use those tools are the more socialist "tools" in Scotland, Catalonia, and California possibly. Save for Brexit. The "tools" that should be using the tools of nullification and secession in places supposedly less collective like Republican Indiana there is zero talk of it. So who is actually more statist?

  3. so again you can't beat a giant state and you can't beat a small state so what can you beat?

  4. I've been thinking about how this is sort of analogous to the arguments some of us have been making about the international trade agreements.

    I've opposed Trump's stated desire to secede the US from NAFTA, TPP, etc. since he seems to view these agreements as being too permissive of free trade, and standing in the way of the imposition of trade barriers.

    However, if a Ron Paul were president, and he wanted to withdraw the US from these agreements on the grounds that they were not free enough, I would probably be much more receptive.

    The fate of an independent California would be a little more ambiguous. In terms of taxation and regulation, it would likely be more statist, but in terms of war and immigration restrictions, it might be more libertarian.

  5. Unfortunately California tends to lead the nation in more laws, less freedom, and less liberty. The saying is "as goes California, so goes the nation."

    If statists in California want more authoritarianism, less freedom, more government control of their lives, then I think they should be permitted to leave and form their own socialist utopia provided they form their own country.

    The rest of the nation has no moral imperative to force Californians to be free.

    There were many times in the Book of Judges that God sent the Israelites into captivity when they rebelled for 20, 60, 80 years so that they would learn how terrible it was to be slaves. Mankind has not changed. Learning how terrible slavery to government is, might be the best reform medicine for Californians.

  6. Loosening the grip and power of large states over vast swaths of people is a good thing imo. Government should be localized, varied and independent. See Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century:

    Funny thing is, the rest of America probably would like to see California go. And if it goes, maybe the State of Jefferson will go too:

    We'll get to see what kind of principled secessionists they really are.

    Still waiting for Texas to go. Whether it will be good, bad or ugly, all I'll have to worry about is Austin, rather than Austin AND Washington. And we probably won't be agitating all over the world. "F" the bloated colossus.

    1. Yes, and Robert should ask himself whether Catalonia, rump Spain, California, and rump 'murica, are less or more likely to be belligerent after the splits. Rothbard certainly viewed war and peace as most important.

    2. What is localized though?
      California is far too large in population and physical area to be small enough for an accountable government. Even the large cities are too big. Getting down to an accountable size is rather difficult.

    3. One step at a time. See the State of Jefferson. The central valley should then secede from the left coast (SF / LA / SD). Some of these metros (SF for example) could easily become city-states.

  7. The realpolitik is that as long as people endorse the might makes right, my-gang-is-bigger-than-your-gang decision making process that is democracy, secession is meaningless. Only to the degree that the coercive decision model is abandoned and the voluntary persuasive decision model is embraced is progress made toward individual liberty. The state can't be beat in the traditional way. It will wither and die of its own inhuman irrationality and this may take a long time. So stay focused on yourself, your family and your friends because that is where you can make a difference in achieving freedom. Don't participate in coercion. DON'T VOTE

  8. If California seceded, I would want to live there even less so than I do now. However, I strongly support Californian secession. I believe that by breaking the chains of Washington D.C., other states may follow suit. Perhaps more left leaning states during the Trump regime would want to leave, and later, during an (increasingly far left) Democrat regime, we would see states like Texas leave. The point is that I am in favor of state secession in general. I believe a more decentralized American society would be more conducive to liberty and more on the pathway to the private property society that you favor than if centralization continued. Sure, it wouldn't be more free everywhere; it never will be, but pockets of liberty may be able to exist. The prospects are less likely under a highly centralized society.

    Secondly, it would be a big hit to the power elite in Washington D.C.. Considering the all death, robbery, and societal destruction they have been responsible for, any diminishment of their power would be a good thing for the entire world and a step in the right direction. I'm sure most would agree that breaking up the power center of the United States would render the bad guys less dangerous everything else being equal.

  9. Hey Bob,

    I understand your angle of supporting secession only if it would lead to greater liberty as a result (possibly I am missing some finer points). I get that, in the case of California or Catalonia, secession would likely result in a government that would make any legitimate libertarian cringe. There would be casualties as a result. Those who are freedom-minded would be out of the frying pan and into the fire. But, simultaneously, and i think more importantly, secession (which is presently politically incorrect to the masses) would be more palatable. My best guess of how a PPS would emerge, and the quickest ends to this mean, would be as a result of the fragmenting of large states. In the absence of any outside influence the result would be a spectrum of generally politically homogenous regions varying from libertarian leaning to the opposite. Economic realities would quickly put differences in stark perspective and others would likely follow suit. Of course that is a pollyannaish view--this disregards other state actors, military aggression, so forth. However, if we wish to entertain the idea of a PPS or anarchocapitalist society, or if needs be a minarchist state, possibly secession, in whatever its form, might me a movement we could get behind. Additionally, it is the right to self determination. Good or bad. Disagree?