Thursday, May 3, 2018

Is Secession Always a Libertarian Act?

The secession question appears to be a question that is difficult for many libertarians to grasp.

At the post, On Draper's Plan to Split California in Three: "It will definitely leave the Marxist, Commie, Progressive authoritarian wackos in charge," I see a couple of comments that seem to argue that secession will always mean a libertarian advance.

This is not the case. As I discussed when evaluating the Catalonia secessionist movement, a secessionist movement can be a move toward or away from liberty.  Indeed, it is possible that a union of two geographic areas could be a greater advance toward liberty.

Consider a union of North and South Korea that occurs roughly along the lines of the German reunification, where the relatively free sector (West Germany/South Korea) becomes the dominant method of rule for the combined region. This would certainly be a spectacular advance for North Koreans with little in the way of less liberty for South Koreans and it could be argued that Korean unification would be a plus for South Koreans also since it would take the possibility of nuclear annihilation by North Korea off the table. 

Regarding a three-way split of California, it certainly wouldn't be a libertarian positive for those living in the new state of Northern California or the new state of what would be called California.

Thus at best it would be a 2-1 move away from liberty.

This is not to say that all secessionists movements are bad for liberty just that secession is nothing more than a tool that can be a plus for liberty or a negative.

Over-focus on secession takes the eye off the ball. What private property society advocates should want is more freedom. If this can be brought about by secession, so be it but secession shouldn't be the ultimate goal. Freedom should be. -Robert Wenzel  


  1. I have thought about this quite a bit since you (RW) brought up the idea with the Catalonian secession movement.
    My first thought is, it’s none of my business what they decide.
    But, in reality we do think about these things and try to put them into perspective to how we see things or want things to be.
    I agree that secession on its own doesn’t always deliver an immediate progress towards Liberty. Even though many Libertarians say that no matter what, a smaller government is better.
    But I look at secession through time preference.
    Sure, people wanting to secede, think they will be better off separating with their current government structure. It may or may not turn out that way, from our point of view.
    But I think as time goes by, people can see that what they tried didn’t work, and maybe try again using a different end. Maybe 50-100 years from now, Californians will look at the 3 way split and decide that they didn’t go far enough.
    The American Revolution didn’t happen over night. Private property as even a concept didn’t happen in a decade. The divine right of kings took hundreds of years to dispel.
    The Russians turned complete commie from the czars, but now they have no czar and are no longer commie either. Are they closer to freedom now than when they had a ruler in 1900?
    Liberty seems to me, to take progressive steps.
    It may not produce the immediate fruit we think it should, or want it too, but it does seem, while people can get used to their tyrant, they do eventually tire from a long train of abuses.
    Anyway, I like discontent with government.
    The discontent might choose something worse in the short run, but I have faith in the remnant for the long haul.

  2. should consider a blog platform so visitors to LIKE comments as Joshua nails it thoroughly. We're at least 25-50 yrs away from anything resembling PPS. The less people within a given area to convince of this, the better...over time.

  3. Secession down to the individual household is the ultimate goal. I don't think you can get there from where we are today without intermediate secessions. These intermediate secessions create helpful precedents (that it's OK to peacefully break away from an overlord), reduce power (by reducing the resources under a state's control and increasing competition from neighboring states), increase accountability (by moving the state closer to its subjects), and make it harder for cronies to gain favors over a wide area (by requiring them to bribe more than just one state). Increasing decentralization of power is a good thing.

    Philosophically, if you don't like the (perhaps temporary) result of one intermediate secession, then instead of arguing against that particular secession, advocate for another secession out of the new, smaller state.

  4. So, IMO the secession itself is always libertarian. It just means that some people and property are escaping the clutches of their former government.

    Now, it’s true that certain occurrences AFTER the secession could potentially be un-libertarian. However, I feel like it’s problematic for libertarians to blame that on secession, because a corollary of that argument is that previously the former state was successfully protecting people from local predation.

  5. So 2 of the three sections remain status quo (except with a smaller group of hosts to parasitize), but a pretty large 3rd section has a chance to gain a lot. How is that not a good thing?

    Yes, it is possible the 2 sections will get worse. It is also possible that the 3rd section will remain the same or get worse. However we're guaranteed that it's going to get worse as 1 state, and there's absolutely no power for freedom-loving people to change that as Los Angeles and Silicon Valley mostly control the state.

    The vast majority of US states are in better shape than the Federal Government. Partly because they don't have their own printing presses, and partly because it's easier to concentrate power in larger political bodies. Splitting California up is the only hope for any of the current California to survive financially.

    Your arguments against this are bizarre.

  6. I prefer California to split into 39.81 million states.

    1. But some of those states may not act the way we think they should...

    2. No problem until they aggress against me and mine.