Welcome to Liberrants, a blog dedicated to editorials, discussions, and studies of all things libertarian. Don't let the title mislead you; it's merely my attempt to be creative in describing myself as a "hopeful curmudgeon" who embraces the goal of the free, peaceful, economically vibrant society envisioned by America's founding fathers. Jump in! Contribute! Enjoy!

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Location: Tucson, Arizona, United States

A critically thinking curmudgeon whose goal, in addition to creatively venting about the imperfect world in which we live, is to induce critical thinking in others. The ultimate goal is to help bring about a peaceful world in which we can all live in freedom.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Secession Question Returns

It is perhaps a sign of just how deep the dissatisfaction with the national status quo is that the topic of secession has become newsworthy for the first time in nearly a century and a half. I read with interest an article linked to today’s LRC about a group in Vermont seriously attempting to establish a Second Vermont Republic (SVR). Other groups in the Southern states are forming with a similar agenda. All of these have the same overriding concern underpinning their platform: a federal government that is out of control.

This is an obvious truism and a very valid reason for the people of a state to extricate themselves for an entangling union that clearly isn’t serving their (or anyone else other than politically-favored groups’) interests. The problem with secession, as I see it, is that it doesn’t address the fundamental issue, which is the oppressive nature of the State itself (“the State” referring here to government at any level).

A cursory look at the history of the federal government’s expansion since the end of the War of Northern Aggression suggests strongly that much of the legal and political intervention in the affairs of the states after the war was done on the pretext that states were violating the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of individuals. The unconstitutionally-enacted (along with the Thirteenth and most subsequent amendments) Fourteenth Amendment, in particular, gave the newly-strengthened federal government the muscle to intervene, through the federal courts, in cases involving what were clearly state and local matters of law that could not even be remotely construed by the Constitution as the concern of the national government. The notorious Brown v. the Board of Education case is one well-known example. While all of us no doubt believe that school segregation was and is a horrible thing that needed to be brought to an abrupt end (the debatable legality of government schools notwithstanding), the fact is that nowhere does the United States Constitution grant authority to the national government to adjudicate either education or social policy. In other words, the issue in Brown involved no federal law as defined by the Constitution and was purely a matter for the people of the City of Topeka and the State of Kansas to resolve. Therein lies a clue as to why, if the aim of secession is to maximize the rights of individuals, such a move will not achieve its goal.

As the facts surrounding Brown demonstrate, the wrongs central to the case were enshrined as law not by the federal government, but by the city of Topeka and the State of Kansas. There was no federal law at the time requiring that schools or other public facilities be segregated and that African-Americans be treated as second or third-class citizens. Similarly, moving the calendar forward a few decades, homosexuals in the states of Florida and Texas, for all the fear and hatred they expressed toward a Republican presidential administration’s potential persecution through the force of law, needed to look closer to home for the source of their discontent. Both states had anti-sodomy laws on the books that violated these people’s natural rights of free association. There was no equivalent federal law that targeted homosexuals. It was the majority of the voters of Georgia and Texas, through their elected state representatives, who decided that same-sex congregations of an intimate nature were to be illegal and punishable by force of law. The idea that living in an independent Republic of Texas or Georgia would change this is ludicrous.

The point is that secession from the United States will not guarantee respect for individual rights; in fact, the seceding sovereign state that results may be much less free than if it had remained part of the Union. After all, there would be nothing to prevent a tyranny of the majority unless the newly-independent “state” adopted a constitution that prevented this, and even then such a move would likely fail. Indeed, looking at all of the myriad volumes of legislation on the books in each state, many containing laws clearly unnecessary, unenforceable, and contrary to the rights accorded the individual under the principles of natural law, it is hard to imagine that suffering the oppression of a state or local government is in any way an improvement over the trampling of rights perpetrated by the elitist denizens of Rome-on-the-Potomac. Does anyone really believe that the state government of an independent Republic of Mississippi, for example, will respect the rights of all individuals residing within its borders any more than the federal government now does? I seriously doubt it.

The only quasi-workable solution, as I see it, is to look beyond the State for the solution, or at least work within the framework of state and local government to effect change. Only when the citizens of each state work to ensure that the few laws they have are those that guarantee individual liberty by respecting the rights of property and person will effective change come about. Perhaps then this will spread to the national level and secession will be a moot point.

While this doesn't appear likely to happen anytime soon, we can always aspire to the goal.


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