As J.D. Tuccille so brilliantly points out, local tyranny is as bad as, or more often even worse than, the federal kind. Local tyrants, whether in the form of city or county councils or state legislatures, have a much more immediate and lasting negative effect on our lives than do distant bureaucracies half a continent away. As J.D. points out, local bureaucracies can inflict pain and suffering much faster and with a much shorter reach and the battles tend to be uglier, more immediate, and more personal. For this reason it is essential that liberty lovers work together at the local level to not only educate their neighbors and family on the principles of liberty, but to roll back the most tyrannical impulses of those who would exercise local political power.
So what will need to be done? The specific answers to this question will vary from state to state, as each state is unique in its demographic makeup and economic potential. In order for any state to secede and succeed on its own, however, here are three generic suggestions that apply across the board to all states that reassert their sovereignty:
- A free market economy: Unconstitutional federal regulations,taxes, and administrative laws alone do not adequately explain the economic desert that is characteristic of most states today. In addition to federal job-killing and profit-killing statutes, most states have imposed a plethora of petty laws and regulations that make life hell for entrepreneurs – you know, those people whom the political class credits for creating “small businesses that create the bulk of the nation's jobs.” I recently spoke with a friend who was trying to start up his own roofing and tile business and he tells me that in addition to federal tax, occupational health and safety, and licensing laws, he is battling a barrage of Arizona State statutes that repeat and even amplify these intrusive, pointless, counterproductive, and, most importantly, prohibitively expensive impositions on his attempt to be a productive and self-sustaining citizen. The fact is that states can no longer afford these toxic restrains on trade, which, far from keeping the consumer public “safe”, do nothing but destroy economic opportunity while robbing the public of goods and services that they desire and that resourceful, entrepreneurial citizens are willing and able to supply. It should be remembered, however, that the point of most of this regulation is NOT to keep the public “safe”, but to extort tax monies from the productive classes or to limit the supply of goods and services in favor of certain business owners, otherwise known as “state-corporatists”, who buy or otherwise influence the political classes to grant them special favors that give them de facto monopolies on the sale of certain goods and services and that increase costs while decreasing the quality and quantity of the good or service sold. The fact is that any state that has broken its bonds with Leviathan will have to be self-sustaining, and the only way to do this is by encouraging the free flow of commerce, unmolested by government interference, regulation, or taxation, and with the consumer deciding which businesses survive and prosper.
- Extremely limited –-indeed, as close to none as possible-- government: This success of the free market described in the previous paragraph absolutely depends on this. Remember, it is runaway government at all levels that is responsible for bringing the various U.S. states to their fiscal and political knees. As an anarcho-capitalist, I would prefer no government at all, with most functions now considered the province of state and local government to be assumed by the private sector, with individuals and groups composed of voluntary associations among individuals paying for goods and services as they choose. Unfortunately, this is probably unreasonable to expect of a population that has been steeped in statism for generations. Still, it is essential that any state government be given only very minimal authority or power and that ordinary citizens of the states exercise due diligence in ensuring that their government helps itself to no more than that. We can only hope that the horrors of runaway criminal government that have been the experience of post-1865 America at both the federal and state level and that was the driving force behind any state's secession from the federal Union will be enough to keep state government in check.
- Private property rights: Last but certainly not least, this is essential to not only the prosperity, but the survival of any free, self-governing state. One very encouraging trend is the manner in which many states quickly undermined the SCOTUS's Kelo vs. New London decision five years ago by enacting state laws that banned the misuse of eminent domain. While this is a very good start, it needs to go much further. No level of government in any state must ever be allowed to exercise eminent domain for any reason. Whether by omission or by intent (I strongly suspect the latter), the founding fathers, as Tom Mullen points out, neglected to construct the U.S. Constitution in a manner that ensured the sanctity of private property. Without this safeguard that is fundamental to human freedom, liberty and prosperity are impossible!
My goal here is to point out that states' rights and secession are meaningless if the only result is to localize the tyranny that is now characteristic of the federal leviathan. Only by restoring the freedoms to which the founding fathers at least paid lip service, if not actively defended, will the acts of secession and the reassertion of state sovereignty have any meaning. Devoid of the preservation of the liberty for the individual, the entire exercise is pointless.