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Secession Is Not a Principle of Liberty

Ron Paul has stirred a media buzz by praising Scotland’s secession effort—an effort the Scots themselves rejected. Dr. Paul’s views are shared by many libertarians and conservatives, as well as a few folks on the left [1]. Americans tend to think of secession only in the context of our own Civil War, but most acts of breaking away from a larger political unit have nothing to do with chattel slavery. Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily have anything to do with individual liberty either.

“The growth of support for secession should cheer all supporters of freedom,” the former Texas congressman writes [2], “as devolving power to smaller units of government is one of the best ways to guarantee peace, property, liberty—and even cheap whiskey!” Alas, there’s reason to think otherwise, and not just because Diageo [3] is a London-based multinational [4].

The specifically libertarian case for secessionism is manifold: in fact, it’s several cases for different things that may not add up to a coherent whole. First, there is the radical theory [5] that secessionism in principle leads to free-market anarchism—that is, secessionist reduction of states to ever smaller units ends with reduction of the state to the individual. Second, there is the historical claim that smaller states tend to be freer [6] and more prosperous [7]. Third is the matter of self-determination, which is actually a democratic or nationalistic idea rather than a classically liberal one but historically has been admixed with liberalisms of various kinds. What it means is that “a people” has “a right” to exit a state along with its territory and create a new state.

A fourth consideration is that suppressing secession may require coercion. And finally there is the pragmatic idea that secession is the best way to dismantle the U.S. federal government, the summum malum for some libertarians. (As an addendum, one can mention the claim that the U.S. Constitution in particular tacitly approves secessionism [8], but that’s a separate argument from cheering for secession more generally.)


It should be obvious that the first and third claims negate one another, and in practice the third overrules the first: real-world secession never leads to individualist anarchism but only to the creation of two or more states where formerly there was one. The abstract claim that every minority within the newly formed states should then be allowed to secede doesn’t translate into anyone’s policy: instead, formerly united states that are now distinct security competitors tend to consider the residual minorities who belong to the other bloc to be internal security threats. These populations left behind by secessionism may or may not be disloyal, but they are readily used as pretexts for aggressive state actions: either for the stronger state to dismember or intimidate the weaker one in the name of protecting minorities or for either state to persecute minorities and build an internal security apparatus to suppress the (possibly imaginary) enemy within. Needless to say, none of this is particularly good for liberty.

The coercion point doesn’t stand without support from nationalistic or democratic claims. After all, “coercion” is a function of legitimacy—no libertarian thinks that using force on one’s own property against trespassers constitutes coercion. Yet radical individualists have no adequate theory of national self-determination. What gives the people in seceding territory X the right to shoot at people from integrated territory X+Y? “Coercion” is a question-begging argument: it says, on some unstated non-individualistic principle, that the South has the right to shoot at the Union but not vice versa.

Only the second argument for secession is not easily dismissed. It can be divided into two kinds of assertion: 1.) an abstract claim that smaller states are always better (freer, more prosperous, etc.) than larger states, and 2.) concrete historical claims that many in fact have been better.

I’ll offer a few summary remarks on this point. First, smaller states can indeed be freer and more prosperous, although there’s a hitch: circumstances in which this is true tend to be those in which small states are free riders on international security provided by large states. Hong Kong, Singapore, Monaco, San Marino, Belgium, and Switzerland are all cases in point. None of these micro-states are capable of defending themselves against large aggressors. Their security depends on great powers keeping the peace on a continental or oceanic scale. Hong Kong had first British, now Chinese protection–hardly an unmixed blessing [9], to be sure. Singapore had first British, now U.S. protection [10]. Small states such as Monaco, San Marino, Belgium, and Switzerland have derived their security from a balance of power in Europe underwritten by Britain or the United States. None of them alone, or even in concert with one another, could prevail against a Revolutionary France [11] or Nazi Germany [12] (or indeed non-Nazi Germany [13]).

A few radical libertarians seem to think that foreign conquest shouldn’t matter because it just trades one master, one state, for another. But of course, if that’s true, there’s no argument for secession since in practice it too merely trades one state for another. The question that has to be asked is a prudential one: is a particular state more or less free than the alternatives? There’s no abstract, dogmatic answer where secession is concerned.

To note that secession is not a “good idea” in principle is not to say there aren’t good examples of secessions in practice. Czechoslovakia peacefully separated. The decomposition of the Soviet Union was a positive development of world-historic proportions—though surprisingly large numbers of former Soviet citizens themselves disagree: Gallup found last December [14] that “residents in seven out of 11 countries that were part of the union are more likely to believe its collapse harmed their countries than benefited them.”

The leaden lining to the silver cloud of Soviet secession comes in part from the security competition it has entailed: Russia and neighboring Soviet successor states have had difficult dealings with one another—including wars—and ethnic tensions are sometimes grave. Despite all that, the world is well rid of the Soviet Union. But even this sterling example of secession is not without its tarnish.

Closer to home, the case that most Americans think of when they hear the word “secession” runs entirely in the other direction from Soviet disintegration. Successful Southern secession would have entailed results even more illiberal than the outbreak of the Civil War, which is saying a lot. The Southern Confederacy would have maintained slavery and looked to extend it to new territory, including perhaps Western territory claimed by the United States. Instead of fighting a war with the powerful North, however, the Confederacy might have sought expansion to the south through Cuba and Latin America [15], as indeed some Confederates dreamed of doing. In the North, meanwhile, you would have had industrial “Hamiltonian” policies and a domestic political climate over time much closer to a European level of statism than has ever been possible with the South as part of the Union. A social-democratic North and a slave South, each ready for war with the other, and at least one looking to expand. What’s libertarian about this?

The case can be made that the threat of secession at least imposes a check on central government expansion—a Washington with the secessionist sword of Damocles hanging over its head would have to respect to states’ rights. But this neglects reasons why the Union was created in the first place: notably, in the competitive world of empires and nation-states, bigger is more secure—not always, but often enough. Keeping the British Empire at bay—fortified as it was in Canada and for many years on the Mississippi and even in U.S. territory—was best achieved with a federation more tightly knit than that provided for by the Articles of Confederation.

But hadn’t America beaten the British once before under the Articles? Yes—with the help of another predatory superpower, France. A country that has the choice of providing its own security or living at the pleasure of others tends to go for growth, unless, like Japan and Germany in the last century, it gets beaten down. And to say that a territory is too large for self-government begs an important question—how can there be self-government at all if a state is not large enough to be secure?

American independence from Great Britain was in the first place driven by concerns for civil and ecclesiastical self-government: the colonists gambled their security and won. The continental United States proved to be a defensible territory without need of larger imperial union with Britain or permanent alliance with France. America’s neighbors north and south were weak and underpopulated. (Mexico’s population boomed only in the 20th century [16].) Further wars with the British Empire after 1815 were precluded by a balance of power: the growing military, demographic, and economic power differential between Canada and the booming U.S. meant that Canada, far from being a British imperial threat to the U.S., became a hostage held by the U.S. to insist upon British good behavior. The British could not defend Canada; America did not want war with the Royal Navy. That was the balance. A weaker or fragmented U.S. would have been in less of a position to keep it.

Elsewhere in the world, union and secession are questions of ethnonationalism, but for the English-speaking peoples security has always been the crux. It accounts in large part for why Scotland and England united to begin with. Scotland for most of its history was too weak and poor to resist English power. An independent Scotland was a Scotland subject to English predation. But England’s own security was jeopardized by its weak neighbor, which was at times a near-failed state—quite capable of launching raids across the border, if not much more—and at others, even when it posed no direct military nuisance, was a strategic threat as a potential base for French influence [17].

Great Britain as an island is readily defensible. So the English solved a security problem, and the Scottish conceded the unchangeable reality that their neighbor to the south was more powerful and prosperous. Scotland could start wars with England; it could not win them. Better for both, then, to have no more. Prosperity may be unequally divided, but Scots would be no worse off as a minority within a union dominated by England than they were as a weaker people outside its borders and legal order. British security was perfected by the Act of Union, and it led to a century of British global preeminence—quite an attainment for a country much smaller than France or Spain.

Today, of course, Britain’s security is guaranteed not by British arms, which proved inadequate by themselves in two World Wars, but by an American alliance. Scotland could indeed act like Switzerland or San Marino in this secure, American-backed European order. But such an “independent” Scotland today would only be choosing a hoped-for union with Europe over union with the rest of the UK. Would America’s enthusiasts for Scottish secession want their own state to secede from the U.S. merely to join Mexico or Canada? Size still matters, and Scotland depends for its security and prosperity on someone else—the U.S. and UK or the U.S. and Europe—in any scenario.

Self-government is only possible within the context of security, and individual liberty arises [18] from the rule of law that self-government makes possible. None of these things is synonymous with the others, but all are intimately related. Union and secession have to be considered, even at the theoretical level, in this setting.

The world is relatively peaceful today not because peace among states is natural but because the power differential between the top and almost everyone else is so great as to dissuade competition. Indeed, the world order is so top-heavy that the U.S. can engage in wars of choice, which have proved disastrous for almost everyone. A world consisting of more states more evenly matched, however, would almost certainly not be more peaceful. Libertarians and antistatist conservatives, of all people, should appreciate that all states are aggressive and seek to expand, if they can—the more of them, the more they fight, until big ones crush the smaller.

For America, as historically for Britain, secession and union are questions of security and power, which undergird prosperity, self-government, and individual freedom. For much of the rest of the world, poisoned by ethnic and sectarian hatreds, secession means nationalism and civil strife. In both cases, breaking up existing states to create new ones is a revolutionary and dangerous act, one more apt to imperil liberty than advance it.

Ron Paul and others who make the case for secession do us all a service, however: these are serious matters that deserve to be taken seriously, not taken for granted. Secession is a thing to be discussed—and finally, as in Scotland, rejected.

91 Comments (Open | Close)

91 Comments To "Secession Is Not a Principle of Liberty"

#1 Comment By cka2nd On October 3, 2014 @ 2:24 pm

Derek Leaberry says: “Smaller nations don’t usually have empires. Anyone remember the last time Luxembourg, Costa Rica or Papua New Guinea has invaded another country?”

I’ll see arrScott’s Holland and England and raise you Belgium for King Leopold’s especially horrific rule over the Congo and Portugal for losing its African colonies only 40 years ago.

#2 Comment By ELiteCommInc. On October 3, 2014 @ 2:27 pm

I have rereadportions of this and despite my issues with libertarianism, I am not sure that one can dismiss secession as part of the one’s exercise in freedom, whether that secession is individual or state advanced.

When I have a child hewill eventually seek to be more free of my and my rules, even my protection. THe question is no so much about freedom for surel.y, independence is that. But whether such freedom will yeild health and identity maintenance. The method by which that independence is achieved.

#3 Comment By knoxharrington On October 3, 2014 @ 3:02 pm

@SDS: “Either you believe I am (or should be considered) a voluntary participant in this grand experiment or you believe I am a slave.”

@Gene “The Bullet” Callahan: I think you are free to leave the country, yes? That means “Not a slave.”

I’m free to leave the country as long as I don’t try to take my wealth with me, as long as I agree to remit taxes even though living abroad (in contradistinction to nearly every other industrialized country), and other property controls which take from me on exit or for living abroad. Spare me. As the Michael Bolton character in “Office Space” rightly noted – why should I be the one to leave when they are the ones that suck. Secession allows groups of like-minded individuals to coalesce around shared ideas. Forcing some to live in groupings to which they don’t agree or consent (See A. John Simmons on this) is tyranny – a “mild” form in some respects but tyranny nonetheless.

#4 Comment By knoxharrington On October 3, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

“Self-government is only possible within the context of security, and individual liberty arises from the rule of law that self-government makes possible.”

That is a bold statement – is there any evidence, beyond mere assertion, that the statement is correct? What is security in this context? Is it true that individual liberty arises from the rule of law? Liberty is the mother, not the daughter of order. I guess it’s clear – I don’t buy statist mantras and excuses for the state. It derives its existence from illegitimate means and should be opposed in all its forms.

#5 Comment By M_Young On October 3, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

“Well, Matt, as you know, we did annex northern Mexico.”

No we didn’t. We annexed a territory that was claimed by Mexico as the successor state to Spain. They government in Mexico city exercised precious little control over it — look at the old maps and broad swaths of the SW are labelled ‘Comancheria’. In California, the locals were so displeased with Mexico City that they sent a governor packing.

“And we did it for much the same realpolitik reasons (I’m thinking of Mearsheimer’s “offensive realism” here) that a rump USA and a victorious CSA would’ve ended up at each other’s throats a la Germany & France: ”

Man, you’re timeline is screwed up. At any rate, see above. The territory was up for grabs, with both British Russians (hence ‘British’ Columbia and Fort Ross) advancing down the coasts, pirates literally taking over at times. We took it before another real country did.

#6 Comment By Mike On October 3, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

I’ve never encountered so many other-worldly notions in one article before.

I’ll have to content myself by merely pointing out that secession is THE founding principle of this country – that’s the central idea of the Declaration.

It was the 19th- and 20th-century ideal of the centralized megastate that made both World Wars possible. Each side commanded the power to field huge armies that pretty much ground up each other. If we were all like Switzerland – which even Hitler did not invade due to its highly trained defense forces – such wars would never occur.

#7 Comment By Irenist On October 3, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

SDS wrote, “Either you believe I am (or should be considered) a voluntary participant in this grand experiment or you believe I am a slave.”

For most of human history, a hireling or a mechanic (i.e., a wage-slave or an entrepreneurial craftsman) was either a slave or little better, and political power was in the hands of the owners of estates, who did not soil themselves with work. Whereas now, instead of a Roman Senate representing only the wealthy, or a medieval Parliament representing only lords, knights, and burgesses, we have a Congress that . . . studies show is only really responsive to the interests and demands of elite consituencies and donor groups. So, SDS, unless you’re idle rich rather than an employee or a small business owner, I think most people would think that “slave” is a reasonably decent description of your overall position in the power structure. Pejorative, to be sure, but not especially inaccurate. But if my hunch is correct that Zipf’s Law is the natural distribution of political influence in large societies, then I don’t think there’s much to be done about it. However, we “slaves” in modern America are free in many ways that earlier generations of Romans and medievals were not. And those hard-won liberties are worth preserving. However, a clear-eyed acknowledgement of exactly how low we stand seems like a better way of preserving them than complaints that being denied theoretical rights like secession uncomfortably unmasks the reality of what we are.

A Burkean view of our liberties is better than a Lockean view. Locke would derive our liberties from theoretical rights, and complain when our rulers violate them as if it were some kind of surprise. A proper Burkean would derive our liberties from the rights granted in positive law, and waste no time complaining about our masters’ human fallibility that could be spent organizing to win more positive rights. In other words, an abstract right to secession in support of abstract human rights is a distraction. If positive rights (like the old “rights of Englishmen”) can be augmented by secession (as they could be in 1776), then great. But if, as now, that’s a quixotic goal, then just find a more feasible way to augment our liberties, and get to work on it.

#8 Comment By Irenist On October 3, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

(“most people” above should have been “most people in history”)

#9 Comment By ahunt On October 3, 2014 @ 4:06 pm

knoxharrington, I interpreted Gene’s point as the freedom to emigrate, in which case you are free from remitting taxes to your former nation, yes?

#10 Comment By jmr240 On October 3, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

The ease or difficulty of a choice does not mean it’s not choice.

And that office-space quote is a good one, it shows how much someone has lost an argument.

#11 Comment By cameyer On October 3, 2014 @ 5:52 pm

When Germany, followed by the US, recognized Croatia as an independent state, disaster was assured. Tito had built a state that transcended ethnic rivalries. It worked. The break-up of Yugoslavia led to war, massacres and ethnic hatred among those who had lived peacefully since the end of WW2. Was this better than the former Yugoslavian norm?

#12 Comment By jaylib On October 3, 2014 @ 6:36 pm

“Secession is not a principle of liberty.” That is a flatly self-contradictory statement, especially when made from within a country founded by secession.
The right to secede, like the right to vote, is part and parcel of self-determination. If you reject the one, you reject all the others. It is an extreme solution – like war — but having the extreme solution available is what makes it less likely one will need to use it.

#13 Comment By Winston On October 3, 2014 @ 6:49 pm

Splitting states can weaken them.In India, Nehru split Punjab into 3 and this appears to be because otherwise Punjab would be counterweight to his state (UP) from where most Indian leaders have come from for a reason. Because it is so large and populous, UP has an outsize influence on its national governing body. India also recently created another state. More power to UP as kingmaker!

It really depends if splitting up works for you. Did anyone see the irnony of UK happy to support Kosovo (meanwhile Kosovo has become a nation that expoets Jihadis and is controlled by mafia);but wouldn’t give freedom to Scotland.

Kosovo PM is head of human organ and arms ring, Council of Europe reports
Two-year inquiry accuses Albanian ‘mafia-like’ crime network of killing Serb prisoners for their kidneys

#14 Comment By JonF On October 3, 2014 @ 6:54 pm

Re: Holland? England? Heck, even Rome was itself a “smaller nation” than most of its contemporary states.

Also, ancient Macedonia until Philip and Alexander came along.

And look what the desert city state of Mecca grew into.

#15 Comment By jaylib On October 3, 2014 @ 7:37 pm

Mike said:
I’ve never encountered so many other-worldly notions in one article before.

…. secession is THE founding principle of this country – that’s the central idea of the Declaration.

It was the 19th- and 20th-century ideal of the centralized megastate that made both World Wars possible. …If we were all like Switzerland – which even Hitler did not invade due to its highly trained defense forces – such wars would never occur.

And it barely needs to be said, only a mega-state could mount a Manhattan Project, or the counterpart to that project rumored to have existed under the Nazis.

What would the world look like had there been no WWI, no Bolshevism, no fascism, no Hitler, no WWII, no Cold War?
The U.S., or to be precise, the Empire of Wall$hington, has perverted and erased its own founding principle, and now exists to crush nascent independence movements (except those it manages from behind the scenes for its own interests). It has become a beastly, foul, hideous mockery of what America was supposed to have been. What if America had stood by her principles, and had constantly provided a witness and example of them to the world? How much different the world would look today.

#16 Comment By Bill Jones On October 3, 2014 @ 8:54 pm

I’ve seen some bollocks on “conservative” sites but the “free riders on security” piece takes some beating.

#17 Comment By therevolutionwas On October 3, 2014 @ 9:46 pm

Secession is secession. It is a disagreement and breaking away for what ever reason. I would think the act of not letting secession occur would be aggression.

#18 Comment By PGL On October 3, 2014 @ 10:53 pm

If the American South was able to secede it is highly unlikely they would have become stooges of Spain, France or England. There would have been shared interests with the North but also autonomy and a freer North America overall. Slavery was on the decline and inevitably to be ended, probably via buyouts as in other slave holding nations. It would have been nice to avoid 800,000 deaths and one hundred years of economic decline in the South.

#19 Comment By M_Young On October 4, 2014 @ 3:08 am

“When Germany, followed by the US, recognized Croatia as an independent state, disaster was assured. Tito had built a state that transcended ethnic rivalries”

This is something I really know, and yes, there really were and indeed are some ‘Yugoslavs’ attached to that ideal. There are plenty of homes in Bosnia where Tito’s picture still hangs, and when the Bosnian government tried to rename the whole of the main street of Sarajevo ‘Zmaj od Bosne’ (the ‘Dragon of Bosnia’ after a 19th century Bosnian rebel) the Vets made themselves felt and insisted at least part of the street was kept ‘ulica Marsala Tita’.

But but but, the Tito regimes ‘unity’ came at a terrible cost of surprising any and all national identification on the part of Croats and Slovenians and anyone else.

#20 Comment By Sean Walsh On October 4, 2014 @ 8:13 am

An independent Scotland would not be freer. In the near term would be run from Edinburgh by the Socialist/Social Democratic Scottish Nationalist Party who are more politically correct than the British Labour, Lib Dem or Conservative parties dare to be – for example they’re bringing in named social workers for every child in Scotland (based on a UN convention on childrens’ rights), which the UK Govt hasn’t done yet.

Support for Scottish independence comes principally from the central region, while it is far less popular in the lowland Border counties and the outlying islands such as the Orkneys or Shetlands (where the people consider themselves more Norwegian than Scottish). For them, London rule is better than Edinburgh rule.

#21 Comment By fuow On October 4, 2014 @ 10:41 am

A thought provoking article, thank you.
I wish I could say the same for some of the comments.
There is a third way for those who find life in this constitutional-republic so abhorrent.
Join together with your fellow ultra-far right Christians, join together with your ‘don’t tread on me’ (but let me impose my views on your life) ‘libertarians’ and go buy yourself a little country somewhere.
Seriously – you’ve got the money, just go do it.
Those of us who love this country would be happy to see you go, those of you who object to freedom for those Americans who don’t believe as you do would be much happier in a land where you can establish your own Christian theocracy with Ayn Rand economy.

Of course, the next time Texas ‘threatens’ to leave the union, the other 49 of us could just say: Go. Go with God, but go.

#22 Comment By Aegis On October 4, 2014 @ 1:25 pm

@ PGL: “If the American South was able to secede it is highly unlikely they would have become stooges of Spain, France or England. There would have been shared interests with the North but also autonomy and a freer North America overall. Slavery was on the decline and inevitably to be ended, probably via buyouts as in other slave holding nations. It would have been nice to avoid 800,000 deaths and one hundred years of economic decline in the South.”

Of course, that leads us to ask what was up with all the filibustering campaigns to Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua; and violent subversion of democracy in Kansas; and the whole “explicitly refusing compensated emancipation” thing.

#23 Comment By Cahokia On October 4, 2014 @ 2:40 pm

“Join together with your fellow ultra-far right Christians, join together with your ‘don’t tread on me’ (but let me impose my views on your life) ‘libertarians’ and go buy yourself a little country somewhere.
Seriously – you’ve got the money, just go do it.”

No, you can’t do it.

There’s no terra incognita left on the map.

Even the whole charter city movement has turned into a fiasco.

So barring the development of artificial islands, secession is perhaps the only viable answer for libertarian minded people.

The tyranny of the modern nation-state is extraordinary. Consider – huge parts of the U.S. literally have no population:


Yet we’re not even allowed to raise the notion that some section of the population could freely occupy one piece of this unpopulated territory to form their own polity.

#24 Comment By Samson Corwell On October 4, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

I’ve been saying this for years.

#25 Comment By Samson Corwell On October 4, 2014 @ 6:03 pm

SDS wrote:

@Gene Callahan- That assumes that I have no claim to my land; that it is ultimately the property of “the state”…. And my personal little plot going it alone would be relatively absurd; but if all my neighbors decided to; land included- Well, that’s the idea of private property, I would submit.

I’ve encountered this view before. I’m going to be brutally honest here, it sounds pretty stupid. Your real estate does not create a special bubble around you. The law applies equally on it as it does off of it. What Gene said certainly does not assume you don’t own your land. To the rest of the world, you certainly DO own it.

#26 Comment By memo On October 4, 2014 @ 9:33 pm

Secession movements are symptoms of the dysfunction of the larger body.

I don’t approve of it but I think I understand what motivates it: incompetence, corruption, arrogant elites that fail or break the law and are not punished.

World-wide there is a growing sense that bad or incompetent people are in charge and that they are ripping off and/or endangering the rest of us.

#27 Comment By Steven H On October 5, 2014 @ 12:16 am

Subsidiarity is a more attractive principle.

Breaking away from a larger state is more a question of collective interests weighed against the interests of other sub-populations, then exercising them against the wills of the opposing sides.

#28 Comment By Samson Corwell On October 5, 2014 @ 1:58 am

Cahokia wrote:

The tyranny of the modern nation-state is extraordinary.

And libertarians wonder why they aren’t taken seriously.

#29 Comment By JonF On October 5, 2014 @ 7:28 am


Secession movements can be about a lot of things. I would certainly not describe the 1850s federal government of the US as incompetent or corrupt.

#30 Comment By JonF On October 5, 2014 @ 7:35 am

Re: . Consider – huge parts of the U.S. literally have no population:

Uninhabitable lands will not be inhabited.

Re: Slavery was on the decline and inevitably to be ended, probably via buyouts as in other slave holding nations.

It’s grotesque to imagine slavery lasting into the 20th century, but I have a hard time coming up with a scenario whereby it ends peacefully in the old South. Probably the European powers would have intervened at some point to end it, perhaps if an independent CSA became an aggressive power in Latin America– but that too would likely have involved bloodshed.

#31 Comment By fuow On October 5, 2014 @ 10:35 am

Goodness – that’s not very John Galt-like of you.
We gays would still be subject to criminal penalties, our children still ripped from us and our marriages still ignored by hospitals and probate courts if we hadn’t had the courage to stand up and fight for justice.
We’re getting it. Slowly, but we’re finally being treated as fully human, fully American.

If you ultra-far-right conservative Christians and Ayn Rand libertarians really and truly want a place where you can set up a Christian Theocracy with true laissez-faire capitalist economy, then you can buy it. European countries buy and sell each other little parcels of land and complete islands all the time. Germany and England still do so, to name but one small example.
For that matter, even American states in the South (kicking and screaming and both proclaiming they’ve been sold down river) manage to redraw their boundaries without bloodshed.
You can’t have any part of the Rocky Mountain Empire. Our ‘leave us alone’ mentality seems highly similar to yours at first glance, but scratch the surface and you discover that we mean it – for everybody, not just ultra-far-right conservative Christians as you do.
But there’s lots of countries in Central and South America where your unlimited money can buy you the freedom you seek.
It means working hard and starting over, but, heh – isn’t that what being a ture libertarian and ultra-far-right conservative Christian means?

Personally (and this shows my Rocky Mountain roots), I’d let Texas go in a heartbeat. I’d even help the citizens of Austin pack and move North.
But that’s not going to happen. Take your unlimited funds and find a country willing to sell you a province or island.

#32 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 5, 2014 @ 8:34 pm

“Slavery was on the decline and inevitably to be ended, probably via buyouts as in other slave holding nations.”

Nice notion, but the idea that the south was going to give up free labor is just that – a nice notion. The debate to expand slavery to the several states — would rebut it’s pleasantries.

If you want t count the expense — then one must concede that it was cheap enough to maintain and go to war over . . . as well as expand.

#33 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 5, 2014 @ 8:37 pm

In fact, had it not been for the existing labor forces west and nort6h, such labor was quite attractive to financial interests north and west. There is talk of the second slavery in which corporate entities did just that with blacks after the civil war and those companies were not in the south.

#34 Comment By Dmitry A. Chernikov On October 5, 2014 @ 10:35 pm

Hi Daniel, I have a reply to this article at


#35 Comment By Swiss Guy On October 6, 2014 @ 5:41 am

You obviously know little about Swiss history since you claim that Switzerland “derived their security from a balance of power in Europe underwritten by Britain or the United States.” Its probably one of the few countries that doesn’t derive anything from any other country. World War 2 being the best example of being literally being surrounded by one of your “larger states” and yet not asking for anything from the British or Americans. They have a militia based military system and enough food and nuclear shelters for the entire population. One of the reason’s even Hitler decided Switzerland “wasn’t worth it”.

#36 Comment By John W Rodat On October 6, 2014 @ 9:07 am

Interesting article and comments.

Some questions: Is seceding from the secessionists valid? Presumably so. If so, where does it end? Only after repeated cycles of dissolution, ending with entirely atomized entities (tribes, families, individuals). How do those at the end of that chain of events protect themselves? Indeed protection from physical violence aside, what would be the social and economic ground rules for their interacting with others?

Freedom, effective freedom anyway, requires some (not absolute) internal discipline and tension. Like a sailboat, whose lines are slack, the individual and the group is subject to the whims of nature and has no means of steering one’s own course. Only the sailboat whose lines are taut is capable of self-control. And only constant adjustments of the counterbalances frees us to choose our own directions.

#37 Comment By Irenist On October 6, 2014 @ 10:44 am


I wasn’t talking about the ability to control territory in North America; I was talking about ownership in European international law. Texas seceded from Mexico, not from the Caddoans or the Comanches. After the Mexican War, we annexed the Southwest from Mexico. We later paid them for the Gadsden Purchase; we didn’t pay the Apaches for it. We got the Brits to back up to the 49th Parallel in the Northwest; I don’t believe the Chinook were represented in the negotiations.

Now, it’s certainly true that many Indian-held areas were not U.S.-controlled de facto until well after our Civil War; in Comancheria, e.g., Quanah Parker’s Quahadi didn’t surrender until 1875. It’s also true that many American settlers in Texas and California, and not a few Mexican settlers in those states, were no fans of the Mexican central government. But those states were legally Mexican until we took them, and legally American after them. Few Americans would have thought that we didn’t own, de jure, the interior West before the Red River War in Comancheria and Gen. Sheridan’s other campaigns in the continental interior. (If someone as ruthless against enemies as the Sheridan who intentionally let settlers slaughter buffalo to starve out his opponents could have been sent to Iraq, our recent wars might have been very different, perhaps.)

Overall, I think, with respect, that your refusal to allow the standard term (“annexed”) as a descriptor of our actions vis-a-vis Mexico in the Southwest merely because of Indian resistance and settler dissatisfaction with various the Mexico City regimes is a tendentious reading of the history and/or an idiosyncratic use of terminology that obscures more than it enlightens. If you just want to say that it was a good thing we annexed those lands, go ahead. But there’s no need to hide from frank avowal of conquest behind semantics.

#38 Comment By Aegis On October 6, 2014 @ 4:42 pm

@ Irenist: you mean M_Young is using a tendentious read of historical events to put the most positive spin possible on actions taken by Anglos while simultaneously denigrating any contribution or role played by non-whites?

I am shocked, SHOCKED, that you would ever imply such a thing. How dare you, sir?

#39 Comment By JonF On October 6, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

Swiss Guy,

There is however more history behind the story. Switzerland’s perpetual inviolability was guaranteed by the Treaty of Westphalia– in exchange for perpetual Swiss neutrality, since the Swiss were feared throughout Europe. (Exception was made for the Pope’s Swiss guard).
Napoleon did march into Switzerland but with the excuse of supporting a popular revolution against the ruling oligarchs– for which the grateful revolutionaries, with some Gallic encouragement no doubt, allowed him to cart away as much gold from the bank vaults as his train could carry.

#40 Comment By John Zube On October 11, 2014 @ 5:44 am

Typically, individual, personal law or exterritorial autonomy secessionism is not discussed in the above statements, although it offers the most rightful and rational alternative to all forms of territorial statism, with its monopolist, collectivism and compulsion. Even small territorial States can be very despotic. Their only advantage may be that one can escape from them more easily than from large territorial States. A lasting peace in freedom, justice and prosperity requires the abolition of territorial States. See e.g. [22] on this, also [23]

#41 Comment By Jack O’Brien (@Set_Square_Jack) On October 23, 2014 @ 2:25 am

People need to check out:

– “Democracy: the God that Failed” by Hans Hoppe

– “Production of Security” by Gustave Molinari

– “Declaration of Independence” by Thomas Jefferson et al.

Seriously, the amount of false dilemmas and rabbit trails in many of these comments is ridiculous.

And can there ever, ever be a discussion about this topic without bringing up slavery? What does slavery have to do with secession, either in principal or in practice?

The fact that the CSA had an institution of slavery is totally moot, but everyone brings it up as if it’s relevant. Consider:

1) It’s a historical particular. Secessionists movements have occurred outside both the time and region of the CSA, you know.
2) Four [4] of the Federal States were slave states!
3) Secessionism in principle is simply the act of breaking bonds. So runaway slaves were “seceding”. How many people have every considered that? So one man or woman can flee from an abusive master but….multiple men and women cannot break their servitude to a master(s) collectively? In the former case, it’s a given; in the later case, it’s ‘omg this is impossible to conceive of!’

“The American Conservative.com”

Yes. Yes that’s where I’m at.