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Secession and the Clash Between Intrinsic and Instrumental Views of the the Value of Government:

Part of the reason why I'm willing to consider and in some cases support the idea of secession (e.g. - here and here) is that I take a very instrumental view of government. I believe that existing governments, if they have any merit at all, are valuable only as means to other ends. To greatly oversimplify, I think that government is valuable only in so far as it promotes the the values of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" that were the main justifications for the establishment of the United States. If I am persuaded that some major alteration of current political arrangements would achieve these objectives more fully or at less cost, then I'm perfectly willing to embrace it. I don't see the U.S. government - or any government - as having any intrinsic value. If a particular secession seems likely to increase freedom and happiness without causing harm that outweighs these benefits, I'm willing to support it. In this respect, I am similar to most other libertarians, and also to some (but by no means all) political liberals, who also often view government in purely instrumental terms.

Many people - nationalists, many conservatives, and others - see things differently. They believe, at least to some degree, that states have value in and of themselves, apart from the instrumental purposes they serve. People who think this way often view secession proposals not only as wrongheaded, but as morally anathema. To them, advocacy of secession is not just misguided, but also immoral.

Ironically, my instrumental approach to secession and the value of states also puts me at odds with some secessionists. Specifically, I differ with those who justify secession on the grounds that their subnational political regime has intrinsic value of its own that justifies giving it the trappings of full sovereignty and endowing its government with a moral "right" to secede, regardless of its reasons for doing so. Sometimes, such claims of intrinsic value are based on ethnic nationalism (as in the case of Quebec secessionists); other times on legalistic grounds (as in the case of the American Confederates).

Obviously, I can't even begin to fully resolve the conflict between the instrumental and intrinsicist views in this post, which is intended merely to highlight the key difference between them. I would note, however, that the American political tradition was initially founded on a strong version of the instrumentalist view . By 18th century standards, British rule over the American colonies was relatively benign, and the American rebels could not claim that their colonies deserved independence because they were ethnically distinctive or had intrinsic rights of sovereignty (after all, their power was initially granted by the very British government that they sought to secede from). Instead, the Declaration of Independence articulated a strongly instrumentalist view of government, and justified secession on the grounds that British rule was beginning to undermine the instrumental purposes that it was supposed to advance:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.... . [emphasis added]

To say that an intrinsicist view of the value of government is inconsistent with the Declaration of Independence is not to say that it's wrong. Perhaps it was the Founding Fathers who were in error. Personally, however, I think they got this particular point right.

MarkField (mail):
The DOI was not declaring a right of secession, it was declaring a right of revolution. Once again: secession involves a claim that the existing constitutional system permits a group to leave without the consent of the rest, or in direct opposition to the rest. It's a claim of legal right. Revolution is not a claim of legal right to separate, but of natural right.
10.15.2008 2:43pm
Ilya Somin:
The DOI was not declaring a right of secession, it was declaring a right of revolution. Once again: secession involves a claim that the existing constitutional system permits a group to leave without the consent of the rest, or in direct opposition to the rest. It's a claim of legal right. Revolution is not a claim of legal right to separate, but of natural right.

I don't see as sharp a difference between the two as you do. Among other things, the DOI claimed that American separation from Britain was justified by various principles of the British political tradition, by the British government's violation of its legal obligations, and so on. In any event, all the points in my post apply both to what you call "secession" and what you call "revolution."
10.15.2008 2:48pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Plus, secession needn't be a claim of legal right. One can grant that the existing constitutional order doesn't allow secession, but argue that under the circumstances secession should be permitted (or is morally required), which makes the constitutional order deficient. In that case, secession can indeed blend into a claim of revolution, if you define revolution broadly enough.
10.15.2008 2:52pm
john w. (mail):
Ilya: I'm curious as to where and how you would draw a principled line for the smallest entity that should be allowed to secede.

Presumably, if, say, California and Arizona decided someday to secede from the USA to form the "Democratic Republic of Aztlan," that would be a very different moral/legal/ethical calculus than if the village of Skinhead Gulch, Idaho (population 13) located on the Canadian border decided to secede.
10.15.2008 2:56pm
The Unbeliever:
I don't see the U.S. government - or any government - as having any intrinsic value.
This may not be the case now that our government has gone into the stock-buying and bank-owning business. They have acquired some free market book value, at least.

But back on topic: even if you take libertarian instincts almost to an anarcho-capitalist extreme, isn't it possible to view a government in terms of its efficiency value to the marketplace? It's long been acknowledged that it is more efficient for government to pay for certain goods, because although society as a whole benefits greatly from their existence no individual actor would pay for them.

To borrow from Adam Smith, these are generally agreed to be infrastructure, national defense, a judicial system, public education, and the "dignity of the sovereign" (i.e. ambassadors, making sure your head of state can go around in style, etc). This is not to say the government should be the only provider of all services in these areas, just that society benefits from some minimum level of all 5, and the government exists to provide for them via taxation.

Instead, the Declaration of Independence articulated a strongly instrumentalist view of government, and justified secession on the grounds that British rule was beginning to undermine the instrumental purposes that it was supposed to advance
Most importantly, the Declaration had a list of specific grievances against the government, which seems to get lost in the popular consciousness after everyone memorizes the famous "inalienable rights" line. Without those grievances and the colonists' many previous attempts to address them within the existing legal system, the American Revolution could (arguably) be seen as illegitimate.
10.15.2008 3:00pm
Ilya Somin:
Ilya: I'm curious as to where and how you would draw a principled line for the smallest entity that should be allowed to secede.

Presumably, if, say, California and Arizona decided someday to secede from the USA to form the "Democratic Republic of Aztlan," that would be a very different moral/legal/ethical calculus than if the village of Skinhead Gulch, Idaho (population 13) located on the Canadian border decided to secede.


It's a good question. My oversimplified answer would be that a region which is so small that it's secession wouldn't promote freedom, happiness, etc. because it's too small to do so, should not be allowed to secede. Of course, there are some secessions of large regions that I would also oppose for similar reasons (they undermine freedom, justice, happiness, etc., more than they further it).
10.15.2008 3:03pm
Ilya Somin:
But back on topic: even if you take libertarian instincts almost to an anarcho-capitalist extreme, isn't it possible to view a government in terms of its efficiency value to the marketplace? It's long been acknowledged that it is more efficient for government to pay for certain goods, because although society as a whole benefits greatly from their existence no individual actor would pay for them.


I don't deny this. It's perfectly consistent with my instrumetalist approach to government. One of the instrumental values a good government can serve is providing certain kinds of public goods that the market might undersupply.
10.15.2008 3:04pm
David M Zuniga, PE (www):
Ilya,

I believe you are either begging the question of American constitutional self-government, or approaching the instrumentalist paradigm from the wrong end.

The instrument of constitutional self-government assumed by the framers was, in the extreme cases, to be the sovereign States, qua States. Through our sovereign State governments, We the People in federation, limit our creature (our federal instrumentality, in the subject parlance) to only those listed powers, retaining the rest for ourselves.

That the creature slipped its leash beginning in 1861 and has done so with increasing alacrity ever since, makes this discussion necessary. So.

The fact that federal troops used the "divide and conquer" tactic successfully against the States who gave them life; that the mercantilist elite shrewdly used the red flag of slavery to incite sectionalism and division among the creators of the federal government, certainly does not suggest that secession is tactically or constitutionally prudent!

No; the correct question to ask at this hour is: what are the most tactically efficacious means by which We the People, through our sovereign States -- ALL of them -- may restore the DOI and Constitution's creator-creature relationship, and thus the rule of law?

Jefferson posited in his 1799 Kentucky Resolution that when the federal power has run totally afoul of its charter, that the STATES alone have the authority (read: "original jurisdiction") to judge of the infraction, and to redress it.

Secession hardly achieves that end! I have a proposal, called the "America Again!" project (see my website) wherein we may achieve such enforcement in the 535 hometowns of every member of the US House and Senate... under the Supremacy Clause, ironically!

The America Again! project will allow Americans to flex our muscles -- as sovereign, united States, for the first time in our history. We can lawfully, peacefully, and powerfully redress a great many ills by listing them, publicly reading them, offering sound draft legislation to redress them, and demanding that our particular politician either begin obeying the Constitution, or do hard State Penitentiary time and lose his/her assets.

Secession is a fool's errand; something like the America Again! project would represent proper use of the very sharp instrument that our forefathers bequeathed us in creating the federal government.
10.15.2008 3:06pm
Adam J:
MarkField - "secession involves a claim that the existing constitutional system permits a group to leave without the consent of the rest, or in direct opposition to the rest." Is that your own definition, cause I've never heard it described as such. Nor have I ever heard of any state which granted such a right... have you? Many groups do eventually gain independence peacefully/legally from other states, however I don't know of any occasions where it was the result of invoking some legal right that existed beforehand.
10.15.2008 3:19pm
David M Zuniga, PE (www):
However that may be, secession is tactical stupidity, given the existence of the U.S. Constitution.

Even if we assume there are 3 million heartless mercantilists, corrupt politicians and feckless bureaucrats: We the People outnumber the domestic enemies of the Constitution by 100-to-1.

Of what practical, rational value is secession?
10.15.2008 3:27pm
David M Zuniga, PE (www):
My America Again! project is the antithesis of secession. By not letting our domestic enemies divide and conquer us again (as in The War to Enslave the States) we actually learn from history. An historical rarity, to be sure. But it might at least be hoped for, given the wonderful system we have been bequeathed.

It will not enforce itself, and no secessionist group (even an entire state) will enforce it. We the People, through resurgent sovereign States, CAN enforce it. Lawfully, peacefully, and with witheringly powerful effect.

Even if one only assumes a dozen 'true believers' in each of the 535 hometowns of every member of Congress: that would require just 6,500 Americans to turn the tide for the long term. Imagine that.

Forget the historic sucker-punch (secession) and let's band together as law-abiding citizens enforcing the Law of the Land. Let's divide and conquer the socialist Leviathan, and that will de-fang the heartless internationalists that own them, as well.

Only in America could such a plan work.

But it CAN work.

www.america-again.blogspot.com
www.americanglasnost.blogspot.com
10.15.2008 3:35pm
The Unbeliever:
I don't deny this. It's perfectly consistent with my instrumetalist approach to government. One of the instrumental values a good government can serve is providing certain kinds of public goods that the market might undersupply.
Ok, but doesn't that give it some "intrinsic value", as a useful middleman if nothing else? (private funds->government taxation->public goods)

Put it this way: are there any alternative institutions which provide these services at a national level, to the entire state, such that it overcomes the market's undersupply? You might have a small state who outsources its national defense to, say, a mercenary company. But without a government, or a national leader acting as de facto government, who negotiates the terms? Who pays for it? Who makes the decision to switch providers, upgrade the services, etc if not a government drawing legitimacy from some source, and accepted as legitimate by the governed?

I'm not making a "libertarianism doesn't scale" argument. I think what I'm (poorly) trying to articulate is that a government always has some value to its constituents, possibly in proportion to the legitimacy it can claim and the level of power it is entrusted with. And while a secessionist state may construct alternatives for the government it leaves, from a market definition any acting government cannot be written off as an artificial construct of the citizens.
10.15.2008 3:42pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
Ilya - I've always understood the American Revolution as being exactly a claim that the colonies had intrinsic rights of sovereignty vis-a-vis Britain. The argument, as I understand it, was that although colonial status was appropriate in 1600, developments between 1600 and 1775 made inappropriate to continue that status without adjustment. Many of the "abuses" listed in the Declaration (for example, trying Americans in Britian) were abuses only if one accepted the idea that the American colonies and Great Britain were separate political communities.

The idea that Britain founded the colonies, so Britain owned them forever, has a lot more resonance with 21st century libertarians than it did with 18th century English gentlemen. They (or many of them anyway) viewed sovereignty as a trust rather than a property right which could rightfully be exploited for the personal benefit of the sovereign.
10.15.2008 3:43pm
Perseus (mail):
I don't see as sharp a difference between the two as you do. Among other things, the DOI claimed that American separation from Britain was justified by various principles of the British political tradition, by the British government's violation of its legal obligations, and so on.

I'm with Mark Field on this one. The British Crown's violations of various legal and moral obligations were detailed to demonstrate that he "evinced a design to reduce [the colonists] under absolute tyranny," and therefore they had a natural right to revolt, which could not be justified by a strict appeal to British political traditions.
10.15.2008 3:45pm
Angus Lander (mail):
Ilya,

Point of clarification: do you mean that (1) you don't think that any given existing government has intrinsic value (in virtue of being that government), or that (2) you don't think that any form of government has intrinsic value?

If you mean (1) then I'm not sure there are all that many people who (at least on reflection) would disagree with you. Certainly those secessionists you cite - the Quebecers and the American Confederates - don't seem to think that the governments they intend(ed) to establish are intrinsically valuable in and of themselves; instead, they are valuable insofar as they, respectively, preserve a distinctive national identity (and allows a people self-determination), or preserve a culture and economic way of life.

More generally, it just seems obvious that, say, the US government is not valuable merely because it is the US government. Surely the most ardent nationalist would acknowledge that had they both implemented exactly the same policies, the US government and the Soviet Union would have been equally repugnant.

On the other hand, if you mean (2) then you've said something more controversial. One implication of your view then is that a dictatorship is preferable to a representative government if the former is better at preserving life, liberty and happiness. In effect, you've then denied that people have a right to self-government. Additionally, you can then cite the Quebecers and the American Confederates as examples of groups with whom you disagree.
10.15.2008 3:52pm
JB:
a dictatorship is preferable to a representative government if the former is better at preserving life, liberty and happiness.

I would say that this is true, but since viewed over time it is certain that no dictatorship can long remain better, the principle justifies nothing more than the granting of broad emergency powers to the existing executive in a crisis, which, I hope, is not that controversial*.


*The controversy over the Bush Administration's use of broad powers in the War on Terror is more over the question of whether we are in a sufficiently severe crisis, and whether the government will abuse the meaning of crisis to extend its use of the powers too far, than whether the powers themselves are justified.
10.15.2008 4:05pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
In this respect, I am similar to most other libertarians, and also to some (but by no means all) political liberals

Do you mean that in the "Milton Friedman Liberal" sense, or the "Democrat Party Liberal" sense?
10.15.2008 4:06pm
JohnnyHorizon (mail):
how about we just think of government as an imagined expression of our collective bloody-mindedness and nothing else. if it serves us economically, then we're true believers. if we want to "secede," then we need only do it in our hearts and our minds, and everything else is a question of how many federales we can take in a fight.

the DOI is a piece of paper. the constitution is a piece of paper. and we put up with one another at our own peril. trying to develop some a priori right of secession based on what a bunch of tea-drinking amateurs in the 18th century thought is absurdity.
10.15.2008 4:15pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I posted this on the other thread, so I will put it here to. One very good argument against permitting secession is that larger entities create de facto free trade zones where goods and people can freely move across borders, which is not the case with separate sovereign nation-states. Thus, a larger country can take advantage of the law of comparative advantage among various political subdivisions, whereas independent nation-states need treaties and particular policies (which are often unpopular) to do that.
10.15.2008 4:16pm
Doc W (mail):
Who gets to decide the relative instrumental plusses and minuses? People will differ, and I doubt there's a reliable interpersonal calculus for weighing cost versus benefit. Also, on what basis would the people who would be "left behind" by the secessionists claim a right to keep the latter shackled?

I dont have solid answers, but it seems to me these questions are relevant. Another suggestion: the larger the scope of government, the more secession becomes a matter of dispute, including war. If the feds just spent a billion bucks on a harbor or airport, or especially a military facility in my town, then it stands to reason that my town can't expect to go its own way and take the stuff with it. But to the extent that government limits itself to keeping the peace and inforcing contracts, then not much hangs on where borders are drawn.
10.15.2008 4:26pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
There is an originalist, indeed a "Borkian" originalist school of thought that downplays, indeed even condemns the Declaration of Independence as not a "legal" document, but a dangerous illegal one at that. According to this school of thought, the Constitution is to be strictly followed. The Declaration is to be strictly ignored. As Lino Graglia once put it:

"What [the Declaration of Independence] is, of course, is a document meant to justify revolution — that is, illegal action. Having no human law to rely on — being in defiance of authority — revolutionaries necessarily come to rely on the law of God, who, happily, rarely issues a protest."
10.15.2008 4:32pm
MarkField (mail):
Perseus expressed my view of the DOI very well. It was not at all a claim based on British law, but on natural right, and phrased in expressly Lockean terms.


One can grant that the existing constitutional order doesn't allow secession, but argue that under the circumstances secession should be permitted (or is morally required), which makes the constitutional order deficient. In that case, secession can indeed blend into a claim of revolution, if you define revolution broadly enough.


A moral argument which convinces the rest of the country to go along with the departure peacefully is consistent with what I said in my first post. It's in cases where there's real objection that the distinction becomes clear.


MarkField - "secession involves a claim that the existing constitutional system permits a group to leave without the consent of the rest, or in direct opposition to the rest." Is that your own definition, cause I've never heard it described as such. Nor have I ever heard of any state which granted such a right... have you? Many groups do eventually gain independence peacefully/legally from other states, however I don't know of any occasions where it was the result of invoking some legal right that existed beforehand.


The Southern argument prior to the Civil War was that secession was permitted under the Constitution because the states were parties to the agreement and could therefore withdraw. They considered the Constitution as similar to a treaty. Of course, there was no such "legal right".

As I understand the Canadian situation (and I'm depending on Prof. Somin's posts), there is general agreement that Quebec can leave at any time. Apparently, then, that's an example of an existing legal right.


In any event, all the points in my post apply both to what you call "secession" and what you call "revolution."


I agree that your substantive points remain valid in either case. I do think the terminology is important precisely because we still see people try to defend secession here in the US, where, contrary to Canda, it is not allowed.
10.15.2008 4:43pm
Bill2:

Of what practical, rational value is secession?


As the solution to "a house divided against itself", or as they say in divorce cases "irreconcilable differences". Consider the current political situation in the US. We currently have two completely incompatible views of what the US should be. One wants a transplanted Western European democratic-socialist welfare state governing an extremely secularized culture in which traditional moral values are largely abandoned. The other has a traditionalist view, at least the American context, of limited government over a traditional culture (although willing to compromise the former where it specifically conflicts with the latter).

After the 2000 election, and again after 2004, there was considerable discussion of secession by the losing side. I'm sure no matter who wins this year, it will be discussed again. I am personally tired of sweating out these elections every two years. The stakes have gotten too high. I think we'd all be a lot happier if the red and blue states just went their separate ways, like the Czechs and Slovaks. I think the resulting peace of mind would be of enormous practical, rational value.
10.15.2008 4:54pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
On the other hand, if you mean (2) then you've said something more controversial. One implication of your view then is that a dictatorship is preferable to a representative government if the former is better at preserving life, liberty and happiness.
I don't think that this is controversial, in the short term; the problem is that in the long term, it's hard to imagine that a dictatorship would be better at preserving these things.
In effect, you've then denied that people have a right to self-government.
But when you say "self-government," what you really mean is majority rule, not self-government. Government by its very nature involves ruling others, not just oneself.
10.15.2008 5:06pm
Angus Lander (mail):
David,

Piddling point: I think you're just wrong that it is uncontroversial to claim that a dictatorship that consistently protects life, liberty and happiness is better than a Republic that does not (do so as well). Maybe the claim itself is correct, but it is not uncontroversially so (if it was we wouldn't hear so much talk about self determination).

Less piddling point: this strikes me as so much hot-air,


But when you say "self-government," what you really mean is majority rule, not self-government. Government by its very nature involves ruling others, not just oneself.


I use the term "self-government" as it is normally used, to denote a system wherein each citizen has an equal say (e.g. via vote) in what the government does.

Arguably, an arrangement like this has intrinsic value - surely (other things being equal) it is better to let every member of a group have an equal say in what the group will do than to let only some of the members have a say. (Maybe you believe it is better if "the group" never does anything, but if we assume away that option, self-government (as I use the term) is (ceteris paribus) better than the alternatives.)
10.15.2008 5:42pm
a knight (mail) (www):
James C. Carter, LL.D., "University Of Virginia, And Thomas Jefferson, Its Father", Address delivered for the Dedication of new Buildings of the University Of Virginia, June 14, 1898
published in the preface to
"The Writings of Thomas Jefferson" (ME), Lipscomb and Bergh, Volume II (Google books link)
The part relevant to this thread begins around pg xxx

I am near certain that this James C. Carter is James Coolidge Carter, so yeah, he was a Yankee...
10.15.2008 5:46pm
Oren:
Thanks for a very informative post.

One quibble though -- you write
If I am persuaded that some major alteration of current political arrangements would achieve these objectives more fully or at less cost, then I'm perfectly willing to embrace it.
This is a bit ambiguous. It could either mean that, if some other theoretical arrangement would lead to more LL&PoH you would support action to get there OR, it could mean that, if another arrangement seemed more suitable for LL&PoH AND could be achieved without seriously imperiling LL&PoH, then you would support it.

That is to say, there are "revolutionaries" that consider only the relative merits of the starting and final states (holding that the interregnum is irrelevant) and other revolutionaries that are more willing to consider the pain required to get there.

This is essentially my main beef with modern secessionism -- it's not that other forms of government might not be preferable but that difference must be compelling enough to offset the destruction of civic history inherent in the transition period. Much of the time, secessionists focus on the perceived wrongs of the current system or the supposed merits of their proposed system but are curiously silent about how we get there from here.
10.15.2008 6:02pm
KenB (mail):
Bill2 writes:
I think we'd all be a lot happier if the red and blue states just went their separate ways, like the Czechs and Slovaks.
I wonder what Blue America would do for a military? Of course, Blue America's lack of a military would make it easier for Red America to get access to the Pacific.
10.15.2008 6:14pm
a knight (mail) (www):
Inextricably intertwined within the concept of all human's Natural Rights to Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness is the Natural Right to Expatriation, a concept that has fallen into great disfavor amongst many presently, who claim they are libertarian:

"My opinion on the right of Expatriation has been, so long ago as the year 1776, consigned to record in the act of the Virginia code, drawn by myself, recognizing the right expressly, and prescribing the mode of exercising it. The evidence of this natural right, like that of our right to life, liberty, the use of our faculties, the pursuit of happiness, is not left to the feeble and sophistical investigations of reason, but is impressed on the sense of every man. We do not claim these under the charters of kings or legislators, but under the King of kings. If he has made it a law in the nature of man to pursue his own happiness, he has left him free in the choice of place as well as mode ; and we may safely call on the whole body of English jurists to produce the map on which Nature has traced, for each individual, the geographical line which she forbids him to cross in pursuit of happiness. It certainly does not exist in his mind. Where, then, is it? I believe, too, I might safely affirm, that there is not another nation, civilized or savage, which has ever denied this natural right. I doubt if there is another which refuses its exercise. I know it is allowed in some of the most respectable countries of continental Europe, nor have I ever heard of one in which it was not. How it is among our savage neighbors, who have no law but that of Nature, we all know."

Thomas Jefferson, "To Doctor John Manners, June 12, 1817"
"The Writings of Thomas Jefferson" (ME), Lipscomb and Bergh, Volume XV, pp 124, 125

The Natural Right to Expatriation was a topic discussed in Talbot v. Janson, 1795, a decision which predated the Alien and Sedition Acts:

This involves the great question as to the right of expatriation, upon which so much has been said in this cause. Perhaps it is not necessary it should be explicitly decided on this occasion; but I shall freely express my sentiments on the subject. That a man ought not to be a slave; that he should not be confined against his will to a particular spot, because he happened to draw his first breath upon it; that he should not be compelled to continue in a society to which he is accidentally attached, when he can better his situation elsewhere, much less when he must starve in one country, and may live comfortably in another: are positions which I hold as strongly as any man, and they are such as most nations in the world appear clearly to recognize.

James Iredell, "Talbot v. Janson, 1795"

It is this Right to Expatriation, expressed by a majority of a geographically defined population, wherein the right to secession is derived.

Being elected one for my own county, I prepared a draught of instructions to be given to the delegates whom we should send to the Congress, which I meant to propose at our meeting. In this I took the ground that, from the beginning, I had thought the only one orthodox or tenable, which was, that the relation between Great Britain and these colonies was exactly the same as that of England and Scotland, after the accession of James, and until the union, and the same as her present relations with Hanover, having the same executive chief, but no other necessary political connection ; and that our emigration from England to this country gave her no more rights over us, than the emigrations of the Danes and Saxons gave to the present authorities of the mother country, over England. In this doctrine, however, I had never been able to get any one to agree with me but Mr. Withe. He concurred in it from the first dawn of the question, What was the political relation between us and England? Our other patriots, Randolph, the Lees, Nicholas, Pendleton, stopped at the half-way house of John Dickinson, who admitted that England had a right -to regulate our commerce, and to lay duties on it for the purposes of regulation, but not of raising revenue. But for this ground there was no foundation in compact, in any acknowledged principles of colonization, nor in reason: expatriation being a natural right, and acted on as such, by all nations, in all ages.

Thomas Jefferson, "Autobiography"
"The Writings of Thomas Jefferson" (ME), Lipscomb and Bergh, Volume I, pp 11, 12
10.15.2008 6:19pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"One very good argument against permitting secession is that larger entities create de facto free trade zones where goods and people can freely move across borders, which is not the case with separate sovereign nation-states."

NAFTA, EU? States can set up whatever they want for border control and commerce. Who cares if it's de facto? Even in a single nation people and goods cannot move freely unless the carrier has paid the vehicle taxes.
10.15.2008 6:32pm
David M Zuniga, PE (www):
Bill2,

No, I posit that you're being impractical and/or irrational about reality (as opposed to political theory).

Let me first say that the Constitution still limits the federal government to enumerated powers, but -- like the teenager who is given four credit cards and a wad of cash every week -- politicians will not limit themselves while you're mindlessly pumping $3,000,000,000,000 their way each year.

So much for legalities and economics; as to the need for secession in the American constitutional framework, this:

The only actual allegiance held by the average American (not experiencing government school indoctrination in Marxist legend) is love of patria in the classic sense. Such 'love of my land' is not for a huge, polyglot, polytheist gaggle from sea to shining sea. It is love of one's cultural, geographic homeland.

For most Americans, this is a small geographical realm. For me (a Texan) it comprises a much larger area with many more folkways and colorful history than most autonomous nations of the world.

As a Texan from birth, my allegiance to California, Delaware, Vermont or even Kansas is no more dear than my allegiance to Germany, Peru, or Uzbekistan -- despite the proximity.

The mores, cultures, and even language of each of these fifty sovereign States run the gamut, do they not? So by this time in our 'collective' history we are no longer a cultural or social collective. We have very little in common, other than this increasingly inept, overweening Leviathan in D.C. who would keep 300 million hosts for its parasitism as long as it can, thank you.

In fact, this lack of common national culture was your point and I realise it. But my point was that political secession is not only unnecessary; it is foolish and even dangerous for the seceeding group, and dismissive of the constitutional framework that our forebears fought so hard to bequeath.

The only form of secession I support is a family-by-family matter; a very practical matter of 'seceeding' from the aegis of the lawless, corrupt Leviathan State hatched in The War to Enslave the States, and given real tools of torture in the year 1913.

Today, about one out of every three people you pass in the grocery store is a non-filer (estimated 67 million non-filers as of 2005, according to former IRS fraud examiner Sherry Jackson, now a Tax Honesty spokesperson). I've been a law-abiding, Tax Code-reading, principled Nontaxpayer for the past 11 years; several of my family members and many of my friends are, as well.

We consider all of this banter about "big government pork" just much ado about nothing; for us, April 15th is just another day on the calendar. I correspond immediately via certified mail, with my public employees at IRS every time they seek to have me end my family's practical 'secession'.

Until the law changes, I have no intention of doing so! I am no fool, and neither are most of the other 67 million non-filers.

This, Bill2, is practical 'secession', sans lawbreaking or bloodshed.

www.americanglasnost.blogspot.com
www.america-again.blogspot.com
10.15.2008 6:33pm
Oren:
I'm starting to think Orin was right about the nutters on the right outnumbering those on the left. Maybe I should head to DailyKos to inject some balance into my nuttery for today?
10.15.2008 6:49pm
David M Zuniga, PE (www):
Nuttery? Not an inaccurate jibe against secessionist talk. But you have no right to chide nuttery (of Left or Right) as long as you're abdicating your duties as an American.

Let political theories and banter come and go; enforcing the Constitution (by the people, through the courts of the sovereign States) is the only course that will bring national recovery.

As for family recovery: being a law-abiding Nontaxpayer certainly helps!
10.15.2008 7:15pm
Bill2:

This, Bill2, is practical 'secession', sans lawbreaking or bloodshed.


I am advocating neither. Rather a peaceful, amiable divorce on the Czechoslovak model.


Nuttery? Not an inaccurate jibe against secessionist talk. But you have no right to chide nuttery (of Left or Right) as long as you're abdicating your duties as an American.

Let political theories and banter come and go; enforcing the Constitution (by the people, through the courts of the sovereign States) is the only course that will bring national recovery.


That's not going to happen. Again, about a third of the population passionately wants Western European society &governance, another third passionately rejects that in favor of a traditional vision of America (somewhat varyingly defined), and the rest are either not-so-passionate leaners or totally apathetic. Every election is close, and bitter. No miracle is going to make one or both sides go away. It is seriously reminding me of the situation leading up to the Spanish Civil War. Closer to home, the breakdown is similar to what Adams described among the American population during the Revolutionary War (only "Patriots" &"Tories" instead of toda's ideological groupings), which worked out rather like an American civil war in many respects.
10.15.2008 7:40pm
Bill2:

I wonder what Blue America would do for a military? Of course, Blue America's lack of a military would make it easier for Red America to get access to the Pacific.


Not a safe assumption. From articles I've seen, the partisan divide is roughly even in the lower ranks, but leans more conservative as you go up the totem pole. However, Israel has done very well with a military in which officers are promoted from the ranks, and history reveals many ideologically motivated "gifted amateurs" (and plenty of career soldier duds, too). Furthermore, the left side would certainly attract more foriegn military assistance the right side.

However, better to avoid combat altogether by an amicable divorce before it comes to that.
10.15.2008 7:49pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
One can grant that the existing constitutional order doesn't allow secession, but argue that under the circumstances secession should be permitted (or is morally required), which makes the constitutional order deficient.
The Constitution doesn't allow for succession or revolution because it is a contract establishing sovereign government. The only time succession or revolution would be justified is if the contract is broken. The only way to enforce a dissolution clause in a contract (say for a corporation) is an appeal to higher authority. The Constitution of a sovereign nation recognizes no higher authority.
I don't see the U.S. government - or any government - as having any intrinsic value.
I wouldn't quite agree with that, and I think neither does the DoI: "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."
Many of the "abuses" listed in the Declaration (for example, trying Americans in Britian) were abuses only if one accepted the idea that the American colonies and Great Britain were separate political communities.
Not quite. From the Sixth Amendment: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law..."
I think we'd all be a lot happier if the red and blue states just went their separate ways, like the Czechs and Slovaks. I think the resulting peace of mind would be of enormous practical, rational value.
The Czechs and Slovaks lived in two separate areas, which could be divided. Very few red or blue states, if any, have even a large majority of red or blue voters. Look at Illinois, which is really a red state with blue Chicago. Such a division would have to be accompanied by a massive redistribution of people.
10.15.2008 8:02pm
Bill2:

The Czechs and Slovaks lived in two separate areas, which could be divided. Very few red or blue states, if any, have even a large majority of red or blue voters. Look at Illinois, which is really a red state with blue Chicago. Such a division would have to be accompanied by a massive redistribution of people.


Unfortunately true. However, it seems the lesser of the evils compared to the Spanish-style civil war that I fear is in our future otherwise.
10.15.2008 8:06pm
David M Zuniga, PE (www):
Bill2,

With reference to my "America Again!" grassroots project (see my website link above) you say:

"That's not going to happen. Again, about a third of the population passionately wants..." and in your next post, you return to a far LESS likely scenario, 'amicable divorce'.

FAR more realistic than your suggestion of amicable secession, is my proposal of lawful, peaceful, grassroots effort to bring each member of Congress before the Court of Public opinion in his/her hometown, at least. At most, assert original jurisdiction (as Jefferson posited in the KY Resolution) for the State court, even in a matter of high crimes against the U.S. Constitution.

Each local group has only one corrupt member to pursue, and can do so with no tar, no feathers, no hateful screams, no resort to arms, and certainly no threat to cut and run as secessionists while the D.C. al Qaeda does the dirty on the U.S. Consktitution and all other States' populations.

Secession is a proven loser tactically, no matter what might be posited of constitutional law or natural law. This time we stand together; secessionists will hang separately.
10.15.2008 8:12pm
MarkField (mail):

NAFTA, EU? States can set up whatever they want for border control and commerce. Who cares if it's de facto?


We tried that under the Articles of Confederation. The failure of that approach is one of the principle factors which led to the Constitution.


Inextricably intertwined within the concept of all human's Natural Rights to Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness is the Natural Right to Expatriation


This is an individual right, not the right of a state. States, in fact, have no "rights", certainly not in the "endowed by their Creator" sense. If individuals are unhappy with the current government, they have the right to leave. Secession, however, is the exact opposite of this right. It claims the right not to leave, but to stay (and to force others to leave if they don't agree). It's asserted on behalf of a state, not on behalf of individuals.
10.15.2008 8:25pm
TheWhaler (mail):
I'm tempted to start a petition in California for a proposition that would begin the process of secession. The US Constitution aside, does any one know if anything in the California proposition system prevents this from coming to pass?
10.15.2008 8:32pm
Bill2:

FAR more realistic than your suggestion of amicable secession, is my proposal of lawful, peaceful, grassroots effort to bring each member of Congress before the Court of Public opinion in his/her hometown, at least. At most, assert original jurisdiction (as Jefferson posited in the KY Resolution) for the State court, even in a matter of high crimes against the U.S. Constitution.


The problem is not corruption - it is incompatible ideology. There is no national consensus that is being suppressed by the powers that be, and which could come into its own if only we throw all the bums out. The voters of San Francisco are not going to bring Nancy Pelosi "before the Court of Public opinion in his/her hometown" because the vaste majority of them agree with her and anathemize the policy preferences of the other side. Ditto with Tom Tancredo's constituents. The purple constituencies will swap back &forth as the wind blows, with the base on each side (in every constituency) getting more enraged with each election cycle, until it finally blows up. Then, no matter which side wins, we probably get a dictatorship because when it gets decided in combat the nastiest guy in the victorious coalition usually comes out on top (Franco, Cromwell, Lenin, whatever).
10.15.2008 8:34pm
Bill2:

If individuals are unhappy with the current government, they have the right to leave.


That would work pretty good for lefties, there being plenty of places where the prevailing governance is to the left of the US - in several of which one would not even need to learn a new language. However, if the left is successful in it's project to Europeanize US governance, just where is a conservative or libertarian to go, hm?
10.15.2008 8:40pm
David Warner:
Jon Rowe,

"What [the Declaration of Independence] is, of course, is a document meant to justify revolution — that is, illegal action. Having no human law to rely on — being in defiance of authority — revolutionaries necessarily come to rely on the law of God, who, happily, rarely issues a protest."

Guess that's why Protestants don't exist.

Bill2,

"As the solution to 'a house divided against itself', or as they say in divorce cases 'irreconcilable differences'."

Think I'll go with Lincoln, thanks. How's that whole divorce culture thing working out for the kids? Dilan Esper nails the madness of this upthread.
10.15.2008 8:40pm
David Warner:
Bill2,

"Every election is close, and bitter."

If this one isn't close, will you reconsider your assumptions?
10.15.2008 8:45pm
David M Zuniga, PE (www):
Bill2,

The point I forgot to make is that "only one-third" of any population is more than adequate to effect structural change such as peaceful law-enforcement. But even if two-thirds of a State sought to secede, the 1/3 holdouts could queer the deal.

But why should we not try my divide-and-conquer approach next Independence Day?

www.america-again.blogspot.com

Read the America Again! declaration whenever time permits. Tell me if you think it might not be preferable to secession, from both a legal standpoint (we should enforce the Constitution against our creature gov't) and a moral standpoint (we shouldn't leave other States hanging out to dry while we cut and run).

LarryA,

Your point that "the Constitution of a sovereign nation recognizes no higher authority" is critical.

Jefferson made clear in the 1799 KY Resolution that when the government created in that Constitution by the sovereign States (federal government's creators) has serially violated that Constitution in all three branches --the creators of that federal government have original jurisdiction to judge of the infractions and apply remedies.

My proposal is the decentralised application of those remedies; the citizens of each U.S. congressional district, and of the hometown of each State senator, enforce the Constitution with criminal sanctions and State Penitentiary time for those who are unrepentant.

No seceding State can do this. A single State or even a confederation of seceding states cannot operate against the federal creature in the same way, either with respect to military efficacy or to legal standing.

Even if a working majority of one State could be convinced to do such a thing, a seceding State cannot legally bring the D.C. Leviathan back in line. The best it could do is begin to operate as South Ossetia would like to do (with respect to Georgia) or as Georgia has begun to do (with respect to the former USSR). A messy business, and totally unnecessary in the case of the D.C. al-Qaeda.

We the People must simply begin to operate wisely, and enforce the US Constitution on hundreds of fronts simultaneously. This is the most lawful, logical way forward.

Every State (through its courts, not through vigilante action) can bring its own citizen-statesmen back in line.

Every power enjoyed by the national government is either granted by the Constitution, or arrogated by violating the Law of the Land. So you're right, the Constitution is sovereign as you suggest. We the People, through our sovereign States, made it sovereign.

The America Again! project now seeks, on Independence Day 2009, in up to 535 communities across America, to apply Jefferson's reasonable principle in fact, on the ground. No State will be demanding anything of the plenary federal power; it will only demand that its own U.S. representatives and Senators from its own soil, obey the Constitution, desist their predations, or serve many years in their area State Penitentiary and lose most or all of their material wealth.

This is totally in keeping with the spirit and letter of the Constitution. Because we have this Constitution, we need only enforce it in every single U.S. Congressional district -- with the perpetrator facing the cameras and the people BACK HOME, rather than us going hat-in-hand to his marbled halls in D.C.

Psychologically, tactically, and legally, this is worlds apart from "erecting new government" as the DOI suggests aggrieved populations have right to do to tyrants.

These 50 States must enforce the law against our creature. It ain't rocket science.
10.15.2008 8:45pm
MarkField (mail):

However, if the left is successful in it's project to Europeanize US governance, just where is a conservative or libertarian to go, hm?


Small government types might enjoy Somalia or Haiti. Social conservatives would feel very comfortable in the Middle East. Wall Streeters have Hong Kong.
10.15.2008 8:46pm
Oren:


Let political theories and banter come and go; enforcing the Constitution (by the people, through the courts of the sovereign States) is the only course that will bring national recovery.

Why does it always have to go back to "enforcing the Constitution" as if you have the monopoly on declaring that it isn't being enforced as is. It's a form of solepcism, IMO, that pretends that you understand the Constitution against the entire weight of all legal studies, court cases and long-accepted doctrine.

It just so happens that Constitution is already being enforced, decently well I might add, by the government we've got. The fact that you don't approve of [insert laundry list of nutball theories] is hardly relevant.
10.15.2008 8:46pm
Oren:
I should clarify, the government that we have is pretty terrible at governing, but that doesn't excuse elevating their various mistakes to Constitutional violations. This used to be a loony-left type of argument: "Bush violated the Constitution by lying about Iraq", "Bush should be impeached for violating FISA/Guantanamo/waterboarding/etc..".

I am firmly against the invasion of Iraq, torture of prisoners, expanding FISA but I do not delude myself into thinking that the Constitution mandates the results that I personally prefer.
10.15.2008 8:49pm
a knight (mail) (www):
Bill2 - you assertion that libertarianism is somehow related to the right-side of the political bipolarity is pure fantasy. The right has certainly proven itself to be an enemy of individual social liberty. Perhaps your world view is best served elsewhere; Singapore awaits...
10.15.2008 8:51pm
Oren:

The right has certainly proven itself to be an enemy of individual social liberty.

In many cases, open contemptuous of even the suggestion that liberty might involve people choosing not to hew to their particular moral scheme.
10.15.2008 9:02pm
David M Zuniga, PE (www):
Oren,

You're kidding, right? (Or we're a congressional staffer, are we?)

Bill2,

You say "The voters of San Francisco are not going to bring Nancy Pelosi "before the Court of Public opinion in his/her hometown" because the vaste [sic] majority of them agree with her and anathemize the policy preferences of the other side..."

OK. How, precisely, does this not apply to the secession of an entire STATE from the union?

Then you say that people are "...getting more enraged with each election cycle, until it finally blows up. Then, no matter which side wins, we probably get a dictatorship...".

Nope; as Davidson and Rees-Mogg posited in their 1995 book of that title, The Sovereign Individual is now a force to be reckoned with, by every parasitic entity -- civil governments included.

The sovereign individual was empowered by the Internet to a far greater extent -- an order of magnitude -- than the incunabulum empowered the average individual 500 years ago.

Redistributionist ('legacy') nation-states are doing one of three things:

1) trimming down to meet market preferences (their constituents' desires for the civil magistrate in free societies);

2) bucking reality via coercion (regulatory or armed) against their own citizens and will fall slower, but harder; or

3) reeling amidst the pace of change with nary an idea of what's coming, or what's ahead (there you go; that's Washington D.C.).

As the parasite class and their owners (billionaire plutocrats with no allegiances except to their trust estates) carry 'taxpayers' from pillar to post, they'll recruit as many of the ignorant groundlings into the parasite class as possible. Those for whom a little reading of history -- or of the Tax Code -- is far too much work, when slinging mud is so much easier.

Oren, call your office.
10.15.2008 9:10pm
Ilya Somin:
I don't see the U.S. government - or any government - as having any intrinsic value.

I wouldn't quite agree with that, and I think neither does the DoI: "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."


This is a purely consequentialist reason for not chainging the government (based on "prudence"). It's not a claim that existing governments have intrinsic value.
10.15.2008 9:27pm
Joshua:
LarryA: The Czechs and Slovaks lived in two separate areas, which could be divided. Very few red or blue states, if any, have even a large majority of red or blue voters. Look at Illinois, which is really a red state with blue Chicago. Such a division would have to be accompanied by a massive redistribution of people.

And not only redistribution within states, but across states. The trick is not only to achieve relative "red" or "blue" homogeneity within individual states, but also to keep the "red" and "blue" state blocs geographically contiguous (i.e. no "red" states surrounded by "blue" states or vice versa), if for no other reason so that you wouldn't have to travel through or fly over hostile territory in order to go from one part of your country to the other. (This, I might add, would also be a major complication to any secession of Quebec from Canada.)

Bill2 (responding to LarryA above): Unfortunately true. However, it seems the lesser of the evils compared to the Spanish-style civil war that I fear is in our future otherwise.

As opposed to another American-style civil war? Or worse yet, a Korean-style civil war? I suspect that no matter how you propose to divvy up "red" and "blue" America, too many of us are still too attached to the notion of "one nation, indivisible" (YMMV on the "under God" part) to accept any permanent partitioning of the country, and so the two sides will still end up fighting to reunify America on their own terms.
10.15.2008 9:41pm
Oren:

You're kidding, right? (Or we're a congressional staffer, are we?)

Nope, not kidding and I don't work for Congress.

The elevation of political disagreements to the level of constitutional name-calling is absurd.


Sovereign Individual

That's good for a laugh, or at least it would be if I didn't get the notion you are dead-serious in your misapprehension of both the English language or the Constitution.
10.15.2008 9:46pm
David Warner:
MarkField,

"Small government types might enjoy Somalia or Haiti. Social conservatives would feel very comfortable in the Middle East. Wall Streeters have Hong Kong."

You may not be interested in Islam, but an America shorn of those three groups would make Islam very interested in you...
10.15.2008 9:49pm
Oren:
David, investment bankers are breaking 2:1 for Obama. I think we'll have enough of them left over . . .
10.15.2008 9:57pm
Bill2:

If this one isn't close, will you reconsider your assumptions?


It will be close enough. In 1964 the popular vote was 61.1%/38.5%, but the right didn't go away. In 1972 the popular vote was 60.7%/37.5%, but the left didn't go away. Just how big of a victory would one side have to get before the other would vanish into the history books like the Free Silver guys? I don't know, but I seriously doubt that the winning side this year is even going to reach the level of those historical blowouts.


Think I'll go with Lincoln, thanks.


Yes, civil war is such a great idea. The last time we tried it, we managed to kill off more of ourselves than we lost in both world wars put together - and out of a much smaller population. This time we can do it right - with nukes.

I was actually thinking about trying to resolve the issue without megadeaths, which would seem to call for a win-win solution.


You say "The voters of San Francisco are not going to bring Nancy Pelosi "before the Court of Public opinion in his/her hometown" because the vaste [sic] majority of them agree with her and anathemize the policy preferences of the other side..."

OK. How, precisely, does this not apply to the secession of an entire STATE from the union?


By agreeing to disagree and just having separate countries for each side, instead of escalating the nastiness of each side trying to impose its will on the other until it goes the way of Spain c 1936.


As opposed to another American-style civil war? Or worse yet, a Korean-style civil war? I suspect that no matter how you propose to divvy up "red" and "blue" America, too many of us are still too attached to the notion of "one nation, indivisible" (YMMV on the "under God" part) to accept any permanent partitioning of the country, and so the two sides will still end up fighting to reunify America on their own terms.


If you're right then we're doomed, because the only way out of the impass is peaceful separation. Neither side is ever going to consent to be governed the way the other side wants.


"Small government types might enjoy Somalia or Haiti. Social conservatives would feel very comfortable in the Middle East. Wall Streeters have Hong Kong."


Somalia &Haiti are "failed state" warlord/tribal anarchisms, not limited government as in the US of the Founding Father's generation. It's a little matter of the rule of law. Somehow I doubt that Washington &Jefferson would have seen a kindred spirit in Mohammed Adid.

Given that Christians are an oppressed minority in such Moslem countries as tolerate their presence at all, no I don't think the Baptists et al would be too comfortable in the Middle East.

With the Wall Streeters, you probably have a point but a lot of them vote left anyway (Buffet, Soros, etc...). They'd probably like Putin's Russia, too, except for the weather. I was really thinking more about us Jacksonian types, though. Hong Kong wasn't too big on the RKBA even before the Brits turned it over to the ChiComs, and I doubt is has loosened up much since.
10.15.2008 10:46pm
Oren:
Why would Buffet and Soros tolerate Putin's Russia where their business decisions would be governed according to His Will? E.g. Khodorkovsky

What makes you think that a civil war in the US would lead to nuclear release? All that shit (except a few Navy subs) are government by locking systems that won't work without top-down approval. Whoever has the loyalty of the Pentagon will control the nukes (and presumably won't use 'em).

Could be a hell of a guerrilla war, yes. Nukes, absolutely not.
10.15.2008 10:57pm
Bill2:

What makes you think that a civil war in the US would lead to nuclear release? All that shit (except a few Navy subs) are government by locking systems that won't work without top-down approval. Whoever has the loyalty of the Pentagon will control the nukes (and presumably won't use 'em).

Could be a hell of a guerrilla war, yes. Nukes, absolutely not.


I basically assume the brass would be split - they break heaviliy right but many would serve a government with which they disagreed because the US military is very steeped in the principle of subordination to civilian control. The controls of which you speak are electronics, and people with the right technical information (which both sides will have) will be able to bypass them. When one side is looking otherwise certain defeat in the face (e.g. the Spanish example in early 1939), they will do it.

The above does postulate the Spanish scenario - major civil disorder by hyperpartisans on both sides, followed by a failed military coup against an aggressively left-wing government. If it is the right in power and moving aggressively to permanantly change the political game (admittedly a highly unlikely scenario this year, but the blow up might be decades out), there probably are not enough brass both left-wing and insufficiently steeped in the subordination principle to mount a coup attempt. Of course that could change over time as well - Congress has the constitutional authority to micromanage officer promtions, if it chose to do so.

A repeat of the US Civil War scenario (unilateral secession by a block of states, opposed militarily by the rest) would also put nukes, brass &the necessary technicians in the hands of both sides.

Either side could start a guerrilla war, building from terrorism to open conventional warfare over time. At the time, I was concerned that the OK City bombing represented the start of that, but I think the 1994 election defused it for a while (but I think the partisans on both sides are a lot angrier now than they were back then). In this scenario maybe you are right about no nukes, unless the government side looks to be going down like the Samoza regime in Nicaragua and uses them in desparation.
10.15.2008 11:30pm
David M Zuniga, PE (www):
Gee, Oren! I think you outdid yourself here:

"That's good for a laugh, or at least it would be if I didn't get the notion you are dead-serious in your misapprehension of both the English language or the Constitution."

I guess that's an either/and question, right?

Seriously, the context of my remarks about "The Sovereign Individual" was this perennial secession hogswallop. Keep that context in mind, OK? You're wanting to turn a pointless theoretical discussion into a semantic thumb-wrestling match, too?

I'm not biting.

Being from Texas I've heard the secessionist pinhead saber-rattlers all my life. They'll knock yer hat in the creek with their words and dreams of glory days. This accomplishes nothing.

You first tried ad hominem and then attempted to inveigh against the America Again! project; both with zero credibility. Until you've read the declaration, considered the historic and tactical aspects of the thesis, and then pointed out problems (on the merits), I'll take your snide attacks as just more bluster fit for the secessionist tent.

Oh...wait a minute...this IS the secessionist tent! Law?! What law, right?

Boy howdy...I'm outta here.
10.15.2008 11:51pm
MarkField (mail):

You may not be interested in Islam, but an America shorn of those three groups would make Islam very interested in you...


Hey, I didn't raise the issue. I don't think anyone should leave. But since he asked, I felt compelled to make some helpful suggestions. It's just the kind of person I am.
10.15.2008 11:57pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
I'm not sure there is a way to distinguish "prudential" (in Ilya's sense) from "consequentialist" support for a government. The debate reminds me of a the Nullification Crisis of 1830. Daniel Webster, asserting a strong unionist position declared; "Liberty and Union. Now and forever. One and inseperable."

Later there was a trade of toasts between Andrew Jackson and John Calhoun:

Jackson: "Our Union. It must be preserved."
Calhoun: "The Union. Next to our liberty, most dear."

Straightforward consequentialist arguments are unlikely to generate the emotional response needed to motivate soldiers.
10.16.2008 12:04am
David Warner:
Oren,

"David, investment bankers are breaking 2:1 for Obama. I think we'll have enough of them left over . . ."

Hey, I broke for Obama too, and investment banker support isn't exactly an asset at present, if it becomes widely known here in Joe six-pack the plumber land.

I'd just like to keep the folks who know how to, you know, fire a gun around. A healthy supply of Jacksonians tends to make for more neighborly behavior on the part of the strong horse riders with their eyes on our skyscrapers. Our chickens our roosting just fine on their own, thank you.
10.16.2008 12:54am
Bill2:

Bill2 - you assertion that libertarianism is somehow related to the right-side of the political bipolarity is pure fantasy. The right has certainly proven itself to be an enemy of individual social liberty. Perhaps your world view is best served elsewhere; Singapore awaits...


I assert no such thing. I merely lump them together as groups that would be less happy under Western European-style governance than under the current US status quo, but would find no relief in Markfield's "right to leave" for lack of any real alternative.

And no, Singapore is not much like where conservatives of any stripe would like to see the US go. Government controlled companies dominate its economy, it has widespread public housing, and firearms ownership is basically verboten. Most conservatives, even "social conservatives", would probably not consider that a fair trade just to live in a society with draconian drug laws.
10.16.2008 10:53am
David M Zuniga, PE (www):
Ilya,

By whatever legal measure (constitutional or natural), the dichotomy you've drawn is a false one. Viz:

Either the Constitution is the Law of the Land -- the regulative charter for the federal government of these 50 States -- or it is not.

This fact of American existence is denied by the denizens of Washington D.C., and in practice it is denied by virtually all other federal employees and recipients of federal largesse or police power, in whatever American city or town they are situated. This segment of America violates the law with impunity, in the face of every Taxpayer.

I'm not whining about any sense of personal loss; as I've already stated, for over a decade I've joined the estimated 67 million non-filers in America. I'm a law-abiding Nontaxpayer, thus my ox is not being gored.

But the Law of the Land under which my grandchildren will live, is being serially violated; trampled to ignominy and irrelevance, as this past month's financial predations make plain.

It is false dichotomy, that secession can honestly be couched in an instrumental or intrinsic view of American federal government. The question is moot; all that is required of self-governing States of the American union is that the limitations placed by the Constitution on the federal power, be obeyed by the federal power.

So often, I hear the weary Taxpayer moan, "But they don't listen! They do whatever they want to do, and damn the Constitution!" Well, yes; they do.

I find it illustrative that 'Bill2' suggested earlier that if a sufficiently large plurality in a given congressional district decide to rape and plunder, that a principled minority armed with the law and working through the courts of their sovereign State, can do nothing about it!

Well then, let criminals have free reign and stop your moaning about it. Stay in the "fair share" line, don't ever read a copy of the Tax Code, and let the $3 trillion flow in every year; that and more.

You will have not only an out-of-control fat pig; you will soon have most of your neighbors riding on the pig's back!

As for me and the estimated 67 million other non-filers in America, the jig is up. The government in Washington D.C. has no practical daily nexus with my life (here in rural Texas) and I live in as much liberty as my great-grandfather did. No need for Texas to secede, and no need for me to march to Washington, D.C. with a bullhorn.

I've had no end of amazement, watching otherwise bright individuals arguing fine points of legal and economic theory while having not the least inclination to do anything about it; and millions of line workers and corporate drones nursing their 401k's while allowing the D.C. al-Qaeda (like a criminally-spoiled, drug-crazed stepchild) skim 35% off their every paycheck, and now planning to do much, much more.

So. The intrinsic-instrumental dichotomy is false; the average American groundling (perhaps especially in the legal industry) is both: intrinsically dense, and instrumentally cowardly.

www.americanglasnost.blogspot.com
www.america-again.blogspot.com
10.16.2008 12:10pm
Bill2:

I find it illustrative that 'Bill2' suggested earlier that if a sufficiently large plurality in a given congressional district decide to rape and plunder, that a principled minority armed with the law and working through the courts of their sovereign State, can do nothing about it!


I don't believe that I suggested anything of the sort. I don't believe that I addressed that scenario at all. The scenario that I addressed is the one we have, in which two factions with mutually exclusive agendas collectively form the majority of the national electorate, with the people in the middle essentially non-aligned and finding either of them sufficiently acceptable that neither is permanantly excluded from power.

In that scenario, the specifics of the factions' respective agendas don't matter - even "rape and plunder", so long as the kingmaker non-aligned group doesn't consider advocacy of rape and plunder to be disqualifying (or the "rape and plunder" faction successfuly spins its agenda as "love and sharing" and its opposition as "hateful and greedy"). Court action at the local level is not going to change the basic equation. The root problem is the two factions themselves - each competing to impose its own will on the other, while considering the will that the other faction seeks to impose on them to be anathema.

The gordian knot can be cut, though, by arranging it so that both factions can have their own way while being free from the oppression of the other - by putting them in separate countries. "Extreme Federalism", if you like.
10.16.2008 2:40pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
This is a purely consequentialist reason for not changing the government (based on "prudence"). It's not a claim that existing governments have intrinsic value.
I think we're using different definitions of "intrinsic." One intrinsic (essential) value of a long-standing government is stability. A contract written twenty years ago is still valid today. OTOH I certainly don't buy the "it's valid/illegal because the government says so" argument. I'll be happy to join you on the barricade.
10.16.2008 9:17pm
David M Zuniga, PE (www):
Bill2,

Nope; the Gordian knot holds firm against any secessionist seeking a geopolitically insular country in his former State of the union. But I have demonstrated how millions of us are enjoying practical (family-by-family; business-by-business) 'secession' anyway. That's defense.

With respect to We the People playing offense, you claim that my America Again! project "will never happen", and my counterclaim is that by almost any measure, it's more realistic than secession.

I realise that the entire discussion hatched from Ilya's half-boiled egg of political theory. However, when you and a few others shifted to 'action scenarios', I chimed in with a defensive tactic that is already proven effective for tens of millions of Americans, and an idea for an offensive tactic that might be witheringly effective.

While Jefferson dropped the bomb in his 1799 KY Resolution, history never required that the States send in ground troops to test the principle. The America Again! project would be that first test.

The antithesis of secessionism, such a 50-State citizen action aligned with Jefferson's principle (and with the Supremacy Clause) requires no lawlessness, violence, civil disobedience, or relocation of masses of citizens to another State.

A modest proposal.
10.17.2008 7:26pm