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The Declaration of Independence and the Case for Non-Ethnic Secession:

One of the striking differences between the American Revolution and most modern independence movements is that the former was not based on ethnic or nationalistic justifications. Nowhere does the Declaration state that Americans have a right to independence because they are a distinct "people" or culture. They couldn't assert any such claim because the majority of the American population consisted of members of the same ethnic groups (English and Scots) as the majority of Britons.

Rather, the justification for American independence was the need to escape oppression by the British government - the "repeated injuries and usurpations" enumerated in the text - and to establish a government that would more fully protect the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The very same rationale for independence could just as easily have been used to justify secession by, say, the City of London, which was more heavily taxed and politically oppressed than the American colonies were. Indeed, the Declaration suggests that secession or revolution is justified "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends" [emphasis added]. The implication is that the case for independence is entirely distinct from any nationalistic or ethnic considerations.

By contrast, modern international law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights assigns a right of "self-determination" only to "peoples," usually understood to mean groups with a distinctive common culture and ethnicity. If the American Revolution was justified, the ICCPR's approach is probably wrong. At the very least, secession should also be considered permissible where undertaken to escape repression by the preexisting central government. For example, Taiwan's de facto secession from China in 1949 was surely justified, despite the fact that most of the island's population consists of ethnic Chinese.

The Chinese on Taiwan seceded for the purpose of escaping rule by a communist regime that went on to slaughter millions of its own people. Had it retained control of Taiwan, it would likely have oppressed its population far worse than anything 18th century Americans suffered at the hands of the British. Today's Chinese regime is much less brutal than that of Mao Zedong; but it is still much more repressive than Taiwan's own government. Athough the Taiwanese government continues to affirm that the island is officially a part of China, it is in reality a separate nation in everything but name. Formalizing Taiwan's independence might be pragmatically unwise for any number of reasons. But that in no way undermines the moral case for it.

The case for allowing non-ethnic secession in cases where it is used to escape brutal repression strikes me as overwhelming. More controversial is the case for allowing it in situations where a group seeks to secede merely because they believe they can establish a better government than the status quo, even if the latter is not unusually oppressive. In my view, this type of secession should also be permitted, so long as the secessionists do not plan to engage in oppression of their own, and meet a few other criteria. I will not, however, try to argue for this broader right to secession here; those interested in the relevant argument should check out Christopher Wellman's excellent book on the subject. For now, I will only suggest that the example of the American Revolution and other similar situations provides a strong argument for allowing non-ethnic secession in cases where it is used to escape a repressive central government.

corneille1640 (mail):

For now, I will only suggest that the example of the American Revolution and other similar situations provides a strong argument for allowing non-ethnic secession in cases where it is used to escape a repressive central government.

I apologize if this sounds a bit snarky, but if a polity seceded today and, less than 90 years later (only about 2 generations) was engulfed in a large civil war that would ultimately kill about 2% of its population, that polity's decision might not necessarily be counted as an argument for secession.

I do not mean to disparage the ultimate good (i.e., end of slavery) that came out of the Civil War, nor, despite how people might interpret my comments in your prior post, do I mean to disparage the ultimate good that came out of the American War for Independence. But the American colonists took at least two gambles. One was that they would defeat the British, which they did with the help of France. The second was that the new nation would stay together peacefully, which happened only after a violent, vicious civil war.

Any polity that wishes to secede ought to determine if the potential cost of anarchy and civil war outweighs the benefit of escaping a repressive government. In part, this calculus requires one to come to grips with whether and to what extent the country one is seceding from is all that repressive to begin with.
7.4.2009 7:33pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Your point is well taken. I wonder, in fact, whether it leaves any argument for ethnic-based secession, since it would seem that most if not all legitimate examples of ethnic secession can be subsumed under it. That is, ethnic secession is justified when the group in question is oppressed by the dominant powers within the current state.

In practice, of course, things will not always be simple. Take the American Revolution. The colonists had a clear case that the government of Britain was oppressive. However, if we consider hypothetical intervention at the World Court by the American Indians, things would look different: one of the freedoms sought by the American colonists was the freedom to steal Indian land. By the time of the Revolution, the policy of the Crown, whatever its faults may have been, was conservative of the status quo with respect to Westward expansion and more respectful of the rights of the native peoples.
7.4.2009 7:43pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I am very sympathetic to the ideological ends that Prof. Somin is expressing in these posts (i.e., he's totally right that Taiwan's secession from China saved 20 million Taiwanese from Chinese tyranny (although it should be noted that things are a lot better now than they were when the tyrant and dictator Chiang Kai Shek was in charge)).

But he's barking up the wrong tree in looking for a legal doctrine to justify secession. Secession is generally illegal and for very good reasons (states don't recognize laws that countenance their own destruction)-- it just happens that if you win a war of secession, none dare call it treason.

And there's no reason we shouldn't leave it like that. Populations do it when they feel they have to, but you can't really divine a principle that separates good treason from bad treason, except that the ends are better.
7.4.2009 7:55pm
interruptus:
While the American secession wasn't ethnically based, I don't think it's as easy to discount it being based on the right of "a people" to self-determination. One reason the Revolution succeeded is precisely, I think, that there was a sense of American identity, which by the late 18th century had begun to eclipse the British identity: the colonists saw them as Americans first, subjects of the British Empire second. That made it a not great leap to begin thinking that they should rule themselves rather than be ruled by what was increasingly being seen as a far-away foreign polity.
7.4.2009 7:59pm
mga4 (mail) (www):
How does one determine what is "repressive" and from what perspective? For the colonists, the taxes Great Britain imposed were taxation without representation and entirely unjust. From the British perspective, the taxes were compensation for defending the ungrateful colonies in the French and Indian War/Seven Years War.

From the Confederate perspective in 1861, a repressive federal government was going to limit and ultimately destroy an institution that was vital to the Southern economy. I am not for a moment defending slavery or the "diversity" it brought to the country of which Stephen Douglas was so proud. I am saying that I think there is a large amount of victor's justice in such evaluations.
7.4.2009 8:08pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
This may be the most significant point that underpins American exceptionalism. [Not that I'm interested in all the baggage with that phrase - just that this particular aspect of American history with respect to the world truly is exceptional.] For that reason I've always had a huge gripe with Pat Buchanan and those of his ilk with their ridiculous fear of non-white immigrants. People don't migrate here because of their ethnic/tribal ties - they come for the political and economic freedom.
7.4.2009 8:25pm
gerbilsbite:
So does this mean there won't be another round of Sarah Palin haiku today?
7.4.2009 9:29pm
PersonFromPorlock:
You've got the problem by the wrong end: government "derives its just powers from the consent of the governed" and if the governed withdraw that consent, their former government has no 'right' to exist. It's not that the people have a right to secede but that governments have no right to resist being dissolved; and the only thing 'the people' have to have in common is that they're under the same government.

Well, that's the theory, at any rate....
7.4.2009 9:42pm
GainesvilleGuest (mail):
Who is it that is in a position to "allow" people to succeed?
7.4.2009 9:46pm
Desiderius:
"One of the striking differences between the American Revolution and most modern independence movements is that the former was not based on ethnic or nationalistic justifications. Nowhere does the Declaration state that Americans have a right to independence because they are a distinct "people" or culture."

That idea itself was just being born at that time.

Apologies for the Berlin kick, just been re-reading Proper Study.
7.4.2009 10:11pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
What counts in my book is liberty, not ethnicity. If governments are limited to defending liberty, who gives a fig about ethnicity? Let individuals trade and associate freely as they choose. If government has power to control, to manipulate, to pick winners--well, then, I want my brothers and sisters in charge.
7.4.2009 10:27pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
But he's barking up the wrong tree in looking for a legal doctrine to justify secession. Secession is generally illegal and for very good reasons (states don't recognize laws that countenance their own destruction)-- it just happens that if you win a war of secession, none dare call it treason.
I think that PersonFromPorlock answered this appropriately.
7.4.2009 10:33pm
Desiderius:
juris_imprudent,

[Not that I'm interested in all the baggage with that phrase - just that this particular aspect of American history with respect to the world truly is exceptional.]

Perhaps if we took a greater interest in the pony under the pile of bullshit we'd have some better luck battling Buchanan and his ilk.
7.4.2009 10:47pm
Eric Rasmusen (mail) (www):
Why do you think the City of London was oppressed? It had high taxes, but it had lots of influence in Parliament, and benefited from government spending.

Legally, London had no right to secession. It never had a legal identity separate from England (distinct, yet-- as a burough in England-- but not as a separate jurisdiction). Wales, maybe, the Channel Islands, for sure, but not London.
7.4.2009 11:04pm
Pujols (mail):
I agree with Interruptus. Some scholars argue persuasively that the only sensible way to read "the People" in the Declaration is as a reference to the new Americans. Certainly it didn't refer to all people; slaves and women make that clear. At least on some level the People was an corporate expression. While they identified themselves first as Virginians, Pennsylvanians, etc., and only secondarily as Americans, the geographic and political lines between them and the Brits made it an easy line to draw for secession purposes. As always, the motives and history are mixed, and this post's account seems to simplistic in its initial premise.
7.4.2009 11:18pm
epeeist:
Ultimately, at international law what matters is whether a "country" can maintain itself as such, either by defending itself or by recognition of other countries who allow it to exist or whatever. The Holy See (Vatican), Monaco, San Marino, etc. could easily be taken over by their neighbours militarily but are generally recognized as sovereign states. Taiwan is far more powerful militarily than any of those or many others, but because of China it's not recognized as a sovereign state (and its choosing, for presumably self-preservation reasons, its declining to call itself a sovereign state).

As unsatisfying as that is, I think it's the only workable system, a country is a sovereign state if it can call itself that and other countries agree (or it can force agreement...), and otherwise it's not.

It's my understanding that before the Civil War, there was generally more of a sense of identity with and pride of citizenship in, one's state, rather than the U.S. as a whole (I think Robert E. Lee's decision to fight for the Confederacy was based in large part on being a citizen of Virginia, for instance).

Speaking of Virginia, West Virginia's "secession" from Virginia to join the Union is I think an example of such without prior separate legal existence (and was criticized on that basis at the time?). As for London, for all I know before the Romans controlled it as Londinium or after they withdrew it at one point had separate governance from the surrounding territory. Is the mere historical fact about whether a place ever, within recorded history, had its own separate legal identity supposed to be the test as to whether it should be allowed to secede?! Seems a bit of a silly test to me.

I'm concerned more with what is a "good" result than legal arguments over whether there's a "right" to secede. Taiwan being separate from China = good (at least currently). My recollection is that in the Quebec separatism debate, several Native groups said that in the event of secession they wanted to remain with Canada, Quebec argued "no, they have no separate legal existence...".
7.4.2009 11:24pm
Han Solo:

I just have to wonder what the whole point of the American Revolution was anyway.

At this point the US is just going to be another country ruled by the aristrociracy while the people are limited to limited amount of freedoms granted by the socialist nanny state.


That's pretty much like every other single country in the EU.


What the hell was the point of breaking from the UK anyway if your just going to be carbon copy clone?


Millions of lives could have been saved, and you would have pretty much ended up with the same thing in the end like Canada and Australia.

Hell I would even say that Australia is more like the US than the US at this point having the benefit of being much further removed from the British Isles.


The US Revolution was a total and complete waste of money, lives, time, and history book pages.
7.5.2009 12:00am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Either way, Free Kurdistan!
7.5.2009 12:07am
Ilya Somin:
I apologize if this sounds a bit snarky, but if a polity seceded today and, less than 90 years later (only about 2 generations) was engulfed in a large civil war that would ultimately kill about 2% of its population, that polity's decision might not necessarily be counted as an argument for secession.

I do not mean to disparage the ultimate good (i.e., end of slavery) that came out of the Civil War, nor, despite how people might interpret my comments in your prior post, do I mean to disparage the ultimate good that came out of the American War for Independence. But the American colonists took at least two gambles. One was that they would defeat the British, which they did with the help of France. The second was that the new nation would stay together peacefully, which happened only after a violent, vicious civil war.


Slavery and the Civil War it caused were indeed terrible tragedies. But it's far from clear that remaining part of the British Empire would have led to a more peaceful abolition of slavery. Moreover, the liberal democratic ideological impetus that led to the Revolution also caused the abolition of slavery in the northern states in the late 18 and early 19th century - a necessary prerequisite for its eventual abolition throughout the country.
7.5.2009 12:09am
Ilya Somin:
One reason the Revolution succeeded is precisely, I think, that there was a sense of American identity, which by the late 18th century had begun to eclipse the British identity: the colonists saw them as Americans first, subjects of the British Empire second.

I don't think this is really true. Most Americans of British descent thought of themselves as Britons in the late 18th century. The creation of a separate identity was more a result of independence than the cause of it. Of course some cultural differences had emerged due to distance and differing economic situations. But similar cultural differences exist within Britain itself.
7.5.2009 12:12am
Ilya Somin:
I am very sympathetic to the ideological ends that Prof. Somin is expressing in these posts (i.e., he's totally right that Taiwan's secession from China saved 20 million Taiwanese from Chinese tyranny (although it should be noted that things are a lot better now than they were when the tyrant and dictator Chiang Kai Shek was in charge)).

I don't deny that Chiang was bad; and there's no question he was a dictator. But he was much less oppressive than Mao's regime, as it seems you agree.

But he's barking up the wrong tree in looking for a legal doctrine to justify secession. Secession is generally illegal and for very good reasons (states don't recognize laws that countenance their own destruction)-- it just happens that if you win a war of secession, none dare call it treason.


I was making more a moral point than a legal one. However, I also think that the international (and domestic) law that forbids secession in such cases is unjust and should be changed.
7.5.2009 12:15am
Zed:
Taiwan never seceded from China. It was the sole part of Nationalist-ruled China that the Communists never took over. So arguably mainland China itself seceded from Taiwan (Republic of China), but not the other way around.

Also, the 40 years of Nationalist military dictatorship on Taiwan was not that much better than the Communist dictatorship. It's just that the latter's atrocities are much more well known since Chiang Kai-shek was an important American ally.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/228_incident
7.5.2009 12:58am
Curmudgeon-at-Large (mail):
"States don't recognize laws that countenance their own destruction."

So... are we bound to follow the policies of an Administration that seem diametrically opposed to the original intent of the Constitution? Arguably, the Obama administration is taking an anti-capitalism path, is nationalizing much of the economy, and is aggregating more power at the federal level -- all counter to the original intent of our style of government.
7.5.2009 1:05am
Seth Manapio (mail) (www):
So... are we bound to follow the policies of an Administration that seem diametrically opposed to the original intent of the Constitution?




That ship sailed a while ago, my friend. Certainly, there hasn't been a whisper about the importance of the Constitution since... gosh... Eisenhower, maybe? Earlier? Definitely the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagon, Bush, Clinton, and Bush presidencies (every presidency of my lifetime) had no problem with the pursuit of policies diamtrically opposed to the original intent of the Constitution. Obama is merely extending further the power and philosophy he was bequeathed by his predecessors.
7.5.2009 1:34am
MarkV (mail):
Since you write fairly often about secession, perhaps you are familiar with Dr. Jason Sorens' extensive research on the topic of secession? http://www.polsci.buffalo.edu/faculty_staff/sorens/
7.5.2009 1:39am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I think that PersonFromPorlock answered this appropriately.

No, he didn't. Every secessionist movement asserts that it is fighting a tyrannical state, including bad secessionist movements like the Confederacy.

It's perfectly within the right and power of states to punish secessionists under treason law. The secessionists have to win to escape that punishment, because if they win, they get to make the laws.

Might really does make right here, because no government is going to voluntarily allow (or should be expected to allow) treason against it.
7.5.2009 1:45am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I don't deny that Chiang was bad; and there's no question he was a dictator. But he was much less oppressive than Mao's regime, as it seems you agree.

Chiang and Mao were both terrible. Mao was worse. But Taiwan post-Chiang has evolved into a great democracy, whereas China post-Mao has evolved into a corrupt kleptocratic dictatorship.

While I accept your point that Chiang > Mao, the comparison really works much better if you focus on what Taiwan has accomplished once it got rid of Chiang's tyranny.
7.5.2009 1:48am
Fen:
But he's barking up the wrong tree in looking for a legal doctrine to justify secession. Secession is generally illegal and for very good reasons (states don't recognize laws that countenance their own destruction)-- it just happens that if you win a war of secession, none dare call it treason.

Exactly. Yes, the "law" needs an overhaul, but I don't recognize the authority of some world body to tell me my Revolution is "illegal" and that I'm a "war crimminal". Or that some Soros-funded Euro/UN force is coming in to "restore" Al Gore to the Presidency.

Great post Ilya, but some things should remain broken.
7.5.2009 1:57am
Robbie:
juris_imprudent;

People may or may not come here for the ethnic/tribal ties but a lot of them sure hang on tight to those ties long after they get here. Been to Los Angeles lately?

The Founders seem to have been of much same "ilk" as Pat Buchanan. The first Congress passed, and George Washington signed, the Naturalization Act of 1790 which limited immigration to "free white persons".
7.5.2009 2:19am
James Gibson (mail):
I can't agree with the argument that Americans were the same nationality as the British. After one hundred and fifty years in North America the blood lines had come somewhat diverse. Even Franklin stated that we were a rougher, more violent people in need of a new nation.

There had been intermarriages with nation peoples: by the war of 1812 members of congress were blood relatives to chiefs of the Creek nation. There were not just English and Scots, but Irish Dutch, French, German and even Spanish immigrants in the nation. We may have been speaking a common language but that was because bilingual documents wasn't a high priority of the crown. And other then the english the other nationalities had their irritation with being ruled by England.

Of course we also had the issue of the King's nationality. Everyone seems to have forgotten he was known as German George: through his mother, a german Princess.
7.5.2009 2:21am
Mike McDougal:

How does one determine what is "repressive" and from what perspective?

I'm not sure the answer matters.
7.5.2009 2:41am
Litigator-London:
It may be important to recall that the movement which led up to the Declaration of Independence was essentially a bourgeois/upper class movement, not one of the masses. Thus:-

1. The Declaration of Independence is phrased as a quasi legal document which begins by reciting the breaches of what the signers regarded as the breaches of the social contract between monarch and people which justified recission of the contract and released people from their oaths of allegiance.

2. The debates at the Constitutional Convention show that many delegates were anxious not to give too much power to the 'peoples' house. Many regarded an aristocratic upper chamber to restrain the lower chamber as desirable and which they acknowledged the impossibility of creating and "instant" US aristocracy, they did want a second chamber of "the great and the good" to restrain the lower chamber.

3. They did keep so far as possible the legal system with which they were familiar.

So it can be said that it was more a secession than a revolution - and of course, if one re-reads Jefferson's pre-independence treatise on the Rights of British North Americans, that is precisely what the other older dominions of the Crown (Australia, Canada, New Zealand etc) obtained by the Statute of Westminster as the Empire evolved into the Commonwealth.

Perhaps the USA should apply to re-join the Commonwealth ?
7.5.2009 4:30am
Desiderius:
LL,

"It may be important to recall that the movement which led up to the Declaration of Independence was essentially a bourgeois/upper class movement, not one of the masses"

That's imposing later (Marxist) categories on earlier events and inaccurately imposing them to boot. The "masses" came to America largely for the chance to be bourgeois, pace D'Tocqueville, et. al.

A nation of shopkeepers and yeoman farmers who understood themselves to be such or aspiring thereto.
7.5.2009 6:36am
NowMDJD (mail):

I don't deny that Chiang was bad; and there's no question he was a dictator. But he was much less oppressive than Mao's regime, as it seems you agree.




Chiang and Mao were both terrible. Mao was worse. But Taiwan post-Chiang has evolved into a great democracy, whereas China post-Mao has evolved into a corrupt kleptocratic dictatorship.

While I accept your point that Chiang > Mao, the comparison really works much better if you focus on what Taiwan has accomplished once it got rid of Chiang's tyranny.

There is no way to tell in advance whether the mother country or the secessionists will be better governed. Is Slovakia better off outside Czechosolvakia? Is Turkmenistan better off outside the USSR?

Unless you can demonstrate that secession generally benefits the lot of the seceeders, utilitarian arguments for secession are unconvincing.
7.5.2009 8:06am
PersonFromPorlock:
Dilan Esper:

Every secessionist movement asserts that it is fighting a tyrannical state, including bad secessionist movements like the Confederacy.

If the withdrawing of the consent of the governed is widespread, then any government which tries to continue in power is tyrannical, including the US government under Lincoln. That the Confederacy was a repugnant state, itself without the consent of most of its governed, is a separate issue.

It's perfectly within the right and power of states to punish secessionists under treason law.

A state which has had its authority withdrawn has neither rights nor powers. It does have actors and guns and may yet carry the day by force, but that has nothing to do with law except that law usually kisses force's arse and force defers to law a little because it likes the sensation.
7.5.2009 8:14am
Fact Checker:
That's imposing later (Marxist) categories on earlier events and inaccurately imposing them to boot. The "masses" came to America largely for the chance to be bourgeois, pace D'Tocqueville, et. al.

It is hardly accurate to claim that the "masses" had arrived in the colonies by 1776. The population of the 13 colonies was about 2.5 million, fully a fifth of the population were African slaves. Much of the white population came as indentured servants, often involuntarily. Although the term "bourgeois" is often associated with Marxist theory, it is perfectly accurate to describe the American Revolution as a bourgeois Revolution as it was led by rich landowners and businessmen.
7.5.2009 9:10am
troll_dc2 (mail):
Sometimes there is a case for ethnic secession. For instance, Ireland from the United Kingdom.

But it is interesting to consider that Woodrow Wilson, in pushing the concept of self-determination, refused to support the Irish. In fact, his idea of the concept was much more limited than the word would suggest.
7.5.2009 10:36am
MarkField (mail):

It is hardly accurate to claim that the "masses" had arrived in the colonies by 1776. The population of the 13 colonies was about 2.5 million, fully a fifth of the population were African slaves. Much of the white population came as indentured servants, often involuntarily. Although the term "bourgeois" is often associated with Marxist theory, it is perfectly accurate to describe the American Revolution as a bourgeois Revolution as it was led by rich landowners and businessmen.


This is a tricky issue. I'd be inclined to split the difference between Desiderius and LL. In New England, I'd say Desiderius is spot on. The Puritan background was very egalitarian and there were no extremes of wealth. From VA south, though, it's pretty hard to deny that the upper classes (mostly slaveowners) did what they wanted and expected the poor whites to defer to their judgment. When the southern poor whites did reject that leadership -- as in, say, the Regulator movement -- they tended to side with the British as against the hated aristocracy.
7.5.2009 10:44am
MarkField (mail):

Sometimes there is a case for ethnic secession. For instance, Ireland from the United Kingdom.


It strikes me that one reason for the ethnic qualifier is that otherwise it's hard to identify "the people" who get to revolt. Why should, for example, South Carolinians get to decide that they are separate and distinct from "Americans" (who therefore don't get to participate in the decision)? The geographic boundaries are inevitably going to be arbitrary. Demanding an ethnic basis solves this problem.

Another solution, suggested above, is that the departing state be truly viable. That's comforting, I suppose, to those of us in CA, perhaps less so to SD. But I'd agree there's a pragmatic sense in which the power aspect has to be taken into account.
7.5.2009 10:51am
JB:
"In my view, this type of secession should also be permitted, so long as the secessionists do not plan to engage in oppression of their own, and meet a few other criteria"

This is the rock on which Ilya's entire point founders. Take America: Was our oppression of the Indians sufficiet to put us in violation of this principle? The Blacks? Phillipines? Our record is excellent compared to practically everyone else, and yet we have done some awful things.

Find me a polity that oppressed no one and remained independent.
7.5.2009 10:58am
troll_dc2 (mail):
MarkField, what would be your position on whether it would be justifiable for the Flemish to secede from Belgium? Their language and culture differ from those of the Walloons, they have a much more prosperous economy, and they live in a generally understood geographic area (although it gets ragged along the edges).
7.5.2009 11:08am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
I find this entire discussion somewhat silly. Trying to draw neat lines around actions that justifys what we like and forbids what we don't in an arena where the only real determinate is the ability to enforce will.

Post hoc analysis of two events, both of which would be entirely different if they had turned out differently is nothing but rationalization.
7.5.2009 11:28am
sbowers3:
The American Revolution was a "pure" revolution. It's goal was simply to eliminate a bad government; they weren't thinking about a replacement government. Most if not all other revolutions have been to install a particular new government in place of the old. And usually, the new government is at least as bad as the old one. E.g. Castro.
7.5.2009 11:30am
dearieme:
Even ignoring the points about the slaves and the Red Indians, there is one ethnic compaint in the Declaration. "For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies" is surely a complaint that the Quebecois, being unfortunately both Frog and Papist, are not really pukkah and that is therefore a scandal for Parliament to have treated them so liberally.
7.5.2009 11:38am
MarkField (mail):

MarkField, what would be your position on whether it would be justifiable for the Flemish to secede from Belgium? Their language and culture differ from those of the Walloons, they have a much more prosperous economy, and they live in a generally understood geographic area (although it gets ragged along the edges).


Like Mark Twain, I'm proud to be able to answer this one quickly; I don't know. Never given it any thought.

I wasn't myself adopting the ethnic theory, I was just trying to provide an explanation why it might work. Even on its own terms, I don't think the ethnic theory applies to every single case; it's a necessary but not sufficient condition even for its supporters.
7.5.2009 11:51am
Gabriel McCall (mail):
The burden of proof here has been reversed. It seems that the default assumption is that secession is illegitimate and that it's up to the secessionists to justify their actions. My take on things is just the opposite: that everyone has the right to choose how he will be governed, and that the burden of justification should lie on those who would suppress secession.

If a government loses the consent of the governed, or a portion thereof, by what right does it impose itself on those who no longer consent? Thieves and murderers, sure, you can impose government on because they have violated others' natural rights and are thus estopped from complaining about violations of their own. But if a community of peaceful citizens just says "I don't think you should get to boss me around any more; I'm better off without you", how do you justify going in with guns and tanks to say "no, we're in charge whether you like it or not"? I don't see a significant moral difference between the suppression of secession, and slavery.
7.5.2009 12:10pm
JMHawkins:
Prior to the Revolutions, the 13 Colonies had functional governments, at least where domestic issues were concerned. The Revolution came about because the British government began imposing itself more and more upon the Colonists who had no representation in England. That was the key thing. A group of people were being ruled without any ability to influence the rule.

Any group of people who are excluded from their own government have a legitmate cause for secession. Everything else is just a matter of arguing about what "excluded" means and whether the group is large enough to both force the issue and establish a viable government of its own.
7.5.2009 12:38pm
Desiderius:
MarkField,

"I'd be inclined to split the difference between Desiderius and LL."

But was it not the perception, however accurate, that this was a land of bourgeois opportunity that drew new settlers to our shores? Of course it never took as deeply in the Old South proper (in stark contrast to today, where it is most ascendant), but surely those pushing west had that ideal largely in mind.
7.5.2009 12:38pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

I don't see a significant moral difference between the suppression of secession, and slavery.



The moral difference is what undermines your argument. When the purpose of secession is to maintain a regime of slavery (which is the involuntary and permanent subjection of some men to the will of others) and the effect of suppressing the secession of that regime is to free the slaves, how can you see no difference? You come across like a white Southern slaveholder.
7.5.2009 12:42pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

Any group of people who are excluded from their own government have a legitmate cause for secession. Everything else is just a matter of arguing about what "excluded" means and whether the group is large enough to both force the issue and establish a viable government of its own.



Kindly relate this statement to the situation of the inhabitants of the District of Columbia, who have no voting representation in Congress.
7.5.2009 12:45pm
Desiderius:
Fact Cheka,

"It is hardly accurate to claim that the "masses" had arrived in the colonies by 1776."

Take that up with LL - he's the one with the screwed up timeline.

"Although the term "bourgeois" is often associated with Marxist theory, it is perfectly accurate to describe the American Revolution as a bourgeois Revolution as it was led by rich landowners and businessmen."

Oh bullshit on a stick. The riches Marx was after were produced by an Industrial Revolution that was barely a sparkle in its momma's eye here at the time of the Revolution. The sums involved were scarcely enough to whet his larcenous appetite.
7.5.2009 12:45pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'But it is interesting to consider that Woodrow Wilson, in pushing the concept of self-determination, refused to support the Irish.'

Worse, in order to protect his League, he ended up throwing out self-determination generally, and the US government has never since treated it as a principle. It's all been great power maneuvering since then.

Not that the record was so clear before Wilson. The Hawaii revolution of '93 split opinion badly, and the '98 war presented the question in 5 flavors. The US responding with 5 contradictory answers.
7.5.2009 1:10pm
hospis (mail):
Blogger's essay is defective in at least two parts: first Blogger discerns "secession" as "ethnic" or "non-ethnic [sic]" without even asserting a cause of such discerning, and Blogger's careless use of "non-ethnic" clearly detects Blogger's superficial definition by not defining instead what else be other than "ethnic"; second Blogger doesn't even define "ethnic" or "tribe" just as in earlier essays Blogger conceded himself to have not defined "oppression". Since Blogger doesn't define or even describe "ethnic" or "tribe",
I'll here define "tribe" in the pursuing three parts: first, a tribe is defined by restricted marriage; second, a tribe is defined by status; third, a tribe is defined by history. Here are examples of restricted marriage: African-Americans are only 10% of America, but only about 5% are married to others; Jews in Germany and other countries were for tens of generations prohibited from marrying aborigines; adminitrators and rulers of Holy Roman Empire were until recently prohibited from marrying aborigines, although they could marry blood relatives of foreign countries. Here are examples of tribal status: African-Americans for over 100 years couldn't own land or bear arms in America; Jews in Germany and Russia for hundreds of years couldn't own land or bear arms; Irish for hundreds of years couldn't own land or bear arms in Ireland itself. Here are examples of tribal history: Saxons in England had for the greatest part an illiterate legal history and an illiterate administration in contrast to the Normans' careful adinistrative accounting in the Domesday Book written in Latin; American aborigines had no history at all of property rights and for the great part no writing in contrast to Saxon colonists' history.

Accepting the above definition of "tribe", clear then is the American insurrection as a tribal conflict: no Saxons ever occupied the Crown and virtually no Normans migrated as colonists, so the conflict between the Crown and American colonists was a tribal conflict; also although Saxons were prohibited from occupying the Crown, they could occupy Parliamentary offices, and the English Civil War usually is described as a conflict between Parliament and the Crown; again, as the American insurrection--referring to an earlier pertinent essay--was nothing more than a continuation of the English Civil War, these conflicts are essentially tribal conflicts.
7.5.2009 1:13pm
Ken Arromdee:
"In my view, this type of secession should also be permitted, so long as the secessionists do not plan to engage in oppression of their own, and meet a few other criteria"

This is the rock on which Ilya's entire point founders. Take America: Was our oppression of the Indians sufficiet to put us in violation of this principle? The Blacks? Phillipines? Our record is excellent compared to practically everyone else, and yet we have done some awful things.


I would suggest that as long as the secessionists were not planning to oppress anyone worse than they would have without the secession, the secession is justified.

This makes the secession by the 13 colonies justified (since it's not as if it would have been any better for the Indians if the British had stayed in charge). The Confederacy, on the other hand, seceded to keep slavery in effect. (Slavery wasn't ended until the end of the war, of course, of course, but the South could see the end of slavery coming even before the war started.)
7.5.2009 1:27pm
dearieme:
"Irish for hundreds of years couldn't own land or bear arms in Ireland itself": oh bollocks, as my Irish grandfather would have been tempted to say.
7.5.2009 1:42pm
Litigator-London:
Desiderius: Marxism is not to be confused with the European Enlightenment my dear chap.

I hardly think that the Founding Fathers were anything under than "reluctant revolutionaries". I suggest you re-read Jefferson's A Summary of the Rights of British America. This was a gentleman writing as a loyal subject of the Crown.

As Edmund Burke said in his speech in Parliament on Conciliation with the Colonists: "First, the people of the Colonies are descendants of Englishmen. England, Sir, is a nation which still, I hope, respects, and formerly adored, her freedom. The Colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant; and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted from your hands. They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas, and on English principles. Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found".

Of the 56 signatories of the Declaration of Independence, an absolute majority (29) were lawyers, the remaining delegates being from Commerce and Industry (11), Farmers (6), Physicians (4) and 6 others including 1 genius (Benjamin Franklin) and 1 clergyman (Dr Witherspoon, the President of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton).

That's the nearest equivalent to the "Knights of the Shires and the Burgesses of the the Principal Towns" - which was the effective English franchise of the time.

These "reluctant revolutionaries" were gentlemen. They undoubtedly regarded their Oaths of Allegiance, taken when assuming commissions as Judges, as justices of the peace, as members of colonial legislatures and governors' councils and as officers in the militia, as obligations not lightly to be forsaken.

Hence the importance of Locke' theory of the social contract between Monarch and people.

King George had broken his social contract with his American subjects who have been pushed beyond endurance by bad laws and bad government. So the philosopher-statesmen reluctantly rejected the despotic government of Lord North and King George and resolved to take back to themselves the authority which as subjects they had conferred on the King.

Hence the lawyers' recitals of the instances of breach of contract justifying rescission which form an important part of the Declaration of Independence.

I would argue that your Founding Fathers were thinkers in the British Whig or liberal tradition. I think there was until recently a great tradition of liberalism in the USA. Both your major political parties were until recently "one nation" parties by which I mean that they may have differed on the best means of achieving the common objective, but they agreed on the objective, well encapsulated in the 1892 Boston recitation for schoolchildren which later became the Pledge of Allegiance: " I pledge allegiance to my Flag,
and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

"Liberty and Justice for All" - not, it will be noted, liberty and justice only for the few, not only for the corporate elite, not only for the wealthy residents of exclusive homes in gated and security-guarded suburbia.

I wonder however how far along the "one nation" path the USA has progressed in the last 25 years or whether there has been something of a regression.
7.5.2009 2:29pm
Asher (mail):
@Bill Poser


"one of the freedoms sought by the American colonists was the freedom to steal Indian land"


"Theft" is a concept that only acquires meaning after civilization, formal legal structures and abstract social order has been rigorously established. Conquest is qualitatively a world apart from theft, and land that European settlers took from the Native Americans was conquered, not stolen.

When you take something from someone within your civilization it is theft, or if you take something from someone in a different but interrelated civilization it is also reasonably understood as theft. But when civilization takes something from a barbarian social unit it is not theft, it is conquest. The civilized owe nothing to the barbarous.
7.5.2009 2:38pm
Asher (mail):
To crib, and modify, a point from Al Gore, relations between Europeans and Native Americans had no recognizable "controlling [moral] authority, and since morality could not exist, anything was permissible because morality, as we understand it today, is purely a product of a long history of the taming of man.
7.5.2009 2:42pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

When you take something from someone within your civilization it is theft, or if you take something from someone in a different but interrelated civilization it is also reasonably understood as theft. But when civilization takes something from a barbarian social unit it is not theft, it is conquest. The civilized owe nothing to the barbarous.



Were the American indigenous residents wrong to resist? It appears that you would say yes.
7.5.2009 2:42pm
Asher (mail):


Were the American indigenous residents wrong to resist? It appears that you would say yes.


Of course not, what you are doing is imputing a moral authority where none could possibly exist, the only controlling factor was power relations.

The barbarians resisted, it was not wrong or right, it just "was", and they were summarily conquered by a more powerful people. The lesson is that if you want power then you'd better have superior technology of the the physical, scientific and social variety, the last probably being the most important.
7.5.2009 2:46pm
interruptus:

"Theft" is a concept that only acquires meaning after civilization, formal legal structures and abstract social order has been rigorously established. Conquest is qualitatively a world apart from theft, and land that European settlers took from the Native Americans was conquered, not stolen.

The British Empire constituted civilization, though, and was full of formal legal structures and abstract social order. And those formal legal structures made it illegal to appropriate Indian land, which was one of the things the colonists resented. From that perspective, the colonists wanted less civilization and more anarchy, because they knew that in an anarchist situation they could gain more land through better arms.
7.5.2009 2:52pm
Asher (mail):

And those formal legal structures made it illegal to appropriate Indian land, which was one of the things the colonists resented. From that perspective, the colonists wanted less civilization and more anarchy, because they knew that in an anarchist situation they could gain more land through better arms.


True, and at that point the contention is not what the settlers owed the Indians but what they owed the British Empire. What both Somin and his detractors are missing is that political legitimacy derives from two possible sources, that of moral similarity and that of brute force. Morally dissimilar peoples only co-exist in the same body-politic at the point of a gun, but moral similarity is often, but not always coterminous with ethnicity.

At the point of the American Revolution the moral notions of the settlers and the empire were dissimilar enough that the empire could only hand onto the colonies by brute force, and the fact that the colonies revolted successfully demonstrated that the empire also lacked the moral legitimacy of overwhelming force. Not all might is used to establish and enforce a particular notion of right, but all notions of right only exist after their establishment through force, all notions of right stand in the pool of blood of a prior notion of right.

Politics is war by other means.
7.5.2009 3:04pm
Asher (mail):
My prior post was hurriedly written. My point of contention with Somin is that the legitimacy of revolutions are not about ethnicity/non-ethnicity but about moral similarity. And ethnicity often is coterminous with moral similarity.

So, both Somin and his detractors are both wrong and right. heh.
7.5.2009 3:07pm
MarkField (mail):

But was it not the perception, however accurate, that this was a land of bourgeois opportunity that drew new settlers to our shores? Of course it never took as deeply in the Old South proper (in stark contrast to today, where it is most ascendant), but surely those pushing west had that ideal largely in mind.


Yes, I think that was a perception in the late 18th C (more so in the 19th). Land hunger, too, was a big part of immigration -- not to become a bourgeois tradesman, but to become a self-sufficient farmer. Going off memory, 97% of Americans at that time were farmers, so "bourgeois" wasn't a common profession (even the English weren't quite yet a nation of shopkeepers).

LL is right that the bulk of the American leaders were commercial class or attorneys (with slaveholders prominent in the South). Where I'd put an asterisk is that many of these (Franklin, Adams, others) were self-made men. That sense of possibility was important to them, which is where I'd lean to your side.
7.5.2009 3:14pm
MarkField (mail):

I would argue that your Founding Fathers were thinkers in the British Whig or liberal tradition.


I'd carry this a step further and say that they were in the Radical Whig tradition. A lot of refugees from the Restoration brought their attitudes to the New World. I'd guess Cato's Letters had a more loyal audience here than in the Old Country.
7.5.2009 3:17pm
John Stephens (mail):
I'd just like to point out that any sympathy for the Native Americans should by tempered by their habit, mentioned in the Declaration, of hiring out as mercenaries during the various colonial wars of the previous century. Most Americans actively disliked Indians for a reason.
7.5.2009 4:05pm
Red Phillips (mail) (www):
"This may be the most significant point that underpins American exceptionalism. [Not that I'm interested in all the baggage with that phrase - just that this particular aspect of American history with respect to the world truly is exceptional.] For that reason I've always had a huge gripe with Pat Buchanan and those of his ilk with their ridiculous fear of non-white immigrants."

juris_imprudent, I hate to rain on your parade, but the fact that our secession from England was not ethnically motivated because we were largely the same ethnicity as they were actually supports the paleoconservative point that America is a particularistically Anglo and Anglo-Celtic nation. Only ideologically blind commitment to "proposition nation" dogma would make this anything less than completely obvious. The particularistic character of this nation is precisely why ethnocultural dissolution brought about by unprecedented mass immigration (both illegal and legal) is a legitimate issue.
7.5.2009 4:41pm
ck:
Well, this thread seems to have brought the racists out of the woodwork.


The civilized owe nothing to the barbarous.


Or in other words, "Native Americans had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."


I'd just like to point out that any sympathy for the Native Americans should by tempered by their habit, mentioned in the Declaration, of hiring out as mercenaries during the various colonial wars of the previous century. Most Americans actively disliked Indians for a reason.


So, "the Indians started it"? Americans treated Indians well until the Indians did something to make us hate them?
7.5.2009 4:48pm
New Pseudonym:

Speaking of Virginia, West Virginia's "secession" from Virginia to join the Union is I think an example of such without prior separate legal existence (and was criticized on that basis at the time?).


But West Virginia did not secede, that would violate the Constitution. The minority of the VA legislature who voted against the Ordinance of Secession withdrew to Wheeling, declared the Ordinance invalid and reconstituted the government of VA with its capital in Wheeling. This government was recognized as legitimate by the USA, while the government in Richmond was recognized as legitimate by the CSA. VA (Wheeling) then gave its consent to forming a new state out of a portion of its borders (equivalent to the territory controlled by the Wheeling government), which was admitted as WV. The Wheeling government then proceded to become the government of WV, rather than VA, placing all of VA in rebellion.
7.5.2009 4:56pm
ck:
On reflection, using the term "racist" in my comment above was excessive and unnecessary. I withdraw it, and apologize. However, I still think those sentiments I quoted are very ugly.
7.5.2009 5:06pm
troll_dc2 (mail):
New Pseudonym, can you recommend a book to me on the secession? When I went to Harper's Ferry, I was fascinated to learn that the counties of the panhandle had been included in the new state, over the objections of their inhabitants, to ensure that the B&O railroad would remain in Union territory.
7.5.2009 5:25pm
Desiderius:
MarkField,

"I'd carry this a step further and say that they were in the Radical Whig tradition."

And some of us carry it on still. Never know when it will come in handy...
7.5.2009 5:46pm
Han Solo:
>Were the American indigenous residents wrong to resist?

Maybe.


I often wondered if they had not resisted that maybe they would have been much more sucessful in surviving.


Look at mexico. For the most part the aboriginals in central/south america make up a much larger percentage of the population.


The resistance and brutality of the native americans caused them to pretty much make enemies of even the sort of (regular settlers) people that WOULD have potentially stood up for them and their rights and helped at least to preserve and get along with them.


Without time travel its hard to say, but I would guess that if there would have been less resistance and more peace then the united states would have very recognizable percentage of the population today being dependents of the native americans.
7.5.2009 6:35pm
Desiderius:
LL,

"I would argue that your Founding Fathers were thinkers in the British Whig or liberal tradition."

Obviously I don't disagree with this or much else from your last post and I certainly do not claim that Marxism is in any material way consistent with the animating principles of the American or Scottish Enlightenment. The European, more so, but there are still radical departures there as well.

What I would say is that it was not the Founders alone who rebelled, and that a Zinnesque look at the people's history would show substantial support on the part of what would come to be called the bourgeois (MarkField, I include free-holding farmers in this category as they were a rough cognate to today's small businessmen), and that that "bourgeois" was hardly rich in anything but freedom and opportunity, with newly awakened eyes drawn to the Enlightenment at its zenith at that time.

I'll say it loud - I'm bourgeois and I'm proud. Or I would be if pride were a bourgeois value...
7.5.2009 6:56pm
Perseus (mail):
Another solution, suggested above, is that the departing state be truly viable. That's comforting, I suppose, to those of us in CA, perhaps less so to SD.

The state of California isn't viable even with $30 billion ($8-9 billion directly to the state treasury this year) in federal stimulus money.
7.5.2009 7:28pm
MarkField (mail):

The state of California isn't viable even with $30 billion ($8-9 billion directly to the state treasury this year) in federal stimulus money.


Touche, though I was referring to the longer run.
7.5.2009 7:32pm
Asher (mail):
@ck

Well, this thread seems to have brought the racists out of the woodwork.

The civilized owe nothing to the barbarous.




Now, you're assuming that "barbarous" was an exclusively racial comment, while it sometimes might be that, but it need not be anything of the sort. "Barbarous" is a description of a particular society, community, or even an individual, that does not evince the qualities of civilization, such as property proscriptions, rule of law, etc.

Oh, and there is no such thing as racism, anything and everything ever described as racism is reducible to natural and inevitable intra-homo competition. Let's take Jim Crow laws, they existed for the sole purpose of preventing black males from having sex with white females, which is nothing more than sexual competition, something completely normal and ubiquitous in the animal kingdom. While I'm not a supporter of Jim Crow laws, today, it is important to understand the perfectly rational reason for their existence, and it's also important to remember that the end of Jim Crow laws had the effect of shutting out a fair number of white working class men from procuring a mate.

Again, just another example of conquest.


Or in other words, "Native Americans had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."



No one has any rights, any time or any place, at least in the absolutist, universalist, timeless sense that most people use when they use the term. All rights are asserting against something and someone, they are beaten out of an opponent, they stand in the pool of the blood of the vanquished.

Imagine the following scenario: Jimmy, Johnny and Mary are all the same age and know each other. Now both boys like Mary but are as different as night and day, Jimmy is quiet, shy, hard-working and law-abiding, while Johnny is a lazy, lawless, aggressive loud-mouth. Mary is bedazzled and sexually aroused by Johnny's swagger and has his kid, but then when Johnny goes to prison Mary shuts him out of the kid's life. Of course, Jimmy is forced to subsidize Mary's sexual selection and Johnny's anti-social genes.

Does Jimmy have any rights? Of course not, he's forced, through the welfare state to subsidize the demise of the very civilization of which he is an exemplar.

You have no rights. I have no rights. They do not exist. The world is reducible to Lenin's "Who, Whom?", who is sticking it to whom. You are nothing but a number, a collection of genetic ones and zeros, and realizing this is the single greatest liberating thought one can experience, provided one is strong enough.


So, "the Indians started it"? Americans treated Indians well until the Indians did something to make us hate them?



Nope, evolution started it. Life is, generally, nasty, brutish and short, and not even Leviathan can save us from that. The only respite is to find allies and assert power over those not allied with us, to our benefit and their detriment, but even this is only a temporary respite.


On reflection, using the term "racist" in my comment above was excessive and unnecessary. I withdraw it, and apologize. However, I still think those sentiments I quoted are very ugly.



Reality itself is, generally, pretty ugly and the comments to which you object just happen to jam that in your eye by the fact of pointing out that objective ugliness. So sorry.
7.5.2009 8:45pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Asher,

Thank you, I was going to respond to those comments in much the same manner but you did a much better job of it than I was going to.
7.5.2009 9:11pm
Asher (mail):
Soronel,

Thank you for the encouragement. I find the hand-wringing, wet-eyed hysteria of the universalist "rights" crowd more tiresome than that of most 12 year old girls. What's amusing is that, despite my obviously cold and ruthless perception of reality, I am one of the most courteous, rule-following, honest persons you are likely to encounter. I've also found that among those wet-eyed hysteriacs you are much more likely to find individuals who disregard the preconditions for social order in their personal behavior.

I'm a self-employed contractor, and almost every customer who offers me cash payment for reduced prices is politically left-of-center. BTW, this personal experience is borne out in surveys that clearly indicate that small-government types are more likely to consider tax cheating immoral than big-government types, rather ironically.
7.5.2009 9:24pm
Ricardo (mail):
MarkField, what would be your position on whether it would be justifiable for the Flemish to secede from Belgium?

I'm not MarkField, but modern Belgium is itself the product of secession from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1830. The fact that its territory includes lots of Dutch-speaking people is a historical curiosity I don't fully understand. Nevertheless, it's plausible that Belgium will one day split according to linguistic divisions -- there is already serious talk of this happening by the people in Belgium.
7.5.2009 9:42pm
MarkField (mail):

What I would say is that it was not the Founders alone who rebelled, and that a Zinnesque look at the people's history would show substantial support on the part of what would come to be called the bourgeois (MarkField, I include free-holding farmers in this category as they were a rough cognate to today's small businessmen)


Part of the discussion here may just rest on terminology. Most farmers in those days were not selling surplus produce nor participating much in any market. Later on, of course, they would be, but calling them "bourgeois", though I get what you mean and it's fair enough in that sense, is somewhat anachronistic for much of the 18th C.

Noteworthy, though, is the fact that urban tradesmen were among the strongest supporters of the Revolution. These were not the oppressed masses of dark satanic mills, they were the incipient "nation of shopkeepers".
7.5.2009 10:00pm
Desiderius:
MarkField,

"Most farmers in those days were not selling surplus produce nor participating much in any market."

The salient feature I wished to highlight was that they were reliant on neither lord nor employer for their livelihood, which makes the original Marxian analysis offered by LL, as you noted, anachronistic, among its many other flaws.

I should probably settle for anachronistic in this case.
7.5.2009 10:25pm
Desiderius:
Asher,

Good old wholesome nihilism. What's the point of even commenting, you know?
7.5.2009 10:29pm
American Psikhushka (mail):
Of course all this secession talk assumes an official, recognized government.

Take the freed slaves after the Civil War. The pre-Klan and Klan groups were terrorizing them in an attempt to re-instate de facto slavery and to "keep them in their place", both geographically and socio-economically. So they were trying to impose a non-official slavery or caste system on free men. (Non-official in a nominal sense, those groups did have members and sympathizers entrenched in the local government and political machine.)

So the solution that some chose was to move to other states, at the time to the north and west, where those groups were less prevalent. Others chose to stay and resist the oppression and get along as best they could.

That's not quite secession, really just relocation in the eyes of official government. Although if you're one of the groups trying to impose the de facto slavery or caste system on free men you might have a different opinion.
7.5.2009 11:18pm
MarkField (mail):

The salient feature I wished to highlight was that they were reliant on neither lord nor employer for their livelihood


And in that sense I agree with you.
7.5.2009 11:33pm
Asher (mail):
Nihilism? One would think that such charges should be associated with changes in practice and behavior. The initial concerns with nihilism was that the death of traditional notions of meaning, associated with an active god, would lead to a pessimism that would affect man's ability to act in the world.

I still pay my taxes, I still abide by social rules and norms. What behavioral evidence do you have that I am a nihilist?
7.6.2009 12:49am
Ricardo (mail):
Nihilism? One would think that such charges should be associated with changes in practice and behavior.

Not necessarily. As some Holocaust survivors have argued, indifference towards evil can be much more insidious than the evil itself. There will always be sociopaths and psychopaths in every society but whether they get away with what they do depends greatly on how the rest of society reacts to them.

I still pay my taxes, I still abide by social rules and norms.

Why?
7.6.2009 1:38am
Michael Turton (mail) (www):
By contrast, modern international law, such as the For example, Taiwan's de facto secession from China in 1949 was surely justified, despite the fact that most of the island's population consists of ethnic Chinese.

The Chinese on Taiwan seceded for the purpose of escaping rule by a communist regime that went on to slaughter millions of its own people. Had it retained control of Taiwan, it would likely have oppressed its population far worse than anything 18th century Americans suffered at the hands of the British. Today's Chinese regime is much less brutal than that of Mao Zedong; but it is still much more repressive than Taiwan's own government. Athough the Taiwanese government continues to affirm that the island is officially a part of China, it is in reality a separate nation in everything but name. Formalizing Taiwan's independence might be pragmatically unwise for any number of reasons. But that in no way undermines the moral case for it.


I applaud your support for Formosan independence, but you have the history all wrong.

1. Taiwan did not "secede" from China in 1949 because in 1949 it was part of Japan and would remain so until April 28, 1952, when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect. Taiwan was occupied by the escaping Nationalist Chinese (KMT) in 1949, but in 1945 it was occupied by the Nationalists on behalf of the wartime allies. Because the SF Treaty did not name the recipient of sovereignty when Japan gave up its claim, today Taiwan's sovereignty does not belong to any nation. Although the US does not publicly admit it, its position is that the status of Taiwan is unresolved. This is also Japan's position, as that government recently reminded the pro-China administration of our current president.

2. The Nationalists did oppress the locals, with 50 years of martial law, and thousands killed, imprisoned, and sent into exile. The major difference was not that Chiang Kai-shek was less of a bastard than Mao, but that the US was intimately involved in the governance of Taiwan and managed to do things like preserve private petty capitalism that would benefit Taiwan.

3. Formosan independence and autonomy/home rule movements date from before the Nationalism arrival.

Michael Turton
View from Taiwan blog
7.6.2009 2:58am
Litigator-London:
Belgium is already in form a confederation, and it developed as such largely because the Flemish perceived they were being discriminated against on ethnic grounds). In Europe we have a number of instances of separatist movements based on ethnic/linguistic grounds: Alto Adige as an autonomous region of Italy after a bombing campaign; Wales as a self-governing part of the UK after a campaign when fires were sent at the 2nd homes of English incomes; Scotland now having its own Parliament; Corsican nationalism followed by a special status; ditto Britanny; the Basque and Catalan regions of Spain, followed by a siminlar status for Andalucia.

EU policy is to encourage minority languages and cultures as part of our cultural heritage - and as a means of avoiding such tensions.

The whole point is that if one is to avoid secessionist tendencies and internal unrest - minorities have to be accommodated - and perhaps there is a lesson there for those who advocate making English the official language of the USA - quite apart from the fact that it is an English which is not always immediately recognised as such by native speakers of that tongue - which is why one sometimes sees signs in London shops - "English spoken - Murkin understood".
7.6.2009 3:07am
Rod Blaine (mail):
> "surely a complaint that the Quebecois, being unfortunately both Frog and Papist"

That's those Kings of England all right - thick as thieves with the sinister Catholic Church since 1550. Oh, wait...

A caveat regarding Ilya's original argument: The American colonists were not that ethnically distinct from their English/Scots colonial overlords in 1776, but after that they did try to mark themselves off as a "distinct society" - eg, adopting Websteri[z]ed spelling, insisting that they spoke "American" rather than "English", seriously debating changing the official language to German or Hebrew, for example.
7.6.2009 3:28am
Ricardo (mail):
quite apart from the fact that it is an English which is not always immediately recognised as such by native speakers of that tongue - which is why one sometimes sees signs in London shops - "English spoken - Murkin understood".

Methinks that with an estimated one billion English speakers worldwide and an English population of only 50 million, you're going to have to get used to "non-native" English, whether it is from speakers of Hinglish, Singlish, Taglish or the quite dreadful "Murkin." One of the more amusing anecdotes from my time in India was encountering upper-class Indians who insist they speak "pure" English "without an accent" while Brits and Americans both mess up the language.
7.6.2009 5:39am
Ricardo (mail):
I also enjoyed passing by a school in Thailand with a large sign out front that said "All students here speak English with the CNN pronunciation." Take that, Mr. Litigator-London!

(I confess to being more of a BBC man myself, though)
7.6.2009 5:43am
Gabriel McCall (mail):
I don't see a significant moral difference between the suppression of secession, and slavery.

The moral difference is what undermines your argument. When the purpose of secession is to maintain a regime of slavery (which is the involuntary and permanent subjection of some men to the will of others) and the effect of suppressing the secession of that regime is to free the slaves, how can you see no difference? You come across like a white Southern slaveholder.


When did I say anything about the Old South or slavery? I was referring to the general idea of secession as applicable to any state at any time. Can we have a conversation about what happens when the purpose of secession is NOT to maintain a regime of slavery?

In the case of the Old South specifically: the South was keeping slaves, so they had no grounds to complain when the North enslaved them. That doesn't justify the North's actions, it just means that both sides were grievously wrong.
7.6.2009 9:52am
troll_dc2 (mail):

modern Belgium is itself the product of secession from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1830. The fact that its territory includes lots of Dutch-speaking people is a historical curiosity I don't fully understand.

Nevertheless, it's plausible that Belgium will one day split according to linguistic divisions -- there is already serious talk of this happening by the people in Belgium.



Modern Belgium and Netherlands were under the control of the Spanish. They revolted in 1568. The Spanish lost control of the northern part but maintained control over the southern part. With an intermission, the war for independence lasted for 80 years.

The history is very complicated, but essentially the long period during which the two parts were ruled differently, embraced different religions, and had different economic fortunes had the consequence of resulting in different societies. There is a lot that I do not (yet) know. I have the books but not the time to read them.
7.6.2009 10:21am
Asher (mail):
@Ricardo
As some Holocaust survivors have argued, indifference towards evil can be much more insidious than the evil itself.
Evil, as a coherent concept, is completely played out, it no longer means anything. But I don't need the concept to revile Hitler for killing 6 million european Jews, all I need to do is rationally oppose eliminating people who are productive, law-abiding members of society.

Oh, and the Nazis were right about the gypsies, and it's just too bad that they didn't get them all because gypsies are currently creating massive social problems in Italy.
Why?
I highly suspect that I'm genetically predisposed toward it.
7.6.2009 10:30am
troll_dc2 (mail):

I don't see a significant moral difference between the suppression of secession, and slavery.

The moral difference is what undermines your argument. When the purpose of secession is to maintain a regime of slavery (which is the involuntary and permanent subjection of some men to the will of others) and the effect of suppressing the secession of that regime is to free the slaves, how can you see no difference? You come across like a white Southern slaveholder.

----
When did I say anything about the Old South or slavery? I was referring to the general idea of secession as applicable to any state at any time. Can we have a conversation about what happens when the purpose of secession is NOT to maintain a regime of slavery?

In the case of the Old South specifically: the South was keeping slaves, so they had no grounds to complain when the North enslaved them. That doesn't justify the North's actions, it just means that both sides were grievously wrong.



With all due respect, I think that when you write that you "don't see a significant moral difference between the suppression of secession, and slavery," it is hard to think of a single situation other than the Old South and slavery. We certainly could have a general conversation about the purpose of secession without getting into the subject of slavery, but you yourself compared the morality of the two situations; I merely addressed what you wrote.

I do not follow how both the North and the South "were grievously wrong." You do not use the word "equally," but that is your implication. The South was not enslaved except to the extent that the people could not repress the former slaves (at least officially). In fact, it used its influence to get rid of the Union troops and the black officeholders and voters. At most, it was under temporary suppression (after it had lost a war). But the slaves, during the era of slavery, had no recourse no matter what they did, and even the Supreme Court took the position that they could never have any rights.

I am curious as to how you could claim that the North was "grievously wrong." What should it have done to avoid this charge?
7.6.2009 10:35am
Jam:
This my generalization but I think that it is mostly accurate:

The North was Anglo-Saxon, with towns and picket fences.
The South was Celtic (Irish, Scot, Welsh) and open range.

In both wars the ethnic differences played a role.
7.6.2009 10:43am
MarkField (mail):

One of the more amusing anecdotes from my time in India was encountering upper-class Indians who insist they speak "pure" English "without an accent" while Brits and Americans both mess up the language.


After college I took a trip to Europe with my brother. While riding a train north of Edinburgh, we struck up a conversation with a middle aged Scotswoman. After talking to us for about 15 minutes, she asked us very politely if we were French.
7.6.2009 10:49am
mischief (mail):

It's my understanding that before the Civil War, there was generally more of a sense of identity with and pride of citizenship in, one's state, rather than the U.S. as a whole (I think Robert E. Lee's decision to fight for the Confederacy was based in large part on being a citizen of Virginia, for instance).


When General Thomas -- one of two Virginia officers loyal to the Union -- was charged with betrayal by a Virginian fighting for the CSA, he admitted to finding it very hard.
7.6.2009 11:10am
mischief (mail):

What the hell was the point of breaking from the UK anyway if your just going to be carbon copy clone?


Millions of lives could have been saved, and you would have pretty much ended up with the same thing in the end like Canada and Australia.


Like Canada and Australia would have gone so smoothly if the British hadn't know how ugly things could get.
7.6.2009 11:11am
Harry Eagar (mail):
'Without time travel its hard to say, but I would guess that if there would have been less resistance and more peace then the united states would have very recognizable percentage of the population today being dependents of the native americans'

Do you mean 'dependents' or 'descendants'?

Either way, the history of the white penetration of Tennessee shows your guess is wrong. The Creeks and others were generally accommodating, but the white backwoodsmen burned and starved them out anyway. There was no pretense of gradually settling among the Indians (who were farmers). They were exterminated.
7.6.2009 1:59pm
ohwilleke:
While the American Revolution was not ethnic, it did share something in common with almost all insurgencies. It was a crisis of legitimacy.

People don't take arms over all policy issues. They don't revolt even if social security policy, criminal laws, family law and much, much more are really awry. Instead, they revolt over only one issue, legitimacy. Other policy issues simply help people choose sides when legitimacy is in question.

The American Revolution was one component of the declining legitimacy of the British monarchy, and more generally, absolute monarchies everywhere. The colonies were on the receiving end of this, as the monarchy was more absolute in the U.S. than the U.K. Also, in the Southern states, anxiety about the demise of the slave trade due to abolishionist British politics were a part of this anxiety.

In Britain itself, the crisis in the legitimacy of the monarchy was resolved over the several decades following the American Revolution with the expansion and regularization of the franchise and election rules, and the shrinkage of the monarchy's role in government to a strictly ceremonial one in favor of an ascendant parliament. If the American colonies had held out that long, until say 1835, they would have either gotten MPs (a la Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) or been granted dominion status (a la Canada).

Also, the lack of an ethnic split may be under rated. Southerners had a critical mass of Scotch-Irish, and the Irish were no fans of the British or fans of authoritarian rule -- in the 1830s this would take the form of the Second Great Awakening which created, in more or less modern form with only vague historical precedents, Evangelical conservative Christianity, which rapidly became the dominant faith of the South which had previously been the most secular in the British Empire.

The Northerners had a large component of religious refugees from Britain, many of them Republican Puritans and Quakers, who were revolutionaries in their homelands as well. Many of the Founders were deists and Quakers, and probably a majority of the most influential founders were non-Anglicans.

The Methodists rose (and would eventually become the plurality religion of the United States) around the time of the American Revolution. Religion is a powerful form of ethnicity, even if it isn't racial (see e.g., Bosnia, Ireland, Iraq, Israel, Ukraine).

Today's EU boundaries are basically being drawn along the Western Christian v. Eastern Christian/ Muslim line. A much larger percentage of American colonists were non-Anglican dissenters than in Britain or Canada or New Zealand or Australia.

It is no accident that the freedom of religion preceded even the right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights. It is also worth noting that the close in time and comparable French revolution was both anti-monarchists and anti-papal.
7.6.2009 3:02pm
ohwilleke:
Personal religious and ethnic and class histories of the Founding Fathers can be found at:

http://www.adherents.com/gov/Founding_Fathers_Religion.html

About 54% of the Founders spent some time as Anglicans (88 of them). But, seven or eight of those (bringing the total to less than 50%) were deists or changed religious denomination during life.

Samuel Chase, George Washington and Madison were the only "household name" founders who were lifelong Anglicans.
7.6.2009 3:33pm
dearieme:
"Southerners had a critical mass of Scotch-Irish, and the Irish were no fans of the British..": the Scotch-Irish were British - you are confusing them with Roman Catholic "bog Irish".
7.6.2009 3:55pm
Desiderius:
MarkField,

"After college I took a trip to Europe with my brother. While riding a train north of Edinburgh, we struck up a conversation with a middle aged Scotswoman. After talking to us for about 15 minutes, she asked us very politely if we were French."

At Man U., we had a brilliant Scot professor of Economic History. After 15 tutorials, we could finally make out what it was he was trying to say (and our own accents had picked up a Scottish lilt).
7.6.2009 5:22pm
American Psikhushka (mail):
Asher-

Oh, and the Nazis were right about the gypsies, and it's just too bad that they didn't get them all because gypsies are currently creating massive social problems in Italy.

That's got to be one of the most disgusting things I've read on this site. What is your opinion hinged on?

And also note as a separate issue "productivity" or labor is not a universally positive thing. There are times and places when productivity and labor should be stopped or witheld - like when an entity: Is stealing labor and/or the fruits of labor; Is violating or not honoring the fundamental rights of a portion of the population; Is committing atrocities against a portion of the population; Has not paid debts or restitution, reparations, damages, etc. that it owes. Gandhi's work stoppages and various other instances of walk-outs, work stoppages, strikes, etc. come to mind. Also various instances of resistence to slavery, exploitation, and indentured servitude.

You seem to approach "productivity" like the Marxists - those who refused to get on board with their schemes and contribute their property and labor to them "didn't deserve to live".
7.6.2009 7:10pm
Rod Blaine (mail):
> "Like Canada and Australia would have gone so smoothly if the British hadn't know how ugly things could get."

This is quite true. After the recriminations over "Who lost America?", Westminster became quite solicitous about bringing representative self-govt to its colonies (at least those with British settler majorities) -- see eg, the Colonial Laws Validity Act (Imperial) of 1865 -- in some cases, insisting on rather more democracy than the local colonial elites were comfortable with.
7.6.2009 9:31pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
ohwilleke:

The "Adherents" site isn't quite meaningful enough descriptor of the FFs religion. And btw, it was more than just "Samuel Chase, George Washington and Madison" as the "only 'household name' founders who were lifelong Anglicans."

You could add Jefferson and some others. Jefferson, btw, rejected every single tenet of Christian orthodoxy. See his 1819 letter to Willam Short where he rejects:


The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, &c.


So one could be a late 18th Century, lifelong Anglican, indeed, a vestryman in the Church (as Jefferson was), consider oneself a "Christian" (as Jefferson did) and reject every single one of those tenets. I write this because I have discovered Washington's and Madison's is not identifiably different than Jefferson's (though granted GW &JM were FAR more reticent to discuss the specifics of their personal creed).
7.6.2009 10:00pm
New Pseudonym:

"Southerners had a critical mass of Scotch-Irish, and the Irish were no fans of the British..": the Scotch-Irish were British - you are confusing them with Roman Catholic "bog Irish".


And I believe you, in turn, are confusing Highland Scots with Lowland Scots. My understanding is that the majority of immigration from Scotland to the US in the 18th century was of highlanders, who were at the time still predominantly RC, unlike the Presbyterian lowlanders. However, unlike your racist reference to "bog Irish," they did not bring their priests with them, and outside of Maryland, Catholicism was generally illegal, so they soon became protestants in the new world.
7.6.2009 10:23pm
MarkField (mail):

At Man U., we had a brilliant Scot professor of Economic History.


Boy, that Alex Ferguson is a true Renaissance Man!
7.6.2009 10:56pm
Desiderius:
MF,

"Boy, that Alex Ferguson is a true Renaissance Man!"

To my impressionable eyes, aye, he was. Perhaps it had something to do with his relative reticence on the subject of the wonderfulness of East Germany's economic systems at the time, given the evidence clearly at hand.
7.6.2009 11:40pm
Asher (mail):
@American Psikhushka
Asher-

Oh, and the Nazis were right about the gypsies, and it's just too bad that they didn't get them all because gypsies are currently creating massive social problems in Italy.

That's got to be one of the most disgusting things I've read on this site. What is your opinion hinged on?


It's not just based on a lack of tangible productivity, as there are a host of different ways in which groups and individuals can contribute to a civilized society. Nuns aren't economically productive, in the Marxian sense, but they provide invaluable contributions to civil society. The problem with gypsies, at least in Europe, is that they have a mean IQ of around 75, and centuries of selective breeding have produced an average personality profile close to that of sociopathy. The community is anti-social in any functional sense of the term. They take and give nothing back.

Oh, and Hitler lied about the Jews, but if what he said had been true The Holocaust would have been justified.
7.7.2009 1:18am
Litigator-London:
Ricardo: English comes in many orthographies and accents, indeed, it is possible to tell from speech which part of London someone comes from. India has so many different languages that when the Indian cricket team comes here on tour, English is often the only language common to all the players.

The point I was trying to make, is that if one wishes to minimise tensions between minorities and the majority within a state, the right of an inhabitant to communicate with government in his native tongue has to be looked at: for example, the status of Alto Adige in Italy now permits the use of German, see also the resurgence of Catalan in the autonomous region Universitat de Barcelona Home Page or, indeed, the increased official use of Welsh in Wales. Perhaps it is time Spanish was recognised as an official language in some states of the USA.

I would argue that the big contribution the Founding Fathers made to the concept of the diverse state was the recognition that there should be no religious test for public office - thus abjuring the European principle that inhabitants had to follow the religion of the ruler.

Ohwilleke argues that the EU boundary is being drawn along Christian/Muslim boundaries. This is controversial. If, as I hope, Turkey, becomes a Member State, the border of the EU will be at the frontier with Iraq. The Euro-Med partnership should lead in due course to the admission of the North African States and those of the Fertile Crescent. That makes both economic and geopolitical sense.
7.7.2009 4:07am
American Psikhushka (mail):
Asher-

The problem with gypsies, at least in Europe, is that they have a mean IQ of around 75, and centuries of selective breeding have produced an average personality profile close to that of sociopathy. The community is anti-social in any functional sense of the term. They take and give nothing back.

No sale. Perhaps deportation/expulsion if they aren't citizens. Or maybe some heightened scrutiny like what is done with some gangs and organized crime groups. (Which is in some cases what some groups function like.)

And besides, in many countries with high unemployment and many social service benefits your phrase "they take and give nothing back" refers to fairly large portions of the population in some senses.

Oh, and Hitler lied about the Jews, but if what he said had been true The Holocaust would have been justified.

Not at all. Again the accusations were not much more than what you would expect from the average organized crime group. Maybe some accusations of treason thrown in, but again those could be addressed with the regular criminal law.

So no, not anything justifying wholesale extermination in either case. (If you think it can ever be justified - I don't.)
7.7.2009 5:52am
Litigator-London:
Asher's comments above on Roma people go beyond the merely shocking.

See A Teachers' Guide to the Holocaust - Sinti &Roma and the web links on that page.

The Roma have suffered centuries of discrimination and only belatedly are efforts being made to right that historic wrong - see European Roma Rights Centre

Unsurprisingly, if made in England, Asher's comments would arguably have been caught by some of the criminal provisions of Sections 17-19, Public Order Act 1986 aimed at those who seek to promote race hatred.

I hope that the comments were intended as some form of extreme hyperbole.
7.7.2009 7:49am
Desiderius:
LL,

"I hope that the comments were intended as some form of extreme hyperbole."

No, just a good case of evil speech defaming itself, which would argue for a freer speech regime.
7.7.2009 9:43am
MarkField (mail):

Oh, and Hitler lied about the Jews, but if what he said had been true The Holocaust would have been justified.


Wow. Just wow.
7.7.2009 11:01am
Asher (mail):
@American Psikhushka &Litigator-London

Here are some assorted links regarding social problems with gypsies that I pulled up in a couple of minutes:

Here
Here
Here
Here

I stand by my comments, because I think you're confused by what I'm saying. For starters, I think that rounding up and mass exterminations are unwieldy and clunky, I'm fine with selective sterilization to diminish the gene types that contribute to anti-social behavioral patterns. And the "historical discrimination" against the gypsies is entire appropriate, given that it is just civilized people protecting themselves against barbarians.

There is no such thing as evil, it is a completely played out concept. I have heard the smallest, silliest things called "evil" by the bed-wetting, bleeding-hearts, and the term has simply become meaningless. Also, there is no such thing as racism, there are only individuals and groups advancing the conditions for the flourishing of their life-types, every existence of so-called "racism" is really just competition for access of control of the conditions of advancing life. "Racism" is just made-up psychobabble, sort of like political psychotherapy.

And besides, in many countries with high unemployment and many social service benefits your phrase "they take and give nothing back" refers to fairly large portions of the population in some senses.

That's correct, and a society interested in flourishing will separate itself from this element, by diminishing these life-types and their flourishing.

@MarkField

Oh, enough with the bed-wetting. Hitler defamed the Jews, a productive, civilization-promoting, law-abiding community within Europe. The point is that if society doesn't separate out groups and individuals meeting those criteria from those failing them then you're going to get something like the Holocaust. We recoil from the Holocaust because the Nazis exterminated contributing, in the expansive sense, members of their own society.
7.7.2009 12:00pm
Desiderius:
"There is no such thing as evil, it is a completely played out concept."

And yet here you are, for all those inclined to agree with you regarding that concept to see in your full infamy. Thus does free speech, in all its political incorrectness, keep concepts firmly grounded in reality, in all its ugliness and beauty.

All that lies beyond good and evil is that which came before it, as you well demonstrate.

Asher indeed, and ashed.
7.7.2009 12:44pm
MarkField (mail):

We recoil from the Holocaust because the Nazis exterminated contributing, in the expansive sense, members of their own society.


Is that a mouse in your pocket? For the rest, I think we're being trolled.
7.7.2009 1:04pm
Asher (mail):
Language is useful when it is used to discriminate between things that are different and connect things that are alike, so call like things alike. But terms like "evil", "racism" and "fascism" have come to denote nothing more than that which the speaker dislikes, therefore, they no longer contain any intellectually rigorous content.

And why do you feel it necessarily to use the term evil when condemning the Nazi treatment of the Jews? I condemn the Nazis for that just was vociferously as do you, I presume, yet, I don't need the crutch of the term "evil", I just oppose it. Occam's Razor dictates that we should strive for the simplest explanation possible when explaining a phenomenon, and mine is better because it is simpler. Your opposition to the Jewish Holocaust contains more complexity, so it is a worse explanation. In fact, in my experience, any explanation that uses "evil" as a fallback is one that is adding unnecessary complexity.

But there's another, even deeper, problem with resorting to the concept of "evil" as an explanation. Let's say some government kills two people: one, a scientist, who is a law-abiding, devoted family man, and the other a murderer with a long history of predatory criminality. Even the most staunch opponent of the death penalty would be able to make a distinction between those two cases. Now, if we apply the same theory of distinctions, how can we say that the Nazi actions toward the Gypsies were the equivalent of their actions toward the Jews. The Gypsies and the Jews are, and were, every bit as different as the two men in my first case.

The problems with concepts like "evil" and "racism" is that they obscure, rather than elucidate, vital differences. The human species is a vastly biologically diverse thing, easily as diverse within ethnies as between them, and universalist, timeless notions of morality obscure those differences.

Asher indeed, and ashed.

If you actually bothered to address my reality-grounded, specific points then this might be a mildly clever dismissal. But, barring that engagement, it is merely rhetorical hand-waving.

Desiderius, if my positions were so removed from reality then they should be easy to refute. Why not bother taking at least a couple of minutes to refute them for the benefit of this audience? Why do you have nothing more than intellectually vacuous bed-wetting?
7.7.2009 1:33pm
Asher (mail):
@MarkField

I never, EVER troll, and I have been arguing this line for a few years, often in, very liberal, social situations. Just as I challenged previously: if my positions are really that removed from rational reality then they should be easy to refute.

I challenge you to do so for the audience.
7.7.2009 1:36pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
The American Revolution was not based on ethnicity, religion, or culture - it was based on geography.

The American colonies were physically separate from the seat of government to a degree that was almost without previous parallel in history for settler colonies. (Trading-post colonies were a different form entirely.)

Rule of the colonies by Britain was extremely awkward and led to manifest unfairness. The practical difficulties were immense.

The British colonies in North America were the largest and most advanced settler colonies; it should be no surprise that home-country rule broke down there first.

The U.S. example was followed, a generation later, by the Spanish colonies. Britain averted similar problems in Australia and Canada by early and generous cessions of authority to the local governments - having learned a bitter lesson in 1776-1783.

There have been two similar separations in more recent years (though not by violence): the separations of Iceland and Greenland from Denmark. One could also consider the break-up of the West Indian Federation as similar, but the Federation never really caught on to begin with.

The break-up of Pakistan was very much an ethnic process, but geography had a lot to do with it as well.

It could be interesting to see if the geographically separated parts of "Palestine" go through a political rupture. Also, while I've never heard that the Kaliningrad region of Russia has separatist ambitions, it is very separate from Russia's "mainland".
7.7.2009 2:53pm
Desiderius:
"Desiderius, if my positions were so removed from reality then they should be easy to refute."

The reality I was referring to was the existence of evil, counter to those advocating the criminalization of speech in order to wish it away through ignorance.

Your positions are not removed from reality at all, if anything they are too constricted to it, too narrowly focused on what is, to the exclusion of what could/should/might be, and thus it has ever been reductionists like yourself who have been most vulnerable to the evil policies that you advocate. No ideal(s), no evil. Hence nihilism.

Occam used a razor; not a chainsaw, let along a gas chamber.

I don't think there is much need for a point-by-point refutation because your views on genocide are not only evil, but what is now worse, passe.
7.7.2009 4:03pm
Asher (mail):
The reality I was referring to was the existence of evil

"Evil" certainly does not exist in the way that chairs exist, and, as I have repeated noted, it is no longer even useful in distinguishing substantively different human activities from each other. Jewish Holocause, evil? Absolutely. Incremental increases in carbon dioxide? Certainly. Eating chicken meat that has not been raised free range? Without question.

Complete intellectual nihilism. See, the term evil acquired such utility that people began attaching it to anything that did not suit their fancy, and so the term no longer has any functional usage besides "that which I dislike". Well, no one needs the term "evil" to dislike anything, so, I can dislike what the Nazis did to the Jews without using the term "evil".

And that link to Hawking was pathetic, puerile gibberish. Human beings are still tied to their brute natures, plural because there are many different human natures, not just one. Hawking is full of crap, because access to information does not change who we are at an animal level. What's so unfortunate is that civilized men are becoming so soft that they think civilization no longer needs defending against lawless anarchy.
No ideal(s), no evil. Hence nihilism.
Meaning ain't in the head - WVO Quine

I don't function in a nihilistic fashion, therefore, I am not a nihilist.
7.7.2009 6:41pm
American Psikhushka (mail):
Asher-

Involuntary sterilization is still genocide under most of the laws, so your views are still not much different from the Nazi eugenics crowd.
7.7.2009 9:00pm
Litigator-London:
Asher wrote:-

"I'm fine with selective sterilization to diminish the gene types that contribute to anti-social behavioral patterns. And the "historical discrimination" against the gypsies is entire appropriate, given that it is just civilized people protecting themselves against barbarians."

You can doubtless pull up many reports which document instances of criminal or anti-social behaviour by members of the Roma communities. I could do the same for black urban youth in the UK or the USA. So what should be done? Sterilise all such miscreants on their first offence?

People who incite hatred based on racial, ethnic or religious grounds are behaving in an anti-social manner which is why many civilised democracies have criminalised such behaviour.

So since you are exhibiting an anti-social behaviour pattern by your postings, I suggest that you honour your argument by selectively removing your own testicles.
7.7.2009 9:07pm
Litigator-London:
Rich Rostrom:

I wonder if geography was really all that important a factor. By the time of the settlement of the 13 colonies, it was very well established that the Crown could not impose taxation or excise duties at will. Both had to be voted by the Commons.

I suppose taxes voted by the colonial legislatures were grumbled about - just as we all do today. But the insane attempt to impose a tax in the USA from without was something else.

While not every Englishman of the day would have been able to expound Locke's theory of the social contract between monarch and people, English people "knew their rights" and as recently as 1688 had dumped the Stuart Dynasty and enacted a Bill of Rights from which the US equivalent is derived. I am sure that if the government of George III had attempted to impose taxation on the UK without a vote in the Commons, he'd have been dumped - and pretty smartly too. The Hanoverians were all unpopular and the precedent had been set.
7.7.2009 9:28pm
Asher (mail):
@American Psikhushka

Involuntary sterilization is still genocide under most of the laws, so your views are still not much different from the Nazi eugenics crowd.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I don't care what a bunch of thumb sucking, bed-wetters claim. But the substance of your claim is blatantly false. My position is very specific: productive elements in society, objectively measured by things such as tax-paying and law-breaking and general factor of intelligence, have the duty to protect civilization from anti-social elements. By this I mean something like the top 80 percent protecting itself from the bottom 20 percent. If you want to call that genocide then fine.

In that case I don't consider genocide a very serious thing.

But that is not what the Nazis did. Nazis did NOT practice eugenics, rather, they subscribed to a mystical notion of "blood" that had absolutely nothing to do with hard scientific understanding of genes and human behavior. Were you aware that Nazis outlawed governmental usage of intelligence testing? Why? Because they could not design a test where Jews did not significantly outscore German Gentiles. What the nazis did was posit an essentialist notion of blood, unrelated to any hard research, which would up being dysgenic because of the fact that German Jews had between 10 and 15 IQ points higher than German Gentiles.
@Litigator-London:
I could do the same for black urban youth in the UK or the USA.
Yes, yes you could. The solution is to find ways of quarantining the bottom 15 to 20 percent from the rest of us, without having to engage in extreme cruelty. Too many american blacks are productive, law-abiding, contributing members of society to warrant a blanket judgement of their ethny. That being said, a very large percentage of black americans simply live off of society without any socially redeeming qualities.
People who incite hatred based on racial, ethnic or religious grounds are behaving in an anti-social manner
No one here is doing that. I'm quietly and clinically pointing out that society has a duty to the great middle, that make up its backbone, including people from all ethnicities, to protect them from the underclass and to diminish the fortunes of that underclass to all possible extent, barring extreme cruelty.

I adhere to MLK's dictum to treat people by the content of their character. The thing is that character content is largely genetically heritable and is distributed differently across ethnies.

That is not hate, it is just reality.
So since you are exhibiting an anti-social behaviour pattern by your postings, I suggest that you honour your argument by selectively removing your own testicles.


Ah, you fundamentally misunderstand what anti-social means, what is its FUNCTION. I paid about 25k in taxes last year, and it'll be somewhat more this year. I have never once been in trouble with the law, hell, I've never even had a moving violation. I'm charitable and courteous and often spend considerable amounts of time helping people out for free. But you compare me to some drug-using 16 year old rutting sow who spreads her legs for the local pot-dealer with a swagger and gets two kids from him before he goes to prison, and you decide that I'm the one who's anti-social.

Here's a thought experiment: Imagine all of the people who BEHAVE like me disappear, and then imagine that all of the people who BEHAVE like that sow just disappear. In the latter case society would keep right on humming along, while in the former it would collapse.

That is how you objectively measure anti-social versus pro-social life types.
7.7.2009 10:07pm
Desiderius:
"The thing is that character content is largely genetically heritable"

So which is it, Quine or Lysenko?

LL,

"I suggest that you honour your argument by selectively removing your own testicles."

Somehow I get the sense that that would be superfluous, though evidently that bed-wetting problem is well in hand, so there's that.

And now for something completely different. The geographical argument finds some support in the extent to which Washington (presciently, given what was to come) took pains to discourage geographical factionalism in the nascent union. From the farewell address:

"Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts."
7.7.2009 11:03pm
Asher (mail):

"The thing is that character content is largely genetically heritable"

So which is it, Quine or Lysenko?
Huh? You're obviously only facilely familiar with Lysenko and not even vaguely knowledgeable about Quine. My reference to Quine is about anti-social being an analysis of how an individual functions within a social setting and I have an objective set of criteria whereby you could distinguish the anti-social from the pro-social. And Lysenko? Attributing genetic heritability to personality functions is not Lysenkoism, it is good ol' neo-Darwinism. Lysenkoism is the position that environment affects genes themselves and not just gene selection. There is not even a hint of Lysenkoism in any of my comments.

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.
Multiculturalism destroys the unity of a people and, thus, the unity of a government. Factionalism is rigidly inevitable with the onset of multiculturalism, although Washington's sentiments in that addresss are certainly pleasant.

There is no going back. All we have left is factionalism and its attendant power-politics. Politics is about acquiring power and nothing but.
7.7.2009 11:48pm
Desiderius:
Both Asher and Lysenko underestimate the great heft of the camel, and overestimate the breadth of the needle's eye, Lysenko on the encoding end, Asher decoding. Character development is a non-linear, non-closed system, and thus singularly unlikely to be entirely, or even primarily, determined by initial conditions, as anyone who has raised a two-year-old can readily attest.

Likewise, anyone, with the possible exception of the man himself, who claims to fully understand Quine is not being entirely on the level, though I likely misunderstand him more than most. I can say with some certainty however that when he claimed that meaning is not in the head, the alternative location he had in mind was certainly not the gene.

Remind me to bring a raincoat the next time that I get into a pissing contest with a big dick with bed-wetting issues...
7.8.2009 5:37pm
Asher (mail):
Desiderius, and I grow tired of your swinging back and forth between deceit and blathering, post-modern nonsense. I never claimed to fully understand Quine, what I did was to point out that meaning is primarily a function of observable phenomena, which, in this case, is human behaviors. Also, no one ever claimed that personality was 100 percent encoded at birth, to put it crudely, it's an equal synthesis of genes and environment, although peer environment is far more important that authority environment.

I can say with some certainty however that when he claimed that meaning is not in the head, the alternative location he had in mind was certainly not the gene.
Here, you're just being deceitful, given the context of that comment which was that "anti-social" is an analysis of people's behaviors, and how those behaviors fit into modern society, not forgetting that those behaviors have a good deal of influence from genes.
7.8.2009 9:39pm

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