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Ethics of Secession - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Feb. 2nd, 2003

12:17 pm - Ethics of Secession

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From:mindwalker
Date:February 2nd, 2003 11:59 pm (UTC)
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I'm currently reading The Real Lincoln by Thomas J. DiLorenzo. It's a very interesting book that explores Lincoln's real motives in prosecuting the war against the southern states. It has lots of interesting information about secession, and provides evidence that up until the beginning of the war most of the states considered secession a right of any state. There were many debates about whether secession was the best option, but few questioned the right of any state to secede from the union. This was true even among the northern states, some of which also had strong pro-secession movements.

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From:new_iconoclast
Date:February 3rd, 2003 06:22 am (UTC)
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Like many abstract political arguments, the right of secession is in favor when it's convenient or of benefit, and out of favor when it no longer serves. Thus, the New England states considered secession to get out from under an economically-devastating trade embargo prior to the War of 1812, but when the South considered it 50 years later to protect slavery, it became anathema.

If you were Lincoln, and had worked all your life to get where you were, and saw half of your power base threatening to scoot out from under you, your natural reaction would be to do as he did. If you were really committed to principles of self-determination, you might resist the temptation, but Lincoln's ambition overruled his principles. Politicians back then were no more committed in action to the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution than they are today, except in rhetoric. Most 19th-century politicians showed some signs of at least having read both documents at some point in their lives, unlike today's crew.
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From:crasch
Date:February 6th, 2003 03:20 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the note. The Real Lincoln's on my "to read" list. What do you think would happen if a modern state tried to secede?
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From:mindwalker
Date:February 6th, 2003 04:57 pm (UTC)
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Based on the current attitudes of the federal government toward states' rights, I don't think an attempt at secession would go over very well. The feds still actively prosecute those who grow medical marijuana in California, even though that state legalized it for medical purposes. On the other hand, they are claiming federal laws were broken, not state laws, so if an actual secession were to take place, that might be different. The trick is getting the USA to actually recognize the secession, which I doubt would be easy. We'd probably see spin doctors on all the talk shows telling us how the secession was somehow not legal or valid, even if the citizens of that state had voted for it.

Despite my concerns, I'd still like to find out what would happen if a state tried to secede. I think the first step might be simply a state's refusing to enforce unconstitutional federal laws, and then a move toward secession if that doesn't prove to be enough. Are you familiar with the Free State Project? freestate They are trying to get 20,000 libertarians to move to a relatively low-population state, in order to have a major influence on state government. If successful, it could also result in the eventual secession of that state, if necessary to make it a truly free state.


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From:crasch
Date:February 6th, 2003 10:13 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for your thoughts.

I agree that the Feds would fight a secession attempt. But I don't think that they would fight secession per se. Rather, they'd demonize the state for some other reason, and attempt to take over the state in order to fight demon drugs, terrorists, etc. I also think you'd see attempts to locate military bases, nuclear waste dumps, etc. in the state to "punish" them.

That said, I think that the Feds would ultimately back down, as long as the citizens of the seceding state didn't attack the Feds physically. If the leaders of secession movement used only non-violent resistance tactics, then the Feds would have difficult time tarring them with the terrorist brush. I think a successful secession movement would also have to establish contacts with major media outlets before making the formal attempt, so that the media spins it a s "secessionist davids against federal goliath" rather than "right-wing terrorists fomenting rebellion".

( BTW, I'm aware of the Free State Project--I started the freestate LJ community. )
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From:mindwalker
Date:February 6th, 2003 10:28 pm (UTC)
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I agree on all points. There will certainly be obstacles to pulling it off successfully, but it's not impossible. The first step is getting enough individuals to vote with their feet.

( BTW, I'm aware of the Free State Project--I started the freestate LJ community. )

Ah, silly me. I should have remembered that and/or would have known if I'd just bothered to look :)
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