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Ethics of Secession - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Feb. 2nd, 2003

12:17 pm - Ethics of Secession

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Date:February 3rd, 2003 06:52 am (UTC)

If at first you don't secede . . .

Ms. Brilmayer's theory, while it may be true in individual cases, doesn't hold true for the specifics of the American republic. Much as I would like to secede from the Federal income tax system, I think I would pay an unacceptable price for it. Nor do I think I have any right to "nullify" law on an individual level. I certainly do have the right to disobey the law, but not to whine about the consequences. Think of that as a form of civil disobedience.

But, the American republic was conceived and established as a voluntary compact of sovereign states ("state" originally meant what we now think of as "nation," not "administrative subdivision"). Although the Founders may have considered secession so unlikely as to be almost unthinkable due to the system they had set up to preserve the rights of (political, not racial) minorities, they certainly did not claim it to be impossible nor illegitimate. After all, they had in effect seceded from the British Empire, and had been forced to fight a war to get Britain to recognize that. The very continued existence of states within the Federal Union after 1789 was in itself a means of limiting Federal power and protecting the rights of "the people" to have some voice in and control over their own affairs; hence the specific wording of the Tenth Amendment.

(Read that one to your Congresscritter; odds are, especially if s/he's a Democrat, s/he's never heard of it.)

Ultimately, what Jefferson called the right "for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them" can only be achieved if the mother country is willing to let the seceders go, or if the separation can be enforced by arms. Although I agree with crasch that secession or the threat thereof can serve as a check on central power, that's only true if the threat works. In the American case it backfired, and the result was a bigger and badder Federal behemoth than ever - a disasterous precedent and a burden we labor under to this day.
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