Will Conservatives See the Light on Secession?

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José Niño – April 20, 2019

Are conservatives warming up to the ideas of secession?

Over the past year, conservative commentators Kurt Schlichter and Jesse Kelly have written articles flirting with the idea of secession due to divisive U.S. politics. Although both authors resort to the typical finger-pointing about the Left that is commonplace among the mainstream Right, they do raise valid points about the current polarized political climate. Their interpretation of present-day American politics is immaterial. The fact that they’re suggesting a break-up of the U.S. should be commended.

It’s become abundantly clear that with big spending, a bloated welfare state, and overstretched military-industrial complex, those U.S. institutions are heading towards a day of reckoning. Coupled with a major culture war, and we have a recipe for political unrest in the near future. Schlichter acknowledges these ominous macro-trends citing “endless crusades” abroad, the Green New Deal, and the abolition of Electoral College as many wedge issues that are creating unprecedented divisions in the country. For Schlichter, a national break-up isn’t so far-fetched given that he wrote about this concept in some of his novels People’s RepublicIndian Country, and Wildfire in which the country separates into red and blue nations.

Peaceful Secession Should Always be Encouraged

But such a split doesn’t have to be so binary. It can be based along regional, ethnic, religious, or economic lines. Nevertheless, the fact that secession is being entertained is a good starting point. In his article for The Federalist, Jesse Kelly raises a good point about the fluid nature of national borders:

Borders move. Countries split and change hands. They do this for a myriad of reasons. Ours would be a major cultural shift toward the left and half the country refusing to go along with tyranny.

Major events — like World War I — effectively broke up traditional empires and created new sovereign nations. However, wars should not be the only catalysts behind the creation of new nations. In fact, political entities that face any kind of internal disputes should enthusiastically embrace self-determination and get the ball rolling on a voluntary and peaceful basis.

Kelly’s framing of secession as an “amicable divorce” is the right mentality to take when discussing this matter. Secession should not be treated as a cataclysmic event that requires a massive state to crack down against the “unruly” subject. We’re dealing with humans here, not automatons that have to be poked and prodded during each election cycle, nor realpolitik chess pieces that must be exploited by politicians and bureaucrats.

Instead, secessionist movements represent the logical response to the unhealthy relationships that individuals and certain population segments have with central governments. These movements should be allowed to go their natural course. In sum, political conflicts should be treated like any other human relationships. When they fail, both parties divorce and go their separate ways peacefully.

The Seeds of Modern-Day Secession are being Sowed In Europe

The idea of separatism is no ivory tower theory — it’s something starting to happen in real time. Since the 2016 Brexit vote, separatist movements throughout Europe have been rejuvenated and continue to gain ground as the European Union treads through the waters of socio-economic uncertainty. Even in America, rural counties are revolting against big city interests over the issue of gun control. Some parts of Washington state have gone as far as to propose creating a separate state in eastern Washington that better represents the interests of rural communities.

The twentieth century was a time of centralization. However, this historical development did not just happen in one fell swoop. It was born in the eighteenth century through the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau advocated for a mass democracy of sorts bolstered by an activist central government. Cliché concepts such as the “will of the people” have formed the philosophical backbone of gigantic governments worldwide. The problem isn’t democracy itself, but rather its implemented scale. Eventually, states get too big and the cultures within them resort to unproductive political conflicts, thus making every election cycle a high-stakes affair. Not exactly a recipe for peace and tranquility.

Ryan McMaken is correct in asserting that the solution to the mega-state status quo we live in “lies in a peaceful embrace of division, secession, decentralization, and disunity.” Unity sounds warm and fuzzy, but maintaining it at all costs is a disaster waiting to happen. The history of political conflict between factions usually results in civil war, and as a result, the emergent governing structure uses repression to consolidate its power. Respect for individual liberties often becomes an afterthought.

Given the changing demographics and unwieldy tasks the United States government is undertaking, the country needs to take a timeout and actually consider separation. Even if it’s based on a simplistic red vs. blue divide, it’s still a conversation starter for future separatist movements. The depoliticization of society starts with decentralization.

Mass democracy has run its course and new alternatives that value localism should now be considered.

This article was originally published at Mises.org.

Image source: Getty

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