Declaration Of Independence and The American Revolution, by Patrissimo

July 12, 2009

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary 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, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

Welcome to our final climactic mega-extravaganza post of Secession Week, in which we both celebrate the spirit of ‘76 and lament its shortcomings. Perhaps nothing exemplifies this marriage of heaven and hell more than Thomas Jefferson himself, a giant whose rhetoric still shines in the firmament (We hold these truths to be self-evident), but whose personal life bespeaks moral turpitude (Sally Hemings). As Stephen Gordon of the Liberty Papers writes:

“While I certainly take a great deal of pride in the fact that a lot of people risked their lives, liberty and property to secure a nation free of Europe’s chains, I’ll never forget that we placed even crueler chains upon a significant segment of our own population…

“As a white person of mostly European ancestry, I understand the pride that most Americans feel on Independence Day. As I’m not black, I’ll probably never be able to truly understand the feelings of African-Americans on the topic. Were I black, I’d likely feel a sense of pride that many of my ancestors laid down their lives to promote a system of government which eventually led to the freest of societies in the history of the world. I’d probably also wish to ensure that people never forget the absolute horrors of slavery. As many of my white friends want us to learn from the positives of the founding of our country, my black friends want to ensure that we truly understand our history so we never repeat the same mistakes.”

To read the rest of this blog post, Click Here.

Non-Territorial Secession, by Patrissimo

July 12, 2009

Welcome to our penultimate Secession Week post, in celebration of Independence Day tomorrow. Today’s concept is non-territorial secession, or seceding without moving. For those who are totally unfamiliar with the concept, I offer a brief introduction.


This is not a new concept, and has been proposed by many names and in many flavors, such as:

* Polycentric Law: “a legal structure in which providers of legal systems compete or overlap in a given jurisdiction, as opposed to monopolistic statutory law according to which there is a sole provider of law for each jurisdiction.”
* Market Anarchism: a “philosophy in which monopoly of force held by government would be replaced by a competitive market of private institutions offering security, justice, and other defense services – “the private allocation of force, without central control”. A market would exist where providers of security and law compete for voluntarily paying customers that wish to receive the services rather than individuals being taxed without their consent and assigned a monopoly provider of force.”
* FOCJ: Functional, Overlapping, and Competing Jurisdictions – A reinvention of these 150-year old ideas by Swiss economists Bruno Frey and Reiner Eichenberger in the 1990s, in articles like FOCJ: Competitive Governments For Europe.
* Panarchy: “a conceptual term first coined by the Belgian botanist and economist Paul Emile de Puydt in 1860, referring to a specific form of governance (-archy) that would encompass (pan-) all others …In his 1860 article “Panarchy” de Puydt…applied the concept to the individual’s right to choose any form of government without being forced to move from their current locale. This is sometimes described as “extra-territorial” (or “exterritorial”) since governments often would serve non-contiguous parcels of land.”

Arnold Kling contributes a post about the idea, which he calls Virtual Secession:

The problem with physical secession is that it is very difficult to achieve critical mass. There is probably not much overlap between the people you want to live with and the people who want to choose your particular form of government. The vast majority of us put up with government we dislike in order to live in proximity to people with whom we want to work and play.

With virtual secession, you could still live in San Francisco or Manhattan or Silver Spring while seceding from much of the government at the city, state, and Federal level. You and your next-door neighbor might belong to very different governmental units.

To read the rest of this article,

Federalism: Secession Lite, by Patrissimo

July 12, 2009

Welcome to our fourth post for Secession Week, in celebration of Independence Day this weekend. Today’s theme is federalism, which Wikipedia defines as:

“The term federalism is … used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units (like states or provinces). Federalism is a system in which the power to govern is shared between national and central (state) governments, creating what is often called a federation. Proponents are often called federalists.”

Confusingly, in Europe the word is sometimes used for those who support a strong federal government, like the EU, but we are using the earlier meaning of a federation of fairly independent political units, whose central government restricts itself to activities with interstate implications, like national defense.

Federalism is not a fringe issue – the battle over states rights reached the nations highest levels in recent Supreme Court cases like Raich vs. Gonzalez and Kelo vs. New London. And as Real Clear Politics reports in “Can Federalism Solve America’s Culture War?”, popular blogger Andrew Sullivan recently defended federalism in The New Republic: “The whole point of federalism is that different states can have different public policies on matters of burning controversy–and that this is okay.”

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out that federalism vs. centralization has been an issue since the founding of the United States:

The Articles of Confederation of 1781 among the 13 American states fighting British rule had established a center too weak for law enforcement, defense and for securing interstate commerce. What has become known as the U.S. Constitutional Convention met May 25 — September 17 1787. It was explicitly restricted to revise the Articles, but ended up recommending more fundamental changes. The proposed constitution prompted widespread debate arguments addressing the benefits and risks of federalism versus confederal arrangements, leading eventually to the Constitution taking effect in 1789.
The “Anti-federalists” were fearful of undue centralization. They worried that the powers of central authorities were not sufficiently constrained e.g. by a bill of rights (John DeWitt 1787, Richard Henry Lee) — which was eventually ratified in 1791. They also feared that the center might gradually usurp the sub-units’ powers. Citing Montesquieu, another pseudonymous ‘Brutus’ doubted whether a republic of such geographical size with so many inhabitants with conflicting interests could avoid tyranny and would allow common deliberation and decision based on local knowledge (Brutus (Robert Yates?) 1787).

In what has become known as The Federalist Papers, James Madison (1751-1836), Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) and John Jay (1745-1829) argued vigorously for the suggested model of interlocking federal arrangements (Federalist 10, 45, 51, 62). Madison and Hamilton agreed with Hume that the risk of tyranny by passionate majorities was reduced in larger republics where sub-units of shared interest could and would check each other: “A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any improper or wicked project, will be less likely to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it.” (Federalist 10).

To read the rest of this blog post, click here.

Secession vs. Revolution, by Patrissimo

July 12, 2009

Welcome to our third post for Secession Week, celebrating July 4th and America’s secession from the UK. Today’s theme is secession vs. revolution. Both are ways of changing governments, which is important, but they are very different in many ways. While we think this is an important topic, it is a more philosophical area than yesterday’s Secession In America. So what we have to offer is a small number of essays, often written specifically for this event, rather than a large number of links. Quality over quantity, so we recommend you read them all.
We’ll start with a general post from Clifford Thies in the Mises Daily, Secession Is In Our Future:
“Can states secede? There are three levels on which this question can be answered:
1. the inalienable right of secession,
2. the international law of secession, and
3. the US law of secession.
All three say yes.”
And then on to the topical material. Our own Jonathan Wilde writes about Revolution vs. Secession:

“Revolution and Secession are very different things. Revolution is an attempt by a relatively small group of people to gain control over the machinery that rules a relatively larger group of people. Secession is a relatively small group of people breaking off from the larger machinery. The difference is crucial.”

To read the rest of the article, click here.

American Secession and Independence Movements, by Patrissimo

July 12, 2009

The United States began as a loose federation of states which seceded from the British Empire, exemplifying the local, competitive government that we still favor.  Unfortunately, in the ensuing 233 years, the vast majority of power has moved to the central (ironically termed “federal”) government.  With a history of local autonomy and secession which is so strong, yet so ancient, it is no surprise that there are strong undercurrents of independence still bubbling in America today.

The future United-ness of the States is quite unclear.  Europe has shown a trend towards centralization, and the iron grip of the US Federal Government is strong.  On the other hand, it is common for declining empires to fracture, and the upcoming financial storms of Social Security, Medicare, underfunded pensions, and rising national debt will increase the divisions between young and old, rich and poor, net tax paying states and net tax recipients.  Will the Union crack under the pressure? Only time will tell.

We certainly hope so – because we believe that a world with many small units of political power is more diverse, innovative, cooperative, and better for almost everyone – except federal bureaucrats.

General Background

We begin with the Stanford Encyclopedia for Philosophy’s entry on secession, covering philosophical issues, theories about the right to secede, and secession within international law.  Next, Ilya Somin at the popular law blog the Volokh Conspiracy defends secessionism against those who claim that it is necessarily stupid (for example, Ann Althouse) saying: “In light of this history and the ambiguity of the constitutional text, I don’t think that belief in a right to secession is at all unreasonable, much less a sign of obvious ignorance or stupidity.”

To read the rest of the blog, Click Here.

Secession Goes Mainstream, by Patrissimo

July 12, 2009

Secession suffers from a coordination problem – you can’t do it alone, and so there is no point in working on it unless other people are too. So we’ll start by showing that even in the US, secession is becoming an increasingly mainstream topic.

To start, Mike here at A Thousand Nations points us to an article about secession in the Wall Street Journal – not exactly a fringe or obscure media channel (Cameron Parker also writes about the WSJ piece). And even the New York Times reported on Texas Governor Rick Perry’s recent expression of sympathy for secessionist Texans (18% of the state, in a recent poll).

The Basics Of Secession

The topic is covered in quite a number of books, like “Secession, State, & Liberty”,  “A Constitutional History of Secession,” and “The Dynamic of Secession” from Cambridge Studies in International Relations. Patri has written a post introducing our unique approach to making government work better: “Let’s Try Everything: Local Autonomy and Innovation In Government.”

Did you know that there is an institute about secession? Check out The Middlebury Institute: For The Study of Separatism, Secession, And Self-Determination. They co-sponsored the Second North American Secessionist Convention in 2007, which received quite a bit of press via an AP story.

Several other good sources of information about secession are – Principles, Goals, and Strategies, and The American Secession Project – “Dedicated to placing secession in the mainstream of political thought as a viable solution to contemporary problems.”

We’ll update this post the rest of the day, as new links come in, and we’ll have more new posts all week on different topics, like American Secession Movements, Secession vs. Revolution, and Federalism (Secession Lite). If you’re a blogger, we encourage you to write on any of these topics, or secession in general, and comment, trackback, or email at: