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.
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.”
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