Time To Get Serious About Secession

May 25, 2010

By Wilton Strickland, Esq.

As America enters the second decade of the twenty-first century, it is becoming painfully apparent that her historical march of progress not only has ground to a halt, but has reversed course and is heading back to a place from which the founders struggled to escape. It is a place where government acknowledges no authority higher than itself, brandishing the sword at home and abroad for purposes not ordained anywhere in the supreme law of the land. Law itself has been stripped of its noble purpose to restrain both the government and the governed, now functioning as a weapon for government to transgress against our lives, liberty, and property.

Worse yet, every transgression begets more misery, and every misery begets more transgression. Government prosecutes unjust and undeclared wars abroad that provoke terrorism, then claims it must oppress us for our own safety. Government imposes pervasive controls that distort the mechanisms of the marketplace, then claims it must assert even more control because the market has “failed.” Government takes from the productive to subsidize (and thus foster) the unproductive, then claims it must do more to combat growing poverty. Government spends far beyond its means and its enumerated powers, then claims it must raise taxes and debase the currency to help pay the difference.

This feedback loop of lawlessness has become so shrill and terrifying that many Americans are finally taking notice. For the first time in a long time, America is asking serious questions about the legitimacy of the government’s activities. Secession is a serious answer.

There is a psychological hurdle, to be sure, in giving secession the consideration it deserves. The very word causes many people to flinch because it conjures up images of slavery and civil war. Even some of the fiercest critics of the federal government have not given up on the electoral process because they see signs of hope in the Tea Party movement, and they take heart that outsiders such as Rand Paul have proven they can compete at the ballot box. In truth, it may be the worst possible outcome if such outsiders make electoral gains, because it will lull everyone into believing that real change is upon us. It is not.

Think for a moment what would have to occur for the federal government to obey the Constitution and restore fiscal sanity. “Mandatory” spending on unconstitutional wealth transfers such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would have to be eliminated or at least phased out. “Discretionary” spending that legislators love to funnel to their constituents would also have to be deeply slashed, not merely to balance the budget but also to terminate unconstitutional wealth transfers to corporations, universities, farmers, and countless others who lobby furiously for this pork. Congress would have to cease legislating on roughly 70%-80% of the subjects it now arrogates to itself in violation of the Tenth Amendment.

The President would have to stop issuing “executive orders” that carry the force of law despite lacking congressional consent, and he would also have to suspend all war operations until securing a declaration of same from Congress. The Supreme Court would have to disavow precedent from the past three generations that, among other things, enables federal courts to interfere routinely in local matters under the guise of the Fourteenth Amendment; that gives a blank check to congressional and presidential assertions of power under the guise of “interstate commerce” or “spending for the general welfare”; and that has distorted “judicial review” into a power of amending the Constitution rather than enforcing it.
And let us not forget the hordes occupying the bureaucracy, most of whom would have to quit their jobs and halt the printing presses from churning out tens of thousands of unlawful regulations that Congress never voted on.

To put it mildly, this is not going to happen. People from all walks of life have a vested interest in the unconstitutional status quo and will never vote to relinquish it. Welfare recipients, Social Security dependents, federal employees, high-flying banks, both major political parties, mal-educated college graduates, and the indolent majority will never budge. We could hold elections from now until doomsday without seeing reform that comes anywhere near to accomplishing what the Constitution requires.

Neither the Reagan Revolution in the ’80s nor the Contract With America in the ’90s made a dent in the federal juggernaut, and nor will the current fervor to re-take Washington even if it “succeeds.” Moreover, what does it say about a country when it requires a massive electoral effort to achieve even a modicum of lawfulness in the government? Constitutional compliance is where all political campaigns should begin, not where a few of them should end. Voting bestows unwarranted legitimacy on a system gone rotten.

The good news is that even if we cannot persuade most Americans into lawfulness, we can ignore them. This is secession, and it means simply that a group of people will thereafter govern itself rather than be governed by others. From a historical perspective, secession is legitimate because it is how America was born out of Great Britain, not to mention how the Constitution was born out of the Confederation – recall that nine states disregarded the Articles of Confederation and founded their own government, leaving the remaining four states to decide what to do next.

Modern secession is hardly unprecedented in the American experience, let alone radical. (The misnamed Civil War punished those who sought to exercise the right of secession; the war did not disprove the right itself, no more than censorship disproves the right of free speech.) From a logical perspective, secession is legitimate because all states are human creations that include some humans and exclude others — there is no reason that a state deserves less legitimacy simply because it is new or contains a different set of inhabitants.

From a moral perspective, secession is legitimate because government is only a means to achieve human happiness, not an end that requires sacrificing our happiness on a government altar. Even from a legal perspective, modern secession would be legitimate because it seeks to honor the Constitution and reject a renegade government that desecrates it. It is a fundamental principle of law that a party who breaches a contract may not demand contractual compliance from the other.

In the same vein, modern government clearly has breached the constitutional contract, so government has no legal argument to keep us from leaving. I venture that a new American republic carved from the old one would serve the Constitution’s ideals more faithfully than anything we’ve witnessed in our lifetimes.

Yet the psychological hurdle remains, largely out of the fear that a seceding territory will prove racist, corrupt, or oppressive. The strongest response to qualms of this sort is that secession creates more choices, and membership is optional. A new republic carved out of the old one would not compel anyone to join or penalize anyone for trying to leave (something that the current regime cannot say for itself). There are no slaves to liberate this time around, so idealistic rhetoric cannot prop up another war of conquest. Speaking of conquest, a seceded territory could never hope to match the federal government in terms of corruption, extortion, pillage, or plunder.

Such a territory would lack the raw materials necessary to inflict the magnitude of abuse that the federal government has made its stock-in-trade. Given the opportunity to exist, this new republic would likely prove more attractive than the old one, which is precisely why it will be resisted tooth and nail — governments are monopolistic and hate external competition, the only proven method of restraining political power. Internal restraints can be shredded or rendered meaningless by prosaic pronouncements from the judiciary, as we have witnessed time and again. It is thus absurd to fear what a small government might do when we already endure what a huge government actually does to us and the world on a daily basis.

One more reason for secession cannot go ignored: it is the wave of the future. The past few decades have witnessed the collapse of bloated centers of power, yielding a constellation of new nation-states with no need or desire to assert the global dominance that the American political class clutches to its chest. This sort of dominance is a relic that cannot withstand the new competitive environment or the onrush of technology that further empowers us to exchange ideas, goods, and money as we see fit. The financial crisis represents a collapse of the house of cards that our politicians have built, and all of their outrageous measures to sustain it reek of desperation.

Deep down they sense their legitimacy ebbing, and at least on that score they are correct. Ours is a world of decentralization, flexibility, and choice. To secede is to look forward; to support a Byzantine and unlawful empire is to look backward. Yes, my friends, it is time to get serious about secession.

Wilton Strickland is a Florida-born personal injury attorney that now lives in Missoula, Montana. He has written the books “Unlawful Government: Preserving America In A Post-Constitutional Age,” and “Unlawful Government: The Gathering Threat Of Global Hegemony.”

Article originally posted at http://www.LibertyDefenseLeague.com.