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If At First You Don’t Secede… – The Lowdown on Liberty

The United States of America. A nation built by a group of misfits simply longing for opportunity. A country that banded together in the face of tough odds to vanquish evil ideologies from flourishing. Or so we’re told in the history books. Today, however, turn on any media source for even a few minutes and you’ll get a very different story of America; one of divisiveness, apathy, and derision, not with regard to outside enemies, but among its own people. Nonetheless, these very same history books will scoff at the idea of secession, often preemptively labeling it as a racist or violent idea, even in the face of a country we’re told is torn by racism and violence. Considering that our young nation has already undergone two serious secession movements – both successful and unsuccessful – discussions of modern-day secession should not be brushed off so callously. For if at first you don’t secede, we can always try, try again.

Unfortunately, though, one major obstacle today is many people’s rather cartoonish impression of secession. Rather than go down the list of baggage associated with it, it’s easier to point out, in basic terms, what secession is. Just as a society or nation is simply a collective group of individuals who label themselves as such, secession is the label given when some of that collective group decide to disassociate with the rest. And when allowed to take place properly, it’s a non-violent means of conflict resolution. Historically though, we see that government incentives lie in territorial expansion, not contraction, which is why seceding from a governmental entity is almost universally viewed with derision compared to the private market. However, I think the United States’ current political climate has created the “perfect storm” for secession to successfully take root again, and if so, it will certainly benefit all involved.

I’m sure many who read this will brush off the idea of people benefiting from secession, but why? We disassociate with people all the time without even giving it a second thought. When we walk out of a store that we decided not to buy from or change where we buy from one company to another, we’re in essence disassociating with someone in pursuit of different ends. There’s nothing unnatural about it, in fact, the ability to withdraw from an undesired situation is a necessary function of conflict avoidance. Even animals recognize its importance, as we can observe the inevitability of what happens when two dogs are forced into a space that neither wants to be in. Likewise, when multiple groups see no options for resolving important political conflicts, the ability to cut ties with one another as a last resort cannot be understated.

So how can both groups benefit from secession? The same way that European nations benefit from one another now. We trade with and benefit from nations all over the globe and would continue to do so within the different factions the U.S. divided into post-secession, just as we trade between states now. And with the bonus of extinguishing the deep, political divide by allowing each new nation to govern as it wishes, it’s likely that cross-border relations will improve, and we’ll actually see an increase in the amount of trade we do with our now neighboring countries – both in goods and culture. Other than the emotional attachment to tradition and the idea of a “United States,” there’s no reason to not consider secession. Is it so difficult to imagine North America in 100 years looking more like Europe; comprised of multiple small countries, each with their own cultures, customs, traditions, and unique forms of governance? Both the left and right like to trot out European examples as a line for the U.S. to follow (U.K. with healthcare and Switzerland with firearms are just two examples), but say you’d like America to mirror the decentralized makeup of Europe, and both sides lose their minds.

Fortunately for us, the U.S. was born from secession, and as such has always held an undertone of romanticism towards many ideas directly in line with it – namely the protection of life, liberty, and property. Which is why we’ve seen secession movements start up from both Democrat and Republican-leaning groups. Even our founders recognized the ability to secede as a last defense against an overreaching government. As a nation built on private property rights, we ought to recognize the inherent ability individuals possess to voluntarily organize or disassociate from one another and the benefits therein.

If we hope to ever see a peaceful secession movement occur in the U.S., what we truly need to disassociate from is the idea that secession is anything more than a peaceful means to coexist among one another on our own property. We’ve all experienced or witnessed toxic relationships in life, and nations are not immune to suffering from the same complicated situations. With all this in mind, we must continue to urge the conversation towards a non-violent means of resolving our nation’s problems, and recognize that includes the encouragement of secession by those who wish to do so.

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Thomas J. Eckert

Thomas J. Eckert is a Copy Editor for Being Libertarian. With a passion for politics, he studies economics and history and writes in his spare time on political and economic current events. He is a self-described voluntarist.

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