In modern times, the idea of a territory seceding from a larger state has, for the majority of people, taken on a negative connotation. Often related to the southern states within the US seceding during a time that had heavy overtones of racism and slavery (though not the direct reason for the secession). The majority of people – Americans in particular – view secession with a high degree of skepticism, and even contempt, as though any region wanting to secede from its father state is somehow anti-patriot.
In many cases, secessionists can be unreasoned and short sighted – angry at a particular situation and desperate to bring change, without considering the long-term consequences of secession and the hardships that are certain to follow. However, there are many legitimate reasons and sound rationales for a region to secede. If a region is the target of grievous abuse by its father state, if it is of distinctive, unresolvable differences, or complete different political identity and can peacefully secede; then, perhaps, it can be justified.
History is full of examples of secession that has created the geographical map we have today. Most of Europe was once united in a variety of different ways before modern European states were born. Much of the Middle East was constructed into its nation states shortly after World War II, when it was reshaped by the Allies. The Soviet Union dissolved and then reshaped into individual states and the Russian Federation. There was territory that was part of Greece that reshaped into individual seceded states, and Roman states that seceded in rapid fashion at the onset of its decline. In some cases, the secession is amicable, but in most cases, it isn’t. It is simply a constant part of ever-evolving states and geographic and cultural differences. Secession is not a dirty idea or one that should be greeted with sighs and eye rolls, with the assumption that secession is always a foolish endeavor. Sometimes, it is the best way forward for the betterment of people in whatever their circumstances.
Then, there is the practicality of the matter. Secession is not universally a wise thing to do. Nation states are typically so interconnected with their constituent parts that unwinding from the father state is a nearly impossible endeavor. What happens to the military bases and properties that belong to the central government? What about established travel and trade? How are businesses that are established with critical infrastructure in different regions going to be able to operate? How are diplomatic relations going to be handled? Secession is horribly messy, particularly in regions that have lots of modern infrastructure and successful economies.
Other considerations include whether the seceding region has enough of a diversified resource base to support itself, whether it has an enough of an economy and a well enough diversified economy to survive on its own, and whether it has access to critical infrastructure or is able to develop critical infrastructure on its own. Even a seceding region that desires to use the principles of private property and free markets to establish its critical infrastructure must consider how quickly that infrastructure will be developed and whether it can withstand the time involved.
Reasonable and logical circumstances for secession are a good balance of rationale as to just how bad the union is, against feasibility and the pain in forming a new autonomous region. While the vast majority of the time secession is disastrous, it’s not a situation worthy of an instant write-off out of hand. On the contrary, secession should always be a part of conversation in political speech, and it should be greeted with reasonable discourse rather than laughter and haughty eyes. While it may very well be almost impossibly unfeasible, it is always an important part of the human race’s success in advancement. It could be argued that with every successful secession, the world has learned something about the governance of its people. Without these separations, the world would never have known of libertarian ideas or classical liberal thought. There would have never been an opportunity to practice even the parts of individual freedoms that have been historically practiced.
To be perfectly clear, I am not an advocate of most instances I hear of secession. Perhaps maybe two or three US states could secede and successfully operate on their own, but for most it would be impractical and not worth the likely cost, as well as nearly impossible to do peacefully at this point. However, as a matter that tends to advance human beings politically throughout history, I am an advocate of not throwing away the idea of secession as a legitimate part of the conversation for any region within the world that believes it would be better served on its own. It’s an important part of reasonable political speech. It isn’t treasonous, and it isn’t unpatriotic. It’s a good point of discourse to consider regional political differences and the open discussion of political ideas. It’s sometimes an opportunity to see a new experiment in governance – sometimes good and sometimes bad, but always something that demonstrates potential merit (or lack thereof).
As for the most recent example of world-wide discussion, which is to say Catalonia, I have no strong opinions one way or the other. I watch with great interest as Spain and Catalonia sort their differences and pray for a peaceful transition, whatever the outcome. It’s good to hear the discussion, and I enjoy the fact that many ideas about regional differences and how they might be resolved are being discussed openly. It creates a good dialogue for the rest of the world to consider its own circumstances and political differences.
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