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Left and Right, Many Are Turning toward De Facto Secession—and That's Not a Bad Thing

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Tags Anti-PoliticsDecentralization and Secession

03/13/2020

Secession is less of a dirty word these days, but how it might actually work is a mystery. Fortunately, unless you’re a politician, there’s almost no downside. It’s a win for nationalists, open-borders advocates, and, most especially, for everyone in between.

New York splitting into two or three states, Illinoisans ditching Chicago, West Virginia welcoming in Virginia’s conservative counties, and northern Californians establishing their own State of Jefferson are a few recent campaigns.

These aren’t radical proposals, but rather a leveling up of what’s already common practice in the US. Mass exoduses from California, Illinois, Louisiana, and New York draw attention to the problems of these particular states, but why relocate if enough of your neighbors support simply redrawing state boundaries?

Immigration, abortion, gun rights, healthcare, and all the other issues that 330 million Americans bitterly fight over can be worked out in a decentralized fashion. Even the economy stands to improve if states partition into smaller units or even if they leave the US.

Aside from the frenzied “but this will cause another civil war” nonsense, the most unfounded concerns surround the economy. The fussbudgets are afraid that states will erect trade barriers, whether they ostensibly remain in the union or not.

Certainly some states will prefer different immigration policies, but barriers to trade among the states are mostly made possible by the federal government.

Murray Rothbard points out that the federal minimum wage law is a “protectionist device” weaponized by northeastern industrialists against their southern competitors, who have access to cheaper labor. He also cites “safety” regulations from the central government that essentially block the transportation of goods from one region to another.

Ryan McMaken observes why immigration restrictionists may be inclined to favor free trade:

If goods and services can't move across borders, then people are more likely to move in order to reach those goods and services.

Plus, as free trade raises the standard of living for both sides, economic migration is that much less likely.

An increase in smaller states and more representatives in Congress threatens to effectively nullify much of the federal government’s unconstitutional activities. And for those concerned about the nation-state’s integrity, a leaner Washington, DC, may be a factor in newly formed states deciding to stay attached to the union.

However, the future of America could also be a collection of hybrid state-nations, as opposed to a large nation-state.

States running their own immigration systems apart from any national policy is now the norm, as sanctuary cities and states such as California show. States are also encroaching on foreign and monetary policy with efforts to withhold their national guard troops from unconstitutional wars or proposing that gold and silver be legal tender.

This decentralization of society may be necessary considering the deeper implications of this newfound, widespread interest in secessionist solutions.

Fewer Americans feel at home in this country now. On the national scale, not even commercial events like the Super Bowl can unite us at the most superficial level.

In less than eight months, the presidential election cycle ends. That used to signify a day of national relief, no matter who won. Our political warring was over at last.

Anyone remember that country?

We don’t live there anymore, and we won’t this November 3, either.

However, the losing side can be expected to push talk of secession to an all-time high. Thankfully, centralization is losing popularity among some rising demographics, including Hispanics, who support secession at a rate of 36 percent, and those aged 18–29, 47 percent of whom favor decentralization.

At a time when polarization is leading to radicalization on the left and right, it’s reassuring that so many are now open to a strategy that offers compromise.

Although secessionists may generally talk of “taking back” some rights or way of life, they follow this up with willingness to let others go their own route, even to the point of giving up geographical reach for their new state or nation.

Social cohesion is declining under the status quo, as institutions that traditionally hold the social fabric together are failing, from traditional churches to civic community centers. Under centralization, politics freely usurps these cultural vacancies.

Tragically, that leads to violent street clashes between activists, many hopelessly seeking a sense of purpose from the mob.

The year 2021 offers a political environment in which frustration at national politics can be positively directed toward local officials. Over a dozen major cities will hold mayoral elections, and countless other municipalities and neighborhoods will be holding elections or hearings in which nullification and secession can be raised, not to mention that there are state legislatures taking most of their action in the early months of the year, when secession talk may be trending on social media.

Public discussion need not be charged with partisanship. In fact, issue-based campaigns and coalitions can transcend ideologies, so this could be a great opportunity for someone not attached to a political identity to lead the charge.

Good fences make good neighbors, Robert Frost wrote. Americans are more severely divided than ever before, but redrawing some boundaries just might help form a more perfect reunion.

Author:

Nick Hankoff

Nick Hankoff lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his wife Alice Salles Affonso Hankoff and their two children, soon to be three. His website nickhankoff.com is where you can find all of his recent writings and a forthcoming return of the fugacious Nick Hankoff Show.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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