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Why Can’t We Secede?

November 20th, 2008

I read about a Zogby Poll a few months ago, that suggests something like one-fifth of Americans support the idea of secession (at least at the state level), unfortunately,

The more education a respondent had, the less likely they were to support secession – as 38% of those with less than a high school diploma would support it, compared to just 10% of those with a college degree.

I think the correlation here is: The more pro-State brainwashing an individual has received, the less likely he is to believe in anti-State ideas, like secession, or freedom.

In What Libertarianism Isn’t (Part 2), John from Blagnet inquires:

Why is it a violation of the Statist moral code to non-violently abstain from participating in State functions?

That’s a damn good question, Mike, and it’s one that few people have ever thought about answering. The key point here is that I’m always talking about non-violent abstention, and I will not recognize or respond to any straw-man arguments suggesting otherwise.

Anyways, imagine a State that decided to secede from the Union. In the context of the current government, of course it would not tolerable, the Constitution does not address the topic, instead permitting new States to be formed within the jurisdiction of existing states only upon Congressional approval according to Ariticle 4, Section 3.

This conveniently subjects State sovereignty to the very entity with which it may wish to sever all ties. But Article 4, Section 3 doesn’t really address secession. It only says that you can’t start gerrymandering the existing State to suit your desires, nor can you establish your own State to that effect. It does not address the possibility that some people might want no State at all, and these people are forbidden from pursuing that goal.

It is clear, then, that the people whose opinions matter most, don’t count, that the venerable “Consent of the Governed” is taken as an immutable absolute, that dissent or repudiation in practice is forbidden. If man is not free to withdraw his Consent, then it can never be said that he truly offered it, in the first place.

What should happen to those who wish to secede?

Let’s take our hypothetical one step further: imagine an individual who wanted to secede? Accepting the government’s claim to legitimacy (resting upon the foundation of the now defunct “consent of the governed”), is it acceptable to violently prevent this individual from exercising this choice? To take up arms against him? To force his acquiescence or his death?

By what right do men claim the moral authority to kill someone simply because of a disagreement? Can it be tolerable, under any circumstances, for the government (a government indisputably lacking consent) to kill these people, whose sole crime is an attempt to exercise their free choice to not belong? I submit that it cannot.

The good thing is that most people aren’t morally bankrupt enough to kill over a disagreement, so with that said, there is some modicum of hope. The bad thing, however, is that most people are just morally bankrupt enough to delegate that crime to someone else, someone who is willing to get his hands dirty.

How embarrassingly nonsensical is it, for a group of men to say, “We want you to be a part of our group, our enlightened ‘Society’ so badly that we’re willing to kill you if you reject our offer?”

It is worse than nonsensical. If you’re willing to kill someone, in order to get his cooperation, you’re clearly not interested in his cooperation. Your interested in enslaving him. It is a damnably brutish and subhuman appeal to violent force; it is ultimately the foundation upon which any appeal to government rests.



  • Zach S says on: November 20, 2008 at 5:57 pm


    “How embarrassingly nonsensical is it, for a group of men to say, “We want you to be a part of our group, our enlightened ‘Society’ so badly that we’re willing to kill you if you reject our offer?””

    Sadly, this happens all the time. Correct me if I am mistaken, but this idea could be translated to one of the main reasons every group/country who has gone to war; either they want to defend themselves from being assimilated or they want to assimilate and when I say assimilate, I mean they want to most likely take all of their property as their own. It is quite a disgusting human trait-almost animalistic.

    I suppose you could make the arguement that at least most humans would give the individual a choice before killing them while most animals would just kill…but that point would be moot, at least to my ears.

  • Mike Gogulski says on: November 20, 2008 at 6:20 pm


    Thanks for the cred, David, but that second quote was John Petrie’s, not mine.

    I think a big part of the problem you point to is that people can read things like my “the penalty is always death” posting, and come away from it saying that Bob was wrong at some point in the chain of escalation. At some point, Bob just should have gone along to get along. Either that, or they deny that such a situation would ever actually arise — either because, well, of course everyone complies, or because the don’t believe that the state’s principle mode d’etre is force.

    What’s the line from “The Usual Suspects”? The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people he isn’t real.

  • David Z says on: November 20, 2008 at 9:04 pm


    It is a disgusting trait, Zach. I’m just pointing out the 800-pound gorilla…

  • David Z says on: November 20, 2008 at 9:51 pm


    Mike and/or John – I fixed the erroneous citation.

no third solution

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