Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Secession: Why the Regime Tolerates Self-Determination for Foreigners but Not for Americans | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on December 22, 2022

Why is it that some governments are “allowed” self-determination by the US government, but any area presently within the national borders of the US—including member states with democratically elected governments—is to be denied self-determination until the end of time? The answer appears to be a mishmash of nationalism, half-baked “social contract” theory, and the old-fashioned desire to dominate others “for their own good.”

Ryan McMaken

Opponents of secession in the United States often choose from several reasons as to why no member state of the United States should be allowed to separate from the rest of the confederation. Some antisecessionists say it’s bad for national security reasons. Others oppose secession for nationalistic reasons, declaring that “we”—whoever that is—shouldn’t “give up on America.

Antisecessionists Believe Self-Determination Leads to “Bad” Laws

One of the most popular reasons to oppose secession is that people will pass “bad” laws in places allowed to live under their own governments. That is, we’re told that without federal “oversight” over state and local communities, independent states would deny basic “rights” such as getting an abortion, voting without ID, or guaranteeing that every cake-shop owner is forced to bake cakes for same-sex couples. These independent governments, we are told, would also fail to enforce “progressive” regulations such as bans on fossil fuels and paying workers a federally imposed minimum wage. Therefore, the story goes, these places must be forced—by military means if necessary—to comply with the US government’s mandates and regulations.

Yet far more tolerance is extended to the rest of the world—a place composed of 190-plus independent states—where governments adopt their own laws. Only in a select few cases—think Russia, Iran, and Syria—do we hear that the US government must intervene to ensure—by force, of course—that people in these parts of the world adopt the “right” laws. Everywhere else—as in Peru, India, Canada, or Poland—it’s perfectly tolerable that laws be set locally in accordance with local values. we are told. Those places are democracies, after all, and we’re told democratic institutions establish “legitimate” government.

Why is it that some governments are “allowed” self-determination by the US government but any area presently within the national borders of the US—including member states with democratically elected governments—is to be denied self-determination until the end of time? The answer appears to be a mishmash of nationalism, half-baked “social contract” theory, and the old-fashioned desire to dominate others “for their own good.”

Antisecession Is about Extending Washington’s Control

Opposition to secession in the name of preventing “bad” policy has many adherents across the political spectrum who place great faith in the ability of the US Supreme Court and other federal technocrats to “protect rights,” which they supposedly accomplish by deciding whether or not states and local governments conform to federal notions of “good” law. The desire to deny self-determination to state and local governments in the US, however, appears to be especially intense on the Left. For example, in a recent article in The Nation opposing “blue-state secession,” Paul Blest contends that secession by blue states would be “cruel” because it would allow red-state governments to be unhampered by the US federal government. This, presumably, would enable conservatives to violate the human rights of “marginalized people” wholesale. More specifically, Blest believes secession should not be contemplated because it would limit the reach of federal mandates that “accommodate” transgender students and guarantee access to abortion (among other presumed benefits of federal control).

Indeed, the idea that American separatists might be able to run governments anywhere without a federal babysitter strikes much of the Left as abhorrent, to say the least. We can see this in a recent article from New Republic in which author Brynn Tannehill warns that conservative state officials are “lining up” to pass new laws against birth control, “ban books,” “rig democracy,” and generally oppress groups conservatives allegedly hate. Tannehill contends that this is all part of a conservative plot to create “two Americas,” or, as a CNN piece put it in July, build “a nation within a nation.” Whether this leads to “soft secession” or “hard secession,” Tannehill concludes the answer is for the Left to reassert federal control over these separatists and ensure that enlightened federal policies are imposed on red states. Otherwise, these states will continue their descent into a nonprogressive “hellscape.”

Most of the World Gets to Make Its Own Laws

The hysteria over abortion or voter ID never seems to extend to the world beyond the US border, however. This is true even though many of the “progressive” states of Europe have gestational limits on abortion that are more strict than was the case under Roe v. Wade and even though abortion is largely illegal in Poland. Latin America employs a wide variety of restrictions on abortions that would be labeled intolerable by progressives were such laws to be employed in the US. In Iraq, where thousands of Americans died to install a progressive democracy—or so we were told—abortion is illegal. In all this—so long as these countries are considered “allies” by the US regime—we never hear how the US must launch a humanitarian military operation there to preserve what the US Supreme Court has decided is a “right.” Similarly, most democratic regimes require identification to vote in elections, although American leftists tell us this amounts to “rigging democracy.” Meanwhile, same-sex marriage is banned in parts of Latin America and eastern Europe, and  in half a dozen European countries, only civil unions are considered legal among same-sex couples. Of course, same-sex marriage is banned in most of Africa and the Muslim world. Again, where are the calls to send in federal agents to ensure the protection of human rights in all these places? Certainly, advocates for abortion and same-sex marriage will demand that laws be “improved” in these foreign jurisdictions. But it is also generally accepted that these changes should be brought about through local institutions, and that local self-determination is to be—more or less—respected.

Three Ways They Justify Denying Self-Determination to Americans

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