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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Would You Secede?

Often anarchists say something like, "I'm fine if you people want to live in a statist society: just let me out!"

OK, so let's say the U.S. tomorrow offers any individual or political sub-entity the right of secession. (I think this actually might be a good idea: the approach Czechoslovakia took to the Slovaks is probably the right approach here: you want to go, fine, go.) Would any present American state do this? I doubt it. But would you personally?

Your initial reaction might be, "Hell yeah! I wouldn't have to pay taxes anymore, and I'd be free of all the oppressive U.S. laws regarding drugs and other victimless crimes."

But what would your situation actually be, if you individually seceded? Well, you wouldn't have to pay taxes, but for any goods you planned on exporting to the U.S., you would have to pay customs duties. And assuming the W.T.O. is not going to let you join as individual, those duties could be as high as the U.S. wants to set them. So they could, in fact be set so that you pay more to the U.S. government than you currently do.

Furthermore, what about the job you now hold across town? Well, you'll now need a green card to continue to hold it, won't you? (Remember, the premise is, you don't mind the way we "statists" live, you just want to be able to opt out of it.) And every time you leave or re-enter your property, you could be subjected to customs inspections. Forget about getting your pot into "your" country: you have much more access to illegal drugs now than you would as your own polis. Running your own "foreign country" within the borders of the U.S. will prove to be pretty onerous --  perhaps practical for a billionaire owning her own off-shore island, but for the rest of us, not so much.

So, granting the right of secession, something I think might not be a bad idea, is likely to result in... nothing at all changing, in America, at least at present. It would be a nice gesture, I think, but it isn't going to get us to "anarchy" at all. Might as well face facts: you are part of this whole mess. It is better to focus your efforts on fixing it rather than dreaming of a world in which you could costlessly opt out.

8 comments:

  1. That sort of economic coercion is how England dragged Scotland into the Treaty of Union.

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    1. I thought it was an offer of all the haggis they could eat. Well, live and learn.

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  2. No, I wouldn't. Not really for the reasons you mention but rather that I have zero faith that the US government wouldn't simply invade a successful anarchist territory.

    Although I think the provision of defense would be more efficient in a libertarian order, that quality loses to the quantity that is the American military-industrial complex.

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    1. traumerei, the premise of the post is that secession has been declared legal. You re not playing along if you change the premises of a thought experiment. The question was not "Would you try to secede today?" but "Would you secede if conditions were altered in the way stated?"

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    2. I am playing along, just as the native tribes played along when they signed treaties and contracts with the US Government. All the good that legal fiction did them ...

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    3. Traumerei, peaceful secession has happened in the past, and may happen very soon: Scotland is voting on independence in 2014. The premise here is we are in such a situation. Would you then secede?

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    4. In that case ... it depends. If Peter Thiel went ahead with his Libertopia island or Blueseed project with modest port capabilities - I'd very likely be in. An island would be necessary to avoid the customs issues you bring up and allow for free exchange between Libertopia and the Pacific Rim.

      Essentially I'm envisioning a Hong Kong or Singapore style development pattern but with no monopolies on the provision of law and security.

      If the only libertarian society is some kind of hemp growing militia compound where everyone complains about the Bilderbergs all day and the US government runs Israeli style checkpoints on all surrounding roads, then no.

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  3. Thanks! I already thought you tried to avoid to comment on this.

    I agree. I know that just making it possible to secede individually (also without setting up artificial costly barriers) it would still be a very costly thing to do, which would make it highly impracticable, especially individually.

    Yet just as you say, it was still the right thing to allow. And I am sure certain groups would at some point go this way at the moment costs to stay become too high.

    Although I really doubt that a country that even considers income of its citizens who entirely live and work abroad part of its revenue would allow this soon to happen without a huge pressure.

    So finally I have to say, you are a disguised anarchist. I wonder if Daniel Kuehn would agree too?

    Thanks for this post! And then I also agree there is no moral double standard anymore.

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