Leadership - Not Compromise!
by County, 2000
Whenever government becomes destructive of these ends (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness), it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.
Declaration of Independence of the American Colonies, 1776
February 14, 2002 version
BE RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER?
Per the excerpts below, during November and December of 2000, tens of thousands of Republicans, fearful that Al Gore would steal the election back from George W. Bush, contemplated seceding from the union. The map of "Bush Country" (now a popular item sold as posters, tee-shirts and mugs by web sites like NewsMax.Com) is a symbol of the division between the pro-big government cities and the small government rural areas which want to be free of the rule of city dwellers. (Similarly, many city dwellers want to be free of the social conservativism they are convinced ruralists want to force on them.) This is just one example of the fragility of American unity which continues, despite the false unity currently produced by the September 11th attacks and George W. Bush's "War on Terrorism." Social, racial, ethnic and regional divisions only will increase over the next twenty years, aggravated by government's increased interference in individuals rights to control their own lives and shape their own communities.
The political logic [of secession] is impeccable. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the [Presidential] race was about a cultural divide in American life. You think all this hysteria is over which prescription-drug policy gets adopted? So Bush's voters could have a country with a weak federal government, modest social services, all the guns you want, the death penalty, prayer in school and conservative values. Gore's voters could have one with a strong federal government, aggressive social programs, few guns, no death penalty (or at least a high bar for invoking it), no prayer in school and much talk about inclusion and multiculturalism...When one contemplates the political discourse over the next few years, disunion is a slam dunk. “There's an antidote to this family feud: secession,” Peter Applebome, New York Times Syndicate, 11/26/00
Although the idea of secession has enjoyed a considerable comeback in recent years, the idea still has to catch on with many conservatives who consider themselves "patriotic" in the old sense... For them, loyalty to the idea of "America" has managed to take precedence over the idea of "liberty." This attitude invariably leads to rationalization that secession is too radical an idea and any talk of it is simply treason...Unbeknownst to many, the most famous and articulate secessionists in American history are not folks with names like Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, but people with names like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. “The Conservatism of Secession,” by Ryan McMaken, Lewrockwell.com, 12/1/00
The right of secession was taken for granted in the founding of our country, and it wasn't only a Southern idea....Irreconcilability faces us today. There's one group of Americans who does not wish to bother anyone but wishes to be left alone. Another group of Americans wants to plunder and control the lives of others. This latter group of Americans shows no sign of letting up, much less retreating. A return to rule of law and constitutional government or separation are the only peaceful solutions. Separation and independence don't require that liberty-loving Americans overthrow the federal government any more than it required George Washington to overthrow England or his successor secessionist, Jefferson Davis, to overthrow Washington, D.C. “A Nation Polarized,” by Walter Williams, WorldNetDaily, 12/6/00
SECESSION AND LP
The Libertarian Party Statement of Principles certainly has plenty of room for both community self-governance and secession, starting from its first sentence: “We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.” Particularly relevant to community self-governance is the sentence, “Since governments, when instituted, must not violate individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals.”
And, of course, secession is explicitly mentioned in the LP platform under “IV. Foreign Affairs, A. Diplomatic Policy, 5. Secession”: “We recognize the right to political secession. This includes the right to secession by political entities, private groups, or individuals. Exercise of this right, like the exercise of all other rights, does not remove legal and moral obligations not to violate the rights of others.”
Libertarians certainly extend to Americans the right to secede that they extend to the other 6 billion inhabitants of the planet! Therefore, party members should move the secession plank to a new Number 24 under “I. Individual Rights and Civil Order.” I personally believe the right to secession should be considered the most basic political right.
FOCUS ON A SECESSION STRATEGY
While I support libertarians' right to pursue alternate libertarian strategies, I also promote a secession strategy, including through my web site Secession.Net. I think the most promising strategy for achieving liberty is radical decentralism and secession--what I also call euphemistically "secure communities." (The International Society for Individual Liberty, ISIL, also promotes libertarian decentralist/confederationist plans.)
Let's face it, most of those who bother to vote receive part or all of their income from the state or state-favored businesses. Using existing legislative processes to repeal the hundreds of thousands of state and federal laws that restrict our liberties could take years even if the Libertarian Party became a major party. As the 2000 election showed, Americans frustrated with oppressive central authority react in the way millions of others react--the start thinking secession. Secession is like a sword that cuts through the Gordian Knot of state power.
Currently few libertarian parties or candidates bother to mention that libertarians support the right to secession–or that in practice such a right doubtless would lead to dozens of states and thousands of counties, cities and communities seceding from the United States. Like the Patriots above, libertarians are fearful of appearing too radical. Nevertheless, in 22 years of libertarian activism I have never met a libertarian who would use police or military force to keep secessionist within the union--and I have asked that question of many many libertarians.
Libertarians' biggest credibility problem is convincing people freedom doesn't mean they have to put up with strip clubs, crack houses, garbage dumps or chemical plants in their back yards. Another problem is the fear that "liberty" means they have to give up working with others in community towards common goals.
The Libertarian Party and its candidates can address these "elephants in the living room" by emphasizing individuals' rights to form diverse, self-governing, contractual communities largely or totally free of state control. In such communities individuals can create true security, both from negative outside influences and through cooperative community endeavors. My proposed "Positive" Platform [Original Version] includes reference to such alternatives. The libertarian decentralist or secure, self-governing communities approach is a principled way of assuaging American’s fears about how true liberty would work and how it would benefit them.
Secession is the natural option for anarchists who want no government and for those who want complete freedom from even the demands of a minimal national state--should such a state ever be achieved. Millions of Americans are so fed up with federal control of their lives that the wrong president could send them seceding. And in a world where 5,000 ethnic, linguistic and racial groups are lumped together into only 189 nation states, self-determination and secession already is immensely popular--and the cause of most conflicts within and among nations today.
HOW A SECESSION
COULD BE IMPLEMENTED
The party by-laws do not restrict the party only to electing candidates in election years and many state and local libertarian parties already combine single issue ballot initiatives, lobbying, protest and even civil disobedience with electoral politics. For moral, political and public education purposes, the national Libertarian Party should spearhead an explicit amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensuring the right of individuals and their chosen political units to secede from the union. It also should actively condone libertarians organizing civil disobedience, noncooperation and eventually nonviolent secession. Specifically, those who support a community self-governance and secession strategy should do the following:
Form a Libertarian Secession Caucus: Libertarians who agree with this strategy should create such a caucus to promote this strategy within the party.
Form a Secession Political Action Committee: We should create one to support libertarian candidates who want to run on such a platform.
Create a Right to Secession Constitutional Amendment Project: This would be a non-party project that also would work through the system and would be great publicity for the secessionist strategy.
Individual States of the United States of America, as well as self-defined constituent communities thereof, shall have the right to self-governance within or complete secession from the United States government. Members of self-governing states or communities shall retain the right to American citizenship, to full legal and due process protections, to vote in presidential elections, and to military defense; they will be subject to common law restrictions and to paying fees for military defense. Self-governance shall be permitted when 66% of eligible voters via referendum or initiative support same. Secessionist states or self-defined communities will be regarded as separate nations or territories. Secession shall be permitted when 75% of eligible voters via referendum or initiative support secession to an entity which includes legal safeguards for individual rights and liberties. No governmental authority shall restrict the formation of self-governance or secessionist communities through law or police or military action.Promote Right to Secession Initiatives and Referendums: These also are good educational tools in states and localities.
Note: this is updated
adapted from an original version written for the
February 10-11, 2001 Libertarian National Strategy Session in Indianapolis
which Carol Moore attended as Chair of the Libertarian Party of the District of Columbia