[Second UPDATE below.]
Something is puzzling me here. People who are willing to have a war to prevent secession argue that they are trying to prevent secessionists from imposing costs on everybody else.
But what are the actual calculations to yield this result? Let’s take Texas for example. Depending on which estimate you look at, the actual GAAP net worth of the US federal government right now could be negative $75 trillion. Texas in 2011 had 8.2 percent of the US population.
So a back-of-the-envelope calculation (disregarding demographic of Texas vs. other states, relative income, etc.) suggests that if Texas left the Union and forfeited its citizens’ claims on future federal entitlements, the rest of us would be instantly $6.2 trillion wealthier.
Moreover, we would be able to slash military spending with no problem, because now there would be a nice big neutral country on our southern border, armed to the teeth. No outside army is invading the leaner US going through the Republic of Texas.
What am I missing? What could possibly justify bombing the Texans and killing thousands of them (many of whom would be children) in order to “save the Union”, if (by assumption) a majority of them wanted to secede?
UPDATE: Apparently a bunch of you are going to have a heart attack, because you don’t realize that when people refer to the “unfunded liabilities” of Social Security and Medicare, they are taking into account expected payroll tax “contributions.” That’s what the “unfunded” means. Also, to the extent that certain services (I’m using the term loosely of course, just to play the game) provided by the US federal government are proportional to population, that type of thing should be a wash. The only possible issue would be “public goods” that are cheaper per person, the greater the US population. I dealt with the military–what would seem the most obvious one–and think I showed if anything, it will be cheaper per person to provide actual defense (as opposed to maintaining a global empire) if Texas seceded.
However, Blackadder did point out one major omission: I forgot that the outstanding Treasury debt is a fixed obligation of the US government, regardless of population. So let’s adjust for that now:
I’m not relying on Shadowstats or some other controversial estimate. The 2012 Trustees Report says that Social Security and Medicare have $38.6 trillion in negative present discounted value (I think it’s over a 75-year window, but don’t quote me on that). So to repeat, that number already takes into account the expected payments into the systems from future workers and employers, and is saying the benefits due to recipients are so much higher, that even discounting those discrepancies means their present value sums to negative $38.6 trillion. I’m also pretty sure–but don’t quote me here either–that number treats the US federal government as a unified budget, i.e. it ignores the Social Security “trust fund.”
OK the net federal debt held by the public (meaning we’re not worried about the Treasury owing money to another government entity like Social Security) is $11.45 trillion in late 2012. So even if Texas doesn’t pick up a dime of the existing, outstanding Treasury securities held by the public, that’s still a savings of at least ($38.6 trillion – $11.5 trillion = $27.1 trillion) x 8.2% = $2.2 trillion for the rest of us, instantly. This is an extremely conservative figure, taking the official estimates of government actuaries at face value. And like I said, I think any reasonable calculation of ongoing expenditures for the US federal government (not counting entitlements) would be close to a wash. What other “public goods” besides military spending does the USG provide, that would make the rest of the US poorer because Texas seceded?
UPDATE #2: Some people in the comments can’t see what all the fuss is about. If some people in a state want to secede from the Union, all they have to do is ask for permission from the US government, and for all we know, that feds might grant them permission. In that case, no war is needed. So why all the whining?
Well right, I don’t think anybody is interested in the case where the US government allows people in a state to secede. After all, not even General Sherman said to Lincoln, “You know what would be hilarious Mr. President? Tell the Confederate States they have your blessing to leave, then we’ll invade and slaughter them anyway! Ha ha I’m such a jokester.”
No, the tricky issue occurs when a majority of people in a state want to secede, but the federal apparatus tells them “no.” Then the people in that uppity state–perhaps believing in “self-determination” or some such cockamamie notion–get it into their heads to go ahead and leave anyway. Now the tough question: Do the Americans in the other 49 states really want to start killing those people in Texas (say) until they see the error of their ways? I am astounded that so many people would apparently answer “yes” to that question.