15 Oct 2014

Secession Solves Social Strife

Secession, Shameless Self-Promotion, Tom Woods 31 Comments

My latest LibertyChat, amplifying a remark Tom Woods made in a recent podcast. My conclusion:

Last thing: Whenever someone brings up secession as a strategy for modern American politics, some wiseguy will say, “Didn’t the Civil War show that doesn’t work?” This is such a monstrous quip that it’s hard to know how to respond. The critic is effectively arguing that because the U.S. government slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people the last time someone took the Declaration of Independence seriously, that therefore it must not be valid after all. By the same token, if we’re debating whether an Indian tribe should get the right to open a casino, a wiseguy could ask, “Didn’t the Trail of Tears show that won’t work?”

Virtually every political problem in America could be cut in half…if we cut the federal government in half. Say it with me (if you can): Secession solves social strife.

31 Responses to “Secession Solves Social Strife”

  1. Major.Freedom says:


    That “monstrous quip” stems from historicism (which is mostly political). Historicism (in ethics and political philosophy) holds the mind to be incapable of knowledge of trans-historical truths and insight.

    Strictly speaking now, even the historicist founders distinguished between “real” (i.e. necessary) history, and “illusory” (i.e. accidental) history, and they always reassured everyone which events are part of Geist’s plan, and which are not. See the trick?

    So for the Civil War, the habit has arisen for lazy minded people to give their prejudicial opinion on the war by latching onto one liners the premises of which derive from historicism. Those who are againat secession for whatever passion or prejudice, use the one liner “The Civil War showed secession doesn’t work” as a translation for “I don’t like secession and break up, and I will convey my prejudice to you in the form of authority sounding verbiage like “If secession were good, we should have already had it by now” or “Secession was not meant to be”, etc.

    Pretty much the same one liners we hear regarding secessionary private law.

    Historicism is a mind killer.

    IMO, the best way to counter what we know is rife with error, is to use the unwitting historicist’s language of right back at them and present yourself as closer to Geist’s ear than the person you’re hearing the bupkus from. Things like “Improvements to society are always a bumpy road, and there are often initial failures”.

  2. Tel says:

    The critic is effectively arguing that because the U.S. government slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people the last time someone took the Declaration of Independence seriously, that therefore it must not be valid after all.

    It would be, errrr, unfortunate, if we were forced to kill another hundred thousand before you bitter clingers took the hint.

  3. Jan Masek says:

    By the same logic people could argue in velvet revolutionary Czechoslovakia in 1989: “Didn’t Prague Spring show that doesn’t work?” (Prague Spring 1968 – people in the streets calling for communism to end, suppressed by Soviet tanks. Velvet revolution in 1989 – people in the streets calling for communism to end and what do you know, it worked!)

  4. John says:

    Why would secession solve social strife? I’m not getting it. If there’s slavery or racism in an area, or social unrest, or whatever, why does secession help that?

    • Ben B says:

      Do you think the North could have helped solve the problem of slavery in the South by seceding from the Union? It certainly would have made the Fugitive Slave Act null and void in those states.

      Do divorces sometimes help individuals solve their problems? Now, maybe if you petition for a divorce from your spouse, it may anger him, and he may become violent and attack you (an invasion?), but that’s not really the fault of secession is it? Furthermore, why do you have to be involved in a marriage with someone in order to prevent them from commiting acts of aggression (like slavery?) against others?

      • John says:

        I’m not following this. I don’t see why the North seceding from the South would help the problem of slavery in the South in any significant way. It certainly could make it worse I suppose by removing political pressure to end slavery. But why would it help?

        I do understand the argument that if two parts of a country don’t get along, seceding might end that particular problem — I.e., two parts of the country not getting along — but I can’t see secession ameliorating internal strife or unrest in the two individual sections that don’t get along.

        • Dan says:

          If the North had seceded, or just allowed the South to secede, they could’ve simply said that any slave that escapes from the South will be immediately recognized as a free man, and they will not honor the fugitive slave laws any longer.

    • K.P. says:

      “Why would secession solve social strife?”

      How people think and feel isn’t distributed uniformly.

      One area wants slavery, the other doesn’t, if the sides can’t overlook or compromise on their differences then why share a government?

      Although it doesn’t solve social strife, just reduces it.

      • John says:

        Yes, I see this argument. But secession would not help reduce strife or social injustice in the portion of the country that wants slavery.

        • K.P. says:

          Correct, it internalizes the costs of the policy.

          However the newly created external pressure can indeed mitigate problems. As Ben B mentioned above, take the historical case of slavery in the US. If the South had to bear the full cost of slavery then escaped slaves wouldn’t have had to run all the way to Canada for freedom, just Ohio, a much easier trek. (Some plantation owners made this very argument in favor of staying in the Union.)

          Someone having to run from their home is always unfortunate, of course. But the impact of “Exit” is very powerful whether it’s legal or not.

          • S.C. says:

            Correct, it internalizes the costs of the policy.

            This is irrelevant if one side doesn’t want the other doing it to begin with.

            • K.P. says:

              Agreed. If one side has a strong libido dominandi then secession would be the last thing they want. Of course, if we really want to take this argument seriously we’ll have to reconsider the idea of national sovereignty altogether.

              • S.C. says:

                Secession doesn’t eliminate sovereignty. The libertarian idea that privatization, internalization, or what have is a solution to much, if anything at all, is not very meritorious. Here’s an example: a common argument I hear from your corner or the world is that making the commons private property solves the problem of pollution by making the owners bear the costs of the pollution is just…bizarre. It’s like arguing the proper response to robbery is to let the robbers own what they’re taking (I don’t mean for that to sound like “property is theft”, it’s just the first thing that came to mind). Another one is wildlife privatization. The entire point of anti-poaching laws is to make harming certain species forbidden. Think about how the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society sabotages Japanese whaling operations or how you can’t kill roaming clws in India. It’s not an issue of externalities versus internalities.

              • K.P. says:

                “Secession doesn’t eliminate sovereignty. ”

                Uh… what? Who made that claim?

                Internalization isn’t a libertarian idea.

                Your first example is tortured at best, that’s pretty easy to tell by looking at the actual libertarian response to robbery.

                The point of anti-poaching laws isn’t to forbid harm, it’s to protect particular species. Libertarians challenge both it’s justness and effectiveness.

                If you want to go on rants against libertarians go nuts, it’s just out of place here… and wrong.

                “It’s not an issue of externalities versus internalities.”

                There’s absolutely no reason why externalities shouldn’t be considered too, it’s not a contest after all.

              • Major.Freedom says:

                The argument that polluters should internalize the costs of their pollution is not the same thing as saying polluters are legally or morally justified in polluting the property of others as long as they pay money for it.

              • guest says:

                It’s not pollution unless it’s on private property:

                Defending the Undefendable (Chapter 27: The Litterer) by Walter Block

  5. Andrew_FL says:

    What if what is meant is “didn’t the Civil War show the Federal Government won’t let that happen?”

  6. S.C. says:

    You’re kidding me, right? It doesn’t “solve” anything. If one side doesn’t want the other to secede, then it would only cause more social strife.

    • Ben B says:

      Yes, that’s why I always tell domestic violence victims to “suck it up” and quit disturbing the peace.

      • S.C. says:

        *Sigh.* Did you really just compare the two?

        • K.P. says:

          You’re going to have to make an actual point eventually.

        • Major.Freedom says:

          He just used your logic in another scenario, to test the veracity and rigor of it.

          He was comparing the two.

          Clearly the logic is weak.

        • Ben B says:

          *Sigh.* Did you really just *sigh*?

    • Ben B says:

      What about forcing people into relationships that at least one party doesn’t want to be a part of? Will that create more social strife?

      Perhaps there wouldn’t be a need for the “social strife-creating” act of secession if there weren’t a previous social strife-creating act of forced unification. Acts of coercion necessarily create social strife.

  7. S.C. says:

    Let’s put it like this: secession “solves” social strife the same way property resolves disputes. In other words, it doesn’t. I support the two-state solution over in the Middle East not because I know it’ll end the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians—all you need to do is examine the more extremist rhetoric—but rather because it is fair and neither side will be deprived of a polity to call their own.

    • Ben B says:

      Exactly, in so far as an abusive husband wants to beat his wife no matter what, a divorce won’t solve this problem so long as he views her as his property.

      But when individuals do recognize that they do not own other individuals, then divorces, secession, and property seem to be a pretty good form of solving problems.

      • S.C. says:

        Seriously? Comparing opposition to secession to slavery takes guts.

        • Major.Freedom says:

          He wasn’t comparing the two. He was using the same premises in another scenario.

        • Ben B says:

          Anonymous internet posts never takes guts.

        • Ben B says:

          No, I was agreeing with you that individual secession won’t necessarily end the conflict between libertarians and statists– all we need to do is examine the more extremist rhetoric, ie. social contract, the government owns all land, the free market causes economic recessions, etc.

    • Major.Freedom says:

      Your last sentence is based on a premise that libertarians take right up to the individual level.

      What you say about separately controlled land property among nation states as “fair” is the exact same thing as what libertarians say about separately controlled land property among individuals.

      The freedom you say is fair for states, is what libertarians say is fair for individuals.

      You are using property rights as the solution to conflicts between groups of people who belong to states.

      Libertarians are using property rights as the solution to conflicts between individuals who “belong” to nobody else themselves.

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