With Crimea breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia,
the topic of secession is becoming more popular, with strong opinions both for
The situation in Crimea is a little different because the
people of the region were actually voting to join another country instead of
breaking away on its own. This may
seem odd to us, especially when it is Russia they are joining, but we do have
to consider the circumstances.
That region is made up of people who consider themselves
Russian. They speak the language
and probably share more of the views of the Russian people. We must also consider that life in Ukraine
is what we would consider horrific.
When people in Crimea see higher living standards in Russia, it is
natural for them to want change and to want to share in those higher living
Some critics say that the election was not valid because
there was pressure on the people to vote to breakaway and join Russia. This may or may not be true, but it is
hard to deny that a large majority of the people there favor a reunion with
Regardless of the situation in Crimea, how should a strong
advocate of liberty deal with the topic of secession?
Unfortunately, the topic of secession in the U.S. tends to
get associated with the Civil War, which wasn’t really a civil war. Because the southern states allowed
slavery and slavery ended up being abolished at the end of the war, the idea of
secession is sometimes tied to slavery.
The critics of secession have exploited this association by screaming
racism anytime someone mentions the word secession.
Of course, this is ridiculous and it should not dissuade us
from speaking about the topic.
Just because the southern states had slavery and they also tried to
secede, it doesn’t automatically make secession bad.
If there is a mass murderer who also enjoys eating pie, does
that prevent us from ever enjoying pie again? Does anyone who eats pie automatically get labeled a
sympathizer of mass murder? This
just shows the ridiculous notion of how anyone advocating secession is advocating
slavery or racism. It is just a
smear tactic of the critics.
It is also important to point out that anyone who is against
secession must also be against the United States. The Revolutionary War was a war of secession. The American colonies were seceding
from Britain. The Declaration of
Independence is just that. It is a
declaration of secession.
Some will say there is a difference because Britain was
ruled by a king, whereas we live in a democracy today (although it is supposed
to be a constitutional republic).
But then how can an advocate of democracy deny the right of a group of
people to secede if that is what the majority favors?
As a libertarian, I will always recognize that secession
should be allowed and it is usually good for liberty. Generally speaking, the smaller the region, the better it is
for liberty. It is actually
smaller countries such as Switzerland and Hong Kong that tend to have more
It is also important that when there are smaller countries,
there are more choices and there is more competition. This can actually constrain governments to a certain
degree. While the U.S. has become
quite centralized, you can still see a little bit of competition between state
governments. High tax states such
as Illinois and California are finding that if they make things bad enough,
some people will actually pick up and move somewhere else such as Texas or New
Hampshire where taxes are less burdensome.
With that said, liberty advocates should remain consistent
and still not oppose secession if it is coming from an area that does not
reflect their views. For example,
there are some leftists in Vermont who would like to secede from the U.S. While I don’t share their vision on
some things, particularly on economic issues, I will not oppose any attempts of
secession there. If they want to
breakaway and have their own little democratic welfare state, then it is better
for it to happen in a small region where people can easily move away.
I don’t see secession happening any time soon in the
U.S. There are cultural and
economic reasons for this. But I
think we should not be afraid to discuss the topic. Smaller regions controlled by a government tend to favor
liberty in the long run.