In a development that only coma patients would find surprising, Ron Paul recently came out in favor of secession. The man has long been the champion of the modern day libertarian movement, which if you ask me looks less like a movement that believes in civil liberty for all and a lot more like a movement that wants to be socially and fiscally conservative, but without all that pesky public condemnation for their judgmental and discriminatory behavior. But that’s a discussion for another time.
In the wake of last month’s referendum for Scottish independence, the Elder Paul took the opportunity to commandeer the struggle for Scotland’s autonomy from Great Britain for his own anti-Federalist propaganda. Paul spoke of secession as the “most important” and as being “a concrete right.” Of course, in making this declaration he proves that deep-down his political ideology is rooted in the same origins as the states that left the union and started the Civil War. He ignores or rather cast aspersions on the outcome and implication of that war because as he says now the feds have an “open-door policy” to “expand itself.”
Every time a modern day secessionist comes out of the woodwork though, I always want to ask them three very simple questions. They immediately blow huge holes in any argument for one state or another to leave the union, and if I ever got the chance, I’d ask Ron Paul these questions myself, so watch him squirm or see him shut up, and I know these questions would stifle — at least temporarily — the bleating of the modern day secessionists of any stripe.
#3. Where’s the “out clause” in the United States Constitution?
You’ve seen it a million times. You’re in an argument with someone who considers themselves a “libertarian” and they tell you that a state should be allowed to leave whenever they want. For a real-world example, take this entry from one of the more, um, special moderators of a neo-libertarian page I frequent:
So in order to shut them up when they start incorrectly telling you that states can just “resend” their ratification of the Constitution, all you have to do is simply call their bluff. I mean, call me crazy, but if they can’t spell the words “rescind” or “secede” properly, I’m thinking they shouldn’t do either, but even still, forget that for a moment and just hand them a copy of the Constitution and tell them to find the passage that allows any state that joins the union to leave it.
They will probably sputter out some kind of answer that involves a diary of or an exchange of letters between founders. Of course, that’s like breaking out Tolkien’s diary as proof of some obscure Lord of the Rings plot line that was supposed to be in the stories, but was left out for one reason or another. The simple fact is that there is no out clause for any state. There is no formal process outlined anywhere for any state to leave. So yes, while it may seem antithetical in some regards that a country that cherishes “freedom” or “liberty” wouldn’t allow states to leave of their own volition, but that’s only if you choose to willfully ignore the entire purpose of the United States federal government.
Perhaps it’s because we focus more now on “In God We Trust,” but the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” is still on our currency for a reason. It’s the original motto of the country and it literally means “out of many, one.” The whole idea of our country was strength through the unity of united, separate states. The founders may have never figured the union would survive if states were coming and going every five years as they got into squabbles with one another, so the ability to leave was omitted. That’s the explanation that seems to make sense to me, but it’s a concept that has been lost on anti-Federalists since the Articles of Confederation failed so miserably to establish a working government. The most very basic lesson learned in our country’s first disastrous attempt to self-govern was that when you have a country made-up the way ours is, a strong central government can serve to smooth out the cracks left by the differences in the states’ governments, and through it all there is simply no outlined way for a state to secede.
#2. Who will defend your new country’s sovereignty?
Sure, maybe it sounds like a good idea to Jethro right now to secede. He hates taxes. Hates Democrats, and he hates the United States enough to consider leaving in a tantrum instead of garnering votes for his ideas and philosophies. And maybe in his mind a collection of even a few thousand backyard commandos could protect Texas Freedom Land from roving marauders and foreign invasion, but for the rest of us, it’s truly a hilarious thought, isn’t it? After all, any state that leaves the union would be giving up the protection of the largest and most powerful armed forces the planet has ever seen. I’m not even a pro-military guy myself, and I can see how nonsensical it would be, especially if you’re one of those “threats both foreign and domestic” conspiracy theorists, to leave the protection we’ve all paid through the damned eye-teeth for, for the sake of being protected by your state’s national guard or the guys who shoot off AR-15s in the woods behind their homes twice a month.
Again, I’m not even a guy who is super-duper proud of the military industrial complex’s death grip on our economy here. I’m just pointing out the simple fact that any state that were to leave would be an island alone among at least 47 other states, with two more off in the middle of the ocean and next door to Russia. I dare say none of us would advocate invading Texas Freedom Land, but these are the kinds of things that modern day secessionists either don’t think about, or think about in such a juvenile way that you wish you could give them what they want, just so you could laugh in their faces when it all falls apart later.
#1. How will your new country pay for stuff?
This is the silver bullet if you ask me. And I’m not referring to taxes here. We all know that the first thing to go in Texas Freedom Land will be every single tax. Well, maybe not sales taxes, since those are the most regressive and impact the poor and working class disproportionately, but this question is about a very simple question over what this new country will use for currency. What’s the point in leaving the union if you still use our dollars? Of course, all these people are champing at the bit to get back on the gold standard and abandon our fiat currency, right?
But that still leaves these neo-confederates with the task of raising capital to run their country. They’ll need to go to the world banks and present themselves as stable, credit-worthy folks deserving a big, fat loan to get their public services going. I mean, it’s all well and good to just assume your “country” will function fine without basic governmental functions like clean drinking water and cops patrolling the streets, but when push comes to shove, these are the things that modern humans demand.
In leaving the union, they’ll be forfeiting their right to use our money, and if you don’t think that wouldn’t cause all kinds of pandemonium and needless headache, just think about taking a trip to Texas Freedom Land. Now you can just get in a car or train or plane and go there, spend the money you already have, and be on your way. In post-secession world, you have to treat that trip like you would an international vacation and make sure you have traveler’s checks or access to good exchange rates. That sounds like a highly unnecessary and complicated solution to the problem of having a bunch of scared, sad, folks who are too lazy to make cohesive arguments for their side, and would rather take their ball and go home.
But maybe that’s just me.