Showing posts with label secession. Show all posts
Showing posts with label secession. Show all posts

6/29/2015

Should Libertarians Celebrate the SCOTUS Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage?

The Supreme Court of the United States has made several headline-generating decisions in the last week.  In a 5-4 ruling, this august body of the country's premiere jurists issued an irrevocable command to 13 states that banned same-sex marriage.  Going forward, all states will be required to license same-sex marriages and recognize those marriages entered into from other states.

The Libertarian Party has used this opportunity to showcase how forward-thinking and ahead of the times they are, publishing the headline "Libertarian Party's 40-yr marriage equality advocacy pays off with US Supreme Court decision".  Nicholas Sarwark, Chair of the Libertarian National Committee, said "we applaud and celebrate this victory" and that he's "glad to see the Supreme Court has upheld the equal rights of all Americans."

Certainly, libertarians can be happy at the outcome of the SCOTUS decision.  Unjust laws that forcibly prevented consenting adults from engaging in voluntary contracts have been reversed.  What's not to like?  Perhaps the optimum libertarian solution would have been to remove the violence of government from the marriage business completely, leaving it to churches and individuals to create their own contracts as they see fit.  Nevertheless, individuals are freer than they were before.  How could this not be a clear-cut win for liberty?

Libertarian Means and Ends

This question brings us to examine the means and ends of this event.  We might be happy with the outcome, but should we be wary of how it came about?  For the constitutionalist, this is likely to be no time for celebration.  Under an intellectually honest view of the constitution, there is no language that gives the federal government the power to infringe on state legislation in this way.  As one dissenting judge wrote,
“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision…  Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal.  Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner.  Celebrate the availability of new benefits.  But do not celebrate the Constitution.  It had nothing to do with it.”
But of course, being a libertarian does not make one a constitutionalist.  We have a much brighter lantern to guide our way than our weak and powerless constitution.  Using the dual lens of self-ownership and the non-aggression principle, it is clear that consenting individuals have the right to enter into whatever sort of contract among themselves that they'd like.  On the flip side, individuals do not have the right to force their contract onto others, which is why getting government out of the marriage businesses would be the ideal solution.

In a free market of marriage that respected the property rights of everyone, perhaps some religions would offer same-sex marriage contracts while others would not.  Maybe new institutions would offer this service completely outside the religious temple.  From there, various voluntary solutions and market-based incentives would meet everyone's preference accordingly.  If some don't like it, there are plenty of non-violent options available that don't infringe on the rights of others.  Certainly this would be the outcome most aligned with each individual's rights being respected.  "Live and let live", it's a beautiful mantra.

In lieu of this optimum scenario, the question is again asked, should libertarians celebrate a ruling from the Supreme Court of the federal government that forces the states to license and recognize same sex marriage?  Without any regard to the merits of the constitution, the answer would be a qualified no.  The SCOTUS ruling brings about a libertarian end, but the means involved is quite counter to our long term goals.  Ultimately, this deference to 9 black-robed individuals governing 318 million people from D.C. is just one more precedent that is sure to be harmful to the long-run prospects of a free society.

Beware the Hand that Feeds You

Despite the LP's celebratory announcement, we should be hesitant to shout hosannas when a Supreme Court ruling dictates law to the states.  Every decision from that unelected and virtually unaccountable group that gives the federal government greater power is a net loss for liberty - even when libertarians are happy at the particular outcome.

Today, the SCOTUS issues a decree that happens to be consistent with libertarian principles, but literally the day before it issued a ruling that the federal government can pass laws requiring citizens of the 50 states to purchase a product from a private company.  How can we celebrate any decision passed down from such a bold and audacious body?  Why give any respectability to their decisions?  We are just shooting ourselves in the foot.  What happens to our credibility if we say that a supreme court decision "paid off" when they will not doubt issue 99 rulings that violate libertarian principles to every 1 decision that goes in our favor?

We can't just celebrate the outcome of this decision in a vacuum; all the factors must be examined before popping the champagne.  In a world where virtually every square inch is claimed to be the domain of one evil government or the other, in most territorial battles between rival gangs of costumed officials we are safe to say "a pox on both their houses".  But when one of those gangs is infinitely more powerful, more ruthless, and more arrogant than the other, we should seriously consider rooting for the underdog.  In other words, if we are stuck in a world of governments, the greater good is federalism.  I would rather have 50 separate rulers that each have a kingdom of 500 thousand to 38 million people than one supreme ruler that dictates the lives of 318 million people.

As much as I'd like to just ignore the evil doings of the criminals who presume to rule over me, I do so at my own peril.  If we want to fight back in the political arena, let's choose our battles wisely.  Individual libertarians can actually do something at the local level, whereas we have virtually zero control over what happens in the district of criminals.  So if we want to fight for marriage equality, or more precisely, the right of individuals to enter into voluntary contracts, then let's fight those laws where they exist.  If we find them at the city level, fight them there.  If they are at the county or state level, then bravely go forward into battle.  But if the struggle seems insurmountable, don't be so foolish as to celebrate when an even greater threat to liberty takes on your foe.  That hand may feed you today, but it will certainly strike you tomorrow.

A Dream for Soundbites

Do things have to always be so damn complicated?  It seems the prudent and principled libertarian is doomed to never accept simple, one word answers.  We can never say just "yes" or "no", it's always followed by a "but".  This isn't the result of a complex philosophy - what could be simpler than the self-evident proposition that individuals should control their own lives as long as they respect the rights of others?  Unfortunately, it's a result of the statist climate we live in, where every question seems to presuppose a government answer.  We're constantly asked the no-win question, "have you stopped beating your wife?"  While we carefully explain our position with logic and attention to detail, our opponents keep things simple by playing on the ignorance and desire for immediate gratification of the American boobousie.

As the nation collectively knee-jerks into total insanity by banning the confederate flag, even at relevant historic sites, we find ourselves in the same nuanced situation.  Libertarianism is the foremost philosophy against the evils of slavery and we obviously condemn the Confederacy for their crimes.  But the Civil War wasn't a fight over slavery, it was about secession.  The North invaded the South to prevent their independence, and we can only speculate into the realms of alternative history as to how things would have turned out if the slaves were freed at a different time and under different circumstances with the noble right of secession left unscathed.  Instead of an easy question such as, "are you against slavery", we ask the more complex question, "did the happy outcome of freeing the slaves outweigh losing the right to secession?"

There was a day when the phrase "I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight for your right to say it" was pure Americana.  Now things aren't so clear.  Rather than wanting to be free to exercise one's rights while respecting the rights of others, now serious talk is made of putting limitations on our rights to prevent hurt feelings of self-worth or entitlement.  In the era of victimhood, the desire for privileges to remedy some real or imagined inequity trumps all.

How ironic that during these side-show events with the SCOTUS ruling for same-sex marriage and the extreme PC battle against the confederate flag, the main event is getting the faintest attention.  Of course the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be passed by the Senate while the legacy media covers such critical news as the defacement of statues and changing the names of lakes.  After all, it's just a secret treaty that that will create an international governing body that, once created, will be a living thing - dictating laws to contracting nations just as the European Union forces policy on the nations of Europe.

Just as there was once a day long past when state sovereignty was respected and the constitution was a real barrier to the inclination to power in Washington, we may quickly be coming to a time when we will fondly remember the days when the Supreme Court made the laws for our nation - at least they claim to be American!  If our cries of righteous indignation barely register a whisper to our elected representatives at the federal level, what hope do we have as we transition to a regional government, let alone a world government?

Conclusion

As much as I'd be delighted to celebrate a victory without reservation, we need to keep our eyes on the bigger picture.  It's not enough to simply support every event that claims to be a win for liberty, we must ensure that the means by which it is achieved is also aligned with our best interest.  If given a devil's choice between a world government with a "libertarian" dictator and what we have today, I'd begrudgingly but wisely side with the latter.  Hayek showed us why "the worst get on top", and once a governmental mechanism is created it is nearly impossible to dismantle.  Like some suicidal robot programmed for destruction, the benevolent dictatorship will attract every form of sociopath who will attempt to seize those reigns of power.  If history is to be our guide, whenever this happens hundreds of millions die as a result.

Let's be smarter than that.  We cannot accept the easy victory on a minor battle when it ensures that we will lose the war.  In a world full of competing states, the crafty libertarian learns to pit his enemies against each other.  While we unambiguously denounce all forms of force and violence against the innocent, we learn to make unlikely alliances to fight the greatest evil: the nation over the world government, the state over the nation, the city over the state, and most importantly, the individual over them all.

5/28/2015

In Defense of the Worst Libertarians


Search for the "worst types" of conservatives or liberals and you'll find just what you expect, the blue team attacking the red team, and vice versa.  It makes logical sense, likely born out of an instinct to distrust and fight the neighboring tribe.  Rather than look for complex answers to the question of why a world with such technological wonders can be so screwed up, it's easier to blame the other team for not voting the right way.

Alas, libertarians don't have it so easy.  We lack a consistent 49% to 51% voting bloc, creating a constant tug-of-war with friends and family split evenly down the middle.  Libertarians see the rulers, the ones who weld a monopoly of violence, against everyone else.  It's not the left vs. the right; it's all of us vs. the State.

But the State is so abstract, so far way.  Few of us have the opportunity to be in contact with a real "enemy" - a Bush or a Clinton or a Rockefeller.  We need closer, more tangible enemies to explain our own shortcomings.  So maybe that explains articles like this, The Top 10 Worst Kinds of Libertarians, written by a libertarian who purports to examine our faults as a movement so that we can be more successful.  If our enemies are ignoring us, we might as well attack each other.

Full disclosure: I identify with more than half of these categories, so I must be the worst of the worst.  I was hoping for a perfect 10, but I don't consider myself to be a creeper, a jerk, or a bigot - so that knocks me down to 7.  When it comes to smoking pot, I abstain not because "libertarians must point out the negatives of drugs", but because drugs are a trap set by the government to make you a slave, so that puts me at a solid 6.

There are two ways to respond to this article.  The first is by dismissal by pointing out what libertarianism is: a philosophy concerned with the permissible use of violence.  While some believe that social contracts or special costumes grant the ability to initiate violent acts against the innocent, libertarians believe that all such aggressions are illegitimate.  As Lysander Spooner wrote, the government is worse than a highwayman. Rothbard identified the State as a gang of thieves writ large.  So what is the point of calling out those of us that are jerks, pot-smokers, or "anti-science"?  These attributes have nothing to do with our core philosophy.  A libertarian can be a church-going social conservative or a drug addicted atheist philanderer; abide by the Non-Aggression Principle and both are equally libertarian.

However, I find myself in the unique position to relish scoring a 6 out of 10, so rather than dismiss the article, I'll defend the "worst libertarians".  While these are characteristics that have nothing to do with being a libertarian, I wear them like a badge of honor.  Not only that, but it's not often that I find so many of my favorite fallacies contained in a single article, so for that alone I am grateful to the author.

In Defense of Conspiracy Theorists


Starting at the very top, the #1 worst kind of libertarian is the "conspiracy theorist".  We can answer this charge merely by defining our terms.  A conspiracy theory is a hypothesis that two or more people secretly did something illegal.  Unbelievable!  Yes, libertarians may believe that aggressive violence is impermissible, thereby relegating all coercive acts of government as illegitimate, but accuse them of secretly doing something illegal?  What kind of monster are you?

In all seriousness, it's one thing to use the term "conspiracy theory" in a derogatory way when the CIA first "weaponized" the term in the 1960's.  There is no excuse when it is 50 years later and there are dozens of declassified, main line "conspiracy theories", from the Gulf of Tonkin attack that never happened to the NSA's illegal spying which continues to this day.  A person who is awake to libertarianism but brushes off conspiracy theories as preposterous must be pitied; the mental gymnastics required to hold such contradictory views must cause the most painful cognitive dissonance.

With all due sympathy to the author, let's review the patently lame arguments he presents against conspiracies:
"It is truly amazing that the same types of people who believe that the government is far too inept to plan a central economic structure think highly enough of that same bureaucracy to surmise that state actors could orchestrate a full-scale ruse upon the public.  There is a simple line of thought that destroys nearly every conspiracy theory ever to exist: if this were ever to happen, it would necessitate the involvement of hundreds, if not thousands of individuals; for the conspiracy to go unnoticed, not one of those parties involved could ever reveal the slightest hint.  Furthermore, there would be millions, if not billions of dollars in media waiting for someone who would break such a story."
There are three false arguments here, and unfortunately, they are the same ones I've seen countless times before.  The first, however, is unique in that you only hear it from fellow libertarians and fiscal conservatives.  It comes down to this: how can the government be incompetent in one area (central planning), but clever in another area (conspiracies).

However, this question just highlights a subtle but important point in the case against central economic planning.  The problem is not that the individuals attempting to orchestrate the central plan aren't clever - the problem is they are trying to make decisions without the benefit of the pricing system.  No individual, group of individuals, or even a super computer could direct scarce goods and resources to their optimum place in space and time as well as the pricing system, which coordinates all mankind's true preferences as expressed by their choice to buy or not buy in a global marketplace.

This is really the same fallacy that Hayek describes in Chapter 10 of The Road to Serfdom, "Why the Worst Get on Top".  Hayek's point is that whatever the character of the dictator, angelic or demonic, incompetent or clever, the mission of central planning is doomed from the start.  Hayek's great insight is that when the carefully laid plans of the czars inevitably result in shortages and surpluses, shoes without laces and cars without wheels, the economic dictator will come to a decision point: "assuming dictatorial powers or abandoning his plans", such that "the totalitarian dictator would soon have to choose between disregard of ordinary morals and failure".

The reason the government cannot plan a central economic structure also explains why we can expect increasingly immoral and corrupt individuals to be the ones governing.  While those in the market economy are busy specializing in their profession, be it art, athletics, or business, those in government are specializing in how to govern: how to achieve power and stay in power through whatever means necessary.  They specialize in the art of blackmail, bribes, back-room deals, insider trading, and all forms of violence and corruption.  Do not confuse the State's inability to centrally plan the economy with inexperience in orchestrating a "full-scale ruse", several wars founded on lies that have killed millions of innocents and continue to this day should be evidence enough of this fact.

The second fallacy comes straight from talking point number 4 part C of the declassified CIA Dispatch 1035-960: a conspiracy would require too many people, and someone would talk.  But even since the 1960s the answer to this misbelief hasn't changed: it's called compartmentalization and the most obvious example is the Manhattan Project.  It was October 9th of 1941 when President Roosevelt approved the atomic program, and it wasn't until the bombings of 1945 that the 100,000 people involved in the program even knew what they were a part of.  As written in a 1945 Life article, "[p]robably no more than a few dozen men in the entire country knew the full meaning of the Manhattan Project, and perhaps only a thousand others even were aware that work on atoms was involved."

However, compartmentalization only answers the question of how hundreds or thousands of people could work on something "like moles in the dark" and not be aware of the end result, there would still be some people that would know the truth.  The answer to this belief that "someone would talk" is to point out… people have talked!  One doesn't have to look any farther than Sibel Edmonds, the "most gagged person in American history".  But she's just one notable example in the 9/11 Truth Movement.  There are hundreds of professionals in the military, intelligence service, and the government, as well as architects, engineers, and pilots who question the "conspiracy theory" put out by the government in favor of a different conspiracy - and that includes the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission Report!

Ah, but what about the millions and billions of dollars in media just waiting for the right gumshoe reporter to break the story?  Again, maybe this type of argument would work for mainline republicans or democrats who religiously watch MSNBC or Fox News, but is this really supposed to speak to libertarians?  In a world where all major media outlets are owned by 6 corporations with intimate ties to the military industrial complex, does this argument even deserve a response?  Perhaps the author just recently became a libertarian and is unfamiliar with the media's coordinated treatment of a certain libertarian congressman from Texas during his presidential runs of 2008 and 2012.  Ultimately, the best person to respond to this would be Gary Webb, who was a true believer in the media until his exposé of CIA drug running caused his entire profession to turn against him.  He realized his prior success was an illusion, because in all his previous works he "hadn't written anything important enough to suppress".

In Defense of Purists


More horrifying than creepers, jerks and even bigots is the dreaded "purist", coming in as the #2 worst kind of libertarian.  According to the author, the libertarian purist drops a turd in the punch bowl just to ruin the party.  This contrarian by nature compares libertarian credentials as an "artificial contest" simply for the perverse goal of sabotaging the movement.  There is no "perfect libertarian", so the author says we should welcome a broad group of individuals as long as they are "willing to lessen the size and scope of government", "willing to defeat government overreach", "reduce taxes and keep government accountable", or have the correct positions on spending and surveillance.

Interesting that when offering various criteria that could be used to judge one's libertarian credentials the author never speaks the words of the twin pillars supporting our entire philosophy: Self-Ownership and the Non-Aggression Principle.  Reducing taxes and the scope of government may be positions compatible with libertarianism, but they certainly do not define it.  Our philosophy is not a random hodgepodge of political issues that change with the wind.  We have something much stronger, much more beautiful than that.

So what would a "perfect libertarian" be in theory?  Here's an answer: someone who believes in these two foundational principles and uses perfect logic to apply them to every issue pertaining to the use of violence in society.  This person may have unimpeachable libertarian credentials and yet could be a far stretch from being a perfect human being.  This duality of being a perfect libertarian but a flawed person is entirely consistent when libertarianism is defined within its proper scope.  It has nothing to say about whether people should be charitable or stingy, accepting or intolerant, egalitarian or elitist.  This is the heart of why libertarianism can reach such a diversity of people: refrain from initiating violence against the innocent and you can live your life as you see fit.

So there you have it, three cheers for the purists!  It is a title to which we should all aspire.  It is especially important when all kinds of bizarre distinctions are being thrown around which try to expand libertarianism beyond its function.  "Thick vs Thin", "sophists vs brutalists", there are even those who purport to combine libertarianism with goals of social justice and somehow arrive at supporting a government mandated minimum wage!  For those that have such goals, fine, let's form alliances and work together on issues with which we find common agreement, but the purists must ensure those individuals do not abuse the term libertarian and distort our message.  Someone must be the vanguard against those that are hopelessly confused or actively trying to subvert our cause.

In reality, there are very few issues that cause serious disagreement among libertarians.  Every Libertarian Party national convention highlights the two biggest ones: minarchism vs. anarchism and abortion.  The LP's model for handling this difference of opinion is one that should be followed.  Whether one wishes for a night-watchman state limited to purely defensive services or goes bravely forward to a full-blown anarcho-capitalist utopia free from any organization with a monopoly of violence, both sides can agree that we are so radically far from both of those end-states that we might as well work together and settle our differences once we're there.  Hence, the Dallas Accord is a tacit agreement from the LP's founding that all statements in our platform will be sufficiently vague to satisfy both anarchists and minarchists.  For instance, we may say there is a maximum role for government in offering defensive services, which logically allows for a minimum role of government that does not exist.  The LP platform makes the same principled compromise on abortion, simply stating that since libertarians of good faith will forever disagree on this issue, we can at least agree that government should be kept out of the matter and move forward from there.

Stick to the Non-Aggression Principle and keep an open mind to those rare cases where libertarians can make passionate arguments on both sides.  For those that hold positions totally inimical to the N.A.P, then let's enlist them in our "liberty friendly" alliance and make progress towards common goals.  That is a recipe for big-tent libertarianism and success.

In Defense of the Hard Core


Using terminology straight from the lexicon of what Tom Woods would call the gate-keepers of allowable opinion, "Neo-Confederates" are listed as the fourth worst type of libertarian, and "civil disobedience warriors" take the #7 slot.  The author states that there is no libertarian reason to defend the confederacy because the CSA was not itself libertarian.  When it comes to those that "endanger one’s own life and liberty to protest" minor laws that appear to be just, those that are sent to jail are " being in fact not principled, but selfish in their pursuits of liberty and justice".

How could a libertarian defend the wicked "neo-confederates"?  Simple, first unask the leading question and examine what libertarians are really supporting: the right of secession.  After we abandon the convenient myth that the Civil War was fought over slavery and accept that the southerners and northerners were both guilty of many crimes, first of those being slavery, we have a simple decision to make.  Can you defend the right of secession even if you don't agree with the culture of the seceding group, or do you throw your lot in with the invading army?  Put another way, do you have the courage to defend the freedom of speech from a group who has terribly nasty things to say, even if they are racist or sexist? Do you have the conviction to defend the rights of religious fundamentalists not to bake a cake, even if their refusal is based on homophobia?

These are serious questions.  It's easy to talk about standing up for people's rights when everyone agrees with how they are exercised; it's much harder to defend unpopular speech and politically incorrect decisions.  This is the difficult but logical consequence of the Non-Aggression Principle.  We libertarians have plenty of potential responses to vices, but violence isn't one of them.  If the author of the "worst libertarians" list can't even muster the imagination to foresee this argument, then no wonder he takes such a bizarre stance as to call the "civil disobedience warriors" selfish for sacrificing their liberty in defiance of unjust laws, or as he would smugly call it, "rabble-rousing".

Just think of how far we've come, from a nation of rugged individualists who were willing to risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for their cause, to these nervous nellies that are terrified to plainly state their beliefs in the fear of hurting someone's feelings. Lysander Spooner showed the way: he wrote and spoke and used every medium he could to spread a bold and unflinching libertarian message, he engaged in civil disobedience to the point of conspiring in support of slave rebellions, and he was one of the strongest supporters for the south's right to secede.

The fact of the matter is that we need libertarians of all kinds, armchair intellectuals and hard-core activists.  Some people just don't find the same pleasure in debating the exotic cases of libertarian thought as others do, they want to see action, to feel like they are doing something to make a difference.  Someone who is ready to "walk the walk" will do far more to get people out of their comfort zones and motivate the kind of action we need than those that just talk.  After all, our great conclusion is that the State is nothing more than a gang of thieves, so what better way to teach this lesson than to show that all of its dictates, even the most minor infractions, are ultimately backed up by the real threat of kidnapping, imprisonment, and death.  This is the bizarre "social contract" we've signed, and we owe a debt to the "civil disobedience warriors" for reminding us of this unfortunate fact.

Conclusion

Should libertarians be conspiracy theorists, purists, or civil disobedience warriors?  There is a time and place for everything.  When running as a candidate for the Libertarian Party, one is there to represent libertarianism, not to promote 9/11 truth, the benefits of a Paleo Diet, or a love of juggling because libertarianism, as rightly defined, is neither here nor there on these issues.  So while libertarianism has nothing to say as to whether or not you should subscribe to conspiracy theories, question government funded science, or long for a world where the noble right of secession was not cursed with the connection of slavery, I for one think libertarians would benefit from being open to these ideas.

Just as conspiracy theorists that don't have an understanding of libertarianism and Austrian economics could be led down the false path of the Zeitgeist movement, those that are confined within a "range of allowable opinion" that stops thought like a shock collar whenever terms like "conspiracy theory", "anti-science", "neo-confederates", or other derogative terms are used will not appreciate the full scope of the challenge we face.  If you can be scared out of these opinions, you can be scared out of any principled libertarian stance, and we desperately need those brave enough to defend the undefendable.

It comes down to this; people are not the same and will respond to different messages.  For many, an unapologetic and fiery defense of freedom will inspire hearts and minds where a half-measured wet-noodle libertarianism will fail.  Some may first start down the rabbit hole via research into a particular conspiracy theory, and when confronted with a problem without a solution, will then stumble upon the glories of libertarianism.  Thus, we need libertarians well versed in conspiracy research just as we need purists and "civil disobedience warriors" that will energize our movement with the boldness of their words and deeds.  We probably even need those like the author who sit safely in the camp of government-approved libertarians, as people like him may spark a small flame in the minds of those who would otherwise be quickly scared off from a libertarian message revealed too boldly in all its consistency and implications.  But if that flame is to grow, than we must be open to the full expression of the libertarian message, not spending time writing half of us off on "the worst" lists.

2/02/2015

Secession, Slavery and the Civil War: Causation, Correlation or Mass Confusion?


The Ludwig von Mises Institute recently hosted their annual get together in Houston on the heroically controversial theme of secession.  Mises Institute President Jeff Deist opened the morning with a speech advising us to secede in our local capacity, starting at the individual level.  Dr. Brian McClanahan detailed America's rich history of secession, from the 13 colonies' war of secession from Great Britain to Texas' war of secession against Mexico.  Lew Rockwell contrasted the rich libertarian history of secession to the regime libertarians' knee-jerk reaction to such an unapproved opinion.  After lunch, New York Times best-selling author Tom Woods highlighted the absurdity of viewing secession as blasphemous while the decision to kill half a million children is a matter of public policy.  Finally, Dr. Ron Paul closed out the afternoon by speaking of secession as just one tool to be used in the greater contest for liberty.

It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with so many like-minded people from all over the country that chose to travel long distances for a one-day seminar on a topic that is viewed by the mainstream as antiquated and unorthodox at best.  In retrospect, the most amazing part of the event is how we were able to have a rational, thoughtful dialogue on this topic without ever bringing up the elephant in the room: slavery and the civil war.  It's like we all took it for granted that everyone was familiar with the works of authors like DiLorenzo and didn't need to rehash the history taught in public schools that Lincoln heroically fought the civil war to free the slaves and save the Union against the traitorous secessionists of the South.  We didn't need to waste time analyzing that myth; we could immediately jump to more productive and enlightening dialogue.

However, the sad reality many of us faced traveling home was that it is nearly impossible to continue that rational conversation on the merits and challenges of secession with most of our coworkers, friends and family.  Raise the specter of secession and the Pavlovian responses of "racism", "slavery" and even "neo-confederate" predictably follow.  But what else should we expect in a society with 12+ years of government indoctrination and a mainstream media that foams at the mouth and is undeniably dishonest when someone has the gall to question the necessity of the war considering that slavery was peaceably ended in every other country without requiring the loss of 620,000 lives and billions in damages and debt.

The civil war was fought to free the slaves.  The secessionists were traitors.  These are the commonly held myths we must dismantle before the rest of society can join us in a reasonable and common-sense discussion on the right of secession.

Why was the Civil War fought?

The government-approved history of the Civil War goes something like this: the Southern states illegally seceded from the United States to protect their institution of slavery.  This prompted a Civil War, causing a tremendous loss of life and property on both sides, but ultimately ending with Lincoln fulfilling his quest by preserving the Union and freeing the slaves.

This narrative may seem undisputable but it suffers from fatal errors once you scratch the surface.  On the first point concerning the cause of secession there is no major disagreement.  While the Southern states did have grievances against the Federal Government like protective tariffs that unfairly benefited the North at the expense of the South, the major reason cited in the state's secession documents was the issue of slavery.  Thomas Fleming's A Disease in the Public Mind points to the colliding forces of unrelenting abolitionism in the North and the South's fear of a race war which made it impossible to find an agreeable end to the system of slavery.

So while seven of the Southern states seceded over the slavery issue, the reason for the war given by Lincoln himself was not slavery, but to prevent secession.  As Lincoln repeatedly said,
"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.  If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.  What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union."
Lincoln made this point numerous times such that it cannot be directly challenged by regime historians, but what happens instead is a logical fallacy built under the guise of the familiar mathematical axiom that if a = b and b = c, then a = c.  In other words, "if the cause of secession was slavery, and to prevent secession was the reason for the war, then the reason for the war was slavery".  This may seem a trivial point, but it is imperative that the undisputed good of ending slavery is not used to cloud our judgment when considering the true motivations for the ugly and brutal war that preceded it.  Any fantasy that the North was fighting a war of racial justice must be dismantled so that we can objectively look at the agreed upon reason for the war, secession, in an unbiased light.

First of all, if the Civil War was about slavery, why would there have been 7 slave states that stayed loyal to the Union while the Confederacy was formed?  The fact is, the people of the North were largely no better or even worse than the southerners when it came to racial equality.  The Northerners enforced fugitive slave laws, kept child slaves for 25+ years during manumission, denied free blacks suffrage, and generally did all they could to make their states white only.  Conversely, Fleming noted that only a small minority of Southern men owned slaves or otherwise had a direct financial incentive in the practice - so why would they fight over it and risk their lives and everything they owned?  The simple answer is they wouldn't.  So what would they fight for?  Of the seven slave states that originally stayed in the Union, four of those states only seceded after Lincoln had put out calls to raise an army of invasion and the first shots were fired at Ft. Sumter.  If it war was over slavery, can we imagine that Lincoln would have called it quits if the seceded states had freed their slaves?  Of course not!  It wasn't slavery that drove Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee out; Lincoln made it clear he had no quarrel with that institution in any loyal state.  They joined the confederacy and fought out of disbelief that Lincoln would declare war and invade the southern states which they believed had every right to peaceably withdraw from their government, just as their great-grandfathers had done 90 years earlier from King George III.  It might have been slavery that prompted the first 7 states to leave, but that's not why 11 states fought a long and brutal war - they fought for self-government.

Unbelievably, it is the fine print of the Emancipation Proclamation itself that best shines a light on the dubious claim that Lincoln freed the slaves.  Proving Lincoln to be the master politician, that document only applied to the states in rebellion, specifically exempting the states that had stayed loyal! So the slaves that Lincoln had the power to free were to remain slaves, but he supposedly freed the slaves in states that had already left the Union and formed their own country.  H.L. Mencken said it best,
"Even his handling of the slavery question was that of a politician, not that of a messiah... An Abolitionist would have published the Emancipation Proclamation the day after the first battle of Bull Run.  But Lincoln waited until the time was more favorable - until Lee had been hurled out of Pennsylvania, and more important still, until the political currents were safely running his way.  Even so, he freed the slaves in only a part of the country: all the rest continued to clank their chains until he himself was an angel in Heaven."
Ultimately, there are many contending theories of precisely why the Federal government invaded the Confederacy.  While Thomas Fleming discusses the "diseases in the public mind" that fueled the Civil War, Thomas DiLorenzo unmasks the real Lincoln, showing how his ideology favoring a strong central state led him to launch an unnecessary and illegal war to destroy the doctrine of state's rights.  John Avery Emison takes just about everything we were taught about the Civil War and turns it on its head, first showing us that it would be more accurate to call it America's second war of secession, and from there demonstrating how our first "total war" paved the way for the horrors of the 20th century's world wars and set the precedent for the most egregious violations of federal power today.  As if it couldn't get any worse, John Graham makes the case that it wasn't historical accidents that caused the War for Southern Independence, but "antagonisms… deliberately agitated during the 1850s by great international banking houses with a preconceived motive of provoking secession" to generate unpayable debts and establish the financial empire that still rules this country.  Regardless of these various theories, we should all be able to agree with Walter Williams when he unequivocally states, the Civil War wasn't about slavery.

Were the Secessionists traitors?


With the end of slavery properly understood as a happy by-product of the Civil War, but not at all the reason that 620,000 fought and died, we can examine the legitimacy of the war through fresh eyes.  Was Lincoln justified in waging a war against the Confederacy to preserve the Union, and just what did he preserve?

First, it might be instructive to take a step back and examine the points made by Emison concerning just what we should call this decisive event in American history.  Unlike the civil war in Spain, the American Civil War was not a battle of two competing factions fighting for control over a common central government.  The Southern states had no dictates to the North, no terms other than to be left alone.  Jefferson Davis even sent a peace delegation to promote friendly ties between the two countries, which Lincoln refused to see.  So what do we call a war when one side has formally withdrawn and entered into a state of self-government and the other side invades that country to bring it into submission?  A war of independence or a war for secession certainly fits the historical circumstances better than a civil war.

At this point our government indoctrination might be kicking in - am I possibly making the argument that the traitorous South had the moral high ground in this war, the exact opposite of what the victorious Federal Government has led us to believe?  Indeed, Murray Rothbard concluded that there are only two American wars that have met the criteria for a "just war", that being the first war of secession against Great Britain, and the second war of secession of the Southern states.

But how could this be?  The Southern states seceded for slavery, the act of depriving individuals from exercising their free will, one of the greatest crimes that man can commit.  Doesn't this fact tarnish secession?  But consider the reverse scenario.  If secession is to be judged by the worst vices of those that endorsed it, shouldn’t we also look at the crimes of those that did not believe in secession but instead in an all-powerful central government?  Adolf Hitler himself wrote in Mein Kampf that secession was illegal because "it was the Union which formed a great part of such so-called states."  Similarly, the violence wrecked by omnipotent central governments that were no fans of secession counts some 200 million dead in the 20th century alone.


Rather than only focusing on the worst qualities of those that believed in secession, let's recall that one of our most famous founding fathers was explicitly in favor of secession and nullification to combat the growth of centralized government in the Principles of '98.  Thomas Jefferson postulated that it was "not very important to the happiness of either part" of the country if the United States broke up.  In a live and let live fashion, he said that in separation "God bless them both, and keep them in the union if it be for their good, but separate them, if it be better".

At the time Lincoln invaded the South there were five living ex-presidents, every one of which opposed the war in one way or another.  Some did not agree with the decision to secede and did their best to convince the Southern states to remain in the Union, but they ultimately believed in the right of secession.  After all, Vermont seceded from New York, Texas seceded from Mexico, and West Virginia seceded from Virginia during the Civil War itself.  And as previously mentioned, the United States itself seceded from Great Britain in the Revolutionary War.  You'd think that would count for something.

Historical precedents aside, we can also look at this logically and constitutionally.  An established precedent of law is known as legislative entrenchment, meaning that what one legislative body has the power to do, another can do or undo.  A prior legislative body cannot rule from the grave and if the state legislature of 1787 has the power to ratify the constitution, so then can the state legislature of 1861 choose to repeal that ratification.  Indeed, Virginia's secession document explicitly stated it was a lawful repeal of the ratification of the Constitution.  Can we imagine that the 13 colonies, having just had their full sovereign nature individually acknowledged by Great Britain, really joined a union that they could never leave?  Every historical precedent from the federalist papers to the state ratifying conventions says otherwise.

The Southern states were not traitorous when they seceded; they had every right to do so.  The only traitor was Lincoln, who declared war without congressional approval and violated a hundred other constitutional provisions and laws of human decency in his battle to "preserve the Union".  He may have reclaimed the Southern states as captured provinces, but he certainly didn't preserve our republic.  What we had was a voluntary association of independent states united under the contract of the Constitution.  Lincoln's war of aggression most assuredly killed that system of government for all the states, replacing it with the federal leviathan that knows no boundaries and gives no thought to the consent of the governed.  He won the war and we still suffer the losses.

What is Secession?

Secession - it was the foundation of the American Revolution against King George III.  Even today, it is the most radical concept of the last 500 years.  As stated in Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, when a government is destructive to the ends of the people that created it, it is their duty to institute a new government.  That wasn't an idle threat; secession is the means to do so.  It is the true enforcement mechanism to ensure that we have government by consent.

Just think of what a glorious preventative check the threat of secession is to the limitless goals of our federal masters.  Imagine the contrast with a "marriage union".  Even though it is a document signed "till death do us part", all modern states recognize the right of divorce, the equivalent of secession.  As Emison questioned, would an abusive husband treat his wife better or worse in a society where divorce was legal or illegal?  The question answers itself, and it also explains why the federal government is able to propose increasingly egregious legislation on battered, defenseless states that have nowhere to run and no hope of retaliation.

How bizarre that in a country founded on the principle of secession time has allowed this cornerstone of liberty and bedrock of freedom to be marginalized and disgraced.  After all, as Tom Woods noted in his speech at the Mises Circle, its practical effect is nothing more than to say, "maybe this imaginary line should be drawn up here instead of over there."

Lew Rockwell defined secession in more human terms, reminding us of the moral obligation we have to our fellow men and the responsibility we carry when we endorse our political agents to carry out violence in our name.  He summed up the the libertarian perspective this way:
"It is morally illegitimate to employ state violence against individuals who choose to group themselves differently from how the existing regime chooses to group them. They prefer to live under a different jurisdiction. Libertarians consider it unacceptable to aggress against them for this."
View the right of secession as a moral imperative to not aggress against others that want to go in peace.  Recognize the arbitrary nature of all government boundaries and the absurdity in going into hysterics if one of those lines should change.  Acknowledge secession as the foundation of this very country and think of how it could be a very realistic solution to the issues we face today.  But above all, rescue secession from the dustbin of history that ignorance has placed it.  Secession is a noble, practical and moral idea that deserves our attention and respect.

Conclusion


Around the world people want freedom and if they can't have that, a more representative government will do.  The CIA and military industrial complex provides us with all kinds of "approved" secessions and revolutions around the world from despots who have inexplicably leaped from the ally to the enemy category - but dare suggest that Texas may be better of seceding if the federal government continues its unsustainable path, or that the citizens of California would be better represented if certain counties seceded to create new states - well you must be a closet racist!  This hypocrisy and doublethink can’t go on forever.

As Thomas DiLorenzo recently documented, secession is a global phenomenon that isn't going away:
"There are 32 secessionist movements in Africa; 114 secessionist movements in Europe; 20 secessionist movements in North America; 83 secessionist movements in Asia; 11 secessionist movements in South America; and 26 secessionist movements in Oceania.  Neo-Confederates are everywhere!"
However, the most exciting thing about secession isn't just the prospect of replacing one government with another one, but the larger philosophical impact for the libertarian movement.  Followed to its logical conclusion, when the state can secede from the country, and the county from the state, and the town from the county, we can envision a practical path to our anarcho-capitalist utopia.  But ultimately, if the right of secession is accepted and respected, we could imagine a government that has an actual incentive to stay within its delegated boundaries, a government that actually serves its supposed purpose of contributing to the happiness of the people instead of to their destruction.  It may be impossible to keep the state with its monopoly on violence within the boundaries set by those that consented to its jurisdiction, but if it were to be possible, it is certainly only so in a society where the right of secession is alive and well.  Let us fight to create such a society, not through violence - that is the government’s specialty, but in the war of ideas.

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