A scenario of secession

(Note: See my below comment about the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 as an early example of two peoples with mutually incompatible belief systems agreeing to secede from each other.)

In the previous entry, about David Petraeus’s biographer and former mistress Paula Broadwell’s appearance on the Jon Stewart program, I wrote: “But having written the above, I must ask: considering what happened to America this week, is there any point in continuing to write this kind of cultural criticism?”

Here I continue with that thought.

It would seem that the only meaningful cultural/political activity at this point is that which would lead to secession from the tyrannical, lawless, decadent society that America has become. But secession from a nation with which the seceding “nation” is intimately intertwined in the economic, geographical, and every other sense is practically impossible. So where does this leave us?

Here’s a scenario I can visualize. Over time, certain states begin to assert, in relatively small and discrete ways, their independence from the federal government, for example, refusing to obey certain federal mandates, and the federal government, fiscally hamstrung by its reckless spending policies and gradually losing legitimacy, loses the authority and will to force those states to obey. As this process gradually progresses, people who want to be free from the United Socialist States of America move to the more independent states, and people who oppose such independence move to the obedient states. Ultimately, over a period of time that we cannot predict, the two nations would be sufficiently geographically separated that actual secession would become a possibility.

- end of initial entry -

Paul K. writes:

The secession idea is one that has long intrigued me. One of the factors that may push some states to consider it is the varying degrees of fiscal responsibility between the states. The United States is in much the same situation as the European Union, except worse. Germany may resent having to bail out Greece to keep the EU intact, but ultimately it can decide to stop doing so and let the EU fall apart. In the US, though, there seems little likelihood that the Obama administration would let California or other such fiscally irresponsible states go bankrupt. A federal bailout would obligate residents of states that have been responsible to cover California’s profligate spending. The ramifications of this may be significant.

November 10

Sam Barnes writes:

While I am intrigued by the scenario of secession you present, I am afraid I take a much more negative view of it than you do.

Your scenario presumes that states will assert their independence along conservative/traditionalist lines. While there are some examples of this already (ballot initiatives preserving traditional marriage, for example) there are just as many, if not more, examples of states asserting their independence from the federal government along liberal lines. Just in this most recent election, Maryland, Maine, Washington, and Minnesota legalized homosexual marriage, and Maryland joined about a dozen other states when it approved a measure which allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Maryland colleges.

I fear that the separation you foresee will not be between liberal and conservative states, but between extremist, hyper-liberal states and mainstream liberal ones, with far fewer options for conservatives.

James P. writes:

There is a major problem with the scenario of secession even if secession is quickly and peacefully achieved. Namely, the population of the Red states that seceded would likely still accept liberal premises. (I do not mean the population of the Blue enclaves in the Red states, but the basic Red population itself.) Would the Red states restrict immigration? End affirmative action? Stop blaming whites for everything? Start speaking the truth about minorities? De-feminize and de-homosexualize the military? You may say, “Of course they would” but right now the “conservative leadership” nationwide is not in favor of any of those things. If the Red states seceded but kept the existing system in place, then they would fail more slowly than Blue America but they would nevertheless fail.

LA replies:

To put it another way, how many of the people who wanted to secede would be “economic conservatives, but social liberals”?

I don’t have an answer to this problem right off.

LA writes:

Just after posting the above comments, by sheer coincidence (hah), I opened at random an old book of mine that I hadn’t looked at in years, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, by Roland Bainton (1952). The passage I opened to was about how the Catholics and Protestants in Germany gave up on trying to live in one polity under under one rule, but agreed to separate from each other into respectively Catholic and Protestant territories, and about how such separation may be an indispensable condition of liberty.

After the Catholics win a military advantage over the Protestants, Bainton writes,

The Protestants were granted but two concessions and both in the practical rather than in the doctrinal sphere: The cup in the Mass might be given to the laity and priests might marry.

Almost to a man the Protestants refused to have anything to do with such a scheme of comprehension. Luther was dead but his teaching had now taken such deep root that four hundred evangelical ministers in south Germany forfeited their livings rather than comply. A number like Bucer went into exile, and then congregations without their ministers carried on. The Reformation was plainly not a system imposed on people by governmental agencies from above but rather the expression of a faith not to be uprooted by the hand of man….

A universal solution of the religious problem had failed…. Territorialism was the only possible solution remaining, and this was the principle of the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. For the first time in the Christian West two confessions, the Roman Catholic and the Lutheran of the Augsburg Confession, were given equal legal recognition…. For the future the religion of a territory should be determined by the ruler and minorities should be free to emigrate. [Italics added.] The answers to two important questions remained ambiguous. The Catholics insisted that if an ecclesiastical [Catholic] domain should subsequently turn Protestant, the goods should remain with the Catholic Church. The Protestants did not concur. They in turn expected that Lutherans should enjoy toleration in Catholic lands, but this was not stipulated. Such ambiguities … contributed materially to the outbreak of the Thirty Years War. But something at any rate had been gained. The principle of ecclesiastical solidarity was broken. Those who deplore any breach in unity as scandal and sin will bemoan the outcome. Those who prize liberty above universality will see here one step in the direction of freedom in religion. [pp. 154-55.]

Dave T. writes:

I too have been imagining the exact same scenario as the most likely circumstances under which secession would take place. The only caveat I would add is that I think the bottom would have to fall out of the global economy, or perhaps some other similarly traumatic event, before a leftist federal government would be willing to compromise in significant ways with more independently minded states. In other words, if the federal government were sufficiently weakened and/or overextended then I think they would be willing to let certain states start going their separate ways under various conditions.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 09, 2012 09:15 PM | Send

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