History/Culture, Politics/Economics

Secession: The Principled & Practical Path to Liberty

Originally published at Bionic Mosquito under the title “Secession

I am uncertain as to what libertarianism means if it does not allow for individuals to exercise control over their life and property.  This would inherently mean – to the extent possible in an imperfect world – that individuals would be free to choose from any available option of governance / governing structures, or create their own if they are able.

“If they are able”…of course, we know that those who currently govern such free thinkers will not be very agreeable to letting their cattle go free….

We also know that more choices in governance units increase the possibility that each individual finds one closer to his choosing.  Simple math.

Which kind of already answers the question regarding a libertarian view on secession.  You can stop here if you like.

Over the course of recorded history, borders have come and borders have gone; the number of governance units has ebbed and flowed – sometimes more, sometimes less.

In many ways, the world has moved toward the “sometimes less” end of the spectrum over the course of many centuries.  But this has changed recently: the USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia – out of these three, now perhaps twenty.  And it remains in flux: Brexit being a key event; the clear sentiment of many Americans and Europeans to withdraw from globalism being another.

One thing seems clear – when we move toward the “sometimes less” end of the spectrum, we move toward ever-greater centralization, ever-fewer options to find a governance unit under which one might find reasonable liberty, governance conditions closer to their ideal.  Instead, we move toward an all-powerful, one-world, state.

Some like to think that such an outcome is the best guarantor of liberty.  Such as these are amongst the most naïve or wishful (or devious) among us.

I suggest that reason leans the other way: more choice equals more possibilities for each individual to find the liberty of his choosing.  After all, liberty (the non-aggression principle) only offers a singular negative right; it says nothing of the type of society in which one might choose to live.

Hence, it strikes me that the libertarian must support every movement toward decentralization.  After all, who are you to say what another finds agreeable in terms of the type of society and under what property arrangements in which the other might choose to live?  Value is subjective, and central planning does not fall within the libertarian tent.

So, Catalunya held a vote.  In my earlier post on this topic, I contrasted my views with that of a libertarian who suggested that this vote should not be supported; that if Catalunya wished to secede, the region should get permission from the entity (Spain) from which it wanted to secede.

I promised this subsequent post – in order to assess the nature of Spain’s response.

From the New York Times:

Catalonia’s defiant attempt to stage an independence referendum descended into chaos on Sunday, with hundreds injured in clashes with police…

An outcome that was promised and knowable.

National police officers in riot gear, sent by the central government in Madrid from other parts of Spain, used rubber bullets and truncheons in some places as they fanned out across Catalonia…

More than 750 people were injured in the crackdown…

Now…what were the people doing other than peacefully voting?  Why would the state want to physically assault those who chose this method of raising their voices?  Is there something libertarian about this state action?

“You simply can’t use violence against people who just want to vote.”

So says Mario Pulpillo, age 54.  As do I.

It was just a vote, one of the few peaceful ways possible for people to voice their opinion.  Why would libertarians oppose this (other than, I guess, those who are philosophically opposed to voting)?  Why would libertarians oppose this, knowing the government’s methods of dealing with those with whom the government disagrees?

The Madrid government, with the backing of Spanish courts, had declared the referendum unconstitutional and ordered the vote suspended.

What is libertarian about this position, the position taken by the Madrid government?


Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, at a news conference Sunday evening, characterized the police actions as a proper and measured response to the acts of secessionists.

Of course he would say this.  Knowing what libertarians should know about the actions that a determined government would take against its enemies, why would any libertarian advocate against this vote?

“If there is something to conclude from today, it is the strength of Spain’s democratic state,” Mr. Rajoy said on Sunday.

Wait a minute…if a state felt strong in its democracy, why would it fear a vote?  This is not the action of the strong and confident; it is the action of the weak and fearful.

And…so you don’t think I lose sight of my purpose…why, if the vote comes out for secession, does a libertarian feel justified in telling those who want a different form of control over their life and property that they cannot have it?  Because the only way to prevent this is…well, ask Rajoy.  He will show you.

The Catalan vote has been watched with rising trepidation — and no sign of support — by a European Union wary of stoking forces of fragmentation already tugging at the bloc and many member states…

Do you think the EU supports secession?  Do you think the EU favors that each individual has more control over his life and property, in the manner of his own choosing?  Do you think the decentralization away from Brussels would increase the possibilities of control over life and property for those living in Europe?

There is good news to be found:

“Today, the Spanish state has lost a lot more than it had already lost, and Catalan citizens have won a lot more than they had won until now,” [the leader of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont] said.

Although in a very different manner, I find this reaction by Rajoy to have the same effect as Hillary’s “the deplorables” comment: it really energizes those who were on the fence to get off the fence and on to the other side.

Some additional thoughts from The Washington Post:

Soon after the polls opened, Spanish riot police smashed into the voting centers, their raids caught on mobile phone cameras that showed them whipping ordinary citizens with rubber truncheons and dragging them away by their hair.

A predictable outcome.

In a television address late Sunday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said there was no real independence vote in Catalonia. He said a majority of the residents of the region had not even showed up at the polls.

Interesting.  The government said beforehand that the vote wouldn’t count; the government said they will send in the police to block the vote.  People are watching the police brutality on television or social media and decide to stay home and stay safe.  Then the government says because enough people didn’t show up at the polls, the vote doesn’t count.

In any case, who says that every single person in a jurisdiction must vote for the vote to be valid?

That’s enough of that.  In my previous post, I offered a more thorough philosophical case for secession as the method by which libertarianism can be better realized in this world.  I offer one snippet:

Perfect libertarianism will be achieved when every single individual has complete, autonomous authority over every decision regarding his life and property – as long as he does not initiate aggression against another in exercising this authority.  This suggests something like seven billion political jurisdictions.

As I don’t expect imperfect humans will ever achieve “perfect” (and I’m not even really a fan of “perfect” on this topic), I offered:

How do we get from something less than 200 jurisdictions today to something closer to a few thousand (or 1.5 billion or 7 billion) without getting to 201 first?

This is what I don’t get.  Libertarians want freedom in their person and property.  We cannot get from something less than 200 governance units to something moving toward 7 billion governance units without passing through 201, can we?  Is there some new, new, math of which I am unfamiliar?

The number of governance units has ebbed and flowed throughout recorded history; this will be the case in the future, for as long as humans are in that future.  The more governance units, the more options for each of us to find a home.

If libertarians do not support that the number increases, inherently they are supporting that the number decreases.  I know there are some libertarians who favor one-world government.  Libertarians such as these leave me speechless.

In this post, I offer the knowable response of a government that wishes to crush any peaceful (and I emphasize peaceful) movement by the people for decentralization.  Given that the government’s response is knowable – a complete violation of the NAP – how can any libertarian desire this?

What about those in Calalunya who do not support this newly formed secessionist state?

There is the story of Val d’Aran.  It is to be found in the far northwest of Catalunya and one of only two provinces in Spain that lies north of the Pyranees.

The entire population of the valley is about 7,130 (1996). As of 2001, most people in Aran spoke Spanish (38.78%) as their native language, followed by Aranese (34.19%), then Catalan (19.45%) with 7.56% having a different native language.

Regarding the elections in 2015:

Val d’Aran[‘s]…voters firmly rejected the independence movement, favoring instead regionalist and unionist parties.

Of course, the libertarian answer is to support the next vote on secession, and then the next one.  I understand the Catalunyan regional government opposes such a notion, but I cannot say this with certainty.  In any case, if Madrid was willing to deal with this entire issue peacefully (the only libertarian alternative), one possibility (assuming a proper “yes” vote for independence) would be to negotiate just such a condition in any separation agreement.

I offer an interesting perspective on the events in Spain.  “Maidan in Spain, and some new ‘dog whistles,’” by Scott Humor.  It is a well-researched piece that I will summarize: the events in Catalunya were driven by the Anglo empire; the intent is to disrupt the proposed supply of gas from North Africa such that European gas must be purchased from the United States (as Russia is also being pushed aside).

I am not doing the argument justice, but there it is.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but I don’t think it matters to me either way.

We don’t get to a few thousand governance units until we pass through 201.  Every peaceful means to bring this about (even if some faction of the empire is behind it) must be supported.

Decentralized and more numerous states are more difficult for the empire to control.  If this wasn’t true, they wouldn’t be working so hard to centralize everything.

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