With Crimea breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia, the topic of secession is becoming more popular, with strong opinions both for and against.
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 standards.
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 Russia.
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 liberty.
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.