Libertarian pundit and author John Stossel. Photo: Courtesy of Gage Skidmore.
Libertarian author and pundit John Stossel is mystified by all the smack talk about secession.
“Why do so many people see secession as such a terrible thing?” he asks.
Stossel cites the recent Catalonian push for secession, stressing that the struggle is about Catalans taking charge of their own affairs. As he stresses, no government is perfect, but local governments, generally speaking, are “more responsive to the needs of constituents.” Moreover, by keeping government closer to home, citizens secure a greater likelihood of keeping their governments under close watch.
So, why all the agonizing over secession? he asks.
Short answer: because the people in charge of big governments are seldom willing to give up power.
I wholeheartedly agree with Stossel: Why is secession such a terribly unspeakable word among so many of us? As he stresses, secession is by no means alien to the American experience. Indeed, the United States is an outgrowth of a secession struggle against the British Empire.
But I wonder: How many of us are aware that the the post-constitutional United States is a product of secession, too?
Madison once referred to this secession as the “delicate truth” behind the current American union. In effect, 11 states seceded from the union of states founded on the Articles of Confederation to form the present union. Recall that Rhode Island and North Carolina had refused to accede to the new Constitution and were still out of the union when George Washington took the oath as the first president of the United States on March 4, 1789.
Quite a few of our Founding Fathers never lost their enduring affection for small governments. A few of our Founding Fathers even had a hard time envisioning a nation the size of the present-day United States. Writing to Dr. Joseph Priestly on January 29, 1804, Thomas Jefferson observed:
Whether we remain in one confederacy, or form into Atlantic and Mississippi confederacies, I believe not very important to the happiness of either part. Those of the western confederacy will be as much our children and descendants as those of the eastern, and I feel myself as much identified with that country, in future time, as with this; and did I now foresee a separation at some future day, yet I should feel the duty and the desire to promote the western interests as zealously as the eastern, doing all the good for both portions of our future family which should fall within my power.
I concluded a long time ago that the American Experiment has essentially amounted to a forlorn attempt to force one part of the country to meld culturally and politically into the rest. And it hasn’t happened – not after almost a quarter of a millennium. Yes, I would like to see us soldier on as looser federation sharing common market and defense. There are legitimate geopolitical threats, after all. But this business of forcing a nation as geographically and culturally diverse as the United States to march in ideological lockstep is madness, sheer madness.