Classical liberalism:national divorce

From Classical Liberal Caucus
Jump to navigation Jump to search
National Divorce Is Not A Libertarian Solution

The Classical Liberal Papers Home

//This article is an extended version of the article originally [on Learn Liberty]. ([here])//

Author: [Casey] Contributors: Layla Bush, Shawn Huckabay, and Jeff Miller

Fear is the stalwart and eternal ally of tyranny, and sowing division is the surest way to make people afraid. Today, many Americans aren’t motivated by the candidate they vote for, but rather by fear of the candidate they are opposed to. They aren’t voting for ideas, instead they are voting against the “other side’s” ideas. As politicians push division to gain more power, libertarians should be working to unite Americans against authoritarianism. Division is the fuel that nourishes tyranny, feeding it will only starve the liberty movement.

As talk from Republican and Democratic extremists about “national divorce” grows, it is time for a discussion about why it is not a libertarian solution. For any change in the structure of government to be libertarian, it must actually move us towards more individual liberty, not away. Removing constitutional protections, which would empower states to impose tariffs and passport requirements on each other, not to mention other restrictions on personal liberty, is a far cry from more individual liberty. Imagine fighting the COVID regime’s lockdowns and vaccine passports, only to then support locking people into their state and having them show passports every time they crossed a state border.

National Divorce ignores history

National divorce ignores the historical and geographic realities of the United States. What happens when a water-starved California needs more water from the Colorado River, and the conservative states don’t want to allow it? Or when landlocked states need access to the ocean? Conflict is the enemy of liberty, and for all its flaws, our current system has maintained peace between states for 150 years. One has only to look at the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent to see the consequences of what happens when tens of millions of people are put on the wrong side of a national border.

National Divorce wont bring peace

National divorce doesn’t take into account that the actual political divide in this nation is not between red and blue states, but between urban and rural. Real political division cannot be solved by separating the states, because the division is inherent within each state. We are then back to where the founders were: in need of a form of government that allows vastly different beliefs to co-exist peacefully together. And since states would join each other along red and blue lines, they would form multiple federal governments. You would have a constitution dominated by the rural contingent, and one dominated by the urban. By giving one side far more power over the other than they currently have, national divorce would create conflict, not peace.

National divorce would create a power vacuum that would not be filled by libertarians

We are not in a position like the American Revolution, with libertarian leaders ready to step into the power void that a national divorce would create. The void would be filled with culture warriors eager to impose their will on everyone else. The founders designed a system of checks and balances to fight against the tyranny of populism. We neither have libertarians ready to fill the power void, nor any suggestion that checks and balance would tilt in favor of individual liberty. In reality, a national divorce would be far more likely to imitate the French Revolution than the American one.

National Divorce is not a path towards covenant communities or anarchy

National divorce may appear to be a path towards atomizing the state down to the level of the individual, but changing the geographic scale of government does no such thing. State governments, county governments, and city governments are not voluntary covenant communities; the people that currently live in your city or state were no more involved in that political unit's original formation than you were. Demanding more control over what your neighbor is doing by shrinking the scale of government is not a move toward more liberty, but a move towards small-scale tyranny.

The claim that creating multiple federal governments, or wholly separate state governments, will lead to more atomization of the state is ignorant of basic human and political history. Large political shifts only happen once every few generations, and in the American experience, not for at least 8 generations. People prefer stability, and even if these political shifts miraculously went in the right direction, it would take several centuries to accomplish. National divorce is not a path to liberty in our lifetime, or our children's lifetime.

State constitutions are far less able to protect people's rights

Advocates of national divorce point out that states have their own constitutions to protect people’s rights. But, the ability to change a state constitution is much easier than the national constitution. Thirty-nine states have a single party that controls the legislature(s) and governor’s seat; there is little safety in state constitutions. State legislatures love nothing more than gerrymandering and kicking third parties off of ballots, so the idea that national divorce would open up opportunities for libertarian candidates is wishful thinking. Forcing people to eternally choose between two authoritarian choices will not bring more freedom.

"But locals should be allowed to have whatever laws they want to!"

Some say that people have a right to live with whatever gun/taxes/immigration laws they want, and that national divorce would reduce “forced associations”. But this a wholesale rejection of libertarianism which believes that human rights are universal and must be protected. Removal of the protections of the Constitution would itself be a forced disassociation. Taking away a method of defending oneself against government aggression is little different than taking away a method of defending oneself against physical attack. Supporters of national divorce admit this when they say that people would have to move to the state with the tyranny of their choice. No libertarian solution would ever require people to leave their property and families because their rights are no longer protected.

Government does not have any rights, regardless of its form, popularity, or geography. No person, or government, has the right to force unjust laws on anyone else. And everyone has the right to defend their own rights and the rights of others. Do people have a right to consent to laws that limit their freedom? Yes, but the notion that the new governments created by national divorce would obtain proper consent to take an individual's rights away is without merit. Nor does the smaller voting population make it more acceptable to restrict people’s rights. Libertarians completely reject the notion that because 51 out of 100 voting to take away your rights, is no more acceptable than 501 out of 1000 voting to take away your rights. Your rights are yours, always.

"Allowing the federal government to nullify state laws is justifying invading other countries"

There are those who claim that justifying the federal government restricting a state government is like justifying invading another country to protect people’s rights. Essentially they are saying that people can band together to restrict their own rights in the form of a state government, but cannot band together to defend their rights in the form of a federal government. Americans have long joined together across state lines to preserve their rights with the Constitution.

To say that having an enforceable constitution is “justifying invading another country” stretches the imagination beyond belief. If this were true, we would have to say “taxation is theft (except in other countries),” or “freedom for all (except in other countries),” to ensure we aren’t justifying foreign wars! Libertarian arguments against foreign wars are not “those people have a right to oppress themselves” or ”they don't have a right to be free.” Libertarian arguments against foreign wars are that they are always horrific, almost never justifiable, and will have massive unintended consequences.

"Geographically smaller governments are easier to overthrow"

As pointed out before, large political shifts occur rarely, and as a series of political shifts, almost never. People prefer stability and peace, and so to try and accomplish multi rounds of secession is simply not feasible in one generation or even two. There is no evidence that breaking a large geographic state into multiple fragments leads to further fragmentation later.

Those who claim that we could have more influence if the highest form of government was more local are ignoring that it is a double edged sword. Authoritarians would have the same increase in influence over a local federal government as libertarians would, completely washing out any supposed gains. And right now, no state in America has anywhere close to enough libertarians to prevent Republicans and Democrats from throwing away the rights currently protected by the constitution.

"Secession is always libertarian"

If a dictator seizes a state and secedes, that is not clearly not libertarian. Secession down to the individual is no more libertarian than voluntary cooperation up to the global level. Again, our concern is for individual liberty, and any moves up or down in the geographic scale of government means nothing. Up or down on the scale of individual liberty means everything.

/*==== "All decentralization is good" ==== Decentralization of power is good, decentralization of restrictions on power is often bad.

And National Divorce isn't really that decentralizing. /*

Response to "Separate or Die"

This section is in response to the Separate or Die article found [[1]] ([here]).

 - There are zero details on how the separation will work in practice. Merely handwaving and saying that there will be more freedom is not enough. We must look at the actual results of national divorce, which is that Republicans and Democrats would each be handed parts of the country. And in many cases with supermajorities to do whatever they want.
 - The article makes the valid point that there are many 3 letter federal agencies that are harmful to our liberty, but fails to acknowledge that Republicans and Democrats would merely replicate most of them at the state level. Can you imagine what a Republican state's Border Patrol would look like and cost? Or a Democrat's FBI unencumbered by the First Amendment? National divorce would not eliminate these agencies, it would just give Republicans and Democrats more power at the state level to use them as they want to.
 - There is zero evidence that national divorce would lead to decentralization beyond it. The article presents no evidence, and yet continues the myth that it will bring a wave of decentralization. In reality, Republicans would crack down on sanctuary cities over immigrants and drugs, and Democrats would crack down on sanctuary rural areas for guns. The result of national divorce would be centralization to the states, not a step towards decentralizing down to the individual.
 - That proponents of national divorce almost never point to a specific state becoming more free right away is very telling. If a state is mentioned, we can look up the legislature of that state and see what liberties would all but immediately be lost. No state would become more free right away. National divorce is said to be a path to future freedom, but the immediate future under it is very bleak. And a path towards intra-state divorce is always suggested, but no plan is ever presented for how this would actually come about.

In Summary

Liberty is fundamentally about being free to live your own life the way you want as long as you are not actively aggressing against others to prevent them from doing the same. Structure, size, and scale of government are not good in and of themselves; they are good insofar as they serve the end of enabling individual liberty. One can point to a myriad of nations in the world that, if one were to live there, one would be substantially less free, despite being in a nation-state with a much smaller population than the United States. Geographically smaller governments do not merely fail to be a solution for the problem of tyranny; in many cases, they exacerbate it. Petty tyrants would want nothing more than to have the federal government, with its long established liberal traditions and its Constitution, removed from their path.

Individual liberty is not a toy for us to experiment with. Decentralization of power is a good thing, decentralization of the restrictions on power is a bad thing. We should fully support decentralizing many of the powers of the federal (and state, and local) government: our currency, the three-letter agencies, government education, to name just a few. But we should not be so cavalier with reducing people’s ability to fight back against infringements on their rights. The problem with the Bill of Rights is not that it does too much, but that it does too little. The solution is not to get rid of what works, but to increase and reinforce what does work: restricting government’s power at all levels.

Libertarians offer the only non-authoritarian option, where individual liberty is paramount, not the collected money and power of interest groups. Libertarianism is not pro-localized statism, it is a rejection of all statism. A national divorce leading to multiple separate fragments of a formerly United States would only further embolden authoritarians in the Democratic and Republican parties. There is an argument to be had for secession, but it must serve the purposes of protecting and advancing individual liberty. National divorce does the opposite.

Libertarians should not reinforce duopoly talking points designed to stoke fear and anger. Our messaging should be a stark contrast to what the rest of the country is being told. As Republicans and Democrats focus on increasing the divisions between Americans, libertarians have an opportunity to show America the best version of itself. A version of America held together by our common belief in the natural rights enumerated in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, that have survived for the last two and a half centuries while other countries around the world have dissolved or fallen apart.

{{tag>Jonathan_Casey Layla_Bush Jeff_Miller Shawn_Huckabay}}