On Dissolving the United States of America

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The United States of America is a political union of fifty states and a federal district, commonly considered to be operating under the authority of the U.S. Constitution that was first adopted in 1787. The Union known as the U.S.A. was a creation of the then-existing thirteen states of the Union.

Lysander Spooner has provided ironclad arguments that this Constitution is an invalid authority for Americans of today. If that is so, and I believe it is, then no "legal" moves need to be taken to dissolve the U.S.A. It is already an entity that has no legal authority. In this case, the Union does not legally exist.

To demonstrate that fact and make it operative, however, requires that the Union be effectively shattered; and that requires the successful secession of any person or any political entity within the jurisdiction of the U.S.A. This avenue was tried in 1860 by several southern states. The result was the War for Southern Independence, which was won by those states who supported the Union. This victory established the Union as a power and as a central or national state dominant over the individual states, not by legal consent but by force of arms. The southern states were beaten into submission, and the subsequent legal political authority of the U.S.A., such as it is, rests on its military victory in 1865.

Realistically, then, most people and the individual states do not today challenge the authority of the Constitution. They accept the U.S.A. as a legal entity. Under that condition, dissolving the U.S.A. requires a certain degree of legal maneuvering, although the secession route is still a viable option that can be exercised at any time and with justification. Now, under the Constitution, provisionally assuming its sway if not legally but in reality, amendment is possible in two ways according to Article V. The only way that has been used to date is that both houses of Congress approve an amendment by a two-thirds vote followed by approval by three-fourths of the state legislatures within seven years. The other way, never used, is that two-thirds of the state legislatures agree to a convention at which constitutional amendments can be introduced. These need to pass by a three-fourths vote. Both methods show clearly that the Constitution is sustained by the states. If three-fourths of them want to dissolve it, they can. Naturally, such a step involves many other legal ramifications and changes. However, the country has an ample corps of Washington, New York, and other lawyers that is up to the task.

Dissolving the Union can therefore be done in two basic ways, either by an effective set of secessions or by amending the Constitution so as to gut the Union. There are any number of other, less well-defined and more messy ways. In fact, secessions would probably result in a messy process that would, for a time, create uncertainty and indeterminacy as to the final political results.

I endorse dissolving the U.S.A. This does not mean that I endorse the 50 states or whatever political combinations of states result as a final ideal political system. I simply view that outcome, which ends the national (usually called the federal) government as greatly preferable to what we now have. Individual states could profitably break up too, but that is another matter.

The idea of dissolving the U.S.A. and its Constitution is not really as radical or extreme as it seems at first sight. The United Kingdom is on its way to dissolving. Majorities in both Scotland and England favor full independence for Scotland. The Soviet Union, in 1990-1991, dissolved into 15 separate states. Although this entailed some bloodshed, turmoil, and uncertainty over a 2-year period, it was by and large not at all a terrible happening. There was no major civil war anything like the War for Southern Independence. The aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union has certainly been largely benign as at least some of the individual states that resulted have moved in the direction of free-market policies that have benefited them. The progress of Russia itself has been far greater than when it was part of the Soviet Union.

The secession or independence movement failed in the case of the Chechen Republic after two wars with Russia. Dissolution of a political unit can lead to serious conflict when states insist on territorial sovereignty and believe that it can be maintained by force of arms.

Why should the U.S.A. be dissolved? Why should we get rid of our national (federal) government? Why should Americans have something of a fresh start politically? The reasons for doing this are voluminous. The evidence that it should be done is extraordinarily one-sided. It is covered in detail by hundreds of publications that comprise a "freedom" literature.

What is amazing is that there is so little discussion of the matter of dissolving the U.S.A. We may as well say that for all practical purposes there is none. The influential figures of our nation do not raise this as an issue. It is certainly not on the agenda of our dominant political parties or their members. There is no ongoing debate about dissolving the Union.

If those individuals who favor retaining the national government think that it is such a good idea, then let them debate it. Let them show why the Union should be our form of government. Let them show how wonderful the Union has been for us. Let them go toe-to-toe with those of us who think the opposite. Of course, they do not want to debate this matter at such a basic level. To concede that the Union could even have serious and uncorrectable flaws would be to yield too much ground. It would grant the possibility that the Union is a detriment to the American people. Merely entertaining this possibility in public might make too many people stop and think. It might make them question the existing system, and such doubts might threaten the power, wealth, privilege, and position of those who benefit from the Union.

Rather than debate Union, the supporters of the national government have a better strategy. It goes way beyond stonewalling, which is not even on the horizon. It is to build support for the Union incessantly, to hammer the need for more and more laws passed within the Union’s ambit, and to pass these laws by constantly appealing to the fears of Americans. Rocking the boat, even if that boat is sinking, even if we are all swallowing sea water, is damned as a course that we all must avoid as a risk to our very lives and well-being. Almost any action of government, however ridiculous, stupid, or counter-productive, is painted as enhancing our security, even when it is obvious that the opposite is the case. The security theme is implicit in the notion of unity. We are always asked to obey the laws, pull together after votes are taken, end our dissent, be as one, and be as one nation. We are always asked to accept the laws, for fear that if we do not, we will be attacked, or not have medical care, or not have gasoline, or not have income in our old age. Unity and security are objectives interlarded with the element of fear. Even in the Federalist papers, written in support of the national Union, the appeals for unity were frequently based on heightening fears of European countries attacking the defenseless states and of states fighting with one another.

Beyond the psychological strategy of arousing fear, which has not changed in over 200 years, the tacit assumption held by almost everyone is that the Union is some sort of permanent political entity that deserves to be maintained and that has the worth and value to be maintained. The tacit assumption is that no other political arrangement would serve the American people better. The applause given to national laws is always based on how much good those laws will do.

These two assumptions are both false. The federal government is inept, inefficient, overbearing, power-hungry, dictatorial, and unjust. And it is becoming more so as time passes. The record on war-making alone is enough to show the negative value produced by the Union. Without the Union, the American people would either have avoided nearly every war they have fought in or would have had a greatly reduced role in these wars. Other wars and conflicts may have occurred had there been no Union, but they could not possibly have been at the scale of the wars that Americans have fought under their Union. With many independent states, the incentives for making internecine wars would have been vastly reduced, because the costs of fighting would have fallen far more directly on the individual states that chose to participate.

With the Union, a central power existed that could extract resources from every individual state’s citizens and could force every American in every state into major conflicts that those individual states would never have entered by themselves and which they could never have paid for by themselves. The Union became the vehicle for making more and bigger wars, simply by forcibly amalgamating the combined resources of all the individual states. Far from avoiding wars by a position of deterrent combined strength, the Union engaged in more and larger wars using that strength.

As matters stand, the existence of the Union made possible at greatly enhanced scale the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the War for Southern Independence, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, World Wars I and II, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Afghanistan War, several Iraq Wars, and countless other interventions and hostile actions in other countries. Only with the Union would we have what we today have: a bloated Empire saddled with trouble spots all over the world. These bring us only insecurity, even as we are made to believe that American troops and interference overseas will assuage our fears. Only with the Union could we possibly have major political figures from both parties who promise us that we will be at war for the next 100 or 1,000 years!

There is nothing that the Union accomplishes that is good, if there be anything, that cannot equally well or better be accomplished by the 50 states or subsets thereof acting alone or in federations with one another. And there is much that is bad that the Union does that will be avoided if the Union is dissolved.

The Union is now a coercive monopoly force at the apex of our political system. It gained the monopoly role by defeating the southern states, and it is continually enhancing its position of dominant power by obtaining political changes, such as the direct election of senators and the broadening of the popular vote. It is not stretching reality too far to say that our national government is becoming more and more like the Soviet Union’s Central Committee (although that was a party organization) or like the Politburo. A tiny group of men and women run the country, sustain and increase their power, gradually diminish civil liberties, gradually regulate every aspect of the economy, and gradually make every citizen fearful of even speaking out against their actions.

What is the logical result of Union? Centralization of power and an increase in oppression and the likelihood of further oppression. If we do not think about dissolving the U.S.A. now, we will be thinking about it later when we, as did the citizens of the Soviet Union, begin to chafe and grumble at how bad things are. But why wait for those sad days that are nearing when Medicare and Social Security both fail, or when bombs are dropping on American cities, or when our roads develop even more potholes, or even more bridges collapse, or we find that our dollars are worthless? Why wait?

Dissolving the U.S.A. is becoming more and more an urgent and visible matter. Let us do a favor for ourselves and for our children and grandchildren. Let us place dissolving the U.S.A. at the top of our political agenda.

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.

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