If At First You Don’t Secede
of the secrets the institutional establishment would like to keep
from the rest of us is the existence of worldwide pressures to decentralize
political power. While political systems seek to extend their
authority through increased police and military powers (as in America)
and through the creation of such supra-national political structures
as the European Union or the World Trade Organization, these practices
are really desperate efforts to forestall the further decline of
political authority throughout the world.
A principal manifestation of such decentralizing tendencies has
been the growth of political secession movements. From the
collapse of the Soviet Union to "separatist" efforts being
made in Tibet, Mongolia, Spain, Italy, Indonesia, Yugoslavia, India,
France, Northern Ireland, Quebec, a number of the former Soviet
Republics, and elsewhere, informal processes – in varying degrees
of energy are at work to reduce the size and power of stultifying,
life-destroying political structures. Even at the heart of the Middle
Eastern conflict lies a demand, on the part of the Palestinians,
for the right to secede from Israel.
Secession movements have also been thriving in America, where the
first one was successfully undertaken over two hundred years ago
when the colonials separated from the British government. Whatever
legitimacy the new American government was able to claim vis-à-vis
the British was, of course, rejected when the southern states tried
to secede from the American union. The contradiction between the
Revolutionary and Civil wars has left unthinking Americans in a
quandary over the secession question. Any defense made of the right
to secede from established political authority is often met with
expressions of disbelief at the temerity of even asking such
a question. One could more readily engage a thoughtful discussion
on a proposal to have the government endeavor to reverse the orbit
of Jupiter than to consider the propriety of secession.
Philosophically, any denial of the right of people to secede from
a political system is also a denial of the legitimacy of the state
itself. As I developed in a prior article, the modern state is premised
on a "social contract" theory wherein men and women, being
free to act individually to protect their lives and property from
wrongdoers, may establish a political system to perform this function
on their behalf. Individuals, in other words, are supposed to be
the principals, and state officials their agents.
There is no evidence, of course, that any state system ever
came into existence as a result of a contract unanimously entered
into by a nation of people. Political systems have always been brought
about by conquest, by naked coercion, by the same
forces of victimization that it was the theoretical purpose of the
state to prevent! When government officials interfere with
the right of secession they are, in effect, announcing to us all
the fraudulent nature of the so-called "social contract."
It should come as no great revelation to point out that democratically-constituted
political systems have interests of their own that conflict
with the wills of their alleged "principals." FDR’s ambitions
to get into World War II – even though the overwhelming majority
of Americans opposed doing so – is but one example. More recent
evidence can be found in the response of the Irish government to
the 2001 referendum wherein 54% of Irish voters rejected the
Treaty of Nice, which proposed fundamental changes in the power
structure of the European Union. Not to worry, for the Irish government
decided to order another vote on the matter! In America,
thwarting the will of the electorate is handled differently. When
voters vote contrary to establishment interests on a referendum
question, the courts simply declare the outcome "unconstitutional."
Who do the voters think they are, daring to intervene in the business
of their political masters?
It is interesting to contemplate the dynamics underlying the secession
movements throughout the world. The phenomenon is simply too widespread
to lay its causes at the feet of any ideology or political movement.
I suspect that the explanation lies in such factors as the tendency
for political systems to become increasingly dysfunctional, bureaucratic,
oppressive, and aggressive as their size and power expands; as well
as a growing awareness that the state exists to promote the interests
of a few at the expense of the many.
Whatever the explanation, and despite years of having been carefully
conditioned in the statist mindset by the schools, the media, and
the state, secession campaigns are ongoing in various parts of America.
In Alaska, Texas, Hawaii, and many southern states, fledgling efforts
have been made on behalf of secession from the United States. But
less ambitious undertakings have been occurring elsewhere. Staten
Island, for instance, has been working to secede from New York City,
while various counties in different states seek to withdraw from
one state and to join another, or to set up new states altogether.
Among the more noteworthy campaigns are the efforts on behalf of
the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood to secede from the city of
Los Angeles and set up their own cities. A popular vote on the question
will be on the ballot this November. Similar campaigns are underway
to create a separate city status for other Los Angeles area communities.
The reaction of city officials and business interests to secession
is quite revealing regarding the nature of all political systems.
The mayor of Los Angeles announced a major anti-secession campaign,
and contacted businesses and lobbyists who do business with the
city for major contributions, some as high as $100,000 each. The
previous LA mayor, along with numerous other local, state, and federal
officials, have joined in the anti-secession campaign.
The question that immediately comes to mind is this: why
would elected officials and corporate leaders want to oppose secession?
If government officials are our representatives, our agents,
why wouldn’t the mayor – having learned from opinion polls that
most of the Valley residents favor secession – be doing everything
he could to see that "the will of the people" to secede
from the city be carried out? One who represented you in a business
or legal matter, and who worked behind the scenes to thwart your
interests, would certainly open himself up to liability for breach
of contract or professional ethics. How can a man make any pretense
of being a "representative" of the very people whose desires
for a more local system of government he is actively trying to subvert?
The mayor has dug up all kinds of "bogey-men" with whom
to scare Valley residents to give up their efforts to liberate themselves
from LA City Hall. Though he argued that secession would be detrimental
to "public safety" – a local government phrase designed
to serve the same purpose as "national security" at the
federal level an agency set up to study the feasibility of
secession concluded that smaller cities are able to provide
government services more efficiently than can larger cities;
and that the per capita costs of such services decline in
smaller cities. Given the high crime rates that prevail in major
cities across America – particularly that most-politically-centralized
of all the world’s cities, Washington, D.C. the argument
that smaller cities would be unable to match the safety records
of larger cities should evoke rounds of laughter.
I wonder if the mayor’s fears of a multitude of independent cities
carries over into his understanding of economics? Would he contend
that there is something unwholesome about General Motors having
to compete with other auto manufacturers, and ought, therefore,
to be given a monopoly? If competition is a useful means for disciplining
participants in the marketplace, ought not the same logic apply
here? As long as we are stuck with political institutions, would
it not be better to have a multitude of such agencies – rather than
a monopoly of just one – so that each could help check the excesses
and abuses of the others?
The mayor next trotted out a non-existent sentiment on behalf of
keeping Los Angeles intact, rather than subdivided into numerous
separate cities. Anyone familiar with LA knows that the city has
always been a collage of separate cities. I do not remember
who it was who called Los Angeles "two hundred suburbs in search
of a city," but even a cursory view of an LA map will reveal
the truth of the proposition. Within the Los Angeles area are such
independent cities as Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank, Beverly Hills,
Santa Monica, Culver City, Torrance, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine,
Long Beach, Pomona, Fullerton, West Covina, . . . the list goes
on and on. Does the mayor really believe that the LA area has suffered
from such a diffusion of cities, and that adding one or two more
will cause unforeseen problems?
What this proliferation of independent cities does produce,
of course, is a diffusion of political power, and wanting to keep
as much power centralized within Los Angeles City Hall – and in
his hands as mayor is what most concerns this man and the
business interests supporting his anti-secession campaign. Being
the mayor of Los Angeles carries with it more power and prestige
than does being the mayor of Burbank.
For corporate interests, being able to influence political decision-making
– which $100,000 contributions will certainly enable one to do –
in a city of 3 million people will greatly reduce the transaction
costs that would exist if those same 3 million people were located
in twenty cities. Furthermore, business interests that benefit from
contracts with the city are eager to maintain the status quo. In
putting together the mayor’s coalition of supporters, one of his
aides declared that "nobody’s been hard to get." A more
poignant observation was made by a supporter of secession who, in
speaking of the mayor’s coalition, stated: "The only criterion
for being in this coalition is need or greed." It is no wonder
that, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, the largest contributor
to the anti-secession effort is a man who wants to build a football
stadium in Los Angeles, possibly with taxpayer’s money!
There is one comment by the mayor to which attention must be directed:
his declaration that secession would be "a disaster of biblical
proportions." I don’t know if the man was suddenly possessed
of hyperbolic humors, or if he is, indeed, an agent of divine forces.
If it is the case that this man enjoys a pipeline to the throne
of the cosmic order, his pronouncements ought not be dismissed so
lightly. Perhaps nothing less than a reopening of the Old Testament
is in order, with his speeches and press releases collected and
sandwiched in between the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes! Secession
is one thing, but raising the specter of fire and brimstone is quite
another matter. On the other hand, doing a sequel to the destruction
of Sodom and Gomorrah is an event that only an independent Hollywood
© 2002 LewRockwell.com