Time To Get Serious About Secession

Sat, May 22, 2010


Wilton Strickland
May 22, 2010

As America enters the second decade of the twenty-first century, it is becoming painfully apparent that her historical march of progress not only has ground to a halt, but has reversed course and is heading back to a place from which the founders struggled to escape.  It is a place where government acknowledges no authority higher than itself, brandishing the sword at home and abroad for purposes not ordained anywhere in the supreme law of the land.  Law itself has been stripped of its noble purpose to restrain both the government and the governed, now functioning as a weapon for government to transgress against our lives, liberty, and property.

Worse yet, every transgression begets more misery, and every misery begets more transgression.  Government prosecutes unjust and undeclared wars abroad that provoke terrorism, then claims it must oppress us for our own safety.  Government imposes pervasive controls that distort the mechanisms of the marketplace, then claims it must assert even more control because the market has “failed.”  Government takes from the productive to subsidize (and thus foster) the unproductive, then claims it must do more to combat growing poverty.  Government spends far beyond its means and its enumerated powers, then claims it must raise taxes and debase the currency to help pay the difference.

This feedback loop of lawlessness has become so shrill and terrifying that many Americans are finally taking notice.  For the first time in a long time, America is asking serious questions about the legitimacy of the government’s activities.  Secession is a serious answer.

There is a psychological hurdle, to be sure, in giving secession the consideration it deserves. The very word causes many people to flinch because it conjures up images of slavery and civil war.  Even some of the fiercest critics of the federal government have not given up on the electoral process because they see signs of hope in the Tea Party movement, and they take heart that outsiders such as Rand Paul have proven they can compete at the ballot box.  In truth, it may be the worst possible outcome if such outsiders make electoral gains, because it will lull everyone into believing that real change is upon us.  It is not.

Think for a moment what would have to occur for the federal government to obey the Constitution and restore fiscal sanity.  “Mandatory” spending on unconstitutional wealth transfers such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would have to be eliminated or at least phased out.  “Discretionary” spending that legislators love to funnel to their constituents would also have to be deeply slashed, not merely to balance the budget but also to terminate unconstitutional wealth transfers to corporations, universities, farmers, and countless others who lobby furiously for this pork.  Congress would have to cease legislating on roughly 70%-80% of the subjects it now arrogates to itself in violation of the Tenth Amendment.

The President would have to stop issuing “executive orders” that carry the force of law despite lacking congressional consent, and he would also have to suspend all war operations until securing a declaration of same from Congress.  The Supreme Court would have to disavow precedent from the past three generations that, among other things, enables federal courts to interfere routinely in local matters under the guise of the Fourteenth Amendment; that gives a blank check to congressional and presidential assertions of power under the guise of “interstate commerce” or “spending for the general welfare”; and that has distorted “judicial review” into a power of amending the Constitution rather than enforcing it.
And let us not forget the hordes occupying the bureaucracy, most of whom would have to quit their jobs and halt the printing presses from churning out tens of thousands of unlawful regulations that Congress never voted on.

To put it mildly, this is not going to happen.  People from all walks of life have a vested interest in the unconstitutional status quo and will never vote to relinquish it.  Welfare recipients, Social Security dependents, federal employees, high-flying banks, both major political parties, mal-educated college graduates, and the indolent majority will never budge.  We could hold elections from now until doomsday without seeing reform that comes anywhere near to accomplishing what the Constitution requires.

Neither the Reagan Revolution in the ’80s nor the Contract With America in the ’90s made a dent in the federal juggernaut, and nor will the current fervor to re-take Washington even if it “succeeds.”  Moreover, what does it say about a country when it requires a massive electoral effort to achieve even a modicum of lawfulness in the government?  Constitutional compliance is where all political campaigns should begin, not where a few of them should end.  Voting bestows unwarranted legitimacy on a system gone rotten.

The good news is that even if we cannot persuade most Americans into lawfulness, we can ignore them.  This is secession, and it means simply that a group of people will thereafter govern itself rather than be governed by others.  From a historical perspective, secession is legitimate because it is how America was born out of Great Britain, not to mention how the Constitution was born out of the Confederation – recall that nine states disregarded the Articles of Confederation and founded their own government, leaving the remaining four states to decide what to do next.

Modern secession is hardly unprecedented in the American experience, let alone radical.  (The misnamed Civil War punished those who sought to exercise the right of secession; the war did not disprove the right itself, no more than censorship disproves the right of free speech.)  From a logical perspective, secession is legitimate because all states are human creations that include some humans and exclude others — there is no reason that a state deserves less legitimacy simply because it is new or contains a different set of inhabitants.

From a moral perspective, secession is legitimate because government is only a means to achieve human happiness, not an end that requires sacrificing our happiness on a government altar.  Even from a legal perspective, modern secession would be legitimate because it seeks to honor the Constitution and reject a renegade government that desecrates it.  It is a fundamental principle of law that a party who breaches a contract may not demand contractual compliance from the other.

In the same vein, modern government clearly has breached the constitutional contract, so government has no legal argument to keep us from leaving.  I venture that a new American republic carved from the old one would serve the Constitution’s ideals more faithfully than anything we’ve witnessed in our lifetimes.

Yet the psychological hurdle remains, largely out of the fear that a seceding territory will prove racist, corrupt, or oppressive.  The strongest response to qualms of this sort is that secession creates more choices, and membership is optional.  A new republic carved out of the old one would not compel anyone to join or penalize anyone for trying to leave (something that the current regime cannot say for itself).  There are no slaves to liberate this time around, so idealistic rhetoric cannot prop up another war of conquest.  Speaking of conquest, a seceded territory could never hope to match the federal government in terms of corruption, extortion, pillage, or plunder.

Such a territory would lack the raw materials necessary to inflict the magnitude of abuse that the federal government has made its stock-in-trade.  Given the opportunity to exist, this new republic would likely prove more attractive than the old one, which is precisely why it will be resisted tooth and nail — governments are monopolistic and hate external competition, the only proven method of restraining political power.  Internal restraints can be shredded or rendered meaningless by prosaic pronouncements from the judiciary, as we have witnessed time and again.  It is thus absurd to fear what a small government might do when we already endure what a huge government actually does to us and the world on a daily basis.

One more reason for secession cannot go ignored:  it is the wave of the future.  The past few decades have witnessed the collapse of bloated centers of power, yielding a constellation of new nation-states with no need or desire to assert the global dominance that the American political class clutches to its chest.  This sort of dominance is a relic that cannot withstand the new competitive environment or the onrush of technology that further empowers us to exchange ideas, goods, and money as we see fit.  The financial crisis represents a collapse of the house of cards that our politicians have built, and all of their outrageous measures to sustain it reek of desperation.

Deep down they sense their legitimacy ebbing, and at least on that score they are correct.  Ours is a world of decentralization, flexibility, and choice.  To secede is to look forward; to support a Byzantine and unlawful empire is to look backward.  Yes, my friends, it is time to get serious about secession.

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This post was written by:

Wilton Strickland - who has written 10 posts on Liberty Defense League.

Wilton Strickland was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Already enamored of American history at a young age, he chose to attend one of the nation’s oldest universities – the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia – and graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. After that, he attended law school at the University of Virginia, graduating in 2000. Wilton once believed that to distinguish himself he must remain close to the New York-D.C. axis of power, as many of his peers had urged him. By the time he departed law school, however, he understood that this was a path leading to the graveyard of intellectual integrity, especially for one who believes in limited government, personal responsibility, and liberty. After September 11 and the grotesque abuses of the Bush administration at home and abroad, Wilton began to think more seriously than ever about how to preserve America’s founding principles from a government that disregards them. Putting pen to paper, he wrote Unlawful Government: Preserving America In A Post-Constitutional Age, where he summarized the various ways the federal government regularly violates its founding charter, the Constitution. Wilton wasn’t finished, though. He saw that America’s centralization of power stood in sharp contrast to the decentralization unfolding on the world stage, where revolutions and secessionist movements had splintered old nations into multiple new ones. He also saw a fearful political class in America and much of the Western world taking steps to protect itself from this trend. Wilton thus wrote his second book, Unlawful Government: The Gathering Threat Of Global Hegemony, and published it in 2009.

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14 Responses to “Time To Get Serious About Secession”

  1. NANCY Says:


  2. Timothy_Baldwin Says:

    Nancy, a state would secede in a similar manner that it acceded to the union: through a special convention, or even a constitutional amendment. It is not complicated at all.

  3. Wilton Strickland Says:

    Nancy does raise a good point, though, because a special convention may not have traction in enough people’s minds at this stage. Even within a single state, there will be a hefty contingent of fifth-columnists who will oppose secession and claim they want the feds to protect their “civil rights” from such an effort. My next column will explore how to make secession a de facto reality before it achieves an official, de jure status.

  4. Wilton Strickland Says:

    I tried to leave this reply earlier, but it didn’t seem to work, so I apologize if this is repetitive.

    Nancy raises a good point because a special convention may not have traction in enough people’s minds at this stage. Even within a single state, there will be a hefty contingent of fifth-columnists who will oppose secession and claim they want the feds to protect their “civil rights” from such an effort. My next column will explore how to make secession a de facto reality before it achieves an official, de jure status.

  5. Timothy_Baldwin Says:

    I look forward to Wilton’s next article very much!

  6. Rodney Says:

    I would certainly like secession movements succeed. No one anywhere on the political spectrum can argue that the federal government advances individual rights, states rights or prudent uses of our resources and the benefits of our labor. The irony is that the so-called blue states would benefit monetarily the most from a break-up of the union. As the Tax Foundation has shown, other than Georgia and Texas, the so-called red states are net beneficiaries of federal wealth transfer from the blue states. http://www.taxfoundation.org/blog/show/1397.html California wouldn’t have a budget crisis if it wasn’t getting back only $.79 on every dollar paid to the feds. Don’t you think that this is where so much of Pelosi’s power comes from? California is a payMASTER! Sadly, Californians who could benefit so much from secession will be the last to embrace it. As for my red-state buddies, there is a lot of financial sacrifice ahead–beyond what you are already going through–if you lose your federal wealth transfers. At least South Carolina seems to be brave enough to SAY no. Will they ever COMMIT, though, to really giving up their $.34 cent profit on every dollar they send to the Feds?

  7. NeilBJ Says:

    I would like to see more commentary on the practical aspects of secession. I am retired and depend on unconstitutional government programs as do other retirees in any state: Social Security and Medicare Parts A, B and D.

    What do you see happening to the retirees in the state that secedes?

    And there must be many other bread and butter issues that must be solved.

  8. Wilton Strickland Says:

    In response to Neil, let me stress that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional because the federal government has no enumerated power to implement them — a state government could experiment with such programs without violating the current law of the land, and a newly seceded state could decide how to address such matters in its own constitution. Granted, we could debate the nature and scope of such programs, but at least the decision would fall within the discretion of an actual community with shared interests (rather than a disjointed “union” whose connecting threads at this point are far more theoretical than real).

  9. Common Sense Says:

    Walter Williams makes a solid point regarding immigration. I am proud of Arizona for the stance they are taking and that we haven’t backed down. The law is clear – Illegal immigrants are illegal, racial profiling is illegal, and we intend on enforcing the laws on the books. It’s nice to see cooler heads remarking on this issue. In light of Game 4 rapidly approaching – Go Suns!!

  10. JerryH Says:

    Like NeilBJ my wife and I have paid into Social Security and Medicare all our working lives. We have counted on that to supplement our meager income when we can no longer work, and we are now nearing retirement. I am all for secession if it is truly feasible, but what will happen to those types of programs? If we don’t start our own similar programs, what will happen to people like us? I have been laid off 14 times in the past 20 years due to the poor economy, and so I don’t have much retirement money to fall back on. I would love to see my state of Oklahoma join Texas and many of the other fed-up red states in secession. But, although I am all for it, I really need more practical information before I can truly support such an effort. I can see that there could be so many advantages such as: decreased taxes, much smaller government, perhaps a flat income tax rate for all, less government waste, more money spent on roads and infrastructure and programs that are truly beneficial, bills that are passed by a vote of the people without all the unwanted riders attached, no more laws passed by the judicial system instead of the legislative system, border reinforcement, illegal immigrant law enforcement, and so much more. But I have written to my Congressmen about secession over the Obamacare issue, and although they are very conservative, they have only responded with standard form letters thanking me for their support. We need more out of our leaders than that! We need government leaders who understand that they work for us, not vice-versa.

  11. redpens Says:

    After yesterday’s rejection of the Murkowski Resolution (S.J.26), I think it’s time to consider secession. I’m not living under unelected bureaucrats at the EPA. Nobody should, it’s time to go our own way.

  12. HighlanderJuan Says:

    Let’s not forget that one of the most important considerations in the act of secession is to prepare for it in the money and banking structure of the new sovereign and stand-alone state.


    It would be my observation that if a state, desiring secession and sovereignty, did a ‘business plan’ that covered the areas now being mangled by the federal government (including money, banking, and retirement opportunities for its citizens), it would have a much better chance of success with its own people.

    I think most people are open to discussing the idea of secession, but just don’t have a clue on how it would happen, how they would participate, and what the effects of secession would be on them individually.

    Once the citizens understand more clearly what they would be getting themselves into, the more responsive they can be in answering the question.

    It might pay us to re-read the causes of the confederacy in the 1860s, as shown in this ‘Declaration of Causes’ by South Carolina. The South, prior to the Civil War, was facing many of the same tyrannies from the central government and was also facing similar independence issues. Try to see past the references to slavery which is irrelevant today.


    In fact, the Confederate Constitution also has some interesting changes to the original Constitution that show us how the states had learned about original deficiencies and had devised methods of correcting those deficiencies.


    Again, we have an additional 150 years of our own experience with this great American experiment, so we can add our own corrections to a new constitution, as might be suggested in this proposed 28th Amendment.



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