The right to choose your government.

Why is Personal Secession (panarchy) better than Territorial Secession?

There is, once again, a great deal of talk in the US these days about secession. The US originated, after all, in a secessionist movement from England, and many states made secession a specific option when ratifying the US Constitution. Many southern states attempted to secede in the 1860s, though this effort failed. But with the inexorable rise of massive government, the call for the states to secede has risen again. The interesting question for me is, if secession comes about, will it be one or two states, or will it be a mass movement where the entire federal government under the US Constitution is ripped out to the studs?

As a panarchist, of course, my preference is “none of the above”. All the usual talk of secession is of territorial secession. The advantage of territorial secession is that you do end up with smaller government. The downsides, as I see them, are twofold.

The first downside of territorial secession, as opposed to personal secession (panarchy), is that, in the end, you still have a territorial monopoly of coercion, so, to a great extent, nothing substantial has changed. The real evil of government is that it represents an elite who exercise power over others who happen to live in that territory. Elections merely rotate the members of the elite, but never destroy the monopoly of power. The power is exercised on the inhabitants of the territory with or without their consent. Elections only legitimize the evil. Personal secession, on the other hand, gets rid of the evil by, once and for all, getting rid of the monopoly of power based on territory. That is a substantial good.

The second downside of territorial secession is moral. A successful secession comes about through the efforts of a segment of the population who desire it. This may be a majority, or a non-symmetrically powerful minority, but it is never unanimous. There will always be those who prefer the status quo. A successful territorial secession takes that from them, and that is wrong. Personal secession, in contrast, never forgets the individual person, and respects their right to differ from the majority.

Asserting the right to secede is good. Territorial secession in certain circumstances may certainly be better than the forceful suppression of the right to secede. But, all other things being equal, personal secession is far better in every way than territorial secession. Panarchy, by ending the territorial monopoly of coercion, ends the need for any future secession, personal or territorial.


2010/02/09 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments