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Prepare to be Overwhelmed by Secession

June 30, 2009

(A guest post by Carol Moore)

In April 2009 there were hundreds of news stories about Texas governor Rick Perry talking about the possibility that Texans will get so fed up with the federal government they will secede. And I still get two dozen a week stories, opinion and blog pieces about the possibility of Texas or another state seceding.

Imagine how many stories there would be if it was 30 states and 50 big cities ready to secede. As a long time proponent of secession, my mind is already boggling.

There is no doubt that the United States constitution and its majority rule representative form of republican government is a failed experiment. And an experiment is just what the founding fathers considered it to be. (Remember Thomas Jefferson’s recommendation there be a revolution every 20 years?)  We simply cannot have have a liberty-oriented secessionist movement using the same old political modus operandis and structures.

How do we keep the genuine desire for human freedom and self-determination from degenerating into violent anarchy and mass murder? Only through clear, simple and workable principles that will quickly be absorbed and embraced by the vast majority of secessionists, even those who lust to take up guns and go to war!

Here are my top principles for a successful secessionist movement:

* Nonviolent Strategies and Institutions: After racism, the greatest fear unionists promote is that secessionists will violently provoke “legitimate” central government violence that may harm innocent citizens. I recommend a thorough study of nonviolent action analyst Gene Sharp’s 198 methods of nonviolent action and a very public commitment to practicing them. Creating institutions committed to using conflict resolution and nonviolent enforcement of laws and contracts should be an equally important goal. Read Gandhi on nonviolent police and armies. The urge by some to “prove their manhood” through revolutionary violence must be opposed firmly. And watch out for authoritarians and charismatic leaders who foment violence to increase their control over people and resources; modern day knights putting together their fiefdoms.

* Bills of Rights: We must ensure all secessionist political alternatives publicize widely their written guarantees for individuals of freedom of association; of movement in and out of political entities; of equal political rights of members to participate in community decision-making and have access to public information; of procedural rights of members and of visitors to trial – to due process, counsel, appeal, and to no cruel and unusual means of interrogation or punishment.

* Consensus-Oriented (or Super-Majority) Direct Democracy: Representative, majority rule decision-making, in small organizations and even more so in large ones and in government, leads inevitably to defacto minority rule by wealthy and/or well-organized elites and special interests who know who to elect, who to pressure, who to pay, to get their way. All the attempted and proposed tweaks couldn’t fix the basic majoritarian/representative structural flaw, even if they could be enacted, which they cannot under current systems. Many libertarians dream of a society regulated by contract, but even such a society inevitably will encounter unexpected situations requiring democratic decision-making. And then there are the people who just love making decisions by committees, councils, congresses and parliaments. Learning and practicing direct, consensus-oriented democracy in our organizing will prepare us for creating them in our new political communities, should we need or want to do so.

* Emphasizing voluntary nature of secessionist entities: Obviously, secessionists do not intend to wait for a super-majority of people in their communities or regions or states to decide they want to secede from the union. Most will be ready when they obtain a critical mass of 15 or 20%! Nevertheless, we must reassure the public that communities and new confederations will be created by voluntary alliances, not by driving off unwanted people and confiscating their property. We must assure non-secessionists that those who want to retain citizenship in the nation state, obey its laws and pay its taxes may do so, even if many or most of their neighbors secede.

* Freely chosen unity and diversity: To reiteratte the point above, one purpose of secession is to allow people to form communities (especially residential) which reflect their personal values and believes. Choice is what is all about.  However, those small number of individuals infiltrating secessionist movements who advocate that races, religions, ethnicities, ideological factions must be separated into different states and communities, even if they advocate this be done nonviolently, is not only bigoted but bound to foment violence and eventually dozens of authoritarian enclaves. I am sure that over time many people will gravitate toward any number of communities that reflect their values. And others will gravitate to more diverse communities than those which government laws and regulations have artificially corralled them into. Look forward to a much more comfortable and much more exciting world than the restricted, constricted one we inhabit today!

Carol Moore is long-time libertarian and decentralist activist and web master of
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    Regarding consensus democracy: the most promising solution is Score Voting ( Plurality based representation does not represent the consensus on an election by election basis. Each election simply puts into power the strongest, cleverest faction. This can lead to wild bifurcations in representation from the same district. For example North Carolina is the home of both Jesse Helms and John Edwards. That the system works at all is due having enough dice rolls overall when electing the legislature. It works less well for president.

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    Score voting allows voters as a whole to rationally choose between finer gradations of candidates, and to explore a higher dimensional space of voting patterns, vs. the one dimensional space foisted on us by plurality voting. However, unlike proportional representation, representatives are still locally accountable to their constituents vs. to their party.

    Score voting could also be used within legislatures, reducing the need for log rolling, system gaming and party leadership. With more effective legislatures, scaling down the power of the executive might prove viable.


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