Skip to content

An Introduction To Non-Territorial Secession

July 3, 2009

Normally, secession consists of an entire region seceding from a large one, and forming its own autonomous government.  In non-territorial secession, you might:

  • Secede from your city’s library services, because you only read things on the internet.
  • Secede from your city’s garbage service because you would rather compost or store your own tash
  • Secede from your city’s police protection, because for the same cost, you can buy yourself a gun, defense training, and a good alarm for the house.

The idea may sound strange at first (only pay for services if they are worth it?  That’s crazy talk!), but if we think of government as just another industry, it makes sense.  We choose our cell phone provider, our car insurance provider, our DSL provider, and many other providers of business services independently from among competing firms, and we don’t have to move to change providers.  It is only with government, which divides the world into many regional monopolies, where we have to buy a giant package of many services, determined by our location.

If these services could be unbundled and offered by multiple providers in a given location, we would have far more choice, and could assemble our own bundle based on our unique preferences.  And the competition between providers, just like in any market, would result in higher quality, more cost-effective service.

While some aspects of government service (like national defense) may be difficult to provide on a person by person basis, there are far fewer of these “natural monopolies” than you might think.  As we mentioned in yesterday’s post, looking at history offers a new perspective on what forms of government are possible.  Today, fire services are often considered to be a natural monopoly because fires can spread, but in the past, private fire insurance which only protected subscribers was used.  As Wikipedia says:

London suffered great fires in 798, 982, 989, and above all in 1666 (Great Fire of London). The Great Fire of 1666 started in a baker’s shop on Pudding Lane, consumed about two square miles (5 km²) of the city, leaving tens of thousands homeless. Prior to this fire, London had no organized fire protection system. Afterwards, insurance companies formed private fire brigades to protect their clients’ property. Insurance brigades would only fight fires at buildings the company insured. These buildings were identified by fire insurance marks.

There are numerous other examples of services that we are used to seeing as natural monopolies, but which can or have been provided on a person-by-person basis.  Some people believe that every aspect of government, even the courts and the military, can be provided in this fashion.  Whether or not you believe in the strongest version of the non-territorial secession, we think there is an excellent case that many services of today’s regional monopoly governments could be better provided by competing, non-territorial entities.

To learn much more about the theory and history of these ideas, head on back to Secession Week: Friday – Non-territorial Secession.
submit to reddit

  1. Albert permalink
    June 13, 2010 12:16 am

    I am almost 100% seceded by these measures…
    Government in Brazil is so worthless even the public departments (regulatory agencies, city hall, etc.) are hiring private security…

    Also, just found out that the lady who cooks for us has hired private police to watch her house at U$30 a month (this works like a 911 service where you call and they come really fast with guns, and servicemen are usually off-duty regular police making an extra buck).

  2. June 12, 2010 9:26 pm


    Now I’m thinking there are a few simple solutions for that problem.

    It seems probable that in a world free of monopoly there would be a demand for HOA collective insurance requirements for buildings that have tenant shared walls….

    That would solve that problem right off the bat.

    It is interesting.

  3. June 12, 2010 9:21 pm

    Yes, but are fire protection services more efficient if paid for in a top-down and mandatory way? Forget the ethics of taxation for now.

    Is it more or less efficient to pay for it and allow government to handle it, or for individuals to pay through insurers?

    Keep in mind the inefficiencies associated with ‘holdouts.’ ie – “…well, my neighbors on both sides have fire protection, so i’ll just save money and not buy insurance. In the rare event of a fire, I can be rest assured that their insurance companies will respond and put out the fire. I will have minimal repairs, and I can save money for that.”

    That is perfectly logical, and rational. It’s also not efficient, because the guy in the middle never had to pay a premium, and say 85% of his building was saved.



  1. Secession Week at A Thousand Nations « Panarchists
  2. Secession Week: Thursday – Non-territorial Secession « Let A Thousand Nations Bloom

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: