Monday, January 14, 2013

White House Responds to Secession Petitions

From the beginning I had mixed feelings on the secession petitions that followed Obama's reelection. On the one hand, they are an insult to our sovereignty; there's no need to ask. Did Thomas Jefferson beg George III for permission? Of course not. Additionally, the petitions appeared to be a mere outlet of frustration over the election rather than a serious desire to secede.

On the other hand, though, resurrecting this forbidden topic is a good thing, as it provides important educational opportunities. I was particularly looking forward to the White House's reaction, even though it was going to be entirely predictable and wrong. Let's examine their main arguments:
[A]s we value a healthy debate, we don't let that debate tear us apart.
Actually, it depends on the debate. Sometimes that is not necessary, other times it is. A husband and wife shouldn't let themselves be torn apart by some petty argument. But we can all agree there are times where divorce is appropriate. Same with secession.
Our founding fathers established the Constitution of the United States "in order to form a more perfect union" through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. They enshrined in that document the right to change our national government through the power of the ballot -- a right that generations of Americans have fought to secure for all. But they did not provide a right to walk away from it.
Here we have the White House getting one of the most basic aspects of the Constitution backwards. In reality, the federal government is the one whose powers are limited to what is expressly granted, while the people and their states retain all other powers. So, the absence of a provision to "walk away" is no argument against secession.
"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."
~James Madison, The Federalist No. 45
Beyond this, there is yet another layer of defense for the right of secession. If you're going to accept the legitimacy of the Declaration of Independence, then it doesn't matter what the Constitution says in the first place.

Back to the White House response:
As President Abraham Lincoln explained in his first inaugural address in 1861, "in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual."
Lincoln made this up. He is wrong. The Constitution doesn't even claim to be perpetual. Perpetual, in 18th-century diplomatic language meant “lacking a built-in sunset provision”, not "lasting forever", as historian Tom Woods noted recently.

And if it did, so what? That doesn't mean such a claim is legitimate, that some people of one generation can forever bind future generations to a "social contract". I thought "progressives" believed in change, anyway. The "Union" should not be some object of religious veneration, it should be a means to an end rather than an end in of itself.
In the years that followed, more than 600,000 Americans died in a long and bloody civil war that vindicated the principle that the Constitution establishes a permanent union between the States. 
Translation: Might makes right.
And shortly after the Civil War ended, the Supreme Court confirmed that "[t]he Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States."
So, the federal government says, "You're stuck with me". Well, duh, what institution is not going to rule in it's own favor?

The remainder of the White House response is just some mumbo-jumbo praising democracy.


As expected, arguments against the right of secession crumble easily: they are always weak, false, or barbaric (e.g. the "might makes right" argument, a.k.a. "the Civil War settled it"). It doesn't matter if one thinks secession is prudent in one case or another. It is merely the right of secession that is being discussed here, and rejected by the Obama administration.

The right of secession is easy to defend. Simply point to the Declaration of Independence and your opponent will not be able to come up with a coherent rebuttal. Because there is none. That's why, with these ideas finally getting un-buried again, we should eventually see a collapse in the anti-secession mentality that has prevailed for 150 years. And that's good news for our liberty.

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