Would it really be the highest form of patriotism?
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With secession “that gravy train would cease to exist,” noted Cesca. He went on to suggest that everyone in America would be helpless if they weren’t collecting federal goodies and looting everyone else, which is nonsense — pervasive subsidies and bail-outs make Americans weaker, not stronger. But some people currently demanding their freedom might not be quite so enthused about freeing themselves if they knew that meant they would be on their own financially.
Behind all the silliness is a serious issue, however. Why shouldn’t people be able to reorder their political arrangements if they wish? Must whatever has been put together be forever kept together? In an otherwise hysterical column, Peter Morrison, a Texas Republican Party activist, reasonably asked: “Why should Vermont and Texas live under the same government?” Indeed, why?
There’s no inherent reason why any particular group of people should be in community with any other. Slavery will always stain the cause of the southern Confederacy, but what principle justified slaughtering thousands to hold the country together? Unionist Horace Greeley declared in the New York Tribune: “We hope never to live in a republic whereof one section is pinned to the residue by bayonets.” Then-Col. Robert E. Lee opposed secession but explained: “a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.”
In many ways we are a badly divided people. Noted Patrick Buchanan: “While no one takes this movement as seriously as men took secession in 1861, the sentiments behind it ought not to be minimized. For they bespeak a bristling hostility to the federal government and a dislike bordering on detestation of some Americans for other Americans, as deep as it was on the day Beauregard’s guns fired on Fort Sumter.”
Americans soon may face the issue from the other direction. On November 6 residents of Puerto Rico voted for statehood in a confusing plebiscite on the island’s status. Puerto Rico, conquered by the U.S. during the Spanish-American War, currently is a commonwealth. There long has been a small independence movement, but the majority of Puerto Ricans traditionally preferred commonwealth to statehood. This time the majority rejected the “present form of territorial status,” after which they voted on the alternatives of independence, statehood, and “sovereign free associated state.” Statehood won with 61 percent.
The mere fact that someone wants to join the union doesn’t mean it should be invited to join. That applies to other potential aspirants as well. There once was serious talk of Canada breaking up, and Patrick Buchanan mused on which provinces should be invited to become American states. Even if America’s northern neighbor dissolved and some of its parts wanted to join the U.S., it wouldn’t necessarily make sense to say yes.
Rather than arguing about secession, it would be better to revive federalism. The national government has grown into a monster Leviathan, attempting to micro-manage the lives of 314 million Americans. Yet Washington is dominated by unrepresentative elites which are largely beyond peoples’ control. Frustration and anger are justified.
What to do? Reynolds wrote: “Let the central government do the things that only central governments can do — national defense, regulation of trade to keep the provinces from engaging in economic warfare from one another, protection of basic civil rights — and then let the provinces go their own way in most other issues.” If you’re not happy, you don’t have to secede: just move to another state.
This has the advantage of fulfilling the original constitutional scheme. The national government was supposed to have only limited and enumerated powers. In contrast, according to James Madison in Federalist No. 45, states were to be concerned with “the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the state.”
Bigger is not always better. Europe is discovering that reality, as opposition rises to continuing efforts to shift more power to the European Union and Brussels, and secessionist sentiments grow in Belgium’s Flanders, Spain’s Catalonia, and Great Britain’s Scotland.
Concern is likely to only grow in America. Washington is ever more imperious and unaccountable; it does ever more that should be left to other governments and, more important, to other institutions. Inflammatory rhetoric aside, Americans face a crisis of government.
Secession isn’t likely to prove a practical answer. Instead of breaking up the United States of America, people should focus on devolving authority to states, localities, families, and individuals. Rediscovering federalism is should become the new mantra in Washington.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?