Thursday, November 15, 2012

Secession: What Ken Blackwell Gets Wrong

In the wake of a simple majority(?) being demagogued into accepting prolonged fiscal irresponsibility, several people in several states have added enough signatures to their secession petitions (via Obama's petition site, from what I heard) to require a response (the 25,000 signature mark if I remember).  Signatures from all the states combined have surpassed one million.

Many Republicans and conservatives are denouncing secession as a tin-foil hat response.  Ken Blackwell in particular has criticized Ron Paul's opinion on the matter in a piece that argues that revolution and secession are two different things, and cites both Jackson's and Lincoln's violent suppression (threatened suppression in Jackson's case) of secession as rebellion.

First of all, the Declaration of Independence claims the right of a people to "dissolve the political bonds" which connect them to a government that is destructive of the "ends" (the goal) of securing inalienable rights, a government that forgets that it derives its power from the consent of the governed.   If a people have this right (whether the government agrees or not) to alter or abolish or replace its government with one it feels is more likely to secure its freedoms, why does seceding not fall into the spectrum of altering or abolishing a potentially despotic government?  

The Constitution received the consent of the governed in the form of the ratification by the elected representatives of the respective peoples of the sovereign States.  So what about the Constitution rules out the possibility of voluntarily leaving the protection of the Union they voluntarily accepted?  What specifically makes ratification as irreversible as entering a roach motel?  The arguments of the Federalist Papers seem to be that the only thing that could prevent a state from asserting its sovereignty by opting out was a standing army, and the arguments went that there would be no permanent standing army.

So it seems strange to me that the argument against secession is that secession was always stopped with the (real or threatened) violence of federal troops, the very thing the Federalist Papers said the states' militias would be able to resist.  It was well understood at the time, that the 2nd Amendment guaranteed the people's ability to resist coerced participation in the Union.

So, what Ken Blackwell seems to be suggesting is that one may not "alter" government before it gets so despotic that it much be "abolish[ed]" altogether.  Secession seems to be a downright more civil alternative to an all-out revolution.

Of course, he also seems to be warning us that the federal government will not let a state choose independence from the United States government.  And that is certainly a real threat.  But if enough states were to secede, would American troops actually fire upon fellow American civilians just to ensure their continued status as federal taxpayers?  Is it really impossible for a state's citizens to declare in good faith that they will go their separate way without being hung for treason?  To me, there is something about this dogmatic Unionism-at-all-costs that is scarier than losing the unity of the states.

The other thing that I think that Ken Blackwell gets wrong: With what the government has become, the powers that it has usurped, its convenient distortions of the Bill of Rights, its suppression of religious freedom and morality, its intrusion into private affairs and property rights, its judicial overreach, the withering of the 10th and 2nd Amendments-- Jefferson and the moderate Adams both, and Madison, would have argued for secession or even worse long before we got to this point.  They would have considered the GOP, to say nothing of the Democratic Party, more "Tory" and more Big Government than those they laughingly called the "hyperfederalists."  They are both much more statist than Alexander Hamilton's Federalist party, not to mention Jefferson's Republican party, which was practically libertarian.

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