The election of Obama has made secession a once again popular topic among the fruitcake right. Here is Alex Tabarrok talking it up: http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/06/secession.html After a long quote from Patri Friedman, Alex throws in his own suggestion:
“Finally, don't forget: If at first you don't secede, try, try again.”
May I suggest a historically more plausible slogan? “If at first you don’t secede, enjoy your dance on the hanging tree!”
No doubt libertarians would find this punishment a bit harsh, but I don’t really agree. Jefferson, the rebel and revolutionary (or secessionist, if you prefer), was wise and honest enough to note that governments should not be dissolved for “light or transient causes.” Given his position, it’s quite natural that he didn’t want to go into detail, but the reasons are hardly obscure.
A nation is an organic whole, and tearing it apart is a traumatic event – frequently as traumatic as ripping off an arm or a leg. Secessions, successful or not, frequently kill large fractions of the inhabitants. That destruction is a natural and frequently inevitable consequence of the disruption of property, families, and livelihoods it occasions.
Finally, secession turns nations into rivals and frequently into enemies. The same factors of geographic proximity and shared resources that made nationhood possible now force them into rivalry and, frequently into deadly enmity. Imagine, for example, that the South had succeeded in its secession, either through Northern acquiescence or military might. Remember that the main real issue was already whether the West would be slave or free. Almost certainly, a long and bitterly protracted battle for the West would have begun, European powers would have intervened, and North America would have become a patchwork of weak and feuding enemies – like South America, perhaps.
The radical libertarian, with his studied obtuseness about history and human nature, somehow manages to miss all this.