After Brexit, Calexit. The idea of secession from the USA is gaining popularity amongst disgruntled Californian liberals, upset to – or often beyond – the point of tears by the result of the democratic election of Donald Trump. The Yes California Independence Campaign aims to stage a vote on the matter in the spring of 2019 as ‘the United States of America represents so many things that conflict with Californian values’. And now the campaign is gathering steam. California voted 61.6% to 32.7% for Clinton over Trump and is solely responsible for the popular vote going to Hillary.
Secession is a sound concept. As libertarians, we applaud the concept of any group of individuals being able to secede from whatever nation state they find themselves part of. In Nation, State and Economy, Ludwig von Mises said ‘No people and no part of a people shall be held against its will in a political association that it does not want’. The option of secession would certainly be an effective check on government power.
So it seems we agree with the left this time, and on the face of it, we do. The motivation is different, though. Whereas our call for secession to be possible is based on principle, the call form the Californian left is based on political expediency. The left is traditionally obsessed with the idea of imposing their ideas and standards on everyone else in the name of equality and would normally not welcome any dissenting group wanting to withdraw from a nation state. A political philosophy based on wealth transfer to a majority political constituency from the demonized ‘rich’ depends crucially on the impossibility for those ‘rich’ to extricate themselves from the power of the nation state. Socialists certainly have no sympathy for the protagonists in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, who aim to escape an increasingly statist, egalitarian USA. Most of the voices now calling for the opportunity to secede were of course quiet during the 8 years of the Obama administration, happy for ‘red’ states to suffer the imposition of Obama’s vision for America. For the left, the motivation to secede is paramount: escaping the proverbial bigots and racists (otherwise known as the common voter) is laudable, fleeing the totalitarian overreach of the welfare/warfare state is deplorable.
Hypocrisy has come to be expected from the left, and this is yet another example. Calls for secession to be possible should generally be praised, but coming from Californian Liberals it rings hollow.