Is Secession by Referendum Libertarian?

Little Nationalism can be as destructive of human flourishing as Big Nationalism.


Raimondo Forte/News Pictures / Polaris/Newscom

I have concerns about secession by referendum. Individual secession, of course, is no problem; that's simply libertarianism. Before I get into my reasons, let me stipulate that smaller political jurisdictions are on net preferable to larger ones if for no other reason than the lower cost of exit. That in itself may constrain government impositions. Competition is good, and a race to reduce oppression would obviously be laudable by libertarian standards. But governments of any kind may find ways to collude with one another to minimize the effects of competition. Governments today cooperate with one another to catch tax evaders.

Let me also put on the record my conviction that nation-states have no right to use force to stop any component from seceding. They have no legitimate claim on anyone's allegiance.

However, let's not forget that smaller, more local governments can be oppressive too, possibly more so than larger centralized ones. Many things factor into this. At any rate, Little Nationalism can be as destructive of human flourishing as Big Nationalism.

My concerns about group (not individual) secession are over the process of peaceful separation, namely, the referendum. Libertarians have long criticized political democracy—that is, the settling of "public" matters by majority vote either directly or through so-called representatives—as inherently violative of individual rights. By what authority does a majority lord it over a minority?

Well, doesn't this critique apply to referenda on secession? The chance of unanimity is tiny in any particular case, so why should the individuals who constitute a numerical minority be forced to dissociate from a nation-state and be subjugated by a new nation-state simply because the majority decreed it? A dissenting minority might not be concentrated in one area that could easily secede from the newly seceded territory and remain with the original country or form its own country. What then?

True, dissenting individuals would presumably be free to relocate, but why should people have to abandon their homes because of a majority's preference? That hardly seems fair. It sounds like "love it or leave it."

In the recent referendum in Catalonia, over 177,000 people—nearly 8 percent of the 43 percent of registered voters who cast ballots—voted against secession. A lot of people don't want to split from Spain. Of course, this does not justify the central government's violent interference with the referendum or the separation. There's is nothing sacred about today's nation-states, which were all built from conquest, myth, and historical contingency. But the rights of the members of a minority in a secessionist community still ought not to be ignored by advocates of individual liberty. Too often libertarian defenders of particular acts of secession talk as if the population unanimously favored the spit. Individualists shouldn't overlook individuals.

The case of the Southern secession from the United States is even clearer than the one in Catalonia. No public referendum was held. Instead, so-called representatives did the voting. But even if a public referendum had been held, slaves would not have been allowed to vote—and they were the reason for the secession in the first place (at least in the lower South). Again, this doesn't justify Lincoln's war, but it certainly cast a shadow over secession as a libertarian act.

Some of the best criticism of democratic decision-making came from the legal scholar Bruno Leoni, whose collection of papers, Freedom and the Law (expanded third edition), deserves more attention than it gets. In the final chapter of the expanded edition (but not in the original), "Voting versus the Market," Leoni dissected majority rule in a coercive state context. (I discuss Leoni's analysis in "The Crazy Arithmetic of Voting.")

Leoni took issue with Anthony Downs's famous description of majority rule, in which Downs wrote,

The basic arguments in favor of simple majority rule rest upon the premise that every voter should have equal weight with every other voter. Hence, if disagreement occurs but action cannot be postponed until unanimity is reached, it is better for more voters to tell fewer what to do than vice versa. The only practical arrangement to accomplish this is simple majority rule. Any rule requiring more than a simple majority for a passage of an act allows a minority to prevent action by the majority thus giving the vote of each member of the minority more weight than the vote of each member of the majority.

To which Leoni responded:

This argument seems to be the same as saying that we must give a one dollar bill to everybody in order to give each one the same purchasing power. But when we consider the analogy at closer quarters, we realize that in assuming that 51 voters out of 100 are "politically" equal to 100 voters, and that the remaining 49 (contrary) voters are "politically" equal to zero (which is exactly what happens when a group decision is made according to majority rule) we give much more "weight" to each voter ranking on the side of the winning 51 than to each voter ranking on the side of the losing 49. It would be more appropriate to compare this situation with that resulting in the market if 51 people having one dollar each combine in buying a gadget which costs 51 dollars, while another 49 people with 1 dollar each have to do without it because there is only one gadget for sale….

The fact that we cannot possibly foresee who will belong to the majority does not change the picture much.

In other words, in a representative or direct democracy, 50 percent plus one equals 100 percent and 50 percent minus one equals zero.

Does this mean we libertarians have no remedy for people who wish not to live under the central government of a large nation-state? Of course we have: anarchism, in which each individual is sovereign and free to contract with market firms for security and dispute resolution. I realize anarchism isn't on the menu today, but there's an idea that may be more acceptable to people: panarchism. Roderick Long explains:

The concept of panarchy comes from an 1860 work of that title by the Belgian botanist and political economist Paul Émile de Puydt (1810-1891). The essence of his panarchist proposal is that people should be free to choose the political regime under which they will live without having to relocate to a different territory.

Under panarchism, individuals could in effect secede, but their next-door neighbors need not. Problem solved! This may not satisfy nationalists big and small, but it would protect individuals.

Long notes that advocates of panarchism have had differences over details but adds, "I would resist calling the panarchist's political regimes 'states'; and I have no problem regarding panarchism, at least in its modern form, as a species of anarchism." But we need not settle this now.

The editors of a recent anthology, Panarchy: Political Theories of Non-Territorial States, to which Long contributed a chapter, describe the term as "a normative political meta-theory that advocates non-territorial states founded on actual social contracts that are explicitly negotiated and signed between states and their prospective citizens."

"This characterisation, with its call for explicitly signed contracts," Long comments, "is a somewhat narrower use of the term than is common in contemporary anarchist circles, or at least those in which I move. John Zube, who has done more than anyone to popularise the concept, defines it a bit less rigidly as the 'realization of as many different and autonomous communities as are wanted by volunteers for themselves, all non-territorially coexisting … yet separated from each other by personal laws, administrations and jurisdictions….'"

It sounds like a recipe for peace and social cooperation.

No doubt people will say that overlapping non-territorial governments couldn't possibly work. But an editor of the anthology, Aviezer Tucker, writes that "there have been many historically functioning models of mixed, overlapping, and extra-territorial … jurisdictions."

I have not taken leave of my senses. I realize that panarchism is not on today's agenda. But it will never be on it if we never talk about it. With secession and conflict in the news, what could be a better time?

This piece was originally published by The Libertarian Institute.

NEXT: The Long, Frustrating Fight to Get an Iraqi Interpreter Out of Baghdad and Into the U.S.

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  1. Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

    How do they know to delete for any reason if they do not read the comments (either?)

    1. The answer lies in "Report abuses."

      1. "The answer lies in "Report abuses."

        Aye comrade. The traitors must be exposed!

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  2. It's only yours if you can take it and keep it. I think that the western world has become extremely jaded when it comes to force and violence. By no means am I advocating force or violence. To ignore that they exist by claiming some higher moral ground or superior intellect would be naive and frankly idiotic.

    There are finite resources on this planet. Animals, including people, have been struggling over resources since inception. If anyone thinks that power structures are going to willing give up land, slaves, strategic military bases, strategic economic bases, water, minerals, ocean access, etc... I have no sympathy for you for what comes next.

    It takes revolution to do what they want to do. Votes are for the state media to justify their actions to the people, not the other way around.

    1. Eh I have no problem with government putting down rebellions, especially people who think they are at the top of the food chain and preach that they're are "gonna rise up and take back the _______" . Military should end them. We have no sympathy for them. Problems can be solve via democratic debate, democracy ain't pretty, but the USA is doing just fine.

      1. I don't have a problem with putting down rebellions in all cases, there are surely plenty that had it coming... But not all secessionist movements, for instance, are worthy of such treatment. In fact most probably deserve to be allowed to secede without violence against them. I know that's not how most governments in history see it, but I think it frequently would have worked out better for both parties.

        As far as democracy... It works okay, sometimes, for awhile. But the USA has been getting progressively worse on 90% of issues for the last 100+ years. In the 1800s we had about as good a government as anybody could expect to get in the real world. Now look at the mess we have. That's been growing democracy versus constitutionally limited republic at work. I'm not saying there's anything better on the table, but democracy sometimes needs a secession or reboot to get it back on track.

        1. "As far as democracy... It works okay, sometimes, for awhile."
          Democracy sucks; it's mob rule.
          A republic, with democratic voting, can possibly works, but hasn't so far.

          1. Yeah an outright democracy is a horrible idea. Our republic has also been turned to crap though, largely because of our democratic voting aspects. Honestly, I think a nation needs to restrict voting more heavily if it wants to maintain a properly free nation. The founding fathers essentially only allowed white male landowners to vote. I think the general idea is correct in that the theory was to prevent idiots from voting.

            Obviously you're not going to get away with bringing that back! LOL But the intention is sound IMO. Most of the problems have come from uneducated morons having the right to vote, when frankly they shouldn't. I don't know that a landownership AKA financial requirement is entirely required... But I would suggest everyone should have to pass a history/civics test, and MAYBE some sort of general intelligence test of some sort. If you don't know what country we seceded from or who we fought in WWII you don't deserve to be able to decide SHIT. Yet tons are that stupid.

            This WOULD slant things towards the more intelligent/well off, which would create resentment... But would it be any worse than it is now? And at least smarter people would be the only ones voting. I imagine 98% of posters on here would pass a reasonable test, and that 90% of the ANTIFA crowd would fail. That's a result I could live with. But people are too brainwashed in egalitarianism to ever do anything sensible like that unfortunately.

            1. This is a horrible idea.

              What you need is a contract that clearly delineates the powers of governmental branches and the rights of people which cannot be infringed. Set up an extremely arduous system to change said contract and uphold it uncompromisingly. This is the best protection from mob rule. The mob can then vote on things that don't infringe on the rights of individuals.

              We had that once (you can argue about how clearly things were delineated) and it's only failed in that the Constitution has become a living document with clauses contorted to the point that they are unrecognizable, and a Congress (We the People) that has ceded most of it's power to the executive and/or courts.

              1. Forget constitutions. People should sign written agreements with the governments they join, with clauses for separation when the person wants out.

                1. And if the government says, "No, you can't leave," then what?

              2. Leo, that's what we already have, and it has fallen apart because of idiots having equal say in the system. The founders were wise enough to place what they saw as reasonable restraints on voting because of the obvious problem of morons voting. As I said I don't think going back to white male landowners exclusively is the way to do it, or even possible in the USA today... But what is so horrible about not having universal suffrage?

                When common sense ruled people accepted the obvious idea that "Uneducated morons shouldn't be able to vote." The idea of equality under the law has been pushed beyond reason to become "everybody is objectively equal," but they're two entirely different things with two entirely different outcomes. Equality in terms of most legal treatment is fair and reasonable, but everybody is not equal.

                Putting basic competency requirements on voting is not unreasonable IMO. Creating the right set of requirements that are fair could be a challenge, but a basic civics/history test is not too tough. I'd be happy with just that, and maybe even raising the voting age to 25 or 30 or something. I just crossed 30 myself not long ago, and I would have been fine with not being able to vote until this last election. Young people and dumb people just don't have sense enough to be calling the shots.

  3. Surely there have been more than two secessions to occur throughout history, to provide a little more generalizability of our conclusions here.

    Here's a more interesting argument to make heads explode: just as geographically smaller and more local govts aren't necessarily better, being conquered and occupied by a foreign power/empire isn't necessarily worse. It all depends on how bad the alternative was. Both options still suck of course.

    1. Surely there have been more than two secessions to occur throughout history...

      Surprisingly, no.

  4. Excellent article. I so enjoy everything Sheldon writes. Then again, out of all the Reason writers, he is the closest to my personal views, so no surprise there.

    1. I enjoy Sheldon's topics of discussions but they never seem to address how to make progress right now given the current environment. They're all about the best way to organize the world that exist solely inside Sheldon's imagination. In other words, not really practical.

      1. Well, that is sort of his role. Some people focus on small incremental changes that can be made in the direction of liberty, and some people focus on what a free society might look like or what the ultimate goal, for which we should be striving, should be.

        1. One if the big problems libertarianism has is mixing the practical and the theoretical. I've thought that there needs to be seperate words for each so when having a debate it can be made clear which realm the discussion is in.

          1. One if the big problems libertarianism has is mixing the practical and the theoretical. I've thought that there needs to be separate words for each

            "politics" and "philosophy"

            its not just libertarians who mix up the 2. but you are correct that libertarians confuse the 2 a lot.

            politics is where compromises are made in order to satisfy competing material interests. philosophy lives entirely in the theoretical world.

            the vast majority of people don't have political views established via "bottom-up reasoning from philosophically established first principles". they simply have a grab-bag of priority issues. and their feelings about these issues are motivated mainly by self-interest and cultural in-group affiliation

            Many libertarians are often terrible at politics because they don't understand that 90% of the public has no interest in, or use for any political philosophy. many continue to be terrible at it because they're not actually interested in advancing any political issue, or changing material conditions. they're only interested in the philosophy because its their own form of in-group signaling.

            iow, its in their interests to be 'outsiders', because that allows them to preen about what they're 'not'. They need statists like Iran needs The Great Satan.

            1. This so much. What libertarians need to realize is you don't make changes with philosophy. I've railed on here many times about the high horse libertarians who wax all poetic about their pure values. Yet they're too friggin egotistical and dense to realize they just sound like a pretentious asshat and people ignore them.

              Also far too many ignore the reality of our political situation and the mechanisms in place. Too many libertarians can tell you how things "should" be, but have no clue how to achieve that end in real life.

              You start by communicating to people clearly, even the "simpler" ones these arrogant libertarians think are below them. And that's my main problem with Sheldon. Far too much is hypothetical bullshit. This article alone makes like 3 assumptions to establish a "utopian" libertarian position, then uses all that crap to justify another assumption on the majority libertarian position. Regardless of if you agree with the point, it's a really confusing, presumptuous, and pretentious way to get there.

              Do we want to win seats and change policy, or are we just trying to be some kind of club of smartasses? Because the libertarian party is failing badly at the former.

              1. This distinction is the difference between a Gary Johnson supporter in 2016 and a libertarian detractor. Gary Johnson could have moved the needle so far in the direction of liberty that one could easily overlook his quirkiness and hypocrisy on baking wedding cakes.

                Instead the libertarian philosophers are only interested in whether or not he passes their own thousands of litmus tests for purity.

              2. "Do we want to win seats and change policy, or are we just trying to be some kind of club of smartasses? Because the libertarian party is failing badly at the former."

                I've been saying pretty much the same thing here for years. Whenever I bring it up, you can hear the crickets in the background while I wait for any response. In my community, we have a constitutional conservatives group that is going in the right direction. Not exactly the LP, but they look at issues from a constitutional and individual rights perspective. Thankfully, they do not rubber stamp everyone with an 'R' after their name.

                One of our state reps is a big supporter of the group, and even though he is a pretty hardcore conservative, he recently stood up for medical marijuana patient's rights after Gov. Inslee limited their rights, closed medical dispensaries, and forc3d the merger with recreational marijuana (largely to boost taxable marijuana traffic).

                It isn't everything it could be, but it's a start, and a constructive grass roots effort that actually gets some results. I'm hoping we can get a few more people in the direction of Ran Paul 8nto the state legislature.

            2. 100% correct. I like the theoretical philosophy, but I am also living on planet earth, unlike a lot of libertarian leaners who apparently are posting from an alternate reality or something. If I had a magic wand I would change all kinds of things about how the world functions, but I don't.

              I have come to the conclusion that libertarianism IS somewhat like communism, and by that I mean we fall back on the "But it's never really been tried!" argument a lot. Which is true, much of it hasn't been tried. The reason I lean libertarian is that every incremental step a nation takes towards those ideals usually makes it better in the real world. For communism every step closer to its pure form the nation gets worse off. Hence liberty wins!

              I do have some objections to strict libertarian theory on certain issues though, as I believe there are real world downsides with some things that have become purity test indicators. Just as communism's rejection of personal self interest in its doctrine is a flaw, so is ignoring human GROUP preferences in libertarian thought on some issues. I believe a 95% pure libertarian government with just a few concessions for crappy parts of human nature would be the best form of government.

              1. All that is needed is to not allow the government to initiate force. Make them follow the NAP.

                1. Ice Trey, there can never be a government that doesn't use force in some situations. As Elias says the best hope we have is to push our government back to being WITHIN REASON on the situations in which it uses force. Anarchy is not workable on a global scale, so you have to accept some limited government force. The trick is to limit it to within reason.

                  1. Yes but the force is retaliatory. The function of government is to defend individual negative liberty with the retaliatory use of force.

              2. I think a realistic goal would be to continually push to restore the existing government to its constitutional limits, and act as boosters for political candidates that will actually do that.

            3. politics is where compromises are made in order to satisfy competing material interests.

              Sounds like you are spouting philosophy to me. Despite your efforts, you can't get away from philosophy. Yes, politics is all about group interests, but you have to dress it up in philosophical arguments to sell it to the masses. Do the masses make their decisions on the philosophical arguments? No, they vote on tribe allegiances. But the opinion shapers do.

              Some of us are not interested in politics, because we do not believe that significant movement in the direction of liberty can be achieved through the political means. Most positive changes that are credited to some political achievement are in fact a reflection of a changing social more. The change is social first, and then politics simply reflects that. History has shown this over and over. Therefore, why not focus on changing people's ideas? Slavery wasn't abolished through politics until the majority of the population thought the practice was repulsive. Some of us hope the same will one day be said of things like coercive taxation.

              Finally, it is interesting that the commenters here that object to "pure libertarian theory" are exactly the ones that want the government to keep doing certain things that will protect their group preferences at the expense of certain individuals they don't like.

              1. You're correct that philosophy and changes in the general public opinion generally create the political change. But at some point you have to push those changes in politics too. It's a two front war. Some people push the ideas to the public, others have to be fighting the fight in the political realm.

                As far as my disagreements with pure libertarian theory, it's generally an acceptance on my part of some parts of human nature. Pure libertarianism is essentially completely discounting any group preference and human nature as it relates to our natural herd mentality that pops up in some situations.

                We ARE herd animals. To completely ignore that is foolish. See recent electoral history and how globalist elitists have fared because of immigration alone. Likewise communism ignoring individuality is foolish. Our nature lies between those two extremes. I believe government should be far on the individualistic side... But it can't ignore some bits of "general consensus" stuff either. If 99% of a population is against something chances are it's going to get hated on. Think a "victimless" crime like banging willing 10 year olds. You could make an argument that that should be legal on the same logic as smoking crack should be legal. I'm for letting people smoke crack, but I don't think I can stomach legal pedophilia like that... Lowering the age of consent from where it is, yeah, but no limits... I dunno about dem apples.

                1. So on some issues, overwhelming popular opinion can't help but come into play. The trick is to limit it to things that either make sense because of logic, human nature, or some other major imperative. Changes are if overwhelming majorities of people are absolutely disgusted with an idea it's probably biologically programmed into our species to not like that thing, and fighting it is probably tilting at windmills.

                  I deduce you might be talking about immigration as one of those things some people do/don't prefer? In group preference is a real scientific fact, every race/nationality practices it, which is one of many reasons why I am in favor of secession.

                  If some people in Europe want to destroy their nation and history through mass immigration, for instance, let them. But if PART of France wanted to secede and remain French because they like being French and not a global mishmash of random people that don't respect their history or values, I think that should be fine too. Sometimes you HAVE to choose one way or another. You can't make everybody happy all the time. If somebody is in favor of mass immigration they by default are "offending" the sensibilities of somebody who isn't, but neither position is really morally wrong IMO. Hence allowing different nations to have different laws/norms is the best way.

                  1. Getting bogged down in specifics is useless. The real fight is is between positive and negative liberty.

              2. I don't think it's that. Most folks here probably consider pursuing an agenda that consists of stricter adherence to the constitution to be a more attainable goal than dissolving the government in favor anarchocapitalism.

      2. This article is epic navel gazing.

    2. Chipper Morning, I don't think you just enjoy Sheldon because you agree with him. I disagree with him a lot, but his stuff is always well-reasoned and well-presented and I usually learn something. This article in particular is the best one I have read here in a long time. Don't necessarily agree with all of it, but I did learn something, and it makes me want to do more thinking about it.

      Richman also reads and engages the comments, which is kind of cool, but makes me wonder about him . . .

  5. For better or worse, nation-states are how our world is organized. That being the case, doesn't it make sense that as many people as possible get to have the place they are living be part of the state that they want it to be part of, one of the size that they want?

  6. I can't even figure out what the author really thinks in this self-contradictory mishmash of assorted thoughts thrown together. Individuals have the right to secede but groups of individuals may not, big centralized governments are bad but smaller governments may or may not be even worse, violence is bad but non-violent processes are no good either.... this is one of the most incoherent pieces I've ever seen here.

    1. Seems to me Richman is playing the role of Devil's Advocate here. There are problems with panarchism, namely how do you provide for the typical government services (police, courts, fire, water, electricity, sewer) when different people on the block belong to different countries? How would taxation work: are sales taxes on the store based upon the owner's affiliation or the buyer's?

      The net of the issue is that many like to use government force to live off of others (and I'd bet a lot of those no-secession votes are a vote for exactly that). After all Catalonians produce a lot more than Spaniards in general, are taxed more in general, and get less back from the government than Spaniards who look at Catalonians as cows to milk (or in the classic argument, as sheep for the wolves' dinner).

      Still, more smaller governments, mean more choices, and more government competition provided people can vote with their feet. Which in a sense is panarchism.

      1. Police: You hire a security company (or sign up for a government). Your neighbor can hire a different one. They contract with a local patrol firm, maybe the same one, maybe not.

        Courts: If you sue someone who hired the same government, you use their courts. If you sue someone with a different government, you use a neutral court. In an actual crime, you use the victim's government's court.

        Fire: You hire an insurance company (or sign up for a government). Your neighbor can hire a different one. They contract with a local fire fighting firm, maybe the same one, maybe not. Or you let people on the boundary choose between two fire departments. The better one grows and the worse one shrinks.

        Utilities: Let residents on the boundaries of 2 districts choose which district they prefer. The district with better service grows and the district with worse service shrinks.

        1. I think it would become a nightmare for an individual to keep track of all that themselves. It's already a pain keeping all the contractual services I already use in line, and my life isn't that complicated..

    2. Ding ding.

      And Libertarians wonder why the party can't find a foothold with such clear and articulate positions and supporting facts...

  7. Didn't we settle this in the Civil War?

    Which in no way applies to California?

    1. I think non-Californians are more interested in seeing CA succeed than their own citizens.

      1. Any non-Californian who actually wants the state to secede is a moron. People may rightly hate the political idiocy of CA, but the economic and productive importance of the state is far more important to the health of the country.

        1. I doubt that in reality their are very many people who would really want them to succeed even if it were possible which it isn't It's just fun to egg them on.

        2. So, you're saying that if CA seceded, the rest of us would not be able to buy products or services originating there?

          Now, if you meant "health of the federal govt", then sure, it would be bad for those folks.

          1. So, you're saying that if CA seceded, the rest of us would not be able to buy products or services originating there?
            Not necessarily, but it's not unlikely.

            A New California Republic would need to draw up it's open trade agreements, sign treaties, negotiate water rights and so-on. And I think it's safe to assume that if California is seceding, it's because it has profound disagreements with the current Congress and President, the very same who they will then have to negotiate with for those treaties and agreements.

            Even if negotiations don't drag on for years (and with how much Republicans have used California as a bogey-man, they probably would drag it out), do you think those negotiations are going to be anywhere close to "free markets"?

            Face it, if California secedes, goods and services from the new republic are probably going to off market for years, and will be sharply limited when they return. Especially since California leaving would push US be politics even further right-ward.

            So yeah. We wouldn't *necessarily* be unable to buy from California. But it doesn't seem that unlikely.

            1. Whoops, messed up my block quote.

        3. Nah, it really isn't.

        4. As someone born in California, and who now lives in Washington state, and is getting ready to bail out of here soon because of how hard left this state is going, I would beg to differ.

          California produces a good amount of wealth, sure. But the rest of the US does not need them in any way shape or form. If California went its own way tomorrow the USA would still be the richest country on earth, and we'd still be doing just fine across the board. I would actually propose Cali to Seattle all go together, for the sake of fairness to the leftys. Maybe we keep north of Seattle so we could develop a new western port or something.

          Obviously we would want a free trade agreement with Cali, and a number of other concessions that helped us both out. But we would in no way be killing the rest of the country. Remember big total numbers (GDP for instance) do not mean shit all to actual happiness or well being. Cali has a lot of wealthy people, and also the most people living in poverty of any state in the country. So we'd just be culling the population by 10-15% (if Or. and Wa. went) and that's about it. And changing voting patterns of course 🙂

          The political changes that would then be enabled by the shift in politics in this country would likely benefit us far more than Cali paying their fair share of Fed Gov services.

          1. Obviously we would want a free trade agreement with Cali, and a number of other concessions that helped us both out.

            Consider how much *more* extreme political tensions will need to be before California (or any other state) gets serious enough about secession to realistically try in this day and age.

            Do you really think that, given how bad things will have gotten, that any "fair-trade" agreement will be either "fair" or timely?

            No, if any state secedes, it'll be a messy affair. Hopefully not bloody, but it'll be years before animosity simmers down. I mean hell, just think of how long the US would throw it's weight around denying a seceded state from joining the UN (and how anyone trading with the state before then would be accused of "trading with a rogue nation").

            1. Entirely possible. But it doesn't have to be that way. 5 years ago I wouldn't have said this, but NOW I feel like a lot of people in the country would literally GLADLY let California go. It could almost be a "Yeah, sure, we'll give you whatever you want as long as you LEAVE!" kind of a situation. I would in fact advocate such an approach. I don't think things need to get any more extreme than they are now, and I feel we can still talk nicely enough to cut them lose since it's what both sides somewhat desire.

              The trick is that BOTH sides want it. It's only nasty when it's only one side that wants it to happen. Czechoslovakia split pretty politely into 2 countries, so I don't see where it would be impossible. The easiest is of course to maintain the status quo while negotiations are ongoing, and only change once it was all settled, and a random date assigned for the secession to take legal effect.

              But in truth, even if we did split without free trade agreements, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Cali is a big enough economy to deal with their own shit, and the rest of the country obviously is too. Long haul I think it would be preferable for both the left and right. Why lefties don't just move to Europe or Canada has always perplexed me, but if they want to be in geography that's part of the USA today, let them have their spot and be done with it.

    2. Didn't we settle this in the Civil War?

      Not really. The real answer is, "The winner makes the laws."
      The U.S. is independent of England because Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown.
      The Confederacy is still part of the U.S. because Lee surrendered to Grant at Gettysburg.

      1. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, and Grant didn't even have the decency to polish his boots for the occasion.

    3. I think that a modern America would not react the same as 1860 America.

      Whether we're talking about California, Alaska or "the South", I think the secessionists would be permitted to leave.

      Then again, I'm biased here. I think we need an amendment that explicitly defines how a state or territory leaves the union. It should be difficult (this article includes some of the reasons why) and should address various financial matters, but it should be well-defined and agreed upon *before* folks try to secede.

      The lack of an agreed-upon process is a large part of the problem of a peaceful secession.

    4. I thought we settled secession as being okay on July 4, 1776.

    5. CA would be an awesome state if we just got rid of all the progressives. the question is, what is the best way of ridding ourselves of them? Suggestions please.

  8. I'm not sure I see why people who would reject anarchism would be more comfortable with panarchism. Once you go down the path of market competition for what are traditionally government services why do it half assed.

    1. It is likely that each of this non-territorial government entities will have it's strength and weaknesses regarding various services so why not open the services up a la carte bus the private sector. These private entities could also offer bundled services but you wouldn't necessarily have to go that route.

      1. Not that it really matters. This is a fun philosophical discussion but that is all it will ever be, at least in our lifetimes.

        1. Actually, in this particular case, it doesn't have to be philosophical. Within the EU, Spain and Catalonia could separate, people could remain citizens of whatever nation state they want to be citizen of, and otherwise keep on living wherever they are living.

          1. Certainly it doesn't "have" to be but realistically it is.

          2. "Actually"

            I love when people begin their sentences like that then don't correct anything like you did there.

    2. When you work out what either "panarchism" or "libertarianism" mean, they become pretty much indistinguishable from each other. That is, you end up contracting for insurance, police, law, security, defense, etc. with organizations that themselves have worked out how they relate to each other. Whether you call those organizations "states" or "companies" makes little difference.

      1. True, once you start voting with your dollars instead of ballots, for all practical purpose they are companies.

        1. In panarchism, presumably different governments have different tax regimes. That is why panarchism does amount to voting with your dollars.

      2. How does one expect a police or defense organization to be bound by a contract? Using force is their profession. There's no reason for them to obey the contract unless they suck at their job.

        1. If they violate the contract they are fired.

          1. LOL. What in your anarchy stops them from refusing to accept being fired, and continuing to demand payment "or else"? If they're weak enough that you can force them to accept it, then why did you hire them in the first place?

            1. If our military is weak enough that it can't put down a popular rebellion, why did we hire them?

              A: "Division of labor".

            2. What in your anarchy stops them from refusing to accept being fired

              Well, first of all, the tens of thousands of other private police forces. Second, the fact that if they break their contract, their contracts with others would become null and void as well.

              If they're weak enough that you can force them to accept it, then why did you hire them in the first place?

              Because a libertarian world doesn't need the kind of police or military overkill you're imagining in the first place: it simply is not rational or cost effective for private enterprise to create them. The only reason we have them is because we have nation states and the kinds of corruption and special interests that go along with them.

              1. In Libertopia only initiating force would be a crime so the thousands of non violent crimes that exist now wouldn't.

        2. How does one expect a police or defense organization to be bound by a contract? Using force is their profession. There's no reason for them to obey the contract unless they suck at their job.

          You're making the erroneous assumption that contractual enforcement is ultimately related to the use of force. All you can do through the use of force is take someone's physical property. You can't take their virtual property, their contracts, or their labor.

      3. Only if you are an unpragmatic idealist who lives in lala land. There is a spectrum to everything in life, hopefully a good libertarian one will try and use his influence to push the needle in the direction of individual liberty as far as possible.

    3. Yeah, they seem to be largely the same dif. Anarchy actually seems more realistic and plausible than panarchy actually. Panarchy just is not a very realistic thing in the real world.

      I think the idea of more smaller states where people can pick the type of government that works for them is good enough. As such I'm all in favor of secession in virtually all cases, even when I strongly disagree with the reasons behind it.

    4. Panarchism is an intermediate step that could help with marketing. People are afraid of what will happen if there are no governments, because of the Purge movies. So instead of going from one big territorial government to say, two, they might understand better how it could work. Call the first government option the Republican Government and the second government option the Democrat Government, for instance. If people can choose which government they belong to, they don't have to worry about the other government passing laws to control them in ways they don't like.

      Of course, most statists would still have a problem with that, because they mostly want to control everyone else.

  9. Secession by referendum is not libertarian because it imposes the (local) majority will on the minority who didn't want to leave. Opposing a referendum on secession forces people to remain part of a nation state that they don't want to be part of.

    The source of that problem is that the operation of nation states and democracies inherently violates the NAP, and choices that involve violations of the NAP regardless of outcome can simply not be decided based on libertarian principles.

    1. Unfortunately it seems like the best we can do right now is to try and fight the ongoing expansion of government power and push it back in areas where possible. I go back and forth between hope and despair regarding the future of freedom.

    2. It's not inherent that states violate the NAP. It's a choice. They don't HAVE to initiate force.

      1. It's not inherent that states violate the NAP. It's a choice. They don't HAVE to initiate force.

        I think the violation of the NAP is pretty much inherent in the notion of a nation state; you can't have a nation state without violating the NAP against at least some citizens.

    3. It may violate the NAP, but so what? That's life. I do not believe in anarchy as a viable solution for the world. MAYBE a small geographical area could practice it as a weird experiment, but the whole globe can't go that way IMO. Humans have always had territorial boundaries. Even pre-human neanderthal tribal groups had "their territory." Lesser animals do it too. It's a natural behavior of many species, humans being one of them.

      So this means we simply have to have some form of state. The founding fathers realized government is an evil, but a necessary one. I'm basically behind this idea. Keep it small, but there has to be a basic framework. The fact that it violates the NAP is irrelevant, because there isn't a workable alternative.

      1. Correct, vek. I think that the anarchists are the only ones who are completely faithful to the NAP, so props to them for that. But I'm with Aristotle, who says, "Man is by nature a political animal. Anyone who lives outside the city is either a beast or a god." In other words, politics is who we are. It's part of us. You can't stop people from living in political societies any more than you can stop them from eating, sleeping, or fucking. It's what we are designed to do by nature, and it's good for us. We wouldn't be fully human without it.

        What this means to me is either that (1) the existence of the polity is logically prior to the NAP, or (2) violations of the NAP may be excused to the extent that they are necessary for the polity to exist. I'd probably go with the latter. The question therefore is not whether the state should exist. That is a foregone conclusion. The question is what kind of state it should be. That is why I am a minarchist.

        1. All very true. Socializing and having hierarchy are natural human behaviors. Logic can let us think things through and reason that overly rigid or overly powerful hierarchy is a bad thing, but there's still that need there for some sort of order. Minarchy would work for me, but I'd settle for just trimming things back by about a century or century and a halfs worth of growth in government size/functions!

    4. But it's still better than not letting a region leave. Some smaller states will be worse, but it's still a better option overall.

  10. The federalist model seems to work well. Some decisions and functions are best made by governments of small geographies, others by governments of large geographies. The trick is to keep the large geography govt from siphoning off the small geography govts' powers over time. This happened with the EU almost immediately though it took a century or two in the US.

  11. Although it's all pretty much bullshit, if you have an island to move to that is recognized by the international community as your sovereign domain then you should be able to secede I suppose, but 99.999999% of people live in a community and you can't "separate" from that community and still enjoy it's benefits, such as laws, cops, roads, fresh air, land or anything else that belongs to the community. So go ahead and get your island and enjoy your pure Libertarianism. You don't get to call a referendum because then you are pushing your agenda on the populace.

    1. "such as laws, cops, roads, fresh air, land or anything else that belongs to the community"

      You seem to presume a lot of things belong to politicians that don't, if I understand your meaning of "community".

      1. I'm wondering why he's discussing referendums when he clearly doesn't understand what they are.

      2. He's right though, they don't belong to politicians, they belong to your community, which in America is typically controlled by elected politicians/leaders.

        The best example of what is being discussed is the Amish, and the way they govern themselves and shun those who go against the communities wishes or attempt to break from their traditions. They control their own education, food, transportation, economy, trading, security, and many other things.

    2. Hi Tony!

    3. Screw democracy! Take your "referendum" and stuff it!

    4. ^ Spoken like a true totalitarian and socialist!

    5. I think the scare quotes belong on "benefits".

  12. Nation-states have no right to initiate force, period.


  13. This article recognizes that the 50%+1 may lead to outcomes whereby the 50%+1 take the wealth of the remainder, but it never gets around to asking when do we even want to let other people vote on something that affects us? Unanimity, which is disparaged as unattainable, is actually quite attainable in a lot of important circumstances. When I buy a widget from you, both you and I have to be in agreement that we are willing to trade my money for your widget. Both parties were made better off by the transaction. Most people view politics as a zero sum good, in which case it is clear that unanimity would never be possible, since any move makes someone worse off.

    The real question is what do we want to allow the realm of politics to have access to? The US Constitution tries to limit what the federal government can do, but it left everything else to the people or the states. Of course, it was silent on departing the union, and that was a mistake that Mr. Lincoln and the South decided was worth the war. I'm of the view that such matters would have been much better stated as a two-sided agreement: Those who want to leave have to vote that they want to leave, and those who are being left get to vote whether they want to let the other's leave. If both agree, then it will be much less painful. If you want a supermajority on either or both sides, I would not argue against that, since all major changes in the polity should be difficult to make.

    1. The 2 part voting process is eminently reasonable. A super majority wouldn't be bad either. It is neigh impossible to get 100% agreement, but either of those is reasonable enough.

      I think with secession the thing is that you will definitely never please everybody, but people DO have a choice to leave if they disagree strongly enough to do so. This is no different than people can leave if a state puts in an income tax or other law that they feel strongly enough about to leave. I'm pretty much planning on moving states for the first time in my adult life because I see things going sideways real fast in Washington state with all the people moving to Seattle and changing the voting patterns. It's not horrible now, but it's just tipping into crazy left wing politics being on the table at the state level for the first time. Once it shifts it's going to go FAST though.

      I just don't get why everybody is so against secession. It is perhaps the least violent and least aggressive way to settle major disputes between large numbers of people, but EVERYBODY always wants to force their way on everybody else. When it has been allowed to happen peacefully it has usually worked amazingly well, so I just don't get all the hating on it.

    2. You can't let the central government stop anyone from leaving, or there's no possibility to leave.
      That would solve the problem of central government overreach.

  14. I still don't get how "panarchism" is any different from the usual Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist utopia.

    If they're non-territorial, then they aren't states. All of the sophistic historical examples cited, are cases where the state that held the territory agreed to recognize and permit some sort of special personal jurisdiction for certain categories of individuals, such as the arrangement Europeans often extracted from China in unequal treaties, or the way each nation retains jurisdiction over its citizens in Antarctica. That's no more "non-territorial" than saying the US government is "non-territorial" because it exercises some personal jurisdiction over federal employees even when they're in a state whose citizens otherwise aren't subject to that jurisdiction. (cf. the federal crime of assaulting one of their employees, vs. the regular state-level crime of assault). It's all still based on a monopoly over a certain territory, just with different details in how it's structured and how that monopoly is exercised.

    If you "state" is just like some private security agency that you freely contract with... even granting the premise that could work, panarchism and anarchism sounds like a distinction without a difference.

    1. They're non-territorial states, with the bundle of powers people are used to states having.
      Then we just need to start disaggregating the bundles.

  15. "But Richman is concerned over the process of peaceful separation?namely, the referendum."

    So if 51% of the people peacefully agree to steal from 49% of the people, that's OK?
    Either Richman or the editor is guilty of thinking in the shallow end of the pool; let's have a bit more thought on the costs of that referendum, and its safeguards for those who don't agree.

  16. BTW, I'd suggest that anyone proposing the Catalan vote to be a vote for self-responsibility to research The EU hand-outs for 'regions' of countries.
    There is no reason to presume the Catalans were choosing 'freedom' as opposed to higher 'free shit' bounties if they were not any longer connected with Spain.
    I'm more than willing to be corrected if someone finds otherwise.

    1. Well, apparently Catalonia is the milk cow of Spain. They get milked by the rest of the country, so that is one reason they want their freedom. Free shit from the EU may or may not have crossed many of the peoples minds.

      I think it is more of an identity thing than anything. They've always seen themselves as NOT Spanish, sooo they want to do their thing.

      I want the USA to split up into nations that separate the two completely opposing views of the world that now exist in this country, so that I can move to the non socialist one and actually live like a proper American is supposed to be able to live... Free. Whether that is booting California out so the rest of the country can go back to being the America it was supposed to be, or whether that is Texas going its own way I don't care. Other than the practical benefits it's an identity thing. I can't stand this commie nonsense that is just getting deeper and deeper entrenched in the USA, I want to be free like shit was when my ancestors were building this country. That can't happen with all of these crazy socialists being in the same country. So the only option is to split. I don't even care if the country is smaller, or weaker or whatever, I just want to be free to live in a more traditional individualistic American culture like in the good ol' days.

      I think that's what they're feeling in Catalonia too. They want to be free to decide their own fate, whatever the consequences.

  17. Secession is the only peaceful way to solve a lot of the worlds problems right now. The USA is going to tear itself apart because 1/3 the country has gone rabid socialist, 1/3 the country has swung hard right as a reaction to the socialists, and 1/3 is scratching their heads in confusion in the middle. A 2 state solution is the only one that makes sense that doesn't involve shooting people. The same could likely be said for many other countries around the world, such as in Europe.

    It's not ALL about GDP growth or any of that bullshit either. I'd rather be free to live in a smaller government nation even if we had to give up economically productive areas like California. We're never going to have a country that respects free speech, the 2nd amendment, or a thousand other traditional American ideals unless we unload all of these people who find those things to be the most repugnant ideas on earth. People like Bernie Sanders or Obama are NEVER going to be sold on the ideas of freedom no matter how many facts get thrown at them, because it's all about the feelz. So the only way to not get violent is to separate.

    Them's the facts, whether anybody likes it or not. I've been telling everybody I talk to about politics to support California secession, because whether you're left or right you'll be getting what you want!

    1. Do you really think that the progressives will just take what they get and stay out of the newly separated conservative/libertarian state? I promise you they will pressure, bully, and infect it as well.

      There ultimately is no peace with these people. Progressives are a cancerous tumor.

  18. Panarchism is basically what was portrayed in Atlas Shrugged. It's not totally out of the question that enclaves of different governments could exist throughout the United States, so long as there was some offer of contracts for interstate highway access, defense, guaranteed free trade etc. These would seem like reasonable compromises.

    The idea of freedom and the ability to vote with one's feet is the hallmark of federalism. Why do those boundaries necessarily need to be contiguous, or physical at all? It's an interesting question.

    1. They don't anymore. We have competing insurance companies, credit rating agencies, security firms and banks already, with overlapping territories.

    2. The physical continuity makes it a lot more practical on some issues though, like cops, schools etc. For instance special economic zones like they have in China. THAT kind of thing I can see not only working, but actually happening. California needs a few of them! LOL

      But a hardcore panarchy scenario is really just removing government control over a lot of stuff, and letting it go private more or less. Which is fine, but unless it's actual truly sovereign governments it's not panarchy in the purest sense IMO. It's just deregulation/privatization.

  19. Secession is not the goal, but secession can be a tool. Government is bad, no matter it's size, but smaller governments tend to be easier to resist. But not always. To many AnCaps forget this. The Confederate States of Amercia seceded NOT because they were libertarians, but because they wanted to continue the practice of chattel slavery. Civil wars and secession movements happen not because one side is libertarian and the other not, but because both sides are authoritarian and have a spat over who gets to do the authoritating.

    1. Sometimes! But America mainly did it from the UK for libertarianish reasons.

      Whatever the case, the point about it being easier to resist is valid, AND that you can CHOOSE your state. I am fine with theocratic absolute monarchies existing in the world. If that's what those people want, then good for them. I don't want to live there, but people should be free to have such a nation IMO. It's respecting personal wishes of people, even if you don't agree, which is the ultimate in tolerance right?

      So why can't anybody allow a hardcore freedom oriented nation to exist too? Because people are intolerant and want to force their ideas. If we say everybody MUST be hardcore libertarian, that is in and of itself unlibertarian. So I support the rights of entire nations and peoples to make bad decisions.

  20. "Swear allegiance to the flag
    Whatever flag they offer
    Never hint at what you really feel"

  21. This whole "individual secession" thing sounds very dangerous for the individual.

    Even ignoring how it works for folks that *aren't* landowners, consider a tiny little two-bedroom sovereign house. Friendly with your neighbors and whoever owns the streets? Cool. But then your neighbors and the street owner sell to some land developers that want to knock it all down. You refuse. So they cancel the contracts permitting you travel and utility access. Suddenly you go from being a "doing alright" sovereign house to one that had no access to food, water, electricity, the trash guy who used to pick up your garbage can no longer reach your place, and you can't leave to go to tour job. Oh, and even communicating out your distress is problematic without mail, no landline, and batteries rapidly running out on your phone.

    The developers can literally starve you to death without ever violating any contact or treaty.

    Now sure, that's an extreme case. But given the illegal things land developers currently do to force folks to sell, what makes you think they wouldn't go further if they legally could?

    Nah, as a practical matter, this sounds like it would only work if either (A) everyone was a self-sufficient homesteader, or (B) there was some kind of over-adding compact that folks could *not* withdraw from that prevented folks from cutting others off.

    1. But Amazon has drone delivery on the way, no problem.
      Plus there's this thing called the common law -- you can't just cut off access to water and public thoroughfares from a property that has had a long-standing easement.

  22. This is one of those little pieces of pointless navel-gazing that really foster the image of libertarians as ... well, pointless navel-gazers.

    The idea of whether secession by referendum is "legitimate" is irrelevant, as it's about the only way relatively peaceful secession ever happens. It's better than violent secession.

    The idea of "individual secession" is so ridiculous it's just cute. Take a good gander at what happens to "sovereign citizens" who try to exempt themselves from various state and federal authorities. Percentage of times that goes well for the citizen? Zero. I hope they enjoy their moral superiority from their cell in a federal prison.

    We don't live in a world were governments made up of flawed power-hungry human beings simply nod and smile when people say, "I'm taking myself and my property and opting out. No more tax money for you, government!" We never will.

    1. One man cannot defy the State. But if ten million Americans woke up tomorrow and declared they would not pay taxes or obey drug laws... Nothing could stop them. The State can smile and nod, or snarl and spit, but they do not have the power to control us. They never did. Authority is nothing but a soft lie clad in hard steel; it can harm those who would reveal the lie, but it cannot overpower the lied-to. But it is a lie.

      1. Those 10 millions would then set up their own state authorities -- it's simply human nature and nothing in the entirety of human history gives credence to any other possibility, and they would then drag tens of millions of their fellow citizens into a secession that they never wanted nor asked for. God, anarchists are stupid.

        1. They would drag no one with them, because they would not take any territory with them but their own private property. And whatever "state authorities" they formed for themselves would lack the strength or infrastructure to impose themselves on any who rejected them. Just as the preexisting government would not have the strength or incentive to attempt to lock up or punish any significant percentage of the 10 million of their *former* citizens, thus rendering any resistance by the seceders unnecessary, beyond non-violent satyagraha, civil disobedience and non-compliance. Mass non-compliance requires neither contiguous territory nor secession of such a contiguous territory.

          Void, statists are stupid.

          1. Lol. Keep enjoying your fantasy scenarios that have never happened in human history and never will.

            1. "We're going to set up a constitutional democratic republic with three separate branchs of government, no state religion and a bill of rights to guarantee freedom of speech and assembly!"

              "Lol. Keep enjoying your fantasy scenarios that have never happened in human history and never will."

              /King George III

              1. All the components of the U.S. system of government had historical precedent in governments from Greece and Rome, Italian City-States and England, among others, but, more importantly, the U.S. constitutional system of government had a practical, realistic view of human nature as understood by philosophers and theologians throughout the ages.

                Your idea relies on humans acting in ways unprecedented in human history. I'm not merely talking about humans trying something different. Anarchism, and your mass individual secession, requires that humans behave in ways utterly contrary to human nature. That's the same reason communism fails every time it is tried.

                It's not as if we don't have thousands of years of history illustrating the ways humans behave in various social and political circumstances.

                Your attempt to allude to King George's view of the colonists is utterly ahistorical. It's not even a good metaphor.

                Anarchism is bad speculative fiction, not political science.

                1. None of those previous countries combined all of those aspects in one system, so the USA was still unprecedented at the time of its creation. And if you want more examples of "unprecedented changes" that had never happened in "thousands of years of history illustrating the ways humans behave", I could add the growing global consensus on gay marriage, abolishing the death penalty, religious tolerance, etc. I'm sure you can find isolated examples of those things happening before, but never all at once across the planet; yet here we are. Unprecedented =/= "Bad speculative fiction".

                  Anyway, I'm not a left-anarchist that wants to abolish private property; I'm not even a panarchist either, I just think that it's *possible*. Because it wouldn't require humans to be nice, wise or anything else "utterly contrary to human nature": the people seceding would do so out of self-interest- nothing odd about that- and while the remainder would obviously object- violently- they could only kill, rob, or imprison so many until they realized the spending, collateral damage, and internal sabotage of the campaign wasn't worth it *to them*, again, selfishly.

                  And by the by, if you hadn't already seen it, I basically just described the Drug War. Every drug user is a "seceder"... And they have almost won.

                  1. There's a difference between civil disobedience over a particular set of laws and full individual secession, which is what the topic was.

                    The idea that a large enough percentage of the population could individually and simultaneously choose secession to make enforcement impossible strains credulity. All those people will simultaneously, independently and without coordination refuse their police, fire, municipal water and sewage (how?), government-enforced "right" to emergency medical services, government-mediated justice system, social security benefits, medicare, road maintenance and so on?


                    1. ...cont

                      They will all form independent cooperatives to replace these systems, and they won't impinge violently on the neighbors who choose to remain within the existing system and who continue to pay for services and government functions that will inevitibly benefit the secessionists, because the properties and services are so heavily entangled? The people who want to stay within the existing system are going to feel obligated to pay the road toll when they drive down the half mile of formerly-state-highway that I now somehow maintain as part of Cloudbusterstan (God knows how. Asphalt paving is expensive and I have no time to enforce the toll)? In fact, the state is just going to stop maintaining and relinquish control of the highway in front of my home in spite of the inconvenience to other people all over the county and state, and helplessly exempt me from the taxes involved in maintaining it because they're "too overwhelmed?"

                      Bad speculative fiction.

                      Any undertaking like that takes a high level of coordination, will involve massive disruption of property rights and individual liberties and the coordinators will inevitably see themselves as entitled to govern.

                    2. "There's a difference between civil disobedience over a particular set of laws and full individual secession, which is what the topic was."

                      The punishment for using or dealing drugs is a hefty fine, imprisonment, or being shot if you resist. The punishment for refusing to pay taxes or otherwise contribute to the government's society would be... a hefty fine, imprisonment, or being shot if you resist.

                      So, no, they aren't really that different. "Seceders" would be easier to identify, but if you have millions of people doing it, that's more than enough to overwhelm the state apparatus. If you want another example, look at our 11,000,000 illegals: ICE can skim off the top, but even now they don't have enough resources to make a serious dent, and that's just *deporting* people. Imprisoning or subjugating people in-country would be an order of magnitude more expensive, and significantly more than an order of magnitude deadlier even if only a small fraction violently resist. Gun control could never work here for the same reason.

                    3. "Any undertaking like that takes a high level of coordination, will involve massive disruption of property rights and individual liberties and the coordinators will inevitably see themselves as entitled to govern."

                      Of course it would involve a high level of coordination: the goal would not be to destroy social institutions, merely make them voluntary, and thus multiple. If that leaves them seeing themselves as "entitled to govern", then good luck to them trying to enforce it: all of the logistical difficulties the preexisting government had in trying to enforce its will on the minority, apply twice over to an attempt by the seceders to impose their will on the majority they seceded from. Even if there were only a few loyalists surrounded by seceders in a given area, the threat of economic or martial retaliation- or retaliation against any seceders similarly surrounded by loyalists elsewhere- would deter any attempt to impose a new state on them.

                    4. "police, fire, municipal water and sewage (how?), government-enforced "right" to emergency medical services, government-mediated justice system, social security benefits, medicare, road maintenance and so on?"

                      Police, fire, EMS, justice system and charitable endeavors would be managed by either for-profit or not-for-profit private entities, either operating on preexisting contracts (the for-profits) or, if said for-profit entities are considered unreliable, as services provided by a voluntary social institution (an "anarcho-labor-union", if you will.)

                      Meanwhile, roads and plumbing would not be privately owned: panarchy does not preclude collectively-owned property. If you do not believe this, I would refer you to a very-much "precedented", historical example: the ocean. The preexisting government and new voluntary state would, following the signing of a peace treaty and establishment of diplomatic relations, jointly oversee public roads and sewage. The funds would come from the voluntarist citizens' "union dues"; and while inevitably some individuals would reject the agreed on system, they would likely be few (due to pragmatism and social pressure), and it would be easy enough to let the pavement directly in front of their house be degraded or removed without imprisoning them or coercing money, or to cut off their utilities without precluding them from having a private water truck drive to and from their house.

                    5. Sorry, still reads like the plot of a bad dystopian novel by a socially awkward nerd who has little understanding of how ordinary people think, organize and run their lives.

                      I'm not the only one who gets it:

                      Libertarian Road to Nowhere

                    6. Your link doesn't work.

                      To reiterate: I do not know whether panarchy is a good idea. Eliminating a society's capacity for coerced collective action would be annoying, if nothing else, for roads and utilities, and could be outright fatal in the event of a large scale war (as I noted to Stephen54321 below). I just think that it could *function*: if it failed, it would be because it was less ideal or efficient than a minarchist society- not because it collapsed by itself. It might be inadequate, but it would not have to be unstable.

                      As to "socially awkward nerd", I'm guilty as charged. But then, how many non-awkward, non-nerdy people would be willing to agree with the statement "heroin should be legalized, all federal healthcare programs should be abolished and private citizens should be allowed to own .50 caliber rifles"? All libertarian thought is labelled as unrealistic, extreme and autistic by 95% of people, so using that argument against panarchy seems like a kettle throwing a stone with "black" scribbled on it through the glass walls of its house at a passing pot.

    2. Promulgating good ideas is never pointless.
      They may seem impractical at first but won't remain so forever.

      1. No, it's not just an impractical idea. It's a stupid idea.

  23. The case of the Southern secession from the United States is even clearer than the one in Catalonia. No public referendum was held.

    That statement is incorrect! Three of the seceding states DID hold referenda on secession: Texas, Virginia, and Tennessee.

    You can find the details at the Wikipedia article on the Ordinance of Secession. (I'd post the URL but's comment system won't let me.)

    Given that all the other states used conventions (directly ones where--presumably--majorities ruled as far as I can tell), these are (presumably) equally beyond the pale for the author.

    Libertarians have long criticized political democracy?that is, the settling of "public" matters by majority vote either directly or through so-called representatives?as inherently violative of individual rights. By what authority does a majority lord it over a minority?

    So what's the alternative? Unanimity?

    Two other points:

    1) I take it that elections and legislatures (where majorities tend to rule)--and therefore government of the people by the people for the people--are as beyond the pale as referenda for libertarians.

    2) Then there is the US's use of the first-past-the-post voting system in elections. A system which that pluralities, not necessarily majorities, tend to apply in those elections with more than two candidates. Are they more acceptable to libertarians than majorities?

    1. "So what's the alternative? Unanimity?"

      No, nothing. Collective action is needed in time of war and no other.

      1. Telcontar the Wanderer: "Collective action is needed in time of war"

        "War"? What war? The US has not declared a war since World War 2.

        To be sure, there has been lots of military action via AUMFs (e.g. Iraq & Afghanistan) but whether those constitute states of war (& therefore ones where the laws of war apply) or simply the use of the military to enforce a guarded peace (in which the rule of law and due process prevail) AFAIK has never been tested in any court, least of all a US one.

        1. What are you on about? My point was that *a* time of war is the only time where collective action by all members (/taxpayers) of a society is needed. Eg the only time "majoritarian rule"- the imposition of the will of the majority upon the minority- is ever required, thus rendering questions of unanimity in peacetime irrelevant. It was a philosophical assertion applied to all human societies; whether or not America has been at war these last 70 years is completely irrelevant to it.

  24. Of course we have: anarchism, in which each individual is sovereign and free to contract with market firms for security and dispute resolution.

    OK, where to begin?

    "Market firms"...

    What markets? What firms?

    Markets did not exist out in the American Wild West. Markets exist because governments make laws under which they shelter and flourish. There are no markets when anarchy rules. (Anarchism==anarchy. If you haven't got anarchy, then you are NOT living under an anarchistic system.)

    More generally...

    No legislatures means no company statutes, which means no shareholders (who hold rights by virtue of those statutes, not because some company benevolently endows them), no money (legal tender is something invented by governments so it'd be back to either barter or things with intrinsic value like gold & silver), no property rights (freehold was invented by governments), no banks (you have no money, so why would you need banks?), no phones or the Internet (the standards for which were all sanctioned by governments; in any case without common standards the phones of one company would not necessarily talk to those of another company; for an actual example of this go visit Australia where the railways have THREE different gauges-dating back to colonial times when each state set up their railways according to different rules)...

    I could go on, but you get the point. The author of this article has not really thought things through....

    1. The author of this article has not really thought things through....

      A statement that can be applied accurately to 100% of anarchists.

    2. This Bitcoin brought to you by... the Treasury Department?

      And in Anarcho-Land I'm pretty sure there are no IP laws preventing you from making your phones or Wi-Fi or railroad gauges to whatever standard you want.

      Finally, property rights date back to at least Corvus Brachyrhynchos, which is not known for its political acumen.

    3. Oh, and markets absolutely did exist in the Wild West, alongside a murder rate equal to 2017 America's national average. Of course, they also weren't exactly lacking in government per se, but that doesn't exactly make your bringing them up as an example any smarter.

      1. The murder rate in the old west was much lower than today, If you do not count Native Americans going to war with one other or U.S Military and Native Americans going to wars with each other as well. Even then, death by violence was lower than today. The murder rates in the U.S sky rocketed in the U.S after probation happen and we still have yet to recover to preprobation levels.

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