Free Minds & Free Markets

Let The Catalonians Leave

Governments never want to give up power.

The United States was born when the Founding Fathers seceded from England.

So why do so many people now see secession as a terrible thing?

Recently, people in Catalonia voted to break away from Spain—not to declare war on Spain or refuse to trade with Spain, just to control their own affairs.

The Spanish government said they must not even vote. They sent police to shut down polling places and beat protestors into staying off the streets.

Governments never want to give up power.

The European Union was offended and American politicians shocked when the United Kingdom voted to exit the EU (Brexit). Pundits declared Britain's move a terrible mistake.

But local governments can be more responsive to the needs of constituents. No government is perfect. But keeping government close to home, keeping it local, makes it easier to keep an eye on it.

The powerful prefer one big central government. Some want the whole world to answer to one government.

President Ulysses S. Grant fantasized about countries becoming "one nation, so that armies and navies are no longer necessary."

President Harry Truman wanted a World Court. Just as American disputes are settled by our Supreme Court, he said, "There is not a difficulty in the whole world that cannot be settled in exactly the same way in a world court."

But central authorities aren't the best way to solve our problems. Competition is.

In the U.S., state governments behave not because their politicians are noble, but because people can "vote with their feet"—move to other states.

If taxes get too high in New York, you can move Florida.

As California tortures businesses, Californians move to Arizona and Texas.

The more governments from which you can choose, the easier it is to benefit from competition between them.

All Americans, however, must obey rules set by Washington, D.C.

But what if most people in a state reject those rules and demand the right to govern themselves?

There have been several secession movements in California—a plan to break California up into smaller states, a push to make Northern California a breakaway state called Jefferson, and now the "Yes California" movement that wants to make California a separate country.

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  • qtxo||

    And why not "Let the 52%++ Catalonians stay?" So now it is good that a minority group of fascist nationalists want to subjugate the majority of the population.

    Hey, I would be the first in line to be truly "independent" of any state, but in this case it is the very opposite.

  • The Last American Hero||

    With that kind of coin, you could afford to subsidize a separatist movement.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "that *despicable* practice"

    Who did he think needed reminding of this?

    "And so it was that Hitler, who of course was evil, invaded Poland..."

  • CE||

    Lots of knee-jerk anti-secessionists who say Lincoln settled the issue in 1865 with military might. If LIncoln did it, it must be right.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    I was talking about slavery, not secession.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Not so fast. Don't you read the news? His statue is coming down next.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "one nation, so that armies and navies are no longer necessary"

    Not quite. You'll still need one of each of those. And they won't have much spare time, either...

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "If taxes get too high in New York, you can move Florida."

    No, no, if *Superman* gets too high in New York, *he* can move Florida. Or Nebraska. Or Belize. Or Mongolia. Or...

  • DajjaI||

    Wow this is really wrong. The problem isn't the right to secede. The problem is far more fundamental - freedom of speech and assembly. Let the Catalons vote! Then they will probably vote AGAINST secession. But now Spain only ends up radicalizing them. In fact Catalonia is feeling unappreciated and wants to express itself. But doesn't really want to secede. Or at least didn't.

    The lack of basic freedoms including gun rights is a huge problem in Europe and these kinds of situations are the inevitable symptoms. It will only get worse.

  • sarcasmic||

    But doesn't really want to secede. Or at least didn't.

    You need to do some basic research.

  • Zeb||

    I don't think that you can say it wants to secede or that it doesn't. Public opinion before the vote was pretty closely divided and the foolish attempts by the Spanish government to shut down the vote probably had the effect of keeping a lot of anti-independence voters away from the polls.

  • Dan S.||

    Opinion polls before the "illegal" vote showed secession was opposed 54% to 46%. When the vote was held against the ruling of Spanish authorities, anti-secession people stayed away, and it was almost only the pro-secession people who participated. That's how they got a 90% pro-secession vote. (And if you are comparing that situation to the one in Crimea, participation in the "illegal" referendum there was much higher.)

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Europe has been shifting its borders around for centuries. They barely even have them, really. So, in conclusion, it's Europe. Who cares.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    The designers of the next Special Edition of RISK?

  • Leo Kovalensky||

    Border collies?

  • loveconstitution1789||


  • Trainer||

    Please do not call Texas secession "Texit". This idea was around long before "Brexit" and it much too dignified to have a cutesy, copy-cat nickname.

    As for Catalonia, these are not a bunch of Marxist revolutionaries trying to violently take over the government of a country. These are a people in an area that was once independent and with a different language and culture who are working for peaceful self-determination.

  • vek||

    DAMN I love me some Stossel. Seriously. He is the only writer on Reason that I pretty much never disagree about major things with.

    Honestly, I think secession is the answer to half the worlds problems. If you let more groups have countries run the way they want to run them, then there could be sooooo much less fighting. I think California, and possibly Oregon/Washington along with it, seceding is the best possible way to end all the stupid in the USA.

    We of course have the northeast, and big cities all around where tons of communists live... But if Cali split, self sorting would happen on a massive scale over the first few years. The rest of the country would immediately jump about 10 steps to the right, and Cali 10 steps to the left (in terms of their new "national" laws), and everybody would be happy. Then trad cons and libertarians could duke it out in the USA over policy, and the Leninist could go back to fighting with the Trotskyites. All would be as it should be!

    I've been telling this to everyone I talk to politics about lately. It's seriously the best answer to our current problems. I've never understood why people are so opposed. It's such an elegant solution to ending bickering.

  • NoVaNick||

    Those with huge egos who know whats best for everyone envision a huge government with themselves in charge. Progs in Cali or NYC want to be able to force their transgender bathroom/gay wedding cake/carbon-free will down the throats of the yokels in flyover country, so they will never seriously get behind a secessionist movement for themselves.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    " I think California, and possibly Oregon/Washington along with it, seceding is the best possible way to end all the stupid in the USA."

    The federal government directly owns almost half the total land in California.

    The secessionists could never come up with enough money to buy it all back in order to leave the union.

  • CE||

    California's a lot richer than you think.

  • Azathoth!!||


    It's not.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    I doubt it.

    Not only would they have to come up with enough money to buy back that federal land, they would also have to come up with enough money to build desalination plants on the Pacific coast to replace all that Colorado river water they would be cut off from.

    And of course there would be no more federal Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid payments to anyone in California either.

  • vek||

    Well, obviously concessions would have to be made. I would suggest being nice about everything. Just give them the land, make a reasonable and fair ongoing deal for water, free trade agreement, guaranteed citizenship switching for 20 years or something, and do some sort of a transfer of debts/assets of federal government stuff based off of population or whatever.

    It would be a mess, but it could be sorted out. Frankly, I'd be willing to let them get one over on the rest of the country just to be rid of them. I think a lot of other people agree. Depending, we could lose up to maybe 14-15% of the population if Oregon + Washington went with them... But even if we let them leave without a share of the national debt or anything, a 15% increase in the burden for everyone else nationally would be WAY worth it to have a real shot at restoring limited government in the rest of the nation.

  • p3orion||

    But, but, but... if we let them leave, how will we force them them do what we know is best for them?

  • vek||

    And this is unfortunately the biggest problem with both sides. Secession is the obvious answer for EVERYBODY to get what they want, but nobody will do it because it ALSO allows the other "team" to get what they want... And they don't want that! They want to crush the other team into the dirt!

    So stupid. Cutting off your nose to spite your face is never a good idea.

  • The Last American Hero||

    What happens when Cali runs out of toilet paper in 5 years?

  • Entelechy||

    Since the Angelino language decreasingly resembles English resembles and many north of Frisco want the state split, the irate Catalans should be encouraged to congregate in San Diego and incite the secession of Catafornia.

  • CE||

    You can always count on Stossel to say plainly what is right. I wish more writers on Reason followed his lead.

    Secession is a basic human right. No one should be forced to live under a government they despise.

  • target||

    "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

  • mtrueman||

    "You can always count on Stossel to say plainly what is right. "

    He can hammer out a column on a subject he knows nothing about, I'll give him that.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Let The Catalonians Leave
    Governments never want to give up power.

    But if the Catalonians leave, who will the Spanish government oppress?

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Those who least expect it!

  • vek||


  • XM||

    America seceded from England back in the day when they could still expand unto other unclaimed territory. And the 13 original colonies are bigger than some modern day nations.

    Secession is a risky proposition for states and probably a terrible idea for Catalonia. California has a gigantic economy but a lot of that comes from the 1%, who often make money on tech, info, stocks, and other things that aren't tied down to the state. They won't leave the dollar to conduct their business on the nation of California's new commie currency - which won't be worth the paper it's printed on when min wage goes up to 20 bucks and healthcare becomes free. CA might as well call itself "Inflationland"

    This isn't the 1700's, it doesn't matter whether your central government is separated by an ocean or 50 feet away from your home. Catalonia could become the next Venezuela with the own government calling all their shots. America worked out because the founding fathers made SOME effort to differentiate their society from the tyranny they exited, which is not the case for 99% of revolutions anywhere. Plus the country is covers a lot of territory that produces tons of stuff that can sustain an economy.

  • Hank Phillips||

    You mean sustain a Customs Union, right?

  • vek||

    But it doesn't matter, they still should be able to do it.

    The free choice to have a government be the way you want it is really important to people, that's why they've always killed each other over trivial minutia to change things.

    If, as an example, some small portion of America that wasn't that awesome (a couple random midwest states or something) was allowed to secede, and it was a hardcore libertarian or conservative small government state, I would rather live there EVEN IF IT WAS POORER FOR IT. So would many others. But the thing is I don't think such a state would be poorer for long. Commie nations of course are doomed, but I say give people enough rope to hang themselves. I also think theocracies and whatever other dumb shit should be able to exist. Free association is a good thing, and if different types of governments existed it would give extremists of various tilts a place to go and not bother others.

    I don't mind socialist states existing... I just miss the fact that there is no longer a free-ish limited government nation left on earth now that the USA has descended into total cluster fuck territory. As much as I love the USA, I would move in a heartbeat if some decent sized country went hardcore small government.

  • Jima||

    "If taxes get too high in New York, you can move Florida." We have enough damn New Yorkers in Florida now, maybe you should promote South Carolina or someplace... Get off my yard!

  • p3orion||

    Hell no! They already screwed up North Carolina, don't do it to South Carolina too!

    South Carolina: too small for a country, too big for an asylum.

  • John B. Egan||

    'The United States was born when the Founding Fathers seceded from England. So why do so many people now see secession as a terrible thing?' .. Thank you Mr Stossel! And a big thank you to Donald Trump, who championed Brexit and the Scots push to leave Great Britain! It sure is nice to see people argue for separation, and we'll appeciate your suport when California Exits from the Union! Since the Trunmp election, the percentage of Californians wheo want to leave has exceeded 30% or about the same as the percentage who wanted to leave Britain back when! Thanks again buddy! Appreciate your support! #Calexit!

  • Paint Thinner||

    I feel the same about Confederate States. And Missouri. And Idaho, and every mooching red state in the Union.

    Pack your bags, and fucking leave!

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Careful what you wish for. Kick us "moochin' red states" out or watch us leave, and you'll have more than enough 70,000,000,000$ high-speed rails to nowhere to make up for the reduction in Oxy and food-stamp heroin monies.

  • vek||

    I would move to any of those places if they were independent just to be free of the stupid from the coasts!

  • Hank Phillips||

    The Trinity test changed politics forever. Orwell was sad that atom bombs were so difficult to make, for he saw in nuclear weapons the potential for making it too expensive to invade other countries. The Republican Party hasn't grasped this yet, and its supporters may bring on another demonstration of the lesson smarter folks learned in 1945. Meanwhile, El Partido Libertario de Cataluña is denouncing the Spanish Inquisitorial aggression the larger looter state is initiating against the secessionists. Spain is such a disaster area that people are jumping overboard to live in Econazi Germany!

  • The Last American Hero||

    Team Red's sins are many, but the expansion of the military-industrial complex also spans the terms of Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama.

  • Mark22||

    As California tortures businesses, Californians move to Arizona and Texas.

    Which is why California Democrats want to impose their business-hostile regulations nationwide.

    The more governments from which you can choose, the easier it is to benefit from competition between them.

    Which is why Spain objects to Catalonia leaving: Catalonia provides massive net fiscal contributions to the Spanish crown.

    Your reasoning is partially sound, you simply don't see this from the perspective of politicians.

  • Priscilla King||

    I have no opinion...just curiosity about how the Catalans think secession will help them. I can't imagine secession helping Texas or California.

  • vek||

    It depends on what you mean by "helping."

    For Texas, they could cut taxes and regulations drastically, which would supercharge their economy. They could also change any number of laws to things that more closely match the opinions of the people that live there as opposed to following edicts from DC. There would be pros and cons of course, but they would be living in a country closer to their values. California could likewise do the same with sky high taxes and massive government spending... Ultimtately I think they'd sink themselves with it all, but that'd be their business!

    Catalonia is a wealthy part of Spain, and could in fact be better off financially on their own... But even if not choosing your own destiny is priceless!

  • Kary Love||

    The right to secede is the foundation of American political genius. Self-determination is a natural right of human beings. Government is at best a necessary evil. Government is bad, big government is worse. The growth and intrusiveness of government has metastasized and people are tiring of being dictated to by governments far, far away and uninterested in local concerns. Local control does not guarantee good government, but it has a higher probability than controlling a distant government. Catalonia libre! Kurdistan libre! Puerto Rico libre! California, Texas, et al, LIBRE! Freedom is breaking out all over. Americans should celebrate, support and embrace this development--after all Americans started it!

  • The Last American Hero||

    Billy Joel disagrees. He even wrote a song about it.


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