State Secession -- A Possible Remedy

A political advertisement from the Scottish National Party now playing in the U.K.

I try not to venture into politics too much on this blog.  I've put up a few posts in the past, and eventually took them down.  When you write about religion though, it's hard not to talk about politics once in a while, because you see, politics is really just an extension of religion, believe it or not.  You can tell a lot about a person's religious beliefs by how they vote, and the political positions they hold to.  No, I'm not talking about the typical hot button issues like abortion, war and gay-marriage.  Though these are very important topics. Rather, I'm talking about a more general political philosophy.

Recent tensions in the U.S. Congress over federal funding of Obamacare has inspired this article. Some senator even said that the political climate in Washington D.C. has never been this bad since before America's Civil War. Honestly, I think he was being melodramatic with that comment, you know, for the cameras, but it did get me thinking a bit.  It reminded me of the a Catholic teaching on social justice called SUBSIDIARITY, and how that virtually no longer exists in American government.

What is Subsidiarity? Well, in a nutshell, it's about keeping things local. When it comes to government, that means keeping government local and letting the city, county and state governments handle the big business in life, such has social security, healthcare, welfare, education, etc.  Likewise, that means limiting the role of big federal government to an absolute minimum, so as to minimise its influence on average everyday life.  Yes, this is a Catholic principle in politics, but it's not just Catholic.  It's also common sense.  The principle applies to business as well, but that's another story, for another article.

Subsidiarity no longer exists in American government, at least, not in any real credible sense.  The main reason for this is because states have ceded so much power and control to the federal government, that they have basically become vassals to that same government.  This came as a result of America's Civil War.  The power once held by the states, their greatest power, the power of secession, has been intimidated into non-existence at the end of bayonets.

Wherever you come down on this topic, one thing cannot be denied. If states exercised the credible threat of secession, the federal government would behave. They don't have to actually do it, mind you, but just exercise a credible threat. Secession doesn't always equate to civil war. A civilised nation can approach this peacefully and democratically. Case in point, the U.K. is now in the process of preparing to vote on the secession of Scotland, allowing the Scottish to secede from the U.K. if they so choose -- peacefully and democratically. The vote is supposed to be held in September of 2014. As you can see, by the political advertisement video above, the issues the Scottish people are wrestling with in the U.K. are not too different from those we are wrestling with here in the U.S. Change the accent on the teenage girl from Scottish to a Southern belle, and you could almost say the advertisement was written for the American South (Dixie). What the U.K. is doing with Scotland here is a civilised solution, by a civilised people, and I've noticed that as the voting date gets closer, the British government is behaving in an extra nice way toward Scotland. You see it works!  The credible threat of secession, combined with a civilised government, has resulted in a national government that knows its place, and is more willing to step back allow more local control.  It doesn't matter if the people of Scotland actually secede or not.  So long as they can pull off a close vote, the British government will forever keep its place, giving Scotland as much autonomy as it needs, to make sure they never have to face such a vote again.

I think the greatest tragedy of America's Civil War, besides demonstrating that we are an uncivilised people with an uncivilised federal government, was a general loss of cultural identity. G.K. Chesterton put it best...
We know, in our own case, that it is sometimes possible to lose a war after we have won it. The American politicians lost something more valuable than a war; they lost a peace. They lost a possibility of reconciliation that would not only have doubled their strength, but would have given them a far better balance of ideas which would have vastly increased their ultimate influence on the world.  Lincoln may have been right in thinking that he was bound to preserve the Union. But it was not the Union that was preserved.  A union implies that two different things are united; and it should have been the Northern and Southern cultures that were united.  As a fact, it was the Southern culture that was destroyed.  And it was the Northern that ultimately imposed not a unity but merely a uniformity. But that was not Lincoln's fault.  He died before it happened; and it happened because he died....

...Every age has its special strength, and generally one in which some particular nation is specially strong. Every age has also its special weakness and deficiency, and a need which only another type could supply. This is rather specially the Age of America; but inevitably, and unfortunately, rather the America of the Northern merchants and industrialists. It is also the age of many genuine forms of philanthropy and humanitarian effort, such as modern America has very generously supported. But there is a virtue lacking in the age, for want of which it will certainly suffer and possibly fail. It might be expressed in many ways; but as short a way of stating it as any I know is to say that, at this moment, America and the whole world is crying out for the spirit of the Old South....

....In other words, what is most lacking in modern psychology is the sentiment of Honour; the sentiment to which personal independence is vital and to which wealth is entirely incommensurate. I know very well that Honour had all sorts of fantasies and follies in the days of its excess. But that does not affect the danger of its deficiency, or rather its disappearance. The world will need, and need desperately, the particular spirit of the landowner who will not sell his land, of the shopkeeper who will not sell his shop, of the private man who will not be bullied or bribed into being part of a public combination; of what our fathers meant by the free man. And we need the Southern gentleman more than the English or French or Spanish gentleman.  For the aristocrat of Old Dixie, with all his faults and inconsistencies, did understand what the gentle man of Old Europe generally did not.  He did understand the Republican ideal, the notion of the Citizen as it was understood among the noblest of the pagans.  That combination of ideal democracy with real chivalry was a particular blend for which the world was immeasurably the better; and for the loss of which it is immeasurably the worse.  It may never be recovered; but it will certainly be missed.

-- G.K. Chesterton
On America, from "Come to Think of It"
Before the Civil War, people identified themselves both regionally and by state. There was a greater sense of pride in one's home and neighbours. The threat of secession kept Washington D.C. in its place. After the Civil War, all of that was erased, except in a few places like: Texas, South Carolina, New York and California. I think it would be good to return to regional identity, and take pride in our states again.

Now please understand.  I am not advocating secession for the purpose of setting up some libertarian utopia. Far from it. If states are to be more independent, either within this Union of the United States, or outside of it, then they are going to have to demonstrate responsibility. For any state that secedes and shirks its responsibilities to the poor and disadvantaged within its borders, is going to quickly discover itself a third-world nation.  That means that state, counties and cities should take up the responsibility of social security, welfare, and assuring affordable medicine for everyone.  If these matters were taken care of at the local level, rather than in some ivory tower in Washington D.C., they may not be perfect, but they would be better.  This is Subsidiarity.

I believe, if we are ever going to regain control of our government, we should in every way try to convince our state governments to wrestle as much power away from the federal government as possible. We need to start running our own show now. The more power our states cede to Washington, the worse things get. We've only got 150 years of history to demonstrate that now, with the last 50 probably being the worst. Bring power and responsibility back to the states, and we will begin to see a government that is closer to the people, and much more responsive to their needs.

Now, all this talk of secession, often leads people to jump to conclusions. While I love Southern culture, I am by no means a Neoconfederate. I personally don't believe that reviving that institution will help anything, so I'm not advocating that. What I am advocating here is simply a return to locality. People need to start thinking close to home again. We need to get our government closer to the people, where we can keep a tighter grip on it. That is NEVER going to happen in Washington D.C. If we want to ever get control of things again, we need to wrestle control away from Washington and put it back into the hands of the states. And if you think that can happen without a credible threat of state secession, I would like to know what kind of plant you've been smoking lately.


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Brennan said…
Good article. I am in complete agreement about the need for states to be able to at least threaten secession. And thanks for the quotes from Chesterton. It seems as if the South at least once had (and some semblance is probably still there, but I'm not sure since I live in the North) a genuine culture which was ultimately destroyed by the North.
Miles Christi said…
I'm for secession as well. Though we must establish Christ the King in the local & state gov'ts. If not then we'll have the same thing we have now.