An Open Relationship Is A Better Option Than National Divorce
By Mike ter Maat
Two recent articles presenting somewhat opposing views in the debate over national divorce and secession, “Separate or Die” by Austin Padgett published August 6 on LPMisesCaucus.com and “National Divorce Is Not a Pro-Liberty Solution” by Jonathan Casey published July 21 on LearnLiberty.org, are both excellent in every way . . . other than recognizing the important political realities highlighted in the other’s position. Let me bring these two sides together with what I believe to be a better option than complete divorce, recognizing that there is value in choice no matter how distasteful to others.
There are two big ideas behind secession: the peoples of different states have different wishes for their style of government; the Federal government does not, on “net” as the Guest Author says, protect individual liberty compared to how it restricts it.
True, as Casey says, the cultural/political splits among us are not simply across state lines, arguably not even mostly so. This is second nature to anyone who has made the drive from Chicago to Springfield, for example. Such splits undermine the likelihood that Illinois will ever be able to achieve political consensus whether a federal government exists or not. But should this distract us from the joy that Rhode Islanders, to pick a counter example, would experience in no longer being affected by senators from, say, West Virginia? Many states are, in relative terms, much more homogenous than is the United States as a whole and arguably stand to benefit from being as free from the federal government as the Founders expected.
The federal government has drifted unmistakably away from its singular legitimate mandate to protect individual liberty. Indeed, our national government is accelerating in the wrong direction, driven by each side of the political duopoly seeking nothing more than the destruction of the other, as Casey identified. In this context, it’s hard to imagine any state imposing upon itself greater restrictions than the federal government of late. True, there is no guaranty that Californians, to pick the most obvious example, would be better off on their own. But is it a centralized government’s job to require them to be? Afterall, imposing any particular style of better-off is its own tyranny, as the Guest Author highlights.
None of this stands up to the realities of the two big challenges to secession. First, most Americans don’t want to live in a nation other than the US, full stop. This is not merely a matter of patriotism, but also a product of fear of the unknown. Regarding fear, Casey is onto something, as there is no more powerful force in politics. Second, there may be value worth salvaging in the Constitution, namely – and possibly exclusively – common defense. Acceptance of such value is a bitter pill for many of us more radical libertarians to swallow, but both in theory and in practice, purity can be the enemy of politics.
A Gold New Deal
What I propose is a new relationship between states and the federal government, a Gold New Deal, representing a continuation of the Union while allowing states an option to choose a relationship more open to the pursuit of their own political destiny. This choice would be in the form of a constitutional option to no longer be subject to new federal legislation, regulation, court decisions or executive orders, except for national defense. Each state would be able to declare itself supreme with respect to anything new coming out of Washington. And regarding anything already on the federal books, each state would have the right to unilateral nullification.
The citizens of each state opting into this new constitutional relationship would no longer be subject to federal taxation. Instead, the state effectively would be billed by the Department of Defense for its share of the defense budget. Each state would be free to raise revenue as it sees fit, effectively ending the IRS. Military interventionism would require a declaration of war which would require ascension of two-thirds of all of the states. Federal lands would be spun off to the states in which they are located.
As in so many abusive relationships, the federal government uses financial resources to manipulate state and even local governments. Consequently, fundamental changes are necessary to end the federal government’s discretionary authority over spending and over the creation of money.
Combined federal, state and local government spending must be capped in the aggregate by a constitutionally fixed proportion of total national income. The federal government must not have any authority to block grant to non-federal agencies contingent on prescribed legislation, regulation or administrative policy. Any person enrolled in Social Security must be provided an equitable option to exit.
Discretionary monetary policy must be replaced by a constitutionally fixed growth rate rule for money supply. The balance sheet of the Federal Reserve System would be transferred to the Treasury, which will have no discretionary authority to bailout banks or other corporations, thus ending the Fed. Financial institution regulation would be made competitive among government agencies and completely optional.
Within each state, other changes are needed to advance liberty, of course, whether a state opts into this Gold New Deal or not. Such state- and locally-based changes include ending public education, protecting bodily autonomy, ending bailouts and privatizing the way we hold police accountable. Regulation of all types needs to be reduced and made both optional and competitive. But to be clear, the only path forward to these objectives is for states themselves to replace their abusively subservient marriage to the federal government with a more mature and open Gold New Deal.