THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 730, July 21, 2013
Colorado, Interrupted: Why I Support the Secessionist Movement
Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
I have never been to Colorado.
It's possible I've flown over it, because I've been to the west coast several times. But: (a) I don't know, and never will; and (b) there's a difference between going to and going through a place anyway.
In addition to never having been to Colorado, I frankly don't know much about it. I know they have four sports teams and a city that bills itself as being a mile high. I know that city is supposed to have great brewpubs. I'm vaguely aware that it snows in the area, and I know that South Park takes place there. I always assumed the whole state was purple, because the Rockies wore purple, but I always assumed Tennessee was orange because the University-of wore orange, and then I went there last fall and found Tennessee was green.
So I don't know what color it is in Colorado, and I don't know what it feels like to be a Coloradoan. I don't even know if Coloradoan is a word. I assume that it is; my spellcheck approves it. I don't know their capital, their state bird, their state slogan, or what counts for slang in Colorado. Is it safe to assume their people like bacon? I assume that it is. But again, I don't know this.
Of all the things I don't know about Colorado, I especially don't know a thing about their politics. I could do what everyone does when they want to join an argument on Facebook, and just spend the next ten minutes reading about the subject, then coming back and presenting myself like I've always been an expert. But I don't see the point in doing this. Not knowing a thing about Colorado's political landscape, and admitting I don't know a thing about that landscape, lends itself to the point I'm about to make.
The other day, I happened across two words on the internet. Those two words were "Colorado secession." Not the most telling two words in the world, but I knew from the moment I saw them that whatever they referred to, I was about to support it.
Clicking those words and reading on, I learned that several counties in the state's northeastern portion want to break off from the state they call home and form a new state called North Colorado. The plan calls for taking a few Nebraska and Kansas counties with them. They feel unrepresented by their state governments, and this isn't idle talk: Legislators are actually working on it. I was right about my original hunch, because I support the effort completely. I know almost nothing about it, other than what I've read in that original article and a few others like it, but I know if there are Americans who wish to break off from some government or another—local, state, federal, or otherwise—they have my full, complete, and unrestrained backing.
It's become fashionable in recent years, especially here in the northeast, to consider secession something nutty southerners do or talk about. A few months ago, a small movement was afoot in Texas to secede from the U.S. after Obama was reelected. I supported that movement, no matter how futile or fake it was, and no matter how much pretty much everyone I knew made fun of it. I also supported a counter-movement by the city of Austin to secede from Texas if Texas seceded. Why? Because I support secession. Any and every form of it. I don't think it's something only nutty southerners do it all. I think secession is distinctly American. It may be the most American thing you can do.
America's long and storied history of secession began with our founding moment. We were colonies of England, and we seceded from them. We determined that our government didn't represent us, and we chose to break off and represent ourselves. During the 1800s, movements sprang up in support of secession over the issue of slavery—not just by the South, but by people in the North. Yes, at one point, nutty northerners wished to secede. Several of our states were formed by secession, including Texas, Maine, and West Virginia. We haven't seen secession in a long time around here, because the last hundred-plus years have been so focused on maintaining the status quo. But maybe it's time to revisit that old tradition. Maybe it's time to rekindle that spirit.
Secession is the ultimate check and balance. It is more important to representative government than the right to vote. Secession guarantees that a person, city, county, or state can't be held hostage by an abusive government, just because they happen to live in an area. Secession is a right, and when we limit this right—which is what we do when we marginalize secession by making jokes about it—we unwittingly endorse government monopolies. And as we all know, monopolies are dangerous. Unchallenged power always is.
I want to see a world in which the right to secede is universally acknowledged. I want to see a world in which a neighborhood can threaten to secede from one city and join the next one over, or a county in the middle of one state can become an island of another state entirely. I want to see a world in which people can secede from government altogether—for a good reason, or even just because.
I don't want to see a world in which this constantly happens, but I want to see a world in which it could happen constantly. Because once our governments at every level know it's possible, they'll begin to behave in much different ways. They'll begin to represent their constituents more closely, because, if they don't, they'll lose those constituents.
So I don't know how much merit this North Colorado business has. It may have a ton of it; it may have none. But I do know this: I know I support it. Just as I supported Texas secession. Just as I supported Austin secession from Texas. I want to see this happen one time, if not many times, if not all the time, even if it ends up being an anomaly. I want to see at least one major case of secession happen successfully in this country. Maybe then people will start to take the concept seriously again. And maybe then they'll see it not as a joke, but as what it is: perhaps the single-most valuable weapon in the entire free-people arsenal.