Secession, Another Word for Anarchism

A liberal friend of mine pointed out why he opposed the concept of secession as a reductio ad absurdum. As he put it, the right to secession must includes the right of the individual to seceded from the state, a la anarchism. Abraham Lincoln said as much during his first inaugural address, stating “Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy.” At the time, I was a minarchist/Objectivist and opposed the very concept of anarchism as illegitimate. I believed that rights could only be protected by organizing a monopoly of defensive force. It was always a criticism that I couldn’t escape. I thought that well, maybe, succession only applies to the states because the states theoretically created the federal government. But the American revolutionary war was the secession of the subservient colonies from the mother state.

In my evolution of support for complete liberty, that argument always hung with me, and I came to accept my friend’s conclusion as true. If a state can secede from the federal government, why couldn’t a county secede from a state government? Why not a city from the county and so forth until a person secedes from his neighborhood?

The concept of secession is a moral imperative if just powers are granted by the consent of the governed, as the Declaration of Independence lays forth. If one withdraws that consent, then the government has no right to govern that person within his own property. According to Lysander Spooner, one cannot even grant consent to a coercive monopoly government because one has no means of proving that consent was voluntary. Modern libertarians like Murray Rothbard would expand on Spooner and reject the idea of consenting to the slave contract of the state.

This alone does not prove the validity of a stateless society, but it does mean anarchism should be respected as a legitimate alternative by those who support the right to secede.