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Secession theory Theories of secession relate to a fundamental question of political philosophy: the basis of the state's authority.<ref>Scott Boykin, "The Ethics of Secession", in David Gordon, Secession, State and Liberty, Transactions Publishers, 1998.</ref>

In his 1991 book Secession: The Morality of Political Divorce From Fort Sumter to Lithuania and Quebec, philosophy professor Allen Buchanan outlined limited rights to secession under certain circumstances, mostly related to oppression by people of other ethnic or racial groups, and especially those previously conquered by other peoples.<ref name="BuchananBook">Allen Buchanan, Secession: The Morality of Political Divorce From Fort Sumter to Lithuania and Quebec, West View Press, 1991.</ref>

In the fall of 1994 the Journal of Libertarian Studies published Robert W. McGee's article "Secession Reconsidered". He writes from a libertarian perspective, but holds that secession is justified only if secessionists can create a viable, if minimal, state on contiguous territory.<ref>Robert W. McGee, Secession Reconsidered, the Journal of Libertarian Studies, Fall 1994.</ref>

In April 1995 the Ludwig Von Mises Institute sponsored a secession conference. Papers from the conference were later published in the book Secession, State and Liberty by David Gordon. Among articles included were: "The Secession Tradition in America" by Donald Livingston; "The Ethics of Secession" by Scott Boykin; "Nations by Consent: Decomposing the Nation-State" by Murray Rothbard; "Yankee Confederates: New England Secession Movements Prior to the War Between the States" by Thomas DiLorenzo; "Was the Union Army's Invasion of the Confederate States a Lawful Act?" by James Ostrowski.<ref>David Gordon, Secession, State and Liberty, Transactions Publishers, 1998.</ref>

In July 1998 the Rutgers University journal "Society" published papers from a "Symposium on Secession and Nationalism at the Millennium" including the articles "The Western State as Paradigm" by Hans-Herman Hoppe, "Profit Motives in Secession" by Sabrina P. Ramet, "Rights of Secession" by Daniel Kofman, "The Very Idea of Secession" by Donald Livingston and "Secession, Autonomy, & Modernity" by Edward A. Tiryakian. In 2007 the University of South Carolina sponsored a conference called "Secession As an International Phenomenon" which produced a number of papers on the topic.<ref>"Secession As an International Phenomenon", Abstracts of Papers, 2007 Association for Research on Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Americas conference sponsored by the University of South Carolina Richard Walker Institute for International Studies.</ref>

Justifications for secession

Some theories of secession emphasize a general right of secession for any reason ("Choice Theory") while others emphasize that secession should be considered only to rectify grave injustices ("Just Cause Theory").<ref>Allen Buchanan, How can We Construct a Political Theory of Secession?, paper presented October 5, 2006 to the International Studies Association.</ref> Some theories do both. A list of justifications may be presented supporting the right to secede, as described by Allen Buchanan, Robert McGee, Anthony Birch,<ref>Anthony H. Birch, "Another Liberal Theory of Secession". Political Studies 32, 1984, 596-602.</ref> Walter Williams,<ref>Walter Williams, Parting company is an option, WorldNetDaily.Com, December 24, 2003.</ref> Jane Jacobs,<ref>Jane Jacobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, Vintage, 1985.</ref> Frances Kendall and Leon Louw,<ref>Frances Kendall and Leon Louw, After Apartheid: The Solution for South Africa, Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1987. One of several popular books they wrote about canton-based constitutional alternatives that include an explicit right to secession.</ref> Leopold Kohr,<ref>Leopold Kohr, The Breakdown of Nations, Routledge & K. Paul, 1957</ref> Kirkpatrick Sale,<ref>Human Scale, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1980.</ref> and various authors in David Gordon's "Secession, State and Liberty", includes:

  • United States President James Buchanan, Fourth Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union December 3, 1860: "The fact is that our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it can not live in the affections of the people, it must one day perish. Congress possesses many means of preserving it by conciliation, but the sword was not placed in their hand to preserve it by force."
  • Former President of the United States Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William H. Crawford, Secretary of War under President James Madison, on June 20, 1816: "In your letter to Fisk, you have fairly stated the alternatives between which we are to choose : 1, licentious commerce and gambling speculations for a few, with eternal war for the many ; or, 2, restricted commerce, peace, and steady occupations for all. If any State in the Union will declare that it prefers separation with the first alternative, to a continuance in union without it, I have no hesitation in saying, 'let us separate'. I would rather the States should withdraw, which are for unlimited commerce and war, and confederate with those alone which are for peace and agriculture."<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation

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  • Economic enfranchisement of an economically oppressed class that is regionally concentrated within the scope of a larger national territory.
  • The right to liberty, freedom of association and private property
  • Consent as important democratic principle; will of majority to secede should be recognized
  • Making it easier for states to join with others in an experimental union
  • Dissolving such union when goals for which it was constituted are not achieved
  • Self-defense when larger group presents lethal threat to minority or the government cannot adequately defend an area
  • Self-determination of peoples
  • Preserving culture, language, etc. from assimilation or destruction by a larger or more powerful group
  • Furthering diversity by allowing diverse cultures to keep their identity
  • Rectifying past injustices, especially past conquest by a larger power
  • Escaping "discriminatory redistribution", i.e., tax schemes, regulatory policies, economic programs, etc. that distribute resources away to another area, especially in an undemocratic fashion
  • Enhanced efficiency when the state or empire becomes too large to administer efficiently
  • Preserving "liberal purity" (or "conservative purity") by allowing less (or more) liberal regions to secede
  • Providing superior constitutional systems which allow flexibility of secession
  • Keeping political entities small and human scale through right to secession

Aleksandar Pavkovic,<ref>University of Technology, Sydney description of Aleksandar Pavkovic</ref> associate professor at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Macquarie University in Australia and the author of several books on secession describes five justifications for a general right of secession within liberal political theory:<ref name="Pavkovic-Questions">Aleksandar Pavkovic, Secession, Majority Rule and Equal Rights: a Few Questions, Macquarie University Law Journal, 2003.</ref>

  • Anarcho-Capitalism: individual liberty to form political associations and private property rights together justify right to secede and to create a "viable political order" with like-minded individuals.
  • Democratic Secessionism: the right of secession, as a variant of the right of self-determination, is vested in a "territorial community" which wishes to secede from "their existing political community"; the group wishing to secede then proceeds to delimit "its" territory by the majority.
  • Communitarian Secessionism: any group with a particular "participation-enhancing" identity, concentrated in a particular territory, which desires to improve its members' political participation has a prima facie right to secede.
  • Cultural Secessionism: any group which was previously in a minority has a right to protect and develop its own culture and distinct national identity through seceding into an independent state.
  • The Secessionism of Threatened Cultures: if a minority culture is threatened within a state that has a majority culture, the minority needs a right to form a state of its own which would protect its culture.

Types of secession

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Hashim Thaçi with Declaration of Independence of Kosovo

Secession theorists have described a number of ways in which a political entity (city, county, canton, state) can secede from the larger or original state:<ref name="Buchanan" /><ref name="Pavkovic-Questions" /><ref>Steven Yates, "When Is Political Divorce Justified" in David Gordon, 1998.</ref>

  • Secession from federation or confederation (political entities with substantial reserved powers which have agreed to join together) versus secession from a unitary state (a state governed as a single unit with few powers reserved to sub-units)
  • Colonial aka "wars of independence" from a "mother country" or imperial state
  • National (seceding entirely from the national state) versus local (seceding from one entity of the national state into another entity of the same state)
  • Central or enclave (seceding entity is completely surrounded by the original state) versus peripheral (along a border of the original state)
  • Secession by contiguous units versus secession by non-contiguous units (exclaves)
  • Separation or partition (although an entity secedes, the rest of the state retains its structure) versus dissolution (all political entities dissolve their ties and create several new states)
  • Irredentism where secession is sought in order to annex the territory to another state because of common ethnicity or prior historical links
  • Minority (a minority of the population or territory secedes) versus majority (a majority of the population or territory secedes)
  • Secession of better off regions versus secession of worse off regions
  • The threat of Secession sometimes is used as a strategy to gain greater autonomy within the original state

Arguments against secession

Allen Buchanan, who supports secession under limited circumstances, lists arguments that might be used against secession:<ref>Allen Buchanan, Secession: The Morality of Political Divorce From Fort Sumter to Lithuania and Quebec, Chapter 3, pp. 87-123.</ref>

  • "Protecting Legitimate Expectations" of those who now occupy territory claimed by secessionists, even in cases where that land was stolen
  • "Self Defense" if losing part of the state would make it difficult to defend the rest of it
  • "Protecting Majority Rule" and the principle that minorities must abide by them
  • "Minimization of Strategic Bargaining" by making it difficult to secede, such as by imposing an exit tax
  • "Soft Paternalism" because secession will be bad for secessionists or others
  • "Threat of Anarchy" because smaller and smaller entities may choose to secede until there is chaos, although this is not the true meaning of the political and philosophical concept.
  • "Preventing Wrongful Taking" such as the state's previous investment in infrastructure
  • "Distributive Justice" arguments that wealthier areas cannot secede from poorer ones

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