The subject of secession is often treated with a certain level dismissiveness and disdain. Those who entertain it are viewed as dangerous, while those who endorse it are viewed as outright insane. In 2016, it is simply beyond the pale to discuss secession in any meaningful way.
Secession is one of the many “Solved Issues” of our time. If you were to bring up the subject in conversation, you might hear this reply: “Didn’t the Civil War resolve this question?” Of course, violence never provides a substantive answer in a debate. It simply ends the debate. And so, the problem of secession remains unresolved.
But do not despair, for what fun would this life be without unresolved questions? This Thursday at 7:30 pm in the Berkeley Mendenhall Room, the Federalist Party will debate R: Secession is a State’s Right.
Those in the Affirmative should consider both the philosophical and historical legacy of secession in the U.S. and beyond. What does it mean to accede to and secede from a government? What implications does secession have for the maintenance of an effective government? How far should the principle of secession be followed? After all, anarchists such as Murray Rothbard have suggested it reaches as far as the individual. Was the American War for Independence really an act of secession? Is it possible (or desirable) to separate the case for secession from the Confederate States of America?
Those in the Negative must do more than simply highlight the practical difficulties of secession. They too need to answer what it means to accede to a governing institution? Did America secede from the British Empire? What authority did the States have to ratify the Constitution? Are there no rights for aggrieved parties to depart from an arrangement they view as unsatisfactory? Should borders be conceived of as sacred? Is not secession a bulwark against federal tyranny and overreach? Why is a massive country of 320 million people preferable to a collection of smaller, independent states?
These and many other questions will be addressed at this week’s debate. Hope to see you there!
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