Saturday, March 21, 2015

The inevitability of secession, part 2: Implications for the States

The Constitution gives no guidance on secession, but at least it is a starting point that helps explain some of the political landscape.  Wikipedia has a good time series breakdown of Red States (those that vote Republican) and Blue ones (those that vote Democrat:

This presumably would be the starting point for any fracturing of the Res Publica in a secession crisis.  An initial view is that the Red States are the old Confederacy with the lower midwest and the mountain states thrown in.

The problem is that the Red/Blue divide is not so clean.  The Constitution recognizes States, and the Electoral College tallies by State vote, but the breakdown is at a much lower level.  Many "Blue Staters" live in Red States, and vice versa.  A map showing the 3000 or so US Counties makes this plain:

The mapping shows a mostly rural vs. urban divide, although there are some clear exceptions to this - the Indian Reservations in New Mexico, for example, or the southern border of Texas are strongly Blue.  The Mississippi river runs Blue for most of its length.

And so when we consider the possibility of secession, things are very messy for the States.  Much of Georgia might be eager to secede, but would Atlanta?  Probably not.  There would be considerable unrest in any State that seceded, and likely much unrest in many of those that didn't.

That actually is pretty much what happened in 1861.  There were many in the South who did not want to leave the Union - Robert E. Lee was one; Virginia was late to join the Confederacy, and until it did, the Union Army courted him to be its commander.

There are regional grumblings about Counties seceding from the States: several northern California counties have voted to create the State of Jefferson; upstate New York has long been a hotbed of secession talk, with several communities looking to join Pennsylvania; the Pacific northwest has groups proposing the nation of Cascadia which would include some of British Columbia (it even has a redit group!).

We should also remember that both Vermont and West Virginia are the result of secession (from Virginia and New York, respectively).

And so secession isn't really a State issue.  It's regional, just like in Europe (Scotland, Catalonia, and northern Italy all have active secession/devolution movements).

Given the fragmentation that would be the necessary result of a secession movement, we can expect the prospect of chaos to act as a break on any action until there is overwhelming support.  Right now the political elites are happy with the current situation - the GOP establishment is content to take the bribes and rake offs that the Democrats enjoy, and so don't rock the vote.

It will take a crisis, and external shock to change this - an financial crisis.  I expect that there's one coming:
I think that this road that we are on leads to secession.  We've already seen a geographical divergence of governance, with Blue states increasingly pushing the Salad Bowl grievance identity politics (limited growth with government distributing the jobs) and with Red states pushing pro-business, pro-growth politics (i.e. melting pot with enough jobs to go around).  This will not continue forever: a middle class increasingly under financial pressure will flee the Blue states, increasing the fiscal strain that those governance models experience.  At some point the Blue states will demand to be bailed out en masse, and the Red states will refuse.

At this point the split will occur.  I expect it will happen within my lifetime.
California is the place to watch, with a public pension crisis of epic proportions boiling right now.  Already cities are going bankrupt, and the State is (like the EU and the Eurozone) frantically trying to paper over the mess.  But since no actual reform is taking place, the old adage is true: what can't go on forever, won't.

At the risk of speaking for my fellow Georgians, I can't see support in the Peach State for bailing out a bunch of Blue State governments who spent way more than they should have.  Even Atlanta will likely not be enthusiastic (and note that Atlanta has its own secession movement in north Fulton County, so the part supportive of a bailout is likely going to shrink over time).

It's possible that the bailout will be done by stealth, with deficits funding the program.  The problem is that the dollar is in a crisis, and when financial corrections come, history shows that they come suddenly.  The crisis in this scenario will be no different, other than much bigger.

I see one likely path to a split: a crisis causes local and regional political elites to seize on the public disgruntlement.  As with all elites, they are part of the problem, but the crisis of confidence in the current national governance will give them an opportunity to retake power from the center.

Really the only question is whether the crisis will be small (pension bailout) or large (crisis of the dollar).  Fewer States will secede in a small crisis; a large crisis will likely leave nothing standing as the Blue regions decide that this is their chance to go full throttle Euro-Welfare-State.

I expect there will be a lot of migration after the breakup.  We see lots of people moving south from Blue States to the better climate and economic opportunity of the southern Red States.  Californians are leaving for Texas today.  This will be a lot bigger after the breakup, as Blue regions get bluer and Red ones get redder.

Tomorrow will discuss the International Implications of secession.


Glen Filthie said...

As far as emigration goes...I dunno. People from such socialist Utopias tend to smuggle their stupidity in with them...

Old NFO said...

I'm hoping it doesn't happen, but it very well may. And you're right, we're nearing that tipping point (Actually quite a few of them).

Jester said...

Glen had it right. See Colorado for example of people taking their best of intentions with them. I would also think that Oregon and Washington are also examples. When I lived in Arizona as a child the same thing happened, everyone escapes from the cost of living and craziness of California but takes their fucked up policies with them that caused the problems in the first place.

The other problem still is that other than a scant few if any of the Retardagains as you note don't want to change anything. People are seething right now that they put those clowns in office and they have done nothing that they said they would to change what put them in office in the first place. So if land masses start breaking away from the blue so to speak are they really breaking away from those policies? How long would it be till people bring their policies over the boarder? How long would the parade of clowns that are in office take till they go with the blue policies in the first place?
This song pretty much sums up how I feel about all of them in office. Look up Annihilator Clown Parade on the tube. It does not really matter who you vote for when they are all in it together and fold for the other side faster than a shot from a rifle

Comrade Misfit said...

Going to be tough for a lot of those Red States when there is no Federal government to pump tax-funded projects into the local economies.

The big winners in your secession scenario will be Russia and China, especially China. Two or three (or more) nations created out of the breakup of the U.S.A. will be as significant military players as is Mexico.

Backwoods Engineer said...

I'm really enjoying this series. Thanks for doing the research and putting these together. At some point, we will have to face this choice, and we should make an informed choice.

kotetu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kotetu said...

Look for Apple to leave California. That will be a certain sign of the arrival of the time of troubles.

Ken said...

Ehhh, manifest destiny was overrated anyway. All it did was give us enough wealth and hubris to squander trying to play global cop.

Eric Wilner said...

Ditto Jester. I'm looking to escape California - not until next year, though, for family reasons - and those who have gone before have ruined the nearby destinations.
Back in the early 90s, when I first pondered emigrating, the Pacific Northwest was the place. Alas, rich Californians have long since driven up real estate prices and taken along their insane politics.
More recently, I looked at the high desert of central Arizona, but that area seems to be having the same problems.
Current likely destination is Tennessee, which, apart from being a long way away, has the advantage that urban Californians find it alien and terrifying, so there probably won't be a lot of them moving there.

Paul Bonneau said...

"... I can't see support in the Peach State for bailing out a bunch of Blue State governments who spent way more than they should have."

I had to laugh at this one. You've got the arrow pointed in the wrong direction. In my state of Oregon, right now the government money flows from the Portland area - and Eugene and Salem -(where the jobs are) to the rest of the state. It's those conservatives who are the welfare queens, but they manage to hide it from themselves in things like government schools and road funds. No doubt it's the same in Georgia too. And it's clearly true on the federal level - the blue states subsidize the red ones.

That's another reason I think the leftists are ready to jump on the secession bandwagon. The leftists are tired of being tapped for rightist subsidies.

But yeah, the trigger will be economic.

Here's my take on secession:

Goober said...

THe funny thing is that I could solve this secession problem with one simple idea. The founding fathers could, too, because my idea is exactly what they enshrined in the Constitution.

And it all comes back to the total inability of a large, central government to govern to the will of such a diverse, huge country as the USA.

You set a social program, and to the people of New York, it's far too heartlessly conservative. They want to secede because they can't stand living in a country that is so heartless and conservative. To the people in North Idaho, it is borderline communist, and they see their hard earned dollar being mulcted to pay for the indigent and lazy. They want to secede because this big, centralized government is far too leftist and bleeding heart.

You see how the large, central government, even when it tries to sit on the fence in the middle of public sentiment will just never do?

It's almost as if the founders of our country thought of that, when they essentially curtailed the purview of the large, central government to those things it necessarily had to do, and no more (army, navy, post office, interstate commerce regulation, and the enshrinment of a bill of rights and a promise to ensure that all states maintained a republican form of government), leaving all the other governing and legislation to the respective states.

Golly gosh, if things were being done that way, we wouldn't even be havingg this talk, would we? The folks in Idaho can plow their own damn roads, thanks much, they don't need no commie snowplows! While the folks in New York can be just as bleeding heart liberal as they can afford (until the sham falls down around their heads).

But that's the problem. New York CAN'T leave Idaho alone, because they need Idaho's money to pay for their lefty boondoggles.

I promise that if we just went back to a Constitutional form of government, where the rules and laws you have to follow, and the taxes you have to pay, and the social policies that you have to live with are all decided locally, by local folks that you have access to and can hear your voice (instead of it being drowned out in a drone of 350 million others) we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

Amazingly enough, that's how the nation was originally created, and it worked just fine until Abraham Goddamned Lincoln fucked everything up by making the Federal Government the law of the land, and relegating the state legislatures to a backwater sideshow.

Yeah, I know, he freed the slaves.

He fucked everything else up that he touched, though, and killed a lot of people in the process.

Paul Bonneau said...

"People from such socialist Utopias tend to smuggle their stupidity in with them"

This is an old wive's tale that turns out to be largely false, although it has the advantage of creating an easy scapegoat for any problems.

I spent years reading bills in the Wyoming legislature for the Wyoming Liberty Index:

It turns out that the good old boys were just as good at trampling liberty as the California imports, possibly even better. Their ancestors might have been founders of the state, it didn't matter. Socialism and fascism have an appeal when you are a member of the ruling class.

On the other hand, it just might be that the very people who escape from California are the ones you want, because they *know* what out-of-control government turns into; unlike those good old boys who just want to give a try at running others' lives. The most radical pro-liberty person I know in Wyoming is an ex-Californian.