Sunday, October 04, 2009

Russell D. Longcore's Secession Paper: A reply

Over at, Russell D. Longcore posted a piece about the questions that would have to be answered at the state level should a state decided to secede from the United States of America, with Texas as his model, entitled Will Austin Become 'Liberty Central' or 'Little Washington?'. He listed twenty questions he believes should be answered before secession occurs. Here are the twenty questions and my attempts at answering them.

1. A formal Declaration of Independence and Secession would have to be written and ratified, likely by the legislature and signed by the Governor. A date for presenting that document to someone like the sitting US President would have to be chosen.

Not too difficult. I might even put my hand to drafting something like what such a document would look like.

2. The actual form of the new government must be chosen. Will it be a Constitutional Republic...a Parliament...what? Remember that this is a new constitution for a single nation, not a confederacy of nations. The new constitution doesn’t need to be articles of confederation, but should be more like the Virginia Constitution of 1776 or the Swiss canton system.

I tend to favor a parliamentary form myself. This site has a lot of ideas on potential forms of government, but my favorite idea at this time is for an internet based form of democracy that is both direct AND representational... and a scan of my past writings reveals I haven't actually written this up yet!

Basically, everybody with the right to vote has an account on a gigantic web forum/chatroom/general hub site. Anyone can put forth a proposal, and anyone can vote on it. But because not everybody has time to sit around on the Internet all day, people could also designate others as their representatives, at any time, for any reason. They just set their account to vote the way their chosen representative votes in any vote in which they abstain. They could have a list of votes, which would move to the next guy on the list in the event the first guy also abstains. Or they could set it to go through their abstaining representative to HIS representative. Or they could designate a list of voters, and have their abstentions go the way of the majority in the group. Or any other mechanism people wanted and could be coded in easily enough. And if they decided they didn't like the way their representatives were voting, with a few clicks and a few keystrokes they could change their representative... instantly!

The actual functions of government would be carried out by an officer or officers elected by the legislature... the legislature consisting of all voters, either directly or by way of their representative(s), as the individual prefers. They would receive money from the legislature, and could be given direction as to how it should be spent by the legislature, but actual responsibility for carrying out those directions would be enforced primarily by the threat of removal: once the money was in the hands of the executive, it would be his responsibility to spend it. Removal could be done at any time by a vote of no confidence, after which a new executive would have to be elected.

The precise procedures by which that first line of officers below the CEO/Prime Minister/Whatever are chosen would in theory be done entirely by the CEO. However, the legislature having the power to remove a CEO they don't like, someone running for the office could make whatever procedural promises they want, with the legislature making whatever demands they want, with the legislature's final call on confidence votes being the enforcement mechanism.

3. Will all the existing politicians in Texas have to stand for election in the new government? The present legislators in Austin may be infected with statism and opponents of sovereignty. I nominate Ron Paul as the first President of New Texas.

Eventually, certainly. Secession doesn't free people from having to wrangle with people they disagree with, only those who live too far away with to wrangle with in a rational fashion.

4. Monetary policy is the keystone of the new nation. All commerce, and the very existence of New Texas hangs on this one issue. But if Texas decides to adopt any monetary policy other than 100% gold dollar, it will have swallowed the poison pill of Keynesianism before its life even begins. No government in the history of mankind has devalued its money and survived. Not One.

Were it up to me, I'd have no monetary policy at all, at least no public monetary policy. Of course, the legislature would have to decide what they want to accept in payment of taxes. Probably immediately after secession, folks would continue to use Federal Reserve Notes, and would probably continue circulating them for some time, possibly as long as they hold any value at all. But there would be no legal tender law forcing people to accept them at any particular rate, meaning that gold and silver would circulate alongside them, in whatever denominations folks found convenient, to greater or lesser degrees depending on the condition of the US Dollar, their values allowed to float relative to each other (no bimetallism!). I suspect Mexican Pesos would also be in the mix, at least in the southern parts of the state.

4 (sic). Courts system – Will the new Texas begin with a clean slate, or will it adopt the corrupt American court precedents existing today? You can predict that entrenched interests in the legal system will attempt to tie up the secession in court forever. Where will Texas find judges that are pro-secession? Will Texans allow themselves to be drawn into Federal legal battles when the US should have no jurisdiction in secession?

The principle of the independent judiciary requires that inherited common law not be messed with too much. In the absence of federal law, judges would have the leeway to decide for themselves what they think is just. In the event the Legislature wants to clear up a matter, they could make a proclamation directing judges to observe a new principle. This is how the anglo law system has pretty much always worked, and I see no reason to do any radical restructuring. That said, I would prefer to alter the system to utilize mutually agreeable arbitrators more, and the state's judges less.

5. What method of tax collection will the new nation choose? Any income tax will likely foment yet another revolution.

May I humbly suggest the Single Tax be looked into seriously?

6. There are a lot of Federal lands and military bases in Texas. Will the new nation buy them from Washington or simply confiscate them? And why should the New Texas national government presume that it should own the former Federal lands and bases? Should they not be sold to private parties?

I think the start point for the negotiations that would inevitably have to be done between state officials and the feds should be the respecting of a hands off policy with regard to federal properties and institutions. The Republic of Texas would not immediately seize federal lands and facilities (this would surely provoke an armed response), but also not expend any resources protecting them; it would be the Feds' responsibility to do so. As to the IRS, while without the mandate of law their operations would be technically illegal (if it isn't already), their facilities should be respected in the interim, and their employees not unduly harassed (though duly prosecuted, should they attempt to seize any assets).

Indeed, I would simply regard the United States Government under State law as a property owner like any other. Under a Single Tax, they would be responsible for paying taxes for what they continue to hold (send them a bill, and keep a record of it for when the feds decide that if Texas should leave, they should take their share of the federal debt with them). In the end, the Federal Government would either have to surrender their claim, or sell off their claim (more likely the latter).

7. The new Texas will have to create an immigration policy. Not only is there the existing problem with the Texas/Mexican border, but hundreds of thousands of Americans will want to relocate to Texas to take part in the birth of the new nation.

Simple. Let everybody in, but only naturalize after a period of time. When the legislature can't figure out how to spend all the money they get from the Single Tax, they release the money as a dividend to their shareholders, which don't include the really recent immigrants. A rising population results in rising rental values, which would result in a rise in revenues from the Single Tax, which could be spread among the shareholders (citizens). Immigrants have the freedom to come and try to establish themselves, have no choice but to pay taxes (since a land tax is paid by everyone who uses the land, not just citizens), and the citizens get a bit of a windfall as a result. Everybody wins.

8. Millions of Texans presently receive Social Security benefits of some sort. What will happen to their benefits after secession? Will Washington cut them off in retaliation? Will Texas assume that obligation?

Probably they get cut off. Personally, I would try to make provision in Texas law for continued participation in the United States social security program, if they want to. They could still pay payroll taxes if they want to, and receive the benefits when they retire... or they could NOT pay the payroll tax. Under no circumstances would I saddle a newly independent state government with this obligation: it's questionable whether the US Government will even be able to handle it.

9. Privatization of state services – will Texas try to set up new bureaucracies to deliver mail, collect the taxes, etc? The free market always performs better than government, and no compelling reason can be made for government service.

Why make new ones? Just make sure the US Post Office knows they're welcome to continue doing what they do in your state, delivering mail and selling stamps and such. Of course, in the absence of US law, they'd have private competition and no government guarantee within the state of Texas, but if they can cope, just let them keep doing what they're doing. If they can't, the market will fill the void.

9 (sic). Law Enforcement is already entrenched in every niche and corner of Texas. Will the new Texas continue with the failed War on Drugs, or recognize that drugs are morally equal to alcohol and lift its prohibition?

You ask what will happen; I don't know, having never been a Texan. If California were the seceding state, most likely the war on drugs would be reduced, if not ended outright... and this is how I would have it. But I don't know what Texans would do.

10. What will the New Texas do about a military? Will it embrace a national militia like Switzerland, or establish Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines?

I would say the New Texas Republic would need some kind of navy to assist in the securing of persons and property in the Gulf, in conjunction with Mexico, the United States, and the various island nations (maybe even open relations with Cuba, ha!). I don't know how well a militia system would work in this day and age. I wonder if Texans would accept compulsory military training, as the Swiss do.

11. Foreign policy issues will involve border states and other sovereign nations. Will New Texas make the same foreign policy blunders that Washington loves to make?

Probably not. I imagine the perspectives of Texans alone would be different from a perspective that incorporates people from the East, the North, and anyone else not living on the Mexican border in the presence of many ethnically Mexican people. And as to other countries beyond the sea, I can't imagine Texas, for all its size, would have the same level of arrogance those who represent the United States' foreign policy establishment, lacking the military might of the United States. This, for me, is the top reason for seceding: to deny capacity to the rogue nation that has taken root in Washington D.C.

12. Will New Texas assume the liability of a Medicare/Medicaid system?

I should hope not.

13. Will New Texas protect religious liberty and eschew religious subsidy? After all, there is no practical reason that religious organizations and churches should enjoy tax-free status at the expense of the rest of the population. This issue will be decided as New Texas forms tax policy.

Tax exempt status is a far cry from the tax funded state churches of the past. This, to me, falls under the category of "low priority."

14. Insurance makes the world go around. New Texas will need the wisdom of Solomon in its Department of Insurance to properly regulate insurance companies.

The widsom of Solomon... or the Free Market. How about NOT regulating insurance companies, beyond requiring they honor their contractual agreements the same as everyone else, and establishing the limits of liability in the event of bankruptcy. Personally, I favor extending liability to the owners of the company to some degree.

15. Securities law must be enacted. But copying the corrupt FTC and SEC won’t work.

What securities law beyond a basic prohibition of fraud is needed? Let people use their money for what they want, don't shield people from the consequences of bad decisions, let willful misrepresentation of the facts be considered unlawful (and make no exceptions where other unlawful deeds are concerned for securities), and the market, in conjunction with the courts where necessary, will hash out the details.

16. How many of the existing US Cabinet offices will find a place in the New Texas government? New Texas would probably run fine without most of the unconstitutional bureaucracies operating in Washington today. Copying Washington won’t work.

Under the legislative system I described above, this would be hashed out via the legislative process. Really, this is a matter of bureaucratic convenience, rather than constitutional design.

17. Texas is a microcosm of all the environmental issues facing America today. The "greenies" will fight hard to continue some of the dumb environmental laws in New Texas. They have money and they are patient.

Oh noes, teh enviralmentalists is gonna get us! Firstly, not all environmentalism is dumb. But you can head the dumb stuff off at the pass by creating property classes that acknowledge the interest of all stakeholders in resources that are by their very nature shared. Decision making with regard to rivers should be shared by all who live along it, from the headwaters to the delta (and beyond, with regard to a reverse delta). Farmers upriver have no god-given right to divert off all the water and impoverish downriver farmers and fishermen. Air basins should be shared by the people that live there; power generators have no god-given right to spew their filth into the air others have no choice but to breath (any more than your neighbor has a god-given right to dispose of his garbage by dumping it in your yard).

Environmental issues are more complex than "dumb environmental laws", but only because we have new problems that require new insitutions, that we haven't quite figured out. This is a fact even if Texas never secedes.

18. New Texas will have to make an early decision on public education. Will New Texas continue the failed policies of the federal Department of Education and the deathgrip of the teacher’s unions?

I should hope not. I'd rather any money that would otherwise be spend on public schools be instead emitted as a citizens' dividend, allowing people to make their own decisions with regard to education. However, if the people, via the legislature, express a desire to set up some schools instead of receiving the money as a dividend, I have no problem with this.

19. Texas has great colleges and universities. What will happen to them when Federal money dries up? More importantly, will Texas football teams be thrown out of American football conferences and the BCS? God help us.

Hopefully, sports conferences will recognize that "America" is not the same thing as "The United States." If baseball leagues can court the participation of Latin Americans and Japanese, surely the NFL can accept Texan teams, even if Texans no longer accept the dominion of Washington D.C.

As for colleges, who knows? I'm willing to let this issue be decided by others at the statuatory level.

20. New Texas will need an intelligent Energy policy which embraces nuclear energy, oil and gas, and alternative sources. Texas must throw off the American regulations that prohibit new nuclear power plants. 100% of the electricity for New Texas should come from nuclear power.

This looks more like an answer than a question, but aren't there a whole lot of Texans setting up wind plants in the windy Texas countryside? Aren't the deserts of Texas (not to mention New Mexico, Arizona, and California) ideal for solar power, which is becoming a more commercially viable alternative almost by the week?

Personally, where operations with wide ranging catastrophic failure risks are concerned, I would permit the people living in the failure zone (ie. the "blast radius") the opportunity to prohibit the building of something like a nuclear plant. The risks may well be low, and if this is the case, the would-be nuclear power plant builder is bound to find some place where the people are not scared of the plant. No "permission" would be required to start building, though a builder would be wise to secure permission first, lest he incur building costs and find out only later it's not going to be allowed.

The people living in the risk zone could incorporate for the purpose of managing that risk, probably requiring some kind of payment in exchange for assuming the risks inherent in establishing a nuclear facility (or other facility which imposes physical risks or conditions on the people living near it) for a period not to exceed fifty years. This would include only the people already living there; those who move in later know what they're getting in to.

Alternately, the builders could be required to appease each property owner in the area individually, working out a deal by which the provision "is near a nuclear power plant" would be attached to the deed for a mutually agreeable period of time not to exceed fifty years (after which the next generation would have the opportunity to renegotiate the terms under which they assume the risks). Someone wanting to build a nuclear plant could potentially locate their plant in a manner similar to how free market road builders could locate their roads under the program suggested by Walter Block.

To not include the residents of the area in the process is to permit people to impose inordinate risks on other people against their will, and to take from them an aspect of their land property. It's the same as if someone went and built a chicken rendering plant right next to a residential neighborhood, flooding the neighborhood with the stench; at the very least, the people should be compensated for the drop in their quality of life, and the only way to ensure the compensation is proper is to require that it be negotiated between the new neighbor and the old neighbors. (Neighbors after that, of course, are buying in at the new levels of property values).

The beauty of this system is that it can be applied to any manner of potentially explosive establishments. This allows the government to respect complete and total freedom to possess and bear arms, while providing the neighbors with the opportunity to object should they find themselves in harms way as a result. If pointing a gun at a man for a reason other than self defense ought to be regarded as improper, the possession of explosives (not to mention nuclear devices) the yield of which could encompass a man's neighbors' property should it accidentally go off, ought also to be regarded as improper. But with such a system, we leave the decision not with legislature or bureaucracy, but with the neighbors themselves. If the people living in a city decide they are willing to allow someone to possess a nuclear device, then it could be permitted.


billder99 said...

You guys are spending way to much time thinking about something that can not and will not happen short of a disaster that results in the dissolution of the US (nuclear or biological war).

Tarvok said...

At the risk of denigrating my own blog (though I am well aware of my incredibly small readership), I should reply that YOU guys are spending way too much time commenting on articles about something that can not and will not happen. Are you aware you're the FIRST person to make a comment here in at least a year, if not more? Just what is it you are afraid of?

Heh, I should write about secession more often. :)