The Reality of Secession and Unicorns

I hate to disappoint the 675,000 whiny diaper babies calling for secession in the wake of the election but, sorry, no matter how hard they stomp their feet and pout and fling their feces at the electoral map, demands for secession might as well be demands for goblins and unicorns.
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I hate to disappoint the 675,000 whiny diaper babies calling for secession in the wake of the election but, sorry, no matter how hard they stomp their feet and pout and fling their feces at the electoral map, demands for secession might as well be demands for goblins and unicorns. They're equally as realistic.

Secession from the United States will never happen.


Not only is it illegal, but it's technically an act of treason as defined by the Constitution, and it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Texas v. White. Furthermore, the secessionists aren't merely condemning the Obama administration, secession is by definition a categorical rejection of the United States and its Constitution, say nothing of the beloved Pledge of Allegiance, which specifically includes the word "indivisible" right after the word "God." I thought these things were sacrosanct to conservatives.

I'm not breaking any news here, but the red states tried this already and it failed miserably. The core motivation behind the 1861 secession movement was, of course, the defense of slavery as the cornerstone of the Southern economy, and, subsequently, state sovereignty over the legality and regulation of slavery. When Abraham Lincoln won the election of 1860, secessionist fire-eaters were convinced that the initially unconvinced Abraham Lincoln would summarily free the slaves and possibly arm them for an insurrection against their masters, thus undermining the southern economy in a massive display of executive "tyranny." And so the southern states, one by one, seceded. In the four years that followed, 2.5 percent of the American population was wiped out in the American Civil War -- the equivalent to 7,850,000 people in terms of today's population, or roughly the entire 2010 population of Virginia. And, in the end, the decimated seceding states were forced by military attrition to return to the Union.

But let's say for the sake of argument that all of the former Confederate states defied the astronomical one-in-a-million odds and actually seceded again. (I can't help but to think about Jim Carrey's reaction in Dumb and Dumber when presented with one-in-a-million odds: "So you're saying there's a chance...")

What would actually happen?

Unless these states were able to muster an army of disloyal soldiers and militia and fired upon military bases loyal to the United States, it's doubtful that a modern secession movement would result in another civil war. But if it did, the U.S. military of 2012 clearly possesses capabilities and manpower far beyond anything imaged in 1861 and would summarily wipe out an army of rag-tags, even if they did manage to seize a couple of bases and persuade a few commanders to join the cause. If it escalated into war, the bloodshed would be unspeakable. The late Civil War historian Shelby Foote once observed that the most brutal fistfights he'd ever seen were between two brothers.

However, with a modern economy, there would be no need for President Obama to order the military to retake the seceding states by force. Again, we're talking about pure fantasy here, but if the president took seriously the various Ordinances of Secession and the subsequent formation of an anti-federalist confederation of sovereign states, my strong hunch is that the president would merely starve out the states until they simply gave up.

To avoid the inevitable sanctions, there would be a massive refugee crisis of non-secessionists flooding out of the secessionist states. They'd be the smart ones.

Most of the red states -- now the hypothetical "New Confederacy" -- had heretofore taken more federal aid than they paid back in federal taxes. South Carolina, for example, takes $1.35 in federal money for every dollar it pays in federal taxes. Louisiana takes $1.78 for every dollar it pays into the system. Talk about moochers and freeloaders. By the way, this money is redistributed from other states, including the blue states with their abortion-on-demand and evil healthcare mandate. After secession, that gravy train would cease to exist. Farmers, corporations, small businesses, universities and law enforcement would crumble without federal aid -- grants, contracts, matching funds, tax breaks, etc.

If the reality of losing federal money wasn't enough to convince the New Confederacy to stop behaving like petulant, tantrum-throwing children, then an array of more hard-core sanctions would begin. It's likely the power grid, pipelines, shipping lanes and, yes, satellite and internet communications would be summarily blocked by the U.S. government. The confederacy would be totally cut off from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, without federal regulations on food safety, clean water, clean air, and without the CDC, rampant disease would spread across the confederacy. How would northern medical equipment and pharmaceuticals reach the seceded states? Inflation, especially on medicine, would skyrocket as demand for dwindling supplies increased. Black-marketeers would spring up in every town.

The solidly blue areas inside the seceded states -- Austin, for instance -- would be the Texas equivalent to West Berlin in the heart of East Germany. We'd have to airlift supplies to those areas and hope that hoards of desperate and well-armed suburban and rural warlords didn't swoop in try to swipe the supplies. Needless to say, there would be a large scale humanitarian crisis.

At the governmental level of the New Confederacy, presuming there's something holding all the states together, leaders would quickly learn the hard lessons of both the Articles of Confederation and the CSA: it's nearly impossible to govern and do business as a confederacy, especially in a 2012 world. There wouldn't be a standard national currency. There wouldn't be national trade agreements even though, on the bright side, nations like China, which has been known to do business with rogue nations like Iran, might continue to ship cheap crap to Walmart and other stores inside this loose conglomeration of nations.

Instead of one large national economy, there would be individual state-level economies -- each of them too weak to compete in the global marketplace. How would the New Confederacy generate revenue without a central system of taxation? If it came down to a fighting war against the U.S., how would the central government raise and finance a military?

Welcome, New Confederacy, to third world status!

But it gets worse. The impossible reality of a successful confederacy would be further exacerbated by the secession precedent. States would end up splitting into smaller and smaller pieces with parts of states seceded from other parts -- subdividing and subdividing until the confederacy vaporized or was reunified into a more traditional federalist system.

Again, this isn't speculative. This is tested reality. The Confederate States of America ended up with a strong central government because it quickly learned that it couldn't fight a war and manage its economy without one. Years earlier, the disastrous Articles of Confederation were dismantled and replaced with the U.S. Constitution with a strong central government and a powerful chief executive as its centerpiece.

So if you're one of the now hundreds of thousands of signatories to these ridiculous petitions, think about the reality of what you've endorsed. You signed a petition to disconnect yourself from the United States of America and, perhaps, to wage war against it. If you're on Social Security -- gone. If you're on Medicare -- gone. If your children attend public or charter schools -- gone. If you work for a defense contractor or another corporation that relies on government contracts -- gone. Hell, if you rely on the internet to do business -- gone. And in the worst case scenario, you should be prepared to wage war against the most powerful military in the history of mankind, augmented by the military might of other allied nations.

And if you're inclined to storm off like a drama-queen reality show contestant -- if you're inclined to "Go Galt" as so many conservatives threatened to do four years ago -- then run off into the forest and live off the grid for while until you calm down from your post-election hysteria. While you're there, wise up.

Cross-posted at The Daily Banter.
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