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IPFS News Link • Secession

Either You Support Secession or Colonialism

•, by David Gordon

Quite the contrary, the topic is integral to classical liberalism. Indeed, the right of secession follows at once from the basic rights defended by classical liberalism. As even Macaulay's schoolboy knows, classical liberalism begins with the principle of self-ownership: each person is the rightful owner of his or her own body. Together with this right, according to classical liberals from Locke to Rothbard, goes the right to appropriate unowned property.

In this view, government occupies a strictly ancillary role. It exists to protect the rights that individuals possess independently — it is not the source of these rights. As the Declaration of Independence puts it, "to secure these rights [life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness], governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from consent of the governed."

But what has all this to do with secession? The connection, I suggest, is obvious: if government does not protect the rights of individuals, then individuals may end their allegiance to it. And one form this renunciation may take is secession — a group may renounce its allegiance to its government and form a new government. (It is not, of course, the only form. A group can overthrow its government altogether, rather than merely abjure its authority over them.)