The Western Standard of Secession

The Western Standard, a Calgary-based journal of libertarian and conservative thought, wrote an article on the conflict in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It brought to light the fundamental issues of the caucasian conflict. My comment, lengthy enough to be a post itself, is reprinted here:

Great article.

I can see by the comments herein that most people see secession from a nationalist perspective. Nations are treated as corporate persons that can be ‘hurt’ by having pieces of their sovereign territory ‘taken’ from them.

As Von Mises explained, this is not the case. Rather, the sovereignty of states is nothing more than the pooling of individuals’ sovereignty across a particular territory. To see it any differently would cause individuals to surrender all rights to serve as cells in the corporate whole. Germany invading Lombardy is not wrong because it bugs the people in Rome, but because it bugs the people in Lombardy. We are not servants of our capital cities or our nation-states.

Most libertarians will hold firm to the principle of unilateral secession as a bedrock of liberty de jure, while recognizing the complications of secession in practice. Every secessionist movement without a set territory (like a province or historical region) prior to its independence is subject to nationalists in the mother country trying to keep as much land as possible. This is little more than a resource grab, much as colonial powers will retain bases in their former colonies, e.g. Cyprus. Another typical complication is forced or voluntary migration, or genocide, prior to the secession. This is much more relevant in the Old World – where such occurrences are more commonplace – than in a place like Quebec. I believe that most libertarians would be sympathetic to arguments about pre-secession land-grabbing, and would support pursuit of a settlement prior to the territory’s departure.

Unfortunately, the news media usually does not present the background of a secessionist movement without a heavy bias toward one of the superpowers that stakes its reputation on the outcome. I suspect, but have never seen coverage of, ethnic strife in South Ossetia and Abkhazia leading to the current conflict. If Georgians were ‘cleansed’ before the votes, that would definitely corrupt the declaration of independence. It might morally authorize Georgian military intervention. My impression, however, is that there is a certain element of nationalism – always a vice of the cyrillic world – that led Saakashvili to attempt to ‘reconquer’ these lands in the name of Georgia. If that is not the case, then I suggest Georgians get about educating the rest of us about past crimes that justify the invasion of these two statelets.

On a final note to what has become the longest comment I have ever left on a blog, my personal wish is to see the Russian Federation/Empire disintegrate into a sea of small states. These news states would be in direct competition with one another to liberalize or face mass emigration. The only way to hold together an empire the size of Russia, China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Canada or America is by coercion writ large. Though they are often cited as the great powers of the world, their achievements per capita are so often less than that of small states. They are more rigid, less likely to liberalize, and harder to escape. Moreover, they are a danger to the smaller states of the world, like Georgia. The Russian government, through its many incarnations, has held the world hostage too long, it has held its own ‘subjects’ as slaves for too long, and it is the greatest candidate for dissolution. I believe such a transformation will herald a golden age for Eurasia. I hope I will live to see it.

One thought on “The Western Standard of Secession

  1. Mike – Every once in a while someone posts a comment that is thoughtful and engaging enough for me to want them very much to come back and participate on our blog. Today, it’s you.

    Please do visit us, and don’t be shy about participating more frequently.


    Peter Jaworski,
    online editor,
    Western Standard.

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