The ROSE Amendment: Right of Secession

Even back in my minarchist days, I always thought decentralization was the most promising path to liberty. Today, I stumbled upon the text of a proposal I had for a Right Of Secession (ROSE) Amendment to the US Constitution, which would explicitly recognize the right of self-determination of the constituent states:

Considering it the most expedient way to create legal recognition for the inherent right of free individuals to remove territories they own from the political authority to which they were formerly bound (by choice or force), we hereby express our support for the addition of the following amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America: 

WHEREAS the issue was formerly settled by force of arms over reasoned discourse, and 

WHEREAS, since the War Between The States, it is generally accepted that this Constitution prohibits secession, 

THEREFORE we, the citizens of the States, hereby make explicit the unilateral right of secession by any constituent state or territory under this Constitution, in a manner to be specified by the laws of said state or territory. 

The United States: A Stagnant Concern

Why is it that the US does not evolve politically? It seems that to a greater extent than any other Western country in history, the US is determined to maintain the historic form of its government regardless of changing realities on the ground. There is, in essence, no active polis – only citizens pursing policy through a non-negotiable framework.

Is this an outgrowth of the quasi-religious veneration of The Founders? Does anyone think they expected the grab bag of Anglo-European procedures they put in place not to be renegotiated from time to time? Were we supposed to live until the end of time in a constitutional mausoleum dedicated to classical liberalism a la America 1787?

The only substantive changes that have been made – 14th Amendment (giving federal courts jurisdiction over state policies, 17th Amendment (direct election of US Senators), threatened packing of the Supreme Court by Roosevelt – have served the end of reducing constitutional federalism to a more base democratic nationalism.

The Europeans may be more statist than we, but they have had a historic a talent for politics, in the classical sense. Their societies were built out of grinding negotiations by those affected, and then re-negotiated constantly over time. They continue to do so, even in the construction of misguided European Union project. In Europe, there was no group of Founders that bequeathed a homunculus of a federal framework to which they must adhere. It has been constructed over time through gnashing negotiation.

Why is the US, by contract, so mired in political formalism? Not in the positivist sense of the term, but the religious sense. “Formalism” in the sense that the rules of the game are left nominally the same and just bent to serve the ends of contemporary players – or, if they must be changed, only reduced to a lower common denominator. 

Some people argue this formalism is a bulwark against complete collapse into tyranny. Does it not, though, promote at once an ethic of corruption and lack of ownership of a society by those who inhabit it?

For whatever reason, Americans never have been political animals. I think this is because the US claims the territory of many distinct poleis (nations, if you will) and has imposed from above a constitutional prison that has reduced us to imperial subjects and slaves – unable to even conceive which procedures and institutions might better suit our ends.

Or maybe it is because we are a young empire that through early and vast accumulation of power and territory, came to that mix of arrogance and deep conservative fear that is shown by heirs of great fortunes. We didn’t earn it and we don’t understand it, so we better not mess with it but only venerate it.

The American Confederation Society

The American Confederation Society is a proposed organization dedicated to reform the imperial United States of America into a humble American Confederation. This confederation would look more like our confederal government under the Articles of Confederation than our federal/imperial government under the Constitution.

The Confederal Government would be truly predicated on the consent of its participant states – including their right to unilateral withdrawal – and could come to include any states that met our accession criteria, including Canadian provinces or Mexican states. But before we consider enlarging our club, we must first put our own house in order.

All decisions not related to defense, keeping the borders open between states, or settling disputes between states would be handled by the sovereign state governments. Hopefully, those state governments will exercise little force over their citizens, but the plethora of states and open borders will allow residents to vote with their feet if one state goes sour. Affecting policy within a state will be handled by the Free State Society, Libertarian Party, or other freedom-organization of that state. The Confederation Society will be free to make recommendations to state governments on strategies to increase liberty, including the use of sortition and range voting to select legislatures, strengthening constitutional bills of rights, and preventing unions and corporations from undermining the civil power.

The program will include:

• Empower the Senate. If President of the Senate (Vice-President) can command majority of the Senate, then he may represent the Senate. If not, then he will select a President Pro Tempore who can command majority to represent the Senate.

• Disempower President into figurehead. President may select and dismiss Cabinet (Order of Administration) and Supreme Court (Order of Adjudication) only on the advice of the Senate.

• Disband House of Representatives. Senate becomes known as the ‘Congress of the Confederation’ and its members as ‘Delegates.’ President becomes ‘President of the Confederation, in Congress Assembled’ selected by anti-voting (to be explained in a later post) in Congress. President of the Senate (Vice-President) and Speaker of the House merged into ‘Speaker for the Congress,’ commanding a majority in the Congress and directing the Cabinet. Repeal direct election of Senators (17th Amendment) in favor of selection determined by the laws of the States.

• Repeal 16th Amendment, Commerce Clause, and other onerous parts of the Constitution. Disband the Federal Reserve and eliminate federal jurisdiction over currency. Disband the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, the NSA, and all other federal criminal organizations. Disband the myriad federal departments that do not deal directly with defense.

• Make federal land and assets available for homesteading in order to reduce federal holdings to those which are necessary to pursue its limited functions.

• Default on the federal debt and entitlement obligations. It wasn’t our fault that our imperial masters sold our futures down the river for their political expedience. Consequences will be limited if we no longer depend on a fiat currency that could potentially devalue.

There is more about the Confederation Society here. I am in the process of drafting proposed Articles of the Confederation Society. Each current federation or large nation-state has its own challenges in becoming a peaceful confederation. Hopefully, I can address a potential program for several of them in future posts. If you believe in this program, please start a local chapter of the Confederation Society, keep me in the loop, and check back for more innovative reform strategies and proposals.