by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Part of the allure of secession is sentimentality, rank romanticism rooted in tribalism. What a land the Scots might make for themselves if only they were relieved of the burden of sharing a kingdom with the English! (Answer: Norway’s welfare state, Sweden’s cultural dynamism, Italy’s solvency.) And which of the last true-believing pilgrims in the Church of Hope and Change, his fraying Shepard Fairey T-shirt his only protection against the chill of the frozen-foods aisle at Trader Joe’s, does not dream of living in a nation with no SUV-driving Rick Perry voters who drink cheap beer un-ironically? The popularity of survivalist fantasy literature and apocalypse-preparedness television programs, and the jaunty attitudes associated with them, suggest that dread is not the main feeling associated with doomsday portents: Having grown disenchanted with the world as it is, they welcome its end. Dr. Manhattan surely speaks for many of us: “These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.” Dr. Manhattan retreated to Mars when he’d had enough; most of us only dream of a cabin in the woods.
The drive to secede is born both of despair — things have become irreparably bad where we are — and what is more often than not an extraordinarily foolish hope. Scotland is hardly a viable independent nation, though as Nigel Farage and other critics point out, it does not propose to become an independent nation, exactly, but a subordinate division of a European Union that increasingly resembles a central state rather than a confederation of free and self-governing peoples. The irony there is very sharp: Weary and resentful of being governed from London, the Scots propose to be governed from Brussels.
In the event they should have the opportunity to find out, Texans resentful of Washington’s micromanagement and its inexhaustible arrogance would most likely find it replicated in miniature in Austin — indeed, it already has been to a shocking extent — without the counterbalancing virtues of being forced to cooperate with the other 49 states. Six Californias sounds to me like six times the trouble.
Bigger is not always better, and there is a time to break away, as our Founders did, and as people have from time to time for as long as history has recorded. But the United States functions remarkably well at both the federal and state level. There are many deep and important criticisms to be made of it, but, difficult as it sometimes can be to believe, we live in one of the most stable and coherent societies that the world ever has seen. There are a few countries today that can boast of being better-governed — Switzerland, Canada, and Australia, for example — but not one that has been governed so consistently well for more than two centuries.