There's buzz about secession. Ronald Holland shows some strategic pitfalls in an excellent column. Asking the White House to comment on the secession of one or more states won't move the President, Congress, the courts, or the military. But it is symbolic of the exhaustion many people feel as they watch the crony political class squander their treasure and their liberty.
Secession can be seen as a last resort form of "interposition of the lower magistrate." The interposition concept comes from early Calvinists, including John Calvin. It had a huge influence on the American Revolution.
Interposition means that the chosen leader of a group, a magistrate, has moved to block the bad actions of a higher authority. Such a leader can...
* Speak against bad policies
* Organize his constituents
* Work to defeat current officeholders
* Launch recalls
* Stall or incompletely implement bad laws
* Refuse to enforce bad policies
And when all else fails, the lower magistrate can even lead a secession movement.
"When all else fails" is a crucial phrase. Thomas Jefferson put it deftly, "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."
These were not idle words. America's Founders acted as Jefferson preached. They followed a policy of incremental interposition.
INTERPOSITION IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
Our Founders began with the existing legal framework. They asked the King to redress grievances.
The King's ministers responded with further taxes and regulations. They even charged John Hancock with smuggling. Hancock interposed with a retaliatory boycott. The King escalated again. He taxed colonial tea to favor an English cartel -- an early example of the cronyism that afflicts us now.
The King then spurned more appeals, so Boston's Sons of Liberty turned aggressive with their "tea party." But even this step was incremental. They broke only a lock and ruined some tea. They harmed no other person or property. Ben Franklin even suggested that the protestors should pay for the tea, and some colonial merchants offered to do so! The British refused.
Instead, the King imposed the "Intolerable Acts." This removed Massachusetts' right to self-government. It also quartered troops in colonial homes and gave these soldiers immunity from any crimes they might commit.
This "train of abuses" was evidence that grievances would not be redressed. Tensions heightened. The King then ordered his men to seize the colonist's guns in the spring of 1775 – something no free people can tolerate. Even then, the colonial response was moderate and incremental. They defended themselves, but they did not initiate violence.
The Continental Congress sent an "Olive Branch Petition" to King George. He refused it, and declared the colonists to be in an "open state of rebellion." In other words, the King declared the rebellion, not the colonists.
The Continental Congress responded by listing the King's abuses to justify their acts of self-defense. This was the "Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of taking up Arms." It came a full year before the Declaration of Independence. It was another incremental step before the final break. Please notice...
The magistrates in this story were patient to the point of plodding; they appealed to authority openly and often. This narrative doesn't justify everything the Colonials did during this time. But it does show that the King declared the rebellion, not the colonial magistrates.
This history should guide us now.
CARTS AND HORSES
I'm frustrated. You're frustrated. Secession seems appealing.
Keep in mind, the last secession attempt was established on dubious grounds and led to destruction. It left a long-lasting legacy of political division and cultural mistrust. Let's not rush to a similar end.
Don't put the cart before the horse. Skip no steps. First you must Deny Consent, just as the Founders did.
The Founders provide a good model; so too, do Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. They showed the power of non-violent tactics. They were also incremental. They began small and slowly escalated, as needed.
This requires patience. You will likely lose at each step. But this does not mean you can skip the steps.
Suffering will expand in the short term. The political class may use brute force if it feels threatened. Some will be injured. But you will lose if you respond with violence. Please understand -- violence is The State's strength and your weakness. You must not oppose strength with weakness.
You must learn the power of turning your cheek. It must be clear who the victims are, and who has done wrong. This will cause the wrong-doers to lose support, even from within their own ranks.
This will take time. It may even exhaust your options. But the exhaustion must come first.
We must reach the point the Founders reached, before a resort to secession can work, or even be justified. But when that point comes, public support will follow; since no steps have been skipped, the case will be evident.
Denying Consent is the first of those steps. This is no minor matter. Thomas Jefferson wrote that all government rests on the consent of the governed. Deny that consent and what does government rest upon then? The answer is "mere violence."
Our highest priority now is to awaken our neighbors, our families, our co-workers and our friends to the issue of consent. Awful things are being done in their name and with their money. Do they really consent to this?
We must unmask all pretenses. The State is nothing more than a corrupt cartel whose policies benefit only a handful of well-connected cronies.
When enough people understand that, things will change. Maybe it will come to secession, maybe not. But other steps come first, and they cannot be skipped.
Jim Babka is the President of Downsize DC, home of the Read the Bills Act. At present, his team is building the Zero Aggression Project and Deny Consent -- new tools to transform the most important precincts and districts in the country, the hearts and minds of the people.