Daniel McCarthy on secession
It might, in fact, make matters worse:
The worst-case scenario if the U.S. were to split along its traditional North-South divide would create an even more hostile environment for libertarians and traditional conservatives than the one that obtains now. The North, shorn of the Republican-leaning South, could become much more like a European social democracy, with an even more intrusive administrative apparatus, and probably without losing the U.S. penchant for meddling overseas. You’d get a more “humanitarian” warfare state and a more comprehensive welfare state. Meanwhile, the South, without the interference of Northern voters, would elect an endless succession of Dubyas pursuing crony-capitalism while engaging in all kinds of military misadventures.
Now, one could suppose that if the U.S. had broken up in the 1860s, both regions would have cultivated their virtues instead of their vices. Maybe they would have, but it’s far from a sure thing. Moreover, further clashes between the two confederations could have been expected as both tried to expand westward. Continuing conflict would have created quite a temptation for European powers to play the two Americas off of one another to the benefit of, say, Britain, France, or Germany. One can easily imagine the two Americas being lured into World War I, possibly on opposite sides, by the Europeans or by their own elites.
Maybe there’s something to the Madisonian notion that extensive, heterogeneous republics are less tyrannical than smaller but more consolidated ones. Of course, an extensive and consolidated republic is much worse, and that’s the direction in which we continue to move. The two environments in which decency can survive are the sub-national and, perhaps, the authentically federal. Does either of those possibilities have a chance? If not, our last hope might be a stalemate between nationalist and post-nationalist evils that prevents either from attaining uncontested power.
It’s a smart point, and while secession has not been a particularly hot topic until recently, I think one worth making.