I have a question for those of you who truly care about morality. This isn’t a question for those of you who will fight for your interests whether right or wrong.
I’ve only been reading about secession for two years, so I haven’t thought through everything.
We wrote an article applying Just War doctrine to secession here: https://redstatesecession.org/?p=103 Just War theory is a doctrine of western Christianity explaining the conditions in which a state is justified in engaging in war.
In feudal times, when Just War theory was developed, the borders of kingdoms did not follow cultural or linguistic boundaries. The age of the “nation-state” began only a few hundred years ago. The fundamental meaning of the word nation is built on the concept of an ethno-linguistic group: the whole group of people who are tied together by bonds of a common language (and culture, history, customs). The state is a different idea. It is any group that is sovereign (regarding its use of force), not reporting to any higher human authority. Prior to the rise of the nation state, it was uncommon in Europe for one king to rule the whole nation. Even as recently as the 1800s, the Germanic people lived in dozens of somewhat independent principalities.
The question I didn’t consider in my essay is how did these small, independent kingdoms develop? Is there a moral way to create a new state from an existing state, even when the group of people you are trying to “liberate” have never considered themselves a nation? And is it legitimate to use force to create a new state, even if it is not a case of self-determination for a whole nation, and it is not even a group of people who have ever had a state before?
An example of a non-nation seceding to create a “country” (an independent state) would be the Americans who moved to Texas and almost immediately seceded from Mexico in 1836. They were an independent state until 1845. 1776 would be another example. The people of the colonies considered themselves members of the English nation. The 13 colonies were 13 distinct entities that were largely self governing until the 1760’s and 1770’s, and each one won independence in 1783.
The rest of the 50 states were admitted to the Union on an equal footing (with equal sovereignty). In the American system, de jure, states have the right to secede with or without permission, and are obviously justified in using force if necessary to obtain independence. In international affairs, the right to self-determination of an ethno-linguistic group is recognized. But my question for you is: may a smaller group of people secede unilaterally who are neither an existing state, nor an entire ethno-linguistic group, nor a nation? In other words, is it moral to create one of those little states that Europe had (and still has in some cases), even with the use of force? Would it be morally OK for eastern Texas, or western Louisiana, or Florida’s western panhandle, to hold a referendum and then unilaterally secede from the USA?
Given that Just War theory recognized the right to self defense of those kingdoms, does it follow that Just War theory recognizes the morality of the formation of such kingdoms? I’m not aware of a body of Christian thought on this topic. It’s probably outside the scope of Just War theory, which probably assumes as a given that an existing state has a right to exist. Admittedly, my knowledge of Just War theory is mostly from wikipedia.
I’m asking whether it is moral, not whether it is legal or authorized by the Constitution or conforming to an ideology. Anarchists and some libertarians already argue for the right of secession of any size group, even down to the individual. That doesn’t help me or persuade me because I’m neither an anarchist nor a libertarian. I think that is important to be able to articulate a justification that can be accepted by the average conservative, because average conservatives are much more numerous than anarchists and libertarians. If you can’t even convince the average conservative, it’s unlikely you’ll find any geographic area that’s willing to follow you. They, like myself, regard the Bible as the highest authority on morality.
Jesus didn’t join the “zealots”, the Jewish men who were fighting for Jewish independence from the Roman Empire, because the gospel needed to be introduced first before political changes could be made. Political changes are secondary, but still worthwhile. Now the Church is established. Its spread throughout the world is not yet complete, but different Christians have different gifts. Most soldiers are better suited to taking down governments than they are to cross-cultural evangelization. But according to John 10:22-23, Jesus did celebrate Chanukkah. Chanukkah is the commemoration of a violent secession movement: a revolt by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire that created a new state (although this state was for a historic nation that had been a state before). By celebrating Chanukkah, Jesus was celebrating secession achieved by force.
But conservatives are not prone to revolution or creating new states (countries). I’ve only come to this point because I recognize that the USA can’t be saved as a whole, and even individual states might be too slow to recognize the necessity for secession, or too timid and divided to try it. If they delay, the states that are not landlocked will be drowned in the flood of immigrants and graduates from public schools and liberal universities who vote Left. Would it be OK to unilaterally create a new country from a portion of US state? Could the people of that area be morally justified to choose a government before they had even successfully seceded, and let that government lead their struggle for independence, be it peaceful or not peaceful?
My friend Mike wrote: “we’re supposed to follow man’s law so long as it doesn’t conflict with God’s law. When there is a conflict…such as in the case of abortion laws, you are biblically on high moral ground in figuring out ways to resist them. I think a good case can be made from a biblical perspective that this is OK — especially when you look at the many times Israel turned it’s back on God and didn’t obey God’s word. They were allowed to be conquered by the Assyrians (Isaiah 10:5), Babylonians, and then by the Romans.”
One important question is how small can a group of people be to be considered a real polity– a polity that is justified in creating a new state by any means necessary? A polity is a group of people who are the people of a state. Of 195 sovereign countries in the world, the median country, the 98th most populous country, has 8.6 million residents. The average country is calculated as the world population of 7.7 billion as of July 2019, divided by 195 countries = 39.6 million. Excluding China and India, the average is 5 billion divided by 193 countries = 25.5 million.
It would be ridiculous if some little fishing village declared independence and expected the USA to recognize its ownership of airspace and waters extending miles from the continental shelf. That would be a big cost to the USA to benefit a small group of people. Just because they happen to live closer to the ocean than everyone who live inland, can they really expect to be given these waters?
As a practical matter, if the people of that village tried to use force to exert their will, the state or the federal government would easily imprison them. To be a polity, a group of people need to be strong enough to deter other polities (such as the USA) from being motivated to take their wealth and land/sea claims. Microstates such as Andorra, Monaco, and Liechtenstein can have small armies because the value of conquering these small state is not great. The polity just needs to make the cost of invasion (or insurrection) greater than the cost of not invading, and avoid offending their neighbors.
One challenge for the first polity to attempt to secede from the USA is that they are imposing a huge cost on the USA: the cost of creating a precedent for other American polities to follow. Under what conditions would the polity be strong enough to pressure the US to accept such a cost? 155 years ago, Abraham Lincoln was willing to pay a huge cost, but modern times are different (we wrote about this here: https://www.quora.com/If-a-state-successfully-voted-to-secede-from-the-USA-would-they-realistically-be-allowed-to-do-so/answer/Chris-Rhodes-65 ). Still, I’m guessing the first polity will have to be pretty strong– millions of people strong. I guess the practical situation provides the minimum size for a polity. Morally speaking, can we agree that a group of one or two million people deserve their own independent state if they can manage to obtain it? The following image is selected from a UN list of 233 “countries and areas”, showing how small (unpopulated) are some respected and relatively independent nations, such as Brunei with 433,000, or Estonia, with 1.3 million, or Ireland, which fought its way out of the UK in the 1900s and still has a border with the UK:
Alaska has a population of 737,000. Alaska is already a state, so it already has a de jure right to secede, but it might not be big enough to spawn a break-away republic from some portion of Alaska. Florida has 21 million people. Texas has 29 million. Louisiana has 4.7 million.
What if the county supervisors from one part of a state represented their counties at a convention, and decided that their group of counties would secede and create the seed of a new nation?
Looking at a US map of the results of the 2016 presidential results, there are a few coastline areas that have few Hillary voters, where the populace might be ideologically homogeneous enough to decide to escape the Leftward “progress” of the federal government. Below we list several possibilities. Personally, I don’t live in any of these places, but if they secede successfully, they would certainly attract millions of freedom-lovers from across the US. If the secession of one of them is successful, they could inspire every red state to secede from the US.
Coastline is important because it provides a corridor to international airspace and international waters. A landlocked state doesn’t have that. If it is surrounded by the USA and its allies, the US can make shipping extremely expensive into the state. Besides the areas discussed below, there is no populated area at a coast that is at least a million people with more than 2 Trump voters per Hillary voter. Unfortunately the coast between Tallahassee and Tampa doesn’t have many people. The Carolina coast only has 3 counties that have more than 2 Trump voters per Hillary voter.
Alabama is the most conservative state in the Union that has coastline (Alaska has gained a lot of Democrats). Why hasn’t Alabama seceded? Perhaps because it gets much more money from DC than it gives in taxes. In any case, Alabama has 1.81 Trump voters per Hillary voter. We might need to look for areas that are considerably more conservative if we are going to find an area that would secede before Alabama would.
Texas has a strong secessionist spirit, but Texans seem unlikely to split the state because of the strong Texas nationalism (nationalism for the nation of Texas), which is territorial and unitary. But Texas has the only area at a coast that has a huge number of Trump voters per Hillary voter.
Secessionism in Louisiana as a whole is about half as strong as in Texas as a whole. But hopefully western Louisianans would be more willing than Texans are to split their state if necessary, if they are less territorial and nationalistic than Texans are. It may actually be easier for western Louisiana to be the first area to secede from the US than for the whole state of Louisiana to be the first state to secede because western LA does not straddle the Mississippi River and is therefore not a threat to US sovereignty over river shipping.
We identified a group of parishes in western Louisiana that all voted more than 60% for Trump. Collectively, they have 2.58 Trump voters for each Hillary voter. [Update: 2020 results are even more pro-Trump] The group’s population is 1.46 million people. It includes Alexandria, St. Charles, and Lafeyette. After proving secession is possible, this group could easily expand to the north or into eastern Texas. These counties do not reach the Mississippi River, but the group does have ports on the Gulf of Mexico at Lake Charles and elsewhere. It’s Cajun country, where the cajun navy operates. There are multiple national wildlife refuges and national forests.
These counties are rural, so they have a lower average cost of living. But they still manage to have a per capita personal income (2017) that is 93% that of the Louisiana average. We calculated this using US Bureau of Economic Analysis data at www.bea.gov.
Here’s a precinct map of the 2016 presidential election with unpopulated areas shown in grey.
We identified a group of 43 counties in eastern Texas that reach the coast at Chambers County. Bolivar Peninsula and Goat Island are the only parts of Galveston County included. No ocean ports have been developed in these counties, but they do have an airspace corridor out to international airspace. There are significant river ports on the Sabine River and small, shallow docks in Galveston Bay. As the movement strengthens, Jefferson County would be added, including the major ocean port of Port Arthur.
These 43 counties have a population of 2.11 million. Let’s call these counties “East Texas.” Unlike any other large area we’ve ever examined, this group of counties gave an incredible 3.46 votes to Trump for every Hillary vote. [Update: 2020 results: 2.7 Trump votes per Biden vote] (The image below shows the number 3.55 because it includes San Jacinto county, which we later decided does not fit because it has little GDP). After East Texas is established, Jefferson County should be added to East Texas because it has a significant city, Beaumont, which employs people from surrounding counties. With Jefferson County added, East Texas has a population of 2.4 million and still has 2.98 Trump voters per Hillary voter (as shown in the map above that includes West Louisiana). For comparison, the most conservative state in the Union, Wyoming, had 3.12 Trump voters per Hillary voter in 2016, but Wyoming only has a population of 573,000.
East Texas does not straddle US Hwy 45 between Dallas and Houston, so it should not be perceived as too threatening. But as the movement strengthens, it could spill over that highway westward.
This potential seed of a new country borders western Louisiana and Oklahoma. Oklahoma is one of the 3 most conservative states in the USA, judging from the two most recent presidential election results. It had 2.26 Trump voters per Hillary voter in 2016. Oklahoma would have difficulty achieving unilateral independence alone because the USA could close airspace and make international trade too expensive for the state. But if eastern Texas secedes, Oklahoma could join suit, as well as any states connected to Oklahoma, reaching to all red states.
Texas Gulf Coast
We also identified a group of 28 counties southwest of Houston that, as a group, have 1.6 million residents. It includes Galveston, which sent libertarian Ron Paul to Congress. This group of counties voted for Trump over Hillary by 2.07 to 1, so it isn’t as homogeneous ideologically as the other areas considered in this document so far. [Update: 2020 results: 1.9 Trump votes per Biden vote] It has ocean ports at Ingleside, Port Aransas, Point Comfort, Port O Bonnor, Freeport, and Texas City. Let’s call this group “Texas Gulf Coast.” This area does not have unbroken forest cover.
East Texas and Gulf Coast are generally rural, so they have a lower average cost of living. But East Texas still manages to have a per capita personal income that is 85% that of the Texas average (2017), and Gulf Coast has 94%. With Jefferson County, East Texas has a per capita personal income that is 86% of the Texas average. We calculated this using US Burea of Economic Analysis data at www.bea.gov.
The western half of the Florida panhandle (everything west of or due south of the state capitol of Tallahassee except Gadsen County) is a group of 13 counties that had 2.52 Trump voters for every Hillary voter. [Update: in 2020, 2.19 Trump votes per Biden vote] This group of counties, which we call West Florida, has a population of 1.1 million people. It has a large national forest near Tallahassee. When Florida finally elects another Democrat governor after a long era of Republican control, there will be a more rebellious spirit in the state. Southeastern Alabama and the southern tips of Alabama and Mississippi are also uniformly strong Trump areas. The coast east of Tallahassee could also join. There are ports at Panama City, Pensacola, and elsewhere. Alabama has a port at Mobile.
West Florida is mostly rural, so the cost of living is low. The average income in West Florida is 88% of the Florida average. Wakula County south of Tallahassee might opt out since many are employed in Tallahassee. The population would still be 1.1 million and the average income would become 89% of Florida’s average.
Here’s a precinct map of the 2016 presidential election
Here’s a precinct map of the 2016 presidential election with unpopulated areas shown in grey
Ten counties in southern Alabama which we named “South Alabama,” next to the Florida panhandle, have one million people and voted 2.26 to 1 for Trump. South Alabama includes Mobile and Dothan, AL. We show it in yellow below. Its per capita personal income is 95% of the state average. For reference, Alabama as a state had 1.81 Trump voters per Hillary voter. Alabama is the most conservative state in the USA that is not landlocked.
Another possible location for the first secession from the USA, shown in purple below, is a group of counties we call Biloxi Coast. It consists of Saint Tammany Parish in eastern Louisiana north of the Mississippi River, north of New Orleans, plus several counties in southern Mississippi. It has 1.24 million people and 2.74 Trump votes per Hillary vote. It includes Gulfport, Hattiesburg, and Slidell. It has a huge national forest and several other forests. The counties in Mississippi have 101% the per capita personal income of the state of Mississippi. St. Tammany Parish has a per capita personal income that is 127% of the Louisiana state average.
Gulf Coast Federation
If these three areas (West Florida, South Alabama, and the Biloxi Coast) were combined into one “Gulf Coast Federation,” the population (prior to any voluntary migrations) would be 3.3 million. It had 2.51 Trump votes per Hillary vote in 2016. The Pensacola Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has half a million people. The Mobile MSA and the Biloxi MSA both have about 400,000 people. This Gulf Coast Federation would have more people than many nations, such as Qatar, Lithuania, and Slovenia.
An earlier version of this document included “Jackson Federation”, but we decided not to promote the Jackson Federation proposal because we learned that Southeastern Georgia is economically dependent on the state of Georgia judging by BEA GDP data, and many people in northeastern Florida are dependent on jobs in Jacksonville or retired.
Rural Oregon, Greater Idaho, or Ore-Ida
“Rural Oregon” is southern Oregon, eastern Oregon, and four counties in northeastern California, minus Jackson County, Oregon. It has a million people and 2.39 Trump votes per Hillary vote. Combined with Idaho, Rural Oregon has 2.57 million people and 2.24 Trump voters per Hillary voter.
Jackson County Oregon, which contains Medford, has only 1.2 Trump voters per Hillary voter, and 217,000 residents. If Jackson County were included, Rural Oregon would have 2.04 Trump votes per Hillary vote. A federation with “Rural Oregon” would allow Idaho, Wyoming (3.12 Trump voters per Hillary vote), and other very conservative states to secede without being landlocked.
If the bulk of two counties in California are added (Del Norte and Siskiyou), plus Jackson County, OR, the Rural Oregon map would match the map for “Greater Idaho”. The Greater Idaho concept has 1.3 million people, with 2.01 Trump voters per Hillary voter, plus Idaho and any other states that join it. Including Idaho, it has 2.86 million people, voting 2.09 to 1 for Trump. For more information on Greater Idaho, read the full analysis here: www.facebook.com/groups/GreaterIdaho/permalink/322179841779946
Because Rural Oregon is sparsely populated, especially eastern Oregon, the land area covered here is 3 times larger than any other proposal in this document. The sparse population might make operations to break free from the USA more difficult, because it might be harder for operatives to blend in with local population. Also, trying to gain sovereignty over headwaters could be dicey if separatists are not able to reassure California that their water will continue flowing. Currently, it is common for US states (and Canada) to share rivers, but states can sue each other in federal court if water quotas from interstate compacts are violated.
Coal and natural gas industries in the Rocky Mountains have an incentive to support this movement because state laws in Oregon, Washington, and California prevent the construction of a coal/natural gas port for export to Asia. Rural Oregon has medium-sized ports at Coos Bay and Reedsport, although mountains somewhat constrain the amount of land available for warehouses. These ports could be deepened, but Coos Bay already has a MLLW (mean lower low water) depth of 37 feet and can handle ships 500 feet in length. Reedsport has a MLLW depth of 15 feet. Also, the locks on the Columbia River up to Lewiston, Idaho have a minimum depth of 15 feet.
Idaho freedom of action is bolstered by the fact that it gets much of its power from hydropower, which is immune to embargo. It is also self-sufficient in food production. It has a border with another country (Canada).
If Idaho could be convinced to participate in the struggle to gain sovereignty for Rural Oregon, then the population involved would be much larger. In that case, it would not be necessary to involve California counties (which might alarm the feds on watershed issues) or the southwestern corner of Oregon (which is not as conservative). Douglas County, Oregon has a port (Reedsport) on the Pacific. Let’s call this idea Ore-Ida. Ore-Ida is Douglas County, Oregon plus eastern Oregon plus Idaho.
The Oregon side of Ore-Ida has 2.74 Trump voters and a population of 400,000. Combined with Idaho, it has 2.1 million people and 2.26 Trump voters per Hillary voter. A significant number of Idahoans voted third-party because they knew a Republican would win their state, so the vote is actually 2.51 conservatives per liberal. Douglas County is the coastal county along the green split line above that splits NW Oregon from SW Oregon.
Currently, the mood of the right wing is not yet hopeless enough to make this document the most likely scenario. We still predict that the right wing will try to provoke events that could change the opinions of whole states so that whole states will secede. We wrote an essay about this here: https://redstatesecession.org/partition-of-the-u-s-is-the-peaceful-way-out-of-the-upcoming-troubles/
Unfortunately, every single state that is not land-locked has problems holding it back from seceding. Texas is becoming a purple state. If it is no longer perceived as a red state when it finally secedes, it can’t expect to get a large influx of conservatives or a large outflux of liberals. Louisiana straddles the river system that services most of the USA, which is the kind of strategic importance that a federal government can’t afford to give up. Alaska is also strategically important because it has vast amounts of federally-owned oil fields. Alabama and Mississippi give much less to the federal government than they get back. Florida has a lot of retirees who don’t realize that a seceding state can pay social security just as well as the USA because the USA doesn’t have social security savings either. Besides, Florida is a purple state, as is Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Maine. States along the Canada border are land-locked because Canada can’t afford to defy its ally, the US, when the US tries to apply pressure on a state. South Carolina is dependent on federal military spending.
It might be that the first polities to secede from the US in the future will not be a state but rather eastern Texas or Rural Oregon. Arranging the secession would be difficult. But it would certainly be easier than the First War for American Independence(s) (1776-1783). Please give us feedback below and share.
Our essays on quora are here: https://www.quora.com/profile/Chris-Rhodes-65/answers/Partition-of-the-USA