Sure, I signed my state's petition to secede. (Coincidentally but not at all comparable, an ancestor signed the Ordnance of Secession of Georgia.) Most people correctly realize that these petitions are symbolic of our frustration with and desire to reject federal statist policies affecting all 50 states. Still, there are those who act as if these petitions are the spark that will somehow ignite nationwide revolt. In and of themselves, these petitions are a circus detached from reality and they're a distraction from a real solution.
I believe that secession can be a real solution but, as you'll see, it carries an enormous cost and doesn't necessarily make life any easier. The quality of life under the secession solution is questionable but I'll state the case for the American Redoubt.
For those unfamiliar with the American Redoubt, it's a region including Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, eastern Washington and eastern Oregon first theorized by James Rawles of SurvivalBlog. The majority of citizens vote Republican, are fiercely independent, are more self-sufficient than the average American, and I think are more politically hostile toward the .gov behemoth. This doesn't describe all citizens of the American Redoubt but it's a start for a good many of them. Theoretically, if we arrived at a conclusion that secession was a realistic option, that it was adequate at solving the issue of federal dominance, and that the quality of life in the Redoubt would greatly improve; we would still require both a bombproof legal basis for secession and the ability to enforce the decision and protect our sovereignty.
For the sake of academic exercise, here are two issues that the American Redoubt, among other regions, would need to address should we ever secede.
Balancing Governance and Defense.
There's seemingly no end to the list of maladies that plagued the Confederate States of America (CSA) after secession (chief among them was the "peculiar institution" of slavery). Had they not held the infinitely heavy burden of fighting a war, the Confederate government may have been able to fix these problems. Had the CSA successfully defended the South, the Confederate government would still have faced the critical task of ensuring good governance, along with the insurmountable odds of ending hyperinflation that plagued its citizens and economy.
I would not expect the federal government to allow a region to withdraw peacefully from the Union. Likely targets for arrest would be elected government officials and military leaders. Under a highly structured and centralized organization, if leaders critical to mission success were removed, then the entire movement would fail. How many times and how often can you replace a governor? How many times and how often can you replace a president? But under an organization that favors decentralization with a ceiling at the state level (insofar as wartime is concerned), there is no one head of the snake. (There's no need here to get into a strategic level debate of defending the Redoubt.) Even then, a state alone could still function without a governor so long as county and local government continued. In that case, the American Redoubt states must ensure that essential services will continue to function; and one of the best ways to do that is to simply limit the quantity and scope of essential services offered by the state. County and local government must ensure that the rule of law is respected and they would do this through local law enforcement and, ideally, the utilization of small, localized militias where law enforcement is scarce or ineffective. This works best when the populace is or is nearly self-sufficient - this includes the ability to defend themselves from enemies, foreign and domestic.
The association between the military and its civilian leadership is a critical link under a centralized structure. If critical military leaders are removed through death or arrest, then the organization suffers. If military and civilian leaders' ability to command and control is degraded, then the organization suffers. Ideally, there is no upper echelon leadership in a Redoubt resistance. That's not to say there's no communication or coordination; but the Redoubt would have to effectively remove its own high value targets (HVTs) from the battlefield. A colonel leading a Redoubt brigade or battalion is a HVT in the eyes of the adversary. The equivalent of a sergeant leading a small squad is not because his removal from the battlespace would have a negligible effect in terms of the duration and scope of disruption. One sergeant's removal would not affect the other squads around him and across the region like the removal of a colonel would. Liberty-committed Patriots must wrestle their minds away from the conventional, force-on-force paradigm and into the history books of guerrilla and partisan resistance warfare. In effect, the resistance says, Come and enforce your laws on us. When confronted with mass resistance of a civilian populace - if nearly the entire region would go along (a big if) - imposing the federal will is a thoroughly costly and immensely difficult practice, if not an altogether impossible feat for the occupier. For evidence, look no further than Vietnam (still communist) and Afghanistan (still tribal).
Economy and Exports.
The American Redoubt, of all regions, has the most robust natural resource base in all of America: oil, lumber, minerals, and metals. Each of these are required to fuel an economy; and silver and gold are real money. In addition, each of these natural resources has upward price potential while the cost to acquire them (except for the cost of fuel) stays relatively the same. As a region, the GDP of the American Redoubt is around $130 billion, which puts us near the total GDP of Kansas. Federal royalty revenue from natural resource extraction in Wyoming is around $1.7 billion; and only $1.8 billion if you include the entire Redoubt region. Theoretically, if current EPA regulations were eased under the state or regional government, that revenue would increase. The American Redoubt region's tourism industry is valued around $8 billion dollars, which employs thousands and brings in hundreds of millions in state revenue. In addition, the federal government spends approximately $2.1 billion on social security retirement and disability, low income housing assistance, supplemental nutrition programs, medicare, medicaid, and education in Wyoming alone. That number is $4.5 billion in Montana and $6.2 billion in Idaho: that's nearly $13 billion for the region.
It doesn't take long to see that secession, even if the Redoubt region could fight its way out of the Union, [the subsequent economic isolation] would inflict heavy economic casualties on the region. In short, it's an economic issue and it's not happening. (This isn't to say that a large movement of employers to the region couldn't bolster the economy and ease the economic burden of secession.) While we can't put a price on our freedom, our quality of life is still multitudes higher now than as its own region.
Editor's Note: This article is re-posted with the permission of the editor of the GuerillAmerica blog, where it first appeared.