Peaceful secession: the Gandhi approach

[Updated April 22, 2009, below]

When I was a child growing up in the 1960’s, if anyone had predicted the big, bad Soviet Union would break apart within a few decades, they would have been labeled a lunatic.

If anyone had predicted the nations of Eastern Europe would free themselves–secede–from the yoke of the Soviets, they also would have been labeled lunatics. After all, the Hungarians and Czechs had both tried, and were crushed.

Yet, through peaceful but determined resistance, these independence movements succeeded.

The same holds true for India, which seceded from Britain in 1948 under the non-violent but determined leadership of the incomparable Mohandas Gandhi. Again, if one had said in 1940 that India would be independent by 1948, he would have been declared insane.

I bring up these historical examples because the same attitude prevails about the prospects of American secession. Right now, anyone who brings up the idea of secession of individual states seems loony.

“Never happen,” people will say–even if they support the idea.

“Why, if Washington hears about it at nine, the tanks will be rolling by noon,” say others.

The tanks might indeed roll. After all, though we like to pretend that our masters in Washington are so much better than the old Soviet masters, when their precious empires are threatened, they move quickly.

More and more people are beginning to understand, however, that Washington DC is completely out of control. Domestically, the Beast is now firing the heads of major American companies, and printing money hand over fist in a desperate attempt to spend itself rich.

Internationally, despite the fact that it is beyond broke, the Beast continues building an American Empire spanning the globe, stationing troops in well over a hundred countries.

Secession movements have become more and more vocal, and continue to gather followers. In the far northeast, there are two active secessionist movements, one in Vermont with a distinctly socialist feel, and one next door in New Hampshire, with a libertarian approach. Power to them both!

In Texas, Governor Perry has made himself the butt of jokes by casually mentioning secession as an option. Yes, it is true that talk about Texas having a right to secede written into its treaty to join the Union is an urban legend. (Texas insisted on the right to divide itself in up to five separate states if it saw fit to do so, but there is no secession clause.) Texas has only the same right as every other state to do so, under the Tenth Amendment.

A recent poll shows that almost one in five Texans, given the opportunity, would vote to secede.

If Vermont or New Hampshire (or any other state) declares independence from Washington, it would be interesting (to say the least) to see the reaction. Would the tanks roll in by noon? Maybe–and that would show the true nature of our central government Politburo.

Should states declaring independence take up arms and fight against Washington? What, are you nuts?

No, the only approach that would succeed would be the Gandhi approach: mass civil disobedience and non-violence.

To paraphrase a line from David Attenborough’s film: “You don’t expect us to just let you leave the Union, do you?”

“Yes sir. That is exactly what I expect you to do.”

Update: Secession is no longer a discussion topic that is beyond the pale. See the recent articles by Justin Raimondo at, and Walter Williams. We are still a long ways from any state taking that critical first step, but with the Bush/Obama economy teetering on the edge, the time may come sooner than anyone thinks.


  1. woody188

    Were Gandhi to protest today he’d be met by police armed to the teeth and his peace group would be infiltrated by a plethora of 3-letter agencies that would work to radicalize the group to use violence. If that failed they would send the agent provacateurs to wreak havok at the street protests giving the police the needed excuse to crush the whole protest under boot, pepper spray, bean bag bullets, and electroshock torture we call a Tazer.

  2. Paolo

    Possibly. Check out the movie, “Gandhi,” and see what the British did to him and the independence movement for India. Beatings, jailings, torture–you name it.

    Do Americans have the courage and determination of Gandhi to achieve independence through peaceful, non-violent (but determined) civil disobedience?

    It all depends. In Vermont and New Hampshire, they are close to that level of determination. In Texas, they are almost as close. In New York, there’s not a chance in Hell.

  3. RichardKanePA

    If a state pushed year after year for more autonomy and and keep pressuring US institutions like Post Offices to leave, by setting up state type post offices next door, eventually the political climate might be right to allow it to succeed.

    However, how would the US be better off without the input of New Hampshire or Vermont, and how would one of them be better off paying tariff etc. in dealing with the US.


  4. Paolo

    Hi Richard Kane,

    I like your blogs, by the way.

    Just because Vermont and New Hampshire secede, does not mean the US no longer has “input” from them, any more than Britain no longer has the “input” of the US since we seceded. Vermont and New Hampshire would continue to be productive, high tech, but independent states. It would be in their own interest, and the interest of the remaining US states, to maintain open and friendly trade relations with them.

  5. CheckerboardStrangler

    Better yet, if a state repeatedly told the rest of the country how to run things, then repeatedly installed corrupt political dynasties, then complained when it wasn’t running the show and put hundreds of wrenches into the works as a response, would it not better to give the keys and tell them to go and never return?

    That’s Texas the last thirty years!~

  6. Paolo

    Indeed. Maybe if Texas seceded, the Bush dynasty would remain in that benighted, scorpion-infested state, and not impose themselves on the rest of us. (Just kidding, folks.)

  7. gazelle1929

    Let them go. But not until they pay their per capita share of the national debt and pay for all the stuff belonging to the US that’s within their borders.

    And that includes land owned by the US Government. Two pretty big chunks of Vermont are federal property, and ought to be worth a buck or two even in this depressed real estate market.

    But the Post Office thing is a good point. Pretty much every town has a post office, owned by Uncle Sam.

    What are some of the things that can happen when a state secedes? I quickly came up with a few, but there’s bound to be lots and lots more.

    Money: What’s the new country going to do for money?

    Banking system: The Fed stops operating in the state and suddenly there’s no way to clear a check. How long before commerce comes to a screeching halt? Hours?

    Post office. Hell, you can’t even mail a check, let alone cash it.

    Got an airport? No planes into or out of the state because the airports just lost their FAA certification.

    Got ports? That toot you just heard was the Coast Guard’s last cutter heading into Federally controlled waters. You guys are on your own.

    Part of the power grid? Not any more.

    Trucks come and go to deliver produce, clothing, etc? Not on our watch. Your border is now closed except at Federal check points on our side. What you do on your side we couldn’t care less about.

    MIlitary bases contributing to your economy? Not any more. In the absence of a SOFA we just pulled all the troops out of that big Army base. And fired all the employees because we closed the base. We also destroyed all the buildings because you didn’t pay for them.

    Someone in your country wants to sue someone in our country? Sorry. Federal courts are closed.

    Got a Federal prison? Not any more. We unlocked all the cells before we turned out the lights. Want a list of the prisoners who walked out? Tough. Not our problem.

    Telephone and internet service crossing into our country? Snip. Not any more.

    Secessionists: you need to be careful what you wish for. You might get it.

  8. Paolo

    Hi Gazelle,

    Well, you’ve given us quite a running litany. Let me respond to just a few of them.

    The “national debt” belongs to the central government in Washington. Vermont and New Hampshire, as independent countries, have no obligation to pay “their share” of the debt, anymore than the US had obligations to pay “their share” of Great Britain’s debt when they seceded.

    “Land owned by the Federal Government.” There is no clause in the Constitution (aka “the supreme law of the land”) that says huge chunks of state land can be taken over at the whim of Washington. None of the land Washington claims in Vermont and New Hampshire actually “belongs” to Washington, anymore than huge chunks of New York and Maryland would somehow have “belonged” to the Crown, even after the US seceded from England.

    Right now there are huge tracts of land in my own state, Arizona, that are claimed by the Central Politburo in Washington. Those claims are simply false and bogus.

    “What’s the new country going to do for money?” Well, what did the US do for money after it seceded from Britain? It gave Congress the power to coin money and “regulate the value thereof.” What Vermont and New Hampshire want to use for money is their own affair. If they’re smart, they would go to a one hundred percent precious metal coinage. If they’re not so smart, they’ll trust their politicians to print money at whim, and never ever inflate. And they’ll believe in the tooth fairy at the same time.

    Banking system? Gee, you mean we can’t conduct business with Canada, because they have a different banking system? Gosh, I never knew that!

    Power grid: You mean, independent countries can’t buy and sell power amongst themselves? Really? So we never, ever sell power to Canada? And Canada never sells power to us? And France never sells power to Germany? Gosh, I didn’t know that!

    Trucks can’t cross the border? Really? You mean, trucks never cross the border delivering goods from Germany to France, or Germany to Poland, or Italy to Spain? So, because a state becomes independent, all trade ceases? Trade across international borders doesn’t exist?!

    Gosh, Gazelle, I didn’t know that!

    I could continue on with your list of supposed insurmountable problems: courts, lawsuits, prisons, etc. But there is no point in doing so. Just as independent states can work out such issues today, so Vermont and New Hampshire can do the same, as independent countries, tomorrow.