Is se­ces­sion such a ter­ri­ble thing?

El Dorado News-Times - - Opinion - John Stos­sel John Stos­sel is au­thor of "No They Can't! Why Gov­ern­ment Fails -- But In­di­vid­u­als Suc­ceed." For other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit www.cre­

The United States was born when the Found­ing Fa­thers se­ceded from Eng­land.

So why do so many peo­ple now see se­ces­sion as a ter­ri­ble thing?

Re­cently, peo­ple in Cat­alo­nia voted to break away from Spain — not to de­clare war on Spain or refuse to trade with Spain, just to con­trol their own af­fairs.

The Span­ish gov­ern­ment said they must not even vote. They sent po­lice to shut down polling places and beat pro­test­ers into stay­ing off the streets.

Gov­ern­ments never want to give up power.

The Euro­pean Union was of­fended and Amer­i­can politi­cians shocked when the United King­dom voted to exit the EU (Brexit). Pun­dits de­clared Bri­tain's move a ter­ri­ble mis­take.

But lo­cal gov­ern­ments can be more re­spon­sive to the needs of con­stituents. No gov­ern­ment is per­fect. But keep­ing gov­ern­ment close to home, keep­ing it lo­cal, makes it eas­ier to keep an eye on it.

The pow­er­ful pre­fer one big cen­tral gov­ern­ment. Some want the whole world to an­swer to one gov­ern­ment.

Pres­i­dent Ulysses S. Grant fan­ta­sized about coun­tries be­com­ing "one na­tion, so that armies and navies are no longer nec­es­sary."

Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man wanted a World Court. Just as Amer­i­can dis­putes are set­tled by our Supreme Court, he said, "There is not a dif­fi­culty in the whole world that can­not be set­tled in ex­actly the same way in a world court."

But cen­tral au­thor­i­ties aren't the best way to solve our prob­lems. Com­pe­ti­tion is.

In the U.S., state gov­ern­ments be­have not be­cause their politi­cians are noble, but be­cause peo­ple can "vote with their feet" — move to other states.

If taxes get too high in New York, you can move Florida.

As Cal­i­for­nia tor­tures busi­nesses, Cal­i­for­ni­ans move to Ari­zona and Texas.

The more gov­ern­ments from which you can choose, the eas­ier it is to ben­e­fit from com­pe­ti­tion be­tween them.

All Amer­i­cans, how­ever, must obey rules set by Washington, D.C.

But what if most peo­ple in a state re­ject those rules and de­mand the right to gov­ern them­selves?

There have been sev­eral se­ces­sion move­ments in Cal­i­for­nia — a plan to break Cal­i­for­nia up into smaller states, a push to make North­ern Cal­i­for­nia a break­away state called Jef­fer­son, and now the "Yes Cal­i­for­nia" move­ment that wants to make Cal­i­for­nia a sep­a­rate coun­try.

Calexit's pro­po­nents say Cal­i­for­ni­ans shouldn't have to an­swer to that evil Pres­i­dent Trump.

If Calexit ever hap­pened, I sup­pose con­ser­va­tive parts of the state would vote to sep­a­rate from the leftists who dom­i­nate Sacra­mento. Maybe we'd end up with three coun­tries where there used to be one.

When I look at how badly Washington, D.C., gov­erns, the idea of se­ces­sion doesn't scare me.

Af­ter the Cold War, Cze­choslo­vakia split into Slo­vakia and the Czech Repub­lic. "Ten­sions be­tween Czechs and Slo­vaks have dis­ap­peared," writes Mar­ian Tupy, a Cato In­sti­tute an­a­lyst born in Cze­choslo­vakia. "Czechs no longer sub­si­dize their poorer cousins in the east, while Slo­vaks no longer blame their prob­lems on their 'big brother' in the west. Ev­ery­one has won."

Se­ces­sion fright­ens some Amer­i­cans be­cause they as­so­ciate it with slav­ery. Pre­serv­ing that de­spi­ca­ble prac­tice was one rea­son south­ern states wanted to break away.

But ob­vi­ously, one can fa­vor se­ces­sion with­out sup­port­ing slav­ery. Even some abo­li­tion­ists, anti-slav­ery ac­tivists in the 19th cen­tury, sup­ported the right to se­cede.

More re­cently, some black neigh­bor­hoods on the out­skirts of Bos­ton ar­gued for turn­ing the Greater Roxbury area into a new city called Man­dela. They say it would be more re­spon­sive to lo­cals' needs.

In New York City, Repub­li­cans on Staten Is­land some­times ar­gue for break­ing away from the Democrats who mis­man­age the rest of New York. Dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, some Tex­ans wanted a vote on "Texit."

None of those things is likely to hap­pen, but I'm wary of any gov­ern­ment that hates the idea of peo­ple es­cap­ing its in­flu­ence.

Pres­i­dent Trump weighed in on Cat­alo­nian in­de­pen­dence. He's against it. "I would like to see Spain con­tinue to be united," said the pres­i­dent.

It's easy to love a big cen­tral gov­ern­ment when you're in charge of one. Also, na­tional gov­ern­ments can in­spire proud na­tion­al­ist sen­ti­ments.

But Cata­lans smart­ing from po­lice ba­tons prob­a­bly feel dif­fer­ently.

I say, let peo­ple go their own way.

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