By Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ October 8, 2020
The looming threat of a constitutional election crisis driven by Trump and the Republican Party’s remnants seeking authoritarian control makes secession a serious topic. There is a growing conversation among political commentators on if and how this could happen in the US.
David French’s book: Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation tackles this from the traditional liberal (conservative) perspective. A good summary of the arguments is available in Medium’s Arc Digital: David French Fears a Succession . . .
Having written much about the forces at play deconstructing our world and leading to this American political apocalypse, French’s arguments cover the ground. While French makes some effort to find solutions, they are the original Federalist solutions of respect for articulated rights and support for representative government. These are the problem and not the solution.
The federal approach dealt with the absence of a common culture and history. With a migrant nation, the traditions of commonality didn’t exist and were built on political concepts. These are tenuous and subject to collapse as threatened in several small scale historical rebellions. The Civil War was the monster never successfully addressed.
Most discussions of succession now attempt to compare the current situation with that of slavery in the 1850s. The result is an obvious argument that the split now is not as profound as then with the role of slavery in the southern state’s economies. This comparison is a classic example of misunderstanding history as a tool for understanding something outside of the actual event’s time and place.
The basic set of problems creating American radical partisanship are planetary changes driving full economic and cultural shifts. These are inherent in the rise of the networked world and new forms of human community that are not necessarily geographic or cultural. The force amplifying these changes is the climate crisis entangled with structural failures of a capitalist based neoliberalism. Endless growth and resource extraction have decimated the planet and can no longer justify exploitation and poverty as the human norm.
Digital technology drives efficiency and is steadily replacing human labor. Simultaneously, consolidation of capital in fewer and fewer hands, structural failure of capitalism, will mean mass starvation, migration, and conflict. People know that this is coming but are lured into traditional feudalism (fascist) game for me to win, someone must lose. So the split is not the conventional Red/Blue or Liberal/Conservative split but an older tribal power play so that others will die, but we will dominate.
Because of the technological paradigm shift, these attitudes are evolving only roughly in the old geographic states. This evolution produces the patchwork of small areas opting for the authoritarian power play versus those, predominantly metropolitan, for diverse communities. The newer metropolitan communities, virtual and geographic, are better educated and aware of the growing disaster’s extent. The less educated and more fearful of change have been worked by opportunists, making them afraid of losing what they consider essential and reinforcing the zero-sum threat.
We have a very different world with new and unique problems that negate almost all our current political and economic theories. Simply seceding from one nation-state union to make two or three others is not the answer. First, we need to rethink our social structure and how we must change. The most extensive problems now are the largest nation-states in an overly complicated layered form. We need to get flexible and straightforward for rapid adaption.
The symptoms of fascism/populism exist as reactions to internationalism, universal rights, and economic sustainability that make us responsible for our planet as an expanded commons. The opportunists using fear and greed for political power grabs are most dangerous in corrupt and collapsing central governments. Removing the remote central government removes their playing field.
Secession exists within the 18th-century nation-state paradigm. That is overly complex and no longer relevant to our population density and communication culture. We are digitally linked and instantaneous with our entire planet. We do not need layers of representatives able to reside in distant cities because communication is slow. These are simply corruption vectors prone to purchase by those with the vast and uncontrollable wealth accumulation that is inevitable with late-stage extreme capitalism.
We have the technology to identify everyone biometrically online so that voting can be continuous. Personal identity and civil rights issues are critical to this, but those are used only to oppress parts of the population and suppress community decisions. Ensuring everyone’s identification on this planet to manage their share of the planetary assets is a massive problem but technical in nature, that needs to be solved quickly. The issue of ensuring everyone a public voice on community decisions disappears if the management of personal information is held as an inalienable personal asset.
The point here is not the size of that problem but the pointlessness of secession as a solution. Devolution is the natural direction and where the forces of history are pushing us. We need to simplify our communal administration and democratize it. This direct digital democracy is the primary responsibility of being part of any community as an administrative unit. Voting is not an option but a requirement, and everyone either resident in or affiliated by choice with an administrative community must vote on important issues.
While there are recent examples of devolution in Scotland and Wales and failed ones in Spain, these still maintain the nation-state structure rather than the local city-state that is the future. We cannot survive with the burden of corruption and oppression based on the nation-state system. By breaking the nation-state into metropolitan regions, we provide greater self-rule to communities that feel threatened.
But that requires that the sacredness of rights (sentient rights universally) is the price for that self-rule. No administrative unit can infringe on any individual’s rights or allow any group to infringe on those rights. These must be planetary and universal, including freedom of movement, speech, health, education, housing, and well-being. The options available or internal taxes and allocation of communal funds for common areas and services. Social forms, cultural and religious traditions may be supported but not imposed under universal rights.
How universal basic income is allocated would be a primary choice. This option would be between higher taxes for greater common ownership or lesser taxes with more personal development choices. That is the purpose of working; local governments are managed directly by the people.
This change is massively challenging, but we must work this out now. Perhaps, we have only fifteen or twenty years to get it working, so there is no time to replay old and irrelevant arguments.