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Is secession right?

May 9, 2022

After penning last Monday’s post on stupid things people say, I read an editorial pretty well captured by its title: “If You Support Ukraine’s Independence Then You Support Secession.” Which is much like saying that if you support what a father recently did in New Jersey, you support dropping infants out windows. The generalization assumes there is some rightness or wrongness to that act, independent of context, purpose, manner, and related issues.

A smarter view is that secession is neither right nor wrong in itself, and that judging any instance of it depends heavily on all those related circumstances. Much as with someone separating from a spouse. A woman who divorces a husband who is abusive and alcoholic may be making a sound decision. A woman who slips warfarin into her husband’s coffee, expecting to collect on his life insurance, is a different matter. Those examples are different still from a couple who each have so many personal problems that outsiders wonder whether either should be partnered.

Britain recently left the EU. I think that was a mistake on its part. But, it was put to a popular referendum, and was done in a civil manner, negotiated by both EU and British governments, trying to respect the laws of both. Many such actions lead to different judgments on different aspects of them. Someone can think that Brexit was a mistake, can suspect it was motivated by bigotries, can have short sympathy for Brits who now suffer the problems of renegotiating foreign arrangements, and still can observe that it was pursued in a reasonable fashion. Mostly.

To America’s salient example, what condemns the Confederate states, then and always, was their purpose: to preserve an economic system of chattel slavery.  That must color every other judgment about their secession.

So, no, supporting Ukraine does not say much about someone’s views of secession. Or even that there should be some strong view of secession in the abstract.

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