It was only a matter of time before the fake libertarian Ron Paul jumped in to defend Governor Perry’s disgusting comments in support of Texas seceding from the union (comments which directly conflict with his oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States). Paul answered some questions on CNN about secession today:
The biggest surprise to me was the outrage expressed over an individual who thinks along these lines, because I heard people say, well, this is treasonous and this was un-American. But don’t they remember how we came in to our being? We used secession, we seceded from England. So it’s a very good principle. It’s a principle of a free society. It’s a shame we don’t have it anymore. I argue that if you had the principle of secession, our federal government wouldn’t be as intrusive into state affairs and to me that would be very good.
Excuse me, Congressman, but the United States did not “secede” from Britain. The nation had a revolution. The difference between secession and revolution is, of course, one which paleoconservatives like Paul insist on ignoring, but it is a crucial one. Secession is the notion that a state may unilaterally leave the American union, consistent with the Constitution of the United States. Obviously since the revolution occurred in 1776, eleven years before the Constitution, it can’t be called “secession.” And perhaps that’s why the word was not used by the founding fathers when they engaged in the revolution or even afterwards.
Secession is and always has been unconstitutional and illegal, for reasons discussed in my paper, How Libertarians Ought To Think About The U.S. Civil War. The people certainly do retain the right of revolution, but revolution, of course, can only be justified on the basis of self-defense. As the Declaration put it, only after a long train of abuses evince a design to reduce the people under absolute despotism may they throw off such government and implement new safeguards for their safety and happiness. That is the principle of a free society: that government exists to protect individual rights and has no value aside from that protection.
One might pause to mention that Congressman Paul, who not only supports a total ban on abortion, but is also an anti-gay bigot and a member of the Christian right who believes the state (but not the federal government) may criminalize the burning of the flag and even private, consensual, adult sexual activity—and even supports the war on drugs, so long as it’s carried out at the state level—cannot lay claim to believing in this principle.
His knowledge of history isn’t much better than his political philosophy. “New England wanted to secede,” he says, “No one challenged New England that it was unconstitutional in our early history.” That’s complete and utter bullshit. Paul is referring to the Hartford Convention of 1814-15, held in protest against the War of 1812. That convention was controversial because some delegates talked about secession, which was, indeed, widely held to be unconstitutional—and, indeed, that controversy helped ensure that in the end, the Convention did not call for secession. Still, John Quincy Adams wrote of it,
They have erected their old political system on the perverted axiom that a part is greater than the whole.... As to our beloved native New England, I blush to think of the part she has performed, for her shame is still the disgrace of the nation—faction for patriotism, a whining hypocrisy for political morals, dismemberment for union, and prostitution to the enemy for state sovereignty.... As a true New England man and American I feel the infection of their shame, while I abhor the acts by which they have brought it upon us.
As a true libertarian, I feel the infection of Ron Paul’s shame, while I abhor the acts by which he has brought it upon us.