Apropos Austrian Aphorisms

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August 2009 - Posts

I'm reading through Thomas DiLorenzo's contribution to the recently published Hoppe Festschrifft and a thought suddenly occurs to me. It occurred as I read through the section on secession and how public choice theorists ignore secession and focus on comparative local governments to analyze how people "vote with their feet" and move if they don't like the high taxes, etc., of their current locale. So this brought to my mind the old saying, "If you don't like it, leave," which I'm sure many libertarians have heard in response to their arguments about government intervention. The idea of "if you don't like it, leave," I wager, is similar to the analysis of public choicers and voting with your feet. However, as DiLorenzo mentions, this analysis ignores the possibility of secession, which, quite literally, is leaving what you don't like.

However, as Hans Herman Hoppe notes in Democracy: The God That Failed, the viability of secession was thoroughly smashed in 1865 as a result of the War Between the States. Thus, one option is left for those who don't like what a government is doing: to leave that town, state, or country altogether. There is no option of secession, of breaking away and renouncing any control the government claims to have over you. In short, the denial of secession is the denial of defense. It seems to me perfectly sensible to think if you don't like something then, yes, you do leave. But does this necessarily mean moving elsewhere? Can't one simply renounce allegiance and, say, keep one's income without it being diminished by a tax? In one sense, yes, you can leave, physically (and even this is a stretch as, I understand, Americans who renounce their residency can still be taxed on foreign land under American law). Even so if you moved, what does this entail? Still government intervention. Of course, some will say, "start your own country then!" In another sense, politically (do I mean morally?), you cannot, as secession is prohibited. What the suggestion of the critics boils down to, then, is an impossibility. You cannot leave.

But then again, perhaps the best (yet maybe childish) response to the statement, "If you don't like it, leave," would have to be, "Well if you don't like my complaint, YOU leave!"


I think DiLorenzo hammers the point home succinctly with his post office analogy. The "If You Don't Like It" crowd believes you are "free to leave" a government if you don't like it. You can go to other countries (or establish your own!). Now, yes, this is true in a sense. But this "choice," DiLorenzo notes, is like the choice US citizens have among different post offices. There are many post offices, but, in the end, they're all part of the same monopoly. Above all, what I'm getting at is, why is physically leaving a government considered a voluntary act but politically seceding from one is not an option? After all, in both cases you are refusing to submit to a certain government. What does it matter if it's without or within the politically established borders of the country? And you can't argue if you stay then you are a free rider. There are a few problems with that: (1) Can't the government stop providing its services (e.g., defense) to you? (2) Why aren't citizens of other countries considered free riders (especially those in the countries, e.g., that have other governments come in and impose their defense for the sake of the country)? But again, above all, how do these critics establish physical removal as being voluntary but not political removal?

Posted by thedo | 2 comment(s)
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