By David M. Zsutty
Originally published on Counter Currents
In December of this year, Ilya Somin reviewed Christopher Zurn’s book Splitsville, USA: A Democratic Argument for Breaking up the United States, which was published in May. Somin offers several good-faith critiques of Zurn’s position on national divorce, and even praises Splitsville as “. . . the most significant, fully developed, and intellectually respectable, defense of the claim that breaking up the union is actually a good idea.” Somin’s main concerns are the feasibility and effectiveness of a national divorce. As a staunch proponent of national divorce myself, I would like to reply to Somin’s counter-arguments.
Somin begins by admitting that a national divorce as proposed by Zurn would “. . . make excellent sense in a situation where the existing government is severely oppressive, deeply dysfunctional, or some combination of both.” He also states that the United States, “for all its flaws, remains one of the freest, most prosperous, and generally successful nations in the world.” This immediately brings us to a fundamental reason for why we need a national divorce, which is an epistemological break of almost schizophrenic proportions. We can no longer agree even upon basic facts.
Most Republicans would readily describe the United States as oppressive and dysfunctional — perhaps not quite at Soviet levels yet, but certainly heading toward it. The slogan of “the land of the free” rings hollow as false advertising. The US is poor and failing. If current trends continue, it’s hard not to see the US becoming the Soviet Union within a decade.
My side is deeply troubled by the fact that the regime has taken almost a thousand political prisoners in response to January 6 alone. Owen Schroyer was jailed for being a journalist. For us, the FBI is Stasi Lite with pastel colors. And we suspect they would go much further if they could.
The government has outsourced doxing, censorship, and beatings to mega corporations and Antifa. The government does little to oppose this oppression. If anything, it is made worse because there is less accountability than if the government was openly doing it themselves. This rainbow terror is deeply troubling for us on both a personal and a political level.
Somin seems to be either oblivious to these issues, or has dismissed them. This is even more odd given that Somin spent the first five years of his life behind the Iron Curtain. If anything, he should be highly disturbed by our current trajectory.
Then there is the issue of societal dysfunction, which is so bad that it is often perceived as intentional. (Maybe it is.) Take the fact that 40% of federal income taxes are now consumed by interest on the federal debt, with future projections looking even worse. Einstein was right in saying that there is no greater force in the universe than compound interest. So what happens when that number is 50%, let alone higher?
Actually receiving social security and home ownership are now laughably unrealistic expectations for most Americans under 30. A “nutritious” Big Mac meal now costs $12.19 at McDonald’s, which runs almost $50 for a family of four (assuming you can even start a family).
The US murder rate rose by 30% between 2019 and 2020. Drug overdoses increased by 17.6% in 2021. I’ll spare you my veteran’s rant, but the US military has likewise become a paper tiger for both political and apolitical reasons. Like the Soviets, they were defeated in the “graveyard of empires.” And when even a random faction left over from the Arab Spring such as the Houthis no longer fear American reprisals, the situation has become contemptibly pathetic.
That we can scarcely begin a conversation about national divorce before finding that we live in alternate realities is in itself a strong argument for a national divorce. At the very least, one side has to be completely deranged. Maybe we both are, to some extent.
We need not agree on which side is the crazy girlfriend here to agree that there is at least one crazy girlfriend in this relationship. It is simply not going to work. Living in separate countries is therefore not a drastic solution given that we are already living in parallel dimensions.
The next issue is Zurn’s argument that a national divorce would reduce polarization, which can lead to politicians rejecting election results that are not to their liking. This immediately sends us back to the first issue of living in alternate realities. 30% of all Americans and 68% of Republicans believe that Biden was elected due to voter fraud. But even if we are wrong, the fact remains that the 2020 election smelled fishy — and in politics, appearances are reality.
If the United States was still a first-world country, election results would be above dispute regardless of polarization. But the 2020 election was highly irregular, despite the mantras of the journalist caste. If democracy really is so precious, the regime would address our concerns regarding election reform. “COVID” and “racism” are not magic words that somehow negate those concerns. And these reforms wouldn’t even be reforms so much as a return to the status quo. Instead, the regime disparaged our concerns, jailed almost a thousand political prisoners, and is dragging Trump and his lawyers through the courts. If it looks like a banana republic, it probably is.
Furthermore, a recent poll by the Homeland Institute found that 66.3% of white Democrat respondents think that there is a political candidate or party which is too dangerous to be allowed to take power, even if they are lawfully elected. We can reasonably assume this would encompass stealing an election and then persecuting and gaslighting the other side. Talk of “election fortification” doesn’t help their credibility, either.
In regard to polarization, Somin writes:
But Zurn may somewhat overstate the dangers he identifies. The United States has successfully surmounted comparable and worse crises in the past. Major examples include the Civil War, the Great Depression, and the divisive simultaneous 1960s conflicts over the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.
Yet, the regime has ripped open the old wounds of the Civil War via iconoclasm over the Confederate monuments, which were initially meant to heal our divisions. They have also unleashed anarcho-tyranny and censorship on those few brave enough to oppose it. The legacy of the Great Depression was an expansion of federal power under Franklin Roosevelt which has continued unabated for decades, leading to federal tyranny and irresponsible spending and culminating in the aforementioned debt crisis. As explained by Christopher Caldwell in The Age of Entitlement, the Civil Rights Movement undermined traditional rights using new and novel rights, and was accompanied by a lavish welfare state that served as the price of keeping the peace. The Vietnam War was the first in a continuous string of military defeats. Sorry, but slapping Serbia and Iraq around doesn’t count. If anything, the US is the sick man of NATO.
When viewed through a realistic lens, Somin’s examples seem less like obstacles that were surmounted and more like ever-deepening cracks in a shabby edifice that is slowly but inexorably crumbling. Again, we are living in alternate realities.
To return to polarization and Trump’s “election denial,” the Left should have enthusiastically welcomed a second term by him. Trump’s vaunted border wall was a joke; he in fact wanted to expand immigration, so long as the immigrants came here legally. Legal immigrants can vote, and as explained by Ann Coulter in ¡Adios, America!, immigrants overwhelmingly vote Democrat. Instead of holding them to account, Trump awarded blacks the Platinum Plan as a reward for their rioting. He even welcomed Lady Maga into the fold.
When it came down to concrete policies, Trump was actually further to the Left than Barack Obama on many issues. His first term was the equivalent of what might have happened if Bernie Sanders were to become an anti-Great Replacement activist. All of this allowed the Right to relax and let off some steam. The Left seems more enraged at the mere idea of Trump and what he supposedly — some would say fraudulently — represents rather than his actual policies. How can we share a democracy with people who are so irrational?
Somin also seems to fall into the logical fallacy of assuming that things will continue as they always have. He writes that “. . . it is extremely rare for long-established democracies like the United States to degenerate into either authoritarianism or ungovernability.” Yet, Aristotle in his day observed that “[m]asculine republics give way to feminine democracies, and feminine democracies give way to tyranny.” The US has been a republic, not a democracy, for most of its history. For example, the Nineteenth Amendment was not ratified until 1920. Mass democracies in which every Tom, Dick, and Harry have an equal vote are still novel experiments from a historical perspective.
Furthermore, America’s aura of invincibility is largely based on its economic power. This previously allowed the US to outspend its opponents, such as the Soviet Union, and to deploy intimidating Wunderwaffen such as stealth bombers in order to slap small countries around. At home, it could keep the citizenry content with a level of economic prosperity that often crossed the line into absolute decadence.
But this prosperity was mostly due to the fact that the US emerged from the Second World War as the only major country that wasn’t bombed to ruins, combined with a policy of spending big while taxing low. This post-war advantage was major and long-lasting, but not eternal. Taking on more and more debt to buy things but not pay for them in full has thus damned future generations to eventually become the victims of a ticking debt bomb. None of this was ever sustainable.
Many Republicans today see the US as characterized by authoritarianism, ungovernability, and dysfunctionality, as outlined by Dr. Greg Johnson in his book The Year America Died. Yet again, we live worlds apart from our next-door neighbors.
Somin prefers a number of alternate solutions to national divorce which Zurn argues are inadequate or impractical. Chief among these is a devolution of power to the state legislatures, which would resemble a couple doing fewer things together rather than filing for divorce. I would still welcome this. A lot of Americans of all political stripes probably would, too.
But the federal government would be as opposed to this as a stern fundamentalist priest would be to an ordinary divorce. Ever since FDR’s New Deal, there has been a strong tendency toward centralizing government power. Even the vaunted Reagan era was more of a speed bump than a reversal. Caselaw has warped the Commerce Clause into becoming more of a loophole than a barrier to expansive federal regulation. Edward Snowden courageously revealed that the government was extensively spying on Americans. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), for its part, triumphantly hoisted their flag over the burned corpses of dozens of men, women, and children at Waco, Texas when they harmlessly tried “doing fewer things together.” I could go on, but I think it has already been sufficiently established that the Potomac regime has exhibited a pattern of acting as tyrannical control freaks.
This admittedly leads into the issue of how the federal regime would also be opposed to a national divorce. Somin correctly points out that any secession movement would likely be seen as a partisan attack on the ruling party at the time, and thus could provoke a hostile response, especially if that party controls both the Presidency and Congress. But this danger is probably being overestimated.
First, technology has made brutal repression more difficult. Everyone has a smartphone with a camera, and can thus act as a citizen journalist. The FBI and ATF might want to carry out a Waco in every small town in America, but the resulting videos made by bystanders would be instantly uploaded to social media. This would demoralize their side while galvanizing their opposition. The growing backlash to Israel’s genocidal campaign in Gaza demonstrates this.
Second, the balance of power between Washington, DC and its many enemies has changed. It is now stretched thin by playing Whac-A-Mole overseas across multiple theatres. The risk that one or more of its foreign rivals would take advantage of this chaos at home is too great. The US military’s enlistment numbers are already abysmally low, and a draft would probably spark mass civil unrest, to put it lightly.
Third, a poll by Survey USA found that only 7% of Americans would support attacking Texas if it seceded, and 6% in the case of California. In other words, nobody cares.
Somin makes a good point about pushback from dissenting minorities within states, such as Democrats in Austin. But this can be resolved by granting minority enclaves higher autonomy. They would be similar to the Holy Roman Empire’s free imperial cities. Unlike the federal government, we are not control freaks.
Furthermore, Central Europe has demonstrated that respect for minority rights is feasible. Many of the countries in this region have ethnic minorities due to the ways in which the map has been repeatedly redrawn. Many of these countries have large numbers of their ethnic majority living outside of their borders. Thus, the majority has a strong incentive to respect minority rights, because they want their co-ethnics across the border to be respected in turn.
The next issue is how to divide the national debt and military assets, especially nuclear weapons. First, nuclear weapons are not as big of a deal as Somin thinks. Nuclear weapons, for better or worse, are coming to be perceived as overrated. Nobody actually wants to be the first to launch unless their home turf is being directly threatened. Besides, red states would have little interest in being the world’s policeman. And even if the blue states kept most of the nukes, maintaining a first-world nuclear program will not be possible for long with third-world demographics.
We already have the most important military asset of all: good troops. While the federal regime would be loath to give up that asset, they are able to tap that resource less and less, anyway. If the successor governments or rump state need more troops, they can turn to PMCs (private military companies), begin foreign legion programs, or sign a treaty allowing for cross-border recruitment — with proper remuneration, of course. A world where grunts and analysts are paid as lavishly as Raytheon executives would be beautiful, indeed.
As for debt, I would be willing to swallow my pride and take on more than our fair share if it meant we would finally have control of our fiscal policy. The aforementioned debt bomb requires decisive action. Such decisive action is only possible with a national divorce. Our previous attempts to address fiscal irresponsibility while within this system have all catastrophically failed, and not from a lack of effort on our part.
Somin’s final argument against national divorce is the effect it would have on foreign policy. He argues that it would increase the power of China and Russia, and would “probably lead to a more illiberal and violent international system.”
First, a national divorce would allow red states to re-industrialize, thus reducing their reliance on imports from China and elsewhere. Fiscal responsibility would reduce the debt, thus reducing China’s leverage, as they are a major creditor. We would also be able to control our borders, thus preventing Chinese spies and saboteurs from legally or illegally sneaking in. We could ban China and other foreigners from buying up our farmland. In the long term, the tyrants in Beijing would lose even more from a national divorce than the tyrants in Washington, DC.
Second, we don’t care if the world becomes more illiberal. If one means liberal in the traditional sense of freedom, the US is quite illiberal. We are done supposedly spreading freedom abroad when we have lost it here at home. If one means liberal as in allowing bankers, perverts, and migrants to have free reign, we are even more done with that. That we don’t share such “liberal” values and are even diametrically opposed to them is another reason for a national divorce. We are done fighting DC’s foreign wars of aggression, whether they be for oil, Haliburton, or trans rights. As Mike Pence remarked about us, it’s “not my concern.”
Third, violence is the US’ top export after degeneracy. In Latin America, the US successfully intervened to change a government at least 41 times between 1898 and 1994. 17 of these 41 occasions were direct interventions. More of these interventions were ordered to overthrow elected governments than to restore democracy, proving that the regime’s condescension about democracy is as insincere abroad as it is at home. And the failed Global War of Terror, followed by the uniparty’s fervent support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza, are self-explanatory. The world will probably be more peaceful once the truncheon-happy world policeman is gone.
Somin ultimately favors alternate solutions to national divorce because he does not fully appreciate the gravity of the situation. His interests and values as a college professor are likewise different from those of many Americans. He lives in a reality that is separate from our own. What was intended as a rebuttal for national divorce thus actually ends up as a strong argument in favor of it.
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