Does Europe Show Us a Future of Secession?

Soon after the US Presidential election, people in forty-nine out of fifty states started petitions to the White House to secede from the union.  Arguably, appealing to a central authority for permission to leave may miss the point of what it means to secede. Still, it is significant that appeals strongly enough to over a half million Americans that they have signed a petition for their state. Yet, it is hard to know how to predict the future from such an event.

But, even if there were no petitions, there are other significant trends that point to the possibility of eventual disunion. While the United States is heading toward “the fiscal cliff”—which is actually just another step down in a cascading series of economic problems facing the country—Europe has gone well over the edge of one of their own economic drop-offs and is speeding toward many more.

When Americans think of secession and Europe, the most common idea is that nations like Greece, Spain, or Italy will have to leave the European Union. It is simply a fact that, despite what European politicians like to say, one or more of these nations is going to have to separate and rebuild its economy with its own currency.

But the forces for secession go far deeper than European nation-states leaving the EU. There are regions inside the nations where sizable numbers of the population want to be free of the burden of the rest of the country. As I write this Sunday night, the Catalonians, in Spain, are finishing up their regional elections. According to the Wall Street Journal, Catalonia is “Spain’s top exporting region and highest-taxpaying one.” According to exit polls, parties favoring secession from Spain or at least allowing Catalonians the freedom to vote on whether or not to remain Spanish, won two-thirds of the voters.

So the problems in the EU are not just indebted countries v. less indebted countries. There are also more productive regions of countries who are tired of being bound by chains of nationality with regions that demand their support. Catalonia is not the only one:

“Italy’s Venice is also making noises about independence.  Separately, but similarly, Bavaria, Germany’s economic powerhouse of a state, which was helped previously by substantial transfers, now argues that it is tired of subsidizing other German states and wants to modify the current system.”

There are many who oppose these movements, including the ones who report on them. They point out that if Catalonia became its own nation that it would not automatically have EU membership. But why would it want to be strapped to that sinking ship? And if Catalonia wanted to belong to the EU, what would make them hesitate to bring in the healthiest economy in the area?

Eventually, as I have argued in the past, California or Illinois or some other unsustainable Liberal state will demand a bailout. Healthy states are going to oppose this. It amounts to taxation without representation since no on e in the bailing states was able to vote for the legislatures in the states demanding a bailout. By the time that happens, I suspect we will already have seen the breakup of all or part of the EU and probably witnessed the fragmentation of an older European nation or two. These precedents overseas will produce a sea change in the mind of Americans.

The lesson I learn from what is happening is that it would be wrong to get hasty. If God wants the US to last, so be it. But if secession is coming, it will come as an economic necessity, not simply a political desire. It will come from Federal financial collapse. Petitions are probably not all that important a factor either way.