Should States be Able to Secede From America? We Asked, You Answered - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Should States be Able to Secede From America? We Asked, You Answered

Should States be Able to Secede From America? We Asked, You Answered

By OZY Editors


Because maybe freedom should come with a few constraints.

By OZY Editors

OZY's electrifying TV show serves up provocative questions each week.OZY's electrifying TV show serves up provocative questions each week. We want to hear your thoughts:

Last week, we asked: Should states be able to vote for independence? You answered, and here are your thoughts, edited for clarity.

Thomas Noone, Charleroi, Pennsylvania

The question we should be asking in many of these cases is, what right did Western colonial powers have to determine the borders of these nations? When this was done, they ignored historic, ethnic borders that in some cases had existed for eons. They did not seek the answers from those living in these areas; they arbitrarily determined these boundaries, often working with illegitimate heads of state in the colonial structure. Now people are being denied the right to self-determination because the allied leaders in these so-called nations are unwilling to give up territory that was not theirs in the first place.

Chris Hables Gray, Santa Cruz, California

It is called self-determination. People have a right to chose their government. So of course I support the right for states to become independent. It should happen through democratic means: First, a constitutional amendment to allow for it, then each state can vote. I support a 60 percent threshold for voting for independence — one doesn’t want to embark on such a process with a bare majority. We see that problem with Brexit and the struggle of the Catalans. 

California is denied full representation due to the electoral college and other aspects of the U.S. system. We pay much more into the U.S. government than we get back, and our votes for president count for much less than those of any other state residents. … Wyoming’s votes are worth 3.6 times what a California vote is worth for president, for example. How is this fair?

Patricia Cohen, New York

I live in a state that gives far more revenue to the federal government than it receives, but our rights, wishes and preferences do not have equal power to the radical-right states who are, by and large, living off the revenue we provide. In fact, there is no consideration whatsoever as to what our voters have demonstrated to be our agenda, only contempt. I would gratefully vote for New York to create an alliance with California and some other states of like-minded sensibilities to secede from the U.S. and form our own country.

Gerald Carter, West Palm Beach, Florida

United we stand, divided we fall. True in 1776. True in 1860 and true in 2017. Anytime we are divided, we allow an enemy to be right on our border.


Nash Milani

These states we know of today, like Spain or the U.K., are remnants of empires. “Spain” doesn’t really exist, nor was it ever united. Two royals got married and joined two kingdoms. That doesn’t suddenly make everyone Spanish. And it’s the majority ethnic group that takes center stage, so the neglected want a voice. As for California, I think if the support mounts enough for a vote, then it should get one.

Hector Carrasquillo Serrano

Not one state in the union would be able to be self-sufficient. We need each other, and the beauty of our country is that we can have completely different points of view but can find a way to coexist by the give-and-take of our democracy.

Eric Ingman, Minneapolis

I don’t agree that there has to be an explicit secession provision somewhere for a secessionist referendum to be legitimate. Legality is a construction under a specified domain, and that domain is moot in the context of a law that reaches beyond it. Secession chosen democratically is outside the legal domain of the state. 

Secondly, democracy is a substitute for violence. Secession is in some cases justified and right. If the only alternative to a regime is violence, that is an implicit repudiation of democracy and fails as an application of fundamental human rights or values. The state’s interest in protecting its citizens from violence compels it to accept the democratic expression of secessionist sentiment; otherwise, it places itself on the side of violence against its own citizens.

Steve Foster, East Millcreek, Utah

The U.S. Constitution does not provide for it but also does not forbid it, and reserves all non-forbidden rights to the states and the people. But anyway, constitutions themselves derive from democratic processes (thereby inferring a right to democratically secede). 

Thomas Hasara

Democratic values would say an organization freely entered into should be one you are free to leave (or dissolve). I don’t want to get into the obvious evil that is slavery, but the Confederate states should have been allowed to leave the Union without being attacked by the North.

Jon Kolb

I wonder how the national debt would be handled if a state left the union. I can’t believe a state leaving would not be responsible for their share of the debt.

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