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Economic Secession
3/18/2003

I enjoyed Gene Callahan's lecture at the Foundation For Economic Education, which you can view here. (Actually if you get tired of looking at Gene, as I often do, you can cover up your media player with another window and just listen to him.) The lecture is an elaboration upon ideas Gene published earlier in an article on persuasion and coercion. To cut to the chase, Callahan thinks the quickest way to liberty is to persuade people to recognize the moral right to secession, all the way down to the individual level.

I would argue instead that the shortest road, and perhaps the only road, to a free society is the implementation of the means of economic secession.

Callahan constructs a simplified economic model with two individuals living on neighboring islands. In such a situation it can be impossible for one individual to coerce the other, yet voluntary trade is still possible and profitable. Callahan uses this example to tease out moral principles; I say we need to implement that situation to the greatest degree possible. In our world coercion may always be possible, but it will only be a viable tactic when it is profitable. Think of how much less profitable taxation would be if government didn't know how much money you earned or how much money you had. The Leviathan cannot extract the revenue necessary to sustain itself at anything like current levels without knowing where the money is.

Returning to the example of the neighboring islands, it doesn't matter if the guy on the other island recognizes your right to your coconuts if he can't get his hands on your coconuts other than by your consent. Likewise it doesn't matter if society recognizes your right to economic freedom if it can't find your money. So forget persuasion and implement economic privacy.

The implementation of economic privacy is the implementation of the means of economic secession. And when those means are available they will be utilized. Callahan feels it's not that difficult to persuade individuals of a right to secession, because they already recognize that right to some extent. That may be so, but that slim reed will not support the weight of Callahan's project. He may persuade them for the moment of such a right but as soon as they get in the voting booth and get to choose between a concrete free lunch and the recognition of an abstract right, they're going to go for the free lunch in overwhelming numbers. But if the means of economic privacy are available they must choose between keeping their own money in their own pockets or voluntarily turning it over to government.

Then you'll see economic secession on a grand scale.

And you won't have to talk anyone into it.


John T. Kennedy is a software engineer living in Connecticut. He is the editor of No Treason and has written for Strike the Root. John is overbooked and thoroughly spoken for.

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