Saturday, August 08, 2009

Some secession practicalities

My last post cited an article by IanB that sought to disprove the idea of the "social contract" by pointing out that people are unable to secede from any country, thus demolishing the idea of the contract being voluntary.

That article was a thought experiment—although I pointed out that there "would be practicalities to iron out" if anyone were to indulge in individual secession. But the whole thrust of IanB's article is that people are not allowed to do so. As such, I didn't speculate on those practicalities because it would be utterly pointless.

However, since Indigomyth has raised the issue in the comments, I thought that I'd take time to answer some of them. However, it is worth pointing out that my comments are even more pointless than the original speculation since any country that allowed individual secession would probably be very different from that which we currently inhabit—in fact, such a country would probably be considerably freer and thus no one would have the desire to leave (after all, if you wanted collectivism then you could indulge in it voluntarily).

Still, I've never been put off by fruitless speculation, so on we go...
I like the ideas, but there are a number of issues I can think of.

What about things that affect the macrocollective, directly or indirectly?

For example, say someone is murdered in a house that has seceded from the UK. The murderer is the home owner. Under whose jurisdiction does that fall? Presumably not the UK's since the seceded territory is no longer part of UK land, outside its region of control. But, what if the murdered person has relatives that wish to bring the perpetrator to justice? Would they have to go through international courts in order to get approved sanctions? Would every territory need extradition agreements established?

Fuck knows. Bilateral treaties would probably be made, I suspect. This is, actually, the answer to most of the points raised...
What about fuel, electricity etc? In reality, it would not be easy for a person to secede, because of all the utilities supplied by the collective. Electricity, water, oil, gas etc, are almost all derived from collective establishments. In most cases of small scale secession, production of these utilities would be difficult or impossible.

Fuel and electricity are not supplied by the collective: they are supplied by private companies—and they would most definitely continue to sell to those who succeed in seceding.

The only things supplied by the collective are roads and (in reality) trains. The National Grid is owned and operated by a private (French)* company; the water and sewerage infrastructure is operated by various (usually foreign-owned) companies, etc.

I cannot see any of these companies refusing to serve any seceder—no, not even the train companies. And, provided you are paying your road tax (and conform to the British laws when on the roads in Britain) then I don't see why the British state should object to your use of the road. They may do, of course—never underestimate the spitefulness of British bureaucrats—but that's just a point of negotiation.
Trade agreements would be required between each individual enclave and the larger collective. So, whilst in theory, Number 13 could secede their property, would they in reality be able to?

Yep. Treaties again.
What about waste disposal? If you have a small territory, how do you get rid of waste, without disposing of it in the surrounding collective?

Treaty agreements and private companies, again.
Would every owner of every seceded enclave need to be an expert in trade agreements, international law etc, in order to be able to negotiate terms of passage with the surrounding collective?

No. They would hire a lawyer, as anyone would do.
And, would such people, if they did walk in the UK, have diplomatic immunity, because they are the head of sovereign nations? If so, how would this work with the laws of the collective?

First off, I severely doubt that any seceder would be seen as a separate country: there are a few, far bigger countries that have not been formerly acknowledged as countries, so I doubt that No.13 Acacia Avenue would be.

But, once again, all of this would be down to whatever was negotiated by the treaties. However, were I the collective negotiating, I would say, for instance, that the seceder should waive their right to diplomatic immunity in return for a lowered tariff on rubbish disposal, etc. But every seceder would probably negotiate different terms, depending on what is important to them.

Basically, almost nothing can be known until it happens. And since no state allows it to happen, we don't even have to speculate. What is obvious, however, is that there are, actually, very few real practical hurdles—since most of our infrastructure is owned and operated by private companies and not any kind of collective.

* UPDATE: my apologies. The National Grid is a London-based company.


Snowolf said...

Interesting arguments DK, but there's a niggle that's been shouting in the back of my mind and I've finally put my finger on it.

There was a book released a while ago, I believe called Who Owns The World. Although I haven't read the book, I do recall an interesting radio discussion about the work. The answer to the question who owns the most land in the world is probably predictable and surprising in equal measure.

The biggest landowner in the world is Elizabeth II. Not only through her estates as we understand them, and her role as head of the Church, but going right back to the Norman Conquest, she owns the UK. All of it.

And Canada, Australia, New Zealand and any other place where she is acknowledged as Head of State.

She owns the land my house sits on. I am given a free-hold (in as much that I am free to sell it, build on it etc, etc.) but it operates (as I understand it) as an indefinite lease-hold.

This is how compulsory purchase orders work. The State can place a compulsory purchase order on my house, because the State, in the guise of HM QEII, owns it. A CPO is merely compensation for our loss of use, not outright ownership. The State cannot put a CPO on my sofa though, as I am in complete ownership of that.

Therefore secession from the UK simply cannot happen unless HMQ is happy to formally sign away her claim and your fealty, we are subjects, not citizens, after all.

If my interpretation is accurate it does put a disappointing end to an interesting hypothetical debate, however there is a plus side, what happens when a Federal European Superstate turns round and says 'this land is ours' and HMQ replies 'Not without my say so it bloody isn't.' It draws an interesting parallel between 'public' land which we perceive to be owned by the state/government/local authority/common ownership and what we consider to be private land which is actually the private property of herself.

Anonymous said...

The National Grid is owned by who?

Are you sure?

Anonymous said...

This concept that if you don't like sod off troubles me. In the back of my wine-rotted brain this links to why I detest the EU. It has always been attractive to me to think that I can if I wish shop around to find the country that most suits me.
But with the commies in the EU and the Commies in the UN hell bent on "ever closer union" and world government respectively where will anyone be able to get away from the control freaks. Despair.

Antipholus Papps said...

I doubt that No.13 Acacia Avenue would be

I think you'll find that if Bananaman wanted it to be a sovereign state, it would be a sovereign state!

John B said...

FWIW, although National Grid (very high voltage nationwide transmission) isn't French, the wires from the regional substation to DK's house, which are probably more relevant to the discussion, are.

Rob said...

That's an awful lot of treaties to be negociated and signed, especially with a 9 to 5 job on top.

Roger Thornhill said...


Delegate it.

The problem now is one is presented with a monopoly, a fait accompli, one "choice" of delegate - the State.

mister_choos said...

International treatires would be unlikely to be required for each and every aspect of life. Any state that did allow individual secession would (if it were serious about it) make it straightforward. Or, as DK suggests, you can hire a lawyer. WH Smith would probably sell DIY ones next to the DIY wills.

If a country was libertarian, there would be little difference between it an seceding. Those of us that wanted to could live our lives without the state breathing down our necks as they dry fuck our arses, and those that want to be told what to do can form their own socialist utopia. The fuckers won't be able to force the rest of us to pay for it. I suspect the number of champagne socialists would fall dramatically if they had to put their hands in their own pockets instead of mine.

Socialism - a great idea when you can get somebody else to pay for it.

indigomyth said...

DK: Cheers for talking about my points. I have only recently started reading your blog, and find it interesting and thought provoking. And you engage with your respondents in a way that other bloggers don't.

I did not know electricity and utilities were provided by private companies. Thank you for letting me know.

Ian B said...

The central problem is the same as anarcho-capitalism's problem; security. If number 1 Acacia Avenue and number 2 Acacia Avenue secede from Britain, they're now entirely on their own. Britain and her various structures have no more influence on them. So number 1 may decide to conquer number 2. Number 2's only way to maintain independence is to have sufficient defensive strength to resist number 1's invasion. There is no "Higher Power" to safeguard number 2's independence.

Of course this is how states came into existence in the first place. You start off with lots of little indpendent tribes, and the strong ones invade and subjugate the weak ones. You end up back with empires ruling by power. The primary point of states for most of history has been strength in numbers. People have traded their independence for the security of a big army- or at least been unable to maintain their independence against neighbours with big armies.

There doesn't seem to be a solution to this problem, so far as I can see. Anyone who has sufficient military strength to defend themselves from aggressors doens't need a "right" of secession. They can just leave, mooning the Old Country as they depart. To use a hypothetical example; a bunch of libertarians buy a remote Scottish Island, and declare independence. What happens? A few days later the British Navy, Army and Air Force arrive and reconquer it.

Mark Wadsworth said...

It is an interesting thought experiment, so let us assume that a small group of landowners agree unanimously to secede from the UK and the UK allows them to do so.

For sure, most practical things like electricity and so on can be ironed out (as they are provided by private companies).

HM Land Registry would then delete references to land ownership and simply mark that area as "Independent Republic of DK".

As you will abandon all stupid laws and restrictions, people will be keen to move to the IRDK, and you will be happy to rent out land to businesses that want to start up in e.g. drugs or brothels and so on, as well as individuals who want to live in an income-tax free zone.

On an economic point, the rent you can charge is a function of how high income tax is in the rest of the UK - the higher it is, the more people are prepared to pay to escape it.

On a law and order point, if you abandon the legal guarantee to private ownership of land that the UK used to provide, you are also going to have to have your own land registry, police force, legal system etc to stop people from just squatting for free or encroaching on your tenants' right to exclusive possession.

So by definition, you, Mr DK are the feudal landowner just like in Ango Saxon times, and you are also 'The State', however minimal.

So whether you see the money you collect as 'market rents' or as 'tax' is pretty much hair-splitting. Either way, it is a payment made because of the threat of the use of force.

You will now argue, if people don't want to pay the high rents, they can go elsewhere in the UK,

Fair enough, but let's assume every landowner in the UK sees that you are making a killing by seceding and copies your example, we end up with lots of little feudal estates with lots of very rich landowners whose only claim to that land rests on citizens respecting (under the threat of force) a contract that you entered into (to wit, buying the land) under the rules of [what is now] a foreign country and to which they were not party.

You have to realise that ultimately 'The State' and 'Land ownership' are one and the same thing, and you can't really have one without the other (whether land is owned 'privately' or 'by the state' is irrelevant in this example).

Who's to say that all the people who create the wealth in the economy and pay the rents, who then see you living a life of Riley without actually doing very much apart from enforcing your own land-ownership rights don't start to mutter darkly about being 'enslaved by the state' and asking which 'social contract' underlies all this?

I trust that you and Ian B can see where this is heading ...