Nation-states have no right to use force to stop any component from seceding, writes Sheldon Richman. They have no legitimate claim on anyone's allegiance.
But Richman is concerned over the process of peaceful separation—namely, the referendum. Libertarians have long criticized political democracy—that is, the settling of "public" matters by majority vote either directly or through so-called representatives—as inherently violative of individual rights. By what authority does a majority lord it over a minority?
Doesn't this critique also apply to referenda on secession? asks Richman. The chance of unanimity is tiny in any particular case, so why should the individuals who constitute a numerical minority be forced to dissociate from a nation-state and be subjugated by a new nation-state simply because the majority decreed it? A dissenting minority might not be concentrated in one area that could easily secede from the newly seceded territory and remain with the original country or form its own country. What then?
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