Glenn Reynolds @ USA Today:
Since the election, we’ve seen more interest in secession. Hundreds of thousandsAmericans in all 50 states have petitioned to secede. Is the United States breaking up?
Nope. No more than in 2004, when disappointed Democrats were talking about secession, and circulating maps of America divided into “The United States of Canada” and “Jesusland.” (This formulation even inspired a not-bad futuristic novel by Richard Morgan about a United States that did split.) Seceding over a presidential election is silly.
So why talk about seceding? Well, partly to register disapproval. Though I doubt President Obama is losing sleep over it, that his White House petition site is full of calls for secession is certainly an indication that many aren’t overjoyed by his re-election.
But people also talk about secession for more serious reasons. They feel that the central government doesn’t respect them, forces them to live under laws they find repugnant and takes their money away to pay off its own supporters. You see secession movements based on these principles in places like Scotland, Catalonia, Northern Italy, and elsewhere around the world. Some might succeed; others are less likely to. But in every case they represent unhappiness with the status quo.
America has an unfortunate history with secession, which led to the bloodiest war in our history and divisions that persist to this day. But, in general, the causes of secession are pretty standard around the world: Too much power in the central government, too much resentment in the unhappy provinces. (Think Hunger Games).
So what’s a solution? Let the central government do the things that only central governments can do — national defense, regulation of trade to keep the provinces from engaging in economic warfare with one another, protection of basic civil rights — and then let the provinces go their own way in most other issues.