The Right to Self-Determination -- Should it be Allowed?

Sep 2019
102
46
UK
I didn't know exactly where to post this thread -- the Politics area is divided into geographic regions, but subject transcends geography. So I'll put it here, but a moderator may wish to move it.

In this thread I would like to get your considered opinions on the following topic:

Should the territories of nation-states be considered inviolable? I'm thinking of the following situation:
----- A certain area of a nation-state wishes to break away and form its own sovereign government.

For the sake of deciding on the principle of the thing, let's first abstract away from all the messy difficulties that would arise in reality: the fate of a minority who does not want to leave, determining the borders, who gets the previously-common government property, who pays government pensions, etc.

Let's assume -- temporarily and for the sake of argument -- that 100% of the people living in a well-defined contiguous geographic area wish to leave. There are no practical problems, economic or military. In other words, there are no reasonable objections to their doing this, except the desire of the majority in the state they wish to leave not to lose territory. (I know this pure example will never happen in reality, but first we have to establish whether this right should exist in principle -- if it shouldn't, then we need argue no further.)

It seems to me that this is, or should be, a basic democratic right, a logical extension of the right of people to rule themselves.

I would be interested in the opinion of others on this. Again, let's leave to one side, for the moment, the practical details: for instance, are they leaving in order to deny democratic rights to some of their inhabitants (eg the American South in 1861) or would they form a military alliance with the 'home' country's enemies, etc. Assume none of these problems apply. Let's assume for the sake of argument that 100% of the population of the proposed break-away, for reasons which seem sufficient to them, and as a matter of their deliberate and settled opinion, held for some extended period of time, wish to peacefully separate.

Should a democratic society allow this? Are national borders sacred?
 
Jun 2018
6,239
1,445
South Dakota
A good study on the subject would be the run-up to the American Civil War. In that vein would be the American Revolution and how the govt was formed, it might fit the subject better. I use those as examples because they're very well documented.
As for allowing the departure you describe, it probably would depend on who is taking/keeping what.
You do realize that bringing the subject usually causes a replay of the Civil War.
 
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Nov 2012
11,053
9,265
nirvana
I didn't know exactly where to post this thread -- the Politics area is divided into geographic regions, but subject transcends geography. So I'll put it here, but a moderator may wish to move it.

In this thread I would like to get your considered opinions on the following topic:

Should the territories of nation-states be considered inviolable? I'm thinking of the following situation:
----- A certain area of a nation-state wishes to break away and form its own sovereign government.

For the sake of deciding on the principle of the thing, let's first abstract away from all the messy difficulties that would arise in reality: the fate of a minority who does not want to leave, determining the borders, who gets the previously-common government property, who pays government pensions, etc.

Let's assume -- temporarily and for the sake of argument -- that 100% of the people living in a well-defined contiguous geographic area wish to leave. There are no practical problems, economic or military. In other words, there are no reasonable objections to their doing this, except the desire of the majority in the state they wish to leave not to lose territory. (I know this pure example will never happen in reality, but first we have to establish whether this right should exist in principle -- if it shouldn't, then we need argue no further.)

It seems to me that this is, or should be, a basic democratic right, a logical extension of the right of people to rule themselves.

I would be interested in the opinion of others on this. Again, let's leave to one side, for the moment, the practical details: for instance, are they leaving in order to deny democratic rights to some of their inhabitants (eg the American South in 1861) or would they form a military alliance with the 'home' country's enemies, etc. Assume none of these problems apply. Let's assume for the sake of argument that 100% of the population of the proposed break-away, for reasons which seem sufficient to them, and as a matter of their deliberate and settled opinion, held for some extended period of time, wish to peacefully separate.

Should a democratic society allow this? Are national borders sacred?
This is already in practice with 50 different states. You now have those within those states, that wish to branch off into separate entities within the state.

At what point do you reach the lowest common demoninator? Why don’t we just have 320 million seperate spaces for each individual?

The short answer is modern civilization evolved from tribes millennia ago. That’s what your suggesting we regress to?

Looks like Franklin was right. “We have a Republic, if you can keep it.”
 

RNG

Forum Staff
Apr 2013
38,959
26,877
La La Land North
Given the assumptions presented in the OP, I'd say that yes, they should be free to form their own independent country. However the problems you dismissed so readily will in fact be present to some degree in any real life situation.

The other thing is that assuming the decision is made via a vote, can we assume people are wise enough to vote on something as significant as this with enough knowledge and analysis to truly understand the repercussions? My personal experience says hell no.

I'm not saying "never-ever" but it is fraught with danger.
 
Sep 2019
102
46
UK
A good study on the subject would be the run-up to the American Civil War. In that vein would be the American Revolution and how the govt was formed, it might fit the subject better. I use those as examples because they're very well documented.
As for allowing the departure you describe, it probably would depend on who is taking/keeping what.
You do realize that bringing the subject usually causes a replay of the Civil War.
Yes. That's why I hedged it about with all those qualifications. I know that for Americans, the immediate example is the Civil War. But that shouldn't be the sole example by which we examine the question, and in any case, once you read about the issue, as debated by the Founders and their successor, it actually becomes a lot more complicated than 'NO, Once you're in you're in forever. Most of the people taking that view would qualify it by saying, at the end, that there actually WERE circumstances that would justify separation, namely, the same ones that justified the American Revolution in the first place. And there were a significant number of Northern abolitionists who wanted to separate from the South, before the South jumped the gun by going first.

However, I would like to just discuss the question in the abstract. I can't see how any small-d democrat can oppose this right, assuming the conditions I have stipulated.
 
Sep 2019
102
46
UK
Given the assumptions presented in the OP, I'd say that yes, they should be free to form their own independent country. However the problems you dismissed so readily will in fact be present to some degree in any real life situation.

The other thing is that assuming the decision is made via a vote, can we assume people are wise enough to vote on something as significant as this with enough knowledge and analysis to truly understand the repercussions? My personal experience says hell no.

I'm not saying "never-ever" but it is fraught with danger.
Of course you are right. It's actually happened in fact -- Norway/Sweden, Slovakia/the Czech Republic, and, soon, Scotland and the UK. But these were/will be the peaceful examples. Usually separation is accompanied by bloody civil war, showing that indeed, 'diversity is strength' (ie. strong mass murder).

I personally think that there should be a super-majority for independence, perhaps a specified number of those registered to vote, not just voting (i.e if 10 million people are registered to vote, and only 8 million do vote, the vote for independence still has to get, say, at least 60 percent of those registered, ie six million. And because sometimes people don't vote because they think their side will win overwhelmingly, perhaps there should be a second vote, six months later. (I believe that the Brexit vote in the UK saw a lot of abstentions from pro-Remainers, because they didn't believe people would vote to leave.)
 
Sep 2019
102
46
UK
This is already in practice with 50 different states. You now have those within those states, that wish to branch off into separate entities within the state.

At what point do you reach the lowest common demoninator? Why don’t we just have 320 million seperate spaces for each individual?

The short answer is modern civilization evolved from tribes millennia ago. That’s what your suggesting we regress to?

Looks like Franklin was right. “We have a Republic, if you can keep it.”
Yes, there is a kind of logical progression. If a large area can leave, why not a smaller one? Right on down to an individual household and its property. So, as with everything, there has to be some sort of practical limit.

As for tribes to modern civilization ... actually, we went from tribes, to huge multi-ethnic empires, and then went back again to relatively ethnically-homogeneous nation states. The world is clearly knitting itself together again, but the best exact arrangement of sovereign powers is not necessarily to dissolve small states into ever-larger ones. In my opinion, we should -- at this point in human history -- have politically-homogenous states, so that we don't spend a lot of time and energy fighting over whether we should allow gay weddings or national health care or prayer in schools -- and those states should then co operate in supra-national bodies, to facilitate trade and international communications and environmental protections, etc. In other words, let the growing economic and cultural homogenization of the human race take place over and above national boundaries, through international organizations like professional associations, free trade areas, etc., but don't force political homogeneity on everyone.

The American states are not very sovereign, even less so over the last few decades. If Oregon wants to put people in prison, or bankrupt them, for refusing to bake a cake celebrating a gay wedding, it can be overruled by the Supreme Court. If Alabama wants to put up the Ten Commandments in a courthouse, it will be overruled by the Supreme Court. Whereas if Oregon were a sovereign state, it could imprison whomever it wanted., even Christians who preached against homosexuality, and if Alabama were, it could require that the Ten Comandments to be posted at every bus stop . I personally believe this is a desirable arrangement (despite personally opposing both those things), but at the moment there is no provision for a breakaway in the Constitution. But there should be.
 
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imaginethat

Forum Staff
Oct 2010
68,711
28,503
Colorado
Yes, people, groups of people should be free, in a perfect world, to subdivide themselves according to their pleasure.

But, I submit that in a perfect world people wouldn't want to subdivide themselves, just the opposite.

Solving the challenges confronting humankind requires global coordination, global effort, to achieve global solutions. The humans of a perfect world would acknowledge this reality.

Imo. :)
 

LTP

Mar 2018
1,531
297
Grayson
I didn't know exactly where to post this thread -- the Politics area is divided into geographic regions, but subject transcends geography. So I'll put it here, but a moderator may wish to move it.

In this thread I would like to get your considered opinions on the following topic:

Should the territories of nation-states be considered inviolable? I'm thinking of the following situation:
----- A certain area of a nation-state wishes to break away and form its own sovereign government.

For the sake of deciding on the principle of the thing, let's first abstract away from all the messy difficulties that would arise in reality: the fate of a minority who does not want to leave, determining the borders, who gets the previously-common government property, who pays government pensions, etc.

Let's assume -- temporarily and for the sake of argument -- that 100% of the people living in a well-defined contiguous geographic area wish to leave. There are no practical problems, economic or military. In other words, there are no reasonable objections to their doing this, except the desire of the majority in the state they wish to leave not to lose territory. (I know this pure example will never happen in reality, but first we have to establish whether this right should exist in principle -- if it shouldn't, then we need argue no further.)

It seems to me that this is, or should be, a basic democratic right, a logical extension of the right of people to rule themselves.

I would be interested in the opinion of others on this. Again, let's leave to one side, for the moment, the practical details: for instance, are they leaving in order to deny democratic rights to some of their inhabitants (eg the American South in 1861) or would they form a military alliance with the 'home' country's enemies, etc. Assume none of these problems apply. Let's assume for the sake of argument that 100% of the population of the proposed break-away, for reasons which seem sufficient to them, and as a matter of their deliberate and settled opinion, held for some extended period of time, wish to peacefully separate.

Should a democratic society allow this? Are national borders sacred?
Our Constitution only guarantees a Republican form of government.
 
Jul 2018
2,398
604
Earth
The answer to the question depends on how it is asked. Does the government belong to the people or do the people belong to the government?

If the government belongs to the people then the people can toss it into the trash can when it no longer suits their purpose. If the people belong to the government then the people are property of the State and can not exercise their freedom of choice. That is the difference between a free country and a totalitarian one. In a free country people can change things peaceably but in a dictatorship violence is required. So, to change things in a dictatorship the best way is to simply kill the dictator and his clique all at once. People who want change seldom do that and they engage in long drawn-out conflicts in which countless people are killed and injured.

Several times in American history we have simply bought the land and the people. Sometimes they were given a choice if they wanted to become citizens and sometimes they weren't, but they were never able to squash the deal.

The bottom line is that if people want to go their own way they have to be prepared to kill and die for it. In the case of the EU, England is still an independent country so it can leave the EU without bloodshed. Alaska can't rejoin Russia, Georgia can't rejoin England, and Louisiana can't rejoin France.