rSecession: County-Region Secessions to Form Small-r republican State Governments
July 9, 2021
A republican form of government features ultimate control by the citizenry, no monarchy, and adherence to law. This is not provided by any current state government. No state constitution delegates limited enumerated powers and focuses on constitutional processes that secure liberty. A republican form of state constitution is described here that uses the Constitution as a template and that uses the founding voters’ understanding of the ideal role of state governments as a guide. Seceding counties will self-select to be only the constitutionalist rural, exurban, and outer suburban counties, which will include the majority of most states’ populations. This will overcome the built-in problem with most secessions—that the Progressive urban and inner-suburban voters secede too, and block freedom. Most seceding county regions will eliminate government schools, social services, and business regulations. Constitutionalist county-region officers will go on to assert a new, stronger federalism, limiting the national government. These constitutionalist regions’ voters will also elect new constitutionalist national officers who will further limit the national government.
Lately, rather than letting us make our own decisions of how to respond to COVID-19, there has been widespread tyranny against individuals and small businesses by governors.
This tyranny has been possible because the USA’s national government has never delivered on the Constitution’s guarantee to every state in the union of a republican form of government (U.S. Const. art. IV, sec. 4).
Small-r republican Government
A republican form of government has at least three attributes (Natelson 2002): ultimate control by the citizenry, no absolute power (Anthony 2020b), and adherence to the government’s own constitution and laws (Smith 1984).
These attributes aren’t delivered even by the national government the way it’s operated currently, under the control of the two majority-Progressive major parties (Anthony 2020e). Still, the national government’s design remains the best-available design to guarantee a republican form of government.
This design creates enumerated limited powers (U.S. Const. amend. X); separated legislative (art. I, sec. 1), executive (art. II, sec. 1, cl. 1), and judicial (art. III, sec. 1) powers; nondelegable legislative powers (Lawson 2002); and offsetting powers (Anthony 2020d, 3.14-5) that offer multiple independent protections (Willey 2014). Offsetting powers are even delegated to individual government officers, making these offsetting powers maximally decentralized (Anthony 2020b).
This design collects the best-available practices for guaranteeing a republican form of government and places them into a compact package that’s easy to replicate. And this design has been around a long time. Even so, its focus on processes not policies and its enumeration of limited powers have never been delivered by any state constitutions (Maddex 1998, xvi).
So then not just since the 1894 ascendance of today’s Progressivism (Rothbard 2017, 163-97) but even stretching back to the union’s founding, state governments have never used the best-practice design to guarantee a republican form of government. State governments did put explicit limits on the national government, but county governments didn’t put explicit limits on state governments.
Leaving state governments unlimited is an error that’s systemic, and the consequences have been similarly systemic, but subtle. First, city governments were likewise inadequately limited, and they grew larger than any others. Next, the national government people’s limits were disrespected by the national government and by state governments, and the national government expanded massively and dwarfed the others. Finally, state governments started growing significantly (Wallis 2000).
This design flaw that was grandfathered into our federalism can be removed with a direct, simple fix. This fix turns out offer novel, surgically-precise, better-than-secession improvements wherever secession is imagined to be helpful, and far-greater decentralization and freedom everywhere.
rSecession Effects on States
Modern governments in every jurisdiction have grabbed scope that could be performed far better (Payne 2016) by letting customers control producers (Anthony 2021c). So then it’s essential to not just accept as an appropriate baseline the results of more than two centuries’ worth of scope creep under unrepublican governments.
The people who were the most successful to date in designing a government to have limited scope were the founding generation’s voters (Anthony 2018, xv-xxi). Their Federalist politicians, the politicians who supported what counted as big governments back then in the USA, left behind writings that suggest what these politicians thought that voters would have supported to be the scope of state governments (Natelson 2003).
Compared to governments today, that scope had a footprint that was small and light. Moving in general to that scope would therefore be a helpful large step towards the optimal minimum government of the future, which will leave as much scope as possible to be performed by having customers control producers.
The enumerated powers recommended here for state constitutions are listed in Table 1.
Table 1. Enumerated Powers for State Constitutions
Like the Constitution, state constitutions should in all cases focus on processes not policies. In keeping with this focus, powers that aren’t going to remain delegated to a state government for an indefinitely-long period of time run should not be enumerated for a state government in its constitution at all.
So then, scope that’s in state-government people’s hands now but that will be transitioned into private hands should not be addressed in state constitutions. Such transitioning should only be addressed in state constitutions indirectly, through the inclusion of general bedrock principles that also guide the transitioning—the rules that without due process of law, no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property.
During a transition, people don’t get the full benefits of the future freer state. The benefits these people could have gotten during the transition period are lost permanently, like seats on a plane or rooms in a hotel that go unfilled. People do best if such transitions are as fast as possible so that such losses are as small as possible.
For limited durations, state legislatures could include bridge funding in overall budgets (not grabbing executive power, just leaving the budgets’ overall totals higher temporarily). State presidents could executively disburse bridge funds. These should go directly to the customers for the newly out-of-scope schooling and social services. In no circumstances should these cut out the customers and directly subsidize the producers; that’s a key way that governments support cronies while failing customers. As the state-government people legislate and execute transitions, they should completely ignore all national-government rules about these areas, which are blatantly unconstitutional.
To picture what one such transition should look like, consider the picture put together by Lew Rockwell (2020) of what would happen even if there was no bridge funding, if schools were to shift completely from government to private.
At first, since the old ways will be ending, many things will happen that sound bad. School buildings will be sold. Teachers will be let go. Property taxes will be abolished locally, so some people whose kids had been in the government schools might move to where there will still be property taxes and government schools. Housing prices may well fall. For some time, kids may have no schools they can go to in person during the day (imagine that!). With no more property taxes, parents will have money for tuition that they didn’t have before, but even so, for many parents the only viable option will be to homeschool.
But then many things will happen that will be good. The existing private schools will fill to capacity. With property taxes gone and with government no longer largely displacing private producers of schooling, churches and other organizations will receive more donations and will start schools. Businesspeople will start schools. At first most schools will operate the same way the government schools did, but soon parents will have more choices. Parents will be able to choose among transportation services. Parents will be able to choose half days, very large or very small classes, private tutors, specialized curricula, single-sex classes, sports or no sports. Parents will be able to choose curricula that are determined not by age but rather by mastery of the prerequisite curricula. Certain schools will keep pushing to keep their curricula constantly the very best that’s available, while many schools will serve to mass markets the curricula that just a year or two earlier was the very best available.
These features make such a transition like the times in an economic cycle when at first products fail that deliver worse quality or worse prices, but then products succeed that deliver better quality or better prices. And like in an economic cycle, the only power that can block customer-drive renewal, instead keeping improved products out of the hands of customers, is a coercive government that intervenes to protect the very crony producers that customers aren’t choosing (Salerno 2012). With government schools, the government does this by pushing aside parents and making the government itself the customer.
Transitioning of social services will have parallels to transitioning of schools. Bridge funding direct to recipients will wind down, and voluntary charity services will ramp up. Social-service producers will no longer compete by lobbying better. Social-service recipients will no longer be cut out of the loop of choosing producers. Recipients will start shopping for the services that help them the best long-term, and producers will have to compete by serving recipients better.
In various states the residents, through their county-government representatives, could of course delegate powers different than in the table, reflecting their local preferences at the time they first ratify the state constitutions that are necessary to be able to provide a republican form of government. Any initial timidity in limiting the enumerated powers can later be repealed with amendments.
In the meantime, these states’ residents will finally get to observe other states’ residents choosing more-optimal paths. These states’ residents will get to learn what works not largely by studying theory but rather by observing large-scale practice. And these states’ residents will only have to endure suboptimal results for a few more years, rather than endlessly like at present.
Locally within the larger metro areas, residents will vote with their feet like never before. People will be able to keep their current jobs while relocating to a desirable adjacent county that’s under a much-freer state government, with much-lower taxes and with much-improving schools. Like freer states now grow faster, freer counties and state governments will grow much faster. The amped-up competition among governments will lead to all governments either serving customers much better or dying out.
Allocation of the state legislators might seem problematic since populations are distributed differently. The states in the original nation numbered 13, while the counties in Missouri, for example, number 115. The states’ fractions of the original nation’s population ranged from 19% down to 1.5% (1790 United States Census), while the counties’ fractions of the state’s population in Missouri range from 16% down to 0.032% (Population of Counties). Allocating state legislators by county the same way the Constitution allocates national legislators by state (U.S. Const. art. I, sec. 2, cl. 3) would give Missouri 231 state representatives and 230 state senators.
Even though the populations of a given state’s counties at various times will always be distributed somewhat differently than the populations of the nation’s states at various times, it’s recommended here that state legislators be allocated exactly analogously to how representatives are allocated in the Constitution. This approach has many advantages.
The Constitution’s allocation approach will certainly produce state houses of representatives that better represent the more-populous counties, as desired, and state senates that better represent the least-populous counties, as desired. This allocation approach has been proven suitable for a widely-varying number of states with widely-varying populations. This allocation approach isn’t subject to manipulation by the incumbent politicians in the current unrepublican states.
Plus, the stakes will be very low. State governments will be limited much better, so this allocation will no longer significantly affect whether property gets taken from some residents and given to other residents.
Ratification should proceed without respecting the amendment rules in current state constitutions. The current state constitutions are unrepublican and also don’t reserve powers to the people, so they’re doubly unconstitutional. The people should simply reclaim their powers, starting here by working through the county governments.
The national government was formed as a contract. When forming this contract, the state governments were taken to represent the people. On the people’s behalf, the state governments delegated some of the people’s powers to the national government.
By the same rationale, in the same way, the state governments should be formed as contracts. When forming these contracts, the county governments should be taken to represent the people. On the people’s behalf, the county governments should delegate some of the people’s powers to the state governments. Ratification by the conventions of 75% of counties should be sufficient to establish a republican form of state government for the counties ratifying the new state constitution (U.S. Const. art. VII, cl. 1).
In Missouri in the 2020 presidential election, voters supported Trump over Biden in 97% of the counties (2020 United States). The proportion of Missouri’s population that was represented by these county governments was 65% (Population of Counties).
Missouri residents as a whole would be represented far-more constitutionally under such a new state constitution than they are represented under the current state constitution. Missouri residents within the likely-to-ratify 97% of counties would be represented far-more constitutionally and far-more in accordance with their wishes under such a new state constitution.
The story becomes clearer when you look more closely into the internals of the resulting regions.
If Missouri was divided and 97% of the counties were organized under the new republican state government, this new state government would govern a region that would include metro St. Louis’s St. Charles County, Jefferson County, Franklin County, Lincoln County, and Warren County, and metro Kansas City’s Clay County, Cass County, and Platte County.
The remaining 3% of counties would remain organized under the legacy unrepublican state government, and this legacy state government would govern a region that would consist solely of metro St. Louis’s St. Louis County and St. Louis City, metro Kansas City’s Jackson County, and college town Columbia’s Boone County.
That is, not only would Missouri as a whole be surgically divided but also each metro area would be surgically divided. One large contiguous land would have a strong majority of residents who support constitutionalists. The remaining set of isolated city cores would have a strong majority of residents support Progressives.
This cleavage would give each group more autonomy.
Big cities, or growing cities, with big city governments are the incubators and strongholds for Progressivism currently (Anthony 2021b). Progressive big cities wield unrepublican extra leverage which creates Progressive states and nations. Occasionally Progressives toss out secession half-heartedly as a thought, but mostly Progressives seek to control and dominate everything and everyone. Constitutionalists are the people who take secession seriously, because they want out from that coercion, and secession looks like the way they can be left alone. Constitutionalists try to secede in order to escape Progressivism. Unfortunately, every conventional secession proposal address the Progressive cities.
This defect could be addressed, and someday will be addressed on a more-minute scale, by breaking up centralized big-city governments into neighborhood-city governments (Anthony 2020a). But this approach of city-neighborhood secession would be very hard to accomplish quickly in a given neighborhood or to accomplish broadly in many areas in the nation in a given period of time.
City-neighborhood secessions would have to take place in neighborhoods in which all of the residents first liked a city enough to move into it, and most of the residents now dislike the city enough to work hard to secede from it. Also, each such secession would have to take place on a minute scale, which would make it very hard to organize and keep up the fight against much-bigger and more-powerful incumbent city governments and their state-government comrades—all of whom are Progressives and so, by their nature, are tenaciously very controlling.
If this defect of conventional secession approaches isn’t addressed by having neighborhoods secede from cities, then centralized Progressive city governments will poison the well for these approaches. Secede as a state, and wherever you go, there your state’s Progressive big cities are. Secede as counties into another state, and where you go, there your new state’s Progressive big cities are.
This defect of conventional secession approaches is overcome by county-region secession to form a new republican state government. The residents involved have already chosen to live where they live, in a place that’s not Progressive like the urban cores and inner suburbs. Small scale is not a problem—large populations want to secede, and large populations can build and sustain the momentum required to produce political change. And uniquely among larger-scale approaches, these county-region secessions will be surgical.
In these county-region small-r republican secessions—these rSecessions—the constitutionalist rural areas, exurbs, and outer suburbs will secede away from the Progressive urban cores and inner suburbs (Anthony 2021b). The resulting state governments of republican form will have significantly-limited powers. And these new republican state governments will operate in large regions whose populations, by strong majorities, support the Constitution as-written, so these rSecessions will be sustainable for very long periods of time.
In the regions represented by republican state governments, in one fell swoop the 1/4 of government spending that’s currently done by state governments (Chantrill 2021) will come under new management. From the start, agencies, which currently are both a major budget item and a key source of coercive force, will be understood to be formed by delegating legislative power, which is unconstitutional, so they won’t be formed by the new governments, and all the associated spending and coercion won’t ever start. From the start, the major budget items of government schools and social services will at most be put under temporary bridge funding direct to parents and service recipients, so quickly this spending too will be gone.
And these county-region rSecessions won’t just dramatically impact the state governments but stop there.
rSecession Effects on Nation
First will come new, stronger federalism from assertive state governments.
The national government is already subject to the rule that the national government has limited enumerated powers.
When the national government unconstitutionally grabs either a power that a state’s people delegated to a state government or a power that remains reserved to the people, the state government is the largest organization that has powers that can offset and push back the national government. Within any given state, the state government has a much-larger footprint than the national government, and exercises serious police power. On top of that, as long as the state government is doing right by the state’s people, the state government also has the benefit of serious support from the people.
Enforcement of limits on the national government by state governments almost never happens even in small ways under the current state governments. Currently each state government is significantly influenced by the Progressives in the larger cities’ urban cores and inner suburbs. But with rSecession, this will end for the many people represented by the new republican form of state government.
The president of a republican state government won’t go to third-party courts to ask for support for blocking the national government’s unconstitutional power grabs, he will use his executive power fully to block these power grabs directly.
The Congress of a republican state government won’t go to third-party courts to ask for support for disregarding the national government’s unconstitutional power grabs, it will use its legislative power to block these power grabs directly (Anthony 2021e).
In parallel with the new, stronger federalism will come the power of national representation, which will bring new, stronger national-government constitutionalism.
In Missouri, for example, most likely in the preponderant region there will be one state government that’s clearly of republican form that will represent 65% of the state’s population and 97% of the state’s counties. In the holdover counties there will be a different legacy state government that’s clearly of unrepublican form that will represent 35% of the state’s population and 3% of the state’s counties. The republican state government and the legacy unrepublican state government will each, in their respective regions, control House redistricting and run the elections.
As a result for the House, there will no longer be Progressive-controlled state legislatures across each whole state that can increase the effective weight of the strongly-Progressive areas by drawing district borders that bulge into adjacent regions, marginalizing many constitutionalist voters. With this leverage gone, the House will have more members who are constitutionalist.
For the Senate, there will be republican state governments running elections with strict procedures and execution, and there will be legacy unrepublican state governments running elections with lax procedures and execution. The election results reported by the two sides will not be comparable, and it will be unacceptable to sum these apples-to-oranges numbers and claim that this result fairly represents the voters. If a state’s population is split such that more than 2/3 of the voters are represented by the republican state government or by the legacy unrepublican state government, then that preponderant state government will elect both senators. Otherwise, each of the two state governments will elect one senator.
All states have some split of urban vs. rural voters. In most states, urban plus inner-suburban voters won’t exceed 2/3 of all voters. The Senate will at first look like it’s more-evenly split than ever between the two current major parties. But looks will be deceiving.
In both the House and the Senate, the voter bases in the new republican state governments will attract and elect candidates who are far-more constitutionalist. Both houses of Congress will become considerably-more constitutionalist.
The republican state-government presidents and the members of Congress elected by voters represented by republican state governments will together comprise a much-larger farm team of constitutionalists. It will include people who have far-more practical experience using offsetting constitutional powers to limit governments.
From this far-larger resource will come far-more constitutionalist national-government presidents. Every constitutionalist in every office has the power and duty to himself independently interpret the constitutionality of existing statutes and opinions and only take actions on the job that he himself considers constitutional. Presidents have immediate plenary power over their own actions, which control all execution of statutes and opinions. Each constitutionalist president will quickly do great deal to limit his governments throughout his term in office.
When congressional majorities tip to constitutionalist, these representatives will understand that the filibuster is unconstitutional (Coenen 2014). These representatives will understand that fast, extensive change is always best, and fast change for the best yields its benefits especially quickly (Anthony 2021a).
These representatives will have seen large transitions away from government control accomplished by republican state governments. Many of these representatives will have been the leaders of these transitions. They’ll know how to adapt these ideas, for example by releasing assets from government control (Anthony 2020c), to transition out of massive unconstitutional national-government programs (Pinera 1995).
Constitutionalist congressional majorities will rapidly repeal Progressive statutes and make bridge funding available. Constitutionalist presidents will take responsibility for and be accountable for executing these transitions (Anthony 2021d).
The recommendations here have been incorporated into a model constitution for the united counties of Missouri (Charters). This model constitution uses the Constitution as a template and maintains exactly-parallel terminology and clauses. Such careful replication will make it straightforward to take all that’s understood about the Constitution—our existing state-region contract—and apply this understanding to new county-region government contracts. This model constitution is a simple, thorough picture of the charters that each county region needs to have to guarantee a republican form of government.
The Constitution provides enumerated limited powers; separated legislative, executive, and judicial powers; nondelegable legislative powers; and offsetting powers that offer multiple independent protections—all the powers needed to limit governments, to make each individual’s life, liberty, and property secure.
When all the powers needed to increase freedom are already in place, all that’s needed is to elect representatives who will use their powers against others in government to limit our governments.
rSecession will help us compete to do this and practice doing this until we get it far-more right.
Boundaries are remarkable. Asserting good boundaries in the area of just a single so-far neglected provision of the Constitution—the guarantee to each state of a republican form of government—will sweep a century-plus of the accumulated poison of Progressivism into the dustbin of history.
Good boundaries bring freedom (Anthony 2018).
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James Anthony is the author of The Constitution Needs a Good Party and rConstitution Papers and has written articles in The Federalist, Foundation for Economic Education, American Thinker, American Greatness, and rConstitution.us. Mr. Anthony is an experienced chemical engineer with a master’s in mechanical engineering.