April 16, 2009

Texas: It's Like a Whole 'Nother Country

AS A MATTER OF COURSE, The Rant approves of secession movements in principle but not in practice.

In principle, they're nice because free people everywhere should have the right to organize their own affairs. If that means they decide to scrap their current arrangements and set up their own shop, that seems fair enough to me. Also, it stands to reason that in a situation where polities peacefully co-exist and compete with each other to provide better lives for their citizens, that competitive tide will lift everyone's boats.

In practice, however, secession movements are rarely neat. After all, look what happened the last time -- and that was before the invention of things like tanks and fighter jets, much less tactical nuclear weapons. Also, they're generally bad for business. In the best-case scenario, you get a whole new set of rules and regulations and cross-border issues with which to deal; in the worst-case scenario, you get your factories nationalized.

Accordingly, The Rant is not impressed with Texas Gov. Rick Perry's claim the Lone Star State can simply up and leave the United States without so much as a by-your-leave. It is not even true on a theoretical level, much less a practical one. In theory, the only special status Texas has, under the rules of the Texas Annexation of 1845, is its ability to divide itself into five separate states. Why the Texans have failed to use this to their advantage over the years is beyond me, but they haven't. In practice, we told them once they couldn't leave, and one would think the resulting actions would have settled the matter.

Of course, that was a long time ago, and I realize Texan secessionists may make that argument in defending their homeland's honor. So let's consider what it might be like if Texas were to secede, and everyone was all right with that.

Well, first off, there's this little matter of the national debt. As of Tuesday, the national debt stood at $11,172,298,738,031.41. (Yes, the Government calculates this to the penny). Texas has roughly 7.84 percent of the nation's population, so that would mean the Great Sovereign State of Texas, as successor to the American Government, would thus owe $875,908,221,061.66 to the national fisc for its share of that debt. Yes, that's $875 billion. Yes, that works out to $36,005.64 per Texan. No, I don't know where they would get it, although I would be cool with the new Government of Texas remitting part of this sum in barbecue.

Then there's the little matter of dealing with the innumerable programs from which Texas citizens now benefit. Since Social Security and Medicare are both pay-as-you-go systems, in theory Texas could still take part in these if it kept remitting the payroll taxes necessary to fund them. But if it didn't, there's no reason citizens of Texas would simply get to keep taking part in these. After all, they wouldn't be part of the United States any more.

Also, Texas now benefits from the federal Government's expenditures for national defense. These expenses will total $551 billion in FY 2009, according to the Department of Defense. So if Texas wants to keep benefiting from the United States' military shield, it will have to pay roughly $43.2 billion per year to do so. Of course, it wouldn't have to do this, but in that event, Texas would have to kiss all its military bases goodbye. Plus, Texas citizens now in the U.S. military would undoubtedly have to pledge allegiance to the remaining 49 states or lose their jobs, 'cause having hostile foreign nationals in one's army could be rather troubling.

Finally, Texas -- as a foreign polity -- would either have to come up with its own currency to replace the dollar or effectively cede any control or input it had on setting interest rates and monetary policy to the Federal Reserve. This would get especially interesting if Texas decided to go ahead and form its own currency -- maybe they could call it the tejano. If it did this right -- and agreed to peg it to the price of gold -- the new money could generate a lot of interest and become more valuable than the dollar. If it did this wrong -- well, that wouldn't be pretty. Think Mexico in 1982.

This is, of course, the best-case scenario. Obviously, the 49 remaining states could make things a bit more difficult for Texas if they wanted. For instance, if the 49 decided that Texas citizens couldn't enter the United States without a visa. Or if the 49 decided they'd slap tariffs on Texas-produced goods. You can see where this is going; and it's not like Texas would be able to do anything about it. What are they going to do, invade Oklahoma? Not bloody likely.

On the other hand, Texas might decide that it's still worth it to proceed with seceding, no matter the cost. After all, Texas would get to set up its own tax rates, its own laws, its own courts and its own constitution, without dealing with those pesky issues of federal supremacy. So if Texas wanted to outlaw abortion, for instance, it could. If it decided to get rid of environmental protection for some feeble animals in the way of development, it could. In that regard, leaving the union could have some benefits in terms of self-determination. But one would think the costs associated with doing so would outweigh the benefits considerably.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at April 16, 2009 08:19 AM | TrackBack
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