The majority of Scots voted against secession. Was that good or bad? I dunno. But I want to discuss, briefly, whether we should see this as a gain or loss of freedom in any meaningful sense.
Some libertarians–by which I mean a bunch of Facebook friends, at least–seem reflexively to view secession movements in terms of freedom. The Scots seceding from the UK would mean they are in charge of their own destiny, rather than being outvoted by the damn English.
But let’s not anthropomorphize Scotland. The Scots are not one person, nor are they a big family. They are a bunch of strangers who don’t much care about each other, and who have different ends, ideas, and goals. They are not a tribe with real solidarity and real common bonds.
In the abstract, secession just means replacing one democratic body with a different one. It’s switching one government for a different one. Individuals within those bodies remain basically powerless regardless. Their lives might become better or worse. They might end up having more freedom or less. But whether they gain greater freedom isn’t an automatic result of their seceding, but rather just a question of what the new government chooses to do (or not do).
Suppose there were a big secessionist movement in the American South. Suppose a majority of Southerners wanted to leave the Union and establish a new, mild theocracy, Jesusland. Suppose they held a referendum, and the Jesusland initiative won. Suppose that, as a result, Northern Virginia (which is not the South, by the way–the South doesn’t begin until you get past Fredericksburg) is made to leave the union. What would this mean for me (or Chris, or Mike)? Would we be any freer? For me, all it means that the majority of the eligible voters who live South of me scratched some boxes on some paper, and as a result, rather than being ruled by the American electorate and its leaders, I am ruled by Jesusland’s electorate and their leaders. It means I’d have to stand in longer lines and deal with more tax forms when I give guest lectures at other universities.
I think the question of secession thus is rarely about the “freedom of peoples to have self-rule” or anything like that, because the idea that you form a coherent “people” with 4.5 million strangers is almost always a silly, bullshit, childish idea. Nations are a mythology, and a crappy, dangerous one at that, unlike the mythology of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
The main question for secession is just: is this likely to result in better quality government, government that more closely tracks the objective truth about justice and the right ends of government?