Today’s incoherent position I hold and would like to resolve somehow: every secession claim ever made was legitimate except that of the American South.
woke: they should have been allowed to secede but only on the condition they emancipate all the slaves.
My actual position on this:
- They fully had the the ethical right to secede.
- Every entity has the ethical obligation to intervene in other nations performing heinously unethical behaviors when possible.
History plays out exactly the same, but we don’t get our narratives and legal and ethical rationalizations all twisted up after.
That sounds prima facie reasonable but a great many interventions have failed to fix the atrocities they were intended to fix, and instead made things worse. I don’t want to accidentally endorse the invasion of Libya, or for that matter Vietnam. TL;DR thank goodness I’m not writing international law.
Yeah this is absolutely an important consideration.
It’s sorta like the smaller-scale interpersonal problems of intervening to protect others, isn’t it?
We generally accept that there are times when it is ethically sound to intervene in sufficiently severely unethical behavior.
For example most people are in agreement that if we come upon someone committing a rape or other torture, it is acceptable to attack the perpetrator.
I talked to a guy once who tried to do just that – the rapists ended up tossing him out of a window, so he ended up with broken legs. I don’t know whether or not the rape was actually prevented, but I got the impression it either wasn’t, or was unknown if it was.
This seems like the same general family of problem, just scaled up to “nation state” organism level, rather than “human” organism level, with concordant increases in complexity.
So it’s admittedly easy to say that intervention is ethically justified when talking about the broad principles.
The line between the most optimal course of action and detrimental courses of action is harder to define the more we approach typical day-to-day situations with significant unknowns and severe stakes in both directions.
So I agree that the interventionistic national policies have frequently caused harm historically.
Those harms seem to be symptoms of problemsin practical execution though, not problems in the core principle.
What about the Quebec referendum?
Because I know a lot of Fransaskois who are really lucky Quebec didn’t leave Canada.
This actually gets into other ethical considerations.
I think the overall principle is still sound, if Quebec “wanted to leave” (more on what that even means in a bit), I’d say they have the right to no longer be bound to an agreement to be part of a nation-state that they were merely born into and never signed up for.
There is an orthogonal, but equally important question: how do you determine of a collective of people actually wants to do something?
The thing with the Quebec referendum is that only approximately half of it wanted to leave, and the other approximately-half wanted to very much to stay. If Quebec were thought of as one organism, that’s profoundly crippling indecision or at best a really noncommittal, uncertain decision.
But I want to go deeper:
Philosophically, national separations are rather artificial and arbitrary; pragmatically, geographical borders are rapidly becoming a stale anachronism.
If it were left up to me, I’d wipe out nations, institute a global cohesive system for human cooperation (read: “government”, but where the focus is actually on what government-like-things are good for – determining mutually beneficial goals that individual people cannot achieve and then coordinating and orchestrating people and resources towards the task), which would have small, algorithmically allocated local “governments” to oversee physical affairs at the local level, and a couple higher tiers-of-government/cooperation with more specific roles and responsibilities, mostly having to do with any larger-scale projects which require greater coordination or pooling of effort and resources.
The actual implementation I have in mind has always been designed with the assumption of modern digital technology, and thus presupposes that people can exchange ideas instantly with modern connectivity and recognizes that modern technologies based on various cryptographic primitives allows for a far more robust and elegant implementation of things like voting, temporary and revokeable delegation of power to trusted others, separations of powers, accountability, choice in what you contribute your share of any resource to, etc, than what we have now.
And we don’t need to have just tiers-of-government/cooperation tied to contiguous geographic regions anymore – that’s not representative of what people really live like. You can have tiers of governance/cooperation allocated based on common goals that are geographically independent in scope.
At that point, if done right, the answer would become: everything that’s good about secession is built into the system, and also secession never comes up because people aren’t limited to the crude approximation of nation-states-with-borders to determine the boundaries of how they coordinate and pool resources and effort.
I realized I neglected to address a key point of your question, @acemindbreaker: The ethical responsibility to help or support others.
Since you said a lot of Fransaskois are lucky that Quebec didn’t leave, I presume that implies that their situation is significantly benefited by the ongoing influence and contribution of either 1) Quebec to the rest of Canada or 2) the rest of Canada to Quebec.
One of the motivations I’ve seen come up for secession in people’s minds is a relatively selfish one where a wealthier or better-off region’s members want to separate from poorer, higher-support needing ones. I don’t think this is an ethically good reason for wanting secession, because I think being better-off intrinsically creates an ethical responsibility to help others. Similarly, I think that the collective desire to keep slavery going was a shitty reason for people to want to secede.
The ethically responsible thing is, of course, for the secession-wanting portion to seriously consider how it’s going to effect the both everyone in the seceding portion and the people it’s seceding from, and to be honest with themselves whether the secession is proper self-care or if it’s irresponsibly harmful, or if they’re just throwing a tantrum because the rest of the country is telling them that they’re doing something shitty like slavery.
For me that doesn’t undermine the idea that people ought to be able
to secede from nation-states that aren’t working out for them, it’s
just orthogonal to it.