If We Try to Leave, Will They Let Us Go?

Sadly, there is a brighter line between Us and Them. But will They allow Us to do our own thing?

Published in Underthrow Series .

In this article, a friend of Underthrow, Christopher Cook , explores one of the basic questions of exodology. In other words, as we practice the third imperative of subversive innovation—Lower exit costs—forces will try to block the exits. We’re seeing this today, particularly in the finance and currency realms. But what about the supposed ‘right of self-determination?’ What if Texans, en masse, decided it was time for Texas to become a Republic again?

Us and them.

I love the song, but hate the phrase. I don’t particularly enjoy dividing people up into binary categories. Nonetheless, doing so does serve a valuable purpose—categorization and pattern recognition help us understand the world.

For the purposes of this article, then, allow me to define the US and the THEM.


WE…are somewhere on the journey from red-pill to black-pill to clear-pill to free-pill.

In other words—we discovered how truly messed up things are. It freaked us out, and even made us a little depressed, but we have come to terms with it.

Now, we want nothing to do with the system. We want out. We want to exit and build. We want to create parallel institutions. We want to decentralize, devolve, and secede.

We don’t want to force anyone to go with us. We just want to be free to go.


THEY…are a combination of two cohorts.

First, there are the People of the System. Politicians. Power-players. The architects, operatives, and enforcers of the regime. They won’t let us go because…well, because nobody gets to go. Going just isn’t allowed.

Then, there are the cheerleaders of the regime. They are the people who believe that nothing but the state is possible. They are the people who believe—owing to a pathologized version of human social nature—that nothing but the collective is allowed.

They are the lefties who believe that you’re not allowed to go because you’re not allowed to take your money with you—because the tribe has a claim on your stuff. No one leaves the tribe…well, because no one leaves the tribe. Because the tribe is the tribe, you are just a sub-unit of the tribe. Because “we have to find ways to live together.”

Unfortunately, they are also some conservatives who are locked into a permanent idée fixe about the Founders’ “original vision.” They believe that there was an idealized version of our “constitutional republic” that existed early on, and that we can somehow get back there. They believe—in spite of all evidence to the contrary—that the limited government we were (supposedly) bequeathed can be restored, and then kept limited.

And after years of defending the classical-liberal gains of the Founders against a relentless onslaught from the left, they are also locked in permanent defense-of-America mode. (I understand because I used to be there myself.)

If you think all of this is overwrought, try tossing the notion of secession into a mixed-company conversation. The result is like throwing a piece of meat in a pit of Doberman pinschers who haven’t been fed for three days.

If it’s conservatives—you’re guilty of disloyalty and lack of patriotism. If it’s lefties—you can’t go because we’ve got collective problems to solve, don’t’cha know. Climate change and poor people and pollution. No one leaves the collective, you sick loner.

I know this because I’ve had the conversations. They do not demonstrate any awareness that they have no right to force us to stay. They simply assert that we cannot leave as a KnownFact™.

No one goes. Period.

Nonetheless, I want more data. I want to hear reactions from more people. To this end, I am going to posit a few scenarios and hope they get into the hands of those who feel this way.

I want to hear you defend the contention that we’re not allowed to disassociate ourselves, withdraw consent, and form our own polities on our own property.


I first became aware of the you-can’t-leave attitude in a Facebook discussion a few years back. As I write in my (soon-to-be-released) book,

A few years ago, a liberty-minded colleague sent me some interesting information about seasteading, which triggered a conversation in social media. After a short time, an old college friend with a strong leftward inclination chimed in.

Reduced to its essentials, his argument was essentially this: You can’t leave. He seemed decidedly irked that we would even be talking about it. There are genuine human problems, he proclaimed—poverty, global warming, and the like—and we have to solve them together. He treated the notion that people might absent themselves entirely as simply unacceptable, as if it would be shirking some inescapable responsibility.

So let’s play this out…

A tech bro with a ton of money finds a seamount in the doldrums, well into international waters. He spends a couple of billion dollars making a large artificial island and declares it sovereign territory.

There is no income tax—indeed, no tax whatsoever—on the Island. Instead, people pay rent for territory and fees for certain services. The business climate is so excellent, in fact, that it soon begins to attract the best and brightest from around America and the world. A giant sucking sound—of brilliant minds, of jobs, of money (and thus of tax revenue)—ensues.

Need for more land results in expansion of the Island, and then the transformation of other seamounts into islands, forming an archipelago. The America left behind looks like the America left behind in Atlas Shrugged after the “men of the mind” disappeared to Galt’s Gulch.

Do you really think the American government would let it get that far? Do you think that statists—of any political flavor—would approve?

Now note that California is trying to charge people an “exit tax” for leaving the state and try answering the question again.

The Village and the Hill People

On the shores of a great southern ocean lies a (hypothetical) village. The Village is a primitive, microcosmic version of what we have now…

The Village Council takes 30 ears of corn per year from the Fur-Hat People, 10 from the Straw-Hat People, and none from the Coconut-Hat People. The people (appear to) put up with this because there are more Coconut-Hat People than anyone else.

The Village Council builds bridges to nowhere and names parks after themselves. The people think they’re free because they get to vote.

One day, some people decide they’ve had enough. They march ten miles up the hill and start a logging colony. The Village is the only settlement for hundreds of miles. Thus, the logging colony is on previously unoccupied land.

The colony becomes incredibly successful. They trade their logs with a faraway people—the River People—in mutually beneficial exchanges. Soon, they are far wealthier than the Village.

Do you think that the Village Council would allow this? That they wouldn’t try to pick this plum? What about the greedy eyes of the Villagers?

How far out would the Hill People have to go before they were beyond the ambit of the Village? Five miles? Ten miles? How far do they have to run away from the contention that the Village has some sort of automatic claim upon them—upon their labors, their minds, and their stuff?

The Island

How about an island off the coast of some American state? Just a little island that no one is doing anything with. An island that no one will miss. What if some people buy the island fair and square and then ask to secede?

Can they?

If not, why not?

A New State

What if a U.S. state decides to break off from a larger state to form a new state—as West Virginia did from Virginia during the Civil War.

Can they?

Why should the current boundaries of states remain forever as they are?

A New Country

What if a bunch of counties along the Canadian border decide they no longer want to be a part of America? They ask to secede, peacefully—to form a new nation with friendly relations with both Canada and the United States.

Why can’t they go?

Why must the current borders of the United States remain as they are forever? Why may it only ever get bigger, but never smaller?

The Distributed Nation

What if a bunch of people in different places decide that they wish to disassociate from the nation to whose rule they are currently subjected?

  • They realize they don’t want to be responsible for what that nation does abroad.
  • They realize they’re being fleeced.
  • They don’t agree with the laws, and realize that they’ll never really be able to change them…in spite of the mythology about the magical power of voting.
  • They realize they never consented to the whole shebang in the first place.

They want to withdraw consent—the consent they were never actually asked for. They want to declare allegiance to themselves, to each other, to God…to something other than an entity that claims dominion over them and seizes their allegiance whether they offer it or not.

They want to come up with their own laws. They want allodial title to their own land. They want to be a part of an archipelago of properties loosely associated into a distributed nation of sorts. They want to provide their own services or pay agencies to provide them in market-based transactions.

Why can’t they go?

Why is it okay to force people to consent to things to which they obviously did not consent? Why is it okay to force people to be a part of something they don’t want to be a part of? Why is it okay to subject them to involuntary dominion?

On what grounds do you insist that human beings continue to be a part of what YOU think they should be a part of? Defend that.

If it is okay to violate consent in these circumstances, why isn’t it okay in other circumstances? Why not just make rape legal too? Yeah, she didn’t say so out loud, but her consent was ‘tacit’ and ‘implied.’

Is that the ground you want to defend?

If it is okay to force people to surrender their property—and themselves—to the overlordship of another, why not just make theft and slavery legal, too? Sure, we take the fruit of your labor against your will, punish or kill you if you resist, and forbid you to escape this arrangement, but it’s not like it’s slavery or anything.

Except that’s exactly what it is.

The free-rider argument—that a seceded nation along the northern border, for example, would unfairly benefit from the Pax Americana—doesn’t work either. Otherwise, Spain would absorb Andorra, and France would claim Monaco.

So what argument does work? C’mon, I want to hear it.

Tell us why we cannot leave.

Christopher Cook writes at the Freedom Scale and guest writes at Underthrow.

World's Smallest
Political Quiz

Take the Quiz

Login for the
Best Experience

Password Reset Confirmation

If an account matching the email you entered was found, you will receive an email with a link to reset your password.

The Advocates logo

Welcome Back.

No account? Create one

Click "Sign Up" to agree to The Advocate's For Self Governments' Terms of Service and acknowledge that The Advocate's Privacy Policy applies to you. You also consent to receive our email newsletter which you can opt out of at any time.

The Advocates logo

Join free or login to save results.

Save your results & progress. It's free, forever.

Already have an account? Login

Click "Sign Up" to agree to The Advocate's For Self Governments' Terms of Service and acknowledge that The Advocate's Privacy Policy applies to you. You also consent to receiving our email newsletter which you can opt out of at any time.

The Advocates logo

Sign in with email.

The Advocates logo

Sign up with email.

The two passwords you entered don't match.

Take the world's smallest political quiz.