Could California leave the union? Well, since I’m on an extended project in Silicon Valley right now, I sure hope that if they do, they give me some time to scoot for home before sealing the borders. There is some talk about a tax revolt on the part of the California state government,
As a practical matter, though; could California leave the Union? Probably not. (Even though there are days when I think it might just be a good thing for the rest of the U.S. if they did.) There are an awful lot of details that the CalExit proponents aren’t thinking about. Let’s look at some of those details.
- Federal land in the state. Almost half of the state’s area is Federally owned; National Forest, BLM, military bases, and so forth. What would become of those Federal lands? Would the new California national government pay the United States fair value for those lands? Or would the state just seize the properties? If so, how? Which brings us to:
- The military. Never mind for a moment that the several military bases in California are Federal property, and that the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen on those bases work for the Federal government and are sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, not the state of California. Would California start their own military? Their own army, navy, and air force? How would they pay for it? More to the point, who would serve in it? Who would lead it? There is no Lee in California; no Longstreet, no Jackson.
- Water. California doesn’t have enough native water to support its population. Instead, they depend on water from the Colorado river. If California secedes, how will they pay for this water? Rivers can be dammed and/or diverted. Colorado, Nevada and Arizona could certainly find good use for the 4.4 million acre-feet of water that go to California every year.
- Electricity. California imports about 1/3 of its electricity from its neighboring states. Given that the state is not fond of building new power plants – at least, the wealthy coastal elites who effectively run the state are not fond of building new power plants – what will California do for power? Will the continue to pay to suckle at the United States’ power grid? If so, how will they pay for it?
- Currency. Will California start coining money? Who will set monetary and fiscal policy for the new nation – the people who are running California’s economy now? Welcome to the Greece of the West, folks.
- Politics. California is a big, sparsely populated red state dominated by a few densely populated bright blue population centers – primarily Los Angeles and San Francisco. The state’s farmers and tradesmen are ruled, effectively, by a well-off coastal elite. Suppose rural northern California, the Central Valley, and maybe Orange County refuse to go along? What if those areas vote to stay in the United States? Will the new California national government stick to their newly found principles of self-determination and allow those areas to remain? And if they do, how will a tiny coastal nation consisting of a couple of major cities and a few hundred miles of coastline feed itself? Speaking of which:
- Food. California is largely desert. The fertile Central Valley produces less and less food all the time, strangled by excessive rules and regulations from the state and (to be fair) the Imperial government. Should the secession prove acrimonious, could California find the wherewithal to release Central Valley farmers (if there are any left) to start producing grain and truck crops?
- Foreign Affairs. Who would California’s international allies be? The most obvious one is the mother country – the United States – but just as in the first time this was tried, it’s likely there would be some hard feelings. Nations have no permanent friends, only permanent interests; who would serve California’s interests in an alliance? Mexico? China?
There’s also the 1861 question; should California announce their secession, would President Trump send in the Army to force them to remain? If so, California wouldn’t be able to resist the way the old Confederacy did. It’s highly doubtful half the professional U.S. military would defect to fight for California.
Honestly, the folks agitating for a secession of California aren’t thinking this thing through. The one thing California would have to do to make it as a separate nation is to switch political philosophies and adopt personal liberty, free markets, and minimal intervention by government in the economy and the property rights of its citizens – and this, True Believers, is everything that California is not. It would be a matter of decades at the most before California sank into a Venezuelan quagmire. We don’t need that on our western border, and California’s citizens don’t need it in their bank accounts.