Secession, Division, Decolonization: Who Will Be the 51st State?

Updated on February 27, 2019
Garry Reed profile image

Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career and a passion for all things libertarian to become The Libertarian Opinionizer.

Don't laugh, we coulda had a 124-star flag already
Don't laugh, we coulda had a 124-star flag already

Facts & Fun From The Libertarian Opinionizer

New states, seceding states, disjointing states, recombining states, re-entering states, 124 states – how many stars can Old Glory stuff into her star field?

Most Americans don’t know their own history. From its earliest days The Union has been a fractious family, a quarrelsome quorum of states and intractable tracts of territorial wannabe joiners even as other jurisdictions jockeyed to disjoin from the majority. So where to start?

How about here? Two small chunks of American real estate, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, are vying to become the 51st state but neither may make it because: Republicans.

Coming up In June 2017 residents of the island Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will get to decide if they want to become a state or something called "Independence/Free Association." This is a politically rigged election because they won’t be allowed to vote as they have repeatedly in the past for either remaining a Commonwealth or becoming an independent polity. Since few seem to understand what being an "Independence/Free Association" means the betting is on statehood.

Meanwhile residents of the District of Columbia have been agitating for 51st statehood status for years. In November 2016, 86 percent of voters in The District overwhelmingly cast ballots in favor of statehood. Of course it won’t happen without Congressional approval, which means it probably won’t happen. More on that in a bit.

One Nation, Indivisible?: A Study of Secession and the Constitution
One Nation, Indivisible?: A Study of Secession and the Constitution
YOUR LIBERTARIAN OPINIONIZER’S PICK: Unknown to most people the US is not a voluntary union today; the former Confederate States were forced to rejoin the union under continued threat of military occupation. Also unknown to most people the Civil War DID NOT settle the issue of secession. In this revised edition the author makes a case for the long forgotten decentralist tradition. Competing states within the union may be the only hope libertarians will ever have for creating anything close to a voluntary society.

Stirring the Political Pot

But these two plots of terra firma aren’t the only ones seeking a change in their political identities. In 2012 the LA Times reported that from a few to hundreds of thousandfold folks in all 50 states petitioned the White House for independence. Of course that ain’t gonna happen either.

From time to time many states have either officially considered to, attempted to, or argued in favor for the right to dis-unite (secede) from the United States of America while a few non-state “possessions” have mulled the idea of uniting with and becoming an officially legal full-fledged state of the union.

This is a longstanding tradition that didn’t start with the secessionist southern Confederate States of America as most assume but with the northern Yankee states. “From 1800 to 1815,” according to economist and historian Thomas DiLorenzo, “there were three serious attempts at secession orchestrated by the New England Federalists” over various unacceptable political situations of the times.

DiLorenzo also quotes historian Edward Powell who wrote, "the right of a State ... to withdraw from the Union was … not disputed” in those days.

More recently, many states have demanded the right to split up into smaller multiple states, (Some Californians want to divide up into as many as six separate Californias), some parcels of existing states want to secede from their state and become a new state (In 2013 five rural counties voted to separate themselves from Colorado and enter the union as a then-unnamed state with a then-unnamed capital) while true-blue Texans just want to secede outright and return to their former status as the independent Lone Star Republic.

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The 124 States of America

Mansfield University geography professor Andrew Shears created this "alternative history" map in 2011 showing how the USA would look if all of history's proposed states had been accepted.
Mansfield University geography professor Andrew Shears created this "alternative history" map in 2011 showing how the USA would look if all of history's proposed states had been accepted. | Source

After all, Maine was part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until 1820 when it voted to slice itself off from Mass, became a separate state, and joined the Union as state number 23.

In fact seven of the first 13 states ceded western land claims so new states could be made from them; the Louisiana Purchase was eventually carved up into seven states plus parts of eight others; and when Texas joined the union it handed over territories that would later became parts of five new states.

If every proposed state had made it into the union we might be saluting a 124-star flag today.

But back to Puerto Rico which has from time-to-time, as mentioned, held referenda about becoming an official US state, a free “associated state,” an independent country, or retaining its status as a Commonwealth, with the latter so far winning every time. Meanwhile, the United Nations has been demanding “decolonization” (i.e., anti-commonwealth) for the island since 1953.

PR’s 5th referendum is scheduled for June 11, 2017. Voters will decide if they want to be a full-fledged state or something created by the UN called a "Sovereign Associated Free State entity” or some variation thereof.

“An associated state is the minor partner in a formal, free relationship between a political territory with a degree of statehood and a (usually larger) nation, for which no other specific term, such as protectorate, is adopted.” – OMICS International

It’s a rigged vote because neither “Commonwealth” nor “independence” is offered as a ballot option, which means the US unsurprisingly hangs onto the island either way.

So Puerto Rico will likely vote for statehood even though they almost certainly won’t get congressional approval because, just as in the case of DC, Republicans assume both would almost certainly fall under Democratic Party control, thereby increasing their presence in both the Senate and House.

Still, since DC seems to be the leading, and longest-running, dark horse candidate let’s see how that might play out.

Downsize DC

Before and After Maryland's contribution to the District of Columbia was returned. Imagine! Politicians once actually managed to Downsize DC!
Before and After Maryland's contribution to the District of Columbia was returned. Imagine! Politicians once actually managed to Downsize DC! | Source

The Great State of Columbia

From time to time the pint-sized parcel of property dubbed District of Columbia is heard to agitate for statehood. Considering that its capital, Washington, which is of course also the capital of a whole nation/empire/allegedly Free World, would have the same city limits as the capital of a new state of Columbia would have state boundaries, we’re talking more city-state here than state.

Currently, not being an official political entity known as a “state” they are subject to “taxation without representation.” Not only does the phrase appear on DC license plates but it’s registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Does that mean saying “taxation without representation” is now a violation of intellectual property?

For reasons unknown to libertarians it seems that in some people’s minds taxation by a bloated, greedy, domineering, power-hungry government is somehow better if it’s represented than if it’s unrepresented.

Beginning with a mere 13 states at the birth of the new country on the North American Continent the number of states “united” in America has remained stable at 50 since 1959 when Alaska and Hawaii tag-teamed the nation for the official designation of “statehood.”

Still, it seems only inevitable that this odd-shaped shard of landscape sometimes called The District will eventually snatch the status of tiniest state from the grip of Rhode Island, so perhaps a hank of history would be helpful here.

Columbia is named, oddly enough, after Cristoforo Colombo, an Italian explorer freelancing for Spain who never touched toe on what subsequently became United States soil. George Washington, after whom Columbia's now-only city is named (having absorbed Georgetown), envisioned the district as a tidy diamond-shaped realm wrenched from Maryland and Virginia.

For various political reasons, none of which included actually adopting the axiom "the government that governs least governs best," the politicians committed modern political heresy by returning Virginia's 39 square miles to Virginia, leaving Columbia as a diamond with a chunk bitten out, making it difficult for second-graders to draw and color.

Reinventing Columbia

Thing is, Columbia has been pretending to stateness for years. The enclave already sports statelike trappings such as a flag, a motto and an official song.

Some see substantial problems with admitting this Lilliputian land into the union. First, there’s the difficulty of adding another star to the already overcrowded field on the flag. Fifty-one is just such an awkward number. Maybe this remnant of real estate should be repatriated to Maryland and have done with it. Or perhaps it could be coupled with another contender, fifty-two being a better number, like Alaska and Hawaii’s joint join-up in 1959.

Potential partners might be Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands or American Samoa. From a libertarian perspective, the best candidate would be one of 11 US territories like Wake Island, Palmyra Atoll, Kingman Reef or Bajo Nuevo Bank since they have no native or permanent populations, hence no one to represent. These tiny bits of land would be unable to inflict yet more politicians upon us pretending to be public servants while primarily representing themselves.

Columbia State Flag

Proposed flag for the State of Columbia, host to the most powerful and wealthy force on earth.
Proposed flag for the State of Columbia, host to the most powerful and wealthy force on earth.

Second, the new state of Columbia needs a new flag. The current District standard, three red stars above two red bars, is based on the first president’s coat of arms. But this is supposed to be the state of Columbia, not the state of Washington. (Hint: we already have one of those.)

The new flag of Columbia, like all flags, should embody the essence of the polity's soul. In this case, that would be coercion and taxbucks. For libertarians, then, a meaningful motif for the flag of the seat of empire might be a vertical mailed fist rising from a horizontal line of crooked dollar signs bleeding red, or some similar suitable symbolism.

But much more work awaits. Many states have, not just an official animal and official food and official fish and tree and insect and, in the case of Minnesota, an official muffin (no kidding, it's blueberry) but also an official reptile. The Texas state reptile, for example, is the "Texas horned lizard," nicknamed by many Texans as the “horny toad.” Appropriately, Columbia's official state reptile could be the "Congressional horny lounge lizard."

The official state flower needs changing. Currently it's the American Beauty Rose, which is politically incorrect because it sounds too much like the name of a bikini-clad beauty pageant contestant. While DC is famous for its Cherry Blossoms politicians perpetually on the take for graft, grease, bribes, kickbacks, payola, payoffs, buyoffs and all other forms of under-the-table pelf will instead likely adopt the Forget Me Not.

Another appropriate floral choice would be a member of the Amaryllidaceae family: the Narcissus.

Many states have an official state dinosaur or fossil. Alaska chose, as you might expect, the woolly mammoth. California, ever stylish, selected that La Brea Tar Pits favorite, smilodon fatalis, aka Pleistocene saber-toothed cat.

Columbia's state fossil should be the Twelveterm Slobber-Jowled Senile Senatorsaurus.

And a few other state things:

State food: Liberal Hardshelled Antigun Nut.

State animal: Duckabill Platitudepuss.

State fish: Largemouth Bloviating Taxsucker.

State gemstone: Pearl-inlaid gold-plated diamond-encrusted lobbyist-gifted money clip.

State Tree: The Moneygrowson Evergreen

State Song: The War Mangled Banner

Alternatives to Statehood

Here are a couple of other considerations before we go adding more stars to Old Glory:

1. Wait for the Libertarian Free State of New Hampshire to secede and replace it with Columbia. Still fifty stars in the flag. All problems solved.

2. The libertarian solution: Take the taxbucks already earmarked for erecting a wall along the Mexican border and wall off Washington instead. That way, the money-grabbing freedom-defacing folks would be locked away where they can do harm only to one another while productive workers will enter the economy unencumbered from the south.

We'll end up with a better class of citizen that way.

Unless the entire country discovers libertarian values there’s zero chance of Columbia becoming libertarianized under some appropriate name such as Libertopia or Liberterria since the place was created, occupied and permanently damaged by statist government.

Still, if Columbia must become a state, let's at least endow it with an appropriate state motto:

"Taxim Uppa Rectum"



List of U.S. state partition proposals
Andrew Shears’ Map
Downsize DC

DC Statehood Song? It’s Always “For The Children”

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