Ron Paul, secessionist

The Texas congressman takes to YouTube to defend comments recently made by his state's governor, Rick Perry.

Published April 20, 2009 3:30PM (EDT)

If anyone was going to come out and defend Texas Gov. Rick Perry's secession talk, it's not surprising that his fellow Texan, Rep. Ron Paul, would be the one to do it.

In a video posted to YouTube on Sunday, and flagged by Huffington Post's Sam Stein, Paul says people upset by Perry's talk about the idea, "don't know their history very well, because when you think about it... it is very American to talk about secession." He added, "That's how we came in to being: 13 colonies seceded from the British... So secession is very much of an American principle."

Towards the end of his video, Paul discussed an apocalyptic scenario in which the idea might need to be discussed as a real possibility. "I think people should discuss this. Because right now the American people are sick and tired of it all. And I think the time will come when people will consider it much more seriously, is when the federal government can no longer deliver. That will come when the dollar collapses... Then, the independence of the states will come back, and it doesn't mean that you'll be un-American to even contemplate what might have to be done once the dollar crashes."

Throughout the video, Paul maintains that secession would be permissible, and was envisioned by the Founders, but that the Civil War wrongly took the idea out of mainstream discourse. The Supreme Court disagrees -- in Texas v. White, an 1869 case, Chief Justice Salmon Chase wrote:

Not only, therefore, can there be no loss of separate and independent autonomy to the States through their union under the Constitution, but it may be not unreasonably said that the preservation of the States, and the maintenance of their governments, are as much within the design and care of the Constitution as the preservation of the Union and the maintenance of the National government. The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States.

Paul makes one other factual mistake in the video, an embarrassing one for someone like him. "Just think of the benefits that would have come over these last 230-some years if the principle of secession had existed. That means the federal government would have always been restrained not to overburden the states with too much federalism, too many federal rules and regulations," he says. That is most definitely not the definition of federalism, which the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy calls, "the theory or advocacy of federal political orders, where final authority is divided between sub-units and a center."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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