The recent petitions in several states to secede from the union were seen as largely a protest by neoconservatives and fiscal conservatives against the disappointing 2012 election results and the intransigence of Congress on meaningful spending reforms. Few took the separatists seriously even though the White House gave a formal response to the petitions, which came from many states such as Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas (the Texas petition received over 125,000 signatures). The follow-up "autonomy movement" in these and several other states has a much more serious intent and a much wider following.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, many Americans realized how fragile our banking and commerce institutions really are. The ranks of "preppers" have grown (3 million plus, by some estimates) as it becomes more and more legitimate to question whether or not the federal government can sustain a viable framework for civilization and commerce. As these concerns percolate into local and state government, many new measures have been introduced to create a replacement system of governance in the doomsday scenario of complete economic collapse.
In a sort of reverse-Eurozone evolutionary process, Virginia, Utah, Wyoming, and others have begun creating their own currencies, and are planning to replace the federal functions within their boundaries in case the U.S. dollar and its progenitors should fail. In much the same way that European countries are considering going back to their individual currencies to avoid suffering from the fiscal irresponsibility of their neighbors, these states are preparing "bug-out" plans to escape the profligacy of the feds.
This opting-out bears little resemblance to the secession movements that came before. Instead, it's a civil defense exercise; a fire drill plan for what many see as an inevitable financial apocalypse. Instead of being heralded by cranky protesters in tricorn hats, this movement is led by even-natured, thoughtful civic planners in much the same way as local governments make disaster plans to ready for earthquakes or tornados. Unlike their Washington D.C. counterparts these local leaders have reached the logical conclusion that a system that prints $85 billion a month and borrows 48 cents of every dollar it spends is unsustainable. They are doing the sensible thing and readying a system of exchange that does not rely on a currency that will almost certainly one day fail.
The White House response to the many secession petitions they received was predictable. Director of the Office of Public Engagement Jon Carson called for unity and participation in the democratic process as a path to reform, instead of splitting off over differences of opinion. Carson cited the Civil War as having "vindicated the principle that the Constitution establishes a permanent union between the States."
The people of the former Confederate States of America might disagree. To many, it was an egregious abuse of federal power to forcibly prevent those 11 states from leaving the union. Perhaps if the federal government had acted gradually to increase each state’s economic and power structure, even promoting their own currencies as in today’s state autonomy movements, they might’ve expanded on the provisions of the Tenth Amendment to set themselves up as individual nations within a nation. That would have provided an opportunity for each state to set their own policies and to weather economic storms on their own, rather than being subject to the capricious currents of a federal financial system. Similarly, the nations of Europe seek to compartmentalize their own economies today.
When asked for his definition of government, Thomas Jefferson famously gave a one-word reply: "Force." It remains to be seen how desperately the rulers and central planners in Washington will exert their force in the face of a widespread fracturing of the states into their own sovereignties. They might seek to impose military law and drag the states back in to a newly created or newly devalued currency against the will of the Utahans, Virginians, and Texans who might be happy having their destiny in their own hands. Will we transition from a voluntary union of states into a forced oligarchy? It probably depends on how chaotic the outfall from the meltdown becomes. With a completely insolvent and dysfunctional federal system, maybe the most stable format for our nation will be to once again become a truly voluntary society. It will require diligence and vigilance among the individual states to avoid the fate of the many democratic nations that have fallen before ours. In chaos tyranny always lurks, seeking whom it may opportunistically devour.