On Secession

I note that there are no provisions here for secession of nations. Oversight, deliberate, or covered elsewhere by other provisions and principles?

Ah, secession. Let me explain.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Ultimately, the problem here is ontological. Specifically, while we’re used to (and our nation-states are, in many ways, used to) thinking of themselves as lumps of sovereign territory that happen to have people living on them, the Empire thinks of itself (because of its origin as a union of polities that were themselves outgrowths of overlapping PPLs) as a compact between sophonts that happen to live on huge tracts of land.

To an Earth nation, sovereignty (over territory and all that happens therein) is a Westphalian fundamental. To the Empire, and those others that follow its pattern, sovereignty is a bundle of a few specialized property rights which it acquires, often purchasing, over the territory in which its subscribers are domiciled for the sake of ease of administration. It’s a distinctly secondary matter, enough so that there’s a serious if minority Senate branch (the Disillusionist Tendency) that firmly believes getting into the whole sovereign-rights-management business back when the PPLs transitioned into the Old Empires was a terrible misstep that should be corrected forthwith – and doing so would leave the Empire still there.

A secondary complication is that what makes one an Imperial citizen-shareholder is signing the Imperial Charter and purchasing a citizen-share. That’s it. Something that is both (a) entirely disconnected from where you might happen to be domiciled (permanent non-resident citizenships are a thing, even), and which (b) is an individual contract, not a collective contract.

The combination of these things makes secession a hideously complicated problem. For one thing, it’s easy enough for a nation here to decide to secede, what with collective decision-making and territorial sovereignty, but citizenship there is a matter of individual contract with the Empire, which any would-be secessionist nation, even a former constituent nation entire, has no power to break. And I would deem it very unlikely that the Empire is going to kick out citizen-shareholders who want to remain such, even if it could find a way to weasel that through as “due process of law”, which is itself very doubtful.

So the secessionists are going to end up with a whole bunch of permanent residents with Imperial citizenship scattered through their territory, and all the galaxy knows how the Empire tends to react when someone abuses, expropriates, or otherwise mistreats their citizen-shareholders. (That is, after all, one of the things that makes it a premium citizenship brand.)

And then there’s the question of those sovereign rights, which the Empire technically has paid for, one way or another, and thus owns. And, as a several matter from citizenship, has no particular obligation to sell just because the people who own other property rights over the same volume have changed citizenship; people and volume aren’t tied together.

But even in the best case, when the secession is amicable and the secessionists are more than happy to buy those rights back from the Exchequer: Is the Empire going to sell the sovereign rights of its citizen-shareholders out from underneath them to a governance that obviously wants to do things that the Empire doesn’t approve of (whatever it’s seceding over), technically several or no? I do not think so, somehow – and that’s assuming that there isn’t a held-in-trust clause in there that means they can’t sell them to anyone but the holder of the ownership right anyway.

At which point, whether it keeps them or returns them to the holder of the ownership right, the map of this seceded territory is starting to look downright fractal.

(Bear in mind that with the exception of that extremely circumscribed eminent domain clause, it’s not like the Empire has the power to force anyone to move if they don’t want to. If Citizen Lived-In-This-House-300-Years-And-Dammit-I-Ain’t-Movin’ declines to go voluntarily, then he has just created an Imperial Exclave the size of his yard and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. Short of starting a war.)

So, to sum up my summing up, it’s deliberate in the sense that this was a giant can of worms which everyone greatly preferred not trying to solve, especially at the birth of a new empire of ecumenical ambition.

Besides, why would anyone ever want to leave anyway?


10 thoughts on “On Secession

  1. Besides, why would anyone ever want to leave anyway?

    And yet, we seem to have enough renunciates and Renegades running around to demonstrate that a sizeable number of people — if technically a very small minority proportionally — do want to leave.

    Which leads me to ask: Why would someone want to leave? More specifically, given the obvious material and cognitive advantages that someone born and raised while surrounded by Imperial culture and praxis enjoys, what would compel them to see the Empire itself as an “inferior” option, enough so that they would disclaim their own citizenship that was (presumably) hard-won in the first place?

    • I think that Renegades… renegate because they want to use force to impose the Empire way of live. Something that the Empire itself is not too fond of doing – respecting the right of people to chose and all that.

      And as why someone would want to leave ? That’s harder… I can think of differents reasons one might want not to join, but join then leave ? Maybe “I was only testing how they live but in the end that does not suit me”…

    • Well, of course, that was from the point of the view of the people founding said ecumenical empire. I suspect that most people in that position don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that particular question.

      (And, of course, the numbers we see are distinctly exaggerated for literary purposes. Out of a population over a trillion, you can reasonably print the names of all the Renegades in a single book. Not using micro-print, either.)

      You can pick out some identifiable groups of motivations. Love and greed would be two, along with the other things that can make a chap mighty stupid. We’ve mentioned the desire to use unethical techniques to fix bits of the universe that don’t want to be. Then there’s straight-up criminality, either before or after being shown the door, and/or being unpleasant enough that people will pay you to self-ostracise. Wanting to do something that your tort insurer won’t cover at a price you can afford, but hey, some governments have invented liability caps, poor suckers they. The wrong kind of ambition (like the dodgy business practices that made the Magenites leave), confusing anarchy with chaos, an incurably poliical turn of mind, that sort of thing. Cacophilia.

      But, y’know, there are a hundred million stories in the naked galaxy…

  2. I’m pretty certain that kind of thing might work for eldrae, but I seriously doubt it would for humans. The majority of the species are not only too territorial but also get too many opiates from in-person interactions for any sort of polity that isn’t based on geography to work.

    • Well, it’s not like you’re going to get any fewer in-person interactions just because you organize your polity a bit differently, I wouldn’t think?

      (As for territoriality – well, this, among other things, is one of those tendencies that doesn’t do a species many favors in a space environment distinctly unsuited for that sort of thing. The Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms was sarcastically coined to describe exactly that sort of thing.)

      • If only because the Empire already had control over the territory where their starting population of citizen-shareholders resided. I seriously doubt any human government would think of organizing that way and if a corporate government tried to establish itself their citizens would be too dispersed for them to do anything about it.

        The only possible exception I can imagine is if a corporation had a tabula rasa to work with such as Mars, and I’d expect them to revert to territorial thinking after a generation or two.

  3. I wonder how the reverse might function. Based on this piece: Someone wishes to join the Empire (and is successful in doing so, for the sake of the example) but does not want to leave their residence that might be considered to be territory of the previous holder of their citizenship. In the Empire’s view, this creates an Imperial Exclave the size of the new Citizen-Shareholder’s yard, but the previous holder of their citizenship says that it’s their territory and they can compel the new Citizen-Shareholder (to move, to pay taxes, whatever) because of it… Cue curbstomp war.

    • In the Empire’s view, this creates an Imperial Exclave the size of the new Citizen-Shareholder’s yard

      Ah, not quite. Remember: “sovereignty is a bundle of a few specialized property rights which it acquires, often purchasing, over the territory in which its subscribers are domiciled for the sake of ease of administration”.

      When someone becomes a new citizen-shareholder, that’s easy enough to do if they live in space on their own private rock – but if they happen to live in the middle of an existing polity, they can’t sell the Empire those sovereign rights (creating an exclave), because they don’t have them to sell. They’re held by the polity they happen to live in.

      (Now, one can argue – and some people have – that the polities only have them because of unlawful takings in the first place. To this, the Curia has a lengthy legal argument which boils down to:

      (a) Yes, that’s probably technically true, but it was an unlawful taking from whoever the volume originally belonged to n generations ago, and while that doesn’t make it right, there’s a limit to how far anyone can be reasonably expected to unwind the transaction log; and

      (b) Yes, that’s probably technically true, but in one of our rare and unpleasant bows to pragmatism, we’re not going to insist on the point because we don’t want to go to war with everyone today.)

      • So the Empire considers sovereignty of a territory separate from the physical territory itself. Thus, a new Citizen-Shareholder who purchased territory (sovereignty not specified, but after the fact the polity insists it was not sold because, for example, they don’t think it’s something that can be sold) in another polity would wind up owning a piece of territory that is still a part of the original polity and subject to it despite the land the territory is on being property of an Imperial Citizen-Shareholder.

        Seems like it might create an unusual situation where a polity could say something to the effect of: “You purchased this land (but not sovereignty of it) while a citizen of this polity, but on renouncing your citizenship and purchasing (I suppose that’s the right verb) Imperial Citizen-Shareholdership, we will now take (not buy) the land (and all associated property – structures, etc.) back from you as we still hold sovereign rights over it. Now get off our planet”, though by Imperial law that land and such is property of, and thus, technically an extension of, the Citizen-Shareholder who purchased it, even if they do not hold the sovereignty of it.

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