Dateline: Venice, Italy
In 421, wealthy merchants from Padua in what is now Italy founded the Republic of Venice to serve as a trading post on the Adriatic Sea.
Back then, the Rialtine Islands and surrounding areas were little more than a somewhat organized group of lagoon territories banding together for mutual defense against potential invaders. Paduans, however, saw the city as a promising merchant city to establish trade routes all around Europe.
If you’ve ever been to Venice, you know that it’s a miracle the place could repel attackers at all, considering it’s little more than a patch of land floating in the sea off of the mainland.
Venice, however, did achieve lasting peace and independence by doing precisely that, and became on the most vaunted merchant empires in history, amassing territory in modern-day Italy, Slovenia, the Balkans, and Cyprus.
Just as countries like Hong Kong have become wildly successful operating as a trading post for merchants going between countries, Venice built a merchant empire that dominated the region.
It was an early Middle Ages version of “go where you’re treated best”, as merchants from around Europe used Venice as their place of business and Venetian ships commanded the Adriatic.
Eventually, the Republic of Venice fell as it could no longer defend itself from forces ranging from the Turks to the French.
One thing the Republic of Venice always had was an independent streak. On one occasion, the Pope condemned Venice and excommunicated those in the church there as the Republic put restrictions on Papal Lands in its territory.
Now, centuries after the fall of Venice, many Venetians remain fiercely independent. They never wanted to become part of Italy.
And last year, nearly 90% of Venetians voted in a non-binding resolution to leave Italy and return to being the Republic of Venice.
Even if you were to count everyone who didn’t vote as a “no” to secession, those in favor of leaving Italy and becoming their own state would have been 56%.
More interestingly, barely half of those who voted were in favor of adopting the euro as the currency of an independent Venice, with barely more wishing to join the European Union if qualified.
No doubt, Venetians realized this wouldn’t lead to an immediate withdrawal from Italy. As we saw in Scotland’s independence campaign, however, it could lead to more autonomy from the national Italian government that is such a bureaucratic disaster.
Here in Europe, more and more people are waking up to the idea that smaller governments and smaller countries that actually respond to the people they serve.
In fact, there are numerous secession movements going on across Europe from Spain to the Black Sea. Just the other day, I spent time in the breakaway “republic” of Transnistria, the poorest part of the poorest country in Europe.
Of course, chances are your local media figures will tell you secession in bad as part of the narrative that you need a huge, bloated government to protect you and steal your wealth. A case study:
Several years ago when many Texans signed a petition to withdraw from the United States and form their own sovereign state, the US propaganda media went mad.
It didn’t help that then-Governor Rick Perry went on a news tour to say that he would support an independent Texas if politicians in Washington continued to do what politicians in Washington do.
Talking heads like Bill Maher berated the state by reminding them of all the services the new Republic of Texas would have to establish, among them their own postal service.
Oh, the humanity. Some even called it “treason”.
Keith Olbermann rattled off a list of “welfare programs” an independent Texas would need, as if… you know… Texas would continue the US policy of doling out free government cash to nearly half of its citizens.
He also suggested Texas would need its own CIA and new college football teams to play. Of course, he has no idea that maybe a country doesn’t need 100,000 spies or endless wars to be successful.
In short, the socialist media went crazy and promised that Texas would be unhappy if the United States were simply to say “buh-bye,” as if the threat of secession was indeed just a threat.
Of course, we know from history – including US history – that rarely does a country become independent without a fight. It’s hard to believe the United States government, which relies on as much citizen tax slaves as possible to finance its wars and its debt, would willingly let any part of the country secede.
Secession in Europe
What’s interesting is how the idea of secession is viewed differently here in Europe. In fact, it has been viewed differently for almost as long as history can remember.
For example, just east of here in Venice is a tiny republic called Slovenia, formerly part of a Yugoslavia that enjoyed endless rivalry with Italy.
When the place broke up, a bunch of tiny republics were born, ending with Montenegro in 2006 and the burgeoning Kosovo to this day.
Some of these newly formed countries are doing well… certainly much better than they did as part of Yugoslavia.
While Slovenia, for instance, has fewer than 2 million people, it is a stable country that is formed on lines made up by the type of people who live there. The same goes for many of the other Balkan states, even as Bosnia and Herzegovina discuss separating.
In short, tiny European countries that gained independence by the breakup of a large, out-of-control central government have thrived.
It’s been good for taxes, competition, and trade. Some of those countries have joined the European Union and offered countless new opportunities to their citizens.
Flag theory and secession
In fact, having a second passport from one of these countries might be one of the best moves you can make. Nobody hates Slovenians or Croatians, yet these citizens enjoy excellent visa-free travel.
Because there are so many small countries here in Europe – a number I expect to grow in our lifetimes – opportunities to choose the place that treats you best is easy.
There are countries that don’t charge capital gains taxes, while other countries have low corporate income taxes. In fact, much of central and eastern Europe has been lowering taxes on business. In fact, 15% tax rates – the lowest rate before entering “unfair tax competition” territory in the EU – are common in this part of the world.
Run a relatively small business and you could pay as little as 3% or 5%.
Secession is ultimately a good thing for freedom-loving people who want more opportunities to escape large, bloated governments that make it easy to get in but not to get out.
Is it any wonder why countries like the United States are adamantly opposed to secession not just within their borders but around the world as well?
Someone, please send Washington a calendar to prove it’s no longer the 1860s.