Secessionists across the world were inspired by Scotland's energetic attempt at independence from the United Kingdom earlier this month. Ron Paul, as it turns out, joined them.
In an essay on his eponymous institution's website Sunday, the former U.S. congressman from Texas wrote that any supporters of freedom should cheer secessionism because it allows for smaller government—a constant mantra for the libertarian and perennial presidential candidate, who didn't previously realize there were more than a handful of secessionist groups in the United States.
"I was real pleased with that, and a bit surprised," Paul told National Journal. "But then, on second thought, you think, 'Why not? Why not more?' "
Fringe groups calling for states and regions to secede from the U.S., such as the Second Vermont Republic and the Alaskan Independence Party, gained more publicity in the weeks leading up to the Scottish referendum. As the outsized federal government continues to encroach on individual rights, Paul said, he thinks there will be a groundswell of these movements.
"It's something that I think is going to grow, because the failure of the federal government is going to get much worse," he said. "When the bankruptcy evolves, and maybe some of these pension funds are confiscated, and the wars never end, and bankruptcy comes forth, people [will say], 'Hey, we're getting a bad deal from this. Why don't we leave?' "
He added: "I think it's inevitable people wanting to leave will be there, and the numbers will grow."
Realistically, though, Paul said he doesn't think any of these groups could actually succeed. Despite the founders' own deep belief in secession—they gained America's independence from Europe, after all—he said the Civil War set the precedent that secession would carry "very, very bad" results.
"By our history, the heavy hand of the federal government would come down," Paul told National Journal. "They'd probably shoot 'em."
In typical fashion, Paul argued that the principle of secession was more important than what could actually happen in reality. It's the threat, he said, that's important to keep the federal government in check.
"I think what is most important is we have a concrete right to secede," Paul said. "Even if we never had any secession, or any state declare independence, we would be so much better off, because there would always be this threat. Once the threat of a state leaving was removed, it was just open-door policy for the federal government to expand itself and run roughshod out over the states because the states couldn't do much."
Given that his son, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will likely run for president in 2016 with a much better chance of winning than his father ever had, the elder Paul's willingness to share his reasonably radical views seem imprudent, if not unexpected. In an election cycle that has often equated the politics of Ron and Rand, this latest remark is sure to annoy the potential 2016-er's supporters.
For Rand's sake, it's fortunate that Ron didn't express his support for the Texas Nationalist Movement or any other secessionist groups in the U.S. Before he'd back Texan independence, he joked, "I better check out and see who's running Austin before we decide about that."
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.