Secession! Sudan Edition

Apparently, voters in southern Sudan are expected to vote to secede from that country.

All things being equal, I am a fan of secession.  More countries means more choices of regulatory regime for the world’s citizens.  When dissatisfied citizens have more alternatives to their native country, their native country has less leverage over them.  This means that countries have to compete to deliver the sort of regulatory regime that people actually want.  Conversely, large federal governments like the United States or the European Union act as collusive agreements that prevent regulatory competition between their constituent states.

Some people object that it is difficult and expensive to leave your home country.  I agree!  If there were no migration costs, then one more country wouldn’t make much difference.  But because there are migration costs, having smaller countries reduces those costs, and allows more competition on the margin.  It costs less to leave a smaller country, if only because of the mileage.  I imagine that tiny countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Monaco face a lot of regulatory competition, relative to behemoths like the United States.

Unfortunately, secession is often associated with civil war and ethnic violence.  Sudan has had both, and there is fear of more.  The benefits of regulatory competition have to be weighed against the costs of achieving it.  I advocate peaceful, not violent, secession.  But when secession has arrived, we should acknowledge its benefits.

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