Phi Beta Cons

Professors for Secession

Over a year and a half after Hurricane Katrina, officials in New Orleans have launched yet another feckless rebuilding plan, causing many homeowners to organize and rebuild on their own — with little if any involvement from the central government.
This has led three professors, as described in Forbes, to focus on a seemingly radical, but in fact promising, solution: “Rather than try to fix a doomed political process, neighborhoods should be allowed to secede from the city.” (Sub. required)
The author of the Forbes article, Sanford Ikeda (a professor at SUNY-Purchase) writes that he and his colleague Peter Gordon (of USC) believe

secession is the logical extension of the Unified New Orleans Plan, which, in an earlier incarnation, allowed each neighborhood to hire urban planners to coordinate post-Katrina reconstruction. If neighborhoods can be trusted with this vital task, why can’t they manage their own security, garbage collection, [etc.]? … [Also,] secession has been happening for decades. Almost a fifth of Americans now live in suburbs, private neighborhoods with deed restrictions and community-oriented governance. Why shouldn’t urban dwellers have those options?

Ikeda lays out a detailed “blueprint,” formulated by University of Maryland economist Robert Nelson, to show how secession might be implemented (from the collection of homeowners’ signatures to the negotiation by a neighborhood board of the transfer of property and services from the city).


It is a welcome sign of openness in higher education to find academics, who rarely question centralized government power, arguing for its devolution. Ikeda concludes that “New Orleanians are ready for new, good ideas.” Kudos to these creative secessionists for providing them.


(Hat tip: Donald Boudreaux)