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Self-DeterminationThe TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) is an umbrella organization that groups several Islamic militant groups in northern Pakistan. Its objectives are to fight against the Pakistani state, the implementation of their version of sharia law and supporting the resistance against NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. The TTP has been labeled a "terrorist organization". If you want more information, go to Wikipedia and search for "Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan".

Current status: some time back, the TTP signed an agreement with the Pakistani government for a cease fire. This agreement has now been rescinded because the TTP claims that Pakistanis continued operations against the TTP despite the agreement, and the fact that Pakistan has not given in to the demands to provide a "peace zone" (i.e. TTP territory) in Sourth Waziristan. Or at least this is what The Express Tribune reported a few days back.

This is nothing but a tiny example of many such movements throughout the world. In and by itself, is of no importance whatsoever. However, it is a good example to use to explain reality.


Let's begin by stating that TTP's point of view is unique, as it is the point of view of any other such organization.… and anybody else up and down the collectivization scale. Any person, group of people, organization, political division and country has its own point of view. This is the norm. So, from this perspective, the TTP is just like any other organization, political or not.


The legal concept of self-determination provided one of the initial reasons why we became Libertarians in the first place. If you look at what self-determination means and it is understood in international law, you will notice that it is a gigantic mess.

On the surface it looks great! People have the right to determine by themselves how they want to be governed. However…

In reality this means that people have the right to determine by themselves what kind of organization will rule their lives. Of course, since the legal definition is supported by the UN, the basic assumption is that whichever form of government people may choose it will be OK, because they did choose it by themselves. This could not be otherwise, because this was voted by politicians whose salaries are being paid by…governments! Talking about conflict of interest!

This is exactly the same principle used in the USSR to justify the banning of worker's protests. The logic was that since the government owned all the means of production and was, in turn, formed by workers, it would not make any sense for workers to protest against themselves.

There is nothing new under the political sun.

It is for this reason that the international concept of self-determination is deeply flawed. It does not consider the most basic right (actually a freedom), which is the personal right of self-determination. From this "tiny" mistake, all kinds of idiotic and nonsensical "problems" necessarily follow. Let's take a look at some of them:

What is "peoples"?

Uuups… if "peoples" have the right of self-determination, one would assume that "peoples" is defined somewhere. Well… it is not. So, although it would seem that the original definition of self-determination is OK, it so happens that it does not define who has the right to self-determine! Peoples could be considered all the inhabitants of a territory but not if ethnically different unless disenfranchised by the government in a systematic manner. Some definitions of "peoples" claim that they are self-evident (by ethnicity, language, history, etc.) or tied by "mutual affection or sentiment" or "loyalty" or "mutual obligations" or "unanimous in their desire to self-determine" or something else. In other words, the definition of "peoples" is whatever politicians want it to mean for whatever reason they may want to do so!

Territorial Integrity

As expected, since this right of "peoples" to self-determine was voted by governments, the first thing they want to make sure of, is that of their own job security. This means that they need to make sure that "peoples" inside their own countries do not self-determine. If they would allowed this to happen, it would mean a way out from under government control for anyone who would so desire. This is not acceptable because they would be left without jobs and privileges. And so they demanded "territorial integrity".

Of course, many other legal minds came up with a menu to help mudding the waters. The menu includes the following options:

Territorial integrity trumps national self-determination. Basically, if you don't like your government, though cookies!

Internationalism through cooperation, globalization of trade, abolition of war, etc. etc. etc. Basically, this means that if you don't like your government, there is nothing you can do but we may compensate you in other ways.

World government. If you don't like your government, we won't give you any chance at all.

In essence, this menu means that no matter what; territorial integrity shall be protected. It means that no matter what; you do not have the right to self-determine.

Individual Rights

This is strange indeed, because a group has the right of self-determination (at least theoretically speaking), but not the members of such group!

Think about it. We are all born with freedoms. We voluntarily curtail some of those freedoms to enable co-existence and hence civilization. We. Each one of us. Beyond us, the self-aware entities, nothing else has freedoms and hence rights. Freedoms and rights are basic individual properties, not group properties. A group may be exercising individual rights when it becomes a group, but this does not mean that the group has any rights by itself. Yet, this is exactly what the legal view on self-determination says: groups have rights, not people.

They placed legal concepts entirely upside down.

How crazy is this?!

Minority rights

Of course, because of all these laws, rules and regulations destined to allow politicians to do whatever they want, many people gets locked into awful political systems. This affects politician's image (by creating "political instability" i.e. people complaining) this affects their chances of being re-elected. Hence politicians came up with pseudo-ways to "increase" minority rights. Some of these methods include the provision of decentralization or the creation of "autonomous areas" and so on. But they accomplished nothing. People control was shifted from one set of politicians to another. According to them, they increased "minority rights". But again, minorities have no rights. A minority is a group. Groups have no rights, only people. What they are saying is that they graciously granted more privileges to members of a specific group. Politicians act again as if they were the right holders and citizens the privilege receivers.

Majority rule

The problem with self-determination is that contravenes the accepted (by politicians) principle of majority rule (at least in theory). Politicians cannot accept that a minority can overrule a majority in terms of self-determination, because this automatically leads to the loss of territorial integrity. And so, in practical terms, a minority group can never secede, even if they have 100% of the votes to do so. Of course, theoreticians have provided a large number of theories that would allow minorities to self-determine and secede, but they are dully, completely and totally ignored as it is to be fully expected. Self-determination theory is OK, but as we all know is only theoretical. Realpolitik always trumps everything else.


Most constitutions around the world do not provide the rights nor the means of self-determination and hence secession. There are a few limited examples out there, but they are the exception. This is, again, by design. No politician wants to lose their job because of a group of people seceded. Hence, it is systematically forbidden.


All these legal reasons are marshaled against the TTP in their struggle for self-determination. It is not that these reasons make any sense whatsoever; it is that they go against politician's jobs and this cannot be allowed.

Of course, this is not to say that the TTP would allow their own "peoples" to secede. They would not allow so for the same reasons. And so, even if the TTP succeeds, it won't allow further self-determination and the cycle of oppression will continue.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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