October 10, 2008 – Unthinkable? Preposterous? Outrageous? Treasonous? Insane? Would it be such a bad thing if the U.S. ceased to exist as a single country?
By The Cerebral Aesthetic Vagabond
The Eight Countries of the Former United States
For many years I’ve felt that the U.S. was no longer governable as a single country. My feelings have nothing to do with the present financial crises, although those crises may hasten an eventual dissolution of this nation. No, my reasoning is simply that people in different regions of the country have different cultures, traditions, needs and resources. Such innate differences were taken into account when the nation was formed, which is why it was constituted as a weak central government and a federation of empowered states. Unfortunately, since about day-one, the initially weak central government sought to expand its powers, to the detriment of the states. Today the United States is as much a centrally planned country as history has ever seen, perhaps even surpassing the erstwhile Soviet Union in that regard.
I always thought the formation of the European Union was a huge mistake, a retrogressive move rather than a progressive one. Of course, it was motivated by the same mentality that motivates the U.S. leaders: a greedy quest for power and money, as it was thought that forming a large bloc to rival the U.S. would accrue to the new EU a similar degree of power and wealth. To that extent the formation of the EU has been a partial success, and for a time the strengthening Euro currency reflected the growing economic strength of the new bloc. However, at the first sign of financial crisis, the old nationalistic divisions flared up, such as the resentment by the wealthy countries of their poorer partners and a reluctance to accept Euro notes printed in other countries. Astonishingly, there isn’t a single Euro, but distinct coins minted, and and notes printed in different countries. Boy, if you wanted to hinder acceptance of a new currency, imbuing it with such nationalistic distinctions would be the way to do it! (See Euro banknotes.) In the long run I don’t think either the EU or the Euro will survive and the people of Europe will embrace their former territorial boundaries, traditions and currencies, and I think that will be a good thing.
Are there advantages associated with the United States breaking up into several smaller countries? In my opinion the answer is an emphatic yes!
I’ve long felt that the ideal size for a nation is no more than about 50 million people. Such a number of people is manageable and can likely find ideological and cultural common ground. A nation that size is incapable of threatening the entire planet, unlike the U.S. today. I always thought the former sovereign countries of Europe were just about the right size and displayed a good balance between nationalism and cooperation.
The central planning government we have today is an unmitigated disaster. It mismanages our money, interferes with the proper functioning of our markets, destroys the value of our money, suppresses our freedoms and sullies our name internationally. Tell me again what it does for us? The whole point of government is to serve us, not the other way around. If it fails to furnish that simple benefit then what good is it?
Without a leviathan of a central government breathing down their necks, people in these new smaller countries will be freer to run their own lives and decide for themselves whether they want to be religious or secular, conservative or liberal, environmentally conscious or not, politically correct or not, gun-toting or not.
Without a militaristic behemoth rattling nuclear-tipped sabers, the rest of the world can breathe easier instead of living in constant fear of thermonuclear annihilation or merely being democratized.
I think smaller countries and communities, which have a better understanding of their own unique needs, resources, challenges and limitations, are better suited at finding sustainable ways to live. At the very least, the smaller scale begets shorter transportation distances, reducing the amount of energy consumed in the transportation of people and goods, assuming these smaller countries seek become more autarkic, which would be a desirable goal.
First of all, my new countries are purely arbitrary. I don’t profess to know enough about each individual part of the United States to know what states or portions of states belong together as parts of a separate country. These groupings of mine are based on my own observations from afar. Undoubtedly, myriad different groupings could be conjured up. The names I chose for each new country are not meant to be disparaging; I just had to think of some name for each and I’m not very imaginative.
These two states are obvious possibilities for countries in and of themselves. Hawaii was, in fact, a sovereign nation until the 19th century and only became a U.S. state about 50 years ago (see Hawaii).
The Pacific states have a strong tradition of caring for the environment, especially that of the Pacific Ocean. Yet the desire of the people to care for the environment is chronically undermined by the domineering central government, whose mantra seems to be to drill, drill, drill, chop, chop, chop, and fish, fish, fish, until there is nothing left of either the resources sought or the environment itself. Environmentalism is not incompatible with commerce either, as California has often been considered to possess the sixth or seventh largest economy on earth, and is the principal source of produce for the entire nation. These states tend to be secular and have liberal attitudes that are in conflict with the attitudes of much of the country.
So along the lines of the novel, Ecotopia, written in 1975, I think the three Pacific states make a natural grouping. However, I think southern California has more in common with northern California than eastern Washington does with western Washington. I think eastern Washington better belongs in ResourceLand. But, like I said above, my grouping of states is an arbitrary one and strictly limited to existing state boundaries.
These semi-religious and conservative western states revolve around resource extraction – minerals, energy, timber – and often seem frustrated by central government regulations limiting their pursuits. While I believe in sustainable management of our planet’s resources, I believe in freedom even more. So I think the people in these states should be free to decide for themselves how they want to manage their resources. As a separate country, the management of this region’s resources would no longer be the concern of the rest of the former U.S.
Crops are grown nearly everywhere in the U.S., but in this region it’s the primary activity, surpassing manufacturing, finance and tourism. Like much of the U.S., this region is conservative and religious, but not as fundamentalist as, say, the south. The people here, while conservative, seem pretty tolerant and laid back, and life pretty much revolves around farming.
This region is the present-day center of politics, government, education and finance. It also harbors the former industrial heartland, which seems to be shrinking by the minute. For lack of a better place to situate these industrial states, I lumped them in with the government and finance states.
This region could continue serve in its present capacity, as a center of international finance, education and culture, sort of like a Switzerland of North America, serving primarily the new countries of North America. Like the Pacific states, many of these states are fairly secular and liberal.
These states already possess an independent streak. Vermont seems to be chronically pursuing secession these days, and New Hampshire has a strong heritage of freedom, succinctly encapsulated in its “Don’t tread on me” motto. I don’t know whether Maine is inclined to secede or not, but the people I’ve known from Maine seem pretty free-spirited and independent-minded. In any case, were Vermont and New Hampshire to secede, geography would kind of force Maine to go along for the ride.
Last, but not least, are the states that long ago formed the Confederate States of America with the intention to secede. I probably should have included Virginia in BibleLand, but I liked keeping it with West Virginia and I liked the nice straight border formed by my grouping. (Like I said, it’s an arbitrary grouping of states.) Most of these states are quite conservative and religious, even fundamentalist.
This post is not a plan to break up the United States, nor is it even advocating such. It’s simply asking the question, “Are there reasons why it might happen, and if it were to happen, what might the aftermath look like?”
I’ve always loved the United States, that is, its territory, its people and its culture, but I definitely feel these days that it has outlived its usefulness as a single massive country, and that the cons of remaining such overwhelm the pros.
I ran across a somewhat self-serving article by a “Russian political analyst” that predicts that the growing financial crises in the U.S. could be the impetus for a breakup of the nation. This analyst postulates that the U.S. could break up into six regions, with Alaska conveniently reverting to Russian control!
An interesting follow-up article to the above presents a map (shown below) that in some respects mirrors my own map. One objection I have with the new article is that it posits that each of the various pieces will be subsumed by other nations. I hope that’s not the case.
Russian analyst’s view of the future U.S. (Source: WSJ)