Thinking the unthinkable
EBM notes that Iceland’s government serves the people, while our government serves the banks. I point out that Iceland’s entire population is smaller than the typical mid-size city, and it’s easy to have a government responsive to the people when your population is so small. At which point the obvious question becomes, “if the population of the USA has grown so large that it’s impossible for the government to be responsive to the people, is it time to break up the USA?”
In 1861 Abraham Lincoln looked at Benjamin Franklin’s statement from 1776 — “we must all hang together or we shall most assuredly all hang separately” — and pronounced it still operative. The European powers were in the process of divvying up most of the world between them. The United States had vast resources but also comprised a vast area that was sparsely populated.
The example of India would have especially been on Lincoln’s mind. The British Empire had just assumed direct control over India in 1858 in the wake of a rebellion against the East India Company and had never had a significant number of soldiers on the ground. Instead the British had conquered India via a divide-and-conquer strategy where the various princedoms were pitted against each other and the majority of “British” troops were actually Indian troops under the command of British commanders. Britain had, in effect, conquered India almost for free, using primarily Indians to do the job. All of which was possible because India had not been a unified country at the time that the British arrived on the scene and thus the various nation-states that comprised India were easily set against each other and the loser often enough preferred giving up their sovereignty to the British rather than accepting subjugation by their hated rival across the river.
What would happen to the United States if the South were allowed to go its own way? Lincoln saw the former United States breaking up into dozens of smaller nations if this were allowed to happen, because both the rump USA and the CSA had their own divisions within their ranks — Texas, for example, had once been an independent nation and had enough differences with the rest of the CSA that even during the war it effectively operated as an independent country. Utah, for another example, would have happily seceded and become the nation of Deseret if allowed to do so, the Utah territory had its own unique religion and culture that were in some respect alien to that of the USA. And what then? Well … the British were to the north. The French were to the south, setting up Emperor Maximilian as their proxy in Mexico. One or the other was sure to try the India strategy against a fragmented United States. And the chances of it being successful were far too great for a patriotic citizen of the United States to countenance.
Thus the American Civil War, on the surface a war to subjugate the South, but on a larger level a war to prevent the United States from undergoing the fate of India — forcibly de-industrialized, looted, used solely for its resources, with any independence of any rump states being only nominal. But that was 1861. What about today? What would happen if the USA spun apart into multiple nations today?
First, there are no longer any colonial powers. Colonialism died with the collapse of the French empire in the aftermath of WW2, as first Indochina then North Africa escaped their grasp, or if you wish to be pedantic, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, though the Soviets weren’t particularly a colonial power (their rule over eastern Europe was more about creating a buffer zone against a renewal of Western militarism, i.e. creating more defensive depth, than about conquest). Secondly, globalism means that economies can continue to be integrated even if the nations that comprise the economies retain their independence. In short, there is little chance of conquest being an issue.
The bigger problem would be dealing with current federal programs like Social Security. Even that could be dealt with — when Czechoslovakia broke up into the Czech Republica and Slovakia, they simply divided the assets of the state pension funds by population. This probably was unfair to the Czechs, who were generally more affluent than the Slovaks and thus probably had contributed a larger percentage of the funds, but they felt it was well worth it to get rid of their backwards rednecks to the east. The military would also be an issue. But the dissolution of the Soviet Union shows how that can be done too.
In short, what was once an unthinkable idea is quite thinkable today, if you’re thinking outside the box. The USA today is one nation united only out of habit, not any real reason, and the various regions don’t seem to like each other a whole lot. Why not just let regions secede? As a Californian, a resident of a state that sends far more to the Feds than we’ll ever get back, it seems almost a no-brainer.
This post appears courtesy of Badtux the Snarky Penguin.