The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    cmaukonen's picture

    Whither The United States

    Both the Democratic and Republican national conventions have attempted this year to show total unity to the viewing public. More so than in the past with the Democrats going to great length in casting as diverse a lineup as they could, with out importing some alien beings from Alpha Century.

    But one needs only to dig a little below the surface to see that this mask of unification is superficial at best. With Washington's increasing inability to be responsive to a larger and larger portion of America, state revenues falling and large metro areas loosing money and population and states asserting what they believe to be their prerogative on voting rights, immigration, environment and other issues. The changing demographics were more and more people of similar economic class, ethnicity and social values are self segregating.

    All this makes one wonder just how much longer this country will remain one or whether if should. If as some of our founding fathers had questioned a strong central government can keep the country together without the use of force.

    The governments of Europe have taken their limits and form from adventitious circumstances, and nothing can be argued on the motive of agreement from them; but these adventitious political principles have nevertheless produced effects that have attracted the attention of philosophy, which have established axioms in the science of politics therefrom, as irrefragable as any in Euclid. It is natural, says Montesquieu, to a republic to have only a small territory, otherwise it cannot long subsist: in a large one, there are men of large fortunes, and consequently of less moderation; there are too great deposits to trust in the hands of a single subject, an ambitious person soon becomes sensible that he may be happy, great, and glorious by oppressing his fellow citizens, and that he might raise himself to grandeur, on the ruins of his country. In large republics, the public good is sacrificed to a thousand views, in a small one, the interest of the public is easily perceived, better understood, and more within the reach of every citizen; abuses have a less extent, and of course are less protected. He also shows you, that the duration of the republic of Sparta was owing to its having continued with the same extent of territory after all its wars; and that the ambition of Athens and Lacedemon to command and direct the union, lost them their liberties, and gave them a monarchy.


    From this picture, what can you promise yourselves, on the score of consolidation of the United States into one government? Impracticability in the just exercise of it, your freedom insecure, even this form of government limited in its continuance, the employments of your country disposed of to the opulent, to whose contumely you will continually be an object. You must risk much, by indispensably placing trusts of the greatest magnitude, into the hands of individuals whose ambition for power, and aggrandizement, will oppress and grind you. Where, from the vast extent of your territory, and the complication of interests, the science of government will become intricate and perplexed, and too mysterious for you to understand and observe; and by which you are to be conducted into a monarchy, either limited or despotic; the latter, Mr. Locke remarks, is a government derived from neither nature nor compact.

    AntiFederalist Paper No. 14



    Indeed it has been torn apart in the past and was reintegrated with only a great deal of blood on both sides being spilled. Or has the country become so large and diverse that it can no longer be effectively governed with out an increasingly oppressive use of force as we have seen and continue to see either directly or indirectly by the federal government to maintain control.

    Reflection on the impact of very large scale on democracy can be traced back to the Greeks, and later especially to Montesquieu, who held that democracy could flourish only in small nations. The judgment that very large scale is inimical to democracy was also taken very seriously by the founding fathers. Indeed, at a time when the United States hardly extended beyond the Appalachian mountains, John Adams worried: "What would Aristotle and Plato have said, if anyone had talked to them, of a federative republic of thirteen states, inhabiting a country of five hundred leagues in extent?" Similarly - again, at a time when the nation numbered a mere 4 million people - even James Madison (who challenged the traditional argument that democracy was possible only in small nations) believed that a very large- (rather than a "mean"-scale) republic could easily become a de facto tyranny because elites at the center would be able to divide and conquer diverse groups dispersed throughout the system. Few people imagined democracy in a continent.


    One can also isolate important and difficult aspects of the question of scale in the larger complex of issues that in the nineteenth century culminated in the Civil War. For our purposes, however, it is sufficient to recall that a sophisticated theoretical debate over scale problems began to develop in academic and political centers during the early years of the twentieth century, continuing up to and through the 1920s and 1930s.

    The traditional response to the argument that democracy is difficult if not impossible in very large-scale units, has been to propose decentralization to the states. The point of departure for the more sophisticated debate is recognition that many states are simply too small to manage important economic issues, or for instance (in the 1930s as well as in modern times) a number of important ecological matters. Logically, if a continental national system is too large and many states are too small, the obvious answer must be something in-between - the unit of scale we call a "region."

    Democracy: Is a Continent Too Big?

    Which brings the questions should the United States remain a nation with a large powerful central government ? And more importantly is it possible for it to remain this way ? Or will it inevitably spit into to small regions as some have predicted ? And would this be a good thing or bad thing ? How would it happen ? What would be the trigger ?


    It seems less and less likely that the riffs that have been occurring politically, socially and economically will be healed any time soon. That they seem to be getting broader and broader and each group more intransigent. In any event what comes next will very different that what we have now.


    I ended up on the West Florida Peninsula in 2003 and the first thing I did was hit the grocers and purchased a bag of oranges.

    I get home and discover the word 'California' marked on each orange!

    Whatever poisons we Minnesotans thrust into the Mississippi--or any other waters that find their way into the Mississippi--end up in Iowa and Illinois and Wisconsin and...

    None of those states have anywhere to appeal the wrongs done to the environment by Minnesota except the Feds.

    North Dakota is booming. We feel the echos from that boom in Minnesota

    On the other hand I can find subsidized housing in Northern Minnesota for $400/month

    What would the same money purchase in NYC? Or NYS? Or Boston?

    What are food prices in LA as compared to here?

    There must be latitude with regard to most programs as far as State Governments and their needs and wants.

    And yet we seem forced to watch Alabama and Mississippi and a host of other states screw half their population as far as education and rent subsidies and child care and...

    Medicine and medical care in rural Montana (and what part of Montana is not rural exactly) differs greatly from medicine and medical care in Minneapolis.

    This is a country of great diversity.

    And yet, what is done in Nevada has an effect on matters in Vermont.

    Oh I am just streaming! ha


    Well Mister Day. There was a time when having a world war was inconceivable. It would disrupt trade, cost too much and bankrupt everybody.   We had two of them.

    Landing people on the moon and having a hand held two way personal communication was thought just fantasy. 

    And on and on.

    It is my belief that thinking something impossible or inconceivable to be a bad idea. If one can conceive of it happening, then there is a chance it will or could.

    Not saying it's not impossible, C. But, if it did happen, most likely it would be at the end of many border wars. I don't see how splitting the continent up into small nations could be achieved by peaceful negotiation/dialog. Just can't see it. Grass is always greener over there and all that stuff.

    Once upon a time, this continent was divided up into nations. Before Columbus got here. Before that Viking dude, too. Why do those of white European ancestry seem to think nothing happened here before they arrived? Those old national borders were in constant flux back then; territory wars were the norm. What makes any modern day secessionist think it will be any different now? Because they're more 'civilized' than a thousand years ago? I don't think so.

    Oh yes flower. And historically Europe itself had many large empires which have simply vanished.


    OK as long as you could take your guns and 100+ round drum magazines anywhere.

    I Do not think that would be required NCD. Such things can happen without so much fuss. 

    I would watch for coalitions being formed quietly. 

    IMO, if the separation happened, it would just be a matter of time until there was not only a mass exodus from certain blocs, but more than one civil war.  I don't see it occurring anytime within next few decades, if at all.

    That said, would we really miss Texas (or should I say some Texans)?  And some of the southern good ol' boy yahoos?  They would migrate to Texas no doubt, so that's okay too.

    The truth is that 'together we stand, apart we fall'.  And there is a huge change awaiting as the younger move up and the old radical bigots and obstructionists 'move out'. 

    The partisan rifts are getting bigger or at least the partisans are getting more intransigent but I'm not convinced that people are self segregating on a regional basis. Perhaps there may be some self segregating based on urban and rural populations.

    I've read a few articles recently that anticipate the end of the GOP southern strategy due not only from the increase in minority populations but the influx of liberal white northerners. In many of the western ecological mags I've been reading since my move to Arizona there's a repeated refrain of long time westerners complaining about the liberal environmentalists moving into the rockies. That's not proof but it does suggest that the demography changes are more towards homogenization rather than regional splits.

    While the map is all red or all blue by state most state elections are less than a 60 40 split, many times a few percentage points. Coloring a state all red or blue gives a inaccurate picture of the vote in those states. Even with a 60 40 split a regional separation would require some 40% of the population be forced into separation. Some years ago I saw these maps of the 2008 presidential election on on state and county wide basis with shades of red,  blue and purple based on how close the spread was and also based on population density of the vote. There are large democratic enclaves in every red state and even many counties are split relatively closely. We're much more homogeneous than most believe

    I'll add to this, one of the biggest problems we face is the number of large states with low population density that vote republican. Each of those states, representing a relatively small number of people gets two senators, the same as high population density states. That coupled with the filibuster gives a strong  bias towards republicans. Yes there are some small states, like Delaware, that tend to go democratic but over all the bias goes republican.

    After thinking about this more I don't believe that any spit will have as much to do with ethnic or even ideological demographics as it would with economic.

    It was economics that caused the fall of the Soviet Union and it's eventual spitting up. And I'm betting this will also cause the spitting of the EU.


    Funny, this is one of the things I thought about when trying to come up with big ideas for Progressives to work towards ... except I was brainstorming on how we might eliminate the states altogether and truly make us just one nation united.  

    My thought was that we have done things on a Federal level to apply uniformity before, Civil Rights, for example, so why not eliminate state governmental functions altogether and Centralize all 50 state government functions into one big national government with all other governmental functions being expressed on the county or township level.   It's what the Extreme Right-Wingers believe Progressives are plotting to do anyway, isn't it?  ...  Okay I can hear the heads exploding out there, even as I write this, and  I know it's a preposterous idea, and that all progress in the last 50 years has been to de-centralize government, but lately, has anyone questioned whether decentralization is always the right thing to do?    

    I keep thinking about New Jersey. A state where my sister lives.  In New Jersey, every gathering of three shacks or more is either an incorporated village or a township, and each village and township has its own police force and its own fire department and sanitation department, with it's own pension plans and army of snow plows and garbage trucks.   In my opinion, they could use a little centralization, so they could eliminate some of the duplications in services and maybe that would help lower New Jersey's ridiculously high property taxes.  And yes,  I understand some people think that a strong central government would lead to fascism or pave the way for an American dictator, and that, of course, would be bad and horribly wrong, but that's not inevitable is it?  Isn't that just the scary worst case scenario that we tell people we want to convince never to centralize government?  


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