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Do you really think this is a serious possibility? From the outside, the US looks very much like a coherent polity with not nearly enough potential fracture lines (and too few of them coinciding geographically) for dissolution to be a realistic option.

It is not just a serious possibility - I think it is highly likely. The 50-year timespan that Bruce mentions above is what I've always felt we could expect for this to unfold.

The US is anything but a coherent polity. We have numerous fracture lines, many of which are starting to show up in geographical self-sorting. The economic base and social, cultural, and ideological values of different regions is becoming more pronounced, not less. Those seem to be basic building blocks of the eventual dissolution of the USA.

Let me use California as an example. From the American conquest in 1846 to sometime in the late 20th century, California needed federal spending and projects to prosper. The feds built our interstates, some of our ports (including LA), and enabled prosperity through beneficial fiscal and monetary policies.

Now that is all changing. California is a donor state - we get 0.78 cents back in spending for every dollar in taxes we send to Washington DC. Meanwhile the Feds run deeply harmful economic policies that worsen our situation while benefiting a different base in other states. California lacks the monetary tools of a state with a sovereign currency.

And as the feds start scaling back their expenditures, in the service of a right-wing agenda this state has repeatedly rejected, CA is going to go it alone in building projectsand supporting R&D that the feds used to fund themselves. We will likely have to fund our high speed rail system ourselves (including finding private funding) since it looks unlikely that we'll get more than the $3 billion we've already received from the Feds. In short, CA is going to discover very soon that we don't need the federal government for very much, and that we are instead being hindered by them as they treat CA more and more like a colony.

That's not to paint us as innocent victims. Prop 13, state-sanctioned sprawl, and government paralysis in Sacramento are of our own doing. And the factors described above aren't sufficient to convince people here it's time to go our own way.

But that will change. For the first time since the conquest, a majority of Californians are now native to this state. And their values are increasingly divergent from the extremist agenda being pursued by the right and backed by residents of other states. That creates the conditions that could eventually lead us to strike out on our own.

This is reminiscent of the situation in the 13 colonies in the 1760s. As the colonies became populated by those born there, or by those who were not originally British subjects, a new identity as "American" emerged. That was necessary for the Revolution to occur.

But it wasn't sufficient. It took a political crisis that brought home the problems of rule from London to show the colonists that independence was desirable. And even then it happened late in the crisis - the colonies had been at war with Parliament for a year when the Declaration of Independence was passed.

States like California, Oregon, and Washington will eventually go their own way, whether gradually as with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, or suddenly, as with the American Revolution. We might also see some kind of fundamental reorganization of the US itself, returning to the loose union under the Articles of Confederation, which resembled the European Community. After all, the primary reason the Constitution was written in 1787 was to force a monetary union of the 13 states. One ironic consequence of the right's attacks on federal fiscal and monetary policy is it could lay the groundwork for this sort of thing to happen.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 05:21:36 PM EST
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