Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Breakup of the United States?

A commenter on the NoR forum posts this question:
Obviously as much as i love the US; it will eventually Cease to be as we know it. Any ideas as to how it might?
I have always said that America is too large, and with too many diverse interests to long remain united in its current form. In fact this breakup could very well have occurred were it not for World War 1, the subesquent depression, and then Roosevelt mangling the constitution. I think what Roosevelt did to our liberties, and to our goverment was heinous, but it MAY have been the only thing that kept us from breaking up... I just don't know. The fact that we've made it since 1912 with all of the continent intact amazes me.

My personal thought is that there are two major reasons for this. Firstly America is highly mobile, both geographically and socially. This has kept a critical mass of regionalized sentiment from forming in any particular area, except perhaps Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and the Dakotas (and where would they go, Canada?).

There are at least 4 distinct regional agglomerations (really more like 8 when you go deeper), plus certain individual, pairings, or trios of states; or sometimes areas of states (Coastal California, Eastern Oregon, and eastern Washington for example); which have a strong political and ideological unity; but they don't have a strongly and uniformly regionalized sentiment or outlook on politics (despite what the media would have us believe).

Even Texas and "the south" as a generic entity do not have enough strongly regional sentiment to cause the fracture even though their political interests would clearly indicate the incidence of such a fracture.

UPDATE (section added):

I should point out, this lack of strong regional or local identification is a relatively recent thing, especially in the south. Prior to the Civil war; especially in the south; it was common for individuals to consider their state citizenship first, and national citizenship only second. This was in fact one of the great issues of the civil war.

Soon after the civil war, this self identification began changing. Significantly this change was rapid in industrialized areas, where the mobility of labor and capitol was becoming a defining characteristics throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries.

In rural and agrarian areas this was most strongly resisted; and in fact up until the early part of the 20th century it was still common for farmers and ranchers to identify themselves first as locals, then as state citizens, then as regional residents (The west, the south etc...). This regional identification didnt significantly weaken among these groups until World War I and then the great depression; which exposed more rural residents to the rest of America (and the world), and which forced many farm relocations into urban areas.

Which brings up the second factor; except in extreme cases, economics trumps politics. Although it may be in regions political interests to separate; it is clearly AGAINST those areas economic interests to do so. Trade routes, and trade partners throughout the country keep the entire country strongly interconnected economically. Kansas grains need to get to New York Grocery stores; and east coast ports to be shipped overseas; and vice versa.

It is entirely possible that in the event of a total governmental collapse (which would either be precipitated by, or precipitate a total economic collapse); an event I do not necessarily expect in my lifetime, but would be completely unsurprised should it occur; that the country would fragment into those approximate political divisions I referenced before. With no strong national government and no compelling economic reasons to maintain unity; the political and ideological reasons for separation gain far more weight.