Gar Alperovitz reports that it might be possible.
SOMETHING interesting is happening in California. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to have grasped the essential truth that no nation — not even the United States — can be managed successfully from the center once it reaches a certain scale. Moreover, the bold proposals that Mr. Schwarzenegger is now making for everything from universal health care to global warming point to the kind of decentralization of power which, once started, could easily shake up America’s fundamental political structure.
Governor Schwarzenegger is quite clear that California is not simply another state. “We are the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta,” he recently declared. “We have the economic strength, we have the population and the technological force of a nation-state.” In his inaugural address, Mr. Schwarzenegger proclaimed, “We are a good and global commonwealth.”
Political rhetoric? Maybe. But California’s governor has also put his finger on a little discussed flaw in America’s constitutional formula. The United States is almost certainly too big to be a meaningful democracy. What does “participatory democracy” mean in a continent? Sooner or later, a profound, probably regional, decentralization of the federal system may be all but inevitable.
It seems like something one would read during Alternative History 101, not the NY Times. However, I can see where some would entertain the idea. After all, don't most mid-westerners feel like the coastal cities already are a different country, if not on a different planet?
I deal with transportation as part of my day job. People tend to forget that Mexico and Canada are different countries. I dread thinking what would happen to rates if California or the New England states were to secedes. Duties and tax schedules would go haywire.
On the other hand, what would it mean for representation? Would the government become more responsive to the needs of its now comprehensible population? Where would drinking laws and military service be?
The possibilities are both endless and fascinating. As a Wisconsinite, my country would still have ocean going access and, if we were to make friendly with Illinois, we'd still have a major shipping port and financial hub. But what about sparsely populated states like Montana or Wyoming? Where would they ally themselves? To the east or west?
By the way, if you have troubles with the NY Times site, try using Bug Me Not for a dummy log-in. Then you won't be subject to their marketing or spam.