In the pantheon of great American presidents, Abraham Lincoln stands tall. Instrumental in ending the vile institution of slavery in our country, he also kept the country united when it appeared the American experiment had failed. In Lincoln’s time it was not a foregone conclusion that the United States would reach its 100th birthday intact; only by his actions did the country remain “one nation” and “indivisible.”
Since the time of Lincoln, advocating for the division of the “indivisible” amounts to political heresy. The United States can only add states and territories; it can never lose any. To suggest otherwise deserves derision and contempt for being unworthy of political discourse. Nevertheless, I’m going to suggest it: the United States has become too big and too unwieldy to represent its citizens. I believe it should break into smaller, more manageable nations. Begin lighting the fire to burn the heretic at the stake!
The United States, Not the Divine States
Why’s it so unthinkable in modern discourse to consider the breakup of the United States? Like all countries, the United States has developed its own founding mythology. A particularly strong one, too. We are the “city on the hill,” ordained by God to bring freedom to the world. Because of our country’s predominantly Christian background, this mythology often intertwines with Christian belief. Yet nothing in the teachings of Jesus or in the Scriptures speak of the necessity of a 50-state United States. There’s no reason to believe our country has a destiny to remain as it’s currently configured until Christ’s Second Coming. Over the centuries empires have risen and fallen; the fate of the United States will be no different. Instead of clinging to the façade of a great nation until it’s too late, perhaps it would be better to voluntarily break into smaller, more nimble, nations?
For if there is one thing the United States is not, it’s “nimble.” Our country now has over 300 million citizens. But what has grown even faster than the population? The size of the federal government. Unsurprisingly, with greater size has come greater bureaucracy and greater bloat. We see this in the business world all the time. A company becomes successful and grows rapidly. In order to manage the growth, it creates more and more rules and regulations until finally it’s simply crushed under the weight of its own bloat. Governments are not exempt from this process; in fact, they are more prone to it. However, in the case of government, such ossification doesn’t just impact a company’s bottom line, it impacts its citizen’s freedoms. A smaller, more nimble government must be more responsive to its citizens’ needs, and cannot afford to trample on its citizens’ rights. Why? A small group of people can greatly impact a small government. But what can a small group of people do in the face of our leviathan federal government?
Your Vote Counts! Well, Not Really
The sheer size of this country makes a mockery of the idea that a few individuals can “represent” the masses. Every four years we are told we are part of “the most important election of our time” as we go to the polls to select our representatives. 2016 is no different; on our vote, we are told, hinges the future of the republic. Yet does it? We live in a nation of almost 220 million voter-eligible adults, which means my vote amounts to 0.0000005% of the total voting population (and that’s rounding up). Does anyone seriously think my vote will make any difference in the outcome?
Compare this to the first years of George Washington’s presidency, when he only had to represent 3.5 million people. The U.S. governmental system could, in his time, better represent the will of the people. But what might have worked in a small 13-state union doesn’t necessarily work for our modern 50-state behemoth. Even many individual states today dwarf that original population. I live in the state of Florida, which has a population of almost 20 million. Although there are many days Florida appears amazingly homogenous (retired white couple, age 67, husband loves to golf, wife loves to shop, and neither wants your kids anywhere near them), even in this pool there are a wide variety of views and perspectives that are difficult for any one government to represent.
It’s not just the size, either, it’s the diversity. The United States has always prided itself on being a “melting pot” – a diverse collection of cultures, religions, and peoples, who are united for a common purpose. But over the last century the diversity has begun to overwhelm the unity. There’s little in common between a young hipster in Greenwich Village and an old farmer in Nebraska, or between a teacher in Minnesota and a software developer in Silicon Valley. Again, compare that to the United States in the days of George Washington; I’d be willing to bet there was much more commonality between residents of Massachusetts and North Carolina in 1796 than in 2016. Expecting one mammoth government to represent all this diversity borders on insanity.
How will we defend ourselves?
Some might object that we need a large country in today’s world to defend against threats to this continent. What if Russia were to decide to attack? How could a broken-apart America defend itself? By banding together in times of need. After all, when Nazi Germany threatened all of Europe (and beyond), Allied nations came together to resist it. These Allies even included countries as diverse as the United States and the Soviet Union!
Furthermore, smaller countries would be better suited to resist modern threats such as radical Islamic terrorism. Instead of large bureaucracies like the NSA, Homeland Security, and the TSA, smaller countries could have more nimble forces which protect their citizens against threats without trampling on their liberties. When you are looking for a needle in a 300-million-needle haystack, you don’t mind trampling over a lot of needles to get your man. But if you have a much smaller haystack, you can be more surgical in your work.
Are you calling for a violent overthrow of the government?
Discussing the break-up of the United States brings up a dirty little word: secession. To most Americans, secession means violence. After all, the one time in history states seceded from the United States we witnessed the greatest bloodbath in U.S. history, the Civil War. Yet secession does not have to lead to violence. Consider the Soviet Union. It was possibly the most oppressive, violent State in the history of mankind, but when nations finally seceded from it, not a shot was fired. Armenia. Azerbaijan. Belarus. Estonia. The list could go on; all left the Soviet Union without bloodshed. A country can dissolve into smaller countries without violence. There just has to be acceptance from the populace – and pressure on the ruling elites – that such a breakup represents the best interests of the people.
Breaking Up is Hard to Do
One may believe all this sounds interesting in theory (or one may believe I’m a raving lunatic), but practical realities must eventually be addressed. What exactly would a Dis-United States of America look like? Honestly, I don’t know. I do know this: it should be an organic development that best represents the people. There shouldn’t be a central planning committee to decide, but instead the people in each area would self-determine the direction of their community. Perhaps from Maine to parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland would become the Northeast States of America. The upper midwest states – from North Dakota to Wisconsin – could form a country. Of course, Texas could become its own country (naturally). One country might impose government health-care, another might outlaw abortion, and a third might dismantle the Surveillance State. However it worked out, once they was formed, citizens from anywhere in the former United States could, at least initially, move to the nation they believe best truly represents them, thus strengthening the common ideals of each nation.
One thing is certain: the United States won’t last forever. But the question remains: will we resist change out of some misguided sense of patriotism until the country become so bloated that it crashes under its own weight, or will we transition it to something better, and more representative of the people?