Let me preface this article by stating a few things. Firstly, I am an American…born and raised. But I have lived overseas and, in fact, currently live overseas. However, you don’t have to be on the outside looking in to see that America has become increasingly divided as a nation. The country has long been a diverse mixture of people with a diverse set of interests. Early in America’s history, southern agrarian states found that their interests and their worldviews often conflicted with their northern industrialist brothers. But for several reasons, Americans managed to settle their many and vast differences, mostly peacefully (with the exception of that bloody incident in the 19th century). However, that unity that has managed to mostly hold now seems to be nearing a breaking point. Debt. Spending. Culture war. Actual war. The most important issues are dividing us more than ever.
Furthermore, the country is under significant financial stress. The national government and many states have started to drown in debt. The federal government of the United States has racked up over $17 trillion in debts. With a debt-to-GDP ratio of over 100% and tens of millions of seniors expecting the federal government to pay for their medical bills and a modest pension, with no major policy changes, the U.S. federal government will eventually face a financial crisis…especially if the growth fairy continues to remain in hiding. Our companies are some of the best in the world (far different from Soviet companies before the fall of the Soviet Union), but our national government (and several states) risk insolvency which could be a crippling blow to the country. If we disagree so much, it almost makes you wonder, “Why do we even do this to ourselves?”
And I think that’s a question all Americans should be asking themselves: why do we do this? Well, what were some of the benefits mentioned when the EU was formed out of several different states (nation states)? One big benefit given was the use of a common currency. And a common currency definitely does make business across borders easier as countries share the same currency rather than needing to use a third-party’s currency (like the U.S. dollar) or engaging in currency swaps. Removing exchange rate risk and many tariffs are also very beneficial to business and trade. Furthermore, the free movement of people across borders is also very nice. Since forming the EU, movement from one EU country to another couldn’t be much easier. Imagine if two current U.S. states set up borders like those between Canada or Mexico. Perhaps the biggest advantage of being 50 United States is being able to share a common military. It’s much, much more powerful and efficient to have one shared military than several different militaries…or maybe even have to worry about your neighbor’s military.
But what about the negatives? Look at the currency. One of the big problems in the EU is that you have countries with completely different levels of productivity sharing the same currency, leaving them to compete with other countries and no ability to devalue their currency. This is not good for those uncompetitive countries (see Greece, Spain, and other PIIGS countries) and it’s not really good for the world. There could easily be situations where one part of the country (perhaps an area like Michigan and Ohio that tries to make a lot of their money by exporting manufacturing goods) might benefit from a weaker currency whereas it might be better for another area of the country to benefit from a stronger dollar (perhaps a new country with a big service sector that imports more than it exports). Or what about when a politician in Washington D.C. tells somebody living on some ranch in Wyoming that his state must recognize marriages that they don’t want to or that they must pay more than 40% of their salaries to support the services and pensions of people on the east coast? And what will our country do when we all go broke together?
What if we broke up into 10 different countries? Some people would suggest just dividing up into two countries: red states and blue states. The problem with that is that heavily populated coastal states (both in the east and the west) tend to be liberal and separated by an ocean of red in the middle part of the country. How could you easily divide the country up into just two states? It’d be impossible. Instead, ten countries would leave the best possibility that most people would end up fairly happy (and with like-minded people). Now, some of the states might not remain exactly as they currently exist: but instead might split up between two states. For example, New York City would certainly join with much of the northeast, but much of the west part of the state would likely feel more comfortable joining a state containing Ohio and West Virginia (western Pennsylvania would also likely “go west” while Philadelphia would join New York City). Small parts of southern Missouri might want to join with the South (while the rest joins a new Midwestern state) and the Florida panhandle may want to join them in the South. Who even knows what the different parts of Virginia would do (interestingly, do you know which city in the country would be most opposed to this plan: Washington D.C., of course). There are a lot of possibilities, but 10 states seems to make the most sense. You can see the map I created.
Some of the new countries are pretty obvious. You have a country in the modern day southern states, a big block of states in the Midwest and the southwest (I considered dividing these into two different countries, but it would just have created two relatively small landlocked economies. Both areas are basically conservative areas, even if in slightly different ways. And both have natural resources to export: either agriculture or raw materials). And certainly there are some controversies. Some would quickly argue that Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire have no business being a small country of their own, but should obviously join the northeastern states. However, I just don’t know if this is politically possible. Northeastern states tend to be full of big government, tax-and-spend liberals…and Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire are all fiercely libertarian. Sure, the three would make a state with an economy similar in total size to Hungary’s, but a talented workforce with several industries (and a healthy service sector) would have a GDP per capita similar to New Zealand or Israel (other small economies with high living standards).
Florida and California become their own countries, with Florida having an economy bigger than Switzerland and California bigger than Australia. Originally I had Texas alone (Texans are so proud to be Texan…you have no idea) and Louisiana with the South, but the oil businesses (especially refineries) in Louisiana simply make it too important to Texas. The Southern states would also certainly want Louisiana (and would be bigger than Texas), so it would be interesting to see what exactly would happen there (with perhaps some of Louisiana joining the South and the other part joining Texas). Virtually every new country would still maintain a very large economy (with the new countries having economies larger than current countries like Norway, Brazil, Spain, Russia, and even France).
If America were to split up, our companies and the states’ economies would not just disappear. They’d simply operate in a different environment. And their governments would be able to pass laws that most of the people in those states agree with, rather than being forced into things they don’t want by Washington. Certainly there would be an incredible amount of problems associated with such an event (just look at the obstacles with trying to re-break up the EU). How would states choose what currency to use? How would we agree on which states join which new countries? What happens to people who currently hold U.S dollars (the entire world)? And perhaps most importantly: who gets all the troops and all the bombs? I mean, if we can’t agree to on taxes and healthcare, how would we ever agree (peacefully) on how to divide up the country?
I know all across the country, people take pride in being able to call themselves “American.” But the reality is that the country is changing and the world is changing. America is getting older, more indebted, and more polarized. The complications and disagreements over how to break up would be numerous and impassioned. But why stay in this marriage in which everybody is miserable? For the sake of the kids? I think maybe the kids would be better if Mom and Dad finally separated. We’re broke. And we kind of all hate each other. Why not go our separate ways, agree to be friends, and live our lives the way we each want to? Wouldn’t we all be richer and happier if we could all pursue our own destinies? With all of the national debt we’ve accumulated and the monetary risk that has been created, the decision could one day be suddenly forced on us with no time to solve it calmly (and possibly peacefully). Why not prepare in advance and take the action on our own terms? We could still agree to share a huge military that’s far bigger than the rest of the countries. And even get along with each other…just like we do with Canada. Isn’t it time we do the sensible thing and break up?