Should We Dissolve the United States?

Seriously irreconcilable differences and very deep social and political divisions argue strongly in favor of at least contemplating the prospect of dissolving the United States with the prospect that states can form regional or ideological federations which are practically and ideologically more compatible than the current union.

Is it time to face the music, throw in the towel, and admit that our differences are just too serious and too irreconcilable and that the social and political divisions are just too deep, too broad and too many?

Is it maybe time for the individual states or at least groups of likeminded states to go their own way?

Is the current union of states more of a hindrance than a help? Is it in fact preventing states from forming a more perfect union?

Are we settling for mediocre when we can have much better?

It may well be too soon to take such a draconian step — it is, but it may also be time to start thinking about it.

If nothing else, thinking about the ramifications of dissolution may inspire us to find a way forward within the existing constitutional framework.

To be clear, this is only a preliminary proposal to be contemplated and discussed, not a formal proposal for immediate action.

Just a thought experiment at this stage

To be super clear, this is not a proposal for immediate for near-term action, but simply a thought experiment, designed to inspire people to think through more clearly what they really want from government and society as a whole.

Revolution?

No, this is not a proposal for a popular revolt or uprising against the government.

Rather, this is a proposal for a voluntary, consensual, legal, and constitutional decision and process to reverse the voluntary decision that formed the United States as a monolithic constitutional republic back in 1789.

But definitely not a revolution.

Manifesto?

Not quite. Not yet. A manifesto would be a call to action while this modest proposal is simply a call to thinking.

Why do it?

The goal is not simply to avoid current pain in governance, but to get to a place that is more amenable to cooperation and compromise, and a greater sense of social harmony.

It should not be about getting away from something but about moving towards something that we really want.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, or so it always seems, until you get there.

We need to think long and hard about whether we risk giving up something that may actually be a lot better than we think it is, all in the name of something largely unknown that we imagine might be better.

The bottom line is that we should only do it if after long and hard reflection we believe that we don’t have an attractive path forward in the current federal constitutional arrangement.

Key benefit: Better representation

The simple fact is that the U.S. is now too big for individual citizens and their elected representatives in Congress to have any sort of sane, human relationship. At a ratio of 700,000 to 1, how can citizens and their Representatives relate at all?

The simple fact is that the federal government in Washington now feels far too distant and too alien to the interests of average citizens.

Once the U.S. is dissolved, citizens will have a much closer relationship to their elected representatives in their new national, state-level governments. And those representatives will have a much closer relationship to their constituents. A solid win-win.

Citizens will transition from a sense of powerlessness to a sense of pride, empowerment, investment, and commitment to their government.

Better representation will probably be the primary benefit of dissolution.

Are we maybe simply just going through a rough patch?

We especially have to be cautious to assess whether we might simply be going through a rough patch that will resolve itself within a relatively small number of years.

But since we’ve already been struggling for more than a few years, it would appear that we’ve completed that due diligence already.

Is dissolution really necessary?

Ultimately, the question is simply whether the vast majority of Americans find it satisfying to have the kind of nation we have now, have had, and are likely to have in the decades to come.

If the people, average citizens, still have real hope, then they should stick with it. If not… dissolve and reorganize.

How large a majority would be needed to justify considering dissolution?

  1. 51%? No, still too many strong big disagreements, even over dissolution.
  2. 60? No, not really still. Plenty of unrest, but still plenty of people in favor of staying United.
  3. 66%? Ehhh, getting there, but still not quite there. Probably an indication that things will only get worse; the remaining one out of three will likely wither under the unrest.
  4. 90%? Certainly plenty good enough to conclude that enough is enough.
  5. 80%? Seems certainly good enough as well. One out of every five Americans is not much of a union.
  6. 75%? Seems to be the potential sweet spot for dissolution. If only one out of every four Americans wants to remain united, that is a fairly clear indication that united is not standing anymore.

Fanatic right and left wingers still harbor aspirations of dominance

The main sticking point right now may simply be that the more fanatic right and left wingers still harbor fantasies that they could prevail and dominate over everybody else. Is this a rational belief? Probably not, but these guys are not known for their pragmatism.

It may take a bunch more election cycles before the fanatics run out of steam and their supporters finally lose all faith. Not that they will ever give up, but at least it will become clear to everybody else that united neither works anymore nor is likely to ever work again.

Alternatives?

That’s the problem, there are no serious alternatives under discussion. Just fantasies of one side winning over the other, which doesn’t bridge or eliminate any divides.

My alternative: Split the two parties

In another paper I will elaborate my own proposal to at least partially resolve at least one effect of the political divide: split both the Democratic and Republican parties into two separate parties, so that we have four main parties so that voters and politicians can feel more satisfied and excited with their chosen party.

We’d have:

  1. Center Left. Moderate Democrats.
  2. Center Right. Moderate Republicans.
  3. Far Left. Most progressive of Democrats.
  4. Far Right. Most conservative of Republicans.

As a general proposition none of the four would be able to win an absolute majority of anything, House, Senate, President, or even a majority of states.

The result would be a shifting coalition. Hopefully, most of the time a coalition of the two center parties, but occasionally either the Democrats or the Republicans would find common cause, at least for a single election cycle.

More details, such as how to deal with the Electoral College and presidential elections will be in that paper.

But, even that admittedly extreme proposal would still not heal or significantly lessen the angst of many of the various social and political divides that plague the country. It might be a decent stopgap, but ultimately, dissolution may be the only way forward.

Alternative: Generational change

As hardened as the various positions, ideologies, and divides are today, in no more than 50 to 75 years all of the antagonists will be long-dead and buried or at least out of power, and there is no way to predict what the next two or three generations will bring.

There is always hope.

The flip side is that the next few generations could have even worse divides and conflicts.

Could technology be the answer?

The Internet was touted as being able to bridge and cure all manner of social and political ills. So far, it hasn’t worked out that way.

Still, there is always hope.

We haven’t proved that technology can’t solve and cure the divides. All we know is that what we have tried hasn’t worked.

I won’t hold out technology as some ultimate cure-all, but I won’t completely write it off entirely either.

What we need is some very serious creativity.

Too often, technology has been all about the technology and fanciful notions of harmony and utopias, completely disconnected from any serious attempt to deeply comprehend the roots of the various divides and underlying social problems.

A solution in search of a problem, with no credible comprehension of the problem.

Even worse, too often technology is being used to find new ways to win in a partisan manner, which only helps to worsen the divides, not make them better or go away.

Strength of sovereign states in America

Unlike most other countries, individual states are truly sovereign and fairly independent, each with fairly robust state governments. And in fact each state in the United States has its own constitution, and most laws are state laws as well.

For most other countries a breakup would be fatal and complete chaos, but for the states of the Unites States, a breakup would be merely challenging, but not an existential threat.

So, for the states in America, the point is not that we have no choice but to stay united, but that it is a choice that we should consciously affirm rather than feel compelled by.

Should dissolution be a popular vote or vote of states?

Americans are of two minds on this matter, many who favor of a national popular vote, and many who favor sovereignty of the states. One person one vote versus one state one vote.

In truth, that split alone argues for dissolution, allowing the states to then reorganize themselves so that the vast majority of any new country are for the most part on the same page, which we currently are not.

As things sit, changes to the Constitution require a 3/4 consensus of states, which is now exceedingly unlikely, except maybe for this proposed dissolution of the union.

There are more than enough smaller states who don’t want to see California and New York exercise veto authority over their future with a pure popular vote.

Maybe the correct answer to the question is that both a popular vote and state vote should be needed before dissolution proceeds. But as things stand, the 3/4 of states voting for constitutional changes is right way to go.

Polls

Even if a popular vote in not in the cards, polls would certainly be helpful. They could guide state politicians and potential state politicians seeking office to give them a sense of political sentiment either for dissolution or staying the course, or some as yet unknown new way.

Amendments to enable changes to the union

Right now, once a state is admitted, it is in the union forever, whether it or anybody else likes it or not.

As things stand, there is no way to dissolve the union according to the constitution.

Was the Civil War the right thing to do? It’s debatable, but there was no clear process to do anything else at the time.

Currently, the Constitution provides for:

  1. Admission of new states.
  2. Division of an existing state.
  3. Combination of existing states.

As per the Admissions Clause:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

Breaking that apart to highlight the specific provisions:

  1. New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union;
  2. but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State;
  3. nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

And that last provision covers several possibilities:

  1. Junction of two or more States
  2. Junction of two or more parts of States
  3. Junction of a State, and a part of a State
  4. Junction of a State, and parts of two or more States
  5. Junction of two or more States, and a part of a State
  6. Junction of two or more States, and parts of two or more States

To be clear, the one way of forming a new state that is currently prohibited is to create a new state solely from a part of an existing state:

  • but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State;

I propose some common sense amendments to provide more flexibility in changes to the union:

  1. Define the process for how a state can voluntarily secede on good terms with consent of the union.
  2. Define the process for how a state can be divided into more than one state.
  3. Define the process for how a state can voluntarily secede without consent of the union.
  4. Define the process by which a state can be involuntarily expelled (forced to secede) from the union.
  5. Define the process by which the constitution and union can be dissolved completely.

Technically, the latter could be achieved by each state voluntarily seceding, after first expelling any states which might decline to voluntarily secede, but a clean process for complete dissolution makes more sense, I think.

Secession vs. territory

Normally it is a U.S. territory that seeks to gain statehood (accession), but secession would be more than simply reversal of the statehood accession process. The goal is not to revert to being a U.S. territory, but to become completely independent of the U.S.

The one exception to date was Texas, which declared independence from Mexico and then acceded to U.S. statehood directly from an independent republic. It was never a U.S. territory.

I suppose, in theory, a state might wish to simply revert from statehood to territory status, so maybe that should be permitted under the amended constitution, although that is not being sought by this proposal.

Technically, states in the United States are still sovereign, while U.S. territories are not technically sovereign.

Secession from the U.S. would simply be a somewhat different form of accession to statehood. In international law, accession to statehood is how a new country gains its independence, statehood referring to true, full sovereignty in international law, not the U.S. concept of a quasi-sovereign region within the country.

U.S. states have a hybrid form of sovereignty, being generally independent except to the degree that they defer to the federal government.

In this paper I’ll refer to the full sovereignty of an independent state which is an independent country.

Is 3/4 the right threshold for statehood changes?

This paper doesn’t propose or take a position on whether 3/4 is the proper threshold vote for making changes to the status on statehood for an area.

Would 3/4 be the right threshold for dissolving the union or should it be unanimous?

Personally, I’m okay with either keeping the threshold at 3/4 or raising it to absolute unanimity for how many states would need to vote to dissolve the union.

What if there are one or two holdout states?

I don’t think it would be fair to hold all of the other states hostage to the will of just a couple of states.

On the the hand, by passing the proposed amendment to permit individual states to be expelled out of the union, a small number of holdouts could first be expelled and then the remaining states would have a unanimous consensus.

Either way, it would really amount to the same thing.

What would the Founding Fathers say?

The Founding Fathers might be appalled and certainly disappointed that all their good work has come to our current sorry state of affairs. Such high hopes. Dashed.

They would probably look at all of our social and political divides and ask: Who are these people?

In truth, the Founding Fathers understood division all too well with divisions of their own and warned of factions, but here we are reveling in the kinds of factions that they warned us of.

I wonder what they would have said as the union began to unravel under the divisiveness of slavery in the 1820’s and what they would have thought about the Civil War and its aftermath. Did that work out as they would have hoped?

Certainly they would urge us to not give up just yet, urging us to lean on a combination of trying harder to work out our conflicts and giving the situation more time for false passions to dissipate of their own accord.

Draft a Declaration of Dependence

I think the best the Founding Fathers could do would be to ask us to contemplate drafting a new document, a Declaration of Dependence, trying to see how committed we really are to this federal union that we currently have. If we are deeply committed to our dependence on each other, then we can eventually work things out, but if we can’t muster the resolve and passionate commitment to dependence, maybe independence is the road we must travel.

Whose democracy? Mine or yours?

Seriously, there are so many conflicts between values and priorities that there is no longer a consensus as to what our values really are.

We have multiple, competing, overlapping democracies at this stage. And different conceptions about the nature of democracy itself.

Shared values?

The set of values that are universally shared in the U.S. is now almost nonexistent.

Even the traditional creed of All men are created equal is a matter of dispute.

Part of the suggested Declaration of Dependence should be a clear declaration of shared values. I remain concerned whether that would even be possible at this stage, but the exercise of trying to produce such a documented list of shared values would at least validate whether or not the future of the existing union is still feasible.

Review and renewal of the social contract

The U.S. republic has been around for so long that people alive today are very far removed from the social, political, economic, and moral climate that existed at the time the country was founded. The social contract that made sense in 1776 is not necessarily the social contract that people assume and desire is in force today.

The mere fact that most of the social contract is informal and implied rather than an explicit document is itself part of the problem today. Many people assume many elements of the social contract, even though they are not in writing. The Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and statutory law have some of the elements in writing, but even there many of the principles are implied rather than explicit principles. So much of the social contract is mere folklore or embedded in partisan party platforms or social commentary and academic treatises.

At a minimum, we, the people, all of the people, need to review the existing social contract and either affirm that the overwhelming consensus of citizens are passionately committed to it, or scrap it and replace it with a revised social contract that people alive today can passionately commit to.

The suggested Declaration of Dependence would be a much better form for the social contract than what we have today.

My conjecture is that there are too many deep and broad social, political, economic, and moral divides to either affirm the existing social contract or to devise a new social contract that everyone across all 50 states can commit to.

Yes, we absolutely should commit to the review process as a due diligence exercise before seriously considering dissolution, but I strongly suspect that the process would fail to reach a solid consensus in favor of continuing the current union and its implied social contract.

But since each of the divided states or whatever federations they wish to form will each need its own fresh, new social contract the review and renewal process will not be for naught in any case.

Common cause, common enemy?

Traditionally, a diverse people would come together because they had some very significant common cause, such as a common enemy.

9/11 seemed to give us a common enemy, but now even the simple term radical Islamic terror is a cause for division rather than unity.

How ironic — the fact that we have no great enemies should be a great relief, but instead it means that we have no reason to come together.

Revert to the old Articles of Confederation?

The simplest thing to do to dissolve the union would be to revert to the old Articles of Confederation that was in force before we adopted the U.S. Constitution.

Of course, the Articles were in fact problematic, which was why we adopted the Constitution.

But things have changed dramatically since that time. The Articles were originally proposed in 1777, ratified in 1783, and ended in 1789 when the Constitution was adopted.

Of course, it wouldn’t be necessary to revert to the exact same Articles, but that would be a starting point for discussion.

I expect that a variety of relatively strong regional federations would become the norm after dissolution, so that relatively weak Articles of Confederation might be perfectly acceptable at the federal level.

In short, there are four alternatives:

  1. Revert to the former Articles, as they were.
  2. Revert to a weakened form of the former articles.
  3. Revert to a stronger form of the former articles.
  4. Dissolve without any common federation other than any new regional or ideological federations.

Now or wait?

This paper does not take a position that dissolution of the United States should be pursued at this time or in the very near future.

Later, maybe, but not right now.

We still have plenty of runway to work things out and resolve our differences.

That said, there is no good reason to wait if people have absolutely no commitment to preserving the union.

We should see if we can work out a Declaration of Dependence first, before making any rash moves.

At least another two election cycles?

This paper does take the position that waiting for at least another two presidential election cycles would be a good cooling off/work it out period.

The 2020 and 2024 election cycles should give us a lot more perspective on the severity of the divides facing this country.

By the midterm election of 2026 it should be very, very clear whether resolution is viable and near at hand or… beyond all hope.

What happens to the U.S. dollar?

Some sort of common currency union is possible and likely, although each state would certainly be free to begin issuing its own currency.

It is also possible that a common monetary union, based on the Federal Reserve could be maintained even after dissolution, whether for all states or any subset of states that opted for it.

Or different groups of states could have smaller monetary compacts.

Who gets the money?

Some sort of proportional divide, probably based on population makes the most sense for how to divvy up the cash held by the Federal Reserve.

Who gets the debt?

Some sort of proportional divide, probably based on population makes the most sense for how to divvy up the federal debt.

Might a state decide to disown that debt, especially if the majority of debtholders were from other states? Yes, they could, but then they would become persona non grata for any future relations with that state or country.

Or, if there is no strong commitment, the states could simply collectively and individually decide to disown all of the federal debt. That would be a draconian move with severe economic, social, and political consequences, but still conceivable.

Who gets the gold?

Some sort of proportional divide, probably based on population makes the most sense for how to divvy up the gold held by the Federal Reserve.

Or a common monetary union could hold the gold, with proportional ownership by the states.

Or, the gold could be sold on the open market over time with the proceeds distributed to the states on a proportional basis.

Who pays social security?

Each state would certainly be free to decide if and how they wish to honor Social Security obligations.

There would be massive social unrest if they did not honor those obligations.

Some sort of proportional divide, probably based on population makes the most sense for how to divvy up the federal Social Security trust funds.

What happens if someone moves to another state after dissolution? Interesting question. I would suggest that the Social Security trust funds for an individual could be transferred to their new state.

Lots of details to resolve, but nothing fatal to the overall proposal.

Who gets the nukes and aircraft carriers?

What would the disposition of the military forces be?

The nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers in particular. And nuclear subs as well.

A defense union, ala NATO, could be organized for common defense. Or not. At least it’s a possibility.

First the easy (easier) stuff.

Bases and personnel are easy.

Bases would revert to the state in which they are located. The states can then do as they wish with them.

Personnel would stay or return to their home state, as they wish.

In theory, smaller weapons and systems, such as individual tanks, jets, and helicopters, smaller weapons, and ammunition could be distributed proportionally among the states based on population.

A lot of the smaller stuff — smaller than nukes and larger ships — can simply be auctioned to the highest bidder. States which really want equipment and systems can pay for them, the proceeds to be distributed proportionally to the other states over time.

The nukes, aircraft carriers, larger ships, and major bombers could be auctioned as well, to the states which really want them. Again, paid for over time, with the proceeds distributed proportionally to the other states.

And if some states (blue states?) are horrified at the other states (red states?) having the nukes, bombers, aircraft carriers, or nuclear subs, they could band together to out-bid the other (red?) states, with an agreement to decommission and otherwise destroy the undesirable weapon systems. It could be very expensive to exercise that financial veto, but that would at least put a price tag on how badly they really wish to deny the other states access to those weapons systems.

This distribution would only occur if the U.S. were jointly dissolved, but would not occur to any state which voluntarily seceded by itself or was expelled from the union.

Nuclear weapon plans and plants

Besides the actual nuclear weapons themselves, two related issues are the plans and technology for producing new nuclear weapons and the weapons labs and plants around the country currently used to produce the critical components of nuclear weapons and the missiles used to deliver them. Who gets all this stuff?

A preliminary question is whether some or most states might prefer to destroy it all and assure that nobody gets it. If a few or even a majority of states want to keep and pursue this technology, then where does that leave the remaining states?

In its current configuration, nuclear weapons design and development is widely dispersed so that no single state has a critical mass to do it all itself.

It could well be that nuclear weapons become impractical for any federations of states if the U.S. is dissolved. Not necessarily, but still possible. And theoretically a critical mass of the nuke producing states could agree on a nuclear defense federation even if they don’t agree on a political federation.

I would recommend that initially a nuclear defense federation would be formed among the states, and then evolve that over time. It’s probably too large an issue to deal with overwise at the time of dissolution of the U.S.

One alternative would be a nuclear disarmament federation that manages all the nuclear matters with the goal of eventual disarmament.

In any case, the simple solution is that all states would get the plans and technology and a proportional fractional ownership of the special nuclear material, with which they could do as they wanted, such as selling to the highest bidder from the remaining states, or destroying it.

It would seem advantageous to have a joint compact among all the states to refrain from transferring any of the plans, technology, plants, equipment, or material to another country, in perpetuity, except maybe solely for the purposes of destroying it.

This distribution would only occur if the U.S. were jointly dissolved, but would not occur to any state which voluntarily seceded by itself or was expelled from the union.

Secrets and classified materials

Who gets all the federal government secrets and access to all classified materials? There might be some issues, but equal distribution among the dissolved states would seem like the presumed option.

It’s also possible that the dissolved states might agree that some secrets and classified materials would better be destroyed.

There is the open issue that some states might be more inclined to make some of these matters public even as other states are more inclined to keep them secret. How to resolve such a dispute? That’s an interesting question to pursue, but not a fatal flaw in this proposal.

To some extent, secrets of the old federal union would be of dubious value once the union was dissolved.

This distribution would only occur if the U.S. were jointly dissolved, but would not occur to any state which voluntarily seceded by itself or was expelled from the union.

Disposition of spy agencies

What happens to the CIA, NSA, and rest of the espionage and intelligence agencies?

Individual states and federations of states might wish to maintain them even if only on a smaller scale.

Some significant fraction or even majority of the states might opt to maintain the full intelligence community as a common intelligence union.

How much of the FBI is included in all of this is another interesting matter.

Plenty of details and issues to work out, but not fatal to this proposal.

Mutual defense

A defense union, ala NATO, could be organized for common defense. Or not. At least it’s a possibility.

Regional federations of states might also form mutual defense unions.

States might ally with other countries for mutual defense as well. For example, the New England states might find common cause with Canada. Or even the UK.

State constitutions?

Every state currently has its own constitution anyway, currently. A lot of people don’t realize that.

Even so, states might wish to beef up their constitutions since citizens won’t have the federal constitution to fall back on.

Regional federations?

Although each state would be free to go its own way, the cost of doing so might be very high. Regional combinations of states would make a lot of sense — birds of a feather flocking together.

Some example regional combinations:

  1. Midwest states.
  2. New England.
  3. Midatlantic states.
  4. Pacific coast states — CA, OR, WA, possibly AK and HI.
  5. Gulf coast states — TX, LA, MS, AL, FL — Gulf States of America?
  6. Big blue states — CA, NY, MA, IL.
  7. Big red states.
  8. Little red states.
  9. Plains states.
  10. Rocky mountain states.

Regions could be mega sized or could simply be a couple of states.

What Alaska and Hawaii would do is an interesting question.

Who knows, maybe with global warming, Alaska could become a very substantial standalone country.

Maybe Hawaii would revert to being a small kingdom.

Plenty of possibilities, but no issues that would be fatal to this proposal.

Border issues

Right now, crossing a state border is a complete non-issue. But upon dissolution, and absent any sort of regional federation, various border issues arise:

  1. How freely can state borders be crossed?
  2. How will disputes about issues near borders be resolved? Actually, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the UN can address such matters.
  3. Tariffs for transit of goods across state borders.
  4. Criminal activities which cross state borders.
  5. Adjudication of the borders themselves. ICJ again.

Regional compacts are really needed to cover almost all borders unless a state wishes to become an isolated fortress state.

Landlocked states would either have to become self-sufficient or negotiate access deals with adjoining states.

Air travel between states

Air travel between states may or may not become problematic.

Again, regional compacts could smooth over most matters. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey might be a good model, or at least point in the right direction, or be a starting point.

In principle, a continental air compact could preserve the current air transport system, although individual states or regions could decide to go their own ways.

U.S. territories?

What would happen to the U.S. territories:

  1. Puerto Rico
  2. Virgin Islands
  3. Guam
  4. Etc.

That’s an open question, but not a stumbling block to dissolution of the U.S.

The simple solution would be that each territory would become quasi-independent and have the right to choose to remain fully independent or ally with one of the U.S. states, or some other country for that matter.

Native Americans?

What should happen with Native Americans (so-called Indians)?

I don’t have any firm proposals at this stage, other than to suggest that their reservations should probably have a right to independence, as if they were states, and then be permitted to join federations of other states as well, if they choose.

Whether newly-independent states after dissolution of the U.S. would have or feel that they have any obligation to Native Americans and any previous treaty obligations of a now-dissolved U.S. is an interesting question. Whether each state would have a Bureau of Indian Affairs is an open question as well.

Again, I don’t have solid answers or positions here. This is primarily a placeholder and opportunity for additional thought experiments.

Should some of the larger states be split as well?

Although this proposal does not directly address the question, there is the matter of whether some of the larger states should be split apart as well. Not forcefully, but it may make more sense from an ideological perspective.

For example, California and New York. There are at least a few bastions of conservatism in California even if most of the state is much more liberal. Similarly, New York City is rather different from upstate New York state.

Again, I wouldn’t propose forcing a division of such states, but it would be a good opportunity, especially if ideological divides are the reason to dissolve the U.S. in the first place.

What about immigration between states?

People can now freely move between states. That would not be the case if the U.S. were dissolved. It would be up to each state to decide its own immigration policies.

Some states may opt for a relatively open border policy, permitted citizens of the former U.S. to move freely between states.

What would the rules be for statehood after dissolution?

I would imagine that each state would adopt similar provisions for statehood or quasi-sovereign regions within states after dissolution as are in the federal constitution currently, plus my proposed changes.

Counties within states would be the equivalent of states in the union.

What about enclaves within states?

The constitution currently prohibits creation of enclave states:

  • but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State;

I’m not sure what that was all about in the first place.

Maybe it had some merit back in 1787.

From where I sit now, I see no reason to continue that restriction.

Although, it wouldn’t make sense to have a lot of very tiny states forming within states, like individual cities or even small towns. Sounds like the old European concept of principalities such as San Marino and Andorra. But, if that’s what people really want, I see no reason to forbid it.

As things stand today, it would be up to the current states to allow such a prospect, which they would probably have no interest in unless there was some special circumstance.

What about the urban/rural split within states?

In some states, such as New York and California, there may be urban areas that are so radically different from more rural areas from both a practical and ideological perspective that the dissolution of the federal government still doesn’t address some of the critical social and political divides. What then? There may be additional solutions, but two I imagine would have some appeal are:

  1. Large urban areas might secede on their own from their enclosing state.
  2. Migration of radical ideologists to another state that is more friendly towards their ideology.

In any case, this issue is not fatal to this proposal.

The House is too big and too unrepresentative

The House of Representatives was supposed to be the primary way that average citizens are represented in their government, but that role seems under great stress these days.

One problem is that there are simply too many representatives, so that none of them can truly establish and exploit the kinds of interpersonal relationships needed for great legislating. There are simply too many competing interests and it’s too difficult to really resolve almost anything. The result is less than sterling laws.

A more effective House would have far fewer representatives. Maybe no more than 200 or 150 or even 100.

The bigger problem than the unmanageable size of the House is that each Representative represent way too many citizens in way too many disparate locales, so that the literal, intellectual, and civic distance between a Representative and an average citizen or even an average locale is way too great. Too unrepresentative.

In theory, we should have more representatives as the population grows, but back in 1913 Congress recognized that the House was already too big and unwieldy and fixed the number of representatives, causing the citizen to representative ratio to balloon, so that today it is roughly 700,000, which is more like the mayor of a moderate size city rather than a precinct or district that representatives should be. The original U.S. Constitution set the ratio at 30,000.

You could argue that modern transportation and modern media make it easier for Representatives to communicate to their constituents, but I would argue that that is one way, and that modern media has so many problems and conflicts of interest that its value for the kind of communication and relationship between a Representative and their constituents is greatly diminished and quite tarnished.

The solution? There is none! The obvious fact is that the U.S. is now too big to have effective representative government. It is now literally not possible.

The only real solution to this representation problem is this proposal for dissolution, so that each new country can have a House of Representatives where average citizens can feel that they have a personal connection to their representative.

Interstate commerce

Interstate commerce is no big deal today, but the prospect of real borders between states makes a non-issue a significant issue.

Regional trade compacts can certainly address this. Most states will be more than eager to export their own products and services and import products and services that they need.

I would propose that part of the package of dissolution of the U.S. would be a trade compact that covers all 50 states, or at least as many states that want to continue interstate commerce, at least as a starting point.

Over time, individual states, pairs of states, or clusters of states might decide that they have particular trade interests that are not addressed by a super-compact, and opt to pursue more limited or focused trade compacts.

Yes, there is plenty to be worked out here, and plenty of room for conflict, but this area is still not fatal to this proposal.

National companies

What happens with big companies that operate nationwide or even regionally or even across a single border?

Interstate commerce trade pacts might address many or most of the issues, but probably not all.

I don’t have a list of issues in this area right now, just the notion that it would be an important area.

Multinational companies would be the default model for what should happen to nationwide companies after dissolution.

That said, multinational business, although quite successful, has lots of issues and outright problems, that we shouldn’t want to inflict on a company simply because they do business in more than one state.

In any case, this shouldn’t be fatal to this proposal.

U.S. role as a superpower

One significant impact of dissolving the U.S. is that the U.S. would no longer be a superpower.

To some, that would be a very bad thing, but to others that would be a very good thing. Yet another one of the divides in America.

Technically, all or most or many of the states of a dissolved U.S. could have a mutual defense pact such that collectively they would still be a superpower of sorts.

It’s a complex issue, but not fatal to this proposal, unless you are a diehard supporter of the concept of the U.S. as a superpower.

U.S. as the indispensable nation

Some view the U.S. as the indispensable nation. Not so much because of being a military superpower, but the combination of being the moral leader of the free world plus having the resources to back it up and come to the rescue in all manner of difficulties.

Dissolution of the U.S. would eliminate this appellation, although, again, some, many, or most of the states could form a compact that had a lot of the positive effects that the U.S. formerly had as the indispensable nation.

Role in NATO

What would NATO even mean after dissolution of the U.S.?

The current conception of NATO is primarily that the U.S. would rush to the rescue in the case of an existential threat to Europe.

But with a dissolved U.S., there would no longer be a single, large, monolithic U.S. military and political powerhouse to rush into anything.

Without the U.S. as primary rescuer, NATO is essentially toothless. NATO is primarily about the U.S.

That said, once again, some, many, or most of the states could form a mutual defense compact which could still play a role in NATO similar to that of the U.S. today.

The big question is whether or how many of the states would actually want to continue playing such a role in European affairs.

NATO made a lot of sense immediately after World War II when France and Germany were very weak and the European Union was nonexistent. But with Europe now an economic powerhouse in its own right, and having significant military forces in many countries, it is very unclear what role is essential from our side of the Atlantic.

At a minimum, we should revisit our essential role in European affairs regardless of whether this proposal is pursued.

What do the kids want?

Personally, I’d prefer to leave it to the next generation. They may have radically different ideas for how to organize society than their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

Maybe it would be best for us to simply limp along through the next ten, fifteen, or even twenty years, so that we have had a chance for one, two, three, or even four waves of fresh political and social leaders to give the union a shot, and then let the kids, then at least beginning to enter the ranks of leadership, but without decades invested in the status quo, decide whether to pull the plug on the union.

Give the union another 20 years

That’s my final, best offer. If the vast majority of average citizens are even half as profoundly disenchanted with our system of government in 20 years, there will simply be no good reason not to bail out and dissolve the United States and ditch the Constitution.

And then start over to seek a more perfect union.

Should the colonies have formed two separate unions?

Even at the time of the American Revolution and before the U.S. Constitution was set in stone there were significant divisions among the colonies. That’s why we ended up with the Articles of Confederation, why the Articles failed, why there was so much debate over the Constitution, why the Bill of Rights was separate, why we had the Civil War, and why divisions persisted right up through today.

Might it simply have been a whole lot better for the thirteen colonies to have formed two separate but cooperating unions, a union of northern states and a union of southern states?

Two separate, independent countries, each with its own constitution and values?

Two countries, each with citizens who had deeper shared values that they have had together?

Separate, but each more cohesive than they have been together?

Possibly, but so difficult to say for sure.

Would two separate unions have been able to survive against the British in the War of 1812? Maybe, maybe not, or possibly they might have survived even better or even deterred the British from even attacking.

Might the Civil War have been avoided?

But would slavery have persisted and thrived in the southern union of states?

Or might slavery have eventually died off due to the evolving economics of labor anyway, avoiding conflict between the northern and southern states?

I’ll leave these as open questions, another thought experiment to ponder.

In any case, we are stuck with decisions made in 1776, 1787, 1860, and 1865, but we do have our own independent decisions to make today and in the coming years and decades.

We should think more carefully, deeply, and broadly than we have in the past.

What else?

What issues have I not addressed or maybe not even identified?

What’s next?

Nothing is next. Just sit back and watch the drama play out.

See if it dissipates and harmony returns within three to ten years. Can we sense a rough trend back to some sense of normalcy?

Or see if the disharmony only accelerates and spirals downwards even more viciously and out of control.

The beauty of the system is that every two and four years we have a great opportunity to take stock and get instant feedback as to how we’re doing.

Novel or movie?

This proposal could be evaluated more readily if put into the form of a novel or even a movie. Something people can relate to.

Or maybe a series, with different scenarios played out, the good, the bad, the great, and the ugly.

Work in progress

This proposal is not considered complete and comprehensive. It is everything that I have thought of, so far, but ideas will likely continue to pop up, so I expect this will be a living document.

Or, maybe at some stage it peters out or becomes irrelevant and is finally relegated to the proverbial dustbin of history.

Conclusion

There is no conclusion per se, yet, except that we should definitely raise the question as to whether the United States is headed on a path towards a more perfect union, or whether it is time or will soon be time to abandon this particular union in favor of more stable, tenable, and promising unions.

Again, this is merely a proposal for a thought experiment and discussion, not a firm proposal for immediate action.

At a minimum it would be good for the proponents of preserving the union to at least attempt to produce the proposed Declaration of Dependence document to allow people to publicly commit to whatever it is they believe the union still represents. I suspect that such an effort would fail, if not because no document of shared values could be produced, then because competing sociopolitical factions would produce distinct and hopelessly conflicting documents. That, or produce a document that is so vague and ambiguous that it merely papers over the irreconcilable conflicts.

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