Without wanting to sound like a conspiratorial nut job, is it possible our generation may witness the breakup of the United States of America in the face of severe fiscal concerns, rising taxes, unemployment, demographic change and growing angst among many Americans? It has happened before, during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.
America has spoken, and Barack Obama has been returned as her president, to lead America down a centralised socialist highway similar to that of France. But America is also equally divided 50-50 (49.5 % to 49% on popular vote) and there is growing talk of State secession. Americans at their core -well half of them anyway- are against centralised power and articulate the rights of autonomy and liberty. This is starting to take on a State-orientated political framework.
Many now openly muse about separating themselves from the Federal Union, believing they will be much better off disentangled from the subsidised socialism of their neighbours that burdens many States with debt not of their own making. Many are probably correct. Louisiana and Texas think so.
American States have their own local governments, State legislative capitals, Congressmen, and contribute Senators to a centralized government in Washington DC. (I was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the Texas State legislature once). It would not be that difficult for individual States to separate themselves from the whole. Many describe America as 50 different countries anyway, from Alaska to New York.
This is not fanciful conspiracy theorising as evidenced by the petition of Louisianna to secede, followed this week by another 14 States including Texas, the largest State in the Union, often described as a State of Mind. Scotland is about to vote whether to secede from the United Kingdom. Half of American voters are opposed to the ideological thrust of Obama and his Democrats, worried that it has the potential to ruin pan-America. They are preparing for survival. A run on gun sales just days after the election is indicative of the American mindset. This anxiety is fueled by the inadequacy of the Federal government to really support New Jersey and New York residents following Hurricane Sandy, amidst power blackouts lasting almost two weeks, gas rationing, and utility service incompetence. A friend in NY who has just been through Sandy makes the point: it was the costs of Chernobyl that finally pushed the USSR off the cliff. So add another costly civil emergency to the Federal American ledger: an oil spill, a tsunami, a pandemic, and such a crisis could accelerate the process of dislocation. If local leaders feel on their own anyway, why not go it alone, and use their resources to better support their own localized infrastructure and people? This proposal has growing credence as a viable political option.
My own view is, the idea is a feasible political development over the next decade. It will take time, but we should not have the arrogance to assume our generational status quo will remain inviolate. The powerful Babylonian, Roman and British empires all crumbled. Europe has been in a constant state of flux for centuries (countries come and go amidst re-drawn maps: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the Austro-Hungarian empire). The USSR collapsed during Reagan’s tenure. China has become a capitalist state. Why should this be any different for the super power of our generation, the United States of America?
America is one of the strongest and most cohesive nations of human history, on a par with the Greek or Chinese civilisations. But she she is also deeply divided and her union is voluntary. Being separate from other states does not necessarily undo ‘Americanness.’ It can be “both/and.” Culturally, always American, but politically and economically separated for the benefit of her local State citizens. That is exactly how the ancient pan-Hellenic and Athenian hegemony functioned. Greek but also Thracian, Cretan, Peloponnesian, Ionian, Dorian. One language, one culture, many states, universal trade, the Olympic games.
Many Americans talk openly of moving inter-State. If tax-rate differences are added to the mix of political choices (Socialist or Conservative) then it’s feasible we may see many investors and businesses move. Americans could start voting with their feet and residency as much as with their ballots.
Unemployment, prospects, and jobs will be a key driver; and do not underestimate the allure of political ideology in the face of a liberal revolution at striking odds with the core values, worldview and religion of many Americans. It is a fascinating political possibility to watch out for over the coming years. My prediction is, we will hear it increasingly discussed.