Monday, March 10, 2008

A historical and political speculation

With all the geopolitical changes in the world over the past twenty years, I'm wondering what will eventually happen to the United States. The possibilities are actually quite finite:

1) A state or group of states will leave the union by secession, and the United States flag will start removing stars and paring back the Federal government.

2) The Federal government will dissolve itself, leaving states independent and free to form smaller unions and commonwealths if they wish (such as happened when the USSR devolved), dividing up resources and debt.

3) The Federal government will dissolve itself, and reconstitute itself through a constitutional convention of some sort.

4) Violent overthrow by an outside force (invasion).

5) Internal revolution.

Interestingly, the only scenario that leaves the Federal government intact with its current constitution is the first. Of course, historical precedent in American history is for the Federal government to resist peaceful secession by force (and ironically denying itself the ability to be pruned of being too large and unwieldy) - leaving only "downsizing" options that involve the termination of the United States as an entity. There is further irony in that the United States supports the concept of secession, as in the recent recognition of the secession of Kosovo from Serbia - and this support of secession is longstanding, so long as the mother country is not the United States (e.g Texas from Mexico, Panama from Columbia, the Baltics from the USSR, Eritrea from Ethiopia, etc.).

Will the U.S. devolve peacefully or violently? Will our ideals of liberty and republican government survive?

Personally, I don't see number 4 happening any time soon, considering the military hardware the U.S. has. Ditto for 5 - as there is no way any kind of internal revolutionary movement could stand up to the might of the Federal government. I think the negotiations necessary for number 3 to work would inevitably break down in the current paradigm of partisanship as opposed to statesmanship - which has largely become a model of the past.

This leaves us with numbers 1 and 2 - and I don't see 1 happening under the current precedents set in the 19th century.

I think the U.S. will eventually be forced (probably by bankruptcy under pressure of foreign holders of American debt) to dissolve - similar to what happened to the USSR. It will simply collapse under its own weight, bureaucracy, taxation, military commitments, and entitlements. My guess is that it will happen some time before the end of this century - though when it happens, things will move very quickly - especially given today's rapid movement of data.

Meanwhile, I believe our states would be wise to become as self-sufficient as possible between now and then.

I believe the aftermath of dissolution will see both some independent states and some small confederations. Some border states may join Canada and/or Mexico - likely based on ethnic sensibilities. In the independent states, there will be various forms of government, from centralized and authoritarian to decentralized and libertarian - though I suspect most would remain very similar to the current bicameral-republican model. For the most part, individual liberties would be protected, though some governments would inevitably be full-blown welfare states with centralized economies. I also foresee some sort of free-trade zone that would encompass most (if not all) of the former United States, as well as some kind of trans-national treaty organization (like NATO) that would encompass the entire continent.

I am uncharacteristically optimistic that the dissolution would be peaceful - just as it was for the most part when the USSR dissolved. I also believe competing forms of government will push all governments toward more individual liberty - both personal and economic. I also believe there will be a lingering sense of Americanism, just as the Roman Empire continues to influence us today centuries after its political demise.


Brian P Westgate said...

"The Union must be preserved." Indeed, Mr. Jackson. But for that to happen, the hearts of men must be converted (I know I should say "to Jesus" here, but instead I say) to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. I could mention a certain revolution, and since he's not getting out of the race, if your state hasn't had a primary yet (say Indiana or Wisconsin), why not vote for Ron Paul just to say your not satisfied with McCain or Hilary Obama?

solarblogger said...

The one nice thing about our overextended empire is that the more it stretches itself, the more likely #1 is to happen successfully, as the resources needed to quell secession would be used far from home. And I think the political costs would be too high for the Federal Government to bring this power to bear on their own citizens when they are busy saving face on other shores.

Jeff said...

I'm hoping for option #6, which you forgot to add.

6) People band together and vote for me as World dictator. Dissension quickly outlawed.

It'd be a tough cross to bear... but I'd suffer under it.

But more seriously- very thought provoking post.

Father Hollywood said...

When I worked in a county jail (I was a corrections officer for a few months), some inmates used to play the board game Risk - in which players try to conquer the world. I think it captures Solarblogger's argument about spreading resources too thin to maintain an empire. I think that is essentially what happened to the USSR. When the Baltics seceded, there was just no political will (not to mention resources) to invade them, and the rest of the republics all just shrugged and agreed to dismantle the Union.

"Not with a bang, but a whimper." - T.S. Eliot