A common response many have in retrospect;
The Soviet Union will live forever. Of course it didn’t. Africa shattered into even more nations after the colonizers left. Naturally. The European Union may no longer be a union. Well, it never looked sustainable, did it?
I can’t find the TED Talk video that talked about the tendency for nations to breakup rather than come together. In the meantime, here’s a more entertaining video that includes the rise and fall of empires as well as the Big Bang and a bunch of science.
The Western States Pact (as well as the Upper Midwest Pact and the Northeast Pact) brought me back around to considering the fundamental assumption behind the United States. How united are the United States, and does it matter?
Because of the corona crisis, various states in the United States are uniting because the United States government is treating the states as part of them not us. (See States Uniting And Not over on one of my other blogs, PretendingNotToPanic.com) As of late morning, April 27, 2020, 19 states are in the pacts listed above. Their goals are to coordinate their responses to the crisis. The fact that there are three pacts points out that each sees their region as having separate circumstances and cultures.
It does not necessarily follow that the pacts will remain after this crisis has passed; but it does exemplify the reality that pragmatism can become more important than ideology when needs aren’t academic. People are dying. At least some governments are proving they can govern responsibly.
Various state’s responses have also highlighted which ones have been funding more than benefiting from the federal budget. At least in a rough sense, states joining the pacts are aggressively responding to the crisis, are being deterred by the federal government, and are more likely to send more money to the federal government than they receive. States that aren’t aggressively responding to the crisis are more likely to receive more than they send. Not surprisingly, friction and resentment can result.
While many say a dissolution of the United States won’t happen because we don’t want another Civil War / War Between The States, keep in mind that peaceful changes happen, too. The Louisiana Purchase and the Alaska Purchase are two examples of governments getting out of debt or simplifying their administration by selling off land. I don’t know of a similar situation has happened in modern times with industrialized regions.
As I wrote above, this is something I’m considering, a fundamental assumption I am challenging. The world’s been weird enough, lately. Could this happen, too?
If. If. If. If, it happened I wonder how life and governance and personal finance might, might, might, might change. What else is there to do while during StayHome and WorkFromHome? I’ve poured a mug of tea (a cup’s too tiny for this), and decided to break down the response by one representation of the US Government: the Cabinet, etc. This is not a detailed and long-researched analysis. I’m just sitting, typing, and will see what insights come up. In no particular order but with my Western Washington perspective, here I go.
Environmental Protection Agency – Clean air, clean water, wildlife protection, lots of those green things that people make fun of treehuggers about; expect them to return and possibly be expanded.
Health and Human Services – Particularly during a pandemic, especially while sitting on the Pacific Rim and the travel that is required, expect a greater response. This is the front line, and the local agencies know it. Maybe improved health care, including mental health.
Agriculture – If Eastern Washington comes along, then the area’s economy benefits greatly from plenty of farm and ranch products and ports from which to ship them. Otherwise, a lot will have to be shipped in, driving up costs. Many nations are in such a precarious situation. Whether the area can be self-sustaining depends largely on how large an area is included.
Labor – Many of those essential services live here. Think Amazon’s shipping network. Seattle’s minimum wage advocacy could extend to farm workers and other overlooked occupations. There may be fights between unionization and the mega-corporations that also exist here. Would the corporations leave if they didn’t win?
Commerce – Washington State has a strong economy. Boeing may move production lines for smaller airplanes, but the jumbos are tougher to shift. The Puget Sound’s standard of living draws high-paying professions. The ports are important. Proximity to Canada and the Pacific Rim is powerful. Could be a significant income source, as it has been.
Treasury – Here’s a big one. How to establish a credible currency and banking system from nothing. Going to cryptocurrency sounds appealing, but I’d check how long and hard it was to establish the Euro. The region is not seen as a finance center, though there is certainly significant wealth in the area – at least for now. Keep it here and maybe it can happen. One possible big benefit, disassociating the region from the current US Federal debt and deficits. Those would be intense negotiations, but they could make all the rest work by providing sufficient funds and stability.
State – In general, the region has a favorable international reputation. Reinforcing trade partners is high leverage. Increased foreign aid? A new Peace Corps?
Interior – Hello, preserving national parks! Hello, managing forests, too. That may be less of a battle here because the parks tend to be too steep or dangerous for commercial activities. Between the two, well, finding the balance is what governments do. The debate will be significant because the local interior is rich in many ways.
Housing and Urban Development – Homelessness has been a major issue on the west coast. Urban development has also been active as planners try to fit more people into geographically constrained land. The efforts seem to be independent of the federal agencies except for grants and loans, but as discussed above, grants may be balanced against current federal taxes. Possibly no significant change.
Transportation – The region is a transportation hub, as well as being a producer of airplanes, trucks, and some ships. Geography will continue to funnel traffic through the area. After a crisis-induced decline, producing transport vehicles may recover, possibly with the loss of the Boeing Renton plant. Boeing has been one of the largest contributors to US durable goods exports. Even a small portion of that would be even more significant in a much smaller region.
Energy – I suspect the Department of Energy might live up to its name. Instead of being only about nuclear power, energy, and weapons, it could include the already impressive renewable energy infrastructure. Emphasize the renewable energy markets and the total budget may significantly decrease. Hanford might not be happy about it, but would possibly get more emphasis on cleaning up the site.
Education – That’s a tough one. I’d assume no change until some innovation is accepted.
Intelligence – CIA, FBI, NSA, NRO, some semblance of them would be necessary, but again, it would probably be proportionally smaller; and possibly more focused on industrial rather than military needs.
Defense and Veterans Affairs (and I’ll include the various security services) – This may be the only one trickier than Treasury. It would be difficult to imagine a new region spending the same proportion of the budget on the military. That would be a significant budget improvement. It would also be difficult to negotiate the status and operation of the US military bases. Because of the region’s location, they can’t be readily moved. But, that’s a situation the current Department of Defense negotiates in dozens of countries. There are precedents. As for border security and such, if the region is no longer identified as The United States of America, would it be as much of a target? Perhaps the only targets would be those military bases. That is worrisome considering the nuclear arsenals. Very strong benefits and difficulties. Hopefully, the Coast Guard would be as important as ever.
A new region would probably create new bureaus and bureaucracies. Washington is already known for a mix of liberalism, libertarian values, and conservatism. Despite being known for diversity, there’s more than enough internal conflicts to keep such an event from occurring.
To me, the biggest swingers would be a monetary system and the military presence. To my personal finances, there’s the potential for little change and a possible improvement because the federal taxes and benefits already almost balance but on the side of more taxes out than benefits in.
That’s a long way to go to get back to effectively no difference, but that’s on a governmental level. On a personal level, my income may improve if people are drawn to move here, and also to move away. (Real estate brokers get involved in both.) My tax expenses may not change, but I suspect eventually there’d be better social services. Social services are valuable. Interest rates would probably be much higher until financial institutions gained confidence in the new government and region.
Being on an island also provides a buffer. Islanders tend to be more independent from necessity. Being on an island that includes a Naval Air Station (which must be capitalized) means also having a front row seat to one of the major contentious points.
Over 1,500 words for something that probably won’t happen. And yet, now is a good time to consider such possibilities. Considering them after they become realities can be too late.
Robert Heinlein wrote a story, in the 1980’s, called Friday. In it, the US has Balkanized into 7-8 different countries/nation states. Reading your musings here reminded me of that. Friday wasn’t about that Balkanization but was a background. Each “country” had it’s own culture, personality, tech level, etc. In thinking about it, I don’t see how this happens without a significant level of violence.
Hence the reference to the Louisiana and Alaska Purchases.