A great deal of the hand-wringing over the Electoral College and the results of the recent election is due to the undue influence big states like California have on national politics – or how they would, were it not for the Electoral College. Here’s an interesting idea how to fix that – re-draw state lines along population and cultural lines. Excerpt:
The answer lies in limiting state size to a human scale in which human beings can still associate, travel, and trade across jurisdictional boundaries without incurring a great cost. The standard for “great cost” is subjective, of course, and over time has changed substantially. The cost of traveling 50 miles in the 16th century, for example, is significantly different form the cost of traveling the same distance today.
There are ongoing attempts by geographers, however, to determine the “natural” size of a region that encompasses a population’s economic, political, and social institutions. In a recent study, for example, Garret Dash Nelson and Alasdair Rae attempted to identify regions that “have been substantively tied together by the forces of urban development, telecommunications, the frictionless circulation of capital, and the consolidation of both public and private institutions.”
Basing their standard of scale on tolerance for commute times, the geographers selected 50-mile commutes as an indicator of how closely tied together is a specific region.
Here’s the commute time map and the resulting new state-line map:
Here’s my concern with this idea; note how the new, proposed state lines are drawn. Note that they are all centered on major metropolitan areas. Given the increasing urbanization of our population, that’s not surprising.
But the political divides in our country now are primarily rural v. urban, with some suburbs going either way (as you might expect.) This proposal places a major urban area at the heart of each of the new States; that alone threatens to aggravate this divide.
It’s more likely that the United States will balkanize altogether. Alaska and Texas in particular have more than sufficient infrastructure and resources to go it alone, given their current populations. I’ve written on the subject before, and I think it’s a far more likely outcome than completely re-drawing State lines.
But either would signal the end of the United States as we know it. I hope I don’t live to see either happen.