There’s been news lately about States who’s citizens were sending in Secession petitions. All full of drama and with a faint whiff of fireworks in the air.
It won’t happen, and it won’t work. It’s just self delusional theatre.
Why? Because “Demographics is destiny”.
At this site there is an interesting map of the demographically adjusted ‘red states’ and ‘blue states’. They make it clear why nothing will happen to change our present trajectory. Bear in mind that it takes either a 2/3 vote of BOTH House and Senate to make a constitutional convention OR 2/3 of the State Legislatures and it is only via a change to the Constitution that the Several States can reclaim their authority and grant to themselves the power to leave. (Thanks to The War Between The States aftermath, their is a Supreme Court Ruling saying the States are now forever chattel to the Federal Government. Permanently in bondage, like it or not. That would require an overriding finding that can only come from that same Federal Government via new legislation – that would also have to be accepted by the Supremes – or via Constitutional Amendment). Any proposed Amendment then takes 3/4 of the States to ratify. So our hurdle rate is 3/4 one way or the other.
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
So lets look at a couple of those maps. First up, the ‘straight State Map’:
Right off the bat we can see that there is a less than 3/4 to ratify. (Hawaii and Alaska are missing due to the difficulty of making the other, shape adjusted to population, maps; per the author site.) Count the “Red States” and it isn’t even 2/3.
Some folks will have seen a ‘by county’ map, showing most of the country is “Red State Country”. It’s even more impressive, but remember that most of those counties are very sparsely populated.
So why don’t all those Red Counties just band together and exit the Union?
It’s a truism of Political Economy that “Demographics is destiny”. Look carefully at that county map and you will notice bright blue splotches where there is a high population density. Yes, some small exceptions, and some more rural areas are blue, too, like that band along the Texas / Mexico border (wonder how many there are, or were, illegal aliens?)
But look at California as an easy example. San Francisco and the L.A. basin are the core of the Progressive California. Inland farm country much more conservative. There is a band of blue that reaches up to the Las Vegas patch in southern Nevada. Oddly, this same problem plays out in microcosm there. A big chunk of that is San Bernardino County where the 90% of it that is rural has been trying to break off from the major urban city that dominates them with ‘progressive’ policies… It is that big blue squarish splotch that connects the L.A. basin to the Las Vegas lump. THE major urban area is down in a tiny corner of it next to Los Angeles.
The center of New Mexico also shows up blue ( I’m sure those large Government Laboratory facilities have little to do with it /sarcoff>; )
So the problem, in a nutshell, is that the majority of the LAND is conservative, but the majority of the POPULATION would rather “vote for itself the largess of the public purse”.
A couple of more maps (the link as several more than I’m going to put here) shows the states and the counties shaded by population and adjusted to size match population. First will be ‘red / blue’, then ‘red / purple / blue’ showing that even in the rural areas, the population skews from just red / blue.
Here’s a population adjusted by State map:
UPDATE: Electoral College Map
I’m adding this map that is “States by Electoral College Vote” so folks can see the comparative difference. It isn’t all that much, really.
Now back to the original…
By county, the shape distorting becomes even worse, but it does illustrate the problem of the dominance of the rural areas by the urban, even the smaller urban areas inside counties dominate and distort them.
But it gets even worse than that. If we allow a purple color for those places with a more even vote, the ‘clearly red’ spaces shrink even more.
And the size proportionate to population version:
What are the odds of getting 3/4 of that map to ‘vote separatist red’?
Tyranny Of The Cities
IMHO, this is just the Tyranny Of The Cities. It was recognized by our founders that if we ever became urbanized ‘like the Europeans’ the form of government they were designing would fail. I think that day has come. There is a famous quote to that effect that I can’t look up right now due to some time pressures / obligations. Perhaps someone else can find it.
WHY does this happen?
I think it all comes down to the political power concentration in urban collectives. In a rural area, land is power. If you farm your land well, and are frugal, you get more money and buy more land. Power accumulates to those who are most efficient and frugal. The smartest and the most industrious. There isn’t a lot of room for political maneuvering to change that. Furthermore, folks on a farm “20 miles from nowhere” are, by definition, self reliant. You run your own water systems, sewer system, sometimes even electric power systems. Food is stored locally (and often produced at home too). Most farms have their own machinery repair facilities and fuel depot. This also makes them more market oriented. IFF your present fuel provider jacks the price up too much, you are more likely to find another provider (especially when buying thousands of gallons a year) or even get your own truck and ‘deliver your own’.
Compare that to a city. Let’s use Taxis as an example. One lone cab driver in a city is in a cutthroat operation against much larger competitors. “Fattest Wallet Wins” in a game like that. Fairly rapidly, the larger players run the little ones out of business. Wages get suppressed both for the lone operator AND for all the other drives where the Fat Wallet only offers the minimum wage the market will bear. The Fat Wallet further knows that Political Skill will make him more money than competition. So he, over dinner with “His Friend The Mayor” (to whom he ‘graciously’ donates…) suggest a Taxi Medallion program. After all, the city deserves to have well maintained well run (and ‘well connected’…) Taxi Operations, not some rag tag collection of ‘fly by night operators’. So the political connection gets a ‘licensing’ or ‘medallion’ program in place. The Mayor gets a fat contribution. The City gets an annual Medallion Fee of, say $50,000 / company that assures no ‘one man operation’ can ever start. The Fat Wallet Taxi Company gets a near monopoly (as they already hold over 1/2 the total operations and get to buy out most of the rest in the ‘licensing’ turmoil). Then, as “Medallions” are limited, even outside competition has trouble getting enough of them to be effective competition. Taxi Prices rise nicely. Everyone it seems is happy… Except the near-nothing wage drives and the passengers paying monopoly prices….
So the Taxi Drivers form a Taxi Drivers Union. They can now get more benefit from Political Power then from any sort of competitive free market. Their Union Boss takes HIS slush fund to The Mayor (AND City Council…) and gets two things. One, a “minimum wage” to keep out ‘fly by nights’ (NOBODY wants free market competition here…) and a LIMIT on the number of Medallions (only HIS membership to get those Medallions) along with recognition of the union and their right to strike. Perhaps even a law on the books saying unions can strike and “scabs” can’t be used for union busting. Now his members go out on strike for ‘more wages’. It is quite possible that the Union Bosses even are smart enough to whisper to The Mayor that they will accept a limit on new Medallions in exchange for all this, and let The Mayor talk The Fat Wallet Taxi Company into accepting the union in exchange for a perpetual monopoly on Medallions. In the end, everyone is happy. The Fat Wallet has a monopoly business (or oligopoly near-monopoly) often with The City Council setting mandated (very high) prices. The Cabbies Union gets nice fat wages for the wage slave drivers. The Mayor and City Council get nice fat donations from both sides. Win Win Win!… Except for the poor rubes who have to pay $4 / mile instead of $0.50 a mile and can’t share cabs by law as we saw in NYC during Sandy.
Now what did all those players learn in that process? They all, every last one, learned that political influence is that path to a better life and free markets are bad for them. Repeat that process a thousand times in a thousand different industries.
Furthermore, the urban population is, by definition, highly ‘dependent’. Everything. Food, water, clothes, entertainment. It all comes from “someone else” and “somewhere else”. They are all highly interested in stability over efficiency and do not want ‘disruption’. Markets are disruptive. As they are dependent, they feel powerless and want something to hang onto for a feeling of ‘control’. That is their vote for their government. The politician who says “Vote for me and I’ll assure safe clean Taxis” gets the vote. (So off he goes to lunch with his friends at The Fat Wallet Taxi Company)…
Now let this run for a generation or so and pretty soon that population is largely adapted to a world where markets do NOT get you what you want, while political influence does. Don’t like the Taxi service? Complain to the Mayor. After all, he can shake down the Fat Wallet Taxi Company better than you can with your piddly $10 fair (inflation, you know…) You want better pay? Get your union to talk to The Mayor. The only way the Street Sweepers can get more money than The Librarians is if THEIR Union is better connected than the other guy. The Police, Firemen, Utility Workers, heck, even the Maids and Bakers. How do you get more money? Political Influence and A Union. It ends up looking like sheer folly to advocate for ‘destructive competition’ in a ‘free market’… So ever more of The Voters vote in keeping with the politics driven order of things.
Oh, and a sidebar on land: In cities, the land was long ago divvied up among a few who are now very wealthy. You can’t just walk in as a small operator and buy a small plot and work it, being frugal, and grow the size each year by your own labor. What matters most is size and connections. The City Planning Committee decides who gets permits for what and what can be built were. Eminent Domain lets big operations wipe out small. THE thing that matters most to that land value is political influence. Who gets a permit for what.
In the end, we have these incestuous interdependent and interlocking power broker driven systems where the way to get more is to grease the right ‘wheels’ (palms?) and form social collectives. Be they The Land Owners Association or The Union or The Party. There is little value or interest in traditional values like Free Market Capitalism and Self Reliance. “Everyone knows” that advancement comes through influence (buying, selling, or peddling) and ‘connections’. What’s the point of “work hard to get ahead” or even of “be frugal”, when what you make can be taken by an act of The City Council and when the guy who takes The Mayor to lunch with a paper bag NOT holding sandwiches can make more money?
Our urban areas inevitably embrace The Collective and embrace that vision of how things ought to be. Teachers Unions shape the schools. Fat Wallets the urban landscape and planning commissions. Bakers Unions what you pay for bread (or Twinkies…) And the relative number of and wages for Police, Fire Fighters, Garbage Collectors, Transit Workers, Taxi Drivers, Waiters & Waitresses, Hairdressers, etc. etc. are all set by THEIR unions and how connected they are to The Mayor and City Council. (After all, if The Council votes to limit the number of restaurant licenses and require that they pay $15 / hour, where else can you go for lunch? Leave downtown Chicago and spend all day driving (or taking the Taxi?…) out of town?)
So once that happens, the city dwellers know that the way THEY gain is via MORE power for government and unions. NOT less (and certainly not for ‘free markets’).
IMHO, it all stems from the “Local Monopoly” power of an urban area. Not just the local monopoly on land where a building owner may own a square mile of downtown, and thus 50,000 population or so; but also the local monopoly on law, unions, rule making of all sorts. This local monopoly corrupts the political process ( from my POV. From their POV it is just ‘business as usual’ and ‘how things get done’) at the expense of the markets and consumers. The residents of that urban area are hostage to it. Few have the ability to leave. And where would they go? ANOTHER urban area with the same problems? Out into that cold and hostile world of rural competition? They are not land holders, after all, so would end up competing for scraps in a poor rural economy. No, they are trapped in the Urban Jungle. And the way to hang on is to ‘form a collective’… so they do.
And that, IMHO, is the real reason why secession dreams are doomed to fail. ANY area that is formed will have an urban core (or cores). They will have this same dynamic. You can shift things a little bit by spitting out a NYC or L.A. Basin, but look again at that map of Texas ‘by county’. You can pretty much see each of the major cities as blue counties. Look again at that map of ‘purple / proportional’ and notice that the Red is limited to just wispy strands. Bits of raspberry jam smashed between urban influence centers. Those rural bits can, at most, shift WHICH urban area tells them what to do, how to live, and what to value, but not eliminate it.
Demographics is Destiny. And it is only a matter of time.
We are becoming ever more urban, both in the USA and Globally. This Tyranny Of The Cities also explains why Agenda 21 is so interested in clearing the rural population off the land. The Cities want ‘stability’ in THEIR food supply. And don’t kid yourself. That’s all the rural areas are. A place to provide for the needs of the cities. To be dominated and controlled. Captive and held thrall. You might be able to find some corner somewhere to ‘hide out’ for a while, but only if it is an uninteresting corner and lacking in things The Cities want.
Is there any way out of this mess?
Probably not. I suppose one could have a system where any City over, say, a Million population would become a County, or maybe even a State. Divide things so that Cities ran the House and Non-City counties ran the Senate. But even that is a bit of a ‘stop gap’. As long as the local monopoly power in the cities is used in self dealing and self serving (and that will be as long as humans are political animals) power will concentrate and corrupt. That concentrated power will then be used to dominate the land areas around the cities (likely via a corporate conglomeration system of ‘Agribusiness’ driving out private land holders). Eventually even the rural areas will find that Political Influence is the only way to ‘get more’ via some kind of ‘countervailing force’ to the multi-national agribusiness combines.
And once everything is run through the political process, rather than private ownership and free markets, well, that ‘collective’ is, basically, the Socialist Way…
Could there be some way to reverse / avoid this? Perhaps, but I don’t see how.
It is highly unlikely that a ‘back to the land’ movement would happen, even if a collapse of mechanized farming advantages somehow happened. Farming is hard dirty tough work and few folks want it, or can do it well. Certainly not well enough to survive at it. It requires a wide range of talents and understanding. Most city people have one or two things they can do, and ‘middling well’ at that.
It is highly unlikely that urban politics will suddenly embrace market forces instead of laws, rule making, permits, licenses and fees.
It is highly unlikely that unions will stop pushing for more control and influence. Buying more favor for their members.
And it is very highly unlikely that folks will stop voting for those things, as they deliver more ‘goodies’ to them individually (even if the economy overall has less).
In short, I think we are stuck with Monopoly Economics (even if only ‘local monopolies’ inside cities) where the result is not optimized for the economy as a whole, but is optimal for the monopolist. That, then, leads to the formation of Monopsony (one buyer) countervailing force models. We end up with a grid of sub-optimal non-market players and the ‘deal making’ via political power between them. Breaking those processes would require a fundamental change to the dynamics of local big city government that just is not going to happen. It is rooted in the inevitability of ‘local monopoly’ in land and rule making; and those folks will not give up that power.
This does give a hint to the ‘few of us’ who want to be left alone, are not all that ‘political power’ oriented, and don’t need a solution that will last 50 years.
Look to rural counties with no major city.
As this dynamic ought to operate in any country of the world, the conclusion is that any Country with a major urban center (or several of them) will be similarly afflicted. Since “it’s not what you know buy who you know” will dominate there, and as a foreigner you won’t know anyone, they are unlikely to be advantageous. Looking to smaller political divisions ‘out in the boonies’ might be better.
It also implies that it won’t matter much which country one looks at. Yes, there will be some variation based on historical artifacts, cultural norms, and state of ‘progress’ down the path. But the fundamentals ought to hold. So Paris, London, Berlin, New York, Mexico City, etc. etc. all ought to have similar ‘issues’.
Were it not for the likely very very cold next 20 years, I think I’d be planning a trip to rural Alaska…
On the investment side, this implies that looking at the skill of the CEO and Board Of Directors in establishing Political Friends will be more important than actual economic skill, especially going forward. (That would explain a lot about GE and various light bulb laws and windmill mandates…) So keeping track of who has lunch with whom in government is likely as valuable as the factory floor. Or perhaps more so. Much as in China knowing who is rising or falling in favor in The Party is the key to success.
So just like we had “Friends Of Bill” and during TARP / Bailout the “Friends Of Pelosi” pocketed $Billions, the “Friends Of Obama” will be the ones to win favor now. Not just political favor, direct cash value economic favor. Forget what makes economic sense, what matters is political connection. So windmills are a dumb idea economically and worse in terms of grid engineering problems; but via GE ‘well connected’. Bet with the ‘well connected’ not with the ‘right’. (Just be ready to bail out when the inevitable technical / economic realty crushes the political fancy).
And don’t expect that you can ‘quit the game’. Hide for a little while, in some small rural corners? Sure. But this is a game you can’t leave… and you will be made “offers you can’t refuse”.
That’s what I see in the demographics, as collective destiny.