Suggested title: An American Brexit
Contemplate the idea of Coors as an imported beer. While the British consider “Brexit” on Thursday, I would like to lovingly, gently, and respectfully offer an idea for Americans to consider. Perhaps, we all could live happier lives if we parted into two countries. In 1861 we tried a “shotgun divorce” and that wasn’t right. Today, it is time to realize that we have simply grown apart from each other. None of us wanted this to happen. “It’s not you, it’s me.” We have different values and want to live differently. Can we agree to remain friends and go our separate ways with each other’s’ blessings?
All of the important Supreme Court decisions seem to be settled by 5-4 votes. The recent presidential elections have all split nearly down the middle. The two different countries would divide approximately into the camps outlined by the visions of liberals (or progressives) and conservatives. You’ve lived with all of these differences and know exactly what they are. Barack Obama nicely outlined the liberal vision in the “Life of Julia” slideshow. Julia is provided government programs throughout her life starting with Head Start in preschool, then subsidized college tuition, federal health care, subsidized small business loans, and programs in retirement such as Medicare and Social Security. The liberal vision is one of intimate-relationship and sexual freedom, government directing a large portion of the economy, gun control, the belief that people are inherently good and only need education to realize that goodness, liberal abortion access, open borders and immigration, etc.
The conservative vision includes a limited role for government to maximize individual autonomy (for example, no federal role for K-12 education, that government can become something suspicious if it grows too large), a priority on the nuclear family as a pillar of society, government that ensures equal opportunity rather than equal outcomes, the belief that people are inherently flawed and need forgiveness and redemption, the sanctity of human life, controlled borders and immigration, etc.
Many couples start divorces amicably and discover “the devil is in the details” as many points of contention arise. The same could be true of dividing a country. Presumably, all of the important matters can be predicted and the separation would take place slowly, over a period of years.
The very first issue could be one of the stickiest. Which people will become citizens of which country? Some states are conservative except for a very large city (Illinois, Oregon), so dividing by state would satisfy the majority of the people in a state, but geographically, ironically, almost none of the state. Would the states need to be contiguous? The “blue” states tend to be in the far west and the northeast. With today’s easy transportation and the example of Alaska, having contiguous geography does not seem to be a necessity. After all, the United States was founded on an idea, a set of principles, rather than a shared culture.
What would the currency be for each country be for each country? Would we want the dollar to transcend nationalities as the euro now does in much of Europe? Who would be responsible for the federal deficit? How do we divide the military? The use of the military is quite different in the liberal and conservative visions, so each new country probably needs its own. Who would get Amtrak (yikes!)?
It will take some deep thought and difficult work, but liberals would be much happier in a country with far fewer guns and conservatives would be much happier in a country with far fewer abortions. Think of the other advantages. A southern or New England accent will start to sound as cool as an Australian one. Relish the fierce sporting competitions the two countries would have. It is more exotic to marry someone from another country and this split would make that far easier. Perhaps, sometime in the not-too-distant future, Americans will be voting on our own equivalent of the Brexit.