Two weeks ago I introduced the idea of splitting the United States into two distinct countries, and I provided data indicating that the southeastern states were, de facto, pretty much doing this already. These states generally score low on the Human Development Index, tax their residents at low rates compared to other states, and send conservative legislators to Congress, where they block progressive legislation backed by a majority of Americans (universal health care being just one current example).
So, the question arises, why not separate formally into two distinct countries, permitting both to treat their citizens in a manner consistent with their political philosophies? Then the people who want low (or zero) taxes could live in the south and dismantle their educational and social welfare systems, while those who have a better developed sense of social justice could live in the north and develop top quality schools, hospitals, and support networks, taxing themselves accordingly.
Yes, I know it's been tried before. But circumstances change. There is no danger now of a resurgence of overt slavery based on race. This time, the north would have no incentive to oppose succession; "good riddance" would be a more logical response.
Or would it? Aside from the obvious logistical and political problems, this country's massive dilemma is much too complicated for a geographical solution.
First, and probably least important, our states are not homogeneous. So-called red states contain pockets of blue voters, and vice-versa. Even if people wanted to move to their "country of choice," the process of leaving existing homes and jobs would be disruptive at best and completely impossible for many. You think it's tough being a liberal in Mississippi now? Wait until you're only 1% of the population and the Supreme Court rules that "free speech" no longer includes dissenting from popular views. (I can't help wondering: would the ACLU be permitted to exist in a "new south"?)
Secondly, this "solution" doesn't solve the long-range problems inherent in a world where isolation is neither desirable nor possible. Unless travel between the two countries was prohibited, contagious diseases could easily spill over the border. And atmospheric pollution knows no boundaries; if the planet warms up quickly due to complete deregulation of coal-fired utility plants in the south, fences along the Mason-Dixon line will not protect those who are willing to tax themselves to maintain a healthy planet.
Thirdly, how long would the north tolerate the extreme conditions that would probably develop in states controlled by reactionaries and the self-interested upper class unfettered by our current federal laws? Ethical standards occasionally result in international intervention (e.g. to prevent genocide and famine). Conditions might develop in the south that would eventually cause Civil War II -- and how unfortunate that would be!
Finally, I doubt that geographic separation provides the best model for the resolution of human differences. Regardless of political labels, liberals and conservatives don't agree even among themselves on everything. One imagines that substantive debates already do and would still occur in the cities of Berkely and Tuscaloosa. What are the residents going to do then -- move to the extreme eastern and western boundaries of the existing metropolis and declare that there are really two legally different cities? And the process of continuous fragmentation could continue indefinitely, as new issues would inevitably arise. Do we really want to see several million countries in the world?
No, let's not take that course of action. Let's move decisions to the lowest reasonable level of government, to allow individual enclaves to live in a manner of their choosing so long as the "externalities" (negative influences on surrounding people) are minimized. Let's facilitate better communication strategies among dissenting groups and encourage tolerance and compromise where possible. Oh, by the way, we probably also need to find a way to isolate politicians at ALL levels of government from the influence of wealthy self-interests. If decisions on health-care were made in 50 different political venues, drug company, insurance company, private sector hospital, and physician association lobbyists would be showing up in all of them, showering money on as many state legislators as necessary. (You say that already happens? Gee, we do have some intractable problems, don't we?)
I guess the National Football League won't have to change its name anytime soon.