The coming break-up

If the US Civil War over southern separatism is our guide to this nation’s coming break-up, most state constitutions will remain in place as governing documents, while any interstate confederation would most probably be modeled on parts of the current US Constitution—though with the significant changes.

Constitution-making in the Confederacy witnessed not just further entrenchment of unconscionable chattel slavery, but also the first Department of Justice, a national citizenship requirement for voting, no functioning supreme court, a six-year term limit for president, civil service reform, strictures against protective tariffs, a district court structure, disavowal of the Monroe Doctrine, and provisions for a presidential item veto, executive budget, and no recess appointments.

Am I recommending all of that? No. What I am however doing is asking this question: How else are we to get a parallel version of this range of substantive change without breaking up the country? (And those appalled by any reference to the Confederacy might want to remember that four states—Vermont, Texas, California and Hawaii—opted to give up their sovereignty to join the Union–so why is the reverse out of the question?)

Be that as it may, when the-now US breaks up, a cadre of professionals will be needed who keep their government services operating under the new conditions. The immediate decline in security and economic growth that comes with the break-up means priority would have to be to keeping the control rooms of our critical infrastructures in hospitals, energy, water, telecommunications, transportation, and public safety operating as reliably as possible. These systems frequently cross current state borders, and the challenge will be to continue inter-regional collaboration for their operation until alternatives—if needed and on the fly—are devised.

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Whoa! Stop right there, buddy. This is Pandora’s box, you’re opening. We’ve tried those Big Experiments!! What more do we need than the intervening decades to convince us that the more radical the social experiment, the deadlier the bolt-hole utopia realized?

Yet it’s easier to dismiss a massive social experiment than it is to ignore the more massive laboratory of modern life. (If utopias fail and if utopia and failure go together, when then does recovery from failed utopianism end and a new normal begin? Answer: There is no normal, when this very big laboratory can’t tell the difference between the experiment and recovery.)

But break up the country? you press. No, no, and again no: absolutely not. After all, our current Constitution is a living document. . .

I do not see how anyone can pretend that the Constitution we now have is a living organism, able to evolve into the mandates we demand of it. “You would have to be an idiot to believe that,” said Justice Scalia, who to my mind was right on this point. When it comes to the legal document that I can vote for with my feet, I want privacy rights guaranteed constitutionally and, puh-leese, none of that bald canard about corporations being fictive, immortal individuals.

Yes, of course, we all must avoid a replay of the mass migration and slaughter like that which followed the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan.

As a sign of willingness to compromise, I for one am quite willing to let the boys keep beltway Reaganland and its airport; if they want Bozo the Prez as their own, let them; I really don’t care whether the schismatics call another breakaway, Prophetland or Profitland. As for Mexifornia, it’s way ok by me.

Principal sources

My Confederacy material draws from: (1) W.B. Yearns (1960), The Confederate Congress, University of Georgia Press: Athens, GA; R. Bensel (1990), Yankee Leviathan: The Origins of Central State Authority in America, 1859-1877. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK: Chapter 3; P. Van Riper and H. Scheiber (1959), “The Confederate Civil Service,” The Journal of Southern History, 25(4): 448-470; C.R. Lee (1963), The Confederate Constitutions, Greenwood Press Publishers: Westport, CN; and E. Thomas (1979), The Confederate Nation: 1861-1865, Harper & Row: New York, NY.

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