Split up Afghanistan, Iraq, and California?

The July 28 Newsweek contains an article on how much difficulty the citizens of California are having in governing themselves.  If you live in New Hampshire you are forced to deal with one enormous unresponsive and remote government (the Federales) but your state and local governments are reasonably comprehensive and tractable.  California, however, has an economy bigger than France’s, a population of around 36 million (see this study, which notes that population growth in California every year adds the equivalent of the state of Vermont), and a geographic area larger than Japan’s.  What interests does a rancher on the barren plains of NE California have in common with a recent Vietnamese immigrant in central San Diego?  How is the average citizen of California supposed to be able to comprehend a $38 billion state budget deficit?  ($38 billion is enough to purchase the U.S. Navy’s entire fleet of 8 Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.)

Wouldn’t Californians be happier if they were broken up into the following states:

1) San Diego and its exurbs

2) Los Angeles and its exurbs, including Santa Barbara

3) Palm Springs and the surrounding desert

4) Central (the Big Sur coast all the way inland)

5) San Francisco/Sacramento and their exurbs

6) Northern California, capital at Chico or Santa Rosa (redwoods, ranches, etc.)

Now we have six reasonable size states in which citizens are usually within a 2-hour drive from their state government officials and never more than a 5-hour drive from their state capitol.

Comments from California readers?

20 thoughts on “Split up Afghanistan, Iraq, and California?

  1. As a native Californian, I think this is a great idea. Who would you propose as Governors for each of the new states?

  2. A two way split is and has been a very real possibility. Cutting the baby into into North California (liberal) and South California (conservative) states just might fly. I don’t think anyone would agree to a five way split since it would leave individuals states without much national clout.

    And while we are rearranging the country you might consider a two way split of New York State – pretty much the NYC megalopolis vs “up state” or “everything else” New York. Then allow the State of NYC to annex Vermont (and maybe even the Berkshires of Mass). There is nothing in the constitution that says states have to have to be comprised of contiguous land masses. Please note up until 1820 Maine was part of Massachusetts and it was not contiguous.

    An how about Washington state ceding itself to Canada. Microsoft might get some short term anti-trust relief.

    The possibilities are endless and quite interesting.

  3. I can’t wait to find out what you would name these new states. Plus think of all the state flags, flowers and animals that would have to be decided on. All the political arguing over such matters might create eternal deadlock.

    Furthermore, more stars on the flag would encroach on our national colors, red white and blue. God or even George Bush might have a very difficult time with this.

  4. The difficulty would not necessarily be in getting Californians to accept a split, rather the rest of the country. With a five way split, we’d be adding an additional 8 Senators. Since every state has the same number of Senators regardless of population, the citizens of smaller states have vastly less more representation there than do the citizens of larger states. I doubt that they’d give up their power so easily. I’d rather California just said the hell with it, and went it alone. With an economy larger than France, and more land than Japan, why couldn’t we? (The $38 billion deficit, for one…)

  5. The concept is nice. In addition to the extra power California would wield in the Senate, it would demolish the electoral power of the religious right, and prevent the spectacle of Bush v Gore from happening again. But those are exactly the reasons it will never happen.

    As an aside, we all know that the only state Constitutionally allowed to subdivide is Texas. Try to get your head around what that one would do.

  6. Hey what about Orange County? Conservatives, post-suburbia edge cities, cultural wasteland, growing ethnic enclaves, and Disneyland. Distinctly different then LA. The Mouse could be our governor. Seriously though, fragmentation of California, would lead to more governmental inefficiency not less. Though hypothetically interesting chopping something like California up into little pieces would do little to solve the more systematic problems that manifest, such as pathetic voter turnout, useless politically motivate propositions (or recalls), or moronic policy decisions by our local leaders and in Sacramento.

  7. Splitting California into North and South has been mooted many times (there really is not much in common between denizens of LA and San Francisco). The state population is very heavily skewed towards the south, however, and desertic LA needs the potential water reserves of North California too much (when they are no longer able to suck the Colorado dry because they have to share it with neighboring states) for its voters to countenance a split.

    The end result is that the Californian voter wields 1/60th the power of the average Wisconsin voter in the Senate. Some democracy we have…

  8. Others have noted the past discussion of splitting California in two. Going back a bit further, the northern tip of the state was set to join southern Oregon in a new state called Jefferson. However, the vote in Congress was scheduled for December 8, 1941, and somehow it never quite happened.

    I think your proposed split would make residents of four of those areas quite happy. California has earned the nickname “People’s Republic of California,” but the socialists are actually concentrated in the areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Voters in the remainder of California (and even about 40% of those areas) are much more like normal westerners.

    So, this would give four more western states but only one more People’s Republic–I don’t think the Democrats would go for that.

  9. I think this makes two good points.

    One is that the style of government is not nearly as important as the size of the government.

    The other is that governments should follow bio-regional boundaries. For example having two state governments on two sides of a major river is a legacy of our belligerent past and the natural defense the river provides. Today and in the future a divided river is more likely to cause a war than prevent one.

  10. It’s not just California.

    There has been a lot of talk for years about Chicago and the rest of Illinois. Running North to South along Lake Michigan from Kenosha (in southern Wisconsin) to Chicago is one of the richest and economically viable pieces of real estate in the nation. City and suburbs are practically one megalopolis already, since they are all connected and run non-stop.

    The problem is the huge economic disparity that exists between Chicago and the rest of the state (euphamastically referred to as “Downstate” — even out west over in Rockford). School funding is one such example of this disparity. Because Illinois funds its schools primarily from property taxes, the richer suburbs spend much more money per student than the downstate districts can afford. The net result are huge high schools that resemble junior colleges up in the north suburbs and aging, decrepid schools that are falling apart everywhere else.

    Chicago and Illinois. The newest 51st state. Oy…

  11. I think splitting in three makes good sense. The nothern most portion from Sonoma county north, the middle portion which includes Marin, SF and points south thru Monterey, and a southern part that extends to the Mexican border. Even have the names for them: Log, Fog, and Smog.

  12. Its all a moot point…Calif is gonna fall into the sea soon, right? Come on, Hollywoods gotta be good for something!

  13. Despite all the possible benefits of splitting up California, it will not happen; first, there is water (North has, South needs), and second, there is business tax revenue (South has, North needs). It is what it is, we have to muddle along…


  14. Oh, c’mon, if you’re gonna dream, dream big – abolish the states! Clearly, all of the talk here demonstrates that the concept of a state is obsolete, at least the way they are currently mapped out. Urban vs Rural distinctions make infinitely more sense than states. What’s the real difference between Nebraska and Kansas? Absolutely none. And the previous poster who mentioned there’s no rule states have to be contiguous is correct – check out Michigan sometime. Merging Texas and Oklahoma would make a lot of sense, same with Arizona and New Mexico. North & South Carolina > Carolina. Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana. Illinois & Indiana. All sorts of possibilities of merging existing states, in addition to splitting some up. Or split states up differently – instead of Washington & Oregon as currently, split them vertically along the mountains – that makes a LOT more sense. And extend the coastal portion down to San Francisco – that’s an area that has a lot in common!

  15. My favorite line for a California split was suggested on rec.backcountry by Eugene Miya. It is this: Alta California is everything OVER 8000 feet above sea level, and Baja is the rest. Contiguous? Ha. Fractal, almost.

  16. Four-way – log, fog, smog, as suggested by Phil Baker, but then a vertical split running down the Sierra crest from the log/fog boundary then south from Walker Pass to the point where the Colorado enters the Gulf of California. Relatively unpopulated, but with substantial water resources (LA Aqueduct and Colorado River rights), and vastly different concerns than the other three substates.

  17. Where do you suppose these new states receive their water? Water has always been at the heart of the North-South, Rural-Urban divide. By the time the water projects of California are rendered obsolete technology should be sufficient enough to render the distance between cities and regions negligible.

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