Too big to go on?

California is a big state. Larger than some countries, even.

In the United States, it has the country's largest population, 38 million, and is the third largest in area. Extremely diverse, the "first" language is English, but it has a huge percentage (almost 33 percent) of "multi-lingual" residents. Thirty-eight percent of Californians are of Hispanic descent.

There's a significant number of Chinese-speakers (2.8 percent) and even speakers of Tagalog (2.2 percent), a language spoken in the Phillipines. It has the highest concentration of Korean-speakers in the US.

California has a GDP higher than many countries, even big ones like Canada and Turkey.

In short, in every respect California is a really big state.

And according to at least one influential voice, it's too big. 

Tim Draper, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist behind success stories like Skype and Baidu (a Chinese web-services company), actually wants to divide the state up into six separate, smaller states. NBC News reported on the story Friday, quoting Draper as saying the change would bring about "better representation".

The change, says Draper, would also "shake things up," the story continued, "and 'refresh,' with new ideas, better executed."

Chuck Reed, the mayor of San Jose — Silicon Valley's largest city — likes the idea as well. "It's absolutely appealing to cut ourselves off from the drag of the rest of California," he said.

Cutting off and starting over are both a big part of the American story.

For example, after religious dissident Roger Williams left the conformity of Massachusetts he established a new colony based on tolerance. "Rhode Island became renowned among [the] colonies for the unparalleled freedom enjoyed by all individuals, including women and Indians," wrote Wendy McElroy in her excellent essay, "Roger Williams: The Separation of Conscience and State".

The American Revolution itself separated our country from Great Britain, providing our forefathers the opportunity to implement new ideas that certainly shook things up. Many historians describe the "revolution" as actually being a successful secession.

During the War of 1812, it was northerners, specifically New Englanders, sympathetic to Britain and hostile to threats of a military draft, who wanted to secede from the Union and re-establish stronger economic ties to England.

In the decades leading up to the "civil war" — which wasn't really a civil war, but a war of secession — the growing cultural and economic differences between two regions of the country seemed increasingly irreconcilable. Slavery was a major issue, to be sure, but so too was southern opposition to the so-called "American System".

That system benefited the northern industrial states at the expense of southern agriculturalists, and stifled southerners' desire for freer trade. (For more on this, see Charles Adams's excellent book, When In the Course of Human Events.) They wanted to cut themselves off, and form their own union of states.

The first century-and-a-half of our history also involved the steady movement of people west to establish new territories that would eventually — some, like Texas, after a while, and others rather quickly — apply for statehood. Sometimes large territories became several new states. 

The Framers of the US Constitution recognized another way of starting over, providing in Article IV, Section 3, the means by which a new state can be created out of part of an existing state. Just a few weeks ago five northern Colorado counties voted by comfortable to wide margins in favor of forming a new state (six counties involved voted against the initiative, by varying margins.)

Separation, to whatever degree effected, is the best means by which one group of people can peacefully pursue fresh, new ideas — or, sometimes, preserve old ones — without interference from established political, religious, or economic interests. 

Besides having history and the Constitution on their side, Tim Draper and Chuck Reed are in pretty diverse and interesting company.

For example, Kirkpatrick Sale, an ultra-leftist, is a very prominent and respected figure behind the Second Vermont Republic, a secessionist movement in the Green Mountain State.

In the 1970s Ernest Callenbach wrote Ecotopia, a fun novel about radical environmentalists who succeed in creating a new country out of northern California, Oregon and Washington.

While not a secessionist manifesto, E.F. Schumacher's interesting book Small Is Beautiful praised the virtue of smaller, less bureaucratic businesses, economies, and societies. "Small-scale operations, no matter how numerous, are always less likely to be harmful," he wrote.    

Radical libertarian David Friedman (son of Milton) applied the wisdom of decentralization even to cities. "Our cities should have elected subcity governments, complete with mini-mayors," he wrote in The Machinery of Freedom

Another idea taking shape is offshore cities, or "Seasteading". These floating, sometimes mobile platforms, complete with retail space, living space, casinos, parks, hospitals, and even airports, would be located outside the territorial boundaries of established states, in international waters, and hence avoid the stifling regulations, bureaucracies, and parasitical wealth-confiscation that defines them.

Breaking California up into several smaller states sounds like a great start.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Stephen D. Clark December 23, 2013 at 05:49 PM
We haven't been provided a single example of post-revolutionary, post-constitutional secession to show precedence for this allegedly wonderful idea.
Lincoln Dwyer December 23, 2013 at 11:27 PM
Scott has purposely left out gerrymandering. Yet at the same time, Scott should be the focus of any responses, since he's the chief propagating agent of the FOX-related nationalistic tact of "operation: baffle red-necks and psuedo-Conservatives". Don't waste your time, Mr. Clark, bickering with these idiots. It's a convoluted muck-down which Patch's editor (Jason) is in cahoots. Stop getting drawn in. Let the inbred Republicans 'satisfy' each other in their echo-chamber.


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