What If We Didn’t Have States?
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What If We Didn’t Have States?

October 13, 2019


– If you knew absolutely nothing about the United States, except
the name, United States, you’d know at least two things. One, that we’re united,
and two, we have states. But what if half of that
was just a bad idea. – The concept of the state
is outdated, in my opinion. – I think that states are really important in a giant country like this. – I would have the municipal
government be the only governmental level
between the local and the federal government. – We don’t need hurricane laws,
but Florida, they need that. – I think we should have states because, without states, we wouldn’t
have the Minnesota state fair. And everybody loves the fair. – Today we are here at the
Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wisconsin and behind me is the state borderline between Minnesota and Wisconsin. (upbeat music) When the Constitution
went into effect in 1789, it included a process
for creating new states beyond the original 13 on the east coast. It basically goes like this; carve out a chunk of land
and call it a territory, form a territorial government,
submit a letter of intent, write a state constitution,
elect a state government, get the federal government to say, “Okay congratulations,
update your LinkedIn, “you’re a state.” This process was heavily
influenced by the land ordinance of 1784 and the 1787 Northwest Ordinance, and relied on a pretty crude understanding of our geography. At the same time, the
admission to the union clause clearly stated you can’t
bite off a piece of an existing state to create a new one, unless both states agree
and congress consents. And as a result, you get a
lot of states that simply wrap around those that came before them. Repeat this process enough
times and you get the 50 nifty United States
we print on sweatshirts, collect as refrigerator
magnets, and tattoo on our arms. But does this make sense? – State lines themselves
are fairly arbitrary. Some of them have something
that resembles the historical rationale to them, a lot of them don’t. – Today our country system
for distributing federal money is almost completely
controlled by the shape of our states. And this can lead to some
really illogical situations. Take Fargo-Moorehead on the
Minnesota North Dakota border. It’s essentially one big city, but because it just so happens
to straddle an arbitrary geographic border created
over 150 years ago, the city is dependent on
two different state cpaitals for federal aid. And these capitals are rarely
pursuing the same agenda. Border cities like these
are everywhere in America. And even though they work, shop, sleep, eat, pray, and love together, legislatively they are cut in half. So what if, instead, we
just let them do what they’re already doing and connect? So first off, how did you come
to the idea that we need to redraw our map to account
for how we actually function socially? – [Parag] Right, well I
mean there is a whole group of thought called functional geography. That we’re not really
50 states, more like 40 urban clusters. So really instead of, if
you were to redraw the 50 US states today you
would basically just draw these 40 urban hubs and
each of them would have what I call a sphere of responsibility. – As Parag Khanna put
it the New York Times, economically and socially the
country is drifting toward looser metropolitan and
regional formations, anchored by the great cities
and urban archipelagos that already lead global
economic circuits. The way that the states are setup, are they built more on
territory or connectivity? – The reason that we have
Pennsylvania is not because somebody say down and said, “What’s the most effective
way of connecting “a particular territory?” The reason we have Pennsylvania
is ’cause of the charter that was given to William Henn. – In Mr. Khanna’s model
states are largely irrelevant. What our country really
looks like is this. It’s a map where we’re
living in gooey blobs of interconnectedness. Blobs that flow between
cities, along highways, and transportation routes,
and frankly don’t care much about the Land Ordinance of 1784. Overall, a map like this
isn’t just some attack on the souvenir magnet industry, it’s an idea that could
make our system work more like we say we want it to work. It’s actually an idea that’s
gaining steam globally. Many other countries,
including Britain, Italy, and China are adopting
financial distribution systems based on maps like this. As Mr. Khanna puts it, we
don’t need to create these regions, they already exist. In short, they are really, we
just don’t call them anything. – [Narrator] When you build
a road across the country it doesn’t really stop
at the random rectangular borders of Colorado. – Okay time for the main question. If we were making America
from scratch today, would we even have states? What should we actually do
with the concept of states, and should we get rid of them completely? – [Narrator] And one of
the things that I point out is that back when we made America great, which was basically the 20th century, all of the mega projects, the
Tennessee Valley Authority, the Interstate Highway Systems, the Pacific Railways, Social
Security Administration, everything whether it’s
bureaucratic or infrastructural. – Now, not every expert agrees that we should get rid of states. To be fair, the United
States of America sounds like a lot better than the United
Regions of Share Economic and Cultural Influence. And we get it, we love
states, they’re our identity. But when we base our policies
on historical territorial regions that were, in turn,
based on maps that looked like this, it’s easy to
see why there might be a better way of getting things done. I’ll as it anyways, do you
believe the country is ready for an idea like this? And if so, how long
would it take for the US to acclimate to your model? – [Narrator] We can’t even
amend the constitution, so we’re not ready for a model like this. The way I operate is, if you
were to start from scratch, how would you design the
physical administrative geography of the country? – [Narrator] Which brings us back to here, the Phipps Center. So what do you think? When we look out this window, should we really be looking
at the border of two states, or should we just call it a river? Hey everybody this is Toussaint Morrison and in our next episode
we’re going to discuss if we made American from scratch today, would congress need a gender quota. Submit your opinion to the
link in the description, and as always, don’t forget to subscribe. This program is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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  1. I don't think that using the example of border cities make sense, because if you're going to shift jurisdiction to large regional blobs there are still going to be towns that sit right next to the line and experience a lot of border traffic.

  2. I think that there's gotta be a middle path, because there's definitely benefits to having a mid-level authority, not municipal but also not the federal level.
    We should get rid of the US state system as it stands today, and replace it with a more malleable thing, where cities are at the forefront, but its surrounding areas and culture are still respected. Encourage boundary shifting, encourage making cities the main center of economic activity.

  3. On the one hand, I find this idea fascinating! I've often lived in states where there were massive tensions between urban and rural parts of the state, and this idea teases the thought that maybe my local government (which generally has values I agree with) wouldn't have to be hampered by a state government that is doing the exact opposite! But in this model, what ends up happening to rural areas? They still need to managed by some more local authority, and I would suspect the tensions in their needs would still exist. I suppose that's why this model needs to assume increased urbanization– but as much as I frequently disagree with folks from the rural parts of my state, I can understand them not being pleased with a governmental model predicated on them disappearing!

  4. I love hearing questions about stuff I have never thought of before, I am very excited to see what's in store for this channel! Please keep up the great work 🙂

  5. I believe is districts made up of equal number of people and with little to no state rights. Only decisions that must be made at a local level are. Most lawes should be unified throughout the country.

  6. On gender quotas, I say no. I feel that would override some voters votes if their rep was thrown out because they weren't the right gender. That is not to say that I want an unequal representation. I would love to have equal representation between men and women and distributionally among the races. But quotas in this specific case will infringe on individual voter's rights.

  7. A lot of great things have been done on the federal level. However, the California University system and the Aqueduct have exceptionally benefited California and are great examples of state level accomplishment.

  8. The idea of a more city based system does make sense from a political and financial standpoint. However, I don’t think we should get rid of states completely. While a state based system may not be the most politically efficient way to go, our states (or at least, most of them) still have very distinct cultures and identities, which is something I think should be respected and cherished. Even parts of different states that fall within the same urban influence areas are subtly distinct from one another. Or at least that’s how it seems to me. My solution for a more efficient system would be to have cities and urban influence areas as the main components in our political and financial network, but to keep states around as mainly cultural entities, rather than mainly political ones. Major cities would wield the most political and economic power, whereas state governments would have some political power in certain appropriate situations while serving a mainly ceremonial role. This way we could have a more efficient way of administering our country while still upholding regional distinctiveness and identity.Also, please realize that I’m just thinking out loud by daying these things. I know that my theory is flawed and that America’s administrative system will not change anytime soon. But this is just something I had thought about after watching the video.Your videos are really interesting and thought provoking, by the way. Keep up the good work.

  9. Currently imagining people not having to move to a different state for access to medical marijuana, no out of state college tuition, no crossing a state line and immediately seeing a huge change in the quality of an interstate, no electoral college votes (cough cough Hillary would be president…and I did watch the video about should we even have a president, but I since we do have one, I would prefer one who doesn't empower bigotry and hatred). What a world it might be.

  10. What if we keep the symbolic states, but we change our thought process surrounding the US urban economy and system of organization and government?

  11. I know I'm late to the party, but absolutely not Congress should have a gender quota. Nothing should have 1/4 of any kind. Any elected office should have a fishel's elected based on what they can do and what they have done and what they have to offer, not who they are, what they are, or how they look, period.

  12. What if, in addition to the functional geography of cities we added the functional geography of watersheds? John Wesley Powell proposed such an approach in the late nineteenth century for state jurisdictions in the West. Watershed as one level of functional governance would have multiple practical benefits of helping manage water systems, biodiversity and climate change while serving to represent rural communities in greater harmony with urban centers.

  13. This is a really profound video. While there are a lot differences going from this state or the other (medical marijuana, is Trump's policy on immigration racist, etc.) I think our political rancor can be solved by a refocus on what matters most to us as free citizens. We want to be able to conduct ourselves as we see best fit. So if there are major differences, we should defer and say "I respect you, let us go our own way."

  14. Hybrid model: keep historical boundaries as a formality and use regional data to form the true seat of power

  15. 1) We're united. & 2) We have states. – but what if half of that is just a bad idea?

    Yes, but it's the first half. I'd prefer independent states with free trade and a common market than your proposal.

  16. I had a thought about having states surrounding waterways, not bordered by them. I know its a big cause of issues & problems between neighboring states that grow crops or have livestock to water.

  17. Ayy im in this video lmao thanks for including me!! great thought provoking video as always! keep up the great work

  18. Couldn't you extend the idea to countries even. Isn't the type of question/debate he's raising much deeper than just "states", but rather is a question of what identity is in the first place. (is it geographic, cultural, language, etc)

  19. If this country weren't to have any states, then there wouldn't be voting rights to yield presidency. Instead, there would be castles and palaces to dwell in for royal families. They make the country be dubbed a kingdom. There would still be war. If a man conquers, he is king. He can also choose somebody of the opposite sex (a sexy chick) whom to wed to be considered a queen. All wedding invitees are part of the royal family. When states don't exist, "Make America Royal Again!"

  20. I'd flip it (fyi: as someone not from america). America should have stronger states and weaker federal government. this would solve so many problems the US has.

  21. They also act as a powerful check on federal power. States make sure that the federal government doesn't make a decision that the people really don't support.

  22. It makes more sense to draw borders along the divisions between watersheds than along the rivers that drain them. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25611487?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

  23. Well produced! I didn't think the virtual-interviews were gonna work, but the combination of subtitles and images was super.

    A curiosity of a pacifist in America like myself has always been: What if the USA was Isolationist again?

  24. Other country all law like traffic, labor, immigration, land, tax, etc, from national government. Province government some times change paper work but same law every where. If have border city, national government shift border of province or create new province around city.

  25. the second guy wasn't talking about the same thing as the first guy, first guy was talking about BORDERS the second was focusedon the politics, but if you changed to the new system the 2nd WOULD NOT be regated by the first. so basically the second guy would notice almost no difference (especially if he was mainly concerned with the urban centers)

  26. I've seen about 4 videos from this channel and I have only one question. WHy the views are in 1 000's, not in 1 000 000's? What the hell, YT?

  27. I guess my question would be “what are stated for?” If we believe that their should be a distribution of power where you still have a federal system in which the federal government is not the only authority and you have a a lot of regional autonomy, then based of the video, it seems like stated kinda get in the way and regional areas should be based upon its interconnectivity rather then arbitrary boundaries. So it seems like you don’t really need to have states but there should be a system where you still have regional autonomy that gives you as an individual the power to have a say in politics as national politics don’t always effect the most and what does effect the most is in your general vicinity.

  28. Thank you for being able to discuss topics like this in such an unbiased matter. It's a welcome change from modern social media.

  29. A fun question to consider and it seems no system would be totally fair, efficient or effective. So what are incremental things that can be done. Is Minnesota's Metropolitian Council a good idea? Did it just add a layer of government, should counties have been redrawn?

  30. The reason why states exist is to create a balance between the federal government and the local level.The US is a huge country with a very diverse population.If you look at it most large countries tend to be federal in some way China being a notable exception.But here's the thing China is not a federal state but its a full blown dictatorship with probably the most extensive surveillance network on the planet.A large diverse state with nothing in between the central government and the local level tends to be hard to govern.Because a very different identity tends to form in response to this.With a state based identity existing between local and central actual ethnic/racial identities have a problem in forming in diverse countries.This is one reason why large diverse states tend to be federal to avoid the formation of such identities.Its not perfect true but it does create an extra wall of distance between people with similar backgrounds to an extent.Once you make the US into a unitary state then the formation of racial identities will no longer have any real hindrance.Basically white/black/hispanic/asian identities will have a free flow to form.And if you don't have a means to represent that at the central level the resulting ethnic/racial conflict is only a matter of time.Now to an extent that can happen regardless but its a bit harder in a federal state because the laws of Mississippi don't directly impact the laws of Texas most of the time.Once you have one set of laws one set of government then anything that angers whites in Mississippi will anger whites in Texas same goes for blacks in Chicago and blacks in Florida.Large diverse countries only ever work as unitary states if they follow the China model.Brutal dictatorship all encompassing surveillaince concentration camps for offenders and even then no real certainty.

  31. I've heard that organizing things into groups or chucks is so the human mind can comprehend, but with the integration of super computers this might be a gateway to a borderless world…

  32. The beauty of a state is that it can govern itself and you can live among like minded people who may view things differntly while still united under rights we all share and it stops any one body of govrment from taking complete power.

  33. ALso thie idea thats being put forth is a totalarian socialst/communist STATE 1 with total control of ecnomic and your rights thats why the constitution got in the way of his plan its a nicely wrapped package of communism with all the power lying in 1 body of goverment. No states no congress no rights.

  34. Good question, but in my mind you can't have only hundreds of tiny urban centers control local politics, that would be a huge mess, way too many business standards for instance

    Ultimately, states are much more powerful than cities, so they can stand up to special interests much better, and they can get things done even if in Washington there is gridlock. I'm from Germany, and one of the reasons why we still have federalism here is because that makes forming a dictatorship much harder. In unitary states, the highest government can just take whatever power it wants, in a federal government, the states grant power, and if they don't grant it, then the federal government can't take it.

  35. Can you add a link to the map used in the video in the description? The rewrite article link goes to a 404 page.

  36. I think that doing this will help to equalize government. A few hundred thousand people in Vermont or RI don't deserve the same power as tens of millions in California or NY. We need to do this by population, especially as urban centers expand. Also territories should be states for the same reason. A lot of cities have their own dedicated governments that resemble that of states. I still think they should exist because different regions have vastly different needs. If the states were equal, then the federal government could redistribute wealth in the hope that resources will be allocated equally.

  37. America without states further exacerbates the haves and have nots of rural vs urban America. States keep the cities in check and the rural areas feeling involved. Neo-liberalism wants no states as well as no state. I can only look to our problems in the UK with the EU for why we need states.

  38. In my opinion states are important because of the extra layer of authority. If a person like Hitler would be president he would have less authority.

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