Friday, February 18, 2005

50 States Is Too Many

For better or worse, we are not one simple unified country and we never have been. By our very name, United States of America, we are well labeled: a consortium, or federation, of states. We started as 13 - a manageable number, I suppose - but 50? Come on!

50 states and one federal government - it makes one odd looking funnel, doesn't it? More like a disastrously planned highway merger. Ha-Ha! Actually, maybe that's the correct metaphor ...could that explain the many messes and malfunctions that we endure as a so-called nation?

We're not a unified people in the sense that we have so many structures that allow so much variation and give us so much multilayered "local" autonomy -- could that really be it? Too much division of power? ...Too many checks and balances?

Gary Hart, author of "Restoration of the Republic", wouldn't agree for a minute. But can't we see plenty of excess diversity across levels and layers of government (some would call it chaos) in many areas of our civic life: Voting procedures and the electoral college (which, by the way, vastly facilities cheating); gun control legislation; marriage laws; funding, curricula and the variable quality of public education; all manner of tax structures and liabilities at multiple levels; inconsistent maintenance of police and criminal justice records, of social science information management, processing and analysis; allocation of homeland security funds; pork-barrel funding of public programs (oops, I mean, bringing home the bacon); welfare, child care and job training programs; corrections facilities and criminal penalties and practices (e.g., capital punishment); etc., etc., etc. You can no doubt add many more examples where "variety" runs rampant.

Whether this is wise or dumb (it might be great for experimentation purposes, but is that how we're using it?), one thing is certain: If you want uniform programs rationalized on a nationwide basis, the USA is NOT the place to find it.

So, if you're like me, given this structure, you're wondering how we stack up worldwide on various measures, vs. other countries??

A later blog posting will look at how the USA ranks on some quantity and quality of life indicators. Stay tuned.

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