Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Abolish the States? Maybe.

Earlier today, I vaguely mentioned something about City-states. For some time now, I have been wondering about the purpose and perhaps overwhelming authority that States have over Cities. It turns out that many-a-Mayor used to fighting with states over Federal funding, feel the same way:
What, I asked, might be some mechanisms that could improve those relationships?

"Abolish the states!" Nickels barked.

He and Diaz pretty much went off on a tear about their anger and frustration with state legislatures. Legislators, Diaz said, don't know or care about cities. "If he's a state elected official he should stay the hell away from what's going to affect mayors," he said. The federal government hardly gives cities any money - they funnel it to states. And states don't give it equitably to cities. "We get peanuts," Diaz said.
While either in jest or exasperated frustration, there is a point there. The underlying issue is that State boundaries are entirely arbitrary. Sometimes they are defined by physical barriers such as bodies of water or perhaps at one time impassable mountain ranges, but they have no real relationship to human settlement patterns or economies other those that they impose. It could be argued that they only create imbalances and inefficiencies both within markets and on cities.

Cities, not states, are the physical embodiment of human dynamics. They are the fractal patterns of economies built on needs, wants, and demands of emotion, which are the driver of the world we know (or don't fully know). As biological and mathematical studies come to similar conclusions about cities, it is time to start rethinking the hierarchy of Federal, State, and Local governments and potentially VASTLY reducing the role of state governments.

Historically, cities were organized as City States. Often a way to protect local kingdoms (economies that fed a few families) and typically within city walls. As city walls became increasingly irrelevant as military power advanced, cities began forming alliances into what became countries.

While we aren't ready as a people to live fully without the boundaries imposed by shared value systems at varying points in human compassion, understanding, and evolution within national borders, perhaps we are ready to start thinking about abandoning state borders.

This is just a very initial thought. I expect to have more as I spend more time thinking and researching this topic. Intuitively, my guess is that it is both a necessary conversation and potentially profound one for the implications.