Amicable divorce better than eventual civil war
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Beth Cody, Writers' Group member
Iowa City Press-Citizen

I read a fascinating self-published book I stumbled across on Amazon.com last week: "Red or Blue? This Book is 4 U!" by Bob Jackson. I honestly could not put it down.

Mr. Jackson asserts that our government is broken (and broke) because there is a near 50-50 split between "Red" and "Blue" political philosophies, resulting in gridlock and unhappiness on both sides. Neither side ever accomplishes what it really wants and the political process hijacks our money, only to waste it on things neither side wants.

We are essentially two nations fighting over control of one government.

Mr. Jackson proposes a Constitutional amendment to peacefully separate the U.S. into two nations: A "Blue Country" made up of the west coast and Nevada, plus Wisconsin, Illinois and every state east of those two; and a "Red Country" made up of the remaining states.

Sound crazy? Five years ago I would have agreed. The subject of secession or any division of the nation was verboten: not mentioned by respectable folk. But much has changed in the last several years: The topic has appeared in a number of articles in the Wall Street Journal and other mainstream news sources.

Some people are starting to question the viability and governability of such a large and diverse nation, especially as we read every day about the explosion in federal spending and unsustainable national debt, the lingering economic malaise, the anger and state lawsuits over Obamacare, the Occupy Wall Street protests: all are signs of a destabilizing nation.

And while it is certainly upsetting to think about our nation being permanently divided, if is seems likely that it will happen anyway, it would be much better to have an amicable divorce of the kind suggested by Mr. Jackson than a possibly violent upheaval as one or more states attempts to secede, with the concurrent threat of civil war.

So we should not immediately dismiss such ideas without giving them some serious consideration.

Mr. Jackson's book is actually quite thoughtfully written. He details how the amendment could be implemented to maintain stability, proposes a period of five years in which Americans would hold dual citizenship and be able to move freely between countries, considers the division of assets (including population) and liabilities (including the national debt, divided on a population basis), and discusses international, military, currency and energy resource issues.

He also speculates how each new nation might handle issues such as health care, Social Security and other entitlement programs, immigration and the issuance of money.

While Mr. Jackson is obviously "Red" and cannot help making often-clumsy generalizations about "Red" and "Blue" philosophies, he frequently reminds us that both Blue and Red sides have good reason to believe that the country would be better off under their philosophy. (And most people are indeed happier living under the system they believe is best.)

I found it particularly interesting that Mr. Jackson's interviews with his wide circle of Red and Blue friends showed that each group is convinced that their own nation would be so clearly superior that a flood of migration would overwhelm their nation. He analyzes voting records to convincingly debunk this fear.

He admits that political divisiveness would not be eliminated within the new nations. But he is right that each country's citizens would largely agree on the main and most divisive issue of limited vs. expanded federal government.

Am I totally sold on Mr. Jackson's specific proposal? Not completely. Each nation might still be too large and diverse to govern well, and I question whether the Red-Blue divide is really along state lines or is actually a rural-urban divide (and how that might require more people to move than he predicts).

But his ideas are what our nation needs now: bold proposals to address our worsening problems, not mere tinkering at the edges or more of the same dysfunction. A fascinating book.