Two States: Why Not?

by Will on September 18, 2010

I used to hear a lot of talk about letting northern and southern California resolve our disputes through an amicable divorce. After the separation, we northerners would go on about how good it was to be done with the shallow, materialistic southerners who used to take our water and throw it away on big lawns and golf courses, spew smog, and waste their lives on vacuous pursuits. They, in turn, would laugh at how we smelly, self-righteous hippies with our plain looks and bodies thought we had it in us to run our own state. Nothing ever changes policy-wise in California, so of course it never happened.

But why isn’t it a good idea? Is the state’s pleasant crescent shape so inviolable? There are at least two precedents where states split in two: Massachussets shed off Maine, and West Virginia split from Virginia. Neither event ended the world.

Whatever the differences that divide NorCal people and SoCal people, water issues and land use and the like, the idea of separation seems like it would have a number of benefits completely unrelated to those issues. The state’s large population would, as two states, get four senators instead of two, which would leave it absurdly under-represented, but at least less so. It would put the total number of states at 51: this would bring an end to the irrational idea that 50 is a desirable number to rest at because it’s so pleasingly round. In fact, since odd numbers put people ill at ease, our putting the number at 51 would likely spur action to finally admit D.C. as a state. But most importantly, the split would give at least one half of the state — I hope ours — the opportunity to have done with the current constitution and set up a system that would hopefully be less awful. I say let’s do it.

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