The more I’ve thought about potential solutions to the gigantic mess we have found ourselves in as a species, the more I have come to believe we need to break apart into a vast multitude of city-states. The revolutionary concept of America in the first place was this idea of “self-governance,” something we do not posses an iota of in this day and age. As was noted recently in an academic paper published by Princeton and Northwestern, these United States have mutated into nothing short of an oligarchy. In fact, the study demonstrated that the will of the people has essentially zero impact on legislation whatsoever.
In centuries prior, the idea of “representative-democracy” in which people elect people to represent their interests in a far off capital seemed like a reasonable solution to a very real problem. Information took a very long time to get from one place to another, so you had to trust someone else to essentially negotiate for you on issues of national significance. Moreover, in such a disconnected world, centralization was not only more efficient, it seemed like the only way. As such, things became highly centralized, so much so that things have now morphed into a global oligarchy that wields almost total power. Meanwhile, the billions of plebs have no say whatsoever in the affairs that govern their lives; including whether they will be financially secure, posses any civil liberties at all or end up in jail for a wide litany of non-violent “crimes.”
With the incredible tools we now possess, thanks primarily to the Internet, we no longer need centralization of government. Nor do we really need representatives to vote for us on the issues that most greatly affect out lives. As any American understands, the diversity of cultural, economic, and political sentiments vary greatly throughout the land. It’s not just the obvious ones, such as the differences between “northerners” and “southerners,” but wide discrepancies exists within states themselves. For example, Austin is nothing like much of the rest of Texas, and the Denver/Boulder area where I live is very distinct from much of the rest of Colorado. The examples are simply too many to list, but I am of the belief that people are capable of, and should be free to, decide the most important things that affect their lives at a local level (with the exception of obvious things such as violence or aggression toward one another).
The founding fathers’ original idea of many “United States” allowed for different ideals to be expressed in a wide variety of ways, and is in my opinion one of the most advantageous attributes of our nation. But why stop there? Why not allow different areas and municipalities break off even further into far more autonomous type structures than we have today?
Of course many people will answer, what about slavery? The truth of the matter is that this abomination in the United States seemingly had to be resolved through a bloody conflict given the economic interests in the south at the time. The founders decided one war was enough, and let this horrible practice be tackled almost a hundred years later through violent conflict. I hope that we have advanced enough as a species that we can come to a global consensus that certain things are illegal everywhere. Slavery, murder, rape, etc. Other than these (and other) obvious evils we can all agree on, decentralized legislation seems to make sense to me in this day and age. While I strongly disagree with “global government” a global consensus on certain things we can all agree upon as reprehensible anywhere on earth seems completely reasonable.
With that in mind, the man who recently purchased the entire 30,000 Silk Road Bitcoins from the feds has proposed to break California into six separate parts. The measure has already collected “far more than the 800,000 signatures” needed to to get it on the state ballot.
Like Hollywood or Manhattan, Silicon Valley occupies a singular place on the American cultural and economic landscape. Unlike those other locales, however, the Valley’s more idiosyncratic political leanings have led to murmurings of secession more typical of rural hinterlands that already feel cut off through sheer physical isolation. That chatter has culminated in a measure that appears headed for the statewide ballot to split California into six separate states, of which Silicon Valley would be one.
While ostensibly a plan to make the entire state of 38 million people more governable, the six-state initiative is being led and funded by a member of the Silicon Valley elite, many of whom would no doubt welcome the increased political clout that would likely come from carving out their own statehood. In the hands of most, the six-state initiative would look like a pure stunt. But with Silicon Valley behind it, this effort’s chances at the ballot box can’t be dismissed out of hand. Unlike most other would-be revolutionaries, Silicon Valley has a long record of taking ideas that sound outlandish at the time—affordable computers in every home, private rocket ships—and managing to make them real. It also has a seemingly endless stream of money that, combined with heavy doses of ingenuity and shamelessness, give its goofball ideas the fuel they need to take off.
Leading the six-state push is Tim Draper, a wealthy third-generation venture capitalist known for his theatrics. He hosts the superhero-themed Draper University of Heroes, a kind of motivational cram session for would-be startup entrepreneurs, and once wore a Captain America costume himself on a magazine cover. Last month, he bought nearly 30,000 bitcoins auctioned off by the U.S. Marshals Service after authorities had seized them from online black market Silk Road. In short, he’s exactly the kind of guy with the time, money, and temperament to push a wacky-sounding ballot measure.
“Our gift to California is this—it’s one of opportunity and choice,” Draper said at a press conference yesterday where he announced the campaign had collected far more than 800,000 signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot. “We’re saying, make one failing government into six great states.”
The campaign in favor of the measure argue that six states will mean six state governments more responsive to local concerns, rather than the unwieldy process of orchestrating the state’s 158,000 square miles entirely from Sacramento.
With the six-state proposal, the Californian Ideology appears to be seeking out its final, fullest, most ironic realization by underwriting Silicon Valley’s emancipation from California itself.
And why wouldn’t Silicon Valley seek to be free? Through the lens of its own sensibility, at least, California looks like the worst kind of incumbent, an ancient and inefficient institution mired in old ways of doing business, a monopolist that holds onto power through manipulation, not innovation. To six-state supporters, holding onto the idea of a single California represents, at best, an irrational sentimentality, a commitment to the past grounded in lazy logic and unexamined assumptions. Breaking up California is exactly the kind of “disruption” that titillates the venture capitalist imagination. In the process, the new state of Silicon Valley—which would stretch from San Francisco to Monterey–would also, conveniently, separate its great and greatly concentrated wealth from the poorer parts of the state.
The Valley’s “hacker way” has so far proven a clumsy fit for the strategic complexity of the political process, which relies more on realism than idealism. Before California would officially break up, per the U.S. Constitution, the existing state legislature would still have to sign off, which it’s unlikely to do for a host of reasons, not least being the tax revenue lost to Silicon Valley seceding. Congress would also have to approve what would amount to the dilution of its own power by granting California twelve senators instead of the current two.
At this point, I’d like to make it clear I don’t think this will become a reality in the near-term. In fact, it is likely that decentralization will first occur in the economic and technological areas of human society way before it happens on the political level. The reasons for this should be obvious.
We are already seeing decentralization take over in all sorts of economic areas. Information flow in general and alternative media specifically, currency (Bitcoin), transportation (Uber, Lyft), and manufacturing (3D-printing). When the political process fully implodes in the West, we’ll look to decentralized successes in other areas and apply them to politics.
I believe the current overly centralized paradigm parasitically engulfing the planet will experience a series of spectacular collapses in the years ahead that will make 2008 look like practice. As the centralized beast episodically implodes upon itself, we will have a historic chance to remake our world in a new way that will better serve humanity. That new paradigm will consist of freedom through decentralization, and I can’t wait to see it.
In fact, it’s already started.
For recent articles on our generation’s most significant battle; Centralization vs. Decentralization, check out the following articles:
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