United We Fall, Divided We (One of Us) Stand

Since the 1980s, our society has become increasingly polarized along cultural and political lines. This polarization has resulted in the paralyzation of many essential institutions, and now threatens the longterm viability of our society. In order to escape this impasse, society needs to rationally debate a proposition which has not been part of the public discourse to date.

The politico-cultural divide, which is popularly referred to by the division of our society into the “Red” states and the “Blue” states, is seen in almost every facet of our society.

On the religious front, “Red” people tend to believe that Christian religious tenets should provide the moral underpinnings for the entire society, and that it is their moral responsibility to use the power of the government to promote Christian religious values. The “Blue” people espouse a more secular and multicultural view of morality; they contend that everyone’s interests are best protected when the Government studiously avoids promoting any particular religious principle.

On the role of government in our society, “Red” people argue that social welfare will be maximized if the government minimizes its regulation of commerce. Conversely, “Blue” people believe that an unregulated market can result in social inequities and other adverse outcomes, and that these adverse consequences can be prevented or ameliorated if the government places appropriate restrictions on the market place.

In the scientific realm, “Red” people have shown a willingness to dismiss the opinion of scientific “experts” if the expert opinion contradicts their world view.  We have seen this in the “Red” peoples’ denial of global warming and the theory of evolution. In contrast, “Blue” people have demonstrated a willingness to adopt “expert” opinion as “fact,” and then they use those “facts” to form the basis for their legislative agenda.

All members of society, including the public, politicians and judges, each creates it’s own understanding as to how the world works. This “world view” is derived from an integration of political theory, economic models, religious beliefs, family values and/or scientific facts.  As the “world view” of the “Red” people has shifted to the far right, there is no longer any overlap between the “world view” of the “Red” and “Blue” people. As a result, when the “Red” and “Blue” people are confronted by a shared problem, they are unable to find a “compromise” solution which does not appear to violate the “world view” (i.e. irrational) to at least one of the parties. In addition, as a result of their inability to understand the other party’s “world view,” each party assumes the other is driven by some nefarious purpose and then ascribe malevolent motives to the other party. 

In order for legislation to rectify or ameliorate a societal problem, the legislation must be based on a “world view” which accurately models society. Now that the “compromise” position between the “Red” and “Blue” people is devoid of an intellectual foundation, there should be no expectation that a “compromise” solution would successfully correct the problem it was designed to fix. Politicians recognize this and now rarely propose serious legislative solutions. In addition, those rare “compromise” solutions which are enacted into law will not “fix” the problem they were designed to address. The most glaring example of intentional Congressional inaction is Congress’s unwillingness to propose solutions to our historically high unemployment rate.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) was an example of a legislative “compromise” solution which was designed to stimulate economic development. ARRA was a “compromise” between the “Red” economists, who felt that the Federal government’s intervention into a capitalist system would have adverse longterm consequences and the “Blue” economists, who argued for a more robust stimulus package. While ARRA prevented the further deterioration of the US economy, the US unemployment rate remains at historically high levels and the growth in the US economy remains pathetically anemic. ARRA failed to return the economy to normal precisely because it was a compromise bill; thus it lacked a sound intellectual basis, as it was inconsistent with the economic theories of both the “Blue” economists and “Red” economists. 

The extreme polarization of the USA has resulted in a national stalemate. And while the “Red” states attribute this stalemate to the “Blue” states unwillingness to see reason (by accepting their “world view,”) the “Blue” states believe the “Red” states are prolonging our national problems for the same reason. Maybe, the solution to this dilemma lies in history. 

Throughout history, we have seen large countries serially divide into smaller geographic units. This can occur when a segment of a country becomes polarized from the rest of the country and the subpopulation is large enough to create an economically self-sustaining geopolitical entity. After the subpopulation secedes from the mother country, each of the remaining states is more culturally homogeneous. Each can then enact legislative solutions that are less of a “compromise,” and are more intellectually consistent with their own “world view.”

I believe the extreme polarization of our society has created a political stalemate that can only be solved by the dissolution of the USA itself. It is time for us to honestly and civilly discuss the proposition: Will our future be best served by continuing as a unified nation, or would our future be “brighter” if the USA was divided into two, more culturally homogeneous entities? While this may sound like a radical proposition, a slightly modified variation of this idea had previously been suggested in 2009 by Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Hypothetically, if we divided into the “Blue” USA and the “Red” USA, each entity would be able to implement policies that are consistent with their own “world view;” as neither would be shackled by the parochial views of the other. And assuming the “world view” of each society were derived from theories that accurately models reality, we would expect that the enacted legislation would have its intended effect, and the “Blue” USA and/or the “Red” USA would flourish.

Alternatively, we can continue as a unified and polarized nation which is incapable of addressing the problems that face our society.

Hayward Zwerling 


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