Some economic scholars are currently pro- jecting a shift from the present United States system composed of 50 states towards a system that would emphasize economic distinctions between regions and large cities instead of state lines.
Countries in Asia and Western Europe are determining how to allocate subsidies and foster connections based on megacity clusters with massive populations and economic output. For example, China’s central government is now centering itself around various city hubs such as Shanghai and Beijing to develop infrastructure instead of around traditional provinces as it has for centuries.
One writer calls the current states system antiquated and argues that the way in which we currently allocate federal funds to states and the way in which we elect federal politicians do not necessarily reflect the ways in which our states function economically. He argues that a better way to organize ourselves politically would be to focus on the major hubs of economic activity, such as Los Angeles, New York City or Chicago, and work on building infrastructure between these megacities in order to further economic prosperity. The government could encourage this by improving supply chains and tele- communications between these megacities and also reducing the discrepancies in policy between them by eliminating state lines.
The emphasis on megacities would lead to a reconstructed map of the United States that divides the country into super regions based on what each area produces and the volume of its manufacturing. Examples of super- regions might include the Inland West, the Great Northeast and the Gulf Coast.
While this may seem like a radical proposition, in many ways, we are already performing these claims in practice. The United States straddles the dichotomy of capitalism and democracy, and often our everyday life is shaped more so by fluctuations in the eco- nomic system than by the governing body itself. As a natural reaction to large popula- tions and resultant high economic output, the megacities and regions described have already surfaced without any assistance from the federal government.
Furthermore, the development of these regions might illustrate simply how arbitrary state lines have always been. Of course, political differences between states – even states in the same region – can be distinct. For example, we might consider the differences in left leaning Minnesota and right-leaning Wisconsin, leading us to ask what specifically divides these two so much when they are reasonably similar economically and culturally. One might consider that these political differences have come out of the arbitrary drawing of state lines, and the regional model could potentially erase these differences. We could compare Minneapolis and Madison instead of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Such a comparison could be helpful in understanding United States politics and would better reflect the interests of citizens.
However, while it may be more politically and economically transparent to divide the United States into megacity hubs rather than states, such a change might bolster gentrification and inequality as the differences in large cities and small cities or towns become more pronounced. Areas with less economic influence would flounder while already flourishing areas would flourish, potentially creating spaces for extreme poverty and extreme wealth. Additionally, some cities or regions could potentially be privileged over others for various reasons (for instance, a military industrial complex in the Great Plains region), leading to hegemonic regions or megacities. The United States could suffer if one or two areas monopolize the country’s capital and acquire more power than other regions. However, some might argue that this is already the case because of the capitalist system, and it’s better to lean into it than shy away.
Overall, there are benefits and drawbacks to dividing the United States based on its economic megacities and manufacturing regions. In some ways, it simply acknowledges what is already happening and will continue to happen. Yet, endorsing this by building infrastructure around it may perpetuate inequality and the already present flaws in the capitalist system. In any case, the mere discussion of dividing the United States in this manner illustrates to me the extreme nature of capitalism and the ways in which we must attempt to reconcile them with our political reality.
Katie Jeddeloh ’18 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Centennial, Colo. She majors in English and women’s and gender studies.