You Say You Want a Devolution?

The Civil War, as it’s known in the north, or the War of Northern Aggression, as it’s known in the south, supposedly “settled” an issue for time and all eternity: that the smaller political units known as states could not leave the larger political unit known as the United States, at least not without the larger unit’s consent. Unless they emigrate, 320 million people are bound to a political arrangement from which there is no other escape hatch, and the 50 states don’t have the option to leave. Similar strictures are in effect around the world. Why?

Centralization, command, and control—the tendencies that defined the twentieth centuries—are in their death throes, done in by their failures and the residual progress they’ve failed to kill. The signs are everywhere. If war is the health of the state, then states are sickly indeed. The most militaristic government on the planet, that of the United States, has not cleanly won a war since 1945, unless one wants to call Grenada a war. What has stymied the US has not been superior military force—the US has the world’s biggest arsenal and most technologically advanced military—but the force that is stymying centralization at every turn: decentralization.

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