The United State of America

I'm fed up with the idea of a “50 sovereign states” all within a single “sovereign nation”. I think that having states is really very bad for the nation. What if all of the states in the US were combined into one? How would the constitution scale? There would be some things that would be improved, and some things that would be strange. Let's see.

First, of course, we would be the United State of America: “We the People of the United State, in Order to form a more perfect Union, etc.”. That would be a little strange, but it would be perfectly meaningful historically. In fact, we would be the former united states repackaged into a much more united state, in fact, literally a United State.

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the State. That works the same: the House would be a much better place, much more evenly distributed, a true House of the People. However, the constitution assumes that each state has a legislature, which means that there would be a single shadow state legislature and a legislature of the United State. That would be strange. Let's keep track of the responsibilities of the state legislature as we go.

Another improvement: since all of the US would be a single state, the rule concerning residence in a particular state would only mean that no Representative could be a resident of a territory or of a foreign country, since all residents of the USA would be residents of its state.

The Senate, of course, is where things get really interesting: it would become a co-senatorship. There would be two Senators (but see below), who, with the Vice President as chair, would have the responsibility of the existing body, including creating and passing legislation, the power to advise and consent to presidential appointments, and trying impeachments. The role of the Vice President would obviously become much more important. Also, rules requiring 2/3 votes of the Senate would require a unanimous vote of the two Senators OR a tie vote of the two Senators plus the Vice President's tie-breaking vote, which would create a 2/3 majority. The House would still have the responsibility to originate spending bills.

So let's pause a bit. With a single state, there would be two legislatures. One, the House of Representatives, would concern itself with those things assigned to the federal government by the constitution. The other, let's call it the State Legislature, would concern itself with all other laws. In fact, there could still be a state constitution created by the State Legislature, and a State Judiciary to interpret it, just as there is now. At the federal level, there would also be a kind of Senatorial panel consisting of two senators and the presided over by the President of the Senate, who would also serve as the Vice President. This panel would have all of the duties of the current Senate.

I actually think that this would be a tremendous improvement over what we have now. For one thing, while there would still be a body of state laws, there would be no differences among the states as there is now. The state law would apply to all citizens of the United State living in the state. As for the House, the existing process of census and districting could be made to create equally representative districts across the whole country. The error in size among districts would be negligible, since the error could be distributed across the whole country. This would be true for both legislatures, although there would be no requirement that there be equal districting at the two levels. This would be a decision for the Legislature to make. When it comes to the Electoral College, we would receive the same benefit: the number of Electors would be basically the number of Representatives plus the number of Senators (2). As for the District of Columbia, I can see no reason why it shouldn't be incorporated into the state, and I'm sure it would be. But if it were not, then it would be treated more or less as a territory except that Congress would control its government as it does now. There would be no real change from what it is now.

When it comes to the Executive Branch, there would still be a President, but there could now also be a Governor. Their responsibilities would be divvied up as the are now, but obviously the position of Governor would become tremendously more important than it is now. The President would still have the constitutional duties and powers that past presidents have had, but I think that it would end up that the President would be Commander in Chief, would be in charge of all foreign affairs such as trade and the like, and of course signing, implementing, and enforcing federal laws. The Governor would have much more of a role in things affecting people's everyday lives though.

This leads us to a very large difference that would affect all aspects of the US system of government: it would be the end of all interstate laws. Under the current system, with so-called “sovereign states”, it has been up to the federal government, all three branches, to be in charge of interstate commerce in all its ramifications. This entire body of law and of control would be instantly obsolete with only one United State. Instead, the Legislature, Governor, and State Judiciary (or whatever or however this evolves--for example, whether to have both upper and lower bodies in the Legislature) would have complete control over all of those things. Although no conservative is likely to embrace or even comprehend the change we are contemplating here, I think it is likely that the demise of interstate commerce as a way for the federal government to exercise control over matters not originally envisaged by the Founders is something that they could support.

Along with interstate commerce, there would also be an entire segment of American life that would disappear, and good riddance. Some examples: differences in licensing for practitioners of various professions or trades (only one license would exist for the whole State); differences in state tax laws (for example, sales tax would apply equally everywhere, thereby ending the Internet loophole that is costing many states a lot of revenue); different automobile license requirements; different textbooks in schools; different educational standards; different consumer and environmental protections. This list could go on and on.

Of course, there could still be regional differences in many things, just as there are now within individual states. I'm sure that within the State, which would be huge, there could be regional differences. None of this would go against the US Constitution unless it violated, e.g., the Bill of Rights. However, I think that the tendency would be toward greater unification of our laws, partly because it would be simpler and easier to be unified than to be divided, within a single State. Under the current scheme, it is often simpler for each state to go its own way.

The State Militia or National Guard would be a single body, with a purely domestic role except when called up for foreign duties in an emergency. Obviously, the old state units would continue for some time to be a convenient way to divide this up, but there would be a much more unified chain of command; all units would have the same standards and the same support resources.

Probably the most problematical aspect of all this is the Senate. This should be no surprise, since the Senate was intended to be the States' house, in contrast to the People's house. With all States unified into one, it would be questionable whether the Senate would still even be needed, especially with so few members and with no real constituency apart from that of all the people, in contrast to the House, in which each member has a separate constituency. I think that probably what should happen in the Senate is that the Constitution be amended to allow a reasonable number of Senators, perhaps 30 of them, all to be elected (10 of them every two years) by the entire national electorate. If this change were made, then the traditional role of the Senate could be continued much more naturally. The difference between the bodies would be in the length of the term and the scope of members' constituencies. Under this system, the Senate would be the global body and the House would be the local body. This same distinction would exist even if we actually had only two Senators, but I think a somewhat larger body, but still much smaller than the existing one, would be much better. Of course, with an expanded Senate, the Vice President would go back to being pretty unimportant.

In conclusion, I think that on balance, this change would be very good for the nation. It would make it much more fair, much more efficient, and much more logical. It would unite us emotionally in a way that the multi-state system has not. People would continue to use the names of the old states, probably forever. I'm from California or Virginia would still have meaning. However, it would cease to have any significance regarding civil rights, the degree of representation, national taxation law, criminal law, educational resources, and so on. I think this would be a good thing.

Greg Shenaut