Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Case for Multi-State Regionalism in the United States

The Case for Multi-State Regionalism in the United States by Denise A. Brush (Wasteland Press, 2013).

This is not a book review – this is an announcement of the publication of my own book, which is available on Amazon.

In my book, I propose that the appropriate scale of governmental action in the 21st century is by regions of five to ten states. I believe that regions within the United States need to develop a unified voice, harmonized laws, and regional cooperation plans that allow them to act effectively as one unit.

A critical reason for adopting a regional cooperation model is to make it easier for people to move to other states for employment, or live in one state and work in an adjacent state. Harmonization of laws relating to employment, taxes, health care, education, real estate, driving, and professional licensing will reduce the legal friction that prevents people from taking advantage of economic opportunities wherever they occur. In a world of multi-national companies and globalized employment, having fifty different sets of state laws is almost archaic. Under our current system, every state (regardless of size) has to compete for business on their own – and the competition has gotten fierce.

Another important reason for multi-state cooperation at the regional level is provide consistent and equitable government services that don’t prevent individual mobility, especially in the areas of education and health care. I believe that health care should be a government service, like education; if we can’t have a national single-payer plan, then we should be trying to create regional plans, not fifty individual state plans. The existence of fifty different systems of health care and education makes economic mobility much more difficult for families and businesses.

In this century, climate change is going to be a huge issue that affects everything we do. Our homes and workplaces will be vulnerable to natural disasters, droughts, floods, and heat waves that disrupt our everyday lives in unpredictable ways, but most of these events will occur on a regional level, not respecting state boundaries. We need to have systems in place at the regional scale to plan for and respond to climate events.

Finally, states which work together on a regional scale will be able to find political strength in their shared interests. There are a variety of social issues which polarize the country on a national level, but show considerably more agreement regionally. Instead of having another Civil War, why not just sort ourselves into regions where most people share our views? If we had a system that made mobility within regions as easy as it is to move within a state today, this would be possible.

In this book I discuss each of these reasons for regional cooperation on a multi-state basis, and their advantages. I then consider various possible implementation models for multi-state regionalism, based on lessons from regional integration in other contexts. Throughout the book I emphasize grassroots democracy and the value of local communities working together with their neighbors in other states to solve problems.

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Filed under Environment, Social Science, Urban planning

Terra Nova

Terra Nova: The new world after oil, cars, and suburbs by Eric W. Sanderson (Abrams, 2013).

Like The Transition Handbook, this book begins with the premise that oil is running out and thus the suburban car culture supported by oil is doomed. Sanderson take a slightly different tack at this point in terms of strategy.  Rather than focus on people and what they can achieve locally, Sanderson believes that the free market by itself can cause change.  He feels that simply changing economic incentives will result in people doing what needs to be done. As a conservation biologist, he sees the economy as groups of ecological systems. The current systems do not attach a market value to the natural resources that go into systems and the waste that comes out. Therefore, he suggests fixing “gate duties” on both ends that take into account the ecological cost of using natural resources and disposing of waste into the environment. This seems perfectly reasonable as an abstract idea, but I predict extreme difficulty in getting the current political structure to implement it. There is also the danger of unintended consequences, which always seem to occur when you try to manipulate people with economic incentives.

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