By Scott Kirwin
In Part 1 of this two part series we imagined the borders of a new nation called West California created from the blue counties that went for Hillary Clinton in the November 2016 election. In this essay we’ll consider some of the challenges the new country will face, and how it will fare on its own in the international arena.
As mentioned in Part 1, the new nation of West California would likely not have a military. The Yes California website states, “The U.S. Government spends more on its military than the next several countries combined. Not only is California forced to subsidize this massive military budget with our taxes, but Californians are sent off to fight in wars that often do more to perpetuate terrorism than to abate it. The only reason terrorists might want to attack us is because we are part of the United States and are guilty by association. Not being a part of that country will make California a less likely target of retaliation by its enemies.” California dreaming huh?
The US would make it clear that any interference in West Californian affairs would be treated as interference in its own in a 21st century version of the Monroe Doctrine. But it is unclear how long this would last and whether the liberal residents of West California would put up with it and with the military bases on their soil (nor how many Texan or North Carolinan parents would be willing to see their child put in harm’s way for the defense of the anti-military liberal enclave). In any case I would expect West California to lack a national military as Costa Rica does now and for the US military to move its bases out of the country eventually. US military bases are more portable than people think. Just ask the Philippines about how quickly we closed Clark and Subic Bay after they kicked us out.
West California would face significant opposition to joining international treaties and bodies and would have to create bilateral trade agreements with nations while it applied for membership in NAFTA and other organizations, assuming NAFTA survives the Trump administration. Seeing successful secession in the United States would encourage secessionist movements in Canada, Mexico, and Spain among others, so countries would not necessarily welcome the new nation to their organizations and clubs. Still, the economic might of the nation would make it a player, especially in the Pacific Rim region. There is absolutely no way the US would give up or share its UN Security Council seat with West California.
The federal system of the United States was set up on the assumption that the states it governed were sovereign, and the system actually prepares West California well for independence. Elections would follow independence, and the most likely form of government for the new nation would be a parliamentary system with an elected president similar to France. The president could be considered as an elevation of the governor’s role, while the prime minister would be an elevation of the current house speaker’s role. This would require power shifting from the current senate to the lower house as expected with the change to the parliamentary system.
Being a single party state doesn’t mean an end to politics for the nascent country. In place of Democrats I expect two political parties to arise post-independence: liberals and socialists. Both will agree on the goals but disagree on the methods at first. Eventually the two will become less alike although by no means as different as the current GOP and Democrats.
Education from pre-school through college would be free, paid for by higher taxes. Healthcare would be provided based on the current ACA but eventually would switch to the Canadian model. Abortion on demand and contraceptives would be free making Sandra Fluke happy.
All hunting and fishing would be banned. Strict gun control would be enforced following the Australian model whereby citizens are requested to voluntarily give up their guns during a grace period. After that possession of all firearms including hand guns, rifles and shotguns and all ammunition would be illegal.
I do not know whether the West Californian government would create a written constitution or not. I could see it going either way, but would expect the following “rights” to exist with the following caveats.
- Freedom of Speech – As with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of speech will not be absolute. It would not cover hate speech which would be defined as “speech inciting hatred against any identifiable group or which makes the targeted group feel uncomfortable. “
- Freedom of Religion – Citizens are free to practice any religion as long as it does not disrespect or denigrate other groups of people.
- Freedom of Identity – Citizens are free to identify in any way they wish as long as it does not conflict with the rights of others. This would cover all issues related to gender and sexual identity.
- Freedom from Want – The State will provide all the basic needs for all its citizens including food, shelter, education, and health care. This could be in the form of a monthly allowance for all citizens regardless of income.
I would expect the codification of other rights as well, including the addition of sections covering animal and environmental rights. These would restrict farming, mining and exacerbate the state’s current power supply woes as power companies were forced to abandon fossil fuels and switch to renewables. Greenhouse gas emission-free nuclear energy will be treated the same as coal.
Drug policy would be lax especially since California legalized recreational marijuana use in the November election. Harder drugs would still be illegal, but the switch would be from incarceration to harm reduction policies as followed by Sweden and Switzerland.
In order to avoid hyperinflation and maintain stability during independence, West California would likely continue to use the US dollar as its official currency. The state does have gold held in Fort Knox, and would likely maintain ownership of that commodity in the event of secession (if it wasn’t used to pay for federal land or other transfers to the US federal government as a condition of its independence), but I don’t expect calls for the nation to revert to the Gold Standard. The few calling for that likely left the state prior to independence.
The exodus of unionists out of the new country would likely leave it with more income inequality than it has today based on the fact that Democrats tend to be wealthier than Republicans. California already ranks worst in terms of wealth inequality, with the billionaires of Silicon Valley living less than 100 miles away from the produce pickers of the Central Valley, and the flight of middle class police, teachers and nurses would only worsen the situation. California is today a one party state, and freed from the restraint of the federal government of the Union it West California would likely pursue wealth redistribution along socialist lines. Such wealth redistribution would have two effects: 1. It would encourage benefits seekers, a problem that California has today, and 2. Contrary to what Liberal billionaires profess, they will either move their money out of the country or move their homes to avoid paying more taxes. Put the two together and you have increased demands on the State and fewer resources to meet those demands.
The economic situation would be worsened by the removal of border controls between the new nation and Mexico. This may seem a bit of Right wing wishful thinking on my part, but the border issue has been so fetishized by the Left that I cannot help but believe that given the chance a sovereign West California would remove all border controls with its southern neighbor. This would have consequences with the remaining Unionist state of California and the US federal government forced to defend a much longer border with New California than it does today California’s current border. Within a few years of independence I foresee a downward spiral as the state raises taxes to provide benefits to an increasing number of citizens thereby driving out the minority of citizens capable of paying those taxes.
But immediately after independence West California’s economy shouldn’t change much. There are numerous statistics used comparing California to other countries, and depending on the statistic California’s $2.31 trillion economy ranks anywhere from 7th to 14th in the world. One thing is clear: the US, with a $15.11 trillion dollar economy will still be the world’s single largest economy after it loses California. California, on the other hand, will find itself among the ranks of Brazil and Italy. As the largest state economy in the US it has the loudest voice when it comes to economics. It issues its own emissions standards and car makers comply. When policies are crafted in Washington DC, its congressmen and senators are usually in the fray. But independence will mute those voices on the international stage to the same status of Brazil, Italy and India. Sure these nations are important in many respects but there are 6 to 13 states ahead of them in importance.
Life in West California
As a former Californian myself and an occasional visitor, there is without a doubt much to love about the state. It has some of the most beautiful places in the country. Joshua Tree. Big Sur. Yosemite. The beaches along the coast are world class, and its pleasant climate is always appreciated by those from “back east.” But today California is a very expensive place to live, making it a playground for the rich who can afford to subsidize the poor. Essentials such as housing, electricity, and gasoline are some of the highest in the nation, chasing away the middle class. The policies that make California expensive such as its restrictions on the housing supply, the state mandate of renewable energy sources, and high state gasoline taxes would likely worsen after independence.
Current liberal thinking on immigration that borders don’t matter skirts the realm of the magical. Nearly all large cities within the state are sanctuary cities which protect illegal immigrants at all cost. Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California school system has stated the system will not assist the federal government in immigration actions against students. Presumably this would include crimes committed by them against other students. In such cases defendants can post bail and disappear back into the illegal supporting community or if charged with capital offenses return to their home countries. Where the border will matter will be with the Unionist California. West California authorities will be busy interdicting firearms from the US as well as the smuggling of high taxed commodities such as gasoline and cigarettes. At border crossings with Mexico I would expect only a token presence along the lines of what tourists used to find in pre-911 border crossings with Canada.
For the first few years post independence I would expect little change with pre-independence California. But as the liberal policies took hold and the population reacted to them, things would change. The flight of the middle class would accelerate. Illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America would swamp the state just as illegal immigration from Africa and the Middle East have swamped Germany, a country with a similar attitude towards borders and immigration. The disarmament of the populace would lead to worsening crime, exacerbated by the innate distrust of the liberal voter for the police. The wealthy would continue on as before, hiring private security to protect them behind the walls of their fortress-like communities. The poor would live on state handouts while suffering the human misery of lives lacking meaningful work dependent on the state, living in crime infested neighborhoods and experiencing shortages of electricity and gasoline.
A wealthy nation with spectacular scenery and blessed with natural resources brought to ruin by the policies of its Leftist government. West California would become Venezuela.
The likelihood of California seceding remains remote bordering on the impossible. But thought experiments like this can provide glimpses at the Truth. California is already experiencing the dangers of being a single-party state, and its only hope is for the state’s Republicans to regroup and help pull the state back to its senses. Without their input, and without the brake red states such as my own of North Carolina put on California through the federal government, the state is destined for disaster.