The buzz-words I'm seeing following this election are Revolution and Secession. Wonder how long they will last...Hopefully not very long. While the 33 state-specific petitions filed with the White House are undoubtedly sour grapes from the election, they should be allowed to illuminate rather than obscure a more important trend: devolution is here. By here I don't just mean Nigeria or Kenya or Bosnia, places where societal dissolution has been happening for decades. It's entrenched in places people might actually choose to visit or live in, like Spain, Belgium, Italy, and even Merrie Olde England. Politicians, as is their wont, are trying to build bigger and bigger empires,* yet the more they try to build, the louder grow calls for political separation. In the last 2 decades or so, the USSR broke into 15 nations and Yugoslavia into 7. Since then 13 additional new nations have arisen, of which only 2 (Germany and Yemen) were created by merger. All the rest, including 3 that split from the US (Marshall Islands, Palau, and Micronesia), are the result of secession or devolution. Sudan, the most recent victim of societal centrifugal force, split in 2 last year.**
Part of this is driven by ideology, or rather, a lack of it. The "big organizing ideas" of the modern world, like socialism, communism, fascism, and even desegregation, are failed and gone from everywhere except academia. The only big, joining idea in modern circulation is radical Islam, which may or may not ever be able to reassemble a caliphate. For everyone else, social and societal instability is causing people to seek refuge within smaller groups, those of language, ethnicity, religion, and culture.
Part of it is driven by technology. Technology enables ideas to spread more quickly: it is inconceivable in even the recent past that the idea of a petition for secession could have spread to the 57 states then been filed with the White House in a matter of hours. Massive communication moves good ideas and bad ideas quickly, disperses them broadly, and in all probability, exaggerates their importance.*** The second part of technology is more important: defense is on the upswing. It costs a lot less money to buy a Stinger than a MiG, an IED than a tank. We can't hold Iraq in a way that Britain did easily a century ago. When military weaponry favors the defense, it is hard to project power from the center to the periphery. It is harder to control Cairo from London and therefore Honolulu from Washington. Empires grew when big weaponry trumped small making force easy to project. Nations fragment and break apart when force is easier to deflect.
Part of it is driven by economics. Rich, productive people eventually grow weary of carrying the load of their poor, unproductive neighbors. As the nation and world grows another day older and deeper in debt, those who have underwritten the antisocial behaviors of the underclass eventually tire of it. Catalonia tires of carrying Aragon, the Flemish tire of subsidizing the Walloons. It does not hurt either case for separation that they are historically separate peoples anyway, forged together in a fit of nation-building in a technological era that is gone. How quickly calls for separation begin to fall along ethnic and language lines in the US remains to be seen. As of now they do not - another reason I do not take them seriously. When they begin to in an unabashed fashion, look out below.
The cost of secession, however, remains high. Those who benefit from the current system - and there are a lot of them with a lot of free time**** - are huge fans of government transfers and huge opponents of secession. And they will do whatever it takes to keep the gravy train going. Politicians almost to a person consider secession evidence of failure, and if there's one thing they like less than failure it's evidence. So they as well will do anything, up to and including killing the secessionists and their families, to keep the nation together. The price of secession is the blood of the people, to be paid up front whether secession succeeds or fails.
When nations spend more than they take in, those nations wither and weaken. As those nations fail, markets shrink and wealth shrinks, further undermining their weakened walls and edges. Tiny, monocultural, inward-looking nations break apart through secession, with each break leavings cracks that themselves develop into further breaks. That's where the world is inevitably headed, with politicians unwittingly helping the process along by undermining the very nations they lead - both through economic idiocy and through super-national idiocy. But the fact that something is inevitable does not mean that it will be either fun or pretty.
* Gen 11:4
** It also did so relatively peacefully, which is cause for hope.
*** There are more than 25 million people in Texas - that 1/10 of 1% of them electronically signed a petition means that the idea has spread quickly; it does not mean that it is accepted widely.
****In a big, rich country, sloth can pay pretty well.