Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Untied States of America?

Andres Oppenheimer:

Growing numbers of futurologists are forecasting that not only the United States but Mexico and several other Latin American countries are likely to split into smaller states in coming decades. The flag to which you are pledging allegiance today may not be your children's flag, they say.

Last year, Samuel Huntington, a world-renowned Harvard University political scientist, made headlines with a book called Who We Are, in which he warned with alarm that America's territorial integrity is being threatened by the country's growing Hispanic population.

Huntington's book argued that, unlike previous immigrants, Hispanics come from a poverty-ridden neighboring country, are entering the United States massively, concentrate in a few U.S. states, and are maintaining their native language.

Worst, he says, they come from a country that is still sore at having lost half its territory to the United States, and they "could assert a historical claim to U.S. territory." (If you wonder why I think all of this is Hispanic-phobic rubbish, I invite you to read my Feb. 26, 2004, column posted on Herald.com; click on Today's Extras).

Now, a soon-to-be-published book by Juan Enriquez, a former Harvard professor turned genomics entrepreneur, makes a far more insightful case for the likelihood of new states -- or countries -- in the Americas.

His book, The Untied States of America, reminds us that, in 1950, the United Nations had 50 member countries. Today, the number has grown to 191.

And the trend seems to be toward more new countries. From 1900 to 1950 the world saw an average of 1.2 new countries a year; from 1950 to 1990 the rate grew to 2.2 new countries a year; and between 1990 and now, to 3.1 new nations a year.

"We have paid little attention to how many countries split and disappear because our own hemisphere has been remarkably stable," Enriquez says. "We have generated no true new borders on the American continent since 1910. But this stability may be coming to an end."

Countries, like marriages or corporations, often reach a breaking point, and split up or die. Most often, it is the richest regions -- not the poorest ones -- that seek to "untie" first. They feel they are giving more than they are getting from their current partnerships, and they want out, he says.

In the United States, rich states such as New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota are increasingly angry about giving more in taxes than they are getting back. Noting that most of these are "blue" [Democratic] states and are not part of the southern U.S. Bible Belt, he says their residents "have a lot more in common with Canadians than they do with those living in red [pro-Bush] states."

Rather than a Mexican takeover of southern U.S. states, we may see Hispanic populations in southern U.S. states and northern Mexico seeking "in-between states" a la Puerto Rico, perhaps -- if they feel alienated from their respective central governments, he says. Watch ongoing regional autonomy drives in Britain and Spain, he says.

In Mexico, Enriquez sees a possible breakup in four nations: the north ("NAFTA country"), Central Mexico (Mexico City and its surroundings), indigenous Mexico (Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca) and the new Maya (Yucat√°n, Campeche and Quintana Roo).

And it is very likely that these new Mexican states will be controlled by drug cartels.

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