America is a messed-up place. We’ve got big problems: the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, trigger-happy police, Donald Trump, and a zillion other problems. Most young people are pessimistic about their futures. Things are looking pretty sucky nowadays.
We can, at least, look forward to a probable Blue Tsunami in November that will sweep the Republican Party out of power. But there’s just enough of a chance that the Republicans will hold on to enough power to prevent us from solving our problems. Worse, they’ll probably return to power in the future and will do everything possible to ruin this country. Thus, the long-term outlook for America, while not necessarily catastrophic, will not inspire any happy-go-lucky songs.
The problem is a fundamental flaw in the American Constitution: it awards far too much power to rural states. The populations of these states are less well-informed and more conservative than the urban states. They are preventing the changes this country desperately needs.
Amending the Constitution is not a plausible option: the rural states will never relinquish the excessive power they hold. Why should they?
I think I’ve figured out a solution to this conundrum. Here’s how it works.
First, a group of blue states announce their intention to form an Interstate Compact. This compact will create an Interstate Regional Authority — which will ultimately become a new national government. The founding members of this IRA would, I expect, be California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Maine. Possible other members would be Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Colorado. Roughly speaking, the founding members would be “Blue States”.
The IRA would be governed by a standard parliamentary system. Citizens of member states would vote by party, not by candidate. There would be, say, 300 members of the parliament, and each party would be awarded seats in the parliament in direct proportion to the total number of votes it garnered. We’d want a threshold of, say, 5 seats, below which a party gains no seats, because lots of small parties tend to make compromises impossible. The party with the most seats after an election would have the power to form a government by cobbling together a coalition of parties that controls a majority of seats. The government then makes all the decisions, determining budget, taxation — everything. Of course, if the government screws up, a parliamentary vote of no confidence can be called at any time and, if the government loses that vote, it is dissolved and new parliamentary elections are held. There are many more elements of a proper parliamentary system, but this is the basic structure.
The founding document of the Interstate Compact would be, in effect, a constitution, and it would include some of the elements of the Bill of Rights. It would also establish many agencies that parallel those of the current Federal government such as a federal court system with a Supreme Court.
Of course, the IRA would not be able to tread on the rights and prerogatives of the Federal government, which would impose many constraints. But the IRA would have a powerful lever of power: its influence over the Federal budget. Each year, it would bargain hard for reductions in the Federal budget, starting with its military budget. It would yield some small compromises on social spending, but would overall take a firm stand on these budgetary issues, because a shutdown of the Federal government ultimately advances the goal of reducing confidence in the Federal government. Humanitarian considerations would require some compromise, but the process can be stretched out over several decades.
The ultimate goal of this process is to whittle the Federal government down to a shadow of its former self. More and more tax revenues would flow to the IRA rather than the Federal government.
As the Federal government withers, the IRA becomes more powerful. States that had previously shunned the IRA will find membership in the IRA to be increasingly attractive, and the IRA would welcome them into their association — but only under its existing terms. States must sign a legally binding agreement to abide by the rule of the IRA in order to join.
Eventually the IRA will have three-quarters of the states, which will permit it to pass an amendment to the Constitution declaring the Constitution null and void and dissolving the Federal government, transferring its assets and debts to the IRA.
What could go wrong?
There are several risks arising from this plan. We can be certain that the rural states will fight this scheme tooth and nail, filing dozens of lawsuits to block its implementation as an unconstitutional usurpation of Federal authority. However, the basic right of states to form interstate compacts has been upheld by the Supreme Court in a number of cases. The IRA could not in any fashion impede interstate commerce. The sole lever of power that the IRA would need to wield would be its ability to slowly strangle the Federal government of tax revenues and raise its own tax revenues. Both of these levers of power have been exercised many times before.
It is unlikely that this stratagem would lead to a civil war. Here the fact that states are bound to the Federal government turns out to be a two-edged sword. States cannot secede from the Federal government — and the Federal government cannot expel states. In any event, the members of the IRA would always retain enough power in the Federal government to block any attempts to use Federal power to punish members of the IRA.
The greatest threat to the scheme, I suspect, would be the impatience of hotheads who would insist upon taking radical action immediately. If the IRA oversteps its authority, the Federal government could take legal action to dissolve the IRA. If cool heads prevail and the process is carried out step by careful step, we could achieve a political revolution without any violence or destruction.