Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Our Extra States

Brian Hollar recently referenced Alex Tabarrok and Arnold Kling concerning America's number of states. From Tabarrok, 1789 the United States had 13 states and four million people. If the number of states had grown as fast as the number of people or if w in the United States had about the same amount of federalism as do the contemporary Swiss we would today have about 1000 states.

Having fewer people per state can be quite nice: easier for governments to understand the needs of the people, creates more accountablity, creates more competition between states. Of course, it could also be worse; the local knowledge can be used to better control the locals and people are more likely to be compliant.

But that's really another post. Instead I'd like to point out to Brian (and Alex Tabarrok and Arnold Kling) that in a lot of ways, we have more than 50 states. No, I'm not talking about Puerto Rico. I'm talking about cities. NYC, Chicago, Houston, LA, Boston, and so on create a sort of competition between living in the metro area and living outside the city limits.

This may or may not be a good thing. At the same time, some of the most invasive rules come not from DC or your state capital but from the city you reside in. But I'm not sure adding states will change much unless you split parts of a city into federalized units with equal and independent power. Good luck with that.

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