The Bran Report

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Old Countries

Between Wikipedia, re-reading old blog posts of mine, and a desire to avoid work, I have spent all day thinking: what if we were the 51st state?

This is long, so it's behind a cut: Click here for it all.


How could it happen?
Well, we could be like Peurto Rico, I suppose- an insular Commonwealth. But honestly, the main reason for doing this would be to get right up in the US decision making process. The strongest argument in its favour is that we are hugely affected by Congress and Senate, but don't have a bally thing to say about it. Let's shoot for statehood.

What would the State of Great Britain and Northern Ireland look like?
Well, our wars and foreign relations would be decided in Washington. We'd get the Dollar, of course, and send represntatives to Washington. Most everything else would come under State's Rights.

To answer your question, we'd be the craziest state ever, especially if we joined as a single unit. Most states have bicameral legislation. We have the House of Commons, the House of Lords, The Scottish Parliament, the Welsh assembly and sometimes a Northern Irish assembly, all with conflicting powers. That being so, and I'm sure many Scots in the audience will applaud, we could join as four states.

But don't we hate America?
Yeah, but we loved them in 1999. We might again.
Plus, a lot of the friction comes from the perception that our wars and foreign relations are decided in Washington.

What's the biggest problem?
God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

The United States of America started as an "I hate Monarchy" club, and the Constituion demands that States are republics, with an elected head of state. We could get around this a few ways:
Like we tried before: Disestablish the Monarchy, which is to say, take away the Civil List and Royal Assent. They'll get on just fine without it, and they can keep their fabulous private wealth, ceremonial duties and life of being perpetually hounded by journalists. Meanwhile, the Prime Miniter gets to write "head of state" after his name, which frankly they've been de facto since Walpole.
Like they do in Kinshasha: Make the Monarch an elected post. We just keep voting for Liz and her kids, and whenever America asks if we're a democracy we say "Oh yes, we're a democracy. It's just coincidence that no living head of state has been voted out of office, and no heir has ever failed to succeed their parents."
Like they do in Beijing: Hold an election with only one candidate.
Like they do in Florida: Hold an election, but only count the votes for the predetermined winner. Oh no he di-ent!

Would the Americans let us in?
Well, politically, we'd be a great boon to liberals. The current mood among conservatives is very pro-british because of our impeccable table manners. This may change is they ever hear about the kind of things we get up to over here, like "66% of British people don't believe in god" or "A school teacher telling a child that Harry Potter is witchcraft are grounds for dismissal".

How would this affect the United States?
Hugely, and don't let no-one tell you different. We're hugely Blue, for starters- we've nationalised healthcare and all our universities are, in American terms, state schools. Our minimum wage is about $11/hour, compared to the Federal minimum which is scheduled to rise to $7.25 by the end of 2009.
Labour and the Conservatives roughly match up to parts of the Democrat party, with the Old Conservative just edging into Republican. (For non British readers, Old Labour are left-wing and New Labour are centre-right. Old Conservative is right wing, and under Cameron we are starting to see a centre-left New Conservative.) Liberal Democrats are, um, very liberal Democrats. If the Four States started sending in Electoral College votes we would break the mould of American Politics like no-one's business because...

How would the Four States compare to existing states?
The State of England would be about the same size as New York State, but with the population density somewhere between MA and RI. It would be the biggest state in terms of population and with a GDP of $1.8 trillion, it would be pretty much on a par with California in terms of economy. In fact, you could do worse than just to say "It's like New England".

The State of Scotland would be a cold, mountainous state about the size of Maine, but with 5 million people rather than 1.3 million. In terms of population it comes in at around the #20 mark, comparing well to Minnesota or Wisconsin. "A smaller part of Michigan" might be an appropriate comparison, since the population density matches up about right- as does the trackless wilderness with occaisional post-industrial rusthole.

The State of Wales is almost as mountainous, but much smaller: about the size of NJ in area. The population density isn't as high- 361 people per square mile, which is lower than Deleware but higher than Florida. The toal population is down around the #30 mark with Iowa and Mississippi. Wales would be an anomoly among anomlies: arguably the only state that is bilingual between English and an indiginous language.

Northern Ireland would be a huge pain in the head, ass and most other parts of the metaphorical body.They don't really take part in Westminster, and I doubt they'd take part in Washington, but here goes: it's the size of Connecticut, with a population of Nebraska (about #40). For some reason I feel like New Hampshire is a good analogy. The part of New Hampshire with people in, though.

In fact, for a different perspective on it, let's do a mash-up. Now, everyone knows that comapring the size of cities is difficult- I mean, the original charter for London gives it an area of one square mile, and doesn't include the Houses of Parliament (technically, they're in a different city called "Westminster"). Still, I think you've probably already got your pinch of salt ready after reading the rest of this post.
New York stays on top of the pile with 8.2 million, but London breezes into second place with 7.1 M, ahead of Los Angeles at 3.8 M. Places like Chicago, Houston and Phoenix follow. Birmingham comes in at a dissapointing 11th- smaller than Dallas, but bigger than San Jose. Glasgow (Scotland) is a spit smaller than Baltimore at around 700,000. Around and just below the half-million mark are cities like Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield and Manchester: They sit in the 30s with Boston, Portland, New Orleans and Omaha.

Let's look at "Incorporated Places with over 100 000 residents" on those same pages.

By my count, California has 62 such towns, Texas 24, Florida 17, Virginia, Colorado and Arizona have nine each, North Carolina and Michigan have seven and all other states five or less (Suprisingly, including New York: NYC, Buffalo, Rochester,Yonkers and Syracuse- this is probably because of the dominance of NYC).

Northern Ireland has just one, Belfast- about the size and importance, it would seem, as Anchorage.
Wales has three (Cardiff, Newport and Swansea), which casts it in a Wisconsin/ Minnesota kind of light.
Scotland has four (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee) which is Oregonesque.
England has 57 such towns.

Conclusion: If Britain were to join the USA as four states, it would be three small-to-middling states and one top-tier state.

Hell, this exercise might have destroyed my ability to do any real work today, but I kind of feel better about my country now. We ought to make that our slogan: "If we wanted to, we could be as important as New York but maybe not quite as important as California".

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