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Thread: Why do we need "States" in a Country?

  1. #1
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    Default Why do we need "States" in a Country?

    What is the point of a country being divided up in to many States, each with it's own laws and legal systems?
    Would things be better if all laws were nationwide, yet there were still state governments to run the state?

    It seems to me that the only reason we have states the way we do now is because hundreds of years ago it was just easier and made more sense to do it that way, where as now it makes more sense just to keep it that way.

    The only argument i can think of is "people in different regions are different" and so they "require" slightly different laws and what not, but regional differences aren't black and white and can't be decided upon based on state lines.

    If a country was created at once rather than from scratch (as in, you could click your fingers and you'd have 300 million people, roads, hospitals, military, all at once) on a designated section of land, would it make more sense to have a single uniform system, rather than a state-system?

    J

  2. #2
    Maximum Proconsul silenus's avatar
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    Default Re: Why do we need "States" in a Country?

    Quote Originally posted by The J Word
    If a country was created at once rather than from scratch (as in, you could click your fingers and you'd have 300 million people, roads, hospitals, military, all at once) on a designated section of land, would it make more sense to have a single uniform system, rather than a state-system?
    Depends on the size of the country, for one. Discounting local conditions and control is a mistake, IMO. In a country the size of Britain, it makes sense to have a unitary system of government. But the larger the country, the more ponderous and unresponsive that form of government will be. Past a certain (unspecified) size, a Federal system just works better.

    As for where to draw state boundaries, what does it matter? You have to draw them somewhere. States need to be small enough that there isn't too wide a range of conditions and population to manage effectively is all. Following that "rule," California really should be two states, North and South. The only reason we haven't split already is the argument over which section gets stuck with Bakersfield.
    "The Turtle Moves!"

  3. #3
    Stegodon
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    Default Re: Why do we need "States" in a Country?

    Historically, why you have states in most federations is because the states started off independent, or semi-independent, and wouldn't join the federation unless the states retained some sovereignty. So the US is a federation, but China, with a similar area and about 4 times as many people, is not, because the provinces of China weren't independent countries, but China has pretty well always been run from Beijing, or wherever the capital was. Even a province like Tibet, which was independent, and has a completely different culture, language, religion, etc., is not a state in a federation, because it was added by conquest, not by a voluntary merger.

  4. #4
    Elephant
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    Default Re: Why do we need "States" in a Country?

    In a large nation with no subdivisions, places other than the capital tend to be forgotten. They also tend to be subjected to laws that might be quite appropriate in a large city, but completely inappropriate in the countryside.

    Heck, even within states, we have issues of "capital vs. countryside" and this region against that one.

    I for one am quite happy that we have different states with different laws. They assure us that if we do not like the laws of one area, we can find another that better suits us. That if we don't like the way our government is run, we have plenty of models for change. They provide competition between governments, something to measure our own progress against. They provide a lot of different places in which different ideas can be tested and improved before being implemented in other areas.

    And they provide smaller units of government which are very much more able to be held accountable by their citizens than one mass sovereign government.
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  5. #5
    Stegodon
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    Default Re: Why do we need "States" in a Country?

    Quote Originally posted by Chimera
    I for one am quite happy that we have different states with different laws. They assure us that if we do not like the laws of one area, we can find another that better suits us. That if we don't like the way our government is run, we have plenty of models for change. They provide competition between governments, something to measure our own progress against. They provide a lot of different places in which different ideas can be tested and improved before being implemented in other areas.

    And they provide smaller units of government which are very much more able to be held accountable by their citizens than one mass sovereign government.
    Thank you. You've saved me the trouble of typing out exactly the above.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Why do we need "States" in a Country?

    Given that, why is there so much resistance to changing the state boundaries? As stated above, California would make more sense if it were split, and it's certainly happened in the past, albeit in a Spanish / Mexican context (Baja California from Alta California, Baja California into del Norte and del Sur). But Bakersfield jokes aside, it doesn't seem like there's much incentive to split California, even though we only get 2/30000000 of a U.S. Senator each and the L.A. region alone has more people than most states. Furthermore, the historical significance of Rhode Island and Delaware is, no offense, not a good reason to have them participate on an equal footing with Texas and Illinois. We are also at our longest period in history without adding a new state (nearly 50 years), even though we have plenty of territories that might be considered. (If this is too strong a hijack, I can start another thread.)

  7. #7
    Stegodon
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    Default Re: Why do we need "States" in a Country?

    I think it's mostly just inertia, tradition, and people not wanting to give up power. When the country was created, the independent states wrote the Constitution so they would not have to give up all their power, because the people in charge of those states didn't want to give it up. When we added more territory, we had to divide it up into states because of the way our Constitution was written. We broke the new territory up into small chunks when we got it so that different factions could get more senators on their side and so that no one addition would have the potential to have too many representatives - you can bet that if a new chunk of land showed up in the middle of the US the size of the Louisiana Purchase, it would not be added as one big state.

    We deliberately made out Constitution difficult to change and requiring the consent of the states to alter. It makes sense to minimize the differences between the states, but the people in power in these states do not want to give up that power, of course. We've already had one very bloody conflict when there was a conflict between the majority and states rights, and there probably would have to be another for another major shift in power towards the federal government.

  8. #8
    Prehistoric Bitchslapper Sarahfeena's avatar
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    Default Re: Why do we need "States" in a Country?

    Quote Originally posted by Chimera
    In a large nation with no subdivisions, places other than the capital tend to be forgotten. They also tend to be subjected to laws that might be quite appropriate in a large city, but completely inappropriate in the countryside.

    Heck, even within states, we have issues of "capital vs. countryside" and this region against that one.

    I for one am quite happy that we have different states with different laws. They assure us that if we do not like the laws of one area, we can find another that better suits us. That if we don't like the way our government is run, we have plenty of models for change. They provide competition between governments, something to measure our own progress against. They provide a lot of different places in which different ideas can be tested and improved before being implemented in other areas.

    And they provide smaller units of government which are very much more able to be held accountable by their citizens than one mass sovereign government.
    That's pretty much my opinion. Smaller, localized units of government help prevent the tyranny of the majority.

  9. #9
    Stegodon
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    Default Re: Why do we need "States" in a Country?

    Quote Originally posted by Chimera
    I for one am quite happy that we have different states with different laws. They assure us that if we do not like the laws of one area, we can find another that better suits us. That if we don't like the way our government is run, we have plenty of models for change. They provide competition between governments, something to measure our own progress against. They provide a lot of different places in which different ideas can be tested and improved before being implemented in other areas.
    That's fine in the US, which has 50 different states which are actually different from each other, but it doesn't work in Australia where the main differences between the States is what the driver's licences and car registration plates look like.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Why do we need "States" in a Country?

    Another good reason to have separate states is the opportunity for legislative experimentation. State A tries something for the first time, it works, State B then copies it. Happens all the time. With 50 states, you multiply the number of experiments going on at any given time, and thus multiply the likelihood that some will be successful. For that matter, we also learn from the failures: State C tried legislation X, which looked like a great idea, but it wound up destroying their budget. We'd better stay away from that, or figure out a way to make it work better.

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