Every empire in human history has come to an end at some point. The Roman Empire lasted for thousands of years, died, was reborn two or three times, but eventually ended its reign on the world. In the late 1880s, the British Empire is said to have touched every part of the world. The US is fast approaching 250 years of independence. If you listen to some of TV and radio talk shows, one is lead to believe the USA is going to come crumbling apart tomorrow. It is a widespread message intending to bring people back to listen to more dire predictions for the United States.
Why is all this doomsday rhetoric so alluring to people? It stems from two sources. First, most people are fed up with their daily grind of getting up, going to work, going home, sleep and get up to do it all over again. These people are so desperate for a change, yet feel so trapped, that they would do anything to not have to continue with their lives as is, even have something as horrible as the United States breaking apart. It would mean a level of excitement that their current lives don’t offer.
Our second reason deals with two extremes. People are deaf to the issues facing the United States unless it directly impacts their lives, which leaves the extreme, passionate people left to run things. Unfortunately, this minority polarizes the USA to the point each side is pushing the worst case if their ideas and principles are not upheld. People like to listen to what the other side is doing to destroy the country. Media outlets see this attention so the rhetoric continues, with complete disregard to the consequences.
In Texas, some people are calling for the state to become a country to avoid having to participate in some federal mandatory programs (Obamacare). This discussion brings to light the question of which states could exist as their own countries if the need should arise. We looked at five factors to determine if a State could be a country: financials (tax revenue and expenses); reliance on the Federal government (how much aid does it receive); relationship with other countries (International trade); how remote the state is from Washington DC; and its history (was it ever a country before). For our simple exercise, we did not analyze military strengths. We only looked at state’s ability to maintain itself as a country, not how it would defend itself in such a situation. Almost half the states (24) made our preliminary list for qualifying for one or more criteria such as Alaska only needing 2.8 million (19% of its state budget) from the Federal government. Alaska was also one of the furthest states from Washington DC, but this was not enough to make the top five.
5. New York
New York made it to number five on our list. Illinois tied with New York on matching our criteria, but New York is better positioned to be a major player in the International market because of its location than Illinois. New York, anchored by the city-state of New York City was ranked third by The Economist on its list for its population and financial strength. New York brought in more than $30B in annual tax revenue and did more than $50B in international trade last year. If New York did become a nation, it would be the 16th largest economy in the world. In the past, New York’s largest imports were oil, gold, aluminum, utilities (natural gas and electricity), diamonds, and lumber. New York was also the fifth largest agriculture state bringing in apples, cherries, dairy and much more. New York would need to get used to being a independent country since it has never been on its own. However, its a giant in financial terms and frankly, how could a juggernaut like New York City ever truly die.
Florida beat out New York because it has been a country in the past (although it was only for a couple of months.) A Spanish colony at first, Florida was an independent republic before entering the Confederate States in 1862. Florida’s economy and population size propelled it into the top five. Florida had the fourth largest Gross Domestic Product in the United States with a wide variety of industries contributing to its production including aerospace and engineering and biomedical research. Tourism, of course, also made up a large percentage of its business with more amusement parks per capita than any other place in the country, 1 park for every 869,850 residents. Although it relied too much on Federal Aid (32% of its state budget comes from DC) in the past, it was always well-positioned to carry on as a country if the need should arise.
Texas was its own country for ten years in the 1840s before joining the United States. Texas’ War of Independence included the Battle of the Alamo, which still resides in San Antonio today, and was won at the Battle of San Jacinto. Texas started off with a rough and ready independent streak, which has never faded over the years. Texas had the highest International trade of any state in the country, blowing away its closest competition, California by more than a $100B. Its economy was strong with rich rewards from the oil and tech business. Its one downfall, beaten out by the two that surpassed it on this list, is it relied too heavily on Federal aid. It based 32% of its state budget on aid it received from the United States showing a dependency on DC that might be difficult to overcome.
Of all the states on our list, Hawaii being its own country made the most sense from the practical standpoint because its located far from DC and national politics. It relied very little on the federal budget to help it with its bills, only needing $2.3 million annually. As one would expect, it was heavy in International trade with over $50B in exports. Its largest customer was Australia and it exported more transportation equipment than other category. It had also been a kingdom and a republic on its own before joining the United States. The only deterrent for Hawaii was its small economy and lack of industry. Throughout its history, Hawaii relied on one industry to be its bread maker. It had a set of diverse industries including sandalwood, whaling, sugarcane, pineapple, military, tourism, and education. Tourism made up a majority of its GDP, making up 24% of it. Considering it is hundreds of miles away from other places, it would need to create some industry quickly if it would go back to being a kingdom or a republic.
California made the top of our list by meeting almost all of our criteria. The only criteria it missed was not being under 25% in the amount of federal aid it receives, but it came close at 27%. California has huge economy and a diverse population. Economists ranked California at the top as well, based on its study of the state’s GDP at $2 trillion, making up 15 percent of the USA’s GDP. International trade was also an important part of its economy making up 25% of its GDP. Population boomed at 38 million making it the 35th largest population in the world, beating out most countries. There was only one state larger in the Western Hemisphere, located in Brazil. California was also well situated geographically, with the pacific ocean bordering it to the west. California was a country in its own right in the mid-1840s like Texas.