Thursday, March 29, 2012

There Are No More Frontiers (And That's A Little Scary)

Alaska's official state nickname is one of only two that doesn't follow the formula "The X State". It is called "The Last Frontier". (Not to be confused with Space, which is not a U.S. state, but is "the final frontier".) (The other is New Mexico, "Land of Enchantment".) (OK, done with parentheses, for the rest of the piece.) Unfortunately, the name no longer fits. The parts of Alaska that are going to be inhabited are already inhabited. There will be no Klondike v2.0. For that matter, much of the mountainous part of the rest of the country, though expanding in population, is no longer pushing tentacles of human settlement into the wilderness. The United States has reached something of an equilibrium.

"B'ars" are significantly less afraid of three-year-olds, though, so that's a bonus.
Image via Wikipedia.

That obviously bothers some people, like Peter Thiel, who started his career by created PayPal and is continuing it by creating controversy. His new, big, strange project is an artificial island in international waters, not regulated by US law (recent seasteading news). Thiel believes that minimal government will create a paradise, and this is the only viable way to make it happen. In other words: "It's 2012, where's my moon colony? Oh well, an artificial island works too."

The history of humanity seems to have had two phases: one where a young nation devises a new, better form of governance, and another where said nation does all kinds of crazy crap that tests the integrity of that form, causing some people to leave, colonize a new place, and start over at phase #1. We're neck-deep in phase #2, it seems. In the United States, this means you live in a place that is governed by entities who have a vested interest in keeping ideological conflict at a simmer—motivating the party bases—without allowing a full rolling boil. As long as the Fifth Party System remains in place, there will be no peace.

The BBC posted predictions for 2112 the other day, including one that surprised me quite a bit: That California would eventually secede from the Union. This struck me as two things: 1) unlikely and 2) unfortunately so. Now, I'm not one to argue for the secession of any part of the US, but it seems like we'd all be better off if there were some way for different ideological communities to engage in the level of self-governance they seek. California seems a very unlikely target for that for a number of reasons, but it's sort of sad that there's no way to vent the pressure of the ideological battle for dominance.

There's a saying regarding internet services: "If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product." It seems clear that the same holds true for modern politics. If you're not receiving a subsidy, kickback, or special project, you're not a constituent. You're a flyer.

Handbills don't explore new frontiers.

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