Girth has forever been the enemy of utility, efficiency, and liberty. The Mongol Empire and the Ottoman Empire were great vessels of terror imposed to exult glorified thugs. Republicanism and democracy, though less prone to such boundless cruelty, are limited palliatives. The democracy of a large nation is more tyrannical than the democracy of a small nation. Rome the city-state was preferable to the Roman Empire. A democracy of a large nation is depressingly more tyrannical than a benevolent monarchy of a small nation. (Having spent time in Monaco, I speak from experience.)
Massive size necessitates massive conformity – and, therefore, massive deformity. Everyone is fitted with a similar foot-binding shoe. The larger the nation, the more binding the shoe must become. The Affordable Care Act was simply another tug in the continual tightening of the laces.
Binding to conform is nothing new in the great big United States. Over the decades, the U.S. Code has swelled to a shelf-buckling 200,000 pages, and the swelling only progresses. The Federal Register, the great enabler of the dreary bureaucrat, comprises 80,000 pages. Only relentless growth in legislation and regulation can subjugate 3.794 million square miles of territory and 317 million people to the edicts of one tiny consolidated east-coast locale.
So much for the federalists, who believed a large landmass populated with people holding contrary opinions would lead to permanent political gridlock, and thus widespread equanimity. Quid pro quo reigns instead. This dull game of reciprocity has a homogenizing influence on society. The political class is best served when the United States is a melting pot, when a tossed salad would better do.
Over 3,000 miles separate Bangor, Maine and Bakersfield, California. Nearly the same distance separates Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi, yet few people recommend that all the turf and the subjects occupying the turf between Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi come under one central authority.
So if not between Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi, why between Bangor and Bakersfield? People of Maine and people of California have some leeway on the margin for self rule, but not much: Highways, drinking age, education, occupational laws, licensing, wage rates is an infinitesimal sampling of how Maine and California are tightly bound, whether they like it or not.
But if people of Maine and California were free of a centralized United States government, why should they still be bound by legislation and regulation covering their respective land mass? Portland and Bangor should wish to be tied together by roads and aircraft, but why by legislation? The same holds for Bakersfield and Sacramento, or any metropolitan combination. Why demand conformity and ensure discord?
In my home state of Colorado, Boulder and Colorado Springs are less dissimilar than Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi, but more dissimilar than Bangor and Bakersfield. In Colorado Springs, the number of conservatives easily exceeds the number of liberals. Boulder's government, in contrast, is awash with democratic socialists. Only 100 miles separate the two cities. The state of Colorado envelopes both. As it is, citizens of Boulder and Colorado Springs can only hinder each other, because all must wrangle to satisfy their wants in the state political maw in Denver. Unsatisfactory compromise and enmity ensue.
It need not be that way. A Colorado Springs cattle rancher might frown upon a Boulder software developer's position on gun control, while a Boulder software developer might frown upon the rancher's position on abortion. They disagree on most issues, even all issues. So be it, go your own way.
But despite their differing views on morality and convention, cooperation is still possible – and very probable. Commerce is the great civilizer. Because Colorado Springs and Boulder are each small land masses, political demands for autarky would never arise. Trade would be a necessity to satisfying wants. The cattle rancher values the developer's inventory-management software; the developer values the rancher's filet mignon. Where they agree, they come together. In the process, comity blooms.
Of course, permanence is fleeting, as is taste: Should Boulder become too democratically socialist for the software developer, or Colorado Springs too conservative for the cattle rancher, each could more easily decamp to a nearby competing jurisdiction. Perhaps neighboring Fort Collins offers a more appealing mix of socialism and market incentives for the Boulder socialist's changing preferences. (A few citizens in Weld County, which is home to Fort Collins, openly pushed to break free of Colorado to form a new state.)
Simply put, smallness enables mobility when compromise becomes intolerable. The United States declares war on Germany and Japan, what is a U.S. conscript living in Kansas to do? Perhaps he could escape, with great effort and risk to life and limb, to Canada or to Mexico, where it's likely the culture and social structure in both countries would be unsatisfying. The choice between being miserable and possibly dying and simply being miserable is hardly optimal.
In a world of many self-governing metropolises, war would be an infrequent event whose impact on the world at large would be minimal. War between Boulder and Colorado Springs would be implausible, if not laughable, as would war between Andorra and Monaco or San Marino and Liechtenstein. And if a strain of people are continually seduced into belligerence, the conflict remains meaningless to most of the world. Who outside the South Sudan cares (and by “cares,” I mean endures sleep-loss worry) if the Dinka tribe and the Nuer tribe are again warring?
On the other hand, war between Spain and France, or Germany and Italy, or the United States and Russia is a matter with grave consequences. I might not want to care about a war in Europe, but with the collateral damage so extensive, I have no choice but to.
A quote (possibly apocryphal, but insightful nonetheless) attributed to Barry Goldwater speechwriter and libertarian philosopher Karl Hess distills to one crude but cutting sentence why smaller is better. Though it unfortunately adheres to Godwin's law, it's worth repeating nonetheless: “Hitler as chancellor of Germany is a horror; Hitler at a town-hall meeting is an a**hole.”
If nations were formed so everyone in government were readily knowable and accountable, open to scrutiny and ridicule, effortlessly replaced, no one could easily ascend beyond Hess' latter observation. As it is in large nation-states, too many can ascend beyond both.