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Four Million Commutes Reveal New U.S. 'Megaregions' (nationalgeographic.com)
322 points by nopinsight on Dec 4, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 252 comments



Coming form the mid-Atlantic region, I'm continuously surprised at what a non-entity Baltimore has turned out to be. It seems to have been entirely subsumed by its more well known neighbors: D.C. and Philly -- yet being so near to those two seems to have almost entirely escaped the economic and social revival that's happened in those two major regions as well.

One other thought, the artificial, and somewhat arbitrary drawing of state boundaries has also made urban planning needlessly complex. If the U.S. had a method to redraw state boundaries every 20-30 years, these regions would be just about the right size to be states, and this would greatly simplify the planning and coordination of everything from transit to education delivery.

Instead, most of these regions cut across these administrative boundaries and medium sized 5 year projects turn into multi-decade, highly wasteful, high friction programs with an extraordinary high chance of failure.


US states are not merely administrative divisions (like provinces in other nations) but are literal independently-governed states. Would you also propose re-drawing the borders of every EU nation every 30 years to reflect population movement?

This misunderstanding (provinces vs states) leads to much misunderstanding of the US federal system in general, the electoral college, role of the federal government, etc.


Yeah, I'm not sure how people would handle having half of their guns made illegal, having to learn new traffic laws, having you taxes completely change to the point where your state income taxes can go from 0% to 15%, your house becomes illegal because of different building regulations, public schools become charter schools, marijuana suddenly becomes illegal and you're a marijuana farmer, and this happens every 10 years or so. It would be chaos and require a fundamentally different kind of government organization.


It'd only be chaos if it were externally imposed and done for the sake of doing it.

For stuff like traffic laws, there's anyway already efforts to harmonize them.

Also charter schools are public schools (not an endorsement of the concept, but in the US they are generally publicly funded and chartered by some public entity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_schools_in_the_United_... ).


Those would solely be rural problems, and we have a long tradition of support the urbanite and crush the ruralite whenever possible, so it would be politically consistent to do exactly that.


Eh, rural areas actually receive more in federal funding than they pay in taxes while paying less in taxes anyway due to decreased costs of living. Additionally, the US heavily subsidizes farming and funds infrastructure development for rural areas that are not available to more populated states and areas, such as gas, electric, and internet services. Economically speaking, rural areas also disproportionately benefit from projects like interstate highways, public water infrastructure, and bridges. Additionally, rural areas also consume, by far, the most in entitlement resources. And finally, rural areas are disproportionately represented in government, to the point that someone in a city like New York gets nearly half the amount of votes as someone in Montana, and also greatly suffering in the Senate which is not awarded on the basis of population. To sum up, rural areas pay no net taxes, receive economically beneficial subsidies and policies, and are given more political rights than people who live in urban areas. The idea that they're being screwed in a nation where they're the ones with all the control is absurd.


I think the key observation is this: everything you say is true, and yet many rural areas still have terrible economies.

It's hard to square that circle -- that rural areas are heavily subsidized but yet still economically depressed and under-served. Hence, comments like the one from VLM above.

Of course, it all boils down to economic fundamentals: cities and metro areas create a network effect that's difficult or impossible to compete with, no matter how well subsidized rural areas are.

The fact that rural areas suffer in spite of their greater representation and massive economic subsidies is a difficult pill for a person from a rural area to swallow. A "they are screwing us" mentality is a much more compelling narrative.


Then could it be that the subsidies are the only thing making rural life livable for many people? In other words, without the subsidy, the economy would be so depressed that people would move to cities.


And they just voted in an administration who wants to take away all of their subsidies. Education in rural areas can also be sorely lacking.


Well, yes and no.

They voted in an administration who wants to take away all of the subsidies for their poor population.

But they also voted in an administration who wants to massively subsidize their way of life at the expense of the rest of the tax base. Trump's basic economic plan is to use the carrot of access to America's rich suburban and urban markets as a mechanism for increasing domestic manufacturing (largely benefiting rural areas). So suburban and urban residents will be subsidizing artificial marketplaces that inflate the prices they themselves pay for goods.

His major governmental program will be a transportation infrastructure overhaul that will very likely disproportionately be paid for by suburban/rural areas and benefit rural areas.

And more importantly, those rural voters consistently vote for state governments that rob the tax bases of suburban and urban areas to pay for infrastructure that rural areas can't pay for on their own. Particularly for education and transportation infrastructure.

Basically, rural communities in the US are leeches who use their disproportionate access to political power in order to subsidize their unsustainable way of life on the dime of suburban and urban tax payers. And then have the audacity to claim the opposite.


And yet, where does the food and water come from?


In the USA?

Food comes from land worked worked using tractors designed and built by engineers in cities, in many cases harvesting crops geo-engineered by biologists and chemists in cities. And to the extent that one or more of these conditions isn't true, those are often premium products made possible by demand stemming from choosey consumers mostly living in... cities.

Also, as JoeAltmaier observed, very few people employed in rural areas are actually employed in agriculture. Furthermore, many of the subsidies that are provided to rural areas have nothing to do with -- and aren't necessary for -- agriculture.

Regarding water, rural areas contribute equally to water quality problems and in many cases make highly unsustainable use of water resources -- see California for example. Also, urban areas are often near plentiful fresh water sources anyways (see: Chicago).

The fantasy of farming as a self-sufficient profession disconnected from larger economic networks and holding a privileged place among society's disparate roles is one of the most insufferable aspects of rural culture imo.


I'd be happy to give up agricultural lands in the US in exchange for much less political obstruction and substantial tax cuts. Those new countries would still have to sell their agricultural products on the market, and the nearest urbanized areas would still be some of their largest customers.

Seems like a win-win, right? But, there are significant reasons why the rural areas would never accept that deal. They're addicted to the imbalance of power and urban subsidies.


Agriculture is a strategic asset. What if you were at war and you had no place to buy food? What if a natural disaster in another country will decrease the quantity of produced food - no country will sell you food if they risk hunger. Agriculture has to be sustained even if the cost of crops is higher than on international market. The production capacity has to be larger than actual internal needs. etc.


Are the subsidies over-rated? We have energy coops (which we pay for entirely); we have a road system (the most expensive parts used by everybody); there are some agricultural supports (insurance programs?) but only a tiny fraction of rural residents are in farming. What else?


> Are the subsidies over-rated?

First, I don't think so. Second, an over-rated subsidy is still a subsidy. So even if they are over-rated, that's still no proof of VLM's statement -- it's more just looking the gift horse in the mouth.

> We have energy coops (which we pay for entirely)

This isn't true everywhere.

> we have a road system (the most expensive parts used by everybody)

Perhaps for the interstate system you could make this case. I'm not sure. Certainly there are cases where the interstate system inconvenience cities for the benefit of an extremely tiny but politically powerful rural district. The same happens with state highways.

But at the state level, rural roads are heavily subsidized. State highways are typically extremely important to rural areas, and those are mostly funded by urban and suburban tax bases.

> but only a tiny fraction of rural residents are in farming

But farming is still very important to local economies in rural areas, even if it's no longer a major employer. Also, "some" is a bit of an understatement -- half a trillion in federal funds over half a decade. And that's just the main farm bill -- excluding other federal and state assistance programs.

> What else?

* Schools for sure. Most states heavily subsidize rural schools in their funding formulas. States and the federal gov't also subsidize rural schools through programs that are not even accounted for by these funding formulas -- e.g. tuition waivers and sometimes even salaries for teachers that teach in rural schools.

* Federal and state entitlement programs -- this one isn't even close to debatable.

* Political representation. Again, not even close to debatable. I consider this independently of all of the other indirect economic benefits that stem from the representation for a lot of reasons. To give one, the conservative social agenda disproportionately targets and complicates the lives of the non-white non-christians concentrated within cities.


>half a trillion in federal funds over half a decade

Don't multiply to make it sound like something. That works out to less than 100 million a year. To three significant digits that is 0% of the budget.


Half a trillion over half a decade is 100 billion per year.

I make no claim to the accuracy of the original statistic, but if that is the case and the federal budget is 3.7 trillion [0] that is 2.7 percent of the budget.

0: https://www.cbo.gov/publication/51110


> Don't multiply to make it sound like something

I'm not being disingenuous -- the 2014 farm bill has a 5 year life time -- there'll be another big debate when it comes up for renewal in 2018.

The way that I described it is the same way that everyone on both sides of the isle describes it, because it's honest and accurate -- the bill has a five year life time and changes every five years. So if you want to talk about the cost of the farm bill, you talk about the total cost over five years.

> That works out to less than 100 million a year. To three significant digits that is 0% of the budget.

I think you missed some zeros.

(As an aside, Google has a cool feature where it will do math using words so that you don't screw up w/ the number of zeros: https://www.google.com/search?q=half+a+trillion+divided+by+f... -- I find this super helpful b/c I always drop or add zeros when there are so many)


We can argue back and forth about whether it amounts to a subsidy or something else. But if you just look at aggregate cash flows the largest flows from Washington out to rural areas are social security and government paid for medical care (medicare, medicaid, va, ppaca subsidies). The largest flows from the rural areas to Washington are the individual income tax and payroll taxes.

If those are significantly out of line with each other, then the net offset is going to swamp relatively piddly flows like the Connect America Fund or the Rural Utilities Service.


That's just demographics - more old people in rural areas means more social security. Nothing to do with being rural?


Two points:

1) I don't think it just so happens that there are more old people in rural areas. It has to do with the respective characteristics of rural and non-rural areas rather than some historical accident.

2) I think even if you excluded those over 65 you would still find net flows as I've described them because rural areas have too many poor people and not enough rich people.

The larger point is that if you look at the United States as a country where we are all in this together, then it makes no difference if the people getting social security disproportionately live in Wyoming and the people making max social security contributions are disproportionately in NY. Individuals might be net contributors or recipients but if the relevant group is Americans than it all sums to zero. Most of the time that's the attitude most Americans adopt. But then when it comes time to try to justify the continued existence of the Senate and the Electoral College all of a sudden it's 1789 again and the States are independent sovereigns that merely turned over a handful of responsibilities to the Federal government. All of a sudden we aren't all Americans after all but instead Wyomingites that want to know why they should be ruled by New Yorkers and Californians.


The young tend to leave for the city - where the opportunity is. The old come back and retire. That might have quite a bit to do with being rural.


> I think the key observation is this: everything you say is true, and yet many rural areas still have terrible economies.

Well yes, because the actual physical capital (machines, skilled labor, etc) is concentrated in cities. Increasingly so, in fact, as the economy has become dominated by monopolies and oligopolies.

http://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/junejulyaug-2016/popul...


> Well yes, because the actual physical capital (machines, skilled labor, etc) is concentrated in cities

Yes -- particularly with respect to skilled labor.

And that's largely a good thing for the working class. The alternative is local monopolies on the labor market. Highly skilled workers flock to areas where employers must compete with one another for a very good reason...

> Increasingly so, in fact, as the economy has become dominated by monopolies and oligopolies...

The urban population in the United States sky-rocketed over exactly the same period of time that Lynn and Longman romanticize.

Although I agree with a lot of their concrete policy proposals, I don't think that those policies would do anything to geographically decentralize economic activity.


>Although I agree with a lot of their concrete policy proposals, I don't think that those policies would do anything to geographically decentralize economic activity.

There's a difference between urban and megalopolis urban. Lots of jobs used to be in smaller, regional cities that had several employers available.


Yeah, centralization of the economy is great. So we all get to sit in traffic. Or walk and live in a closet sized apartment.


Yet there's more to life than mere balance of transfer payments and related economic policy.

How does your average Boston Clinton voting university academic look at, socially and culturally, someone like a Iowa Trump voting corn farmer? This is rhetorical, I know its with a level of disdain and hate and superiority complex like hasn't been seen since Jim Crow laws were a thing.

And note before discussion subject escape velocity was reached, the sub topic was we can't gerrymander rural people into crazy new rules every time the map is redrawn because that would be unfair to them and there is no higher social caste in the USA than the highly respected rural hillbilly so obviously that's a non starter. Back to that topic, I'm surprised there's any opposition at all to some kind of gerrymandering of state borders.


You are drawing a parallel between (a) legalized discrimination and violence against people based on color of their skin, and (b) not caring enough to give even larger handouts to people who claim to be fiercely proud of their independence.


A lot of the infrastructure in rural areas benefits cities, anyways. Having a good freeway between Chicago and Indianapolis helps those cities much more than the random cornfields the freeway happens to go through.


> rural areas actually receive more in federal funding than they pay in taxes

Citation needed. Inner cities consistently have higher poverty rates than rural or suburban areas.


> Inner cities consistently have higher poverty rates than rural or suburban areas.

Citation needed. Urban areas consistently have more millionaires than rural areas.

As to poverty rates, in the US, they are definitely higher in rural areas. For a citation, from the abstract of [1]:

> Although a larger portion of the poor population resides in urban areas, poverty rates are higher and more persistent in rural areas, and research suggests poverty rates increase as rural areas become increasingly remote.

Basically, urban areas have more poor people, but really they have more of all classes of people. If you go to Figure 1, you'll even see that the rate of poverty in category 0 (most urban) is lower than the rate of poverty in all rural categories (4-9)[1].

[1] https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/handle/10355/2942


Besides it being a bad idea anyway, nothing you describe is a) backed up by fact or b) necessarily ethical, if true.

Were the United States government to add a second sub-national set of borders for enumerated purposes such as infrastructure planning, etc., I expect a Constitutional amendment.


> Were the United States government to add a second sub-national set of borders for enumerated purposes such as infrastructure planning, etc., I expect a Constitutional amendment.

Those kind of already exist... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_district_(United_State...

Special districts don't normally cross state lines, but they can.


We urbanites call it gentrification. And, it's unavoidable under a market system.


> we have a long tradition of support the urbanite and crush the ruralite whenever possible

er, what? the opposite is true. at the federal level we generally give more consideration to sub-urban and rural needs, which i agree with, because cities are social and economic bubbles.


> cities are social and economic bubbles

In what sense do you mean this? Taken as a comparative statement, I find it a pretty dubious assertion.

Suburbs are sort of the ultimate bubble. They suffer from all of the typical things that make cities economic bubbles (a few major employers, geographic clustering based on income, ...), without any of the social or (typically but not always) racial diversity that's common in many cities. Oblig PG link is the one about schooling: http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html

The social bubble of rural areas is rather extreme -- white Christians are massively over-represented compared to the rest of the country and certainly compared to the rest of the world.

The economic bubble of rural areas tends to be far worse than the economic bubble of cities, IMO. Cities can certainly be economic bubbles, but at least those bubbles are typically made up of multiple fairly large sectors. Rural areas tend to have between one and three non-service industries -- farming, maybe some natural resource extraction, once in a while a small hospital, and in very rare cases a major white collar employer in a single sector. The echo chamber is real.

If we think in terms of politics, I never have a hard time finding conservatives talking politics in a bar in a city, but I've never once found a group of (US-style) liberals have a political conversation in a country bar. Cities might be as dark blue as the countryside is dark red, but the sheer size of cities means there are still far more conservatives in a given city than a typical rural area of similar size.

Basically, my impression is that cities are only bubbles in-so-far as they contain representation of almost every cross-section of society -- including the cross-sections that dominate rural areas! Calling that a bubble when compared to suburban and rural areas bubbles seems... dishonest.


No, we don't. Source: Detroit, Newark, Camden, Hartford...


Why would you believe that it would happen more frequently than it does now? All of those things would still be controlled by the residents, via government. The people it would affect the most would be those on the outskirts. But, those people are already affected by changing demographics via increasing population and urban expansion.


Well, the initial change would be pretty drastic, but otherwise the changes could be expected to be pretty minor each time.


The https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental_Congress was a confederation of sovereign states. When that failed, the sovereign states ceded their sovereignty to form a new Federal government with a constitution that supersedes state law. There was a war fought over this.


The U.S. has a federal government.

> Federal n. formed by a compact between political units that surrender their individual sovereignty to a central authority but retain limited residuary powers of government

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/federal

Senate representation is by state, 3/4 states have to ratify Constitutional amendments, the Constitution reverses rights for states, etc.

The Civil War was fought over the right of states to break their contract, not the importance of existent states as political units.


A quibble: the Constitution says nothing about states not being able to exit. In fact, the 9th and 10th amendments say that powers not delegated to the Fed are reserved for the people and states...strongly suggesting that states _DO_ have a right of exit.

So let's not say "the right of states to BREAK their contract" and instead say "the right of states to EXIT their contract".


I never said they did or didn't. Your quibble is with Abraham Lincoln, not with me.


They ceded some of their sovereignty, as outlined in the Constitution.

The Constitution supersedes state law, yes, but random federal statutes do not.


Federal statues also supersede state law, under the supremacy clause of the constitution.

That said, the states are still considered sovereign and residents of the several states live under a dual sovereignty of their state and the US government. Sometimes this leads to unpleasant consequences, such as being charged for the same crime in both state and federal courts because the Double Jeopardy clause of the constitution is considered to only prevent double prosecution under the same sovereignty.


>Federal statues also supersede state law, under the supremacy clause of the constitution.

How does that mesh with the states legalizing marijuana?


Not well. The Feds have chosen not to enforce the laws in the states which have legalized marijuana. In fact a lot of marijuana laws have suffered from selective enforcement. Whether that continues with the incoming administration is a huge question.

I was listening to the Freakanomica podcast last week and it was discussing the power of the president and one commenter said that one of the presidents "real" powers is selecting which laws to enforce (via their Attorney General) there could be some huge battles coming up. Ironically if the Feds choose to enforce the federal laws in states which have legalized marijuana it would be contrary to the emphasis on states rights eschewed by most conservatives.


I think you mean "espoused" not "eschewed".


You opened a can of worms for me. As a non-native (but very comfortable) English speaker I wasn't quite sure about the pronunciation of "eschew" because I can't remember to have ever used it, or when I last heard it.

https://stancarey.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/how-do-you-pronou...

Turns out there is a multitude of pronunciations to choose from.


Native English speakers are in the same boat a lot of the time. My reading vocabulary is a strict superset of the words I know how to pronounce, and I suspect the same is true for everyone who speaks a language with a non-regular writing system.


This is some relevant reading from a credible authority:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/201...

The short version is that the federal government has the power to pass laws, but under federalism, the states are not obligated to help the federal government enforce those laws.

That's how sanctuary cities and the like are born -- by states simply refusing to assist the federal government in their endeavors.

State marijuana legalization is a slightly different animal. On the one hand, they're exercising their anti-commandeering power (by refusing to arrest marijuana users). On the other hand, they're directly defying the supremacy clause by passing laws contrary to the federal laws, which is a step beyond anti-commandeering.

It hasn't been tested in court, but a likely argument would be one based on Marbury v Madison, in which the relevant portion is that congress may not pass an unconstitutional law. American jurisprudence tells us that an unconstitutional law need not be enforced by any court, officer or person, as an unconstitutional law is not a law at all. The states, if challenged, could assert that a federal ban on marijuana is unconstitutional on its face as it flies in the face of both the 9th and 10th amendments (and possibly the 5th, with maybe a sprinkling of the 14th, depending).

Of course, that hasn't happened, and this is all conjecture, and it's a crapshoot as to whether or not it would work, but it's not impossible that the federal government hasn't exerted too much top down pressure on early marijuana states because they wouldn't want to chance the precedent of losing.


>The states, if challenged, could assert that a federal ban on marijuana is unconstitutional on its face as it flies in the face of both the 9th and 10th amendments (and possibly the 5th, with maybe a sprinkling of the 14th, depending).

This part sounds critical, but I don't quite follow. If you're willing to expand on that, I'd love to hear about it.


I'll try to put this as straightforwardly as possible, but it's a meandering topic at best. The gist of what I'm referring to is found here[1], so you should probably stop and read that first. Past that, the relevant things are two main doctrines, the first is the 9th[2] and 10th[3] amendments collectively, and the other is "enumerated powers[4]".

So, the general principle is that 1) Congress doesn't have the power to do anything that they are not expressly authorized to do by the constitution, or that is not obviously implied by an enumerated power (for example, if I expressly enumerated you the power to apportion the jelly beans, it would be implied that you could count the jelly beans, audit the jelly beans, etc.) Because congress is not expressly enumerated any power to make marijuana illegal, the states (if challenged) could assert that they have neither an enumerated or implied power to do so, and the laws that they made to illegalize marijuana consumption were not constitutional to begin with. Under the interstate commerce clause[5], they may have the ability to 'regulate' the sale and/or distribution of marijuana, but banning it for private consumption may be a bridge too far considering...

The Ninth Amendment, which states "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people," combined with the Tenth Amendment, which states "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people," means that the powers of the federal government should not be used to take powers away from the citizenry, and that any powers not delegated to the federal government (expressly or implied) are reserved to the states or the people. It is this last clause that allows states to decline orders by the federal government where are not obviously granted those powers to the federal government by the constitution.

Put simply, the general position is that the federal government has supremacy on matters that the constitution says it should, but should defer to the people or the states on powers the constitution doesn't mention. Because the federal government doesn't have the power to ban marijuana, then the states could argue that, and assert their own soveriegnty on its regulation. Because the states would be granting more rights to the people than the federal government in this scenario, and because the burden of enforcing it would be exclusive to the individual states, they would have a pretty good claim on grounds of federalism.

[1] - http://www.constitution.org/uslaw/16amjur2nd.htm

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninth_Amendment_to_the_United_...

[3] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenth_Amendment_to_the_United_...

[4] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powers_of_the_United_States_Co...

[5] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commerce_Clause


DOJ is not widely enforcing federal drug laws against citizens complying with state laws - at the direction of the current administration - but they could do so in the future.


States legalizing marijuana are simply removing separate state criminal prohibitions on marijuana and deciding not to spend resources helping the Feds enforce their prohibition.

It is still illegal under federal law, though the current administration is presently not prioritizing enforcement of federal law regarding marijuana when the offense is within the scope permitted under state law.


There's a BIG problem with banking, as in: pot businesses can't open a bank account for the business, as the you hit Federal laws about distributing funds for Federally illegal business practices (selling drugs that are illegal to sell under Federal law), making pot shops basically cash only.

Which is absolute madness.


Technically, you can be arrested and charged with federal possession of a schedule one drug if you have any amount of marijuana in any state, including those states which have made it legal under state law. That's potentially a year in the federal pen.

State legalization of marijuana just means you can't be prosecuted under state law.


Try telling Texas that it is merely a "province"!


Texas is actually a lot more liberal than you might think and mostly does not care about it's history. It's even moving to the center consider Mitt Romney actually had a much wider margin in Texas than Trump.

Anyway, North and South Dakota where split simply to add 2 senators at the time. DC is not a state for the opposite reason. Face it, states are completely arbitrary lines on a map.

There is even a poorly drawn line approximately on the 37 degrees north was codified without reference to where the actual 37 degrees north actually was.


> ...Mitt Romney actually had a much wider margin in Texas than Trump.

Texans absolutely care about Texas history. You regularly hear the 'we have an independent power grid' and jokes about secession come up in conversation, etc. There are many possible reasons why Mitt Romney would have had a wider margin in Texas than Trump. It's premature to jump to the conclusion that it's turning 'purple or something'.

That being said, Texas is a bigger and more diverse place than popular culture respects. The center of Houston, Dallas, Austin, and similar zip codes are definitely 'blue' country.


DC is not a state because it is supposed to be neutral ground.


And that would even make sense if it only included the part with the White House, the Capitol, the Mall and stuff. But it turns out to also include a city where a half million disenfranchised people live.

(I think DC statehood does sound like a complicated mess, and the best solution -- if politically feasible -- would be to shrink it. You'd have the populous city of Washington, MD, and a tiny federal District of Columbia, coexisting like Rome and the Vatican. The problem is that Maryland doesn't want it.)


I think Maryland's simply gonna have to take one for the team. But yeah, I do dig the idea of redefining DC to be far smaller, ideally with zero citizens.


Not really. I'm sure the riots in front the Capitol in Philadelphia led to thoughts of needing control for safety reasons (Pennsylvania didn't intervene).

Originally DC residents would vote in Virginia or Maryland Congressional elections depending on where the territory was taken from (note: all DC land that came from VA has been returned to VA).

I think the idea originally is few would live in DC; it was tiny for a long, long time. But that's no longer true, hence why we gave DC the right to vote for President. Congress would be trickier given the balance of power, but none of the original motivating factors apply.


"Face it, states are completely arbitrary lines on a map."

And, what remains of state control ends up being a unwanted complexity to a lot of us.


> Texas is actually a lot more liberal than you might think and mostly does not care about it's history. It's even moving to the center consider Mitt Romney actually had a much wider margin in Texas than Trump.

You are certainly not from Texas. Stop trying to believe it is leaning center and will someday be democrat/liberal. Texans are the most prideful about their state and are proud of their rich history unlike other top states like California and New York.


Dallas county: Hillary: 458,845 votes Trump: 261,865

That's just one of several very blue parts of a overall Red state. Even with heavy gerrymandering and only 1 close race Texas still sent Dem. 11 vs. Rep. 25 to the House.


They ceded a specific and enumerated list of powers, reserving all others to the states.

Here is a small sample that shows some thoughts of the primary drafter of the Constitution(reference is Federalist Papers 45):

Within every district to which a federal collector would be allotted, there would not be less than thirty or forty, or even more, officers of different descriptions, and many of them persons of character and weight, whose influence would lie on the side of the State. The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected.

I chose taxation as a topic only because Madison gave concrete numbers. Here:

* Using the number of tax collectors as a rough metric, the federal government was planned to be about 30-40 times smaller than all individual states combined. I don't know the 2016 figures.

* He affirms that the federal government "[...]will be exercised principally on external objects", which would seem to oppose redrawing state lines for the convenience of local matters(such as city boundaries). Though, if all states in question consented to having their borders redrawn, it does seem like the federal government should still at least approve.

So I'm not sure I buy this argument that the Federal government was designed at the outset to be this all-consuming entity that can stomp all over states however it pleases, though there certainly has been a recent trend that way. Hopefully the upcoming Supreme Court appointments can reverse this trend.

Given the topic, this sentence is also worth reading:

If the new Constitution be examined with accuracy and candor, it will be found that the change which it proposes consists much less in the addition of NEW POWERS to the Union, than in the invigoration of its ORIGINAL POWERS.


It sounds even more strong: he thought the federal government would be 30-40 times stronger than each individual state.


I think that's the exact opposite of what's written.

"Within every district to which a federal collector would be allotted, there would not be less than thirty or forty...whose influence would lie on the side of the State."


I guess you're right -- the "districts" in question are subsets of States, so he's saying something like "for every one federal official in Phoenix, there would be at least 30-40 Arizona officials".


At a very high level, yes I do believe that borders should be continuously redrawn based on population movement. But it doesn't need to happen in a fully central planning sort of way, it could be more fluid.

For example, towns on borders could elect which side of the border they are on. And neighborhoods could elect which town they are in.

If borders were more fluid, I think you'd see things like stronger divisions between urban and rural areas, which is a good thing. Illinois is an urban state by population with a massive rural subset. It doesn't make sense to me that two populations with such vastly different needs would be under the same state laws.


I like this idea, but I'd also like to point out that in some (many) cases, the outcome may be the opposite of that envisioned. For example, a large part of Southern Connecticut is mainly a bedroom community for New York City; based on the typical commute, you'd think it should join the state of New York, but I can guarantee you people in Southern Connecticut are perfectly happy paying less in state taxes. Conversely, if they could choose to secede from the New York State, Westchester County would join Connecticut in a second, although again, it's a bedroom community for NYC.


Fluid borders provides better competition between jurisdictions. A community would have no reason to join a higher taxrate jurisdiction unless they were getting value out of it (e.g. better schools, trains, police, etc.). That's a good thing.

Though I fully acknowledge that I'm ignoring significant issues. e.g. what if NYC drops billions on a new trainline, and then some neighborhoods benefiting from the train line switch away from NYC. Are they still obligated to pay to maintain the train line?

Things like that.


Why would it be a bad idea to redraw borders to reflect population movements, shared values, and similar things?

Consider Brexit. It's going to cause someone to be very unhappy - either the rural hinterlands who don't want to be part of Europe, or the Londoners/Scotsmen who do. Why not let them both get what they want?

(Obviously the benefits from boundaries that reflect shared values need to be weighed against the cost of the transition. I'm only suggesting it's far from clear that this is a bad idea.)


The creation of Maine from Massachusetts shows that there is a way to redraw the borders of a state already admitted to the union. It may not be an efficient or repeatable process, but evidently it can happen regardless of how many times you say "states, not provinces!".


Importantly, this was only done with the consent of the state.


I'm not sure that West Virginia came out of Virginia with Virginia's consent...


Wartime is a long-accepted way of changing what a government has sovereignty over. This is still a bad example to show that US states are mere administrative decisions permitted to exist because the feds feel nice today.


US states are not merely administrative divisions (like provinces...

As an English Canadian I can hear in my mind Quebecers saying "Tabernac!"


Maybe I would. If the citizens of the country agree with it, then why not? Countries and demographics change.

Why should we be permanently beholden to borders decided by unjust wars of centuries past?


That doesn't have to stop them. Europe's borders are also constantly redrawn, even in the 21th century. Next to the usual independence movements and annexations there's also a number of land swaps that happen due to referendums or in order to produce more sanely shaped borders.

I guess the key is that the initiative has to come from the individual states. If it was dictated from the federal level it indeed wouldn't work


> Europe's borders are also constantly redrawn, even in the 21th century.

I know of exactly one non-war redrawing of a border in Europe in the 21st century. That's hardly "constantly".


>US states are not merely administrative divisions (like provinces in other nations) but are literal independently-governed states

i think that's kind of exaggerating the situation a bit. They maybe have a bit more control over their own affairs than most country's provinces do, but the degree of autonomy a province has varies quite a bit from country to country. there's nothing that fundamentally make a state different to a province besides the name, and comparing a US state with an EU member nation is just silly.


The difference is where the "sovereign" source of power is.

In most countries, even with highly autonomous provinces, the central government can simply pass a law to change their status at will.

In the U.S., it cannot. The U.S. federal government only has the right to legislate in a small, whitelisted set of areas and does not have the right to change anything about the States' status or individual State laws beyond that.


That's exactly the same as Canada: the provinces and their authority are defined in the constitution, and it requires a constitutional amendment (which requires agreement of 2/3 of the provinces) to change what the provinces have authority over.


There is one big difference between US and Canada in that regard.

In Canada, the constitution enumerates the powers that the provinces have, and that the federal government cannot encroach on. However, any power that is not enumerated, belongs to the federal government.

In US, it is the other way around - the constitution enumerates the powers that the federal government has, and everything that is not on the list is up to the states. And the constitution even has a specific clause (10th Amendment) that reinforces that arrangement.


I Germany it is also like in the US, except that list is very long and growing (next up is the Autobahn).


In US, the list is also growing in practice, via creative reinterpretation of existing text of the constitution.

For example, the constitution says that the federal government has the right to regulate "interstate commerce". Originally, this was actually supposed to allow the feds to prevent the states from impeding commerce with other states (e.g. enacting tariffs on out-of-state goods etc). Over time, it became used instead by the feds to prevent or regulate the trafficking of some goods between states (e.g. the National Firearms Act did it for guns in 1930s).

Then, finally, the meaning of "interstate commerce" was reinterpreted to mean any activity that can have a causal relationship on interstate commerce. The decision that sealed this was in a case of a farmer growing wheat for personal consumption (to feed farm animals), in defiance of the federal law that limited production of wheat. The farmer argued that, since the wheat didn't leave his farm, it was not commerce at all; and most certainly wasn't interstate commerce. The Supreme Court ruled that it was, because growing wheat for himself meant that he wasn't buying it on the market, thereby affecting prices, and that this effect crossed state lines - and that therefore Congress was in its right to enact a federal law prohibiting the farmer from doing that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn

Since then, this interpretation has been broadly used to regulate a lot of things - obviously, under this interpretation, pretty much anything is "interstate commerce". The most obvious example is the federal drug prohibiting private possession and consumption of drugs.


Unless I'm missing something, that Wickard/Filburn example is bonkers! I can picture a Josef Heller/Catch 22 sorta scene:

"you are influencing the market"

"i'm not taking part in the market!"

"yes, by not taking part in the market, you are influencing the market"


There's one thing to keep in mind about the original Wickard decision: it was made in an era where the courts were still mostly practicing the doctrine of "judicial deference".

What this means is that when there's a case where the courts have to rule on constitutionality of some law, they err on the side of ruling it constitutional, if there's any way to twist the wording such that it would allow the law - even if the legislators didn't think of that originally. The idea is that the laws enacted by duly elected legislators represent the will of the majority, which is sacrosanct in a true democracy, while the courts are not elected.

Thus, the balance has to be in favor of the elected institution, and the courts have a duty to try to "save" any law by coming up with creative interpretations of the limiting clauses of the constitution. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Supreme Justice of the Progressive Era (when that concept was at its peak), summed it up as, "a law should be called good if it reflects the will of the dominant forces of the community, even if it will take us to hell".

That doctrine has been on the decline since the Civil Rights era, where SCOTUS was striking down state laws left and right as unconstitutional. But it still surfaces occasionally - e.g. in the recent decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and specifically its provision that requires people without insurance to pay a fine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Federation_of_Indepen...). The court said that the fine is a kind of tax, even though the text of the law uses the term "penalty" consistently, and the legislators that originally wrote the bill explicitly stated that it's not a tax back when it was under discussion (and its opponents insisted that it was a tax, ironically)

So that doctrine kinda explains why they were willing to come up with such an obviously contorted interpretation. What's more interesting is why it stayed with us for so long...

Other than that, you aren't missing anything. A significant chunk of federal laws since that decision was based in part or in whole on that interpretation. There is exactly one court case where that power was found insufficient:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Lopez

"The government's principal argument was that the possession of a firearm in an educational environment would most likely lead to a violent crime, which in turn would affect the general economic condition in two ways. First, because violent crime causes harm and creates expense, it raises insurance costs, which are spread throughout the economy; and second, by limiting the willingness to travel in the area perceived to be unsafe. The government also argued that the presence of firearms within a school would be seen as dangerous, resulting in students' being scared and disturbed; this would, in turn, inhibit learning; and this, in turn, would lead to a weaker national economy since education is clearly a crucial element of the nation's financial health."

SCOTUS ruled that it was a connection that is too remote. But even then, the ruling was 5-4 - in other words, 4 judges believed that the rationale above is sufficient to accommodate the Commerce Clause!

The problem with getting rid of this ruling is political. Since there's so much federal legislation that is only possible because of it, pretty much every political force (other than perhaps libertarians) has a stake in the game. For the liberals, if Filburn goes away, then so do important parts of the federal Civil Rights Acts (per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katzenbach_v._McClung), which prohibit discrimination of customers and employees on the basis of race, gender, religion etc. For many conservatives, overturning Filburn is undesirable because it would gut most federal drug laws (per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzales_v._Raich).


This is an incredible reply to what I now think is an embarrassing oversimplification of the issue. Thanks for taking the time to explain the nuances of this - so it's not necessarily an absurd twisting of the law to scold/punish an individual, but a well-meaning (perhaps flawed?) interpretation to protect the integrity of the constitution. I had no idea it was so complex.


Don't get me wrong, I still think that it's absurd, and your concise summary above was fairly accurate :). It's just that some absurdities actually do have meaningful justifications that are not merely post factum apologetics.

But they're still bad justifications! This whole "judicial deference" thing runs counter to the fundamental reason why written constitutions even exist in the first place, IMO. So I wouldn't call it protecting the integrity of the constitution - quite the opposite, in fact, I think it leads to an inevitable conclusion that constitution is just something unnecessary that gets in the way of things.


Canada, like the US, is a federation.

States and provinces are both unitary states. Lower level divisions of those are creations of the state. County and city governments only exist because the state says they can.


Yet it’s the same in Germany. And Canada. And Austria. And many other countries.

It’s nothing special.


The degree of sovereignty that US states is much more significant than any of the examples that you have listed. So yes, it is actually somewhat special.


It might not be all that different from Switzerland, though...


Cantons in Switzerland don't have their own separate criminal law systems, for example.


Okay, and how easy is it for borders to be unilaterally redrawn in those countries?


It's impossible, unless all states subject to the redrawing would accept it.

And yet, it's happened before, and will happen again.


You should learn more about a topic before posting.

It's very much like the EU: Each state is independent, and there is an overall governing body - the federal government, which for the most part can't tell states what to do, it can only give or withhold money to induce them.

There are specific rules about what the Federal government can and can't tell a state.

One difference that does exist is military, where EU states can have a military (as far I know), but US states can not.


> One difference that does exist is military, where EU states can have a military (as far I know), but US states can not.

Not so. US states cannot have a standing army without consent of Congress. The Congress has given such consent in the form of the Militia Act a century ago, which enabled the states to create the National Guard and the State Defense Forces / State Guard.

And while NG can be federalized (i.e. put under the federal chain of command, with the president as commander as chief), SDF are not - their chain of command terminates with the governor, and they cannot be used outside of state boundaries.

Most people in US know about the National Guard, but not about SDF. It's largely because the latter is rather small and obscure, and mostly used as a sort of civil defense agency with a military chain of command (many states don't even arm their units). But it's an interesting system: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_defense_force


Note that the original Articles of Confederation included an explicit provision for State militias, that got replaced by the awkwardly worded 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights


Puzzles me, that nobody has mentioned this yet:

EU states are nation states, US states are not. The EU is not a nation, the US are.

EU states have much more sovereignty than US states written inside laws, but more importantly, through support of their people. This is why there is a Euro crisis and why Brexit happened: The unification of Europe is a beautiful idea and I personally hope it will recover, but while subsets of it were considered as one nation at some point (Austria, Germany etc.) the EU as a whole simply never was and never will be.


>It's very much like the EU

The EU, despite its name, is essentially a humongous cooperation deal between countries. It has many of the trappings of a nation, but that's an illusion. EU countries are sovereign (consent is required in any alteration of the membership rules and they can leave at will) but US states are not. That's the theory. In practice, the differences are even bigger: There's no EU patent system, for example.


Au contraire :)

I think the EU is becoming (and in some senses arguably already is) a quasi-state. Hence Brexit. That's kick back.

And there is now an EU-wide patent system: https://www.unified-patent-court.org/


When France goes to war it does so independently of the rest of the EU. And Britain has no obligation to help Sweden if Sweden is invaded. If that's not a hard line between nation-state and not, then I don't know what is.


The one big difference between an EU member nation and a state is that EU member nations can leave. A US state cannot secede, and so is ultimately under the control of the federal government.


> One difference that does exist is military, where EU states can have a military (as far I know), but US states can not

Even that is a little shaky, as historically there were organized state militias, which eventually evolved into the National Guard. Even now, the National Guard formations for each state are under the direct control of that state, rather than directly subordinated to the federal government.


If you admit uncertainty over whether EU states can have a military or not (yes obviously EU states can and do have their own military forces), perhaps you shouldn't lecture people on learning more before posting?


I do believe the US states can have a state militia and I believe some other form of national guard.


Does any other country let their subdivision raise armies that are not under the control of the main/federal government? The poorly named national guard in each state in the us is exactly that.

In fact, the little rock five were escorted by federal troops facing off against state controlled troops.


That's not correct. The National Guards are authorized by Congress and the president has the ultimate authority. Eisenhower was able to override AK gov in this case.


The feds can take over the National Guard, but they cannot take over the State Guard / State Defense Force, if a state chooses to have such a thing.

The latter also require Congress authorization, in a sense that the state is not allowed to create them without Congress "consenting" (e.g. via legislation):

"No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay."

But the Congress only has the power to grant or withhold such authorization; control still remains with the state. And, of course, the states can still have their militias - so long as the state does not explicitly organize them, it's not "keeping troops".


nit: AK is Alaska.


The Little Rock Nine were escorted by the Army, and Eisenhower seized control of the AR National Guard from the Governor, not quite a face-off.


Man, why did I remember 5 :/ thanks.


I wouldn't muck with the east coast states much. The borders might be off by a little here and there, but not by much.

However most of the western states were last carved up in 1850s. I don't think we need to redraw them every 30 years, but maybe every 150? Considering the last time we adjusted California's bounds the transcontinental railroad wasn't built yet.


Not sure I agree: NYC would highly benefit from improved tri-state metro area coordination. Plans like extending the 7 train to NJ's Secaucus Junction would be much easier to pass.

I'd expect DC to have similar problems.


> Would you also propose re-drawing the borders of every EU nation every 30 years to reflect population movement?

Yes.

Just like there’s currently a discussion about redrawing the borders of the states within Germany – which are also independent legal entities, many having existed for many centuries.


How does the electoral college play into this?


The United States is a union of nominally sovereign states. You see this in crisis situations -- States cannot declare bankruptcy, for example.

The electoral college is a mechanism used for these states to select a president (the only nationally elected office) in a representative manner.


Not just nominal! The Constitution ensures the sovereignty of the states by restricting the federal government to a limited set of enumerated powers (among them: foreign policy, national defense, regulation of interstate commerce) with all other powers retained by the states (10th Amendment).


> a limited set of enumerated powers (among them: foreign policy, national defense, regulation of interstate commerce)

Unfortunately, the modern interpretation of "interstate commerce" is roughly "any other powers they might care to have". The Tenth Amendment has essentially been superseded by the Commerce Clause since the New Deal.


A significant subset of people in the US insist the federal government has overstepped its powers, using "interstate commerce" to inappropriately expand federal authority. With the forthcoming change of federal government, in the years ahead it's likely there will be some paring back of federal overreach. Whether that's a good or bad development remains to be determined.

US states were intended to be semi-autonomous regions which reflected cultural distinctions of residents inhabiting the original colonies. The different "flavors" of American culture have more or less persisted, even in today's mobile population there are still nuances that make the cultures of states unique.


> With the forthcoming change of federal government, in the years ahead it's likely there will be some paring back of federal overreach.

That's wishful thinking. The President-elect has already announced reforms heretofore considered well beyond the President's legal authority.

The commonly-heard Republican slofan of "States' Rights" is only heard when Democrats are in power. (And likely vice-vers


"US states were intended to be semi-autonomous regions which reflected cultural distinctions of residents inhabiting the original colonies."

Like slavery.


The electoral college makes a lot more sense when you think about electing a President that represents the states, rather than the people.


Because the American states have a tradition of autonomy that dates back far before the Revolution. That is why American states are states with their own citizens (think drivers licenses) and not simply administrative regions as they would be in other large and diverse countries like China and Russia.


I don't know about the Russian system, but the Chinese system is much closer to individuals being citizens of different regions than the U.S. system. Residency in the U.S. is simple to change and unrestricted, and most effects are immediate (though some in-state tuition requirements can take longer).

In contrast, in China it is difficult for rural workers to change their Hukou, and as such they are often stuck with major disadvantages even after they move. A rural worker in Shanghai might live as a second class citizen there for years, because they're not considered to be officially Shanghainese. This isn't the case in the U.S.


But is the registration system in China managed separately by different provinces because they want to control and/or prevent migration, or by the national government because it wants to control migration?

If it's the latter, it's not a sign of federalism - quite the opposite, in fact.


Russian system is more complicated than that - the "federal subjects", as the regions are known, are not merely administrative, but have some actual powers. They may have regional laws (although criminal law belongs on the federal level), may collect taxes, set their own system of local government (how the regional parliament looks etc).

They can also have other languages designated as official on their territory, in addition to Russian, and implement an educational system that teaches those languages. They have their own constitutions, enforced by regional constitutional courts.

One particularly curious case is that of Tatarstan. It nearly declared independence in 1990 (some argue that it actually did - it made a "declaration of sovereignty": http://1997-2011.tatarstan.ru/english/00002028.html). In 1992, it adopted its own constitution on a referendum, which also described it as a "sovereign state".

Then, intense negotiations with the Russian federal government followed, which resulted in an 1994 agreement (https://view.officeapps.live.com/op/view.aspx?src=http://fao...) with an unwieldy title of "On Delimitation of Jurisdictional Subjects and Mutual Delegation of Powers between Bodies of Public Authority of the Russian Federation and Bodies of Public Authority of the Republic of Tatarstan". The constitution of Tatarstan was then amended with a curious definition of the federal arrangement as follows:

"The Republic of Tatarstan is a democratic constitutional State associated with the Russian Federation"

i.e. not a "member of" - although according to the federal constitution, it is a federal subject, same as any other. It also has some other special guarantees - for example, its borders cannot be changed without its consent. And the whole arrangement can only be amended by mutual agreement.

Of course, given the present state of affairs in Russia, it is unclear to what extent any of these theoretical political powers that federal subjects may enjoy are actually realized.


It'd be a radical departure, I think there is a good chance that it would also improve governance.


You're conflating two different terms. As was pointed out in another comment, your understanding was more or less true under the Articles of Confederation but stopped being the case with the ratification of the Constitution. The American word 'state' is a relic.


Not exactly. I've had loads of conversations with people from other countries who were amazed at the degree of independence of the States.

It's not really typical for administrative subdivisions of a country to have their own criminal law, be allowed to sentence you to death or put you in prison, issue their own identity documents, raise militias, etc.


It isn't?


The only two other federal countries I can think of off the top of my head that has different criminal law in different subdivisions are Australia and Mexico.

In Canada, criminal law is unified on the federal level. So far as I know, this is also the case in Germany and Switzerland.

Any other prominent examples?


It looks like the subdivisions of the UK also have their own criminal law (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_criminal_law )


Ah, good point. Although the case with UK is a bit unusual, in that all those powers are still devolved from the British Parliament (and so it could rescind them with a simple majority vote in theory... though that would surely trigger a constitutional crisis now) - so technically it's not federalism.

In contrast, most federations designate who has the power to enact criminal law in their respective constitutions.


Yes, the federal system reserves more rights for American states than are enjoyed by, say, French régions. They're still a far cry short of sovereign states.


The English word 'state' is accurate, and American usage is consistent with e.g. British.

Consider terms like "member states of the European Union", "sovereign state" and "head of state".


You and I are talking about different things. My closing sentence could have been more explicit, e.g.:

> The American usage of the word 'state' to refer to the constituent members of its federal system is a relic of a time when they were effectively sovereign states.


> US states are not merely administrative divisions (like provinces in other nations) but are literal independently-governed states. Would you also propose re-drawing the borders of every EU nation every 30 years to reflect population movement?

Sure, as we know from history, state boundaries (and the existence of states) has never changed in all of recorded human history. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nq0KNfS_M44

Just like with the territories that now make up the U.S. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UE9uu9fKSg


Normally, proximity to a bigger city like DC should be a good thing - you can get a nicer place for cheap and use public transportation (MARC train) to commute. But something has prevented Baltimore from growing and gentrifying.

I think the biggest problem, the obvious one, is crime. There are some small pockets of intense gentrification, and even these areas aren't particularly safe. The rest of the city is a no-man's land. Literally within a few blocks of crowded, active areas (e.g. Fells Point) there are extremely unsafe blocks where the chances of a mugging (or worse) are unreasonably high. Then, there are huge contiguous swaths of the city where no one but residents are really advised to enter. I remember going out to a bar in West Baltimore and not a single cab was willing to drive into the neighborhood to pick us up. The patrons of the bar refused to let us walk home ("you're gonna get stabbed!"), and a kind stranger drove us home.

Most people I know who live in Baltimore want out, and many either move to DC or to the suburbs.


When I was a high school senior checking out Johns Hopkins I had the bright idea of going on a run through the city at 11pm. I was from a town that borders Oakland so I thought "this should be fine." I ended up getting chased through a neighborhood that looked like WWII had just hit.

Baltimore is an interesting case in the U.S. because it's really the last dense, walk-able city that hasn't gentrified. Philadelphia is similar but it is experiencing gentrification in the core now. All over the country, millenials have been moving to older cities that were planned before cars and are possible to live in without one. I wonder why Baltimore hasn't suffered the same fate as Oakland, Brooklyn, or Philly?

America seems like a tale of two countries at this point. We have cities that are burgeoning with young wealthy types trying to move there like SF, NYC, LA, Seattle, Boston, etc. Over-gentrified until they have become somewhat sterile. If only we could move some of the success of these cities to places that need it like the Rust Belt or Baltimore.


I don't know the details so this could just be hearsay, but one thing I've heard is that Baltimore has an unusually small taxable area due to a quirk in the voting requirments for annexation of outlying counties. Many rich areas exist outside of the city proper but the city can't take advantage of these resources.

Undoubtedly Baltimore has many immediate issues arising from racial tension, widespread poverty, and failure to rejuvenate industry at a scale necessary to recover from the manufacturing job implosion, but an underlying lack or resources could also be something of a stranglehold on the city.

Which is all quite sad because Baltimore has a lot of nice aspects and sees some wonderful new people largely driven by Hopkins... but I agree with you that everyone just seems to want to leave.


Baltimore and St. Louis are independent cities. They are not part of their surrounding counties. And they're both pretty small, in relation to the urbanized areas surrounding them. This causes all sorts of problems (e.g. duplication of services) and makes other problems seem worse than they are, relative to other cities (e.g. homicide and poverty rates appear higher, because they don't account for affluent regions just outside of city limits).


Your comment is a very unfair and inaccurate description of Baltimore, it is also one that I hear often from people who clearly have no meaningful experience with the city.

It is a city with many problems, no one can deny that, but like most urban tales told by people who don't live in these places, their understanding are much more urban legend than reality.

I have lived in Baltimore for the past 6 years and I am hopeful about the future of the city. I live in Mt Vernon, one of the more "upscale" neighborhoods, in the time I have lived there, there's been a good deal of development both in the neighborhood and the city as a whole.

I am actually looking at buying a house in Bolton Hill (another quite nice and safe neighborhood)...the property tax rate has given me pause but otherwise I am excited about the future of the city.

I don't want to go on a rant but Baghdad type stories like yours are not helpful.


I was born in Baltimore, lived there for several years, went to college there, and visit it several times a year. I still consider it my home and have an intense amount of love for it. So "no meaningful experience with the city" does not apply here.

Baltimore has serious crippling problems and denying that does the city no favors. Outside of very small pockets of often-non-organic gentrification (usually driven by the city or Hopkins), the city is at a nadir. Baltimore is the smallest it's been since WWI (for a few years now, to a rounding error), and the per-capita homicide rate is the highest it's ever been. Two awesome, solid people I know were murdered the last year I lived in Baltimore - in "safe" neighborhoods in unrelated incidents totally beyond their control. The fact that the homicide rate is now 30% higher is terrifying.


>Baltimore is the smallest it's been since WWI (for a few years now, to a rounding error)

That's not quite the full picture. While population has mostly decreased in the last 70+ years, the rate of decrease has slowed substantially in the last couple decades, and is starting to increase.

Actually, Baltimore's population looks like it's just starting to break through PG's "trough of sorrow". See plot at the bottom of this link :

https://www.biggestuscities.com/city/baltimore-maryland


Sounds like the Kansas City region that is bisected into KS and MO, with both states offering tax incentives for business to move. Some business flip flop locations every few years. It's the border war all over again. I live in KS and work in MO.

http://www.npr.org/2016/05/05/476844402/jobs-tug-of-war-kans...


Another weird example is the border between Washington and Oregon. Washington has sales tax, but no income tax; Oregon has income tax, but no sales tax. So if you live and work in Vancouver, WA, but shop across the river in Portland, OR (it's literally just the river separating these two), you can dodge either tax.

(Technically, if you go shopping to Portland from Vancouver, you're supposed to pay a use tax on those goods. But there's no practical way to enforce it, and few people are even aware of it.)


One of the biggest drivers of economic inequality between the states is their business strategy. New York, California? They build new businesses. Kentucky and Louisiana and Kansas? Try to lure old businesses to move. The former strategy is obviously superior, hence the resentment the latter states hold.


What is the tax situation like there? Some bordering states have given up on reciprocity requiring residents to file two state returns.

Such a pain.


I have to file both MO and KS returns, and also pay KC, MO 1% city earnings tax. I have to over withhold on MO, then (normally) with that refund turn around and pay KS. Though with Brownbacks tax cuts I am now getting couple $100 returned. File ASAP with MO as those last to file are last in line for refunds. If the state is out of money, like it was a few years ago, I didn't get my refund until August.

One of the only pluses is being able to get in-state tuition for some MO schools; not that I will send my kids there. They have two choices, and they both start with a K.


> If the U.S. had a method to redraw state boundaries every 20-30 years, these regions would be just about the right size to be states, and this would greatly simplify the planning and coordination of everything from transit to education delivery.

This is a really interesting idea. While it is extremely logical, it would never happen. People are surprisingly attached to their identities associated with their state and countries.

See the amazing news surrounding the land swap in Belgium and the Netherlands recently... it made news because so few people think of borders as arbitrary lines on maps.


In the UK there was a redrawing of county lines back in the mid 70s.

States do have the mechanism to self-divide. So far this hasn't happened but there have been proposals "State of Jefferson" in Norcal South Oregon. When people think Cal has too few senators for it's pop., one solution is to divide.


> When people think Cal has too few senators for it's pop., one solution is to divide.

Isn't the whole point of the US Senate to prevent the more populous states from passing stuff against the interests of the less populous states? There is no such thing as too few senators for a state's population.


If CA were to divide, this would imply that two more Senators would be added to Congress, and coming from this region, it would imply more representation of the west coast ideas in congress.


Jefferson would likely be more conservative than either CA or OR. If you've ever visited the North Coast of California, it's very rural in character, and in culture is much closer to Montana or Wyoming than the Bay Area.


Yes, exactly. I'm not saying I either want or don't want more west coast ideas in congress, I'm saying if people say we have too few senators for the pop. a solution is divide. Also, I'm not certain a "Jefferson" would be the same politically as So. Cal and Bay area.


By that logic there's also no such thing as too many senators for a given number of square miles if you cram enough states into it, so California could split into 100 states and that would be just as fair.


The point of the Senate is to protect slavery.


Counties are different in character from States. Any State government can decide completely of its own accord (i.e., without the consent of the counties) to change county boundaries however it wants, because States are sovereign entities, whereas counties are not.


That is not true in every state. Colorado requires a vote of the residents of an area to form counties, most recently exercised when Broomfield County was carved out of three other counties.


That is how the state government chooses to handle this situation, but the Feds are not involved, which was the original point.

Colorado could wake up tomorrow and change its laws or initiate the change process and Uncle Sam wouldn't care.


I don't think that's accurate, with one special exception: When the Republic of Texas was admitted as a state, it was given the right to subdivide into up to 5 total states, should it choose to.

Otherwise, it's up to Congress to decide whether or not to accept new states to the Union.


It sounds like what you are describing is the system of metropolitan planning organizations in the US. I'm especially spoiled after living in Portland, OR for almost 10 years as they have a very active MPO (called 'Metro') and has democratically elected representatives.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_planning_organiza...


US federalism isn't about efficiency. If anything, federalism is intentionally inefficient.


Depends on what timeframe you're thinking about. Some things are inefficient short term, because of redundancies, but that makes them more robust and therefore more efficient in the long run.


Even short term, it could be argued that federalism was the most efficient option available, because the states wouldn't unite under any other conditions... and the union was definitely more efficient than they were separately.


The problem is, some of the cities that serve as centers of these economic regions do so primarily because they are state capitals. Were state lines drawn to surround them (and exclude neighboring more independently prosperous cities) I think they would greatly decrease in economic importance.

Ex. New York state is the largest employer in the region surrounding Albany: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_District#Economy


I'm not American and have never been to Baltimore but if its characterisation in 'The Wire' is accurate (a corrupt, drug and crime ridden ghetto) then I am not surprised.


Redrawing state boundaries has a whole host of other issues, but it definitely would be interesting to make regional governing bodies that are in charge of all federal infrastructure dollars. Even though the Bay Area is all contained in California, it's splintered into so many cities and counties that public transportation and land use policies don't adapt fast enough to the growing population.


One of the benefits of splitting administrative control in a population is that policy differences between the administrations become visible to that population. If every administration has a cultural moat around it, it becomes impossible to separate policy effects from culture effects.

I think this is one of the key benefits to the federal system. In some sense the lines are supposed to be arbitrary.


You assume that things would remain as they are, only betterer, if you redrew these divisions. That is incredibly unlikely.

Some people intentionally live in one state and work in another for various reasons, or live in one city and work in another. Part of the appeal is often differences rooted in laws and regulations, etc.


However, some people do like the current arrangement, as it allows them to work in one state and live in another


When I was a map and gazetteer obsessed child 40+ years ago Baltimore was my favourite US city (I am not in the US) because it was one of the ten largest U.S. cities yet most people I knew had never heard of it. I recall Buffalo was right up there too, for similar reasons.


The arbitrary choice of 50 regions results in some fairly generous interpretations of 'regions'.

Namely, this method produces two kinds of regions: ones that are clustered around a single metropolitan area that has a higher-than-average commuter pull around its hinterland, and ones that are slightly too far from a major metro and lump together a chain of areas that form a loose "commuter continuum" of areas where commuters have two or more equally plausible choices to commuter to -- this chain then hops along interstate highways, grouping unrelated towns across hundreds of miles into the same region.

Take the one that they call 'Corn Belt', encompassing Des Moines, Davenport/Moline, and every single city in Illinois on I-74 (including Urbana-Champaign!). In no universe do people commute hundreds of miles along I-74. In truth, this is a polycentric area with many distinct loci which attract their own, distinct set of commuters: Des Moines/Ames; Cedar Rapids/Iowa City; Quad Cities; Peoria; Urbana-Champaign. The "cohesiveness" of the region exists solely in contrast to its neighbors: that more populous metros on the region's fringes are all too far out of sane commuting distance.

Or the Appalachians: Roanoke in Virginia forms a vital locus for much of west-central Virginia and yet is swallowed into a much larger region including Greensboro, Raleigh, and Wilmington(!), because people living midway between Roanoke and Greensboro (like in Danville, VA, or Martinsville, VA), have two equally plausible larger job centers to commute to. The same can be said about Charleston, WV, which forms a job hub in West Virginia, but is grouped together with Columbus and most of Ohio because smaller towns along the Ohio River are roughly equidistant from either.

It helps me to look at each of their regions and think "people rarely commute outside of their region", rather than the more natural interpretation of "people commute along their region".


Yeah, I had the same thought when I saw my own region, Chattanooga, TN. This map shows our whole city as commuters to Atlanta. Almost no one commutes to Atlanta from here. It's a 3 hour drive without traffic and a 5 hour drive with traffic, and the only time Atlanta doesn't have traffic is 3 AM in the morning.


I hear it's not much worse at 3 AM at night.


Most of the regions are like this. Almost no one commutes from northern Maine to Boston, from Syracuse to Buffalo, or from Austin to San Antonio.


I really don't get what this is supposed to represent, exactly.

No one commutes from Ashland, Oregon to Portland Oregon - it's a 4+ hour drive. Yet they're in the same pink area. Meanwhile, no one really commutes from Bend to Portland either (2.5 hour drive in good weather), but we're brown over here.

There's certainly some more cultural affinity between cities in Oregon's Willamette Valley than with the more conservative central and eastern part of the state, but even that only holds for the larger cities - there are plenty of pretty 'red' places down the I-5 corridor.


The algorithm was a clustering algorithm, and takes as input the number of clusters desired. The researchers put in 50 clusters, so at some point the algorithm declines to separate sparse regions, because the separations are better used elsewhere.


I wonder if there's a way to... Not specify a number of clusters? Maybe use some sort of commute threshold.


K means can also solve for k, but its a more opened ended and difficult problem. This is pretty good approximation


It's designed to identify economic regions. The way they do that is to graph all the connections between cities and cut the least-connected ones until 50 clusters emerge.

It doesn't, as you say, mean that someone on the edge of a graph commutes all the way to center---after all the drive time for some of these routes is more than 8 hours.

You could argue that choosing 50 clusters is arbitrary and it would make more sense to severe connections below some threshold "quality" and see how many clusters meet that criteria.


Yeah, I don't understand the point or value of these groupings either. San Antonio and Austin are really completely separate economic entities with little economic overlap. There are a few Austin commuters who live a bit more south than some San Antonio commuters, by that doesn't really "join" the areas economically.


I can't find a closer image of the west Portland area, so I can't comment on the nature of those commutes.

I live in SF, and at work my team consists of ~16 people. Of those 16 people only 3 live in SF (city/county). The other 13 live in the East Bay or south of the city. Of those who live outside the city the majority doesn't get paid enough to live within city limits; the others get paid well but have families and couldn't reasonably afford a large enough home in the city.

People are very willing to convert time into savings (on housing). And sometimes they have no other choice.


I'd like to see a closeup of the Portland area too. I live in Portland and while there's been a tremendous growth in the community over the last 10-20 years, Oregon has the concept of "urban growth boundaries" to preserve farm land, especially small family farming.

So most of the population here is within around 20 mi of the center of Portland, unlike Phoenix AZ where it sprawls out 100 mi or more. I'm guessing there are people who travel from/to nearby regions (e.g., Newberg, McMinnville, the "wine country") for commerce, tourism, and probably some commuters.

Perhaps there are similar considerations in other regions like SF which certainly has "tentacles" that stretch a long way out there.


> People are very willing to convert time into savings (on housing). And sometimes they have no other choice.

May be, but they aren't commuting from Chico! That's a 3 hour drive in good traffic.


I have worked with people who commuted from Sac to Oakland or SF a few days a week.

edit: Original post said Sac, not Chico...


I think part of this is due to selecting "50 areas" to divide the country into. They mention that in the article and even say "it has a math basis" but don't explain why. If they chose 60 (for example) some of these areas might naturally divide. It might be a very interesting thing to look at deciding how many boundaries come about by applying limits to either economy or population to try to balance each.


An even crazier example is the Arizona Strip -- that is, the part of Arizona north of the Grand Canyon -- being clustered with the rest of Arizona.

You have to drive 200 miles out of the way to get from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other. Since the northern Strip is very sparsely populated and relatively poor, the number of people there who have the means to regularly commute by plane or helicopter must be zero.

The region north of the Grand Canyon should really be clustered with Utah or Nevada, not with Phoenix and Tucson.


In the article (graphic 5/5) it seems to be part of the Las Vegas megaregion.


It's not that everyone from one region commutes to the center every day, or that everyone inside this region shares a culture.

Use the number of commuters as a metric for 'closeness' of two areas. Then take it further by asking "how 'close' is Portland and Ashland?" by using the sum of the 'closeness' of each little hop from area to area.

This map is showing clustering, finding groups that are nearest to each other, using that metric as a distance function. Find me 50 areas where '# of commutes' are the distance function, and you get this map.

Ashland and Portland aren't very close geographically, but in terms of economics, they're in the same neighborhood of the country.


Oh i'm sure people commute. A 4 hour drive is fairly reasonable. I live in Denver and commute to Kansas City (8.5 hours) once a month to visit my folks. If you include gas prices and the price of rentals it comes out to be cheaper than flying and renting a car in KC. With shorter distances this would probably be a huge factor for many. For example, most folks in KC drive to StL which is a 3.5 hour drive. I don't think anyone I've ever known in KC flew to StL.


When I think of a commute, I think of a daily activity that takes someone back and forth to work. Given that definition it seems totally unreasonable for someone to spend 4 hours going one way.


A small number of people do stuff like this.

I worked with a consultant who lived near Scranton so he could commute to a large number of places. (Syracuse, Albany, NYC, Jersey, Philly)

Drove 3 hours a day one way!


The dataset includes things like NYC-LA, so it clearly includes non-daily commutes as well.

The final clustering excluded trips between points >=262 km from each other though.


> A 4 hour drive is fairly reasonable

Erm. No, it's not. I'm sure there are a tiny percentage of people doing this out of necessity, but spending 8 hours a day commuting is not even remotely 'reasonable'.


When the article says "commute" it's mainly referring to people who commute daily (or often) for work.


There are people who commute for clusters of days, though. If you work a three-on, four-off schedule, commuting in to start the three and out when the three are done is perfectly reasonable for a distant job and doesn't preclude having a healthy home life, too. There are also people who are mostly remote and only come in once a week for face-to-face meetings.


Airline pilots can commute from Phoenix to Minneapolis regularly.


This sort of thing is fascinating to me. I think that somehow, humanity needs to transition to a political structure where cities are the primary unit of governance, rather than nations. That won't happen quickly or soon, but someday...

More immediately, it's becoming increasingly clear that the "polarization" that we're seeing in U.S. politics isn't really between left and right or Ds and Rs. It's between the urban and rural. I'd love to see a version of this that drew boundaries between urban centres and the countryside. That would give us a way to start thinking about how to craft policy that recognizes the differences between them.


An issue with this is that the urban environments will have so many more people in them that so many changes pushed through will benefit urban areas at the expense of rural. Australia deals with this on a massive scale since ilke 80% of the entire population lives on the coast (23 million and 10 million live in only 5 cities)


How is that worse than the alternative, with changes pushed through that benefit rural at the expense of the urban?


I mean this seems like a case where some sort of medium between the two extremes is desirable.


Surely there are more alternatives than that.


Yes, yes, some sort of cross between a city and a state. A "city-state," if you will. How come nobody ever thought of this?


Yes and no. Yes, I'm aware of history.

But no, I'm not suggesting a return to city-states as they existed in the ancient world. Rural areas should not be uncivilized anarchistic backwaters, nor subjugated territories under the control of whichever city-state can maintain its grip on them. Cities are the drivers the world's wealth! But they depend on the countryside for food, energy and raw materials. The people that live there are few in number, but vital to the functioning of modern society.

The city-state of the future will be something we haven't done before.


I'd argue cities were the de facto governing unit until last century.


> This sort of thing is fascinating to me. I think that somehow, humanity needs to transition to a political structure where cities are the primary unit of governance, rather than nations. That won't happen quickly or soon, but someday...

> More immediately, it's becoming increasingly clear that the "polarization" that we're seeing in U.S. politics isn't really between left and right or Ds and Rs. It's between the urban and rural. I'd love to see a version of this that drew boundaries between urban centres and the countryside. That would give us a way to start thinking about how to craft policy that recognizes the differences between them.

Well rural-urban differentiation is certainly not something new. Marin Držić, a Croatian renaissance playwright, and his novella "Novela od Stanca" comes to mind since it was in my reading materials in high school..

The story takes place on a carnival night when the old peasant Stanca comes from the hinterland to the city of Dubrovnik to sell his wares where he rests at the fountain. There he gets made fun of by the youth who assure him that fairies will come and rejuvenate him. The fairies are ofcourse masked carnival goers who paint his face black with soot and trick him from his goats and cheese he wanted to sell. He points out the nuances in the mentality of the city and the village and other cultural differences be it in speech, mannerisms, thinking or expectations.

But to get to my point, the urban-rural conflict is certainly not something new. It's probably present since the first cities and it's more got to do with ingroup-outgroup mentality than anything else. Crafting specific policy in that sense which explicitly recognizes the percieved differences would certainly not be wise and would possibly be ridden with fallacies. Also one could argue that it already is implicitly recognized which brings its own set of questions..


What you're suggesting is rather interesting.

You're essentially suggesting a collection of nations operating in a union. (More of an EU approach) With that you'd have extremely strict segregation between the different areas. [In that approach, borders would mean a lot more other than an imaginary line on the ground]


Can you elaborate one some of the details? For instance, what about tiny cities? What about areas not in city limits at all? What about two or more cities in the same metro area -- how do they divide the power?


Your notion, shared by Clinton, cost her the election.


Let's try not to take every opportunity to turn a thread into a re-hash discussion on the election.


I'd say the opposite cost her the election. She failed to realize where the split was. If she had she would have campaigned in all the right places. It's not like both sides didn't know exactly how much each piece on the board was worth.


But not, by a long shot, the Popular Vote.


Spending much more than Trump, campaigning in the wrong places.

Winning the popular vote big and losing the election is a manifest sign of a failed campaign.


Let's not take the bait to turn every thread into an election discussion.


From personal experience (I've lived in 3 places in the US), some of these make sense and some don't at all. For example, the little light green region over Idaho Falls/Pocatello area makes sense as a region and looks nice. But Burlington and Albany being one region? They're three hours apart, separated by a whole lotta nothing - I know because I lived a bit east of that nothing. Or the adjacent "economic area" (in green, covering Boston/NH/Maine), which also makes no sense. There's no way that far-north Maine, western NH, and Boston are one economic area.

And aside from making connections that aren't there, there are some connections that should be there that aren't. The Upper Valley is definitely either one economic region (or a a subset of a larger region) and it's literally split in half, in two separate regions. It's pretty funny, the way the map splits the economic zones down the Connecticut river you'd think we didn't have bridges.

Fun unrelated fact: Pocatello has "the worst flag of North America" according to the North American Vexillological Association: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_Pocatello_Idaho.jpg


Reading the article makes it clear what's going on here, although you have to get to the end. I had the same reaction to the idea of Tahoe and SF being considered part of the same "megaregion", since while someone may drive from Tahoe to SF on an irregular basis, the number of people doing it everyday must be miniscule. So I read deeper to try and understand the basis of these things.

TL;DR -- they arbitrarily chose 50 as the number of regions to consider. Everything above a certain threshold gets associated with some sort of region, and then they did basic clustering to see which commutes get assigned to which region. So in my Tahoe example, more people are commuting from the Tahoe area to Sacramento than to Reno, so Tahoe ends up associated with the entire SF Bay Area megaregion instead of with Reno, which it's geographically much closer to. If there had been more regions, Sacramento would have gotten its own region most likely.


I agree. Bangor, Augusta and Portland are all on the same highway but they're all mostly separate economic regions.


I think it shows us once again how clustering algorithms fail which isn't very useful. I can think of several methodologies that would make for a better analysis for urban planning.

However the one thing it did suggest is that Google would be in an interesting position to create such data sets using their maps navigation data. Take every commercial address in a region and the compute the commute time to and from every residential address in the same region. Pick some arbitrary one-way commute cut offs like 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, and 120 minutes. Then plot them on a spectrum from based on the weighted average of commute times (so if a site had 6,000 30 minute commutes, 40,000 60 minute commutes, and 250,000 90 minute commutes it would get one score higher than a place that only had 1000 30 minute commutes and 300,000 90 minute commutes.


> it shows us once again how clustering algorithms fail

What do you mean by 'fail'? It looks like the algorithm ultimately did what they wanted it to, so do you mean some sort of relevance or practical failure?

All clustering algorithms do is propose groupings in which intra-group links are stronger than inter-group links. The researchers measured the modularity of their clusters, where 0 is 'no better than random' and 1 is 'networks with strong community structure', and scored over 0.9 (though they had to make some changes to eliminate long-distance linkages).

I agree that Google would have much better commuting data, if they chose not to anonymise their maps data collection, because they could determine where your phone usually spends the night and the middle hours of the day... as well as the route taken to get there and back.


That would not achieve that the authors were after. That would show you what the regions _could_ be, not what they _are_, since you'd be comparing possible commutes rather than ones actually taken.


A couple points of clarification for those who found this interesting:

[1] Data around commuting time can be found in the American Community Survey (ACS), which is released annually with 1, 3, and 5 year rollups (for general blending of accuracy vs. recency). [2] This data is looking specifically at work commute times, not any personal travel.

I've been taking a couple months off between jobs, and learning the ACS has become a hobby during that time. Lots of interesting and fascinating data that we collect on ourselves as a country.

Reference: https://www.census.gov/hhes/commuting/


I work with ACS data as well. I'd love to chat about your interests sometime.


You can call this "research" but it's not science. When you do science you can't just run your data, decide the numbers don't look right, and then tweak them until the picture produced looks publishable.

That is a way to make art that reflects your worldview, but it won't have any science content left in it.

If they wanted to do science they would need to devise a model of megaregions, form hypotheses, design tests ahead of time to confirm or refute those hypothesis, and only then run the data.


Cool maps that correlate with my acendotal experience.

When you take the early (5-6 am) morning train from Albany to Penn Station regularly, it's easy to spot the small number off small number commuters from the more typical government workers, lawyers and salesmen. It's about a 50/50 mix of construction guys and attorneys.

I sat with one of the constructions guys once and we chatted. He was an electrician and actually drove another 45 minutes from his home to the train. Had a big family and couldn't afford NY metro costs. Claimed that a majority of the guys he worked with either lived in the Hudson Valley or Pennsylvania for the same reason.

That really says a lot... I think a commuter pass costs like $800/mo for that trip!


"And I’m not convinced the Bay Area-Sacramento megaregion where I live should extend all the way to Nevada."

I agree with this. I live in Truckee, and would be much more inclined to commute to Reno (which is 30 minutes away) than Sacramento (which is 1 hour 30 minutes away). The more likely border would at the very least be near Donner Pass.

The algorithms used are likely being influenced by the Sierras (and particularly Tahoe) being a popular tourist destination for Sacramento and Bay Area residents.


The Northeast Boswash megalopolis[1] is a narrow 400-mile strip of land that encompasses a population of over 50 million people.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_megalopolis


Looking at the map that shows Santa Cruz, I can't help but imagine how many more commutes there would be "over the hill" on Highway 17 if there weren't such a hilly, windy road via that commute. Eventually it might become economically feasible to physically "move mountains" so to speak for the purpose of unlocking greater personal transport... I wonder how much terraforming might affect future projects across all the world, let alone Northern California.


The lack of a name in the giant section in the northwest on the final map is... interesting. I think I get why it has no name. Still odd.

Similarly, the "deep south" feels like a shoutout to Futurama. (Though, Atlanta is already named. I guess it is "pre move to the ocean." :) )


Why don't they give the map in high resolution? Really irritating.


I want to meet the people who are supposedly commuting to Phoenix from north of the Grand Canyon. Do they commute by helicopter?


I live in Menlo Park in the Bay Area, and have given specialized jobs to contractors that drove 2 to 3 hours to fix my house. These guys target this area, despite being so far away, and use phablets to stay connected and maintain their Yelp presence.


Oh look they published the future Hyper-loop map. How nice of them.


Long before a Hyper-loop will be viable, this is the map of where all our high speed rails should have been placed.

Currently, only the California high speed corridor is under construction (Florida has stalled and I'm not sure if the Cascades ever got funding).

We are decades behind the rest of the world in viable rail. To people who say rail can't work in the US, just look at this map. Only the NE section has decent rail and it's saturated for commuters. Building out the rest of the rail infrastructure we need will reduce the need for cars and help deal with pollution. Once cities are connected, I think we'll naturally see the expansion of urban/commuter rail to solve the last mile problem.


There is the landfilling trend in san francisco- i wonder- is there a point where its more economical to extend a city in underwater suburbs?


The big takeaway here for me is that a lot of people travel far too great a distance to get to what's most likely a terrible job.


Rapid City gets a region but not Austin? Uh?


somehow it is not mentioned which software was used to generate the graphics; not even in the original article: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal....


Lubbock, Spokane...looks like it's mostly around universities in the "nowhere land" regions?


This information would be useful when planning the next-gen transportation network..


I'm reminded of what Christopher Alexander et. al. wrote in A Pattern Language. Made up of 253 patterns organized by scale, the largest scale discussed (and therefore Pattern #1) is "Independent Regions:"

Do what you can to establish a world government, with a thousand independent regions, instead of Metropolitan regions will not come to balance until each one is small and autonomous enough to be an independent sphere of culture.

There are four separate arguments which have led us to this conclusion: I. The nature and limits of human government. 2. Equity among regions in a world community. 3. Regional planning considerations. 4. Support for the intensity and diversity of human cultures.

I. There are natural limits to the size of groups that can govern themselves in a human way. The biologist J. B. S. Haldane has remarked on this in his paper, "On Being the Right Size":

> ...just as there is a best size for every animal, so the same is true for every human institution. In the Greek type of democracy all the citizens could listen to a series of orators and vote directly on questions of legislation. Hence their philosophers held that a small city was the largest possible democratic state. . . . (J. B. S Haldane, "On Being the Right Size," The World of Mathematics, Vol. II, J. R. Newman, ed. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956, pp. 962-67).

It is not hard to see why the government of a region becomes less and less manageable with size. In a population of N persons, there are of the order of N^2 person-to-person links needed to keep channels of communication open. Naturally, when N goes beyond a certain limit, the channels of communication needed for democracy and justice and information are simply too clogged, and too complex; bureaucracy overwhelms human processes.

And, of course, as N grows the number of levels in the hierarchy of government increases too. In small countries like Denmark there are so few levels, that any private citizen can have access to the Minister of Education. But this kind of direct access is quite impossible in larger countries like England or the United States.

We believe the limits are reached when the population of a region reaches some 2 to 10 million. Beyond this size, people become remote from the large-scale processes of government. Our estimate may seem extraordinary in the light of modern history: the nation-states have grown mightily and their governments hold power over tens of millions, sometimes hundreds of millions, of people. But these huge powers cannot claim to have a natural size.

54 regions, total population 318.9m. So that averages 5.9 million per, right smack in the middle. A more complete analysis with a histogram would be interesting.


See previous work by Munroe: https://www.xkcd.com/1138/


So this is where people live? https://xkcd.com/1138/

Nothing going on Montana?


Not a lot of people in the Rocky mountains or the plains.


I would imagine their commute data finds the area problematic.




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