There’s a lot of chatter these days, sometimes wistful, about Civil War 2.0. Recently, Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican, said Texas could take its oil, NASA and go its own way. In January, professor Barbara Walter warned of the possibility of another war between the states in her book, How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them. A few years back, a The Week editor Bonnie Kristian, said, “We should chop America into seven different countries. Seriously.”
And in 2020, right-wing provocateur Candace Owens tweeted, “I wonder if we’re past the point of reconciliation with the Left. Maybe we’d all be happier letting them pick a few states they can turn into their own country w/ no guns, no police, no statues, no genders, no flags, no men and no electricity.”
Tempting, Candace, yes. But it’s a bad idea for a lot of reasons. One big one that’s often ignored: Economically, splitting up would be a $100 trillion mistake.
Look, we get it. Everyone is exasperated. Both sides fantasize about simply going our separate ways, creating two countries of like-minded people and living happily ever after. If “happily ever after” means living in countries with lousy economies and a mountain of debt, then okay.
If splitting led to a civil war, it would cost millions of lives and trillions of dollars. Estimating the fully loaded costs of war is tricky business, but safe to say modern wars are expensive. According to the Watson Institute at Brown University, U.S. wars post-9/11 have cost $8 trillion in military spending alone. But the bigger (and trickier) part is what wars do to the economy. It’s estimated the Yugoslavian Civil War in 1991 reduced GDP by 20 percent a year with industrial production down by 50 percent, along with 20 percent unemployment.