Fifty States of Gray


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We see this kind of thing crop up every now and then, this urge to remake or reshape the United States into something the author thinks is more coherent than what we have. Here’s the latest:

What if we redrew the map to give every state an equal voice — by giving them an equal population? Mapmaker Neil Freeman has done just that, by drawing 50 states with just about 6,175,000 people each.

Our colleague Dylan Matthews wrote about Freeman’s map back in August, but we thought it was worth a repost. Freeman’s map gives us some pretty condensed states — New York, Newark, Washington, Los Angeles and Houston get their own boundaries. Others, like Salt Lake and Shiprock, which stretches from California east to Oklahoma, are pretty huge.

But every state would get the same number of electoral votes, and every Congressional district would have about the same number of people (Freeman has another proposal: Expand the House to 450 members, which would give every state nine representatives, or 500 members, which would give everyone 10 reps).

The first I became aware of desires like these was 30 years ago and The Nine Nations of North America. Many similar outlines and maps have followed.

It’s essentially a totalitarian impulse, really — this apparent need to remake history to suit modern notions. We need fifty near-identical states? How about a ten-day week of ten-hour days or 100-minute hours? Who cares if human needs and experience don’t fit? I’ll make them fit. And while I’m at it, I’ll slap my own place names on there. You and your neighbors in Little Rock might be fond of “Arkansas,” but I’m the mapmaker.

And if you think the census gets politically complicated, just moving a few electors around the map once every ten years, just wait until we’re redrawing state lines to match human mobility.

Nah — easier just to make people stay put. Because I say so the map says so.