A homework assignment for U.S.-breakup prognosticator Igor Panarin: Read your Joel Garreau

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Russian spy/academic/goofball Igor Panarin’s prediction that the U.S. will break up into six parts in 2010, reported in the WSJ today, sounds like it might be kind of fun—finally, all Americans will be forced to get passports, and smug Europeans will stop making fun of us for the lack of them! And I’m certainly not gonna say it can’t happen. We did have a civil war once, after all.

But what struck me after looking at the new map of America, Panarin-style, that ran in the WSJ is that the man knows nothing at all about American regional differences. He thinks South Carolina and Tennessee will be part of an “Atlantic America” that might join the European Union? He thinks Utah and Idaho will join forces with the “California Republic”? He thinks Wisconsin and Wyoming will together opt to become Canadian? He thinks the Deep South will join up with Mexico? Yeah, right! Has this man never been to the United States? Has he never even heard of The Nine Nations of North America?

No, apparently he hasn’t. That 1981 book by Friend of the Curious Capitalist Joel Garreau outlined regional divisions that made far more sense: A West Coast Ecotopia stretching along the coast from Santa Barbara northward to Anchorage. A New England that includes Canada’s maritime provinces. A Dixie that stretches from East Texas to Virginia. The book is 27 years old, so some of the divisions are dated: New Jersey and downstate New York no longer feel like part of the Foundry of declining industrial states, Virginia and North Carolina appear to be in the process of seceding from Dixie, the southern part of the Empty Quarter isn’t nearly as empty as it used to be. But still, anybody who is contemplating a breakup of the U.S. needs to start with Garreau’s work. Igor, do your homework!