growing obsoletism of geographic “representation”

In today’s interconnected society, and especially considering the U.S. economy’s 20th-century shift from production to service, physical location has become a substantially less relevant factor in the vast majority of Americans’ economic and social lives. As the average individual’s accessibility to the rest of the nation (and world) is continually enhanced as a result of technology (of primary importance, of course, the internet), the concept of geographic “representation” is worthy of sincere fundamental reexamination.

Geographically oriented political representation in America largely evolved of the (increasingly antiquated) notion that peoples’ political interests are most significantly advanced (or protected) when aggregated regionally. Driving factors in the economy for most of the 20th century included agriculture, industry, and transport. While these factors remain crucial in the modern economy, technological advancements have enabled greater economic diversification and a relationally diminishing role of geography, and thus the waning of actual regional economic significance.

This impact carried over more widely in the context of the middle class, as the average worker became less reliant upon regional commerce, as well as the production sector as a whole, as a means of employment. The overwhelming majority of employed Americans today are in the service economy, and most service economy careers are not regionally dependent per se. (The U.S. economy is now approximately 80% service sector, 19% industry sector, and 1% agriculture sector.)

So, why does any of this matter? Because political representation is still assigned based on quaint regional aggregation. No doubt, America still consists of cultural gradients, and populations share many regional characteristics. The question at hand, however, is whether regional identity is still a primary trait of American individuals, and whether it should remain the preeminent factor in determining political representation.

Consider the predominant political paradigms in the United States: liberal, conservative, and libertarian. The primary result of geographic, winner-take-all representation has been to split prevailing political thought almost equally into two conglomerated parties competing for power. Most citizens choose a side based on which they believe “more” closely represents their preferences, or perhaps more accurately, which represents a “lesser evil”. The victorious party then governs at the expense of the citizens of the other, and to a considerable extent, at the expense of its own also. Within each geographic region (with regard to U.S. Congress, a “district”) there are also compelling variations of political preference, meaning that a significant minority in each district is also misrepresented.

But if it were no longer necessary to choose representation geographically, why would it remain necessary to endure monolithic governance geographically? Consider an alternative possibility: philosophical representation. In this system, citizens would elect candidates of the philosophical party which most closely represents their preferences. However, it is no longer necessary to compromise to a “lesser evil”, because only your party has the legitimacy to govern you. Similarly, others’ party only has the legitimacy to govern them.

For example, John might elect the Conservative district, state, and national representative. Jane, however, may prefer to elect Liberal representatives. John and Jane would be accountable to policies only of the parties (and philosophies) they actually chose. In effect, there would be different “philosophical nations” providing each individual, however distributed across the land, with their preferred governance.

Within the Conservative “nation”, then, it might be illegal to possess certain drugs or engage in certain relationships. Within the Liberal “nation”, everyone would be compelled to purchase healthcare and surrender their guns. And within the Libertarian “nation”, well… maybe libertarians could finally just be free.

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