A 38-State Nation 

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The map reducing the U.S. to 38 States is the creation of C. Etzel Pearcy, geography professor at California State University, Los Angeles. The new boundaries totally erase the 104 lines currently separating the 50 States. Each State's new name, chosen with the help of a poll of geography students, represents a physical or cultural aspect of the new territory. For example, Cascade (named after a major mountain range in Washington and Oregon), Cochise (named after the Apache Indian chief of Arizona), and Alamo (named after the mission in San Antonio, Tex.).

Why the need for a new map? Pearcy states that many of the early surveys that drew up our boundaries were done while the areas were scarcely populated. Thus, it was convenient to determine boundaries by using the land's physical features, such as rivers and mountain ranges, or by using a simple system of latitude and longitude. Proof of this lies in the fact that the Mississippi River borders IO States. The practicality of old established State lines is questionable in light of America's ever-growing cities and the increasing mobility of its citizens. Metropolitan New York, for example, stretches into 2 adjacent States. Other city populations which cross State lines are Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Chicago, and Kansas City. The "straddling" of State lines causes economic and political problems. Who should pay for a rapid transit system in St. Louis? Only those citizens within the boundaries of Missouri, or all residents of St. Louis's metropolitan area, including those who reach over into the State of Illinois?

One of the major advantages of Pearcy's State regroupment is the money it would save taxpayers. According to the geography professor, "The screening of State budgets reveals that approximately 25% of the expenditures can be signaled as relating to fixed costs associated with the support and maintenance of the State government itself." Pearcy adds, "For example, the governors of Texas and Rhode Island do not receive salaries commensurate with the areas under their jurisdiction. Again, if the top executive in charge of the National Guard of each State would have a jeep, the cost of operation would be about the same in each instance."  If 38 States replaced the current 50, Pearcy estimates the annual savings in fixed costs would be $4.6 billion, or about $100 per citizen.

When Pearcy realigned the U.S., he gave high priority to population density, location of cities, lines of transportation, land relief, and size and shape of individual States.  Whenever possible lines are located in less populated areas. In the West, the desert, semidesert, or mountainous areas provided an easy method for division. In the East, however, where areas of scarce population are harder to determine, Pearcy drew lines "trying to avoid the thicker clusters of settlement."  Each major city which fell into the "straddling" category is neatly tucked within the boundaries of a new State. Pearcy tried to place a major metropolitan area in the center of each State. St. Louis is in the center of the State of Osage, Chicago is centered in the State of Dearborn. When this method proved impossible, as with coastal Los Angeles, the city is still located so as to be easily accessible from all parts of the State. In many cases, a State has 2 or more major cities within its boundaries.  For example, citizens of Alamo can travel easily to Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, and San Antonio.  The new map increases the average size of each State by about ¼.  Alaska is no longer 483 times larger than Rhode Island.  The panhandles of Florida, Idaho, Maryland, and Oklahoma are eliminated as "unnecessary irregularities."  However, "marginal protuberances" such as the Florida peninsula and the Aleutian Island chain have remained.

Although Pearcy's study contains many logical recommendations for the regrouping of the States, he admits that additional criteria should be considered and suggests "sources of water supply, location of exploitable resources, and composition of the population might well be worthwhile factors to analyze." Also, his study does not include a selection of capitals for his States. Location and size of cities which could adequately serve as State capitals need to be determined-politically as well as geographically.

Will we one day salute a 38-State flag? An article in Smithsonian magazine says that the odds are slim.  "To begin with, there would be so much hot air from politicians of all parties that the entire climate would be threatened.... The chief obstacle to such schemes is that people just don't like change."

Despite criticism, Some Of Pearcy's advocates are already speculating on a new look for Old Glory, and the day may come when the song titles of some familiar tunes will be changed to "Deep in the Heart of Alamo," "Carry Me Back to Old Chesapeake," "El Dorado Here I Come," and "The Cumberland Waltz."

- C.O. [Carol Orsag]

The People's Almanac, 1975