It’s telling that the title of this post mentions black helicopters; talk of expanding the United States is generally considered to be kookery, even when it doesn’t come from a grade A kook like Tom Tancredo. But should it be? What, after all, would be the big deal in joining up with our neighbors? But before we get to that, let me ask you this: doesn’t it seem at least a little weird that someone like Tom Tancredo would be against a bigger United States? I mean, don’t you think we could rephrase this in such a way–the United States completes its expansion into all of North America, say–that Joe Flag Tattoo would be all about it? When did the nationalist kooks turn into such fraidy cats, scared of a little territorial growth?
But back to the original question. Why should expansion of the United States be completely off the table? I’m not talking about military invasion-based expansion or forced annexation. Rather, EU style expansion, where countries who would like to become part of the United States can seek to meet agreed upon rules and can apply for admittance, presumably as a new state. Now perhaps it is the case that no one would like do such a thing. Certainly, statehood involves a much greater forfeiture of sovereignty than EU accession. It’s also the case that the US doesn’t inhabit a geographic neighborhood quite like that of Europe, with lots of small independent countries in close proximity to each other (though distance might not be too big a deal, as the example of Hawaii shows). And it’s not clear exactly what the US might hope to gain from the nations that might want to apply that it couldn’t already get through immigration or trade.
But the example of Europe reveals one very good reason that an open-ended, good faith offer of statehood to nations that meet certain entry criteria might be beneficial for us and the world–mainly, that potential entry into such a body is a powerful incentive for nations to improve their institutions. This is easily seen in the EU, where rapid institutional improvement has been made in countries like Ireland, Spain, and Greece, where theÂ nations of Central and Eastern Europe have made great strides toward pulling themselves level with the West,Â and where even Turkey, ever an EU longshot, finds itself racing to bring its budgets and its human rights standards up to European snuff. Even if Turkey never accedes, the country will be much better off for having tried to do so.
Would any Latin American nation openly admit to prepping itself for statehood? Perhaps not. But if even one or two did, even tacitly, it might generate momentum in the region for real reform. Think about it: American expansionism not necessarily a bad thing.