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The Untied States of America: Polarization, Fracturing, and Our Future Hardcover – November 22, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Will America always fly the Stars and Stripes? Will its borders be the same in 50 years? It may sound crazy, but the answers to those questions are less certain than most Americans probably think. History shows flags and borders change frequently. Countries are like marriages--they fall apart all the time. Three-quarters of the countries in the United Nations were not there 50 years ago. In his book The Untied States of America, Juan Enriquez chucks out conventional wisdom and says the U.S. may not be immune to mounting global forces of national dissolution. He argues that Americans should get ready now for a messy, secession-driven future.

Enriquez is a former Mexican government official and fellow at Harvard's Center for International Affairs. He says growing political, racial, and economic divisions in the U.S. could provoke secessionist movements in the South and New England. It has happened before. Enriquez points to the Philippines, which gained independence from the U.S. in 1946. In Texas, he writes, 42 percent of people support secession and a confederation with the U.S. Unfortunately, while Enriquez addresses an important topic, his writing style is sensationalistic and plays loose with some facts. (For example, he claims that the Canadian province of Quebec bans toys that use a language other than French--not true--and that 94 percent of Quebec voters rejected independence for the province in a 1995 referendum; the correct number is 51 percent.) Enriquez also employs a distracting and jarring presentation style: He rarely writes a paragraph longer than one sentence, and each page is a cacophony of bolded and capitalized words and varying font sizes, a provocative choice that in this case comes off as strange and amateurish. --Alex Roslin

From Publishers Weekly

American history, both distant and recent, is troubled with violence and schisms that constantly threaten the foundations of the country. The country has endured a civil war, two world wars, slavery, genocide and now, of course, the raging battle between the red and blue states. Are we on the brink of dissolution? That's the question Enriquez poses in this fact-filled, statistic-laden book. For more than 200 pages, Enriquez, the founding director of the Life Sciences Project at Harvard Business School, gives readers as many reasons as he can for why America may be headed toward an un-united future. On occasion this means glossing over pesky details and relying on simple generalizations, such as lumping together various quotes about the deficit and social security to maximize the sense of impending doom. Enriquez skips from topic to topic, relying on the fractured narrative layout (perhaps deliberately reminiscent of essayist Paul Metcalf's work) to heighten the book's sense of urgency. The facts, dates and numbers he presents are undoubtedly interesting, but in the end they don't add up to much. What's lacking is the complexity and depth that come with focused, developed arguments, the kind that provide a meaningful context for statistical information. (On sale Nov. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (November 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307237524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307237521
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 1.3 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,802,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Perhaps the most fascinating part of this book isn't even what's printed on the page - it's HOW its printed on the page. There are no paragraphs. The entire work is an assembly of short declaratory sentences (or less) arranged, spaced, and sized for maximum impact. Charts and graphs abound. It is clear that the author conceived the entire page, not just his words. This probably bothers some people (it certainly did for at least one reviewer on Amazon.com) but I find it not just readable but incredibly informative, cluing the reader in to the author's ideas about what's important and how certain concepts mesh together or can be juxtaposed for power and insight.

If you cannot accept this format (as is the case with a few of the other reviewers) the book will drive you crazy. If you can get past it, though, reading it is a very enjoyable experience.

The book opens with and revolves around the very thought provoking question, "How many stars with the U.S. flag have in 50 years?" Most Americans would respond "fifty, of course" without any thought. Mr. Enriquez spends the remainder of the book providing insightful examples of how other countries have 'untied' (his term for the breakup of a nation into smaller, independent parts) and lines along which and reasons for the U.S. to 'untie.'

He covers portions of our neighbors, Canada and Mexico, that could under certain circumstances become 'new stars' for America. He also examines the reasons and trends that my induce portions of the United States to 'untie' - a loss of stars for the United States.

The 'Blue State vs. Red State' divide is examined.
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Format: Hardcover
In this snappy, fast-paced but deeply-thought-out book, Juan Enriquez challenges our assumptions about the future stability of the United States and the entire surrounding region. Will the U.S. flag still have fifty stars fifty years from now? Will some regions secede, or others seek to join the USA and become new states? What trends are tearing this country apart, and what trends in other nearby nations such as Canada, Mexico and certain U.S. protectorates might make them fracture, with parts of what are now sovereign nations throwing in their lot with the United States?

Enriquez identifies disturbing socioeconomic trends within this country that tend toward disunion. Some states receive far more from the United States treasury than they pay in. These are generally "blue" states with a large tax base. Other states are takers; these are generally "red" states in the arid west. Racial divides, including the tremendous influx of Hispanic migrants and the increasing power of Indian tribes as sovereign nations, accentuate the problem. Religiously divided Americans no longer speak a common "language" based on common metaphysical assumptions. As an earlier work on this topic, "The Nine Nations of North America" pointed out, this enormous country in which we live is really a confederation of a great many regional interests. Whether we can continue to view it as our common interest to "buy the American brand" and maintain a common identity is an open question.

Enriquez makes the book entertaining by using a variety of typefaces, photographs, and quotes to make his point. It reads like a website converted into a book. But don't let the quick read fool you. There is a lot here to think about.
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Format: Hardcover
A professor I know here at school once described Juan Enriquez's writing as "part e. e. cummings, part html." It's true. I just got this and it kept me up through the night. If you've ever thought that there's more to the red state/blue state divide than just presidential elections, or if you've ever thought there's more common culture between western Canada and California than between California and the Carolinas, or if you ever have wondered about the potential of a north-south "nation" of Spanish speakers on the American continent(s), this book will keep you up too. Oh, and did you know the United States almost acquired a large portion of Mexico as part of the Mexican bailout of the mid-90s?
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Format: Hardcover
This book is basically an American liberal's response to "The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age", where Mr. Enriquez hits on many keypoints but cannot ultimately escape his own politics/social mentality he has grown accustomed to.

The points where I diverge with Mr. Enriquez are too numerous to list here, but I think what it all comes down is that while Davidson & Rees-Mogg (authors of Sovereign Individual) look forward to most of the changes through decentralization, and successfully write as (they term it) "political atheists", Enriquez is scared to death of any decentralization to any state let alone the American state and lets his ideology mold his thinking of trends unfolding.

His "Conclusion" (the transition to power on 1/21/08, written in 2005) is really quite funny for anyone up to date on accurate trend forecasters (Sovereign Individual, and also Gerald Celente), but this part gets me:

"The president [newly elected], faced with overwhelming challenges during her first days in office, did understand that there was one overarching priority: Make it unrewarding and uncomfortable for anyone, in the mainstream, to promote untying [political decentralization/secession]."

For all his talk about self-expression and freedom throughout the book, that passage screams to me his real desire: control.

He also is very heavy-handed against religion, attacks a lot of Red State strawmen, while Rees-Mogg and Davidson in Sovereign Individual are lot more even (though negative still) and less childishly simple in questioning religion's role in society.

Speaking of childishly simple...another CON against Enriquez is his prose, of many different fonts making each sentence its own headline of sorts.
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