rootless—white members, generally, ofrnwhat was once the working or lower middlernclass. Watching these people hypnoticallyrnpouring coins into a slot machinernon a Mississippi gambling barge,rnan Army major comments ironically,rn”And we risk our lives for this.” In Tucson,rna Navajo cable TV installer talksrnabout his trailer-park customers who livernin homes with no fiirniture, no food besidesrnchips and beer, no sign of friends orrnrelatives. TV, he says, “is the whole existencernfor a new class of silent people.”rnRiding a Greyhound bus from Albuquerquernto Amarillo, Texas, Kaplan isrnappalled by his fellow passengers: freaksrnin sweatpants and baseball caps, singlernmothers shepherding children withrnpunk haircuts, no one conversing orrnreading. Never, he avers, whether inrnYugoslavia or Mexico or Africa, has herntraveled in a more rootless or unstablerncrowd. At the trip’s end, he takes a taxirnfrom the bus terminal to the Amarillornairport—and crosses “the real border,rnback into middle class America.”rnThe most cheerful destination in Kaplan’srnNorth American journey isrn”Cascadia”—Vancouver, Canada, Portland,rnand Seattle, the cities of the PacificrnNorthwest. Here, there is money, hightechrntalent, plenty of natural beauty, andrnthe kind of people who appreciate it.rnThe ethnic mix, especially in Vancouver,rnis white and Asian, more particularlyrnAnglo-Saxon and Chinese —a culturalrnmix Kaplan extols as “the most potent inrnthe history of capitalism.” Here, finally,rnin a sea of people having in common arnlack of connection to the American past,rnKaplan finds the most hope for America.rn”People would fight for this,” he says ofrnVancouver—its mild cosmopolitanism,rnAn Empire Wilderness:rnTravels Into America’s Futurern* * I uring the period of western expansion we were an American em-rnJ—/pire long before we were a unified Atlantic-to-Pacific country.rnWhat [Daniel] Kemmis [former mayor of Missoula, Montana] wa,s suggesting,rnit seemed to me, is that we might eventually revert to being anrnempire once more: a subtle, ambiguous one of geographically determined,rnloosely connected posturban forms; a dry-land version of citystaternGreece, in which ruthless economic competition replaces ancientrnwars. Tlie phrase ‘an empire wilderness’ from Hart Crane’s poem ofrn1930, The Bridge,’ occurred to me as a way of describing this new politicalrnarrangement. Rather than rule these urban units, Wasliington,rnD.C., would, in effect, provide a protective shield against such hazards asrnglobal terrorists and computer hackers and supply aid such as specializedrnmilitary imits for floods and earthquakes. And as this transformation towardrna system of mere imperial oversight proceeds, late-twentieth-centuryrndebates between Washington and the fifly states will become increasinglyrnirrelevant.rn”James Madison . . . envisioned the settlement of the whole continentalrnUnited States, but he did not foresee a modern transportation networkrnthat would allow Americans to inhabit one national community psvchologically.rnHis vision of our political future was of an enormous geographicalrnspace with governance but without patriotism, in which thernfederal government would be a mere ‘umpire,’ refereeing competing interests.rnThe concept went untested because a uniquely American identityrnand culture did take root. But as Americans enter a global communityrndriven, in part, by gigantic corporations, many of which are basedrnin—but not necessarily loyal to—America, and as class and racial divisionsrnwithin our borders prove intractable, Madison’s concept may becomernrelevant.”rn—Robert D.Kaplanrnits ordered grid of streets, its blend ofrnBritish planning and ecological consciousness.rnFrom here, he can see notrnonly to the end of the American nationrnbut beyond it to the rise of a shimmeringrnbourgeois city-state; like Henry Adamsrncontemplating the end of the Americanrnempire a century ago, he finds thernthought “in no way unpleasant.” However,rnthere are difficulties here, bothrnpractical and moral. Kaplan seemsrnaware that no region long survives withoutrninspiring loyalties and a sense of civicrnvirtue. But if the only portion of thernUnited States capable of generating arnsense of loyalty is the wealthv Northwest,rnwhere does that leave the rest of therncountry? If the greater American nationstaternwhich supports “Cascadia” —as arnmarket for its products, a guarantor ofrnmilitary security, and a barrier to uncontrolledrnimmigration —were to splinterrnor collapse, Cascadia’s most-favoredrnquality of life would not endure veryrnlong.rnGlobalization, the intractability ofrnblack poverty, the shrinking of the middlernclass, the erosion of democratic debaternand practice, the Mexicanization ofrnthe Southwest, multiculturalism at bothrnthe high and the low end of society—rnthese are grand themes for a tiavel bookrnto bear, and Kaplan carries them beautifully.rnStill, there are moments when hisrnsemi-detached, above-the-battle perspectivernbecomes exasperating: What wouldrnbe wrong in acknowledging more explicitlyrnthat the collapse of the historicalrnAmerican nation-state would be an unmitigatedrndisaster for tens of millions ofrnpeople? It isn’t really enough to replyrnthat the kind of change the West is undergoingrnis a tectonic shift, beyond therninfluence of political choice. If it is notrninevitable that the inner cities should bernovertaken by crime, neither should it bernthat the wages of working Americansrnstagnate nor that the border dissolve intornnothingness. The hollowing-out ofrnAmerica’s once-broad middle class —rnrightly seen by Kaplan as a threat to therncontinued practice of democracy—is inrngreat part a result of policies formulatedrnin Washington; different policies couldrnreverse or mitigate it. To argue suchrnpoints woidd probably require a far morernheavy-handed and contentious bookrnthan the one Kaplan has written. But itrntakes away nothing from this deeply intelligentrnand smoothly engaging work tornhope that such a book makes a dramaticrnappearance soon. crn30/CHRONICLESrnrnrn