Courtesy Reuters

The World's Eighth-Largest Nation

Of course it seems absurd to think of a state having a foreign policy. "The Constitution," wrote the legal scholar Edward S. Corwin, "is an invitation to struggle for the privilege of directing American foreign policy." Corwin meant a struggle between the president and Congress, not between Washington and the states. The states look after the health, safety and welfare of their citizens; they do not make treaties, regulate commerce or declare wars.

But things have changed a lot since 1957, when Corwin wrote his study of the presidency, not to mention since 1787, when the Founding Fathers finished the constitution. In 1957 California, for example, had a population of about 13 million, still well behind New York. At the time, even 13 million was considered excessive because most of the people lived in Southern California, which has no indigenous water.

Today, with 31 million legal residents, California is by far the most populous state of the nation, with half again more people than New York. As an independent nation, California's gross economic product, at about $700 billion, would be eighth largest in the world, $100 billion ahead of China's, $200 billion ahead of Canada's. (With the Soviet collapse, California may be seventh.)

Los Angeles, which had 100,000 people at the turn of the last century, will have 4 million when this one turns. San Diego, just a town of 17,000 people in 1900, is today the nation's sixth-largest city, bigger than Dallas, Detroit or Baltimore, and larger still than the capitals of most countries.

California is in many ways not a state, but a nation. When the Great Compromise was reached, creating a U.S. Senate where each state would be equal, the Founding Fathers could not have envisaged that one day the nation's largest state would be 62 times more populous than the smallest (Wyoming). Further, that this behemoth would be in the far West, indifferent to the East's traditional European orientation, far removed from the nation's political and financial capitals, peopled nearly 50 percent by brown-skin minorities, whose roots

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