Contributor Post Created with Sketch. A Capital Idea


Washington, D.C., has been the capital of the United States since 1790. In the intervening years, of course, the country has expanded to the Pacific, and the population has spread southward and westward. So isn’t it time to at least think about moving the capital to another region? Perhaps to a red state? Perhaps to a warm area? Perhaps to a city where it’s possible to drive for more than three minutes without becoming hopelessly lost? I’m sorry, Phoenix, Arizona, but I nominate you.

Now, before you Phoenicians get too upset, think about the upside. The capital rains money on those who live and work with, for or near it. According to most estimates, six if the ten richest counties in the country are in the D.C. metro area. Plus, the Feds already own over 74% of the land in Arizona, so you’re used to them, and there’s plenty of room for shiny new edifices. As for the old ones back in D.C., they’ll become museums and such, and the tourists will continue to flock there. They’ll even be able to get near the old White House again (or, as it would likely be renamed, the White House Museum). We’ll have plenty of time to create jokes about what will be exhibited there.

As for the new capital in Phoenix, once the tourists (and their money) start rolling in, they’ll actually be able to find their way around in a city that makes sense. No more octopus-like tentacles radiating from circles that have been known to swallow up entire families for days at a time. As far as can be determined, Pierre Charles L’Enfant never traveled west of the Mississippi. His handiwork in Washington will, at long last, stop interfering with the business of government. And, speaking of interfering with the government, the change in location will also do away with snow days, which, according to some estimates, cost taxpayers over $100 million each.

And there’s more. Isn’t it about time we addressed the two-centuries-plus unfairness to western Senate and House members who have had to travel tremendous distances between the capital and their constituents? Won’t it be easier for elected officials when they don’t have to choose between keeping their promises to voters and trying to get positive coverage in the Washington Post’s Lifestyles section?

Sure, there are downsides for DC West, starting with an influx of journalists and pundits and lobbyists and lawyers and the various categories of hangers-on that have developed around politicians, but they all have to buy or rent housing and eat at restaurants and have suits made and sit at dark bars.

There’s an oft-repeated story about Ronald Reagan looking out over the beautiful Pacific in his beloved California and remarking, “If the Pilgrims had landed in California, the East Coast would still be a wilderness.” Maybe it’s time to correct that accident of discovery and settlement, and go west, young man. The capital’s current slogan, Justia Omnibus (Justice for All) would simply be replaced by Calor est Arida (It’s a Dry Heat.)

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  1. Southern Pessimist Member

    What about Las Vegas? It is all a crapshoot anyway.

    • #1
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:07 PM PDT
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  2. Dave Sussman Podcaster

    Damn those are high taxes!

    Yes, but its a dry tax.

    • #2
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:11 PM PDT
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  3. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    Would the District of Columbia become the 51st state? (Translating into two more Democrat Senators.)

    • #3
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:19 PM PDT
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  4. Patrick McClure Coolidge

    No, not a new state. Simply re-absorbed into into Virginia and Maryland.

    • #4
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:30 PM PDT
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  5. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark WilsonJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    There’s value in having a stable imperial capital in terms of international recognition and prestige. But the place always becomes a black hole that sucks up money and power. Uprooting it and moving it to Podunk every couple of decades would really help slim down the bureaucratic state and get rid of the political remoras that school around the centers of power.

    • #5
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:30 PM PDT
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  6. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Capitol, I sez.

    • #6
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:30 PM PDT
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  7. Pencilvania Inactive

    I love the idea. I think the Rs should just declare it and set up shop there – kind of an Avignon Presidency.

    • #7
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:32 PM PDT
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  8. Valiuth Member
    ValiuthJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A nice notion Pat, but I think what we have to do is not move the capital but break it apart completely.

    I propose the following rules. The White House, the Senate, the House and the Supreme Court must each be placed in a virgin location that can not be within 500 miles of each other or 200 miles of a state capital or major metropolitan (+100K people) area. Every federal agency must also be place in a city containing no other Federal Buildings and can not be within 100 miles of another Federal building. Also the distribution of such buildings must be equal between the states.

    Washington D.C. will be reincorporated into Maryland.

    • #8
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:34 PM PDT
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  9. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Virginia has already rejected its fair share of DC. “The rescission”. Let Arlington and the Pentagon stay as they are. All the rest of it can go back to MD with its democrat control and crushing taxes. I can’t think of a more fitting monument.

    • #9
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:44 PM PDT
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  10. Jon Gabriel, Ed. King

    Speaking as Ricochet’s token Phoenician, I was initially horrified by this suggestion. On second thought, I bet I could make some good money bilking consulting our public servants on local customs.

    Also, there would also be better amenities for residents. The national mall would double as a golf course, the reflecting pool would have a diving board and Democrats could hide all their documents in the Grand Canyon.

    • #10
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:45 PM PDT
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  11. Fritz Coolidge

    I’d nominate Fargo, N.D. Freeze ’em, I say.

    • #11
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:50 PM PDT
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  12. Commodore BTC Inactive

    I’ve heard a constitutional amendment proposed that would require all federal congressmen to work out of their state capitals (vote/debate by telecon, etc.)

    • #12
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:57 PM PDT
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  13. John Walker Contributor

    The U.S. Constitution provides for a federal district, not under the jurisdiction of any state, to be seat of the U.S. government.

    The Congress shall have Power To… exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such Dis­trict (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Con­gress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States… (The U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 17)

    But this doesn’t specify where is needs to be. May I suggest the northern part of Tinian, in the Northern Mariana Islands, which is already a federal territory not part of any state. They would be far enough away to minimise meddling in affairs of the mainland, sufficiently a hardship post to deter legislative entrepreneurs, and small enough, even if the entire island were infested, to constrain the number of rent-seeking lobbyists swarming around the federal trough.

    “And here’s the news from Tinian today. Nothing happened. Over to you, Toby, for the weather.”

    • #13
    • March 18, 2015, at 5:07 PM PDT
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  14. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    I realize this is a proposal made in jest, but this could create a serious problem for the people of Phoenix in particular, and Arizona in general. Would jurisdiction over the new “District of the Valley of the Sun” be ceded by Arizona to the federal government? Would the people in the new DVS no longer have representation in Congress? Would the removal of the new DVS from the State of Arizona tip the rest of Arizona from red to blue? (Phoenix is generally more conservative than the rest of the state.)

    On the other hand, if things were carefully gerrymandered, we might be able to pick up 3 additional electoral votes by substituting a new, Republican federal district for DC. However, from the standpoint of electoral strategy, it would be better to carve a new federal district out of a more deeply red state. Oklahoma would be good, and more central.

    • #14
    • March 18, 2015, at 5:22 PM PDT
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  15. Archibald Campbell Member
    Archibald CampbellJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Only if the legislating is done in the summer, and no air conditioning is allowed for legislators, their staffs, or lobbyists.

    • #15
    • March 18, 2015, at 5:38 PM PDT
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  16. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    It’s not really the location that’s the problem. It’s the money. You could move the capitol to the top of Mt. Mansfield and if there were still a trillion dollars being spent every year, mountainside condos would go up faster than un-spinning wind turbines.

    At least let’s get some payback for our taxes. That’s right – it’s about payback.


    • #16
    • March 18, 2015, at 5:44 PM PDT
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  17. KC Mulville Inactive

    Is this one of those things where you convince them to show up in Phoenix, even though the capital really didn’t move … just to keep them occupied and distracted for a few days?

    And while they’re out of business for a while, we sneak into their offices and update the hidden cameras that Ricochet has installed and … and … did I say too much again?

    • #17
    • March 18, 2015, at 5:52 PM PDT
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  18. Tuck Inactive

    Contra #16, I think the climate does make a difference. Washington did not become a big city until the invention of the air conditioner, as David Brinkley noted:

    “…And so, in 1938, the United States Congress made a fateful decision that a few of the more canterkerous members said foretold the collapse of the Republic. It installed air conditioning. With its chambers and offices cool and pleasant, some predicted, Congress would stay in session all year and pass the additional time making even longer and more tiresome speeches, enacting more laws, spending more money and running the national debt still higher. Longer sessions, they said, would mean more government and more taxes, more forms for the people to fill out and more bureaucrats hired to read and file them…”

    I therefore nominate Nome, Alaska as the site of our new Capital.

    It would have the additional benefit of encouraging our frozen Solons to open the Alaskan wilderness to oil exploration, if only from self-interest.

    • #18
    • March 18, 2015, at 6:12 PM PDT
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  19. Randal H Member

    Didn’t someone early on in the founding era propose that the capital should wander from state to state with no permanent location? That would make the most sense to me. Leave the monuments where they are, but send the politicians and bureaucrats on a never-ending road show.

    • #19
    • March 18, 2015, at 6:50 PM PDT
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  20. Wintermute Member

    I nominate Dodge City, KS. It is closer to the center of the country and the real estate would be much cheaper compared to Phoenix. And the odor of cow manure from all the feedlots nearby would provide appropriate atmospherics for the work of our Federal government…

    • #20
    • March 18, 2015, at 7:34 PM PDT
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  21. Al Sparks Thatcher

    In Alaska, there is a movement, mostly dormant at the moment, to move the capital from Juneau to somewhere near Anchorage, but never in Anchorage.

    The reasoning is that Juneau is hard to get to. It’s not accessible by road, and often it’s fogged in, sometimes for days at a time, making dependable airline flights in and out problematic. There was one referendum passed mandating the move, and a subsequent one that killed funding for the move, and that’s where the issue has sat, legally.

    When Sarah Palin became governor, she snubbed Juneau in a variety of ways. She worked out of her home in Wasilla, and when she needed to conduct state business in a formal setting, she usually commuted to Anchorage. She also chose to be sworn in as governor in Fairbanks. And when she resigned, she did so in Fairbanks again, and her successor was sworn in there.

    I lived in Juneau a few years, but it’s been over 25 years, since I have. Yet, I haven’t changed my mind about keeping the capital there.

    The argument that resonates with me most is that Washington, DC was literally a backwater when it was created, since the area was a swamp, and prone to disease during the summer. It was geographically central to the then smaller nation, but not in any other way, unlike New York City or Philadelphia, the nation’s other two capitals.

    And most states follow that pattern. Most don’t have their capitals in the largest most cosmopolitan city in their borders. Examples that come to mind include California, New Mexico, Texas, and New York.

    It’s a feature, not a bug.

    I do agree with the merits of moving today’s Washington, DC. One of the Dakotas works for me. But don’t move it to an existing city. Create another one. And make it just as inhospitable as the old Washington, DC was.

    • #21
    • March 18, 2015, at 8:08 PM PDT
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  22. PHCheese Member

    The way things are going if Obama had his way the capital would be Tehran.

    • #22
    • March 18, 2015, at 8:14 PM PDT
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  23. Allan Rutter Member
    Allan RutterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I like Randal H’s idea, only turned up to 11: relocate Congress each week to a different college campus–they can hold the House and Senate in large auditorium classrooms and basketball arenas. And to confuse the lobbyists and reporters, decide which campus to invade next each Friday afternoon at 5:00.

    As for the White House and Office of the President, they should be relocated each week in a completely different campus than the Congress. The rest of the Executive Branch should stay in DC. When they get called to testify before one of three hundred thousand Congressional Committees meeting somewhere on campus, they can do so remotely, appearing as a holographic cylinder like those council guys griping at Robert Redford on the top floor of the SHIELD Bank Tower in Captain America–Winter Soldier.

    Another great idea for Congressional hearings: hold them via conference calls. Let them suffer from the same productivity-sucking disasters that plague the rest of the public and private sector. Let’s see how many long winded questions get hurled when members are talking over each other or trying to speak over the music playing after someone hit the hold button instead of mute.

    • #23
    • March 18, 2015, at 8:20 PM PDT
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  24. Al Sparks Thatcher

    Eustace C. Scrubb:Would the District of Columbia become the 51st state? (Translating into two more Democrat Senators.)

    Patrickb63:No, nota new state.Simply re-absorbed into into Virginia and Maryland.

    Well, Maryland. In 1846, Virginia requested the land back that it donated to the District of Columbia, and Congress agreed.

    Occasionally we hear arguments for giving D.C. residents their own congressional representation, both in the House and the Senate. Since we already have precedent where D.C. gave up territory, I say do it again. Shrink the territory down to include the Mall, the White House, and the buildings that houses Congress (called the United States Capital).

    When done, there would be no actual residents in D.C. Even members of Congress that sleep in their offices remain residents of the state they represent. And I think the President is still a resident of the state he comes from. If memory serves, Obama still votes in Illinois.

    If we were to move the capital, as Pat suggests, the new area need not be 10 x 10 miles. The Constitution only says it can’t exceed that.

    • #24
    • March 18, 2015, at 8:27 PM PDT
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  25. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    I like Phoenix. No air conditioning for the Capitol.

    • #25
    • March 18, 2015, at 9:14 PM PDT
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  26. Profile Photo Member

    Al Sparks:Occasionally we hear arguments for giving D.C. residents their own congressional representation, both in the House and the Senate. Since we already have precedent where D.C. gave up territory, I say do it again. Shrink the territory down to include the Mall, the White House, and the buildings that houses Congress (called the United States Capital).

    When done, there would be no actual residents in D.C.

    I thought I was the only person who thought that.

    But I don’t think Maryland will want them and I don’t think the people of Washington would want to be a part of Maryland.

    • #26
    • March 18, 2015, at 9:38 PM PDT
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  27. Umbra Fractus Coolidge
    Umbra FractusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Move it to Texas.

    We’re already carrying the rest of the country as it is. ;-)

    • #27
    • March 18, 2015, at 10:51 PM PDT
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  28. Little My Member

    Many good possibilities here. However, as I was growing up in Indianapolis (1960s), my parents read the Star at breakfast and the little column by a psychiatrist (Dr. Shane?) frequently promoted this very idea, although I think he envisioned Denver as the proper U.S. capital. I don’t think it would have crossed his mind that marijuana would become legal in Colorado.

    • #28
    • March 19, 2015, at 1:48 AM PDT
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  29. Arahant Member

    Al Sparks: And most states follow that pattern. Most don’t have their capitals in the largest most cosmopolitan city in their borders. Examples that come to mind include California, New Mexico, Texas, and New York.

    Illinois and Michigan fit the pattern, too.

    • #29
    • March 19, 2015, at 3:37 AM PDT
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  30. Titus Techera Contributor


    Al Sparks: And most states follow that pattern. Most don’t have their capitals in the largest most cosmopolitan city in their borders. Examples that come to mind include California, New Mexico, Texas, and New York.

    Illinois and Michigan fit the pattern, too.

    & Florida & almost every other state–Pennsylvania, no? What are the exceptions? Maybe Arizona? Colorado? Utah? Oklahoma? The Dakotas & Montana?

    • #30
    • March 19, 2015, at 3:52 AM PDT
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