eli5: Since the U.S is described as ”a union between 50 free states” and gets more compared with the structure of the EU than, say, the counties of England; how come Texas or Oklahoma doesn’t compete independently in the olympics, or have independent representation in the UN? A union isn’t a nation

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eli5: Since the U.S is described as ”a union between 50 free states” and gets more compared with the structure of the EU than, say, the counties of England; how come Texas or Oklahoma doesn’t compete independently in the olympics, or have independent representation in the UN? A union isn’t a nation

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Because they are free states, not independent nations. We still live under a shared single constitution. With one standing army and one national border. The constitution isn’t just a set of guiding principles dictating mutual protection and shared rights. It’s a document that establishes one nation. The Preamble to the Constitution sets it out pretty clearly. We are a United States of America, not associated nations of America.

International law recognizes it as one nation. Even all those ‘independent nations’ we call reservations for Native Americans aren’t given independent representation in international dealings, either. There’s no Cherokee team at the Olympics.

Because they’re states that look way more alike than EU counties. EU countries are way more diverse.

You’re getting hung up on wording here. The United states is one country. Just one. The 50 states are no sovereign, independent states. They are part of the United States. It’s really not at all like the EU and no one says that so I’m not sure why you think that. The states are not free, they’re all part of one single country.

States don’t have their own Olympic teams or UN representation for the same reason that Ontario in Canada, or Bavaria in Germany, or Queensland in Australia don’t. Those are all states or provinces in a federal country. Federalism doesn’t make them independent.

The US actually has five Olympic teams: the United States, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Some other countries also have separate teams for some of their overseas territories. Ultimately it’s all the result of decisions and negotiations by the IOC and the various national Olympic committees. They could do it differently if they wanted.

> and gets more compared with the structure of the EU than, say, the counties of England

It’s really not similar to the structure of the EU though. There are many areas of society in which the EU has very little say and the member states can do basically whatever they want (such as criminal justice, social policy, defence, and national elections). The member states’ governments also have a huge amount of control over the EU. Imagine if the US Senate was made up of state governors, and the US Cabinet was appointed by the state governors, and the state governors could amend the US Constitution whenever they wanted by unanimous agreement. That’s very roughly how the EU works. Member states can also leave the EU whenever they feel like it.

We tried a looser version of this between 1781 and 1789 (the Articles of Confederation) – and it went very badly! The union had none of the things you need a central government to do, from finances to international relations to military power. So they got back together and built a more robust federal government.

1. That description isn’t entirely accurate. The states are not “free”, they are bound together by the Constitution and subject to its restrictions. It is a much tighter association than that of the EU but, yes, less than that of English counties. One of those restrictions basically says that the States cannot act as independent nations and establish relationships with international entities on their own.
2. Texas and Oklahoma don’t compete independently of the Olympics because they can’t. Only “independent State(s) recognized by the international community.” In this context, State is equivalent to “nation.”

In order for Texas and Oklahoma to compete independent of the USA they would have to:

1. Declare independence.
2. Be recognized by the “international community” as an independent State.
3. Assemble a National Olympic Committee (NOC).
4. Have their NOC accepted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
5. Assemble their Olympic team.

And, since the last time US states attempted to secede from the Union there was a Civil War, said states will likely be too busy to care about sending some people to the Olympics.

The USA is more akin to Germany or Switzerland than to the EU. Those are also comprised of autonomous regions although the level of autonomy is different. Those two being a federation and a confederation, respectively, does not prevent them from being single nations.

We literally fought a war over this. The union is the nation. One federal government to handle external affairs, 50 free states that handle intranational affairs. That’s an oversimplification, but it gets the point across

That description is a pretty archaic and never really too accurate idea.

In the early days of the US, during the revolutionary war and period immediately following it, each state operated as sorta mini-nation itself. People would specifically identify as a “Virginian” or “New Yorker” less than an American. The idea of the US was fairly loose, it was organized together, but there wasn’t a sense of national unity and each state was kinda its own thing, which caused problems. Each state wasn’t really an independent nation though, it was something in-between a mini-country and part of another country– and it didnt really work.

The US constitution started in 1789 and at that point we have what resembles the modern US more, each state is NOT in any way independent, just part of the whole

From then until the civil war however, there was still very loose interpretations on if the US was a single thing or made up of many parts– and people on both sides of the conflict were unsure. The north favored the idea of a single US, while the south was… well, they liked slaves. However again the idea of the US being a single nation not a nation made up of smaller nations was still not entirely solidified until post civil war on all sides.

Post civil war, its over. The US states are merely administrative boundaries