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Book Review: Albion’s Seed

I.

Albion’s Seed by David Fischer is a history professor’s nine-hundred-page treatise on patterns of early immigration to the Eastern United States. It’s not light reading and not the sort of thing I would normally pick up. I read it anyway on the advice of people who kept telling me it explains everything about America. And it sort of does.

In school, we tend to think of the original American colonists as “Englishmen”, a maximally non-diverse group who form the background for all of the diversity and ethnic conflict to come later. Fischer’s thesis is the opposite. Different parts of the country were settled by very different groups of Englishmen with different regional backgrounds, religions, social classes, and philosophies. The colonization process essentially extracted a single stratum of English society, isolated it from all the others, and then plunked it down on its own somewhere in the Eastern US.

I used to play Alpha Centauri, a computer game about the colonization of its namesake star system. One of the dynamics that made it so interesting was its backstory, where a Puerto Rican survivalist, an African plutocrat, and other colorful characters organized their own colonial expeditions and competed to seize territory and resources. You got to explore not only the settlement of a new world, but the settlement of a new world by societies dominated by extreme founder effects. What kind of weird pathologies and wonderful innovations do you get when a group of overly romantic Scottish environmentalists is allowed to develop on its own trajectory free of all non-overly-romantic-Scottish-environmentalist influences? Albion’s Seed argues that this is basically the process that formed several early US states.

Fischer describes four of these migrations: the Puritans to New England in the 1620s, the Cavaliers to Virginia in the 1640s, the Quakers to Pennsylvania in the 1670s, and the Borderers to Appalachia in the 1700s.

II.

A: The Puritans

I hear about these people every Thanksgiving, then never think about them again for the next 364 days. They were a Calvinist sect that dissented against the Church of England and followed their own brand of dour, industrious, fun-hating Christianity. Most of them were from East Anglia, the part of England just northeast of London. They came to America partly because they felt persecuted, but mostly because they thought England was full of sin and they were at risk of absorbing the sin by osmosis if they didn’t get away quick and build something better. They really liked “city on a hill” metaphors.

I knew about the Mayflower, I knew about the black hats and silly shoes, I even knew about the time Squanto threatened to release a bioweapon buried under Plymouth Rock that would bring about the apocalypse. But I didn’t know that the Puritan migration to America was basically a eugenicist’s wet dream.

Much like eg Unitarians today, the Puritans were a religious group that drew disproportionately from the most educated and education-obsessed parts of the English populace. Literacy among immigrants to Massachusetts was twice as high as the English average, and in an age when the vast majority of Europeans were farmers most immigrants to Massachusetts were skilled craftsmen or scholars. And the Puritan “homeland” of East Anglia was a an unusually intellectual place, with strong influences from Dutch and Continental trade; historian Havelock Ellis finds that it “accounts for a much larger proportion of literary, scientific, and intellectual achievement than any other part of England.”

Furthermore, only the best Puritans were allowed to go to Massachusetts; Fischer writes that “it may have been the only English colony that required some of its immigrants to submit letters of recommendation” and that “those who did not fit in were banished to other colonies and sent back to England”. Puritan “headhunters” went back to England to recruit “godly men” and “honest men” who “must not be of the poorer sort”.

INTERESTING PURITAN FACTS:
1. Sir Harry Vane, who was “briefly governor of Massachusetts at the age of 24”, “was so rigorous in his Puritanism that he believed only the thrice-born to be truly saved”.
2. The great seal of the Massachusetts Bay Company “featured an Indian with arms beckoning, and five English words flowing from his mouth: ‘Come over and help us'”
3. Northern New Jersey was settled by Puritans who named their town after the “New Ark Of The Covenant” – modern Newark.
4. Massachusetts clergy were very powerful; Fischer records the story of a traveller asking a man “Are you the parson who serves here?” only to be corrected “I am, sir, the parson who rules here.”
5. The Puritans tried to import African slaves, but they all died of the cold.
6. In 1639, Massachusetts declared a “Day Of Humiliation” to condemn “novelties, oppression, atheism, excesse, superfluity, idleness, contempt of authority, and trouble in other parts to be remembered”
7. The average family size in Waltham, Massachusetts in the 1730s was 9.7 children.
8. Everyone was compelled by law to live in families. Town officials would search the town for single people and, if found, order them to join a family; if they refused, they were sent to jail.
9. 98% of adult Puritan men were married, compared to only 73% of adult Englishmen in general. Women were under special pressure to marry, and a Puritan proverb said that “women dying maids lead apes in Hell”.
10. 90% of Puritan names were taken from the Bible. Some Puritans took pride in their learning by giving their children obscure Biblical names they would expect nobody else to have heard of, like Mahershalalhasbaz. Others chose random Biblical terms that might not have technically been intended as names; “the son of Bostonian Samuel Pond was named Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin Pond”. Still others chose Biblical words completely at random and named their children things like Maybe or Notwithstanding.
11. Puritan parents traditionally would send children away to be raised with other families, and raise those families’ children in turn, in the hopes that the lack of familiarity would make the child behave better.
12. In 1692, 25% of women over age 45 in Essex County were accused of witchcraft.
13. Massachusetts passed the first law mandating universal public education, which was called The Old Deluder Satan Law in honor of its preamble, which began “It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the scriptures…”
14. Massachusetts cuisine was based around “meat and vegetables submerged in plain water and boiled relentlessly without seasonings of any kind”.
15. Along with the famous scarlet A for adultery, Puritans could be forced to wear a B for blasphemy, C for counterfeiting, D for drunkenness, and so on.
16. Wasting time in Massachusetts was literally a criminal offense, listed in the law code, and several people were in fact prosecuted for it.
17. This wasn’t even the nadir of weird hard-to-enforce Massachusetts laws. Another law just said “If any man shall exceed the bounds of moderation, we shall punish him severely”.

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote of Massachusetts Puritanism: “The underlying foundation of life in New England was one of profound, unutterable, and therefore unuttered mehalncholy, which regarded human existence itself as a ghastly risk, and, in the case of the vast majority of human beings, an inconceivable misfortune.” And indeed, everything was dour, strict, oppressive, and very religious. A typical Massachusetts week would begin in the church, which doubled as the town meeting hall. There were no decorations except a giant staring eye on the pulpit to remind churchgoers that God was watching them. Townspeople would stand up before their and declare their shame and misdeeds, sometimes being forced to literally crawl before the other worshippers begging for forgiveness. Then the minister would give two two-hour sermons back to back. The entire affair would take up to six hours, and the church was unheated (for some reason they stored all their gunpowder there, so no one was allowed to light a fire), and this was Massachusetts, and it was colder in those days than it is now, so that during winter some people would literally lose fingers to frostbite (Fischer: “It was a point of honor for the minister never to shorten a sermon merely because his audience was frozen”). Everyone would stand there with their guns (they were legally required to bring guns, in case Indians attacked during the sermon) and hear about how they were going to Hell, all while the giant staring eye looked at them.

So life as a Puritan was pretty terrible. On the other hand, their society was impressively well-ordered. Teenage pregnancy rates were the lowest in the Western world and in some areas literally zero. Murder rates were half those in other American colonies. There was remarkably low income inequality – “the top 10% of wealthholders held only 20%-30% of taxable property”, compared to 75% today and similar numbers in other 17th-century civilizations. The poor (at least the poor native to a given town) were treated with charity and respect – “in Salem, one man was ordered to be set by the heels in the stocks for being uncharitable to a poor man in distress”. Government was conducted through town meetings in which everyone had a say. Women had more equality than in most parts of the world, and domestic abuse was punished brutally. The educational system was top-notch – “by most empirical tests of intellectual eminence, New England led all other parts of British America from the 17th to the early 20th century”.

In some ways the Puritans seem to have taken the classic dystopian bargain – give up all freedom and individuality and art, and you can have a perfect society without crime or violence or inequality. Fischer ends each of his chapters with a discussion of how the society thought of liberty, and the Puritans unsurprisingly thought of liberty as “ordered liberty” – the freedom of everything to tend to its correct place and stay there. They thought of it as a freedom from disruption – apparently FDR stole some of his “freedom from fear” stuff from early Puritan documents. They were extremely not in favor of the sort of liberty that meant that, for example, there wouldn’t be laws against wasting time. That was going too far.

B: The Cavaliers

The Massachusetts Puritans fled England in the 1620s partly because the king and nobles were oppressing them. In the 1640s, English Puritans under Oliver Cromwell rebelled, took over the government, and killed the king. The nobles not unreasonably started looking to get the heck out.

Virginia had been kind of a wreck ever since the original Jamestown settlers had mostly died of disease. Governor William Berkeley, a noble himself, decided the colony could reinvent itself as a destination for refugee nobles, and told them it would do everything possible to help them maintain the position of oppressive supremacy to which they were accustomed. The British nobility was sold. The Cavaliers – the nobles who had fought and lost the English Civil War – fled to Virginia. Historians cross-checking Virginian immigrant lists against English records find that of Virginians whose opinions on the War were known, 98% were royalists. They were overwhelmingly Anglican, mostly from agrarian southern England, and all related to each other in the incestuous way of nobility everywhere: “it is difficult to think of any ruling elite that has been more closely interrelated since the Ptolemies”. There were twelve members of Virginia’s royal council; in 1724 “all without exception were related to one another by blood or marriage…as late as 1775, every member of that august body was descended from a councilor who had served in 1660”.

These aristocrats didn’t want to do their own work, so they brought with them tens of thousands of indentured servants; more than 75% of all Virginian immigrants arrived in this position. Some of these people came willingly on a system where their master paid their passage over and they would be free after a certain number of years; others were sent by the courts as punishments; still others were just plain kidnapped. The gender ratio was 4:1 in favor of men, and there were entire English gangs dedicated to kidnapping women and sending them to Virginia, where they fetched a high price. Needless to say, these people came from a very different stratum than their masters or the Puritans.

People who came to Virginia mostly died. They died of malaria, typhoid fever, amoebiasis, and dysentery. Unlike in New England, where Europeans were better adapted to the cold climate than Africans, in Virginia it was Europeans who had the higher disease-related mortality rate. The whites who survived tended to become “sluggish and indolent”, according to the universal report of travellers and chroniclers, although I might be sluggish and indolent too if I had been kidnapped to go work on some rich person’s farm and sluggishness/indolence was an option.

The Virginians tried their best to oppress white people. Really, they did. The depths to which they sank in trying to oppress white people almost boggle the imagination. There was a rule that if a female indentured servant became pregnant, a few extra years were added on to their indenture, supposedly because they would be working less hard during their pregnancy and child-rearing so it wasn’t fair to the master. Virginian aristocrats would rape their own female servants, then add a penalty term on to their indenture for becoming pregnant. That is an impressive level of chutzpah. But despite these efforts, eventually all the white people either died, or became too sluggish to be useful, or worst of all just finished up their indentures and became legally free. The aristocrats started importing black slaves as per the model that had sprung up in the Caribbean, and so the stage was set for the antebellum South we read about in history classes.

INTERESTING CAVALIER FACTS:
1. Virginian cavalier speech patterns sound a lot like modern African-American dialects. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out why, but it’s strange to think of a 17th century British lord speaking what a modern ear would clearly recognize as Ebonics.
2. Three-quarters of 17th-century Virginian children lost at least one parent before turning 18.
3. Cousin marriage was an important custom that helped cement bonds among the Virginian elite, “and many an Anglican lady changed her condition but not her name”.
4. In Virginia, women were sometimes unironically called “breeders”; English women were sometimes referred to as “She-Britons”.
5. Virginia didn’t really have towns; the Chesapeake Bay was such a giant maze of rivers and estuaries and waterways that there wasn’t much need for land transport hubs. Instead, the unit of settlement was the plantation, which consisted of an aristocratic planter, his wife and family, his servants, his slaves, and a bunch of guests who hung around and mooched off him in accordance with the ancient custom of hospitality.
6. Virginian society considered everyone who lived in a plantation home to be a kind of “family”, with the aristocrat both as the literal father and as a sort of abstracted patriarch with complete control over his domain.
7. Virginia governor William Berkeley probably would not be described by moderns as ‘strong on education’. He said in a speech that “I thank God there are no free schools nor printing [in Virginia], and I hope we shall not have these for a hundred years, for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divuldged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both!”
8. Virginian recreation mostly revolved around hunting and bloodsports. Great lords hunted deer, lesser gentry hunted foxes, indentured servants had a weird game in which they essentially draw-and-quartered geese, young children “killed and tortured songbirds”, and “at the bottom of this hierarchy of bloody games were male infants who prepared themselves for the larger pleasures of maturity by torturing snakes, maiming frogs, and pulling the wings off butterflies. Thus, every red-blooded male in Virginia was permitted to slaughter some animal or other, and the size of his victim was proportioned to his social rank.”
9. “In 1747, an Anglican minister named William Kay infuriated the great planter Landon Carter by preaching a sermon against pride. The planter took it personally and sent his [relations] and ordered them to nail up the doors and windows of all the churches in which Kay preached.”
10. Our word “condescension” comes from a ritual attitude that leading Virginians were supposed to display to their inferiors. Originally condescension was supposed to be a polite way of showing respect those who were socially inferior to you; our modern use of the term probably says a lot about what Virginians actually did with it.

In a lot of ways, Virginia was the opposite of Massachusetts. Their homicide rate was sky-high, and people were actively encouraged to respond to slights against their honor with duels (for the rich) and violence (for the poor). They were obsessed with gambling, and “made bets not merely on horses, cards, cockfights, and backgammon, but also on crops, prices, women, and the weather”. Their cuisine focused on gigantic sumptuous feasts of animals killed in horrible ways. There were no witchcraft trials, but there were people who were fined for disrupting the peace by accusing their neighbors of witchcraft. Their church sermons were twenty minutes long on the dot.

The Puritans naturally thought of the Virginians as completely lawless reprobate sinners, but this is not entirely true. Virginian church sermons might have been twenty minutes long, but Virginian ballroom dance lessons could last nine hours. It wasn’t that the Virginians weren’t bound by codes, just that those codes were social rather than moral.

And Virginian nobles weren’t just random jerks, they were carefully cultivated jerks. Planters spared no expense to train their sons to be strong, forceful, and not take nothin’ from nobody. They would encourage and reward children for being loud and temperamental, on the grounds that this indicated a strong personality and having a strong personality was fitting of a noble. When this worked, it worked really well – witness natural leaders and self-driven polymaths like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. More often it failed catastrophically – the rate of sex predation and rape in Virginia was at least as high as anywhere else in North America.

The Virginian Cavaliers had an obsession with liberty, but needless to say it was not exactly a sort of liberty of which the ACLU would approve. I once heard someone argue against libertarians like so: even if the government did not infringe on liberties, we would still be unfree for other reasons. If we had to work, we would be subject to the whim of bosses. If we were poor, we would not be “free” to purchase most of the things we want. In any case, we are “oppressed” by disease, famine, and many other things besides government that prevent us from implementing our ideal existence.

The Virginians took this idea and ran with it – in the wrong direction. No, they said, we wouldn’t be free if we had to work, therefore we insist upon not working. No, we wouldn’t be free if we were limited by poverty, therefore we insist upon being extremely rich. Needless to say, this conception of freedom required first indentured servitude and later slavery to make it work, but the Virginians never claimed that the servants or slaves were free. That wasn’t the point. Freedom, like wealth, was properly distributed according to rank; nobles had as much as they wanted, the middle-class enough to get by on, and everyone else none at all. And a Virginian noble would have gone to his grave insisting that a civilization without slavery could never have citizens who were truly free.

C: The Quakers

Fischer warns against the temptation to think of the Quakers as normal modern people, but he has to warn us precisely because it’s so tempting. Where the Puritans seem like a dystopian caricature of virtue and the Cavaliers like a dystopian caricature of vice, the Quakers just seem ordinary. Yes, they’re kind of a religious cult, but they’re the kind of religious cult any of us might found if we were thrown back to the seventeenth century.

Instead they were founded by a weaver’s son named George Fox. He believed people were basically good and had an Inner Light that connected them directly to God without a need for priesthood, ritual, Bible study, or self-denial; mostly people just needed to listen to their consciences and be nice. Since everyone was equal before God, there was no point in holding up distinctions between lords and commoners: Quakers would just address everybody as “Friend”. And since the Quakers were among the most persecuted sects at the time, they developed an insistence on tolerance and freedom of religion which (unlike the Puritans) they stuck to even when shifting fortunes put them on top. They believed in pacificism, equality of the sexes, racial harmony, and a bunch of other things which seem pretty hippy-ish even today let alone in 1650.

England’s top Quaker in the late 1600s was William Penn. Penn is universally known to Americans as “that guy Pennsylvania is named after” but actually was a larger-than-life 17th century superman. Born to the nobility, Penn distinguished himself early on as a military officer; he was known for beating legendary duelists in single combat and then sparing their lives with sermons about how murder was wrong. He gradually started having mystical visions, quit the military, and converted to Quakerism. Like many Quakers he was arrested for blasphemy; unlike many Quakers, they couldn’t make the conviction stick; in his trial he “conducted his defense so brilliantly that the jurors refused to convict him even when threatened with prison themselves, [and] the case became a landmark in the history of trial by jury.” When the state finally found a pretext on which to throw him in prison, he spent his incarceration composing “one of the noblest defenses of religious liberty ever written”, conducting a successful mail-based courtship with England’s most eligible noblewoman, and somehow gaining the personal friendship and admiration of King Charles II. Upon his release the King liked him so much that he gave him a large chunk of the Eastern United States on a flimsy pretext of repaying a family debt. Penn didn’t want to name his new territory Pennsylvania – he recommended just “Sylvania” – but everybody else overruled him and Pennyslvania it was. The grant wasn’t quite the same as the modern state, but a chunk of land around the Delaware River Valley – what today we would call eastern Pennsylvania, northern Delaware, southern New Jersey, and bits of Maryland – centered on the obviously-named-by-Quakers city of Philadelphia.

Penn decided his new territory would be a Quaker refuge – his exact wording was “a colony of Heaven [for] the children of the Light”. He mandated universal religious toleration, a total ban on military activity, and a government based on checks and balances that would “leave myself and successors no power of doing mischief, that the will of one man may not hinder the good of a whole country”.

His recruits – about 20,000 people in total – were Quakers from the north of England, many of them minor merchants and traders. They disproportionately included the Britons of Norse descent common in that region, who formed a separate stratum and had never really gotten along with the rest of the British population. They were joined by several German sects close enough to Quakers that they felt at home there; these became the ancestors of (among other groups) the Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish, and Mennonites.

INTERESTING QUAKER FACTS:
1. In 1690 a gang of pirates stole a ship in Philadelphia and went up and down the Delaware River stealing and plundering. The Quakers got in a heated (but brotherly) debate about whether it was morally permissible to use violence to stop them. When the government finally decided to take action, contrarian minister George Keith dissented and caused a major schism in the faith.
2. Fischer argues that the Quaker ban on military activity within their territory would have doomed them in most other American regions, but by extreme good luck the Indians in the Delaware Valley were almost as peaceful as the Quakers. As usual, at least some credit goes to William Penn, who taught himself Algonquin so he could negotiate with the Indians in their own language.
3. The Quakers’ marriage customs combined a surprisingly modern ideas of romance, with extreme bureaucracy. The wedding process itself had sixteen stages, including “ask parents”, “ask community women”, “ask community men”, “community women ask parents”, and “obtain a certificate of cleanliness”. William Penn’s marriage apparently had forty-six witnesses to testify to the good conduct and non-relatedness of both parties.
4. Possibly related: 16% of Quaker women were unmarried by age 50, compared to only about 2% of Puritans.
5. Quakers promoted gender equality, including the (at the time scandalous) custom of allowing women to preach (condemned by the Puritans as the crime of “she-preaching”).
6. But they were such prudes about sex that even the Puritans thought they went too far. Pennsylvania doctors had problems treating Quakers because they would “delicately describe everything from neck to waist as their ‘stomachs’, and anything from waist to feet as their ‘ankles'”.
7. Quaker parents Richard and Abigail Lippincott named their eight children, in order, “Remember”, “John”, “Restore”, “Freedom”, “Increase”, “Jacob”, “Preserve”, and “Israel”, so that their names combined formed a simple prayer.
8. Quakers had surprisingly modern ideas about parenting, basically sheltering and spoiling their children at a time when everyone else was trying whip the Devil out of them.
9. “A Quaker preacher, traveling in the more complaisant colony of Maryland, came upon a party of young people who were dancing merrily together. He broke in upon them like an avenging angel, stopped the dance, anddemanded to know if they considered Martin Luther to be a good man. The astonished youngsters answered in the affirmative. The Quaker evangelist then quoted Luther on the subject of dancing: ‘as many paces as the man takes in his dance, so many steps he takes toward Hell. This, the Quaker missionary gloated with a gleam of sadistic satisfaction, ‘spoiled their sport’.”
10. William Penn wrote about thirty books defending liberty of conscience throughout his life. The Quaker obsession with the individual conscience as the work of God helped invent the modern idea of conscientious objection.
11. Quakers were heavily (and uniquely for their period) opposed to animal cruelty. When foreigners introduced bullbaiting into Philadelphia during the 1700s, the mayor bought a ticket supposedly as a spectator. When the event was about to begin, he leapt into the ring, personally set the bull free, and threatened to arrest anybody who stopped him.
12. On the other hand, they were also opposed to other sports for what seem like kind of random reasons. The town of Morley declared an anathema against foot races, saying that they were “unfruitful works of darkness”.
13. The Pennsylvania Quakers became very prosperous merchants and traders. They also had a policy of loaning money at low- or zero- interest to other Quakers, which let them outcompete other, less religious businesspeople.
14. They were among the first to replace the set of bows, grovels, nods, meaningful looks, and other British customs of acknowledging rank upon greeting with a single rank-neutral equivalent – the handshake.
15. Pennsylvania was one of the first polities in the western world to abolish the death penalty.
16. The Quakers were lukewarm on education, believing that too much schooling obscured the natural Inner Light. Fischer declares it “typical of William Penn” that he wrote a book arguing against reading too much.
17. The Quakers not only instituted religious freedom, but made laws against mocking another person’s religion.
18. In the late 1600s as many as 70% of upper-class Quakers owned slaves, but Pennsylvania essentially invented modern abolitionism. Although their colonial masters in England forbade them from banning slavery outright, they applied immense social pressure and by the mid 1700s less than 10% of the wealthy had African slaves. As soon as the American Revolution started, forbidding slavery was one of independent Pennsylvania’s first actions.

Pennsylvania was very successful for a while; it had some of the richest farmland in the colonies, and the Quakers were exceptional merchants and traders; so much so that they were forgiven their military non-intervention during the Revolution because of their role keeping the American economy afloat in the face of British sanctions.

But by 1750, the Quakers were kind of on their way out; by 1750, they were a demographic minority in Pennsylvania, and by 1773 they were a minority in its legislature as well. In 1750 Quakerism was the third-largest religion in the US; by 1820 it was the ninth-largest, and by 1981 it was the sixty-sixth largest. What happened? The Quakers basically tolerated themselves out of existence. They were so welcoming to religious minorities and immigrants that all these groups took up shop in Pennsylvania and ended its status as a uniquely Quaker society. At the same time, the Quakers themselves became more “fanatical” and many dropped out of politics believing it to be too worldly a concern for them; this was obviously fatal to their political domination. The most famous Pennsylvanian statesman of the Revolutionary era, Benjamin Franklin, was not a Quaker at all but a first-generation immigrant from New England. Finally, Quakerism was naturally extra-susceptible to that thing where Christian denominations become indistinguishable from liberal modernity and fade into the secular background.

But Fischer argues that Quakerism continued to shape Pennsylvania long after it had stopped being officially in charge, in much the same way that Englishmen themselves have contributed disproportionately to American institutions even though they are now a numerical minority. The Pennsylvanian leadership on abolitionism, penal reform, the death penalty, and so on all happened after the colony was officially no longer Quaker-dominated.

And it’s hard not to see Quaker influence on the ideas of the modern US – which was after all founded in Philadelphia. In the middle of the Puritans demanding strict obedience to their dystopian hive society and the Cavaliers demanding everybody bow down to a transplanted nobility, the Pennsylvanians – who became the thought leaders of the Mid-Atlantic region including to a limited degree New York City – were pretty normal and had a good opportunity to serve as power-brokers and middlemen between the North and South. Although there are seeds of traditionally American ideas in every region, the Quakers really stand out in terms of freedom of religion, freedom of thought, checks and balances, and the idea of universal equality.

It occurs to me that William Penn might be literally the single most successful person in history. He started out as a minor noble following a religious sect that everybody despised and managed to export its principles to Pennsylvania where they flourished and multiplied. Pennsylvania then managed to export its principles to the United States, and the United States exported them to the world. I’m not sure how much of the suspiciously Quaker character of modern society is a direct result of William Penn, but he was in one heck of a right place at one heck of a right time

D: The Borderers

The Borderers are usually called “the Scots-Irish”, but Fischer dislikes the term because they are neither Scots (as we usually think of Scots) nor Irish (as we usually think of Irish). Instead, they’re a bunch of people who lived on (both sides of) the Scottish-English border in the late 1600s.

None of this makes sense without realizing that the Scottish-English border was terrible. Every couple of years the King of England would invade Scotland or vice versa; “from the year 1040 to 1745, every English monarch but three suffered a Scottish invasion, or became an invader in his turn”. These “invasions” generally involved burning down all the border towns and killing a bunch of people there. Eventually the two sides started getting pissed with each other and would also torture-murder all of the enemy’s citizens they could get their hands on, ie any who were close enough to the border to reach before the enemy could send in their armies. As if this weren’t bad enough, outlaws quickly learned they could plunder one side of the border, then escape to the other before anyone brought them to justice, so the whole area basically became one giant cesspool of robbery and murder.

In response to these pressures, the border people militarized and stayed feudal long past the point where the rest of the island had started modernizing. Life consisted of farming the lands of whichever brutal warlord had the top hand today, followed by being called to fight for him on short notice, followed by a grisly death. The border people dealt with it as best they could, and developed a culture marked by extreme levels of clannishness, xenophobia, drunkenness, stubbornness, and violence.

By the end of the 1600s, the Scottish and English royal bloodlines had intermingled and the two countries were drifting closer and closer to Union. The English kings finally got some breathing room and noticed – holy frick, everything about the border is terrible. They decided to make the region economically productive, which meant “squeeze every cent out of the poor Borderers, in the hopes of either getting lots of money from them or else forcing them to go elsewhere and become somebody else’s problem”. Sometimes absentee landlords would just evict everyone who lived in an entire region, en masse, replacing them with people they expected to be easier to control.

Many of the Borderers fled to Ulster in Ireland, which England was working on colonizing as a Protestant bulwark against the Irish Catholics, and where the Crown welcomed violent warlike people as a useful addition to their Irish-Catholic-fighting project. But Ulster had some of the same problems as the Border, and also the Ulsterites started worrying that the Borderer cure was worse than the Irish Catholic disease. So the Borderers started getting kicked out of Ulster too, one thing led to another, and eventually 250,000 of these people ended up in America.

250,000 people is a lot of Borderers. By contrast, the great Puritan emigration wave was only 20,000 or so people; even the mighty colony of Virginia only had about 50,000 original settlers. So these people showed up on the door of the American colonies, and the American colonies collectively took one look at them and said “nope”.

Except, of course, the Quakers. The Quakers talked among themselves and decided that these people were also Children Of God, and so they should demonstrate Brotherly Love by taking them in. They tried that for a couple of years, and then they questioned their life choices and also said “nope”, and they told the Borderers that Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley were actually kind of full right now but there was lots of unoccupied land in Western Pennsylvania, and the Appalachian Mountains were very pretty at this time of year, so why didn’t they head out that way as fast as it was physically possible to go?

At the time, the Appalachians were kind of the booby prize of American colonization: hard to farm, hard to travel through, and exposed to hostile Indians. The Borderers fell in love with them. They came from a pretty marginal and unproductive territory themselves, and the Appalachians were far away from everybody and full of fun Indians to fight. Soon the Appalachian strategy became the accepted response to Borderer immigration and was taken up from Pennsylvania in the north to the Carolinas in the South (a few New Englanders hit on a similar idea and sent their own Borderers to colonize the mountains of New Hampshire).

So the Borderers all went to Appalachia and established their own little rural clans there and nothing at all went wrong except for the entire rest of American history.

INTERESTING BORDERER FACTS:
1. Colonial opinion on the Borderers differed within a very narrow range: one Pennsylvanian writer called them “the scum of two nations”, another Anglican clergyman called them “the scum of the universe”.
2. Some Borderers tried to come to America as indentured servants, but after Virginian planters got some experience with Borderers they refused to accept any more.
3. The Borderers were mostly Presbyterians, and their arrival en masse started a race among the established American denominations to convert them. This was mostly unsuccessful; Anglican preacher Charles Woodmason, an important source for information about the early Borderers, said that during his missionary activity the Borderers “disrupted his service, rioted while he preached, started a pack of dogs fighting outside the church, loosed his horse, stole his church key, refused him food and shelter, and gave two barrels of whiskey to his congregation before a service of communion”.
4. Borderer town-naming policy was very different from the Biblical names of the Puritans or the Ye Olde English names of the Virginians. Early Borderer settlements include – just to stick to the creek-related ones – Lousy Creek, Naked Creek, Shitbritches Creek, Cuckold’s Creek, Bloodrun Creek, Pinchgut Creek, Whipping Creek, and Hangover Creek. There were also Whiskey Springs, Hell’s Half Acre, Scream Ridge, Scuffletown, and Grabtown. The overall aesthetic honestly sounds a bit Orcish.
5. One of the first Borderer leaders was John Houston. On the ship over to America, the crew tried to steal some of his possessions; Houston retaliated by leading a mutiny of the passengers, stealing the ship, and sailing it to America himself. He settled in West Virginia; one of his descendants was famous Texan Sam Houston.
6. Traditional Borderer prayer: “Lord, grant that I may always be right, for thou knowest I am hard to turn.”
7. “The backcountry folk bragged that one interior county of North Carolina had so little ‘larnin’ that the only literate inhabitant was elected ‘county reader'”
8. The Borderer accent contained English, Scottish, and Irish elements, and is (uncoincidentally) very similar to the typical “country western singer” accent of today.
9. The Borderers were famous for family feuds in England, including the Johnson clan’s habit of “adorning their houses with the flayed skins of their enemies the Maxwells in a blood feud that continued for many generations”. The great family feuds of the United States, like the Hatfield-McCoy feud, are a direct descendent of this tradition.
10. Within-clan marriage was a popular Borderer tradition both in England and Appalachia; “in the Cumbrian parish of Hawkshead, for example, both the bride and the groom bore the same last names in 25 percent of all marriages from 1568 to 1704”. This led to the modern stereotype of Appalachians as inbred and incestuous.
11. The Borderers were extremely patriarchal and anti-women’s-rights to a degree that appalled even the people of the 1700s.
12. “In the year 1767, [Anglican priest] Charles Woodmason calculated that 94 percent of backcountry brides whom he had married in the past year were pregnant on their wedding day”
13. Although the Borderers started off Presbyterian, they were in constant religious churn and their territories were full of revivals, camp meetings, born-again evangelicalism, and itinerant preachers. Eventually most of them ended up as what we now call Southern Baptist.
14. Borderer folk beliefs: “If an old woman has only one tooth, she is a witch”, “If you are awake at eleven, you will see witches”, “The howling of dogs shows the presence of witches”, “If your shoestring comes untied, witches are after you”, “If a warm current of air is felt, witches are passing”. Also, “wet a rag in your enemy’s blood, put it behind a rock in the chimney, and when it rots your enemy will die”; apparently it was not a coincidence they were thinking about witches so much.
15. Borderer medical beliefs: “A cure for homesickness is to sew a good charge of gunpowder on the inside of ths shirt near the neck”. That’ll cure homesickness, all right.
16. More Borderer medical beliefs: “For fever, cut a black chicken open while alive and bind it to the bottom of your foot”, “Eating the brain of a screech owl is the only dependable remedy for headache”, “For rheumatism, apply split frogs to the feet”, “To reduce a swollen leg, split a live cat and apply while still warm”, “Bite the head off the first butterfly you see and you will get a new dress”, “Open the cow’s mouth and throw a live toad-frog down her throat. This will cure her of hollow-horn”. Also, blacksmiths protected themselves from witches by occasionally throwing live puppies into their furnaces.
17. Rates of public schooling in the backcountry settled by the Borderers were “the lowest in British North America” and sometimes involved rituals like “barring out”, where the children would physically keep the teacher out of the school until he gave in and granted the students the day off.
18. “Appalachia’s idea of a moderate drinker was the mountain man who limited himself to a single quart [of whiskey] at a sitting, explaining that more ‘might fly to my head’. Other beverages were regarded with contempt.”
19. A traditional backcountry sport was “rough and tumble”, a no-holds-barred form of wrestling where gouging out your opponent’s eyes was considered perfectly acceptable and in fact sound strategy. In 1772 Virginia had to pass a law against “gouging, plucking, or putting out an eye”, but this was the Cavalier-dominated legislature all the way on the east coast and nobody in the backcountry paid them any attention. Other traditional backcountry sports were sharpshooting and hunting.
20. The American custom of shooting guns into the air to celebrate holidays is 100% Borderer in origin.
21. The justice system of the backcountry was heavy on lynching, originally a race-neutral practice and named after western Virginian settler William Lynch.
22. Scottish Presbyterians used to wear red cloth around their neck to symbolize their religion; other Englishmen nicknamed them “rednecks”. This may be the origin of the popular slur against Americans of Borderer descent, although many other etiologies have been proposed. “Cracker” as a slur is attested as early as 1766 by a colonist who says the term describes backcountry men who are great boasters; other proposed etymologies like slaves talking about “whip-crackers” seem to be spurious.

This is not to paint the Borderers as universally poor and dumb – like every group, they had an elite, and some of their elite went on to become some of America’s most important historical figures. Andrew Jackson became the first Borderer president, behaving exactly as you would expect the first Borderer president to behave, and he was followed by almost a dozen others. Borderers have also been overrepresented in America’s great military leaders, from Ulysses Grant through Teddy Roosevelt (3/4 Borderer despite his Dutch surname) to George Patton to John McCain.

The Borderers really liked America – unsurprising given where they came from – and started identifying as American earlier and more fiercely than any of the other settlers who had come before. Unsurprisingly, they strongly supported the Revolution – Patrick Henry (“Give me liberty or give me death!”) was a Borderer. They also also played a disproportionate role in westward expansion. After the Revolution, America made an almost literal 180 degree turn and the “backcountry” became the “frontier”. It was the Borderers who were happiest going off into the wilderness and fighting Indians, and most of the famous frontiersmen like Davy Crockett were of their number. This was a big part of the reason the Wild West was so wild compared to, say, Minnesota (also a frontier inhabited by lots of Indians, but settled by Northerners and Germans) and why it inherited seemingly Gaelic traditions like cattle rustling.

Their conception of liberty has also survived and shaped modern American politics: it seems essentially to be the modern libertarian/Republican version of freedom from government interference, especially if phrased as “get the hell off my land”, and especially especially if phrased that way through clenched teeth while pointing a shotgun at the offending party.

III.

This is all interesting as history and doubly interesting as anthropology, but what relevance does it have for later American history and the present day?

One of my reasons reading this book was to see whether the link between Americans’ political opinions and a bunch of their other cultural/religious/social traits (a “Blue Tribe” and “Red Tribe”) was related to the immigration patterns it describes. I’m leaning towards “probably”, but there’s a lot of work to be done in explaining how the split among these four cultures led to a split among two cultures in the modern day, and with little help from the book itself I am going to have to resort to total unfounded speculation. But the simplest explanation – that the Puritans and Quakers merged into one group (“progressives”, “Blue Tribe”, “educated coastal elites”) and the Virginians and Borderers into another (“conservatives”, “Red Tribe”, “rednecks”) – has a lot going for it.

Many conservatives I read like to push the theory that modern progressivism is descended from the utopian Protestant experiments of early America – Puritanism and Quakerism – and that the civil war represents “Massachusetts’ conquest of America”. I always found this lacking in rigor: Puritanism and Quakerism are sufficiently different that positing a combination of them probably needs more intellectual work than just gesturing at “you know, that Puritan/Quaker thing”. But the idea of a Puritan New England and a Quaker-(ish) Pennsylvania gradually blending together into a generic “North” seems plausible, especially given the high levels of interbreeding between the two (some of our more progressive Presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, were literally half-Puritan and half-Quaker). Such a merge would combine the Puritan emphasis on moral reform, education, and a well-ordered society with the Quaker doctrine of niceness, tolerance, religious pluralism, individual conscience, and the Inner Light. It seems kind of unfair to just mix-and-match the most modern elements of each and declare that this proves they caused modernity, but there’s no reason that couldn’t have happened.

The idea of Cavaliers and Borderers combining to form modern conservativism is buoyed by modern conservativism’s obvious Border influences, but complicated by its lack of much that is recognizably Cavalier – the Republican Party is hardly marked by its support for a hereditary aristocracy of gentlemen. Here I have to admit that I don’t know as much about Southern history as I’d like. In particular, how were places like Alabama, Mississippi, et cetera settled? Most sources I can find suggest they were set up along the Virginia model of plantation-owning aristocrats, but if that’s true how did the modern populations come to so embody Fischer’s description of Borderers? In particular, why are they so Southern Baptist and not very Anglican? And what happened to all of those indentured servants the Cavaliers brought over after slavery put them out of business? What happened to that whole culture after the Civil War destroyed the plantation system? My guess is going to be that the indentured servants and the Borderer population mixed pretty thoroughly, and that this stratum was hanging around providing a majority of the white bodies in the South while the plantation owners were hogging the limelight – but I just don’t know.

A quick argument that I’m not totally making all of this up:

This is a map of voting patterns by county in the 2012 Presidential election. The blue areas in the South carefully track the so-called “black belt” of majority African-American areas. The ones in the Midwest are mostly big cities. Aside from those, the only people who vote Democrat are New England (very solidly!) and the Delaware Valley region of Pennsylvania. In fact, you can easily see the distinction between the Delaware Valley settled by Quakers in the east, and the backcountry area settled by Borderers in the west. Even the book’s footnote about how a few Borderers settled in the mountains of New Hampshire is associated with a few spots of red in the mountains of New Hampshire ruining an otherwise near-perfect Democratic sweep of the north.

One anomaly in this story is a kind of linear distribution of blue across southern Michigan, too big to be explained solely by the blacks of Detroit. But a quick look at Wikipedia’s History of Michigan finds:

In the 1820s and 1830s migrants from New England began moving to what is now Michigan in large numbers (though there was a trickle of New England settlers who arrived before this date). These were “Yankee” settlers, that is to say they were descended from the English Puritans who settled New England during the colonial era….Due to the prevalence of New Englanders and New England transplants from upstate New York, Michigan was very culturally contiguous with early New England culture for much of its early history…The amount with which the New England Yankee population predominated made Michigan unique among frontier states in the antebellum period. Due to this heritage Michigan was on the forefront of the antislavery crusade and reforms during the 1840s and 1850s.

Alhough I can’t find proof of this specifically, I know that Michigan was settled from the south up, and I suspect that these New England settlers concentrated in the southern regions and that the north was settled by a more diverse group of whites who lacked the New England connection.

Here’s something else cool. We can’t track Borderers directly because there’s no “Borderer” or “Scots-Irish” option on the US census. But Albion’s Seed points out that the Borderers were uniquely likely to identify as just “American” and deliberately forgot their past ancestry as fast as they could. Meanwhile, when the census asks an ethnicity question about where your ancestors came from, every year some people will stubbornly ignore the point of the question and put down “America” (no, this does not track the distribution of Native American population). Here’s a map of so-called “unhyphenated Americans”, taken from this site:

We see a strong focus on the Appalachian Mountains, especially West Virginia, Tennesee, and Kentucky, bleeding into the rest of the South. Aside from west Pennsylvania, this is very close to where we would expect to find the Borderers. Could these be the same groups?

Meanwhile, here is a map of where Obama underperformed the usual Democratic vote worst in 2008:

These maps are small and lossy, and surely unhyphenatedness is not an exact proxy for Border ancestry – but they are nevertheless intriguing. You may also be interested in the Washington Post’s correlation between distribution of unhyphenated Americans and Trump voters, or the Atlantic’s article on Trump and Borderers.

If I’m going to map these cultural affiliations to ancestry, do I have to walk back on my previous theory that they are related to class? Maybe I should. But I also think we can posit complicated interactions between these ideas. Consider for example the interaction between race and class; a black person with a white-sounding name, who speaks with a white-sounding accent, and who adopts white culture (eg listens to classical music, wears business suits) is far more likely to seem upper-class than a black person with a black-sounding name, a black accent, and black cultural preferences; a white person who seems black in some way (listens to hip-hop, wears baggy clothes) is more likely to seem lower-class. This doesn’t mean race and class are exactly the same thing, but it does mean that some races get stereotyped as upper-class and others as lower-class, and that people’s racial identifiers may change based on where they are in the class structure.

I think something similar is probably going on with these forms of ancestry. The education system is probably dominated by descendents of New Englanders and Pennsylvanians; they had an opportunity to influence the culture of academia and the educated classes more generally, they took it, and now anybody of any background who makes it into that world is going to be socialized according to their rules. Likewise, people in poorer and more rural environments will be surrounded by people of Borderer ancestry and acculturated by Borderer cultural products and end up a little more like that group. As a result, ethnic markers have turned into and merged with class markers in complicated ways.

Indeed, some kind of acculturation process has to have been going on, since most of the people in these areas today are not the descendents of the original settlers. But such a process seems very likely. Just to take an example, most of the Jews I know (including my own family) came into the country via New York, live somewhere on the coast, and have very Blue Tribe values. But Southern Jews believed in the Confederacy as strongly as any Virginian – see for example Judah Benjamin. And Barry Goldwater, a half-Jew raised in Arizona, invented the modern version of conservativism that seems closest to some Borderer beliefs.

All of this is very speculative, with some obvious flaws. What do we make of other countries like Britain or Germany with superficially similar splits but very different histories? Why should Puritans lose their religion and sexual prudery, but keep their interest in moralistic reform? There are whole heaps of questions like these. But look. Before I had any idea about any of this, I wrote that American society seems divided into two strata, one of which is marked by emphasis on education, interest in moral reforms, racial tolerance, low teenage pregnancy, academic/financial jobs, and Democratic party affiliation, and furthermore that this group was centered in the North. Meanwhile, now I learn that the North was settled by two groups that when combined have emphasis on education, interest in moral reforms, racial tolerance, low teenage pregnancy, an academic and mercantile history, and were the heartland of the historical Whigs and Republicans who preceded the modern Democratic Party.

And I wrote about another stratum centered in the South marked by poor education, gun culture, culture of violence, xenophobia, high teenage pregnancy, militarism, patriotism, country western music, and support for the Republican Party. And now I learn that the South was settled by a group noted even in the 1700s for its poor education, gun culture, culture of violence, xenophobia, high premarital pregnancy, militarism, patriotism, accent exactly like the modern country western accent, and support for the Democratic-Republicans who preceded the modern Republican Party.

If this is true, I think it paints a very pessimistic world-view. The “iceberg model” of culture argues that apart from the surface cultural features we all recognize like language, clothing, and food, there are deeper levels of culture that determine the features and institutions of a people: whether they are progressive or traditional, peaceful or warlike, mercantile or self-contained. We grudgingly acknowledge these features when we admit that maybe making the Middle East exactly like America in every way is more of a long-term project than something that will happen as soon as we kick out the latest dictator and get treated as liberators. Part of us may still want to believe that pure reason is the universal solvent, that those Afghans will come around once they realize that being a secular liberal democracy is obviously great. But we keep having deep culture shoved in our face again and again, and we don’t know how to get rid of it. This has led to reasonable speculation that some aspects of it might even be genetic – something which would explain a lot, though not its ability to acculturate recent arrivals.

This is a hard pill to swallow even when we’re talking about Afghanistan. But it becomes doubly unpleasant when we think about it in the sense of our neighbors and fellow citizens in a modern democracy. What, after all, is the point? A democracy made up of 49% extremely liberal Americans and 51% fundamentalist Taliban Afghans would be something very different from the democratic ideal; even if occasionally a super-charismatic American candidate could win over enough marginal Afghans to take power, there’s none of the give-and-take, none of the competition within the marketplace of ideas, that makes democracy so attractive. Just two groups competing to dominate one another, with the fact that the competition is peaceful being at best a consolation prize.

If America is best explained as a Puritan-Quaker culture locked in a death-match with a Cavalier-Borderer culture, with all of the appeals to freedom and equality and order and justice being just so many epiphenomena – well, I’m not sure what to do with that information. Push it under the rug? Say “Well, my culture is better, so I intend to do as good a job dominating yours as possible?” Agree that We Are Very Different Yet In The End All The Same And So Must Seek Common Ground? Start researching genetic engineering? Maybe secede? I’m not a Trump fan much more than I’m an Osama bin Laden fan; if somehow Osama ended up being elected President, should I start thinking “Maybe that time we made a country that was 49% people like me and 51% members of the Taliban – maybe that was a bad idea“.

I don’t know. But I highly recommend Albion’s Seed as an entertaining and enlightening work of historical scholarship which will be absolutely delightful if you don’t fret too much over all of the existential questions it raises.

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1,287 Responses to Book Review: Albion’s Seed

  1. ExOttoyuhr says:

    Very overdue, but I noticed someone saying that the Cavaliers were pro-Nazi; but _Albion’s Seed_ relates how they were eager to join WWII on the Allied side, to defend their old ally England. The book relates that all four of the core cultures had their own reasons to join the war: the Puritans welcomed the chance to crush a rival theocracy; the Cavaliers wanted to protect England; the Scotch-Irish, with their warrior spirit, didn’t have to be asked twice after Pearl Harbor; and the Quakers could get behind the idea of non-violently supporting a war against the warrior spirit. (Note the Quaker/Scotch-Irish tension there…)

    At the time, pro-neutrality sentiment was mostly confined to peoples outside the core cultures (New York in particular; the New York Times was defeatist for almost the entire duration of the war, and inexplicably buried stories about Nazi atrocities), and outright pro-Nazi sentiment tended to be confined to people very much on the fringes — see http://harpers.org/archive/1941/08/who-goes-nazi/ for the general feeling at the time.

  2. Kristen says:

    A point of clarification: the Pilgrims that you probably associate with Thanksgiving were not Puritans, they were Separatists. They wanted to be separate from the Church of England, while the Puritans wanted to “purify” the church according to their doctrines. The Separatists didn’t like the Puritans and actually banned their church in the settlement at Plimoth (modern spelling: Plymouth) IIRC.

    The First Thanksgiving involved the Pilgrims. The Puritans came to Massachusetts later (and soon outnumbered the Separatists). And neither group wore hats with buckles on them, in case anyone was imagining them like that. That was an artist’s misconception. They all wore typical clothes for English people at the time.

  3. The original Mr. X says:

    90% of Puritan names were taken from the Bible. Some Puritans took pride in their learning by giving their children obscure Biblical names they would expect nobody else to have heard of, like Mahershalalhasbaz. Others chose random Biblical terms that might not have technically been intended as names; “the son of Bostonian Samuel Pond was named Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin Pond”. Still others chose Biblical words completely at random and named their children things like Maybe or Notwithstanding.

    Obligatory reference to the English Puritan If-Christ-Had-Not-Died-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Bones.

  4. Ric says:

    E pluribus duo.

    A 49%-51% split between the two tribes is remarkable, and the fact that it keeps oscillating around a 50-50 split over a couple of centuries cannot be just by chance.

  5. David Martin says:

    Great review! I just have a little fleshing out of one of his points.

    “And what happened to all of those indentured servants the Cavaliers brought over after slavery put them out of business?”

    We saw lots of them pass through our rural Eastern North Carolina school in the 1950s. They were the children of sharecroppers. The poorest and the dumbest of them were there only a couple or so years, to be replaced by the children of other itinerant tenant farmers. Most of them quit school as soon as it was legal to do so, at age 16, and never graduated from high school.

    “My guess is going to be that the indentured servants and the Borderer population mixed pretty thoroughly, and that this stratum was hanging around providing a majority of the white bodies in the South while the plantation owners were hogging the limelight – but I just don’t know.”

    He guessed wrong on that one. The former indentured servants remained in the flatlands and the borderers in the hill and mountain country, without much intermixing. I don’t thing the writer has much personal familiarity with the South.

    • Kyle Strand says:

      You realize that the “My guess is going to be” sentence is from Scott (the author of the blog post) rather than from the book, correct?

  6. secede sounds definetly the best option.

    the Federalists were wrong, US should have been a loose Confederacy, maybe modeled after Switzerland.

    • Kyle Strand says:

      Of course, the “Federalists” did want more of a Confederacy-like system than we have now–and in fact we had a Confederacy-like system until the Civil War (see my other comment, just above).

  7. Kyle Strand says:

    Scott, I’ve always wondered whether you had put any thought into how closely your “Archipelago” ideal government/confederacy was modeled by the early American colonies. I think the Archipelago sounds brilliant in theory, but I don’t see how it could avoid degenerating over time in much the same way the United States degenerated into a strongly centralized single sovereign state. This book review seems like a fantastic place to finally make that analogy explicit and consider how America’s failure as a real-life Archipelago prototype affects the theoretical ideal.

    The standard story of how we went from a truly federal system to a more strongly unified centralized system is (at least as I’ve heard it) that the original Articles of Confederacy were too weak to enforce even basic tax laws and thus couldn’t sustain the overseeing government; the states were still largely independent, however, until the Civil War, which marked the biggest turning point away from truly sovereign states.

    The lessons for a hypothetical future Archipelago, it seems to me, kind of depend on what lessons you draw from the Civil War itself. It’s popular these days to claim that the South’s claim that it was defending States’ rights was merely a feint, or even that explaining the war in terms of States’ rights is historically revisionist (see for instance various posts pointing out the number of times various documents from the Confederacy mentioned slavery). But when contextualizing the event as the collapse of an Archipelago, the States’ rights argument can’t help but carry a little weight, I think.

    So here’s the lesson I draw: in any Archipelago, there is a high risk that at some point, some subset of the Archipelago will do something so culturally/ethically heinous that other states in the Archipelago will feel compelled to intervene. The Archipelago will either collapse or centralize.

    What can prevent this? Scott’s vision of Archipelago does include one crucial element missing from the United States’ Constitution which might have resolved the specific issue of slavery versus abolition: full freedom of emigration among the states of the Archipelago. If slaves had been guaranteed the right to safely and easily leave the South whenever they decided they were tired of being slaves, there wouldn’t have been any slaves left in the South within a month or two of the Constitution being ratified. Of course, this couldn’t have happened in the specific historical context of the Constitutional Convention; abolition was an obvious deal breaker for the Southern states.

    But it’s not inconceivable that future Archipelago attempts could have true freedom of emigration. I think the question is, are there any demographics which any modern Westerners would want to deny personhood and immigration rights to?

    Among members of the species homo sapiens, the answer is pretty clearly “no”. But what if one state is full of PETA members who decide that horses and farm animals should have the right of emigration? What if the member states don’t agree on whether particular AIs are sentient enough to deserve the emigration right? (As in the antebellum South, economic factors would play a large part in different states’ attitudes toward these questions.) What if some states decide that, as per the Marxist concept of false consciousness, certain less-fortunate members of society living in other states who have no expressed preference for emigration nevertheless have some sort of inalienable right to a better life and should therefore be forcibly emigrated (kidnapped)? (The issue of downtrodden demographics not wishing to leave their birth state is a more serious issue than it might at first seem; consider, as a hypothetical example, a transgender person in a conservative state who finds it more important to stay close to their family than to move somewhere completely different just because they might be better treated there.)

    • brad says:

      The question of children also fits in to your last paragraph. It could easily be the case that one part of the archipelago saw exit rights for e.g. 13 years olds as fundamentally oppressive to their rights as parents while another part of the archipelago saw having a 13 year old age of consent as fundamentally oppressive and not cured even by exit rights.

      • Kyle Strand says:

        Oh, certainly. Good point. And I imagine people with learning disabilities could even be a point of contention. I think I’ll have to rescind my statement that “Among members of the species homo sapiens, the answer is pretty clearly ‘no'”; clearly we’ve already thought of a few “demographics which [some] modern Westerners [might] want to deny personhood and immigration rights to”.

  8. NorCali says:

    A few things that need to be added.1) While Borderers fought w/ Native Americans they also intermarried w/ them so they also gained some Native Influence that the other 3 groups largely avoided. 2) While these English/British elements were the major groups til 1840 after that the US was dominated by a large wave of Irish & Central European immigrants who were Catholic in religious orientation. The Potato Famine hit all of Europe not just Ireland so many of these people were fleeing the Prussians & Austrians especially in the wake of the revolts of 1848. They were later joined
    by Italians & Eastern Europeans who came for economic opportunity. All these immigrants were told to Assimilate & become “real Americans. If they did they would be afforded a status that was higher than Blacks ,Latinos & Asians. This social contract fell apart in the 60’s.

  9. Great and this increases my resolve to buy Fischer’s book. But I do think you (and Fischer) understate how Irish & Scottish the “Borderers” were, especially by the time they arrived in the United States.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I grew up in a community of German immigrants who spoke unaccented media-english while collectively pretending to be Border Reavers. Every so often the mask would slip and someone would start cursing about the damn Reavers, something that always seemed to be a confusing non-sequitur to me growing up, and in hindsight still seems like a non-sequitur every time it came up. Who were these Reaver bogeymen who occupied the fears of the adults I grew up around? The best conclusion I reached in my youth was that Reavers were damned stupid not-us people who made trouble for people like us, but who were fortunately damned stupid enough to fool all the time. Just speak loudly in any kind of “normal” english while saying overtly patriotic things.

    As an adult, I have a cleaner idea of who the border reavers were. My repressed nerd of a father had a lot of “friends” who were very reaverly people who fought and drank and wished that making animals fight for the amusement of their owners weren’t banned. That’s modern central Illinois. Did you know that modern central Illinois has racial tension in the form of clean-spoken conservative Germans living resentfully alongside south-accented conservative Reavers? They both vote Red, but given that “the damned stupid Reavers” were a conversation topic in social groups entirely composed of the first, I’m loathe to put them into the same tribe.

    I actually heard the occasional “weird german cultists” comment from groups that I recognize in hindsight as having been Reaver-dominated, so to some extent the sentiment was reciprocated. I never at the time recognized that “weird German cultist” might be about me, though; this sentiment was always explicitly being aimed at the Amish communities in the area. The same groups that complained about “weird german cultists” also praised “hard-working german engineers”. That seemed a lot more like the groups I grew up with. So maybe the sentiment wasn’t so reciprocated, and the more modern parts of the local german community could’ve relaxed a bit. My father made saurkraut for his “damned Reaver” friends sometimes. That went over pretty well.

    Relaxing might have involved an unpleasant compromise, though. The “german engineer” crowd felt more comfortable with the local Amish than the Reavers. It was something about standards of discourse. Reavers would get riled up if you disagreed with them. Amish stayed neighborly. The temptation to relax for the Reavers was a temptation to take on their culture – the whole of it, including getting “riled up” easily.

    My father took that bargain, and it made a damned stupid asshole of him. That man lived two lives. In one, he was a polylingual fantasy nerd with an interest in military history and a modest collection of French literature. In the other, he was a loudly religious beer-swilling NASCAR fan who couldn’t decide whether he hated homosexuals or frenchmen more. He cursed with both mouths about people falling into bad crowds. I’m pretty sure he was projecting his own misery when he did that.

    He seemed to earnestly want me to know that his friends were “good people trying their best,” but this always seemed to have the insinuation that his friends’ best was not actually as good as everyone else’s average. That’s why it had to be emphasized so much that they were trying. He was disappointed that I wasn’t the son he’d expected, because it seems for some reason he had expected himself to have a son who was a loudly religious drink-and-fighter rather than a fantasy nerd with interests in languages, history, and French literature. Yet at other times he seemed quite happy that I had “never fallen into a bad crowd”, which I took to be praising me for not clicking with any of the damned Reavers. He wanted me to be an engineer.

    • Anonymous says:

      Every so often the mask would slip and someone would start cursing about the damn Reavers, something that always seemed to be a confusing non-sequitur to me growing up, and in hindsight still seems like a non-sequitur every time it came up.

      I know this is supposed to be synecdoche but it comes across as a weird anachronism. I’m sure they weren’t cursing about the “damn reavers”.

      • Anonymous says:

        You can be as sure as you’d like, and as wrong as you choose. The word was literally “reavers”. Or “damned reavers”, perhaps, since damned reavers was a much more common phrasing. I heard it in expanded forms “Appalachian reavers” circa twice, “border reavers” circa once, and “scots-irish” never at all.

        The unexpected nature of it is why I commented. Modern central Illinois. Nobody knows what goes on in flyover country. Academia doesn’t study it.

        EDIT: I feel I should expand on my statement about “the unexpected nature of it”. Y’see, when I was reading this post, I kept having this confused response every time I saw “Borderer”. I kept thinking to myself, “Come on, what is this PC nonsense? Everyone knows they’re called Reavers. It’s not like they’re going to be happy you’re sparing their feelings. Reavers know the ‘borderer’ euphemism just fine and they’re actually less offended by dysphemisms.” When I got into the comments, it gradually dawned on me that as far as most people are concerned, there are no reavers. “They’d rather be called reavers than borderers” wasn’t something everyone knows. Everyone is talking as if this cultural group has completely transformed into modern successors. I realized that it’s only my specific cultural context where the concept of the Reaver is still alive and well. I figured that by chiming in, I’d be contributing something more unique and interesting than usual to the discussion.

        EDITx?: Just in case anyone has been watching this comment, I ought to confess that I edit my comments heavily throughout the hour long editing period. The basic concept of “Reavers are still around in recognizable historical form, even by the same words, and I used to know some of them” has been consistent, but a lot of specific phrases have changed. Drafting in public is a bad habit, but I have a vile combination of impulsiveness and perfectionism which makes it hard to shake.

        • For what it’s worth, I think of “reaver” as the sort of word you’d only see in older fantasy fiction*, though it turned up more recently in the Firefly movie.

          Thanks for the information about your family.

          *I did really well in that vocabulary/rice charity online test, and I owe it to Jack Vance.

          What do you know, it may be a legitimate charity. That isn’t the way I would have bet.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Splanch” is a great word.

          • Anonymous says:

            That wikipedia link for Freerice is fascinating! I’ve never heard of Freerice before. It’s always nice to learn of something new. I do worry about food aid hurting indigenous farmers, but I also like quiz games… I can’t decide if I want to check this out or not. I think I will. I’ve had an Encarta MindMaze shaped hole in my heart for years, and I’d like to think aid organizations know what they’re doing.

  11. Chris Martin says:

    Colin Woodard took the four-part division from Hackett and expanded it to include areas that were French, Spanish, and Dutch. His excellent book American Nations is about the eleven regional cultures that can be detected when you account for these other cultures, and the sequel (which I haven’t read yet) is entitled American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good is about connecting the rivalries between those cultures to the political history of America from 1607 through 2015. So it’s precisely about the issues in this blog post.

  12. AnthonyC says:

    “The overall aesthetic honestly sounds a bit Orcish.”

    “Sword of Good” may be a good reference here then – those orcs lived in marginal lands and constantly good attacked and oppressed, too.

  13. David says:

    A few observations, of which the most significant is that Fischer’s exegesis, while excellent and comprehensive, ignores a critical element of early–that is, pre-Revolutionary–America: the Dutch, who settled what is now New York and the Hudson Valley–as well as spreading to adjacent areas. This is documented in an excellent work, The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto, who argues that the uniquely American character of deal-making and “everything’s negotiable” comes to us from the Dutch. He also argues–with considerable merit in my view–that the Dutch also brought many cultural influences which led to the strongly democratic tendencies we see in America: unlike, say, the Quakers, who (as you and Fischer describe them above) paid a great deal of lip service to the concept of equality, but who kicked the Borderers out of town when they got too rowdy, the Dutch of New Amsterdam (their name for present-day New York) actually practiced it: the New Amsterdam of its hey day was a city of whites, blacks, Indians, and every possible combination of the above–and all competing–squabbling, arguing, fighting–as equals in a marketplace where all were welcome so long as they had something to offer.

    A few other comments, in no particular order:

    1. The Democratic-Republicans had NOTHING to do with the modern-day Republicans. Or everything, but then also with the modern-day Democrats. They were, for a time–basically from the collapse of the Federalist Party in the early 1800s to the breakdown of the Democratic-Republicans into Whigs and Democrats in the 1820s, the so-called “Era of Good Feelings”–the ONLY political party extant in the United States, and as such, you can argue they were the progenitors of all the rest. But the reality is that the original Republican Party of the 1850s and 1860s picked up most of the pieces of the old Whig Party and some of the Northern bits of the Democratic Party to assemble into a coalition that was centered around–as their slogans would have it–“Free Soil and Free Men”, in contradistinction to the Democratic Party, which was increasingly defined by its unwavering commitment to maintaining the “Peculiar Institution” as slavery was often called (note for moderns: “peculiar” in that era meant “specific to” rather than “odd” as we might nowadays think).

    2. Trying to connect the underlying views of the early settlers to modern PARTISAN divisions is hopelessly wrong: rather, you need to look past the party labels and focus on the ideological and philosophical differences. If you look at county-by-county maps of today’s partisan alignments you will find they are almost exactly the negative image of the partisan alignments of a century ago, when the South and West were largely DEMOCRATIC areas (except for the West Coast, where the coastal areas were predominantly Republican) and New England, the Mid-Atlantic region and the Midwest were largely REPUBLICAN. But if you look past the party labels you can discern some interesting connections.

    3. The Michigan experience you reference is far from unique. In his important work, The Emerging Republican Majority, Kevin Phillips shows that migration patterns in the United States–with one important exception–were from East to West along essentially the same lines of latitude. So northwestern areas like Michigan, Minnesota, Washington and Oregon tended to be settled by people from New England (Portland, Oregon was named after Portland, Maine, and could as easily have been named for Boston, Mass) and the mid-Atlantic–i.e. Puritans and Quakers–whereas more southwestern areas–Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California–tended to be settled by Southerners–Cavaliers and Borderers. The notable exception? The Great Migrations of blacks, which as one might guess went from South to North: we think of blacks as being largely an urban people, but in reality, until the 1920s, most blacks lived in the rural South (gee, I wonder why?).

    4. Northern New England was both heavily Republican and conservative until the last half-century, when the native population was numerically overwhelmed by the in-migration of Bostonians (to southern New Hampshire) and New Yorkers and others (to Vermont and Maine). As these were smaller states to begin with, much of the remaining “footprint” of the original settlers is now confined to the relatively inaccessible and rural parts of these states. You also see this happening–albeit to a lesser degree–in some of the Mountain states, e.g. Arizona (huge influx of retirees), New Mexico (huge influx of “alternate” cultist types) and Colorado (huge influx of urbanites of all sorts). Notice however that Utah, Idaho and Wyoming seem to have been much less susceptible, possibly on account of the large Mormon footprint in those states.

    I could add a few other things but those are the big ones. I could also give you some suggestions as to how to disentangle things, but that’s an entirely new topic, so I’ll let it go! 🙂

    • Urstoff says:

      “Everything’s negotiable” doesn’t seem to be a unique aspect of American culture. Indeed, it doesn’t even seem to be a major part of regular commercial culture. Haggling, for example, only happens for big-ticket items, whereas in other (particularly developing) countries, it seems much more the norm in markets for everyday goods. Perhaps this is simply a side effect of inventory/accounting technology, though; uniform prices are easier to track electronically.

    • E. Harding says:

      If they were so heavily conservative, why didn’t they vote for Goldwater? He was basically the Ted Cruz of the 1960s.

  14. brother Randor says:

    Lost its prudishness? Any nation that treats a 17-year-old who sends her boyfriend a text of her naked ass as a criminal is still just a baby step removed from witch burning.

  15. J. Pitt says:

    Let me nit-pick your examples given about race and class, because I think they don’t work but how they don’t work is kind of interesting.

    I do think that people tend to map black and white culture as lower and higher class respectively. But you picked exclusively high class examples for whites and low class examples for blacks! You could have gone jeans/country music for whites and jazz/suits for black people.*

    This relates to my hobby horse, whereby “high class” things that are European in origin but completely unpopular define “white” culture, when in fact they are minority pursuits that the majority of whites couldn’t care less about and don’t know anything about.

    (Full disclosure: I am bi-racial, like to wear suits, listen exclusively to classical, and 99% of the white people I know do not.)

    * Anecdotally, my guess is that black men wear suits because they want to at a higher percentage rate than white men.

  16. Bill Harshaw says:

    One of the unexamined effects of the early settlement patterns is on local government. Look above the Mason Dixon line and you’ll find local governments coming out your ears: multiple town and school districts, and other entities in each county. Look below the Mason Dixon line and you find what? A county government which often handes the schools for the whole county. It seems the difference should matter for government and politics. At the very least, it ought to be easier to get into politics in the North than the South, since there are so many different offices to run for.

  17. zensunni couch-potato says:

    eugenicist’s wet dream.

    I admire many, many things about your writing. One of them is that you avoid the needless swearing and cliché vulgarities that are so fashionable in writing (even, increasingly in “mainstream” outlets) currently.

    Please don’t make a regular habit of this sort of expression. It’s beneath you.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      I don’t think you understand the context. Scott is from Less Wrong. Doing eugenics correctly is a complement.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        I don’t think zensunni couch-potato is complaining about the praising of eugenics; it’s the “wet dream” bit that is objectionable. I feel the same way, for what it’s worth. It’s vulgar and quite a turn-off. I felt slightly dirty just reading it. (To call back to a comment thread on an earlier post — this is the sort of thing that Russians refer to as poshlost’.)

        • Dahlen says:

          Sometimes this place feels completely topsy-turvy compared to the real world. SSC comments section, where eugenics is a-okay and mild obscenities are met with overt distaste.

          And I’m not even saying this to disapprove, as I don’t really know which side on the fence to remain on; the sheer strangeness of this scenario is worth remarking upon in itself.

  18. Dahlen says:

    By far the most fascinating aspect of this review/book is that list of Puritan facts. 9.7 children per couple, you say? But that’s two more than the 7 point something children per woman in modern-day Niger, and they have polygyny and, I’d guess, rather lax educational standards, particularly for women. How on earth does this even occur? How is it even compatible with high educational achievement?

    And, also, very importantly — what became of them? With such reproduction rates, you’d expect 18th century Puritans to outnumber modern-day Amish. But I’m not hearing much about Puritans nowadays.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      Interviews with people who identify as hillbillies or rednecks.

      There’s also sun angle to be considered. Picking cotton on the plains makes your neck redder than hunting squirrels on the mountainside.

  19. sconn says:

    I live in the northwest corner of Virginia, and I think I can totally tell the difference between a Borderer and a Cavalier — or, as we would say, a redneck and a Southern gentleman. They often agree on politics, but no more than, say, an inner city black person agrees with a white gender-studies major when they both vote Democrat. Nowadays southern elites seem to be believers in education, in aristocracy of some kind of “natural” sort (as in, “those who are naturally suited will rise to the top”), in preserving traditional culture (one should say sir and ma’am, children should be obedient, if someone is behaving badly we don’t insult them, we say “bless your heart”) … that sort of thing. But the sort of southern aristocrats I know personally are kind of over-the-top about it, surely the whole of southern culture is not like this? I’ll have to see what others have to say.
    Is it a class thing? It might be. This article is very interesting on the class-in-the-South question: http://www.stirjournal.com/2016/04/01/i-know-why-poor-whites-chant-trump-trump-trump/

    Most of the people I’m around are definitely “Borderer” as heck. It’s painted very negatively in your post, but there’s a lot of good in it. Generosity, for instance, is huge, along with loyalty to kin and those you adopt as kin. My next-door neighbor is constantly giving us ramps and venison sausage, simply because he has decided that we are his sort of people and we should stick together. His morality is based on being true to your word, having the backs of your people, and valuing character over money (which is the reason, he explains, that he has none of the latter). He has a massive truck with a giant eagle and flag on the back and likes Trump. I disagree, but I can’t dislike him. And everyone around here is pretty much like that.

    Me, I’m from the Northwest so I don’t really fit in anywhere here — and those of my ancestors who were English left England much later. The “nations” theory of America would probably have a place to slot me in as well … though I have not adopted many of the values of my parents, so it would be interesting to see how accurately I’d be described.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ sconn
      preserving traditional culture (one should say sir and ma’am, children should be obedient, if someone is behaving badly we don’t insult them, we say “bless your heart”)

      I don’t see much difference between Southern gentlemen and Southern rednecks on those counts. Well, Southern ladies are the ones who say “Bless your heart”. I don’t know what Southern gentlemen say to people who misbehave, because they don’t say it in front of us Southern ladies.

      Doesn’t sound much like Trump, though. Perhaps you’re thinking of White Trash?

      • sconn says:

        I think white trash is mostly just a prejorative for rednecks/hillbillies.

        I think Southern gentlefolks are less likely to like Trump than Cruz. Trump might be rich, but he’s utterly without class. That’s part of why rednecks love him and why most other people don’t.

        • onyomi says:

          You are correct. My current university is basically composed of “Southern gentlefolks,” and to the extent they deviate from the Bernie-loving norm of academics and college students, it’s for Cruz, not Trump.

        • E. Harding says:

          “I think Southern gentlefolks are less likely to like Trump than Cruz.”

          -Doubtful. The maps show no clear divide between Cavaliers and Borderers on this. Cruz has the highest age gap, with young people tending to like him the most.

          • TD says:

            That’s surprising. I expected Trump to be the more youth orientated Republican, with Cruz appealing more to older evangelicals. I guess all those memesters on the internet are an incredibly small demographic even if it seems like they’re absolutely everywhere.

          • E. Harding says:

            I suppose youth like ideological consistency and authenticity, so arguments about someone being a “true conservative” or “true progressive” actually fly with them.

  20. Jon says:

    Really fascinated by Quaker fact #6: “[T]hey were such prudes about sex that even the Puritans thought they went too far. Pennsylvania doctors had problems treating Quakers because they would ‘delicately describe everything from neck to waist as their ‘stomachs’, and anything from waist to feet as their ‘ankles”.”

    Makes me wonder if the way we joke about the once-scandalous nature of showing one’s ankles is, in fact, just us moderns missing the euphemisms that everyone back then understood to mean something quite different.

  21. “Patrick Henry was a Borderer”

    It’s more accurate to call him “Scotch-Irish” than a Borderer. His father was from Aberdeenshire, well north of the border, and his mother was mostly from Cavalier stock with a bit of Welsh thrown in. Fair to say his political style and dissenting faith make him resemble the Borderer type, though.

    Also, “Cracker Culture” is a good read that tries to solve that problem of tracking them using surname analysis.

  22. Greg says:

    Nate Silver has another interesting four-category demographic breakdown of white America. These categories aren’t identical to the ones in Albion’s Seed, but the comparisons are interesting. There’s also a clear (although loss-y) projection of these categories onto the Red and Blue tribes, which Silver is more interested in as it relates to forecasting voting behavior. Link to 538 article here.

    And here are the categories, along with their recent voting habits. Percentages are of US voters, hence do not sum to 100 as not everyone is white.

    White evangelicals (23 percent): Strongly Republican.

    White cosmopolitans (20 percent): These are white, non-evangelical voters who favor both gay marriage and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who entered the country illegally. They’re a highly Democratic-leaning group, mostly concentrated in urban areas and college towns.

    White “picket fence” voters (15 percent): These are whites who are neither evangelicals nor cosmopolitans, but have high socioeconomic status as indicated by income, education levels, home ownership and other factors. This is a largely suburban, center-right group who went for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama about 2 to 1 in the previous election.

    White working-class voters (16 percent): Whites who are neither evangelicals nor cosmopolitans, and have lower socioeconomic status. Once a good group for Democrats, they now vote Republican about 2 to 1.

    I see the following parallels: If you squint just a little you can see Cosmopolitan = Quakers and Picket Fence = Cavaliers. A fair amount more squinting gets Working-class = Borderers, with some complications around the fact that every group has a working sub-class. The connection between Evangelical and Puritans seems more cultural, in the sense that strict religion is at the center of both, but there may be very little literal genealogical connection between the two.

    If you’re willing to ditch literal genealogical connection entirely, however – and Scott talks about how these phenomena can’t be only genetic – then the cultural connections seem fairly strong to me.

    Or maybe it’s just that both have four categories. Or maybe Nate Silver read Albion’s Seed.

    PS. I sometimes have a comment like this that I want to post, but there’s just no way I’m going to read 1000+ other comments to check for redundancy. I did a quick Ctrl-F for some keywords, and, finding nothing, decided to post this. Is there some other etiquette I’m missing?

  23. LHN says:

    One thing that makes me suspicious of falling prey to confirmation bias. I’ve long been a fan of Strauss and Howe’s Generations: The History of America’s Future. Which is also an explanation of American character and history that divides us into four parts, but along the temporal dimension rather than the spatial.

    And there’s a fair amount of overlap in characterization, with Puritans->Idealists; Quakers->Adaptive; Borderers->Reactive. (Cavaliers don’t map as well to their remaining Civic generation type, though the heavy involvement of Virginians in early national institution-building brings them closer.)

    Decades on, I still find the book insightful, but am always suspicious that I’m falling prey to selective reading. And the fact that the same personality traits can be read regionally instead of generationally to explain the same national tensions and conflicts at least increases my concern about engaging in horoscope-like pattern matching.

  24. monolith94 says:

    I think, GS, that it’s important to remember that rural culture is not necessarily cavalier/borderer culture. I live in a part of Southern Maine now which is fairly rural. My girlfriend and I have a house with some land, we have a wood stove to heat one half of the house, we have a wood shed which we’ve converted into a chicken coop and I have 19 beautiful, wonderful chickens. And I’m as “blue” culture as anything. To me, it’s important to divorce liberal, blue culture values from the idea that they can only be followed while living in a city. What was it that made cities cosmopolitan, after all? Well, in a pre-internet era, they harbored the wides variety of idea: they were cosmopolitan. With the internet, that all changes.

  25. I wonder says:

    As far as I can tell, America is basically the most benevolent empire-like thing in all of history. Other nations get the benefits of internal peace and external defense (a Pax American analogous to the Pax Romana + high US military spend makes up for low spend of other NATO nations), but we don’t interfere with their national administration much or require them to pay tribute.

    Maybe America’s unique combination of Quaker kindliness, Puritan intelligence/moral crusading, and Borderer muscle is what’s allowed us to do cool stuff like win WWII and the Cold War. If we were all Borderer, we wouldn’t care to defend other nations. If we were all Quaker, we’d be wimps. If we were all Puritan, we’d be fighting for dystopian values.

    (thank God the Borderers happen to have such a strong national identity, otherwise we wouldn’t get the muscle part)

    Here’s to America continuing to lead the way and taking humanity successfully through the Great Filter! U-S-A! U-S-A!

    • szopeno says:

      Every single country in the earth in a sense pays tribute to USA, because dollar is international currency, controlled by US government. Also US constantly invades foreign countries (Iraq, Afghanistan), bombs them into oblivion (Yugoslavia) and so on. US is, I think, the most belligerent nation on earth. US drones regularly kill people on the pretext they are terrorist, even when they are picked up by stupid algorithms, resulting in deaths of, for example, a journalist who often was visiting war areas to report about situation there; killing dozens of people in wedding procession in countries with whom US formally is not at war (e.g. Yemen).

      • Russia annexed its neighbors territory. It wasn’t that long ago when Eritrea invaded Ethiopia to seize some territory. Iran and Iraq spent a decade shooting each other.
        Most belligerent nation? On Earth? Jeeezzzz.

    • E. Harding says:

      “Maybe America’s unique combination of Quaker kindliness, Puritan intelligence/moral crusading, and Borderer muscle is what’s allowed us to do cool stuff like win WWII and the Cold War.”

      -It would be more appropriate to say the Soviet Union won one and lost the other, with America playing a real, but not decisive, part.

      • LHN says:

        There might be an argument in the European theater (though Stalin sure wanted that second front a lot for it to be epiphenomenal), but it’s pretty hard to argue that the US didn’t win the Pacific war.

        (I’m likewise doubtful US providing a defensive bulwark against Soviet influence and expansion and a more successful economic and political counterexample was irrelevant to the outcome of the Cold War. The Soviets certainly spent enough effort and resources trying to overcome them.)

        • hlynkacg says:

          The US was also feeding, clothing, and fueling the Red Army for a good chunk of WWII. The Soviets lost most of their own farmland and production capability to Operation Barbosa at and didn’t really recover until the Winter of 1943-44.

          • It’s quite possible the war between Germany and the USSR would’ve petered out. However, the USSR won critical battles in Stalingrad without significant LL aid. Germany had lost Operation Barbarossa and Case Blue before the Soviet Union received significant aid.

            So the USSR likely would’ve given the Germans a thrashing in any case.

            They could probably have reached the Polish border. I mean, it’s a question of whether Hitler and Stalin then end the conflict or spend 5 years rearming and launch another invasion.

            On the Pacific Front, the USSR could’ve simply ended Japan at any given time. Japan ceases to exist once they lose Manchuria, and there is no scenario where Japan holds Manchuria for longer than a few months once Stalin attacks.

            So while the US played a major role, quite frankly, it wasn’t necessary for the US to “save the world.” Perhaps save Western Europe from German occupation, yes….

          • Hlynkacg says:

            However, the USSR won critical battles in Stalingrad without significant LL aid

            US aid at the time accounted for almost a third of the Red Army’s trucks and a quarter of their food. Even then things were a touch-and-go for a bit.

            Note that I’m not trying to disparage the Red Army’s contribution, they were the ones who fought and bled after all. I just think it’s a stretch to say that the USSR won Stalingrad “without significant LL aid”.

          • Operation Uranus was mostly Soviet supplied. I know the US supplied the USSR extensively, but my point is that the USSR would’ve almost definitely survived.
            Even if they don’t end up in Berlin (which they still might given enough time).

          • bean says:

            Operation Uranus was mostly Soviet supplied.
            This isn’t a counterarguement. If the US and the UK hadn’t been pumping supplies into the USSR, then the Soviets wouldn’t have had as much stuff to send to Stalingrad, regardless of where the stuff used at Stalingrad came from. Otherwise, the troops at Stalingrad would have had 25% less to eat.
            And I’m not sure they would have survived without US/UK aid, both direct (lend-lease) and indirect. The indirect aid being the German forces tied down in North Africa, Italy, and France, the bombs raining down on German factories and the guns and aircraft dedicated to protecting those factories.

            On the Pacific Front, the USSR could’ve simply ended Japan at any given time. Japan ceases to exist once they lose Manchuria, and there is no scenario where Japan holds Manchuria for longer than a few months once Stalin attacks.
            Really? This is a country where only the personal intervention of the Emperor stopped them fighting after being nuked twice, and that after they’d been badly beaten by the US. Expecting them to meekly fold in the face of the Red Army is wishful thinking at best.

          • The US wasn’t pumping massive supplies after Uranus, which was a decisive defeat for the Axis powers.
            Here’s a quick snippet:
            http://orientalreview.org/2015/05/12/wwii-lend-lease-was-the-us-aid-helpful-enough-i/
            Relevant quote (quoting another source)

            up until the end of 1941 – the most difficult period for the Soviet state – under the Lend-Lease Act, the US sent the USSR materials worth $545,000, out of the $741 million worth of supplies shipped to all the countries that were part of the anti-Hitler coalition. This means that during this extraordinarily difficult period, less than 0.1% of America’s aid went to the Soviet Union.

            This is the absolute most critical period, when the Germans were threatening to take Moscow. The Soviets stopped Barbarossa more or less by themselves.
            Stalingrad was really a consolation prize. Case Blue was dramatically smaller in scope than Operation Barbarossa. It was an ill-thought out operation anyways, since the Germans had no hope of capturing critical oil supplies from the Soviets, and even if they did, they never would have recovered any oil. The Soviets would have simply destroyed the wells.
            Even then, the Soviets fought the Germans all year, with rather little support, and launched Uranus with rather little support. 25% less food? Okay, maybe, but Uranus was a decisive victory.
            Germany’s attack on the Soviets was absolutely hopeless even if the USSR received zero assistance from the UK or the US.
            What made a huge difference, IMHO, was the massive support allowing a huge cross-continent offensive in 43, 44, and 45.

            Re: Japan.
            Losing Manchuria ends everything in Japan. Japan’s entire foreign policy, more than half a century, was built on taking Manchuria and dominating Japan. All of WWII was built upon building the resources necessary to take China.
            During the War, Manchuria supplies the steel, the coal, the cotton, the wheat, and all lot of other goodies for Japan. Once you take it, the war is basically over. Japan can’t fight a hemispheric war without Manchuria. Hell, they couldn’t fight a hemispheric war WITH Manchuria.

            I mean, I don’t think Japan immediately surrenders, but Japan can’t realistically threaten anyone without Manchuria (and let’s lump Korea in there, too). There’s really no feasible way they can hold back the USSR except maybe divine intervention.

          • bean says:

            The US wasn’t pumping massive supplies after Uranus, which was a decisive defeat for the Axis powers.
            Huh? This makes no sense as written. If you mean ‘before Uranus’, we were sending supplies, limited by either the capacity of the transportation links (Persia and Vladivostok) or the Germans (Murmansk).

            This is the absolute most critical period, when the Germans were threatening to take Moscow. The Soviets stopped Barbarossa more or less by themselves.
            Fair enough, although I would point out that the US was supplying France and Britain before Lend-Lease, and it basically kept the pipeline open when the British ran out of money. Setting up support for the USSR took time.
            And also, how different would things have been if the Germans had had the forces fighting in North Africa, the forces making sure the British couldn’t take back France, and the Italian forces in North Africa during Barbarossa? That’s certainly relevant. (I’m trying to pull an estimate of how much of a distraction this was, but it’s harder than you’d think.)

            Even then, the Soviets fought the Germans all year, with rather little support, and launched Uranus with rather little support.
            You provided numbers for 1941, not 1942.

            25% less food? Okay, maybe, but Uranus was a decisive victory.
            And do you have any idea how people being significantly less well-nourished may have affected that? I don’t, and I don’t have the time to find out, but saying ‘but it was a decisive victory’ doesn’t allow you to dodge the question. ‘An army marches on its stomach’ after all.

            Germany’s attack on the Soviets was absolutely hopeless even if the USSR received zero assistance from the UK or the US.
            I expect it would have ended up in a giant stalemate somewhere deeper in Russia if we neglect all support, direct and indirect.

            What made a huge difference, IMHO, was the massive support allowing a huge cross-continent offensive in 43, 44, and 45.
            Yes. But without said offensive, you get a stalemate. I’m not trying to discount the Soviet contribution to victory. They played a critical and popularly-unrecognized part. But that doesn’t mean we should diminish the role of others.

            Losing Manchuria ends everything in Japan. Japan’s entire foreign policy, more than half a century, was built on taking Manchuria and dominating Japan. All of WWII was built upon building the resources necessary to take China.
            It’s a bit more complex than that. I’m not an expert on the Japanese war economy, and while Manchuria was important, it didn’t have everything they needed (oil), and they held out quite a while after they were cut off from most oil supplies. They were quite literally crazy, so expecting them to act rationally here is a bit of a stretch.

            I mean, I don’t think Japan immediately surrenders, but Japan can’t realistically threaten anyone without Manchuria (and let’s lump Korea in there, too). There’s really no feasible way they can hold back the USSR except maybe divine intervention.
            Two things. First, logistics. The Trans-Siberian Railway had limited capacity, and naval transport would have been right out. That would limit how many troops you could put in the Soviet Far East. It certainly did in 1904. Second, the Japanese clearly thought they might be able to win a border war against the Soviets. They were proved wrong at Khalkhyn Gol, and demonstrated uncharacteristic sense in accepting the verdict of said battle, but Stalin decided he’d rather play in Europe than Manchuria, and if it was as easy as you make out, then the prospect of a second front in the east wouldn’t have scared him so much.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy
            Saying that only a small percentage of US Aid went to Russia does not change the fact that US Aid comprised a disproportionate amount of the Red Army’s supply train.

            In regards to Operation Uranus, one can easily make the case that the Soviets would not have been in the position to win such decisive victory if the US hadn’t provided them with the much needed logistical support.

            bean says:

            …without said offensive, you get a stalemate. I’m not trying to discount the Soviet contribution to victory. They played a critical and popularly-unrecognized part. But that doesn’t mean we should diminish the role of others.

            Agreed.

          • I am not going to be able to convince a prior “US assistance was necessary to win the war” depending on how strong it is. It’s impossible to decisively prove a counter-factual.
            However, we do have some stats on Lend Lease aid by type and year:
            https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/mharrison/public/lendlease.pdf
            Aid to the USSR was practically 0 in 1941. Keep in mind that the Soviet Union ate the entire German offensive, stopped it in Moscow, and the launched counter-attacks that drove Germany OUT of Moscow Dec 1941-May 1942. With virtually no relevant assistance. You can see the successful offensive here:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Front_(World_War_II)#/media/File:Eastern_Front_1941-12_to_1942-05.png

            You can see from the PDF that Lend-Lease aid is largely in 1943 and 1944, and what exists in 1942 is mostly backlogged into the back quarter. Uranus begins supply in September 42.
            1942 aid that does exist is mostly in the form of weapons. Since we’re talking about food stuffs specifically, those are valued at a $142 million contribution in 1942, presumably backloaded. They were able to fight through 1941 and 1942 without them, so I have a strong prior that the 1942 aid was not particularly necessary.

            I have a pretty strong prior, not at all unsupported IMHO, that the USSR would’ve won Uranus even with zero aid. That they defeat both Case Blue and Operation Barbarossa with zero aid means the Germans never had a chance of defeating them and were doomed to be driven back.

            I think most of us are in agreement on that, it’s just a question of precisely how far and precisely how long.

            Re: The Pacific
            The Japanese were delusional. They never had a chance of taking out the USSR. In retrospect this is obvious, though at the time Stalin obviously wouldn’t want to open a second front.
            The question….well, I’m not sure what the question. I am interpreting this as “could WWII be won without US support” which I take as a definite yes. Once the Germans are pushed back, the Soviets can reinforce the Far East. Japan is a paper tiger. It’s only a question of when they yield, not if.
            The point about Manchuria isn’t that it is 100% providing all Japan’s needs, only that taking it is sufficient to cripple the Japanese war efforts.
            I think the British-Soviet coalition is enough a nucleus to eventually knock off Hitler, though I don’t know the exact progression of that.

          • bean says:

            I am not going to be able to convince a prior “US assistance was necessary to win the war” depending on how strong it is. It’s impossible to decisively prove a counter-factual.
            Define ‘win the war’. Are we talking about thwarting a total German takeover of the USSR? Or are we talking about defeating Germany as happened historically? I will agree that US assistance was not critical to the first, but disagree that the USSR was capable of defeating Germany on their own.

            Aid to the USSR was practically 0 in 1941. Keep in mind that the Soviet Union ate the entire German offensive, stopped it in Moscow, and the launched counter-attacks that drove Germany OUT of Moscow Dec 1941-May 1942. With virtually no relevant assistance.
            What about the divisions that were in North Africa? Or France? Or the fighters that were facing off with Bomber Command?

            1942 aid that does exist is mostly in the form of weapons. Since we’re talking about food stuffs specifically, those are valued at a $142 million contribution in 1942, presumably backloaded. They were able to fight through 1941 and 1942 without them, so I have a strong prior that the 1942 aid was not particularly necessary.
            Well, if we assume that the 25% of foodstuffs was the maximum at any one time and not the overall total, then the allied food aid during 1942 was about 7% of Soviet food. Which is a reasonable amount in and of itself. But even back-loaded aid is important because the supply system is smart. If I know that the Americans are sending me a bunch of bread in three months, I’m going to base my long-term planning on that, which means that instead of boosting bread rations a bunch in three months, I’ll boost them a lesser amount now. The same is true of other supplies.

            I have a pretty strong prior, not at all unsupported IMHO, that the USSR would’ve won Uranus even with zero aid. That they defeat both Case Blue and Operation Barbarossa with zero aid means the Germans never had a chance of defeating them and were doomed to be driven back.
            Even leaving aside the units that didn’t take part because they were facing the Americans or British (which you still haven’t acknowledged), the two parts of that statement are not linked. Would the Germans have totally crushed the Russians without allied aid? No. Russia is too big and too resilient for that. Would the Russians have inevitably driven back the Germans without the allies being in the war? A qualified no. Neglecting economic collapse on the part of Germany, a Germany which could pour all of its manpower (along with Italy’s) into the Eastern Front and didn’t have to worry about allied bombing could probably have forced a stalemate somewhere near the high-water mark of Barbarossa. Or maybe even east of there.

            The Japanese were delusional. They never had a chance of taking out the USSR.
            Taking out? Who said anything about taking out? The plan was to seize Siberia east of Bikal. Wars do occasionally end with both combatants still having countries. Most wars, even. Yes, it was mad, but not that mad.

            The question….well, I’m not sure what the question. I am interpreting this as “could WWII be won without US support” which I take as a definite yes.
            Define ‘without US support’. If we’d gone fully isolationist, the British would have been in serious economic trouble and getting them to fold might have been practical. With no enemy at their backs, the Germans would have been stronger.

            Once the Germans are pushed back, the Soviets can reinforce the Far East.
            The Soviets are stuck in a decade+ war with the Germans. The Japanese might well be able to make off with lots of Siberia in that case. The Soviets just don’t have the troops to stop them and hold off the Germans.
            Also, the Soviets have no real incentive to get involved in a war with the Japanese while the Japanese are strong. You didn’t address my point about the logistics of doing so.

            The point about Manchuria isn’t that it is 100% providing all Japan’s needs, only that taking it is sufficient to cripple the Japanese war efforts.
            Their war effort was wrecked from a logistics standpoint at least six months before they folded, and said wreckage wasn’t what made them fold.

            I think the British-Soviet coalition is enough a nucleus to eventually knock off Hitler, though I don’t know the exact progression of that.
            You assume the British are still in the fight, which is actually a rather big ‘if’.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Taking out? Who said anything about taking out? The plan was to seize Siberia east of Bikal. Wars do occasionally end with both combatants still having countries. Most wars, even. Yes, it was mad, but not that mad.”

            The Japanese had trouble crushing the Chinese due to logistics. They aren’t going to be remotely capable of pulling off an invasion of Russia simultaneously.

            “Their war effort was wrecked from a logistics standpoint at least six months before they folded, and said wreckage wasn’t what made them fold.”

            Japan folded because their plan was “bleed the Americans until they make peace” and the Atom Bomb ended that. Notably this doesn’t work against Stalin.

            For making Japan fold, it depends on the situation. If the Soviets take Manchuria and Korea and the Japanese can’t find alternate sources, they are going to face food shortages. I guess if the US backs down and lets the Japanese import from them or doesn’t pay attention to Japan seizing more of Southeast Asia they could ignore it, but the most likely result is Japan is ejected from mainland Asia and eventually recognizes the status quo.

            “You assume the British are still in the fight, which is actually a rather big ‘if’.”

            As long as Churchill’s in power, I don’t think the British are going to surrender.

          • Protagoras says:

            I feel like two questions are being conflated, namely whether the Soviets could have won alone, and how much difference American help made. At various points, the war looked like a very close thing. So while it seems pretty clear that the Soviets made by far the biggest contribution to the war, it doesn’t follow that they could have won without U.S. help. With no Operation Torch, no Normandy, and only the British bombing campaign without American assistance, the Germans could have focused even more heavily on the Eastern Front, and without American supplies, the Soviet ability to fight would have been reduced, even if only a little. Whether it would be enough to change the outcome is unclear, but, again, for quite a while things looked awfully close; even if all of those effects would have been relatively small, they might have been enough.

            Suppose the U.S. stayed out because Japan went after the Soviet Union instead of the U.S. As people have pointed out, it is extremely unlikely that the Japanese would have accomplished much other than to swiftly lose Manchuria. But, again, the war on the Eastern front was so close; if even a little Soviet strength had been diverted to the effort against Japan instead, maybe the Germans take Moscow, and/or later manage to prevent or break out of the encirclement at Stalingrad, perhaps leaving the Germans in a position to continue to launch successful offensives against a less well supplied Soviet Union in ’43 and beyond.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            ” if even a little Soviet strength had been diverted to the effort against Japan instead,”

            Historically the USSR increased its troop strength along the border with Japan after they were invaded by Germany. The big issue would probably be ammunition and other supplies, not manpower. That depends on how long the Japanese hold out.

          • bean says:

            The Japanese had trouble crushing the Chinese due to logistics. They aren’t going to be remotely capable of pulling off an invasion of Russia simultaneously.
            I’m not sure of that. (I’m also not sure it’s not the case.) Logistics are complicated, and I know next to nothing about the transportation infrastructure in that part of the world at the time. And the Soviets would have had the same problem.

            Japan folded because their plan was “bleed the Americans until they make peace” and the Atom Bomb ended that. Notably this doesn’t work against Stalin.
            Said plan worked in 1905 against the Russians, who don’t really have a fleet in 1940. The fact that Stalin wouldn’t care may not have registered on them.

            For making Japan fold, it depends on the situation. If the Soviets take Manchuria and Korea and the Japanese can’t find alternate sources, they are going to face food shortages. I guess if the US backs down and lets the Japanese import from them or doesn’t pay attention to Japan seizing more of Southeast Asia they could ignore it, but the most likely result is Japan is ejected from mainland Asia and eventually recognizes the status quo.
            This is a country that was preparing to starve a third of the population in the fall of 1945. They were literally crazy. I’m not sure that food shortages would have stopped them.

            As long as Churchill’s in power, I don’t think the British are going to surrender.
            First, if the US doesn’t help prop up the British, their economy collapses, which makes fighting a war difficult at best. Second, while we today view Churchill as inevitable, he actually wasn’t.

            Historically the USSR increased its troop strength along the border with Japan after they were invaded by Germany. The big issue would probably be ammunition and other supplies, not manpower. That depends on how long the Japanese hold out.
            Have you heard of Richard Sorge? There may have been a brief spike in forces there, but then 18 divisions were transferred west, where they played a key part in keeping the Germans out of Moscow.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “I’m not sure of that. (I’m also not sure it’s not the case.) Logistics are complicated, and I know next to nothing about the transportation infrastructure in that part of the world at the time. And the Soviets would have had the same problem.”

            ///the Republican government dismantled a number of railways to slow the Japanese advance and added 1,900 km of railways, mostly in the interior of China after coastal regions were occupied…The Japanese occupiers, using forced labor, built 5,700 km of railway in Manchuria and Rehe Province and 900 km of railway in China Proper.///

            ///In 1945, just after the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese mainland had 27,000 km of rail, and it was estimated about 23,000 km was usable.///
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport_in_China#Republic_of_China

            This is also not a problem for the Russians. The Japanese control the areas with the best infrastructure.

            “Said plan worked in 1905 against the Russians, who don’t really have a fleet in 1940. The fact that Stalin wouldn’t care may not have registered on them.”

            The Russians folded because of a revolution. They won’t this time.

            “This is a country that was preparing to starve a third of the population in the fall of 1945. They were literally crazy. I’m not sure that food shortages would have stopped them.”

            Except they had more options in 1945 (get the US to sue for peace). Being kicked out of Asia they have zero options. They starve and… what exactly? Stalin can’t land in Japan and has no reason to.

            “First, if the US doesn’t help prop up the British, their economy collapses, which makes fighting a war difficult at best. Second, while we today view Churchill as inevitable, he actually wasn’t.”

            That is why I said if. I’m aware Halifax was a traitorous weasel in favor of surrender.

            Also you are going to need to elaborate ‘economy collapses’. Since the British can still buy from the US.

            “Have you heard of Richard Sorge? There may have been a brief spike in forces there, but then 18 divisions were transferred west, where they played a key part in keeping the Germans out of Moscow.”

            http://www.operationbarbarossa.net/the-siberian-divisions-and-the-battle-for-moscow-in-1941-42/
            ///Whichever way data is analysed, the whole Siberian transfer story is a myth in all respects: including timing, numbers, source of personnel and overall combat performance///

          • bean says:

            This is also not a problem for the Russians. The Japanese control the areas with the best infrastructure.
            Not sure exactly what this is supposed to mean.

            The Russians folded because of a revolution. They won’t this time.
            But the revolution was at least immediately caused by their failure in the war. It’s possible that they could have won this time around, although it’s worth pointing out that the Finns beat the Russians soundly during the Winter War, with the Russians having much better logistics than they would have in the Far East.

            Except they had more options in 1945 (get the US to sue for peace). Being kicked out of Asia they have zero options. They starve and… what exactly? Stalin can’t land in Japan and has no reason to.
            Japan might well have been able to render large portions of the Soviet Far East untenable. During the early 40s, the Japanese were the world leaders in amphibious operations.

            That is why I said if. I’m aware Halifax was a traitorous weasel in favor of surrender.
            Most people don’t know that, so it seemed to bear pointing out.

            Also you are going to need to elaborate ‘economy collapses’. Since the British can still buy from the US.
            The problem was that the US required all purchases to be made in dollars, and that, in practice, meant gold. We weren’t buying much from them, so they had a serious balance of payments problem. The US wouldn’t allow them to take out loans (after some bad experiences during and after WWI) and Roosevelt basically got Lend-Lease passed to keep them running when they ran out of gold. If we hadn’t, then I’m not sure exactly what would have happened, but it wouldn’t have been pretty.
            (Of course, we demanded they open the Empire to external trade as a quid pro quo, which brought it down that much faster. This caused quite a bit of resentment.)

            ///Whichever way data is analysed, the whole Siberian transfer story is a myth in all respects: including timing, numbers, source of personnel and overall combat performance///
            Interesting. I still maintain that waging a war in the Far East would have been a serious drain on the Soviet war effort (not to mention cutting off supplies being shipped in through Vladivostok, a substantial fraction of the Lend-Lease supplies), but it’s not as bad as I thought.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Not sure exactly what this is supposed to mean.”

            Manchuria has lots of railroads and there are railroads along the Chinese coast as well as the facilities to make more trains and cars. The section of Siberia you are going into… doesn’t. Specifically there is only one main rail line and it uses a different gauge.

            “But the revolution was at least immediately caused by their failure in the war.”

            Wiki claims it started with labor strikes.

            “It’s possible that they could have won this time around, although it’s worth pointing out that the Finns beat the Russians soundly during the Winter War, with the Russians having much better logistics than they would have in the Far East.”

            The Fins lost. Additionally the Red Army fought the IJA previously.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battles_of_Khalkhin_Gol

            “Japan might well have been able to render large portions of the Soviet Far East untenable. During the early 40s, the Japanese were the world leaders in amphibious operations.”

            And land where?

            “The problem was that the US required all purchases to be made in dollars, and that, in practice, meant gold.”

            I’m trying to figure out a scenario that is coherent. If Hitler attacks the convoys that pisses off the US and since we have them not participating, Hitler either 1) isn’t attacking trade, 2) the US stops trade or 3) England can’t buy anything.

            I’m not sure how much getting all the merchant vessels through makes up for running out of the ability to pay for things. It is purely a numbers question.

            “I still maintain that waging a war in the Far East would have been a serious drain on the Soviet war effort ”

            An offensive that is long and drawn out, sure (I don’t think the IJA could pull it off though). Additionally the Soviets can hold the Japanese off forever along the Trans-Siberian railroad with minimal effort.

            ” (not to mention cutting off supplies being shipped in through Vladivostok, a substantial fraction of the Lend-Lease supplies), ”

            Well, if they aren’t receiving Lend-Lease in the first place…

          • bean says:

            Manchuria has lots of railroads and there are railroads along the Chinese coast as well as the facilities to make more trains and cars. The section of Siberia you are going into… doesn’t. Specifically there is only one main rail line and it uses a different gauge.
            Fair enough, although that would still make a shallow drive theoretically possible.

            Wiki claims it started with labor strikes.
            Russian history of that period is a mess, and it’s been a while since I looked into it. But while labor strikes may have been the immediate thing that set it off, the fact that they’d just gotten beaten by Japan, of all people, certainly didn’t help. And if you look at the military course of the war, it wasn’t like the Russians were winning until the revolution. They’d gotten their heads handed to them at Port Arthur and at sea.

            The Fins lost. Additionally the Red Army fought the IJA previously.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battles_of_Khalkhin_Gol

            The Finns lost in the end, but they did a truly impressive amount of damage on the way. Look at the relative casualties, and think about what would happen if the Soviets tried to pick on someone larger and with greater strategic depth. I’m aware of Khalkhin Gol, but that doesn’t mean the Japanese would have gone down easily on the defensive. Also, the Soviets had no particular reason to intervene in the Pacific.

            And land where?
            Korea, coast of Manchuria, Vladivostok, Magadan, and so on. There’s a lot of coast up there.

            I’m trying to figure out a scenario that is coherent. If Hitler attacks the convoys that pisses off the US and since we have them not participating, Hitler either 1) isn’t attacking trade, 2) the US stops trade or 3) England can’t buy anything.
            I’m not sure the U-boat war brings in the US automatically. It was well-established that submarines could sink escorted ships. US ships were barred by law from entering the war zone. If the Germans stick to the war zone, the British have nothing to legally complain about, and the US isn’t losing ships.

            I’m not sure how much getting all the merchant vessels through makes up for running out of the ability to pay for things. It is purely a numbers question.
            The US supplied a large portion of British manufactured goods. Not being able to buy those puts a huge dent in their economy. Possibly a fatal one.

            An offensive that is long and drawn out, sure (I don’t think the IJA could pull it off though). Additionally the Soviets can hold the Japanese off forever along the Trans-Siberian railroad with minimal effort.
            So long as the Japanese don’t manage to damage the railroad itself.

            Well, if they aren’t receiving Lend-Lease in the first place…
            I did realize that later. But it would do the same to any hard-currency purchases they may have made. I’m not sure what the magnitude of that was.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “And if you look at the military course of the war, it wasn’t like the Russians were winning until the revolution. They’d gotten their heads handed to them at Port Arthur and at sea.”

            So the Russians don’t have the sea. Given time they’d still crush the Japanese on land. The Japanese had scored a massive and decisive victory against the Russians on land… and the Russian army still outnumbered them!

            The Japanese did not have a good position. They had neither the manpower nor the money to fight a long war. That is why they accepted the peace terms, even though they got very little of what they wanted.

            “The Finns lost in the end, but they did a truly impressive amount of damage on the way. Look at the relative casualties, and think about what would happen if the Soviets tried to pick on someone larger and with greater strategic depth.”

            The Russians attacked strong defensive positions in the middle of the winter fighting an enemy using partisan tactics. That isn’t going to occur in Manchuria.

            “I’m aware of Khalkhin Gol, but that doesn’t mean the Japanese would have gone down easily on the defensive.”

            Why?

            “Also, the Soviets had no particular reason to intervene in the Pacific.”

            This is presuming Japan invades the USSR, remember?

            “Korea, coast of Manchuria, Vladivostok, Magadan, and so on. There’s a lot of coast up there.”

            The first two only matter if the Red Army crushes the IJA. In which case marines are pretty irrelevant because the Japanese just lost their field army. The second is going to be fortified by the Red Army and is a relatively small area. Stalin does not care if the people in Magadan live or die so threatening it or the other gulags is of no strategic relevance. The USSR has a couple tons less gold.

            “I’m not sure the U-boat war brings in the US automatically. It was well-established that submarines could sink escorted ships. US ships were barred by law from entering the war zone. If the Germans stick to the war zone, the British have nothing to legally complain about, and the US isn’t losing ships.”

            Didn’t the Neutrality Acts only cover war material?

            “The US supplied a large portion of British manufactured goods. Not being able to buy those puts a huge dent in their economy. Possibly a fatal one.”

            You are thinking about this wrong. The question is “do the British need those good to run the factories making tanks, planes and ships”. And the more important question is “does England have enough food”? I know the second one was historically a close run thing.

            “So long as the Japanese don’t manage to damage the railroad itself.”

            In Manchuria or China? Those are both more numerous (so you can use alternate routes) and easier to repair (because there are a lot of people who live near by and the climate is not as horrible).

    • cassander says:

      People always talk about borderer muscle, and there’s definitely something too it, but it’s worth mentioning that the one time the puritans and borders lined up and started shooting at each other, it was the puritans who won. They also managed to stomp all over the whole rest of the UK during the english revolution. Puritans definitely aren’t as eager to fight as the borderers, and they aren’t naturally as good at it, but when they do fight, they do it with the same zeal they do everything else, and wind up being pretty good at it.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
        “As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
        Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
        Since God is marching on!

        I wonder if the reason leftists are wimps is that they changed from God-fearing Puritans to the religion of Marxism, then lost their religion in favor of a vague belief in Social Justice. Actually I wonder if that happened to the mainline Protestants, without the Marxism step.

        • TD says:

          I’m not sure that leftists are wimps. I think it might just be a meme using cherry picked samples. Or intellectual college leftists don’t reflect the broad base of support for left wing politics.

          The media encourages it. I remember not so long ago there was that study on the relation of body strength to support for wealth redistribution. The media tended to report this as something like “science proves it: right wing men are stronger!” even though that’s not what the study reported.

          What it actually theorized was that male upper body strength mediated self-assertion in resource struggles, and this was tested by comparing support for wealth redistribution in various countries with a factor called SES (socio-economic status) and an approximation of upper body strength by flexed bicep circumference. Now whether these are bad measures or not is irrelevant to my point, because under its own metrics the study did not find that “right wingers are stronger”, it found that strong men were more likely to support the position that would personally benefit them, implying that modern politics are affected by deep ancestral factors (quote:”It is telling that the effect of strength on support for redistribution remains after controlling for political ideology, which suggests that political ideology can be broken down into different evolved domains that are each regulated by distinct evolutionarily relevant variables”). Boiled down, this meant that rich strong men were against welfare, weak rich men were for it, poor strong men were for it, and weak poor men were against it.

          Now the study may be crap, or it may have ignored confounders (such as race), but it certainly didn’t report that right wing men were stronger. If anything, since it implies that rightists are comprised of a coalition of strong rich men and weak poor men, and leftists are comprised of a coalition of weak rich men and strong poor men, we might easily conclude that “left wing men are stronger” because there are more poor people than rich people, so if the left has the strong poor, then it has more strong men on its side.

          Paper:
          “The Ancestral Logic of Politics: Upper Body Strength Regulates Men’s Assertion of Self-Interest Over Economic Redistribution”

        • BBA says:

          Not to pick on you specifically, but I’m really not buying the Puritans = social justice link people throw about here. They operate similarly in some ways, and both groups ultimately believe in universal damnation, but the only tangible link I can find is that Harvard and Yale were founded by Puritans and now they’re dominated by social justice types. And for me this doesn’t cut it, because on the other side of the Atlantic, Oxbridge were never all that Puritan and now they’re social justicey as any Stateside school.

          Puritanism = Marxism is an even bigger stretch. How you get from legislating scripture to “opiate of the masses” is beyond me.

        • TheWorst says:

          …then lost their religion in favor of a vague belief in Social Justice.

          Perhaps you have less experience with the bottom of the SJ spectrum or more with some different part,* but from my perspective it’s comical to call that an absence of religion. The link between old-school Puritanism and the modern version seems unquestionable, from where I’m sitting.

          *Three blind men and an elephant; the part of the elephant I’m touching bears a very striking resemblance to Puritanism.

          • BBA says:

            I just don’t see Puritans as being on the left. They’re all about restoring a (largely mythical) “traditional morality”, while the left wing is about overthrowing tradition and creating a new kind of justice (which ends up looking a lot like the old kind, only nastier). I mean, it’s anachronistic to call Puritans “left” or “right”, but looking at the first group to be called “left”, the Jacobins, I see a lot of parallels to Marxism and SJ – the purges, the schisms, the laicism. But I don’t think the Puritans and the Jacobins would have gotten along.

        • E. Harding says:

          “The link between old-school Puritanism and the modern version seems unquestionable, from where I’m sitting.”

          -Same here.

      • Salem says:

        Won, turned into a circular firing squad, and disappeared from influence for 150 years.

        Eventually reformed enough to become a viable faction, turned into a circular firing squad again, and disappeared again. I expect them to reform in the year 2100 or so…

  26. Deiseach says:

    Just saw a quote today that seems applicable to this:

    Supposedly from Pope John XXIII – “I have to be pope both of those with their foot on the gas and those with their foot on the brake”.

  27. Jill says:

    There is a book I recently read that talks about the Borderer influence on the U.S. political system. It’s about lower class whites and their issues and life experiences that few people of other social classes understand. It’s a great book.

    The author passed away in 2011. He is of Scots Irish ancestry. Grew up in Winchester, VA, moved away and got educated and cosmopolitan, then moved back there and interviewed people there for this great book. It explains a lot about where we are in politics today.

    The book’s title came from the fact that these folks identify themselves with gun rights and fundamentalist religion.

    Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War Paperback – June 24, 2008
    by Joe Bageant

    http://www.amazon.com/Deer-Hunting-Jesus-Dispatches-Americas/dp/0307339378/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461899495&sr=1-1&keywords=deer+hunting+with+jesus

  28. MawBTS says:

    If Borderers led the big expansion west, how did California end up a mecca for liberal values?

    Sailer, Jayman, does anyone know?

    • California did not become a mecca for liberal values until quite recently. It’s still actually pretty conservative outside of SF and LA.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        Pinko Palo Alto had a reputation for leftishness. But yeah, considering the size of the state there aren’t that many examples- all the liberals flock to the big city I guess.

        • grendelkhan says:

          Or life in the big city requires leftish values and outlooks, as our host has posited–perhaps a combination of the two factors; see section 3.3.1 of the “Anti-Reactionary FAQ”.

    • Psmith says:

      California presidential election results in 2012, by county
      California CCW permit issuance by county
      A good portion of rural California explicitly wishes to secede from the state. I can attest that the inland counties farther south are also pretty divergent from their coastal counterparts, and so you occasionally get stories like this as well as the maps above, although as far as I know there’s no long-standing Inland Empire secession movement.
      See also: the delta smelt, “Congress Created The Dust Bowl” signs on I-5, pickup trucks flying the stars and bars in Barstow, etc. etc.

      Incidentally, this geographical divide is also visible in in Oregon and Washington.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Oh yes: there are Red signs and billboards all up and down I-5. The coast towns fit in with left coast standards, but go as little inland as I-5 and most towns are Red between Eugene and Sacramento. There’s Ashland and… Mt. Shasta? Or are hippies a completely different demographic than SJWs?

  29. NN says:

    We grudgingly acknowledge these features when we admit that maybe making the Middle East exactly like America in every way is more of a long-term project than something that will happen as soon as we kick out the latest dictator and get treated as liberators. Part of us may still want to believe that pure reason is the universal solvent, that those Afghans will come around once they realize that being a secular liberal democracy is obviously great. But we keep having deep culture shoved in our face again and again, and we don’t know how to get rid of it.

    On the other hand, a lot of this “deep culture” in the Middle East is actually pretty new. For example, this is what Afghanistan looked like before the Soviet Invasion. For another example, this is how Egyptians felt about Islamic Fundamentalism in the 1960s.

    • E. Harding says:

      That’s mostly the elite, though. Remember the war in Kafiristan?

      • keranih says:

        Yeah, evidence of Westernization in Kabul is like evidence of cars in Kabul. It say sfa about the use of donkeys in the rest of the hills.

        Having said that, and even allowing for the possibility of the 1953’s crowd being stacked for progressives…that was a pretty powerful video.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Well, yeah. People could say Nasser was a dictator who’d ban from that hall or even arrest anyone who didn’t agree with him. But if you take that line, you’re admitting that Islam and liberal democracy can’t coexist. If you believe Egypt was a fairly free society in 1953, then you can argue that Egyptian Muslims were once a lot like us.

  30. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Congratulations, Scott. If you’ve discovered deep culture, you’ve discovered conservatism.
    Of course it’s going to be an uncomfortable position if your mind turns conservative while the tribe you reflexively empathize with is Deep Blue.

  31. Rob K says:

    There’s some really good stuff in this post, but man is it gonna get misused in the way that red and blue tribe already do around here (a mix of lazy shorthanding in place of actual analysis and shoehorning in implicit assumptions without bothering to check whether they fit the specific case).

    American history is complicated stuff, my dudes. Don’t turn a very interesting book review into a hammer that needs to bop an entire national past full of nails!

  32. DGD says:

    Shitposto ergo sum:

    – Borderers = Orcs
    – Virginians = Elves. Specifically, Pratchett’s Elves
    – Puritans = Dwarves
    – Quakers = Hobbits

  33. Alex Trouble says:

    “It seems kind of unfair to just mix-and-match the most modern elements of each and declare that this proves they caused modernity, but there’s no reason that couldn’t have happened.”

    I doubt the similarity in values is totally a coincidence, but it’s certainly a rough correlation rather than exact fit, and it also raises the question, of why those particular values survived? Take the Northeast: Clearly the religious extremism and theocracy didn’t survive; Christian fundamentalism is almost entirely a Southern phenomenon. Pacifism didn’t survive. They ended up with the Quaker’s side on women rather than the Purtian’s side. Is there an advantage to these particular values? The Northeast matches up pretty well with Europe and the non-U.S. Anglosphere politically. Are these values ones that lead to economic success and political stability? Or did the NE just get a lot more immigration?

    Another commenter mentioned that the Civil War saw a decline in the influence of the cavalier culture, but I see no other explanation for why each region ended up with this particular combination of values.

  34. Anonymous says:

    What’s the name for that horoscope thing where you make vague categories and all of a sudden everyone sees himself as perfectly fitting in the one he is supposed to be in?

    Lots of that going on in here.

  35. Bugmaster says:

    I think that Sister Miriam Godwinson, leader of the Lord’s Believers, fits the Puritans way better than the Hive. But perhaps she is too obvious of a match ?

    • Hlynkacg says:

      She’s far more Baptist than Puritan, and completely lacks the historical Puritan’s emphasis on collective action.

  36. Peter Donis says:

    I think your attempted mapping of four cultures onto two (Puritan/Quaker -> liberal, Cavalier/Borderer -> conservative) works better if you add one more historical element that you haven’t mentioned: the two major US political parties switched places in the early 20th century. Through most of the 19th century, the *Republican* party (including its earlier incarnation as the Whig party) was the progressive/liberal party, and the *Democratic* party was the conservative/reactionary party. And if you look at key figures of those two parties during that time, most of the prominent Republicans were Puritans/Quakers, and most of the prominent Democrats were Cavaliers/Borderers. For example: Lincoln, whom you correctly identify as half Puritan, half Quaker, was the first President from the fully formed Republican party (and had been a Whig in his earlier political career); Jackson, whom you correctly identify as an ultra-borderer, was a key leader of the Democratic party.

    (There was an even earlier shift in the Democratic party, which started out being the more liberal opponent of the more conservative Federalists. But the Federalists pretty much dealt themselves out of politics by passing the Alien and Sedition Acts under John Adams, which made it easy for the Democrats to occupy both sides of the spectrum in the early 1800s, something which they emphasized by calling themselves Democratic-Republicans.)

    After the US Civil War, the Republican party started to develop what I would term a “populist” wing, which wanted to move the party in a conservative/reactionary direction. Meanwhile, the Democratic party was developing what I would term a “moderate” wing that didn’t really want to be identified with organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, but which couldn’t really find any alternate point to rally around, so the party lost power at the national level. Around the turn of the 20th century, the progressive Republicans got tired of dealing with the populists, and decided to basically take over the moribund Democratic party and make *it* the progressive party. You can see the shift between Teddy Roosevelt–progressive Republican–and Woodrow Wilson–progressive Democrat. And of course it becomes obvious once you get to FDR. And by that point, you see a shift in the background of key figures: most prominent Democrats are Puritans/Quakers, and most prominent Republicans are Cavaliers/Borderers (well, there aren’t many Cavaliers left now).

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Most prominent Democrats are a mix of Puritans and Cavaliers. Most prominent Republicans are a curious mix of Quakers and Borderers, with a gradual shift in power from Quaker to Borderer attitudes.

      To the extent there was a shift in the parties, it was the Borderers getting voting rights in the South and overwhelming the Quaker elements of the Republican party while the Cavaliers lost ground in the Democratic party as a result of the same changes.

      • TheWorst says:

        Can you name three examples of prominent Republicans with Quaker values?

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Rand Paul, Chris Christie, George Bush Jr, with varying degrees and varying focuses on Quaker value elements. Chris Christie is probably the “purest” Quaker there, as Rand Paul leans a little Borderer and George Bush Jr leans a little Puritan.

          I expect an argument about what “Quaker values” look like, so I’ll remind you that Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon were both literally Quakers, and probably aren’t what anybody has in mind when they think of presidents with Quaker values. Coolidge was probably the most Quaker-adherent president we’ve ever had, although I don’t believe he was one.

          • TheWorst says:

            “More for the rich; less for the poor” is the opposite of a Quaker value. That is, instead, the core of Cavalier values.

            I confess this was a bit of a setup, since I was about 95% certain you were going to identify some people with stereotypical Cavalier values and claim their very-Cavalier values were Quaker values.

            That is not an unfamiliar pattern.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Which is why Democrats push for national institution of policies such as minimum wage which will adversely affect the poorest people, rural Americans and the unemployed?

            Don’t confuse disagreement over the best policies with disagreement over values. That’s… uncharitable, to say the least.

          • TheWorst says:

            Are you unaware that minimum wages do not adversely affect the poorest people?

            I’m aware that it’s a popular thing to claim, but don’t confuse not fooled by false claims for a disagreement about values or policy.

            If I claimed that drinking soda will cause all kittens everywhere to drop dead, “flagrant disregard for kittens” is not the only conceivable reason why you might choose to ignore me and finish your Sprite.

          • Nixon’s actual Quaker background.

            The map is not the territory, and apparently there are Quakers who are a lot like Southern Baptists.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            A response which succinctly sums up the issue here (if you’re going to brag about me walking into a trap, you probably shouldn’t immediately walk into mine): You think your policies are the best policies, and the only reason anybody would possibly want different policies from you is if they are ignorant or have ulterior motives.

            Bluntly: No. There is room for disagreement. I think you’re an economic illiterate whose policies would result in tragedy on a massive scale if implemented – but I’m not going to doubt your sincerity in your belief that those are, in fact, the correct policies. I’m not even going to doubt you have evidence in support of those policies, although clearly, from the fact that I disagree with you, I disagree on what the weight of the evidence says.

          • TheWorst says:

            I was not bragging, I was apologizing. I’d been hoping you knew something I didn’t, but expecting you to reiterate historical revisionism.

            And you’re correct that there’s room for disagreement, and that one of us is an economic illiterate. How do you account for the fact that when the minimum wage is raised, the poor are not harmed by it? Empirically, you are wrong.

            Note: No, threatening to throw a destructive temper tantrum if wages are increased, then throwing the tantrum and blaming the wage-increase for the destructive effects of the tantrum is not proof that the wage increase had negative effects. The fact that people with much wealth and no morals routinely do this proves nothing about anything outside themselves.

            Telling a starving man”If you eat that pizza, I’ll shoot you” is not evidence that pizzas are inherently unhealthy, or that anyone who’s hungry must secretly want to be shot. It just means a responsible adult needs to take your guns away.

          • E. Harding says:

            @TheWorst

            -How about raising the minimum wage to $150 per hour, then? Surely, that will have most salutary effects upon the poorest. And the institution of the minimum wage did hurt poor people in Puerto Rico in the 1930s.

          • TheWorst says:

            @E. Harding: Name a Democrat who’s advocated increasing the minimum wage to $150.

            Out of curiosity, were you hoping I wouldn’t recognize a strawman argument?

          • E. Harding says:

            So the minimum wage can hurt the poor, after all. We are agreed.

            Some L.A. Unions have argued the $15 minimum wage there is too high… but only for their members. Funny how that works.

          • TheWorst says:

            We are not agreed. Orphan Wilde repeated some of the Red Tribe’s favorite bullshit–that Democrats push for policies that will hurt the poor–and I pointed out that it wasn’t true.

            Then you failed at misdirection.

            I hope this summary has been helpful to you. Out of curiosity, have you ever written a comment that had substance beyond expressing your contempt for the Blue Tribe? If not, do you intend to?

            Edit, since this doesn’t go without saying: Both of these are sincere questions.

          • Psmith says:

            In addition to E. Harding’s point, I’ll note that the empirical evidence on effects of minimum wage is extremely ambiguous. (Our host used it as a central example of both sides in an argument being able to present ample quantities of impressive-sounding heavily-cited peer-reviewed literature to support their mutually contradictory stances!) Restricting ourselves to meta-analyses, we have Neumark and Wascher 2006, Card and Krueger 1995, Doucougliagos and Stanley 2009, Boockmann 2010, and probably some others I can’t find right now. Between them–never mind the individual studies they analyze, and newer studies that haven’t made it into meta-analyses yet–essentially anybody with any opinion on the minimum wage has empirical evidence to support them.

          • TheWorst says:

            I am aware of how easy it is to produce something that will be mistaken for empirical evidence. Which is kind of the problem, isn’t it?

            I am also aware that when we try it in real life, raising the minimum wage does not actually trigger the apocalypse that the conservative-funded studies say it will. And that the inflation-adjusted minimum wage used to be higher than it is now, which seems to be absolute proof that the (threatened) dire consequences of raising the minimum wage back to where it used to be are false.

            It’s a little bit like the threats of apocalypse if taxes were higher than they are, or if gay marriage was legalized: We tried that, and no apocalypse happened. If that’s not a data point in favor of an apocalypse not happening, then it’s difficult for me to believe we’re actually talking about evidence.

          • Psmith says:

            Absence of apocalypse isn’t a terribly convincing test of a policy’s success. (The real minimum wage has fallen without bringing about the apocalypse that minimum wage advocates periodically promise it will. And so on.). And not all evidence is empirical, in the economic sense.

          • TheWorst says:

            Absence of apocalypse seems like strong evidence that the people who argued imminent-apocalypse were wrong. It is also evidence that their methodologies are fatally flawed, and that their persistence in making the same false claim is unlikely to be evidence-based or due to good-faith disagreement.

            Success is a different goalpost; about it I know almost nothing, since it involves the intentions of people I know little about.

            And not all evidence is empirical, in the economic sense.

            I don’t know what this means. If it means what it seems to sound like, then being “economically illiterate” would be something to strive for, out of a desire to believe things that are true.

          • E. Harding says:

            “Out of curiosity, have you ever written a comment that had substance beyond expressing your contempt for the Blue Tribe?”

            -Thousands. Just google “E. Harding”. Have you ever written a comment that had substance beyond expressing your contempt of the Red Tribe? I strongly suspect the answer is “no”.

            And no misdirection was involved in my comments. Plenty was involved in yours. I know you have no intention to be more charitable (or reasonable), but please keep your poisonous partisanship to a minimum.

            And Bernie regularly pushes policies disastrous for the poor:

            http://www.vox.com/2016/3/1/11139718/bernie-sanders-trade-global-poverty

            he also supports abolishing fracking, which has been a boon to the poor of North Dakota.

            Satisfied?

            “Absence of apocalypse seems like strong evidence that the people who argued imminent-apocalypse were wrong.”

            -Nobody argued that the minimum wage would bring on the Revelation of John. Its implementation did lead to mass unemployment in Puerto Rico in 1938, though. Lovely strawman-burning there.

            “Absence of apocalypse seems like strong evidence that the people who argued imminent-apocalypse were wrong.”

            -Like Krugman just before the sequester?

          • I’ve been surprised that the minimum wage doesn’t do obvious damage, but it clearly doesn’t.

            I’m dubious about the common left wing argument that the minimum wage causes poor people to buy more, thus creating work for poor people, and that’s what prevents the minimum wage from causing unemployment. On the other hand, I have no idea what *does* happen in terms of jobs when the minimum wage goes up.

            I’m inclined to think there’s a range in which the minimum wage is harmless, or nearly, and it’s politically impossible to set a minimum wage so high that people are obviously thrown out of work by it.

            I also think that there are policies that hurt the very poorest people (restrictions on low quality housing, for example) while making people who are not quite so poor better off.

          • keranih says:

            I’ve been surprised that the minimum wage doesn’t do obvious damage, but it clearly doesn’t.

            It’s not actually clear that it doesn’t do damage. Instead – possibly related to the very low percentage of the populations that actually earns MW – the evidence is not clear that it does harm or damage.

            On the other hand, I have no idea what *does* happen in terms of jobs when the minimum wage goes up.

            Fewer people who can produce no more value per hour than the minimum wage are employeed. This is (so far) a small percentage of the population.

          • Nathan says:

            @ TheWorst

            What exactly was wrong with E. Harding’s question about a $150/hr minimum wage? You’re correct that no one is proposing such a thing, but surely you must acknowledge that’s because they all recognize that such a policy would bring about higher unemployment?

            So what is the highest level that would NOT bring about higher unemployment? Is it $100/hr? $15/hr? $0.01/hr?

            I think we all agree that there is a real number that exists between those extremes. We’re mostly just arguing about where the line is, rather than disagreeing in principle.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            What about a minimum wage of $0.15 an hour?It is very silly to make any prediction of the effects , whether of Apocalypse, or of no effect, without knowing or caring about its level.

          • Anon. says:

            @TheWorst

            The unemployment rate for young black people is over 30%, at a time when the rest of the economy is in full employment. Why do you think this market fails to clear? Do you really think the price floor has nothing to do with it?

          • TheWorst says:

            Harding: I have no idea why you think randomly attacking Bernie Sanders is relevant.

            I suspect I do know why you seem bizarrely eager to accuse me of partisanship, given that googling “E. Harding” seems to bring up nothing other than a random series of expressions of contempt for Blue Tribers.

            Right now, you seem to be making the mistake that someone who notices poor behavior on your part must be a member of the Hated Outgroup.

            Sorry, I’m very tired of you and Orphan Wilde using “Oh yeah? Well explain this non sequitur!” as a method of argument. That you guys invariably select tribal shibboleths kind of gives the game away.

            When you repeat a tribal shibboleth and someone points out that it isn’t true, frantically attacking your Hated Outgroup does not actually support any of your false beliefs. Even if Blue Tribers are terrible people, “More for the rich, less for the poor” is still not a Quaker value; it’s still the central Cavalier belief.

            Even if Bernie Sanders is a terrible person, or a fool, or whatever your favorite epithet for “outgrouper” is today, that still doesn’t change the fact that raising the minimum wage turns out not to have the negative effects you guys insist it does.

            Even if it did? That still wouldn’t mean “More for the rich, less for the poor” was a Quaker value, because that was a non sequitur in the first place. Even if your second argument was true, it wouldn’t support your first one.

            Look. I get that you feel like your tribe is being attacked. That’s because your tribe is wrong. I know. That sucks, and it feels scary when people notice it. But nothing you can say about any other tribe is going to change that. If you want your tribe to be seen as right, either change your tribe’s beliefs to something accurate, or change tribes.

            Cope.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            For those arguing as such: There’s not a line where minimum wage starts causing harm. There are marginal people on every point in the spectrum, who are either included or excluded from the marketplace based on the position it’s set at.

            The people who get excluded are those whose perceived economic value cannot match the minimum wage – the relatively disadvantaged. The people who get included are those whose self-perceived economic value is greater than what they would otherwise get paid – the relatively advantaged.

            Minimum wage reallocates work from poor people to middle-class people. See http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/typical-minimum-wage-earners-arent-poor-but-theyre-not-quite-middle-class/ – as minimum wages rise, the figures skew more and more to the middle and upper classes.

            If you want to fix the poverty problem, nix the minimum wage and replace it with a very modest monthly basic income. The minimum wage is just classist and ableist.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            TheWorst –

            “your tribe is wrong”

            Lol. Dude. You haven’t even correctly identified my tribe. What makes you think my tribe is wrong?

            And also: Your Cavalier influences are showing. It’s my own tendency to poke at your hubris and sense of entitlement and see how I can make you dance with indignation, but, eh, been there, done that, got the postcard.

          • Anyone care to weigh in on where “upsetting people is fun” fits into genes or the four subcultures (it’s not Quaker pleasure, but I’m sure there’s more to be said) or anything else?

          • LHN says:

            @Nancy: Puritan culture was AFAIK historically suspicious of the idea of “fun”, and for Cavaliers upsetting people was Serious Business suitable for an affair of honor (if done by a peer). Which suggests Borderer if only by elimination.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Nancy –

            It’s an in-group signaling mechanism for Borderers. The point isn’t upsetting people, the point is to see whether or not they get upset over small violations of etiquette; if not, they’re “cool”, and part of your tribe. (It can get amusing when two Borderers try to see who the most Borderer person is.)

            Personally I just reflect people’s own behavior mixed with a dash of their expectations.

          • E. Harding says:

            “Look. I get that you feel like your tribe is being attacked. That’s because your tribe is wrong.”

            -In what respect? And before I get tired of you, answer one question: why are you so insistent on crusading against the Red tribe and what would be the minimum amount of evidence to make you accept your above-quoted statement is false? Red tribe member killed a brother a while back? Come on, state it.

            “I have no idea why you think randomly attacking Bernie Sanders is relevant.”

            -He’s a Democrat, isn’t he? You explicitly said

            “We are not agreed. Orphan Wilde repeated some of the Red Tribe’s favorite bullshit–that Democrats push for policies that will hurt the poor–and I pointed out that it wasn’t true.”

            -And I pointed out it abundantly was, using him as an example.

            “Even if Bernie Sanders is a terrible person, or a fool, or whatever your favorite epithet for “outgrouper” is today, that still doesn’t change the fact that raising the minimum wage turns out not to have the negative effects you guys insist it does.”

            -Except it does. Again, do you actually read any of the evidence I present? How often must you ignore the words L.A. Unions or Puerto Rico?

            If your response to me does not mention that island, there will be no doubt by anyone here that you are dishonest and a joke, completely immune to any and all empirical evidence.

            And, again, it was you who stated “More for the rich; less for the poor” is the opposite of a Quaker value”, while implying Republicans favor that value. I have yet to see you defend either of those claims with any evidence at all.

            “I suspect I do know why you seem bizarrely eager to accuse me of partisanship”

            -I am not surprised by your chutzpah. I have no doubt you will claim

            “Are you unaware that minimum wages do not adversely affect the poorest people?”

            “We are not agreed. Orphan Wilde repeated some of the Red Tribe’s favorite bullshit–that Democrats push for policies that will hurt the poor–and I pointed out that it wasn’t true.”

            are not partisan statements.

            Be honest with yourself. A $150 minimum wage is still a subset of “minimum wages”, whether you like it to be or not. And at least you agreed, with your tail between your legs, that a $150 minimum wage hurts the poor.

            What’s your point of doing this, anyway? You’re clearly not here to convince anyone. Unlike me, you’re frighteningly unwilling to debate specifics. I have not seen you make a single comment on this thread that did not consist of expressing your contempt of the Red Tribe. Come on, man. Be honest with yourself.

            Virtue-signalling, as if you were suffering from an absence of it? Nobody here has any need of it.

            Look. I get that you feel like your tribe is being attacked. That’s because your tribe is wrong. I know. That sucks, and it feels scary when people notice it. But nothing you can say about any other tribe is going to change that. If you want your tribe to be seen as right, either change your tribe’s beliefs to something accurate, or change tribes.

            Cope.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            @Nancy,

            I’d suggest that it’s combination of tribal differentiation as Orphan Wilde says layered with plane old status/dominance games. (see the recent NFL bullying scandal mentioned up-thread) IE. Identify potential in-group members and determine their relative place in the pecking order.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:
          • hlynkacg says:

            I think you mean this whole blog, plus the concept of “Rationalism” in general.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            TheWorst wrote:

            Are you unaware that minimum wages do not adversely affect the poorest people?

            I am indeed unaware of this. Do you have any evidence to bear on the question?

            Tell you what, I’ll go first. Here’s an article that claims to support your side, as per the title claim:

            States That Raised Their #MinimumWage in 2014 Had Stronger Job Growth Than Those That Didn’t

            You might think – given the title and all – that this article showed minimum wage has no ill employment effects. You would be wrong.

            Here’s the thing: There were 13 states counted as having “raised their minimum wage”, but 9 of those increases were tiny cost-of-living inflation adjustments. Since annual inflation has been very small, those 9 states had increases of under 2% – too small to notice in this context.

            Whereas FOUR of those 13 states raised their minimum wage by a substantial amount – as much as $1/hour. These four states were: New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

            Which state raised its minimum the MOST on a percentage basis? New Jersey. Which state had the WORST job growth of all 50 states in the union over the period studied? New Jersey. Hmmm.

            Of the four states that raised their minimum by more than inflation, three had sub-par job growth. New Jersey, New York and Connecticut all did badly. Only tiny Rhode Island managed to buck the trend.

            If we were to take this data and put it on a scatter chart, plotting minimum wage increase amount versus employment change, we would see a trend: the more the minimum wage increased, the worse the employment data looks.

            Empirical results are rarely this clear, yet your news sources managed to spin this as if it supported your side. The correct finding should have been something like this:

            “Large increases in minimum wage appear to measurably hurt employment even over a surprisingly small time window. Tiny cost-of-living adjustments to an existing minimum wage do not.”

            (side note: They re-ran the numbers a month later. That one wasn’t quite AS bad – now New Jersey’s only the 4th worst rather than the absolute worst for job growth – but again we see the same result: any sort of population-weighted average would find the four states that raised their minimum by more than inflation had worse-than-average employment results.)

            Given that this data was selected and presented by people who wanted to prove the opposite, I take it as some evidence to support that that, yes, substantial increases in minimum wage are likely to harm employment.

            (In related news: the sun is bright and water is wet.)

          • TheWorst says:

            You think your policies are the best policies, and the only reason anybody would possibly want different policies from you is if they are ignorant or have ulterior motives.

            I advanced no policies. You attempted a deceitful non sequitur, and I pointed out what you were doing. And now I’m doing it again.

            @E. Harding

            -He’s a Democrat, isn’t he?

            I am aware that the longest-serving independent has very very recently changed his party registration. That in no way changes the fact that there is absolutely nothing about Bernie Sanders that has any relevance to the fact that “More for the rich, less for the poor” is not a Quaker value.

            Again: Attacking your Hated Outgroup is never ever going to convince me that your ingroup does not do the things it does. Even if Bernie Sanders ate babies, that would not make Republican tax policy start being compatible with Quaker values.

            I do not know why you think Bernie Sanders is in any way relevant, and your repeated instances of saying “He’s a member of my Hated Outgroup” is the exact opposite of evidence for why he’s relevant.

            The same applies to all of the other “evidence” you think you’re presenting: I do not care how terrible you think your outgroup is. I do not care what evidence you have for thinking they are terrible. It is irrelevant. I pointed out a trait of your tribe, and disagreed with someone who falsely claimed they don’t have those traits. Is there a reason you think saying “butbutbut Blues Are Terrible” has any value in this context?

            What’s your point of doing this, anyway? You’re clearly not here to convince anyone.

            I don’t like historical revisionism, and I dislike that the comments here are degenerating into Ten Thousand Reasons Why We Hate Blue Tribers. Now that Nita, Multi, and HeelBearCub have settled down, Red Tribers are the only ones here with the problem of mistaking displays of tribal hatred for content.

            Feel free to omit rerereposting your next ten favorite reasons for hating your outgroup. I really don’t care how much you hate the outgroup, and it’s in no way relevant. I will stipulate to the fact that you hate the outgroup very much, so count that as a win? You’ve convinced me that you hate the outgroup a lot. You’re not going to convince me that Cavalier values are the same as Quaker values, because I am aware that they are not.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “That in no way changes the fact that there is absolutely nothing about Bernie Sanders that has any relevance to the fact that “More for the rich, less for the poor” is not a Quaker value.”

            If you consider Democrats/blue tribe running on Quaker values, then the fact they advocate policies that hurt the poor is a counter to that claim.

            You need to
            -declare the Dems aren’t an example of Quaker values (of course then you’ll need to give examples of politicians with Quaker values)
            or
            -declare that minimum wage doesn’t hurt the poor
            or
            -declare you are only taking about stated values (which doesn’t necessarily have a relation to actions)

          • TheWorst says:

            If you consider Democrats/blue tribe running on Quaker values…

            Can you quote the place where you think I made this claim?

            …then the fact they advocate policies that hurt the poor is a counter to that claim.

            If it was a fact, and the people in question believed it, you would still be wrong. Again: Nothing you say about your Hated Outgroup has any relevance whatsoever.

            I have no idea why–beyond pure tribal frenzy–any of you keep bringing up Democrats, or Sanders. It’s like if someone said taxes in Britain were kind of high, and you spent hours declaring that Croatians are terrible people. What on Earth does that have to do with anything? Despising Croatians has no effect on British tax rates.

            If someone said “The pretzels here are salty,” then “GRAAAH! ME HATES DEMOCRATS!” is not quite the counterargument you seem to be insisting it is. I get that you hate ’em. That’s fine. It has no bearing on the fact that “More for the rich, less for the poor” is a Cavalier value and not a Quaker one.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Can you quote the place where you think I made this claim?”

            That is why there is an if. I was being charitable. Are you saying no one operates off of Quaker values? Are you going to give an example of Quaker values in action? Or is it going to be a platonic form that is undisprovable?

            “Nothing you say about your Hated Outgroup has any relevance whatsoever.”

            You do realize that the two political parties have different policies, right? So if side A has a policy that is good for the rich and bad for the poor and side B is against that policy, side B is not operating on “screw the poor”.

            ” It has no bearing on the fact that “More for the rich, less for the poor” is a Cavalier value and not a Quaker one.”

            A good thing “More for the rich, less for the poor” isn’t the value of the politicians identified as Quakers, isn’t it?

          • TheWorst says:

            A good thing “More for the rich, less for the poor” isn’t the value of the politicians identified as Quakers, isn’t it?

            This almost made me laugh out loud. Sorry, I just realized I can’t take you seriously, and I’m not currently interested in playing the “Is he lying, is he insane, or am I somehow communicating with an inhabitant of an alternate universe?” guessing game.

  37. John Thacker says:

    In particular, how were places like Alabama, Mississippi, et cetera settled?

    I suggest also reading V. O. Key’s classic Southern Politics in State and Nation. It was published in 1950, and describes the politics of each Southern state (then one-party) in a way that holds true quite a bit today. It also explains how there was fighting between aristocratic and Borderer type allegiances, such as LeRoy Percy vs James K. Vardaman in Mississippi for Senate in 1912, or the general aristocratic success of Harry F. Byrd’s Virginia.

  38. I apologize if the contents of this comment are all already present in this thread. If they are then you are welcome to delete it. I won’t be offended.

    The idea that these immigration patterns outlined explain modern American culture to a large degree is a cute theory but there are holes large enough that the ghost of William Howard Taft could comfortably fit through them (and he’s gotten larger as a ghost, it’s… it’s not a pretty sight).

    Hole #I: Just so story featuring post-hoc reasoning

    The theory is a nice just so story and I don’t want to take away from it but even Mr. Alexander pointed out this problem “It seems kind of unfair to just mix-and-match the most modern elements of each and declare that this proves they caused modernity, but there’s no reason that couldn’t have happened.” In order to test if this line of reasoning might reveal something I will test it by posing different scenarios and see if I can make up similar just so stories.

    Let’s say the two modern parties in the United States includes a libertarian like party popular in the inland regions (away from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, maybe put the gulf coast as the swing regions; this includes not only the Rocky Mountain and great plains states but also the rust belt states and Kentucky and Tennessee). It combines the live and let live sentimentality of the Quakers and the government can’t do anything good of the Borderers. They support low taxation because of their desire for a small government but that taxation would be progressive because ordinary folk shouldn’t be burdened. Afterall this shouldn’t be surprising as there are Amish communities stretching through Western Pennsylvania all the way through Indiana there has plenty of cultural exchange and interbreeding between the two groups.

    The other modern party is an authoritarian like party popular in the coastal regions (close to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts all the way down through Florida with say the Gulf Coast as the big swing region). Both immigrant groups preferred a highly structured society where individuals were more responsible to their communities then the other way around. The economy needs to be well managed by the government for the good of the cultural elite which know how best to live (obviously their lifestyles are working out for them). The moral requirements are helping people better live up to their potentials. Also they support large regressive taxation as the government needs these recourses to properly order society and the elite are better so why should they shoulder the burden? Besides it is good penance for the poor.

    I can also find ways to include the less political cultural indicators to associate with these two different groups. The authoritarian culture completely idolizes celebrities and are fond of broad sociological theories and debating such. They are also where the hotbeds of the American Revolution and are the most likely places to find ideas for how to and support of fix(ing) foreign cultures. The libertarian culture by contrast idolizes the individual and the everyman and who has time for these intellectual discussions when there’s work to be done. This is where isolationist sentiment is strongest and where American sports (American football, baseball, basketball) grew up after being born along the coast.

    In this hypothetical political divide someone can come up with cultural factors that explain the divide that sound like they make too much sense to be coincidental.

    I could even make the case that if the modern Democratic and Republican parties were switched in popularity by location (they supported the policies they do now but the solid south and New England are still solid for what they were 125 years ago; the politicians would necessarily be different) I could make arguments that patterns of early settlement in America would support this.

    The Borderers and the indentured servants and slaves brought over by the Cavaliers would obviously support progressive taxation and regulations designed to avoid the horrors that were forced upon their ancestors. Yes, there are a lot of people using guns irresponsibly, that’s why we need better gun control. The elite in popular culture should be idolized and we don’t need the government regulating things like sodomy because of puritanical notions and if these celebrities do it, can it really be that bad?

    The Quakers and Puritans think that success comes from a strong individual effort and for those lacking there is some combination of they deserve it/private citizens can take care of their own communities. We don’t need a large government to take care of our own and inequality is simply a natural state of society (unless there were minimum standards to be allowed to exist as a member of the society, of course, but that won’t last for the long term). Government should support education that works and is responsive to the people. 150 years ago this meant direct government support of education and today this means direct government support of education in control by individual schools like charter schools or through individual choice like vouchers. Also, of course government can play a role promoting a decent society. This arm took the tolerance of different religions from the Quakers with the need for moral standards from the Puritans and combined that. It doesn’t matter if your Christian or Jewish, Protestant or Catholic, it just maters that the universal standards upheld by all major religions are upheld in society.

    In either hypothetical scenario there would be exceptions to the stated paradigms but I could come up with good sounding hand waving arguments to explain these away. Given how easy it is to connect a just so story of modern American culture consistent with arbitrary political divides one should be suspicious of such stories. One should be especially suspicions of just so stories justifying this just so story.

    • This comment is continued from above.

      Hole #II: This ignores the actual development of the modern Democratic/Republican party system

      The actual nature of the Democratic and Republican parties are far removed from the culture and politics of colonial America. The first major party split was based on a state by state basis rather than geography. South Carolina was initially a hot bed of Federalist politics and New York was always a strong supporter of the Democratic-Republicans. Remember at this time only the landed could vote and the parties served different economic elites. The Federalists supported those most involved with winning America’s independence which explains their earlier support but the Democratic-Republicans supported the more numerous elite which explains their eventual domination. The confinement of Federalist influence to parts of New England at the end reflects the states where the elite they favored were most populous.

      I should point out that the great equality of Puritan Massachusetts could easily be explained by their screening process. As time went on, inequality definitely became part of Massachusetts society. Shay’s Rebellion was a tenantor revolt which was not exactly an uncommon occurrence for the time.

      The elimination of property requirements to voting was both a cause and an effect of the Jackson revolution. Since then both major parties in the United States have tried to be national parties to some degree. The desire to stay national parties ripped both the Democratic and Whig parties apart before the Civil War. The Democratic Party would survive and the Whig party would not. Both the Democratic and Republican parties had liberal and conservative wings until this decade and had pockets of support all over the country. 125 years ago no Democrat had a chance in New England and no Republican had a chance in Dixie and national politics were decided by the populous states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana where both parties had support.

      In the 1970’s politics was still a nationally divers. Republicans were making inroads in Dixie and New England was no longer a Republican stronghold. Each party had its liberal and conservative giants. Since then, the parties have become more ideologically defined and geographically isolated. Just saying the Democratic Party took aspects of Quakerism and Puritanism because it has aspects similar to both is insufficient. The intervening history has (as I see it) likely had a lot to do with the formation and development of both this synthesis of culture and current national politics.

      As far as explaining how the rural poor in say Georgia has managed to become associated with the borderers, the explanation is clearly in how mass media has shaped culture. There used to be two separate (negative) stereotypes for southners. There was the hillbilly and there was the gentile southerner. Yosemite Sam was not just a caricature of the Southern elite but one of southners of all stations. The rednecks of Appalachia were seen as a different cultural embarrassment. This has been replaced by the (positive) stereotype of Larry the Cable Guy to apply to all rural Americans. The reasons for this have to do with the reasons why Mass Media wants to present things as simple as possible.

      It wasn’t too long ago that Virginians and Kentuckians would take great offense of being lumped in together. This is not the case anymore. Understanding how America was first settled by the English is likely helpful in understanding different aspects of American culture but using it as a deterministic and sufficient reason misses a lot of the history and details that have shaped modern American culture. The efforts to get poor whites in Dixie to associate themselves and their interests with those of the elite in Dixie goes back to colonial days, for example, and has a lot to do with culture in Dixie even today.

      • This comment is continued from above.

        Hole #III: It pretends that .7 doesn’t exist

        A lot of people seem to forget that there are a lot of numbers between 0 and 1. Culture is important but it isn’t the only thing that matter to things. Cultures exchange ideas and influence one another while still remaining separate. Two groups can cooperate on some things and compete on others. One culture’s ideas can gain traction in another culture with other’s do not. It’s not all or nothing.

        There are numerous problems with the Blue State/Red State model. One of which is how large the cultural differences are made to seam. The Texas legislature was filibustered in favor of abortion rights and the crowed cheered while the abortion clinic whose protesters went to the Supreme Court to get the right to protest right outside the door was in Massachusetts. Maine has less stringent gun control measures than Virginia. Washington and Pennsylvania have more regressive taxation than does North Carolina or Kentucky.

        These two cultural camps may be a useful too but only when applied in specific situations. It doesn’t really hold up in general. A country that is 49% liberal Americans and 51% fundamental Talibans would see demographic change just from birth and death rates alone not to mention people switching to a different culture then their parents, not to mention all of the middle ground that would exist in such a country. There may be some similarities between modern Dixie culture or modern New England culture or modern Rust Belt culture or modern Californian culture with those who first settled these regions (indeed it should be expected) but there are also differences in each and every one. Some culture gets handed down and some gets lost over the course of generations. Sometimes new cultures are assimilated and sometimes they usurp but most often something in between.

        The first order answer to questions can (but don’t always) form a good starting point but one is a fool if one doesn’t even look at higher order effects especially since those can sometimes lead to opposite results that the first order answer would predict. One can ask, “What would culture be like in Georgia if it were exactly like the culture of the Europeans who first settled in Georgia?” and get some useful information but one would be unable to predict accurately what modern culture in Georgia is.

        (As an example of higher order effects revising the first order effects, take minimum wage laws. The first order effect of increasing minimum wage laws is to decrease the number of people working because it is moving the production point of minimum wage labor along the demand curve for minimum wage labor. Higher order effects from people making minimum wage who disproportionately spend their income on minimum wage labor now having more money to spend and especially considering that it takes time for the market to adjust for changes leads to an increase in the demand for minimum wage labor that might increase the number of minimum wage jobs. This is due to higher order effects and makes it way it is plausible that this is found when looked for. As far as I know such a higher order analysis has not been done and I’ve looked for one.)

        The cute just so story presents unpleasant situations because it treats things like a deterministic extreme. It ignores all of the historical contingency in how American culture has changed from pre-colonial to modern (and I have no idea how chaotic this evolution is) and it overstates the processes of culture change. If Mr. Alexander would remember that there are a lot of numbers between 0 and 1, he would be less alarmed.

        • This comment is continued from above.

          Hole #IV: It is a caricature of what actual modern American culture is

          Some things were talked about in previous sections that are relevant here. The binary model for modern American culture is a caricature that has limited usefulness. American culture is, in reality, not so devided. The extremes that existed from early colonial America have (predictably) softened (American fundamentalists are not as fundamentalist as the Puritans were, for example). This takes a particular quark of American polity as it exists today and claims that it must be true throughout all history in all places.

          New York and Oregon are states that reliably support the Democratic Party and Georgia and Idaho are states that reliably support the Republican Party but I would say that Oregon and Idaho have more in common with each other culturally then either has with either New York or Georgia. The same can be said the other way around. And what about the country west of Appellations? This just so story is silent on that or at-least needs to be made much more complicated.

          This just so story one takes a simplistic representation of the immigration patterns to this country (a lot of people moved to the US after 1781 and they have had an unquestionable impact on American culture) and one simplistic representation of modern American culture, points, and says “this explains everything, we are all doomed.” Also, “oh, and it helps justify a lot of what I thought already.”

          V: Conclusion

          As is counter to most of Mr. Alexander’s posts, the conclusions from this post are nothing but wild specious reasoning after wild specious reasoning. I am sure there is value in understanding what English settled which parts of the US in the colonial period but its value is overstated. Hopefully I have provided clues in how to spot such mistakes. Caricatures and simplistic representations of modern American culture can also be useful but they can become damaging to understanding if their usefulness is overstated.

          Simplistic just so stories can look nice and can feel nice but one needs to remember that reality is complicated. This simplistic just so story that conveniently confirmed a lot of the author’s previously held beliefs needlessly scared said author. One should be suspicious of simplistic explanations and especially of simplistic explanations that verify one’s own prejudices.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “Higher order effects from people making minimum wage who disproportionately spend their income on minimum wage labor now having more money to spend and especially considering that it takes time for the market to adjust for changes leads to an increase in the demand for minimum wage labor that might increase the number of minimum wage jobs. This is due to higher order effects and makes it way it is plausible that this is found when looked for. As far as I know such a higher order analysis has not been done and I’ve looked for one.)”

          Because the money was previously going to other people- it is just switching pockets.

  39. gbdub says:

    So it seems like you could very roughly break these four tribes onto a two axis system, with the axes being “Intellectualism” and “Hierarchism” (this latter isn’t perfect, but what I’m going for here is a rigid, strictly enforced social system with distinct classes and little upward/downward mobility). Labeling these “I” and “H”, you’ve got the quadrants defined as Quakers(+I,-H), Puritans(+I,+H), Cavaliers(-I,+H), and Borderers(-I,-H).

    Interesting that the current schism, such as it is, is primarily along the I axis (though that’s also something of a geographic split, at least historically).

    • Frog Do says:

      I don’t know, Borderers would need to have a respect for hierarchy to succeed militarily as well as they do. Puritans themselves had very strange views on hierarchy, a lot of their repression was lattitudinal. Quakers only liked intellectualism up to a point, I’d guess they were more spiritual, and their intellectualism is more a result of them being a book-based religion. And Cavaliers were fanatically intellectual in the classical tradition.

    • TheWorst says:

      Borderers can’t be -H, though, given that their sexism and racism appalled even other people in the 1700s.

      Non-hierarchical types don’t go in for feudalism, and don’t typically invest resources in keeping subject classes subject. -H doesn’t seem to fit the description of borderers given above.

      • Maybe there’s an important difference about the size of hierarchy that a culture supports.

        • TheWorst says:

          The part about clinging to feudalism longer than the rest of Britain really stood out to me.

          • gbdub says:

            But the Borderers in America weren’t really feudal. Clannish, maybe. Was the feudalism of the Borderers in Britain more clannish too (as in, a clan patriarch is okay in a way that a crown appointed lord from far away is not)? It sounds like it came more from necessity than preference.

      • Nornagest says:

        Sexism and racism don’t necessarily imply a taste for hierarchy: tribal rivalries, and gender roles, can and usually do persist even in the absence of hierarchical relations between them.

        • TheWorst says:

          I have trouble not seeing those as a hierarchy.

          I don’t mean this in a “the personal is political” faux-egalitarian sense, but in the actually-egalitarian sense. If you really are trying to put one group above another, and react violently to the idea of equality, isn’t that a strong indicator of a taste for hierarchy?

          • gbdub says:

            Hierarchy has to be more than just an “in-group” and an “out-group”, which is more what racism implies to me. Hierarchy I look at more as a caste system, that is, a society spanning, multi-tiered thing. Race / heredity might define the boundaries but it’s a system. More authoritarian than purely tribal. The attitude of a lord to his subjects is much more nuanced than just “I hate poor people”, it’s “that man, as a member of class X, has a role Y to play”.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            No.

            Borderers have no issue with people “rising above their station”, and find people who do praiseworthy. They have no inherent opposition to equality at the individual level, they just don’t think it exists at the group level.

            A borderer who found a woman who fought as well as a man would find her attractive on that basis. A borderer just wouldn’t -expect- to find such a woman. Likewise with their racism; borderers can be racist towards black people as a whole, while still regarding specific individual black people as equals.

          • Nornagest says:

            There are non-hierarchical ways to favor one group over another. If you like the Cubs and dislike the Mets, that doesn’t mean you want to create a formal power structure with one team at the top; it just means you want to see the Cubs succeed and the Mets fail. In fact, you’d probably resist any attempt to lock in your gains as unsportsmanlike.

            And in the case of gender roles, I don’t think “putting one group above another” is necessarily a good way to model it at all. Cultures vary greatly in terms of the prestige they assign to the genders, but this doesn’t correlate well with the strength of their gender norms.

          • TheWorst says:

            Borderers have no issue with people “rising above their station”, and find people who do praiseworthy.

            Is this a joke?

            If it isn’t, google the word “lynching.” “Praise” is not how Borderers typically react when they see their preferred hierarchy being challenged.

          • E. Harding says:

            ““Praise” is not how Borderers typically react when they see their preferred hierarchy being challenged.”

            -By arson and rape? Most of the people who were lynched were probably real criminals.

          • TheWorst says:

            Serious question: Have you ever written a comment that had substance, rather than just expressing your hatred for the Blue Tribe?

            If not, do you intend to?

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Most of the people who were lynched were probably real criminals.

            More like the mob genuinely believed that they were criminals.

          • moridinamael says:

            > More like the mob genuinely believed that they were criminals.

            Right, right. Just like today.

          • E. Harding: “Most of the people who were lynched were probably real criminals.”

            Why do you believe this?

      • gbdub says:

        Maybe Freedom/Independence is better? (But not perfect, Cavaliers valued “freedom” for some after all). Or “Authoritarianism”? (But again, what to do with the Cavaliers, who were class conscious but also kind of libertine/decadent compared to the Puritans).

        While Borderers can have racism/sexism, they also tend to generally scoff at authority in general. I think Nancy has a good take on it, maybe it’s the size of the hierarchy? Borderers are tribal/clannish, but also fiercely independent, e.g. moonshiners.

        • I’m not sure whether it’s Puritan or Quaker or what, but a lot of the Blue tribe seems to want the largest hierarchy possible– a world government– even if it’s a hierarchy moderated by democracy and the rule of law.

          • gbdub says:

            I’d certainly consider world government, and the SJ preference for a “privilege”/”authenticity” based hierarchy to be very much descended from Puritanism.

        • TheWorst says:

          I knew a lot of Borderers in the early 2000s, so I’ve seen that the Borderer tendency to scoff at authority is identical to the Puritans’ belief in religious tolerance–it’s highly conditional, and only adopted when doing the opposite isn’t currently useful.

          It’s like if I believed in sharing the donuts… every day when I wasn’t the guy who had a box of donuts. Or like anyone in America who has ever claimed to give a damn about “state’s rights.”

          (Pro tip: No one has ever actually cared about states’ rights, and no one ever will.)

          • gbdub says:

            Based on this and your comments elsewhere on the thread, I think you’re being profoundly uncharitable (pro tip: “pro tip” almost always comes off as smarmy and uncharitable)

          • John Schilling says:

            Pro tip: No one has ever actually cared about states’ rights, and no one ever will

            That statement is false.

          • TheWorst says:

            If you can think of an example of anyone who ever sincerely claimed to care about states’ rights, by all means share it.

            Edit: For clarity, this is sincere. If you ever see me, anywhere, and happen to have seen an example of someone giving an honest-to-god damn about states’ rights, I commit in advance to listening if you feel like sharing it.

            Note that I don’t mean someone making the calculation “we have a majority at the state level but not at the federal level, so I will temporarily pretend to care about states’ rights.” I mean someone actually caring about that independently of whether it helps their immediate goals.

            One of the tells for the latter is a sudden reversal when there’s a majority shift–like how states rights stopped mattering to Southerners the moment they were able to pass the Fugitive Slave Act and get the Dred Scot verdict, then started mattering again the moment it looked like the North might take the federal government–and opinions on states’ rights in the North, which bounced back and forth in an exact mirror image.

            For a more recent example, see gay marriage activists who believed in states’ rights when there was talk of a federal amendment banning gay marriage, but then suddenly somehow lost that belief the moment it looked like federal legalization might be possible.

            Claims to giving a damn about states’ rights should be looked at with extreme skepticism, in my experience.

          • John Schilling says:

            I, John Schilling, have repeatedly and sincerely claimed to care about state’s writes. I do so again, here and now.

            There are others, but given the arrogantly absolute nature of your claim I am spared the nuisance of looking them up.

            Edit: For clarity, your editing for clarity is too late to make me give a damn. No retcons.

          • TheWorst says:

            Are you able to provide any reason why anyone should think you’re more sincere than most people who claim to care about states’ rights?

            Someone saying they give a damn about states’ rights is not the same thing as an example of someone actually doing it. Mere assertion that you do it is not enough.

            Edit: It was not a retcon, and I seriously doubt that you mistook it for such. In the interests of determining your ability to participate in good faith: Was that merely an insult?

          • Nathan says:

            John Schilling has a very good reason to be believed more than others claiming to care about state’s rights. Namely, that he is not running for office.

            FWIW I agree with your broader point (most people do not legitimately care about federalism), but it would be nice to not just assume people you are talking to are lying because they express what you consider to be an unusual value.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            “Laboratory of Democracy” seems like quite a good idea. Some of our North Left Coast states have allowed, for example, assisted suicide for quite a few years, and nothing terrible has happened; same with weed, contraceptives, etc.

            The opposite corner of the US is testing their thing/s too. And people strongly affected by either side’s stuff, know which state/s they can move to.

            But somehow, I seldom see people calling my position “States’ Rights”.

          • JDG1980 says:

            If you can think of an example of anyone who ever sincerely claimed to care about states’ rights, by all means share it.

            How about Barry Goldwater? We know that many Southerners in the 1960s used “states’ rights” as a shibboleth when all they really cared about was keeping Jim Crow, but Goldwater (who was a Westerner, not a Southerner) seems to have genuinely opposed racism on the object level. According to Wikipedia: “As a colonel he also founded the Arizona Air National Guard, and he would desegregate it two years before the rest of the US military. Goldwater was instrumental in pushing the Pentagon to support desegregation of the armed services.” He also rejected support from the KKK during the 1964 election, even though some Republican Party elders suggested he should accept it. Given that track record, I’m willing to grant that his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1965 was based on a genuine (albeit misguided) belief in states’ rights.

          • anon says:

            Clarence Thomas was also presumably genuine in his concurrence in Shelby County v. Holder, wherein he expressed the view that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional because it departs from “`basic principles’ of federalism and the equal sovereignty of the States”.

          • onyomi says:

            I am genetically more Irish than anything else, and while I think culture is important, I have an inkling it may have something to do with my strong libertarian inclinations, which are not at all conditional–in fact, I’m that sort of libertarian who thinks libertarianism is superior even if statism produces better results (within reason). I would also note that the Dutch, who arguably had the first modern economy, also found themselves at a nexus of “let us do our own thing, everybody, please.” So… suspicion of outside rulers+geographic ability/need to trade ftw?

            But re. states rights: “find me people who consistently stand on principle as regards issue x, instead of only doing so when convenient” is a pretty hard bar to clear for any x.

          • TheWorst says:

            @houseboatonstyx:

            But somehow, I seldom see people calling my position “States’ Rights”.

            I suspect that has something to do with a means/ends problem. For instance, I suspect–correct me if I’m wrong–that you’d have no problem admitting that you don’t really care about an individual American state in itself, and only favor states acting individually when it might make something good happen. States acting as the laboratories of democracy is useful, so we’re in favor of states being able to do it. If it wasn’t useful, would you still feel any attachment to it, purely on the grounds that the line on the map between one US state and another–drawn for largely arbitrary or now-irrelevant reasons–has any innate ethical significance?

            If we decided to carve a circle out of New York and declare that Buffalo was now its own state, I suspect you don’t think that Buffalo has just taken on any mystical quality of “rights” that need to be defended non-instrumentally.

            TL, DR: “States’ Rights” refers to something more specific–usually, Lost Causer bullshit.

          • TheWorst says:

            Clarence Thomas is an excellent example of someone who pretends to care about states’ rights because he’s a member of a party that has a long tradition of (inconsistently) pretending to care about such, so he benefits from it.

            @Nathan: I understand your point, but I also was not born yesterday. I’ve seen a lot of examples of people who claimed to give a damn about states’ rights. So far, approximately 100% of them turned out to be lying. That makes for an exceptionally strong prior.

            That’s an important key to understanding American politics: Start with the assumption that the pretense of giving a damn about states’ rights has always (and only) been deployed strategically. It’s a much more useful heuristic, since it won’t leave you so confused about why the same people immediately abandoned federalism the instant it looked like the federal government might do what they want.

            @onyomi:

            But re. states rights: “find me people who consistently stand on principle as regards issue x, instead of only doing so when convenient” is a pretty hard bar to clear for any x.

            Yes. States’ rights, however, is unique in that I have never seen or heard of an instance where someone stood on that principle except when it was useful to do so. Not just “not consistently,” but “never.”

            Note that the Dutch did not think that living in the same state as them made you an exception to their “please leave us alone” policy. No one actually thinks that the arbitrarily-drawn state boundaries have moral significance.

            Note also that States’ Rights in the US refers to states, not to the way libertarians use it to mean “every aspect of government.” The people who claim that the state government–as opposed to towns, counties, and the nation–has metaphysical significance? They’re lying.

          • onyomi says:

            I mean, arguably the whole Civil War was “standing on principle” on the states’ rights issue… of course many people were more interested in preserving slavery whatever which way, but the vast majority of Southerners who fought did not own slaves.

          • E. Harding says:

            “because he’s a member of a party”

            -He’s not.

            “that has a long tradition of (inconsistently) pretending to care about such, so he benefits from it.”

            -Last time I heard, there was no such thing as the “States’ Rights Republican Party”. The “States’ Rights Democratic Party”, meanwhile, really did exist.

          • Nornagest says:

            States acting as the laboratories of democracy is useful, so we’re in favor of states being able to do it. If it wasn’t useful, would you still feel any attachment to it[…]?

            I believe in free speech, free association, freedom from arbitrary search and a bunch of other rights because I think upholding them will lead to positive outcomes, despite some cases where violations might lead to short-term gains at the cost of eroding the norm. Why insist on some kind of sentimental attachment in this case?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ The Worst
            If we decided to carve a circle out of New York and declare that Buffalo was now its own state, I suspect you don’t think that Buffalo has just taken on any mystical quality of “rights”

            “Mystical quality” sounds like the level of thought that powers the term “Preserving the Union.”

            I’d ask the people in Buffalo. 😉

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            The idea of States Rights wasn’t reasoned out from first principles and wasn’t thrown together after the fact by racists. It’s the result of seeing the US as a union of smaller polities rather than a single united polity.

            If you see states as having some degree of statehood, with the federal government as a limited suprastate entity, States Rights is the logical position to take. The federal government being in charge of the states would be like the UN being in charge of its member nations: backwards and suspiciously tyrannical.

            If you see states as being arbitrary administrative regions of the federal government, then of course states rights sounds like nonsense. But since that isn’t how it’s serious proponents see it that doesn’t really matter.

          • Anonymous says:

            Maybe we can just give Buffalo, make that all of western NY, to Canada.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Unfortunately I doubt they’d go for it. They already took the nice side of the falls, no point in going for the rest.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Dr Dealgood
            The idea of States Rights wasn’t reasoned out from first principles and wasn’t thrown together after the fact…. It’s the result of seeing the US as a union of smaller polities rather than a single united polity.

            Yes. Observe the EU forming now. Some independent nations are combining for some limited common purposes, and negotiating how much power the central agency will have over each member nation. I hope they draw their line better than our FF in the 1700s did. (Or see Scott’s Archipelago.)

            In the US now, we’ve got alternate Red and Blue administrations each trying to enforce its own preferences over the whole nation; thus whiplash every 4 or 8 years, or blobby compromises that satisfy neither.

            ‘Laboratory of Democracy’ is a cumbersome and abstract phrase. ‘States’ Rights’ has been made unusable. But if some principles might be composed for where to draw the line in future, I’d like some considerations like these:

            — How far outside the state’s borders do the effects extend? Within its borders, how long beyond the current state administration’s term will they last?

            — Even if confined, is state practice over-ridingly horrific? (Example slavery, or in some views, abortion.)

            — How difficult is it to move to another state, or register your corporation in Delaware even if you keep living elsewhere?

            — If, say, a majority of the state’s citizens are unhappy with some state practice or law, why don’t they vote it out at the state level? If they can’t … then that’s the joint to look at, rather than an object level rule for the whole nation.

          • TheWorst says:

            Why insist on some kind of sentimental attachment in this case?

            An excellent question! You’ve hit on precisely the reason why I don’t. I am pointing out that the claimed sentimental attachment does not exist.

            I am also pointing out that, so far as I’m aware, literally zero people have ever displayed any reluctance whatsoever to erode those norms in exchange for an advantage to their tribe.

            I mean, arguably the whole Civil War was “standing on principle” on the states’ rights issue…

            Excellent example! Go and read what the Civil War was actually about. It is not at all hard to find; google “Articles of Secession,” and the people launching the Civil War will very happily tell you why they did it. It rhymes with “bravery,” but was not.

            They did in fact invent “States’ Rights” retroactively, and this was immediately after pushing the Fugitive Slave Act, which is totally incompatible with giving a damn with States’ Rights. Unsurprisingly, once slavery became highly unpopular, they were suddenly reluctant to acknowledge the fact that they’d gone to war to keep it.

            The Confederacy is the central example of someone falsely claiming to care about states’ rights. Pointing to them as an example of the opposite is unlikely to work. Lost Causer bullshit isn’t a very good proof that Lost Causer bullshit is either correct or didn’t exist.

          • John Schilling says:

            They did in fact invent “States’ Rights” retroactively

            Pretty certain States’ Rights was a thing long before 1860. See, e.g., Jackson vs. Calhoun, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, and indeed the Federalist/Antifederalist debate at the start of it all.

          • Nornagest says:

            An excellent question! You’ve hit on precisely the reason why I don’t. I am pointing out that the claimed sentimental attachment does not exist.

            That doesn’t actually answer my question. Okay, so you don’t think there’s a sentimental aspect to states’ rights arguments. I suspect you’re wrong about that, but whether you are or not it doesn’t invalidate the concept; it doesn’t magically stop being “States’ Rights” if you favor it for utilitarian reasons. And this is a site full of utilitarians, or people who subscribe to adjacent positions in ethics, so if you ask for supporters you’re going to get a bunch of utilitarian arguments.

            As to willingness to erode the norm for tribal reasons, I again think you’re overreaching on the object level — see for example the comments about Barry Goldwater above — but people tend to be enormous hypocrites regardless of tribe. That doesn’t imply that their values are unimportant, or insincerely held.

          • TheWorst says:

            For clarity: People who care about states’ rights when it will help them get what they want, and gleefully trample states’ rights when doing that will help get what they want, are exactly what I mean by “People who don’t care about states’ rights.”

            This seems to include 100% of all people who claim to care about states’ rights.

            If I ever had reason to think anyone actually did care about States’ Rights, I would have a lot of questions. To start with: Why states, rather than towns or counties? Or regions? What is it about a state, specifically, that gives it rights that should be treated like a sacred value?

          • To start with: Why states, rather than towns or counties?

            Constitution.

          • anon says:

            Unsurprisingly, people who care about states’ rights *do* tend to care about the rights of smaller units of local governance as well. For example, they tend to support local control of education policy, which is often exercised at the sub-state level.

            The reasons for the prominence of states in the conflict between various levels of government authority are kind of obvious I think. These conflicts are certainly most likely to arise between levels adjacent in size and power. (E.g. a town and its county.) And we do call the highest level the *federal* government for a reason; it was explicitly designed, more or less, as a contract of cooperation among individual state polities.

            You might believe that this conception is obsolete. I’m more inclined to say that the states themselves have already grown large enough that few people have any real loyalty to their state, let alone the federal government. We see this all the time, for example in the tension between NYC and upstate New Yorkers.

            So I agree with your basic point that the rhetoric of “states’ right” has a tendency to fetishize a particular level of government. But I disagree that a non-strawman version of the argument for states’ rights suffers from this flaw.

          • TheWorst says:

            Constitution.

            So, no reason?

            Unsurprisingly, people who care about states’ rights *do* tend to care about the rights of smaller units of local governance as well. For example, they tend to support local control of education policy, which is often exercised at the sub-state level.

            This doesn’t match any evidence I’ve observed. The rule that people support the dominance of [Largest polity they can currently control] seems to be absolute. It’s one of the more useful tips when it comes to understanding American politics.

  40. call_me_aka says:

    Slightly peevish modern-day Quaker here with two corrections: one does not “convert” to Quakerism (we would say that those people became “convinced” Quakers), and Quakers don’t preach (we call it “vocal ministry”; anyone may minister in a meeting for worship). I believe both usages date back to colonial times.

  41. Geoffrey Card says:

    I haven’t read through all the comments, but I doubt I’m the first to link this book:
    http://www.amazon.com/American-Nations-History-Regional-Cultures/dp/0143122029

    It’s where I first read a lot of the same ideas you’re describing here, and it suggests plausible answers to some of your remaining questions.

    For example, the Cavalier culture may have contributed to the Republican notion that liberty supersedes equality — that having a wealthy elite that is unshackled to do what they want is better than having a system that funnels benefits to the lower classes at the expense of the wealthy.

    • gbdub says:

      Couldn’t that “liberty supersedes equality” thing just as easily come from the typical Borderer mistrust of the revenue man? The modern Republicans don’t seem to particularly value hereditary aristocracy of the Cavalier type – it’s more a belief that people ought to keep what they earn / live off their own means. Which again is as much a Borderer philosophy as a Cavalier one. The modern Republican heroic ideal is more the “self-made rich oil man” and less the “Old money country clubber with the name traced back to William the Bastard”.

  42. sam rosen says:

    Has anyone here read Sowell’s Ethic America? Was it any good?

  43. James says:

    I am a definite borderer. Though, I have cavalier tendencies in my education at a college in Virginia founded in 1775 and I’m a city boy and scared of guns (though I will defend your right to guns).

    I’m curious, as to the extrapolation from settlers to modern voting, what the voting turnout is among the Appalachian American borderers, the city conservative cavaliers, and the rest of what we call “damn yankees” down here.

  44. Markus Ramikin says:

    Thumbs up, Scott, very entertaining post.

  45. Abelian Grape says:

    Actually, I just learned the other day why gunpowder was stored in churches! Lightning rods hadn’t been invented yet, so if the building with all of the gunpowder got struck by lightning, the gunpowder would explode. Since lightning is divine retribution, the church is the one building that definitely won’t get hit by lightning, so it’s the safest place to keep the gunpowder…

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      I mean, maybe they were that stupid, but another explanation is simply that the church is likely to be a strong, sturdy building capable of accomodating all the town’s residents—so if they get attacked by Indians, they can all fall in to the church and hold out in a siege while having access to their gunpowder.

      • TheWorst says:

        I suspect this is more likely true, though I wouldn’t doubt that someone made the previous argument as well.

        Funny thing about the principle of charity, that. 😉

    • roystgnr says:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brescia_Explosion

      “…an official account from two years after the event references 400 dead and 800 wounded.

      The Roman Catholic Church withdrew its religious objection to lightning rods after the event.”

    • James D. Miller says:

      Did it work? I want a statistical study of how often churches get struck by lightning.

  46. Charlie says:

    I think this post is on the right track. Fischer’s other book (Liberty and Freedom) helps outline the historical path a little more.

    Fischer traces the concepts of Liberty and Freedom throughout American history, and their changing dominance. Sometimes the Cavalier dominates, sometimes Borderer, sometimes Puritan. And Quaker tolerance is present too. But all of these ideas mingle and evolve as America develops.

    Freedom is the puritan idea within a societal context. The society is orderly and lawful and allows people to strive for their potential. In modern times, how can you be free to succeed in life without access to education/healthcare. The ideal of universal basics for all is an idea of freedom.

    Liberty is the Cavalier/Borderer idea with its focus on the individual and a hierarchical society. The hierarchical piece helped me better understand justifications of slavery. The individual piece often directly contradicts the societal aspect of freedom. But both strands are powerful forces in America and are interweave throughout our history.

    How the current century fits into the rest of history will take a little more distance and perspective to understand I think.

  47. TBL says:

    I like what you did with the links on the colons!

  48. TheWorst says:

    “but complicated by its lack of much that is recognizably Cavalier – the Republican Party is hardly marked by its support for a hereditary aristocracy of gentlemen.”

    I can’t always tell if Scott is joking, or if this is one of those rare times when he’s missing something obvious. For instance, Bush.

    (The fact that no one can tell which Bush I mean IS what I mean.)

    • LHN says:

      While I’m not a fan of political dynasties, there’s a difference between them and ideological support for an actual hereditary aristocracy.

      • TheWorst says:

        Is there? I’m not so sure, especially in a context where explicit ideological support for an actual hereditary aristocracy isn’t an option due to accumulated antibodies.

        Compare, for instance, racism and situational homosexuality. Political racism didn’t disappear the moment they realized that it was now a political handicap to publicly say a certain word that rhymes with “bigger.” They just started supporting the same ends by different means.
        Similarly, dudes having sex with other dudes in prison (due to a lack of other options) doesn’t mean none of them are straight.

    • Urstoff says:

      The fact that the alt-right exists seems to indicate that this isn’t true of mainstream Republicans, which (according to the alt-right) believe that success and civilization come with proper acculturation and want this to spread to all people [it amuses me that only the alt-right can make mainstream Republicans sound appealing].

      • dndnrsn says:

        The line between most of the left and the mainstream right seems to be that the mainstream right puts the blame on those the left tends to see as victims of the system, and lionizes those the left tends to see as beneficiaries of the system.

        If a kid raised by a single mother is failing school, both the left and the mainstream right will blame what could be defined as social/cultural factors. However, the left will focus on the way that flaws in the system have harmed this kid: discrimination of various forms, underfunded schools, etc. The mainstream right will focus instead on failings of the kid and those around them: the parents should have behaved better in various ways, mom should have read to the kid more, the kid should try harder, the people in the kid’s neighbourhood are ne’er-do-wells, etc (also, some fault will be cast on teacher’s unions, bad incentives provided by social welfare programs, etc).

        Likewise, the kid with two parents in the home who has gotten into a top university will to those on the left be the beneficiary of various sorts of privilege, in a society that is set up to treat the affluent well at the expense of everyone else. The mainstream right-winger will see someone whose parents worked hard and behaved well, and who personally has worked hard to get where they are.

        Only the alt-right, or more broadly elements of the far right in general, will start talking about genes and intelligence and reproductive strategies and so on.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Yes, I agree with your analysis here.

          In a way, it’s ironic because you might think the left would be more sympathetic to the far right than to the moderate right: if bad outcomes are caused mainly by bad genes, then it’s not really those groups’ fault that they have bad outcomes. Whereas the mainstream right adopts a literally “victim-blaming” approach.

          The reason why they don’t see themselves as allied together against the moderate right who believe in “personal responsibility” is that their proposed “cures” are so different. The far right has this eliminationist rhetoric—get rid of the bad people. While the left says: get rid of the bad system.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The Progressives of old were eugenicists, so the left wasn’t always against eliminationism of one form or another. Eugenics, and a lot of genetic explanations of human behaviours and differences, became politically and socially unacceptable in the mid-20th century, for obvious reasons.

            A society that lacks really vicious hatred of perceived inferiors, but where people have decided “OK, we have people who are lesser in the tools needed to succeed in a modern society, let’s account for that humanely” looks at best like Brave New World, at worst someone decides that the humane thing to do is the same humane thing you do when your cat is dying. I can see why the post-WWII left is allergic to this, and the post-WWII mainstream right also.

            I would split the left based on proposed solutions. Some want to get rid of the system, some want to fix the system, and some say one but actually do the other (eg, someone whose idea of radical change is more blacks in the faculty lounge and more women in boardrooms is not really much of a radical).

            The left could also be split by how they measure things: there are those who think the goal is equality of opportunity, and those who think that’s a red herring, and any equality of outcome proves inequality of opportunity (in my experience they usually talk about “equity” instead of “equality”).

          • gbdub says:

            It is only literally “victim-blaming” if they are in fact “victims” – which is the whole point the moderate right as you frame them would disagree with.

          • dndnrsn says:

            My words were “the mainstream right puts the blame on those the left tends to see as victims of the system”.

            The mainstream right sees them as either not victims, or as victims of their own failures/ill-conceived programs set up to help them/both.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ dndnrsn:

            The Progressives of old were eugenicists, so the left wasn’t always against eliminationism of one form or another. Eugenics, and a lot of genetic explanations of human behaviours and differences, became politically and socially unacceptable in the mid-20th century, for obvious reasons.

            Yes, I’m talking about today’s left. But even back then, if you want to group them both on the left (not unreasonably), they were two very different factions on the left. The people calling for the poor to be sterilized were generally not the same as the people calling for proletarian revolution. Saying the left used to believe X; now they believe Y can be confusing because it suggests that there is some unity to the group, or that they changed their minds.

            The Progressives basically advocated fascism. They were leftist to the extent that fascism is a leftist ideology.

            There’s just two different ways of conceptualizing the political spectrum. One is like this:

            Communists———Market Liberals———Fascists

            Another is like this:

            Communism/Fascism———Interventionism———Laissez-Faire

            Anyway, I think that’s why modern American conservatives (i.e. market liberals) are generally fond of the Ominous Parallels / Liberal Fascism thesis that communism and fascism are more similar than they are different. Because from the (classical) liberal point of view, they are essentially similar; they represent movement away from freedom and toward collective control. Tyranny in the name of the working class; tyranny in the same of the superior race; who cares?

            The left could also be split by how they measure things: there are those who think the goal is equality of opportunity, and those who think that’s a red herring, and any equality of outcome proves inequality of opportunity (in my experience they usually talk about “equity” instead of “equality”).

            The idea of “equality of opportunity” as distinct from “equality of outcome” never made any sense to me. Obviously, whatever outcomes exist at one moment are going to determine people’s opportunities going forward.

            @ gbdub:

            It is only literally “victim-blaming” if they are in fact “victims” – which is the whole point the moderate right as you frame them would disagree with.

            What dndnrsn said.

            I mean, the mainstream conservative position as I framed it is the one I’m most sympathetic to. That’s why I put “victim-blaming” in quotes. The position is that people in poverty have, to some extent, the ability to improve their condition—and to the same extent, they are therefore responsible for their own plight.

            Thus the conservatives blame the people whom the left considers victims. Obviously, nobody ever says to himself: “How about we blame the victims here?”

          • dndnrsn says:

            Oh, I’m not lumping the Progressives together with the socialists/communists/etc. I just wanted to point out how they represented something absent today, and that the far-left explanation for social problems shares something with the mainstream right.

          • JDG1980 says:

            A society that lacks really vicious hatred of perceived inferiors, but where people have decided “OK, we have people who are lesser in the tools needed to succeed in a modern society, let’s account for that humanely” looks at best like Brave New World, at worst someone decides that the humane thing to do is the same humane thing you do when your cat is dying. I can see why the post-WWII left is allergic to this, and the post-WWII mainstream right also.

            You’ll note that we do not currently sterilize or euthanize the severely mentally ill in our society, even though everyone agrees that some individuals with severe mental illnesses cannot fend for themselves. Accepting the existence of some genetic role in intelligence won’t magically turn us into Nazis. (Incidentally, even the actual Nazis faced a lot of backlash from the German public when they tried to kill off the mentally handicapped.)

            Anyway, what’s the alternative? If it’s indeed true that some people are genetically “lesser in the tools needed to succeed in a modern society”, then that fact remains true whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Wishing won’t make it go away. And your appeal to adverse consequences can just as easily apply to blank-slatism. After all, while the Nazis were extreme hereditarians, the equally murderous Communists were extreme environmentalists. Consider the fact that our society has pretty much given up on people who didn’t graduate college. This only makes sense if you have the implicit assumption that everyone has equal innate potential and people who don’t complete college are just lazy. If instead you assume that a substantial number of people just don’t have the mental mojo to finish a Bachelor’s degree, then it’s very hard to justify the current advocacy of “education” as a societal panacea. Instead you should be looking for ways to adjust society so it looks more like 1950s America, where people with average mental skills and high-school educations could still live prosperous, dignified, and complete lives. And if genetic IQ isn’t equally distributed by race, then the EEOC’s four-fifths rule (which also implicitly assumes the blank slate hypothesis) is a baseless witch hunt.

        • The line between most of the left and the mainstream right seems to be that the mainstream right puts the blame on those the left tends to see as victims of the system, and lionizes those the left tends to see as beneficiaries of the system.

          Only insofar as those people are one of a handful of historical “victim” groups. In the last several decades the white lower classes have been rapidly catching up with blacks in terms of social dysfunction, economic suffering, and alienation from mainstream elites. This creates a large mass of people who feel like they’re getting shafted by the system because the Powers that Be hate them, hence: Trump voters. And the left is hardly falling all over itself to make excuses for Trump voters.

          Instead, the left treats Trump voters in exactly the way that you accuse the right of treating the victim classes: it’s their fault for being racist, undereducated, and for not hating their own culture and ancestors. Meanwhile transgender media celebrities are feted for their “bravery”, because that’s what real suffering is about.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m not accusing anyone of anything, just describing general trends. I’m aware of the increasing dysfunction of the white lower classes, and I’m aware of the disappointing lack of sympathy the left has for them. As a left-winger, I’m always disappointed when people on the left don’t practice what they preach, and it seems to be happening increasingly these days.

      • TheWorst says:

        The fact that the alt-right exists seems to indicate that this isn’t true of mainstream Republicans…

        Note that it’s the alt-right. That’s my point.

        It’s not called the alt-left, or the alt-something-other-than-right. No one else seems to be at all confused about where feudalism/dynastic totalitarianism fits into the left-right spectrum.

        • Zaxlebaxes says:

          Where do North Korea and Juche fit in?

          Whatever you answer, someone has a good reason for disagreeing.

          People have a tendency to confound us when we attempt to box them in. The classical left-right spectrum has so many epicycles now that it might deserve a gritty reboot.

          • TheWorst says:

            Could you explain why you seem to be claiming that North Korea is part of America?

            It is not on the spectrum of American political ideology. That’s because it is not in America. I doubt that anyone has a good reason for disagreeing. If they do, then let us away: To Google Earth!

          • Frog Do says:

            It’s a truism that every leftist group in America is gonna have that one guy that’s a Maoist. I’ve personally seen Westerners on lefty tumblr defending Juche (though they themselves would probably identify as tankies).

            If Maoists and the pro-Juche aren’t on the American political spectrum, then neither is the alt-right. A bunch of people passionately disccusing poltics on the internet either is a movement or it isn’t, the media making a circus of one doesn’t change anything.

          • TheWorst says:

            It’s a truism that every leftist group in America is gonna have that one guy that’s a Maoist.

            Since when? I’ve never met an explicit Maoist, which is impossible according to what you describe as a truism.

    • gbdub says:

      The obvious leftish counterexample is the Kennedys, and now the Clintons.

      I think the “royal family” at least has some appeal, and it’s notthatirrational to think, gee, I liked his dad, he’s probably similar. I hardly think this is limited to Cavaliers.

      • TheWorst says:

        Oh, yes, this is by no means limited to the right–and there’s been a lot of cross-pollination, as well; even the Borderers will sometimes at least claim to share Quaker values.

        But one party seems very much dedicated to enshrining the privileges of the “nobility” into law, and has (possibly coincidentally) elected multiple generations of one family, and tried to elect more.

        It’s not that the right is the only place doing this; it just seemed bizarre that Scott seemed to be saying the Republican party didn’t display that tendency. It very much does; google “estate tax.”

        • SJ says:

          But one party seems very much dedicated to enshrining the privileges of the “nobility” into law, and has (possibly coincidentally) elected multiple generations of one family, and tried to elect more.

          I’d agree–but John, Bobby, and Edward Kennedy were all of the same generation.

          Another counterpoint: Bobby Kennedy died while running for President.

          And Edward Kennedy wanted to run for President, but the Chappaquiddick scandal kept him from getting nationwide approval. (Somehow, that scandal didn’t end his elective career in Massachusetts politics, though.)

          Did the Kennedys try to enshrine “nobility” into law?

          • TheWorst says:

            Again: Is attacking the Hated Enemy Tribe in any way an argument that your tribe doesn’t do something?

            The Argument From My Enemy Does This Too is not as convincing as everyone experiencing tribal-defense-syndrome seems to assume.

            If someone says you stole a cookie, whether or not your brother stole a cookie has absolutely no bearing on the truth or falsehood of the original accusation.

            If someone accuses you of being a habitual cookie thief, and points to the fact that you’ve never gone a day without stealing a cookie, that one time your brother stole a cookie has even less bearing.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            A more apt analogy in this case would be the habitual cookie thief who gets mad when someone else takes a cookie as well.

            Pointing out that they are in no position to complain seems like a perfectly reasonable response.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            TheWorst –

            You’re the one attacking the Hated Enemy Tribe. Other people aren’t pointing out the Blue Tribe does these things too because they hate the Blue Tribe; they’re doing this because you’re so ridiculously over the top and obvious about your animosity that fair-minded people feel compelled to defend them by pointing out that the failures you’re claiming belong to the Hated Enemy Tribe are human failures that everybody shares.

            Your retreat into claiming your opponents are the REAL partisan crazies is amusing.

          • TheWorst says:

            Your retreat into claiming your opponents are the REAL partisan crazies is amusing.

            Your projection stopped being amusing, unfortunately. But it’s a pretty good example of the pathology that’s set in, where being a partisan crazy (for the red tribe) is treated as normal, but sanity is treated as being a crazy Blue Triber.

            I know you won’t do this, but seriously, stop and look at yourself for a moment. You seem to do nothing here beyond shaking a fist at Blue Tribers and trying to signal your tribal affiliation. Maybe it’s time to stop accusing other people of being partisan crazies? And then develop something better to do with your brain. Chimpily hooting “Outsider! Outsider!” at anyone who isn’t one of your team’s partisan crazies is fun, but it’s not really worth it.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Still not part of the Red Tribe.

            At this point I’m seriously considering the possibility that you are, in fact, of the Red Tribe. Because your attitude here is exactly what drove me out of the Blue Tribe, and yet I still have trouble believing people as tone-deaf as yourself actually exist and aren’t just plants put into opposing tribes to make them look bad.

  49. Eli says:

    Actually, if you really want to explain the political divide, it would be far more helpful to read “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” (spoilers: the fucking Democrats) and “Listen, Liberal!” by Thomas Frank.

  50. Julia says:

    Quaker marriage requirements are still more demanding than most; you go through a “clearness committee” whose job is to determine that you’ve actually thought about things like money and children that are likely to cause problems if you disagree.

  51. Well well the conclusion is very well put. There’s only two ways of interpreting this. Either it’s genetic, and so what we say is correct with all the ugly corollary of hbd.

    Or its not genetic; deep culture is just very very stubborn, and you need a Stalin to fix it. Thus communism is needed. Actual red Soviet communism. The Soviets did sorta fix Islamism, for instance.

    Your choice.

    • moridinamael says:

      “Fix” what, though. As somebody else said upthread, if the wages of this horrible infestation of Cavaliers and Border Reavers is moon landings, eradication of disease, and near-eradication of hunger, then let’s keep them.

      In fact, I dare anybody to make the case that American history would have been “better” without us Cavaliers.

      • The wages of the evil red tribe is Racism; and basically not surrendering to blue culture in anything that the blue tribe fancies this week.

        Nobody cares about the moon, all that money could have fixed Racism if only put in better hands.

        What’s the point of democracy if a polity is divided in two opposed cultures who hate each other? Most politics is engaged in coming up with stuff to stick it to the other side instead of getting things done. And that’s perfectly good by utilitarian standards because people get a lot of enjoyment from sticking it to the outgroup.

        • John Schilling says:

          I apologize for having inadvertently fed a troll on the premises. Will try to do less of that in the future.

          • Jack H says:

            My guess is The Spandrell figured the crowd here is too smart for Poe’s Law to apply: note the capitalized R-word. If so, he guessed wrong.

            I could be wrong too though – that’s the thing about old Poe: if there’s even a kernel of doubt . . .

      • TheWorst says:

        That whole slavery thing? You may have heard of it.

        And then there was the little issue of fighting a war to keep it. I’m not an authority on the subject, but I’m pretty sure most people think of not being slaves and/or not dying in war as “better.”

        But let’s not that get in the way of My Tribe Rah Rah…

        • moridinamael says:

          ??? we already fixed that ???

          • TheWorst says:

            Wait, what? Are we LARPing in an alternate-history setting?

            I was referring to real-world history.

            …which is not to say I’m not interested, because alternate histories are awesome. If this is one, and not standard tribal-nonsense “Rah Rah Red Tribe” stuff, by all means tell me more. What did you guys do instead of slavery? How did you fix it? What do you do these days instead of trying to cook up new ways to keep black people from voting?

            I’m all for an alternate setting in which Cavaliers do good things. What’s it like?

          • Hlynkacg says:

            I was referring to real-world history.

            I’m pretty sure moridinamael was as well…

            As somebody else said upthread, if the wages of this horrible infestation of Cavaliers and Border Reavers is moon landings, eradication of disease, and near-eradication of hunger, then let’s keep them.

            Conversely if we’re discussing alternate history settings; let’s talk about one where those of a more Puritan bent don’t need the Borderers and Cavaliers to keep saving them from chasing the latest intellectual fad off a cliff.

          • TheWorst says:

            No, I meant real-world history. The actual real world. The one we live in, in real life.

            That’s the one in which the Cavaliers didn’t fix slavery, it’s the one where they spread it, loved it, and then went to war to keep it. And when they lost, they ordered their society around trying to create substitutes.

            I get that you don’t love Puritans–I don’t either–but I was talking about the real world, not an alternate one where Cavaliers are the good guys in a war with the Puritans.

            Thinking the Puritans are morons doesn’t necessitate pretending that the influence of the Cavaliers has been positive.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            You guys are talking past each other because of confusion about tenses.

            moridinamael is writing in the present tense. That Cavalier culture, to the extent that it can be said to exist today, isn’t in need of fixing. His question is what purpose does eradicating a functonal culture serve?

            TheWorst is writing in the past tense. That Cavalier culture resulted in slavery and segregation, and thus needed to be changed / eradicated at some prior point. His question is why someone would try to pretend that those things didn’t happen.

            The two are almost completely orthogonal to one another.

          • TheWorst says:

            That’s probably correct. I took “In fact, I dare anybody to make the case that American history would have been “better” without us Cavaliers.”

            …to be an assertion that the Cavaliers’ history wasn’t a net negative. It clearly is, even if–for some people–the negative effects of that culture no longer persist.

            And I suspect the world would be a lot better off if we hadn’t had to spend so many lives as the cost of indulging the Cavaliers in their lifestyle of indolent parasitism punctuated with violence and tyranny.

            The fact that America was adaptable enough to accomplish great things despite this handicap does not, I think, prove that it wasn’t a handicap.

          • moridinamael says:

            I apologize for my tone above. I wasn’t feeling well.

            @TheWorst

            There are a lot of confusing things going on in this entire comment section, and one of them seems to be a tendency to attribute an unrealistic level of coherence (and even a kind of “agency”) to cultures, and then go on to attribute specific historical events or processes to those cultures.

            But one can imagine an alternate history where the Puritans landed in the South and the Cavaliers landed in the North, and the Puritans found that they needed African slaves to prosper – they did try to get some, remember? – while the Cavaliers founded great universities in pursuit of Gentlemanly Scholarship. A hundred years later, the descendants of the Puritans might look Puritan in lots of ways, but I will bet you counterfactual-money that they would have found a way to comfortably justify slavery in their society. And maybe the Cavalier-descendants would find the whole business highly distasteful and “dishonorable”, who knows, I’m writing fanfiction here.

            You seem to be trying (intentionally or not) to paint me into a corner where, in order to defend the things that I think are good about my cultural background, I have to defend the institution of slavery. But culture and history don’t work like that.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            And I suspect the world would be a lot better off if we hadn’t had to spend so many lives as the cost of indulging the Cavaliers in their lifestyle of indolent parasitism punctuated with violence and tyranny.

            So lets follow that to it’s natural conclusion then…

            You remove the Cavaliers and borders from the equation thus avoiding the US civil war (Yay!) but neutering the US’s western expansion (Boo?).

            Turn of the century rolls around and without the Cavalier & Borderer influence the US happily embraces Fascism that is unless the Marxists beat them to the punch. The only people opposing the new Orwellian States of America are Quakers, Jews, and other religious and ethnic minorities who are promptly sent off to the camps.

            The IJN does it’s thing in the Pacific free of US influence (we neutered our westward expansion remember) and Von Braun ensures that the 3rd Reich wins the Space Race.

            …yes that sounds so much better than how things actually went.

          • nydwracu says:

            And I suspect the world would be a lot better off if we hadn’t had to spend so many lives as the cost of indulging the Cavaliers in their lifestyle of indolent parasitism punctuated with violence and tyranny.

            As opposed to the Puritans, the shining lights of moral perfection who gave us Lenin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot.

          • nydwracu says:

            Without the Cavalier & Borderer influence the US happily embraces Fascism that is unless the Marxist’s beat them to the punch.

            That’s another fun thing. If you run across someone now who likes both Mussolini and Stalin, you call him a pathetic tryhard. If you run across someone like that in 1940, you call him the president.

          • TheWorst says:

            A hundred years later, the descendants of the Puritans might look Puritan in lots of ways, but I will bet you counterfactual-money that they would have found a way to comfortably justify slavery in their society.

            No bet, as I’m just about 100% certain that’s what would happen, barring something weird happening.

            But so what? My point is that “The puritans are terrible too” does not disprove the proposition that “The Cavaliers came here and essentially dedicated their entire society to finding ways to fuck everyone else over in order to benefit the rich, and they were very very successful in this, and the pervasive negative consequences of their grand project are very much still with us.”

            I took your post to be daring anyone to assert that proposition, which seems, in our reality, to be an obvious truth.

            And yes, history does work like that: If you’re trying to argue that your cultural group was a positive influence, you don’t get to ignore all of their non-positive traits while challenging anyone to say they had negative traits. Truth is a thing, even when it makes terrible, terrible people look bad.

            If you were to claim that the Nazis–who took inspiration from the Confederates, and still see them as kindred spirits–were good people, you don’t get to say only the technological advances count. They did other stuff too.

            I’m not trying to paint you into a corner. I’m pointing out that you seem to be writing from an alternate reality in which slavery either never happened, or had nothing to do with the Cavaliers. Neither is true.

            “This other tribe would have done bad things too, if they were in a position to profit from it” doesn’t change reality. The sentence “You would have shot that guy too, if you’d caught him sleeping with your wife” doesn’t bring anyone back to life.

          • TheWorst says:

            Again: Real world. There were a lot of Americans who wanted to sign up with Hitler.

            They were Cavaliers.

            I get it. I really do. It’s much more fun to write fanfic where your own tribe were the good guys. But I was talking about reality. I’m fine with alternate history and historical fiction, but I also like to keep a bright line between when we’re talking about what actually happened, and when we’re talking about our ideas for how it should’ve gone.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            And yes, history does work like that: If you’re trying to argue that your cultural group was a positive influence, you don’t get to ignore all of their non-positive traits while challenging anyone to say they had negative traits. Truth is a thing, even when it makes terrible, terrible people look bad.

            Granted. The “pro Cavalier/pro borderer” side is arguing that while the American Civil War was bad, going to the moon, banishing hunger, and defeating Fascism more than make up for it.

            Meanwhile you’ve been conspicuously ignoring the non-positive traits of your chosen side which gave us Which-hunts, Concentration Camps, and World War II.

            They were Cavaliers.

            No, they were the east coast intelligentsia as exemplified by men like Woodrow Wilson and Joseph Kennedy (father of JFK)

          • LHN says:

            I have no particular brief for Cavalier culture, which is neither mine nor particularly attractive to me. But it’s hard to say that the US is improved (or even exists) if we manage to go back in time and write Washington, Jefferson, and Madison out of its history.

          • TheWorst says:

            I’m not sure whether or not you’re missing the point deliberately, or if there’s some other reason why, when I talk about culture, you repeatedly assume I’m talking about genetics. I have trouble imagining that you don’t know who Henry Ford was, or who his friends were, or where Wilson’s sympathies were. I doubt we’re going to succeed in bridging whatever gap exists, if one does.

            Have a good day.

          • moridinamael says:

            I’m no longer really sure what we’re arguing about.

            I took some level of umbrage (like a true Cavalier, right?!?!?) at the general implication that because I like shooting guns and my family owns land, I am essentially identical to a Taliban soldier, and the world would be better off without me.

            In my rush to point out that my tribe contributed to good things, too, I may have come off as sounding like I was denying any flaws of my tribe. On the contrary, I’m more than willing to admit flaws in my own tribe. In fact, I am a terrible example of my tribe, having rejected much of its fundamental ideology.

            Basically, I guess I’m just a fan of the Neal Stephenson view of history, wherein the world needs both science-nerds to build the H-bombs and Marines to storm the beachheads; Athenians to build temples and schools and Spartans to beat back the Persians; etc.

          • TheWorst says:

            I’m no longer really sure what we’re arguing about.

            In your case, me neither. My point was that the (understandable) umbrage doesn’t change anything.

            If it helps at all: I have some ancestors about which it’s an essentially-indisputable truth that we’d all be (on net) better off if they’d never been born. It’s a hard thing to admit, but I don’t have a lot of patience for (even the appearance of) the policy that “history which offends my feelings must be revised.”

            I’m not opposed to the Neal Stephenson view of history… aside from the fact that it was Athenians who beat back the Persians.

            That’s actually a really good example: It’s much more emotionally satisfying to people from Cavalier and Border Reaver-influenced cultures to imagine that it was the Cavalier-esque Spartans who did it, rather than the Athenians (who don’t map well to anything in America, but who remind Red Tribers too much of Blues).

            What was happening–on my end–was that when I pointed out historical revisionism, everyone responded by frantically attacking the ancestors of the Blue Tribe for some reason.

            That made me exceedingly suspicious about what the true objection was.

          • John Schilling says:


            They were Cavaliers.

            No, they were the east coast intelligentsia

            They were AMERICANS. That’s the point you all keep missing. Nothing that matters in the United States of America after about 1820 was done by Puritans, Quakers, Cavaliers, or Borderers, but by a cultural fusion of all four (and more beyond). That fusion kept slaves, and decided to abolish slavery. Flirted with various forms of Fascism, and then defeated the Nazis. And all the rest including the bit about walking on the moon.

            The bit where all the good stuff was done by your cultural ancestors and all the bad stuff was done by the other guy’s cultural ancestors, the idea where there’s an alternate history where “we” didn’t have to put up with “them” and so now we’ve got utopian cities on Mars, is bullshit. If you are at all inclined to believe it, you are invited to get on the next boat back to whatever old country still has the purest strain of P/Q/C/B/Whatever you prefer and show us what you’ve got.

            Every good and decent thing the United States of America ever did, it did with the help of Them and probably couldn’t have done it without. Every wretched evil, that’s at least in part on Us – and part of what kept it from being worse is Them. Deal with it.

          • TheWorst says:

            Nothing that matters in the United States of America after about 1820 was done by Puritans, Quakers, Cavaliers, or Borderers, but by a cultural fusion of all four (and more beyond).

            I disagree. If you were correct, Appalachian culture would be identical to Boston culture. It is not, and there’s copious proof of this. The US is not a monoculture.

            The bit where all the good stuff was done by your cultural ancestors and all the bad stuff was done by the other guy’s cultural ancestors, the idea where there’s an alternate history where “we” didn’t have to put up with “them” and so now we’ve got utopian cities on Mars, is bullshit.

            Correct.

            Every good and decent thing the United States of America ever did, it did with the help of Them and probably couldn’t have done it without.

            Incorrect. As this is not the closing five seconds of a My Little Pony cartoon, we do not live in a world where everyone’s contribution was equal and of equal value. For example, we live in a world where one group pressed abolition, and another group opposed it, using murder and terrorism. One of these is good and one of these is bad.

            I give no shits for the “how dare you imply My People were ever on the wrong side of anything” whining.

            Edit: I confess that my knowledge of My Little Pony cartoons is extremely limited. I imagine the point is nonetheless clear.

          • John Schilling says:

            disagree. If you were correct, Appalachian culture would be identical to Boston culture.

            Fusion does not require or even imply absolute uniformity.

          • Anonymous says:

            Every good and decent thing the United States of America ever did, it did with the help of Them and probably couldn’t have done it without. Every wretched evil, that’s at least in part on Us – and part of what kept it from being worse is Them. Deal with it.

            We had a perfectly good Puritan vs Cavalier fight going and you had to ruin it with the peace and love sanctimony.

            Fucking Quakers.

          • TheWorst says:

            We didn’t have any Puritans. For some reason the Cavaliers thought they could whitewash themselves by attacking the Puritans, of all people.

            It was weird.

          • moridinamael says:

            “Whitewashing?” That’s it. I demand satisfaction, sirrah.

          • TheWorst says:

            The terrible pun didn’t already give you satisfaction enough?

          • Hlynkacg says:

            For some reason the Cavaliers thought they could whitewash themselves by attacking the Puritans, of all people.

            Rather some people, including myself contested your assertion that the US (and the World) would have been better off without the Cavaliers. You said; Let’s not pretend that the the influence of the Cavaliers has been positive. and we responded by pointing out that without the Cavaliers’ influence the world would be a very different place, and arguably worse off.

      • JDG1980 says:

        In fact, I dare anybody to make the case that American history would have been “better” without us Cavaliers.

        As described in Scott’s thumbnail sketch, the Cavaliers pretty much come across as pure evil. They’re the kind of society which, if you filed off the serial numbers and put them in a dystopian novel, people would say it’s unrealistic; no actual society could be that bad.

        The other three societies of Albion’s Seed all have at least some redeeming virtues. The Quakers are clearly the most appealing to the modern Western eye, but the Puritans at least did a good job on education, intellectual achievement, and a middle-class society without gross extremes of wealth. The Borderers contributed many of America’s military heroes, and their down-to-earth attitude and “leave-me-the-hell-alone” quasi-libertarianism served as a useful check on the overly ideological tendencies of the Puritans and Quakers. But the Cavaliers were basically worthless, tyrannical parasites and it sounds like America would have been better off without them.

        • John Schilling says:

          And yet, if you were a black man captured in some African war ca. 1750, is there any plausible destination you’d have preferred to Virginia?

          The Yankee traders will ship you off to any paying customer (and are maybe the reason people fought a war to capture you in the first place), but if it’s the Puritans who buy you then as noted they’re just going to let you freeze to death. And let’s not mention the Caribbean sugar plantations, which were the bulk of the demand side of that trade.

          Maybe Belize, but that’s a long shot and I detect n a hint of Cavalier in their settlement history.

          As you say, no actual society could be that bad, which ought to be cause for suspicion in the storytelling.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I think the issue is the description is only covering the horrible assholes among the Southern Aristocracy. Yankee traders don’t look so good either is you start talking about the slave traders and the merchants involved in the trade. I mean “own slaves” pales in comparison to the toll of the Middle Passage.

        • Brian Donohue says:

          The Cavaliers were originally defenders of the monarchy against Cromwell. Nasty and libertine, but also bearers of a solid intellectual tradition, reflected in, among other things, their support for the establishment of the Royal Society in 1660.

          Isn’t Jefferson a blue tribe hero today?

          • Anonymous says:

            Jefferson is too problematic to be a straight up hero. For one thing, there’s that whole raped a 14 year old slave issue.

          • John Schilling says:

            Please don’t feed the anonymous troll

    • John Schilling says:

      The Soviets did sorta fix Islamism

      So did Ataturk, and he wasn’t exactly a communist.

      But we aren’t talking about Islamism, we’re talking about American culture. Before you go about trying to fix it, you’ll need to clearly establish that it’s broken and, if so, how. I’ll get the popcorn while you prepare that speech.

    • LPSP says:

      I’ll apply Occam’s Razor to that choice.

  52. Peter says:

    Re “sluggish and indolent”, I remembered reading an article on hookworm epidemic in the American South which may have contributed to sluggishness
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/nature/how-a-worm-gave-the-south-a-bad-name/

    • moridinamael says:

      Yeah – latitude is already strongly correlated with disease burden. If latitude is also correlated with cultural migration patterns, then that theory needs to explain things over and above what disease burden already explains.

    • For what it’s worth, Sowell’s Black Rednecks and White Liberals has some quotes from the period about northerners and Europeans doing much better in the south than southerners did.

      • Hollyluja says:

        +1 ! I was thinking about that book as well throughout the post, although IIRC he said that the Eubonics of today was descended from the Borderer (north England) accent, not the Cavalier (south England).

  53. David Moss says:

    The references to East Anglia being a hotbed of intellectualism sounds funny given that in England we also have the saying “normal for Norfolk” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-36082307) Rather like with American rednecks, there’s also the implication that they’re all inbred.

    This is giving something of an unfair picture though, Norwich, the main town of Norfolk can and does claim a grand intellectual history and of “doing different” (i.e. being radical and non-conformist).

    • Peter says:

      Cambridge seems to come into some definitions of East Anglia – and certainly seems to have been an inspiration for settlers in Massachusetts. However, Cambridge is also full of people from all around the country, and these days the world, and that’s where all of the intellectualism comes from.

  54. Steve Sailer says:

    Scott writes: “We can’t track Borderers directly because there’s no “Borderer” or “Scots-Irish” option on the US census.”

    Actually, the Census Bureau periodically asks a subset of Americans to name their “nationality” or “ancestry.” Scots-Irish is a choice. It tends to correlate geographically with people who choose “American.”

    It’s an interesting question, but the results are dubious since people are only allowed to pick one, and the results change so much from generation to generation that it clearly reflects fashion. For example, the number of Americans identifying as Germans has skyrocketed in the last few decades at the expense of English. This probably has to do with the fading of postwar Anglophilia and Teutonophobia rather than any kind of real change.

    • It’s an interesting question, but the results are dubious since people are only allowed to pick one

      Not since the 1990 census, which allowed people to pick multiple ancestry groups.

      and the results change so much from generation to generation that it clearly reflects fashion. For example, the number of Americans identifying as Germans has skyrocketed in the last few decades at the expense of English. This probably has to do with the fading of postwar Anglophilia and Teutonophobia rather than any kind of real change.

      Excellent point.

  55. hnau says:

    Part III of this post speculates that lots of American culture and in particular the Red Tribe / Blue Tribe divide may just be the result of the history and settlement patterns of the Puritans / Cavaliers / Quakers / Borderers. There seems to be the implication that some kind of cultural determinism is responsible for the way things are now.

    But there’s evidence even in this post that the actual picture is more complicated. First, later immigrants apparently attached themselves to these cultures and assimilated into them– surprising given that the original groups were so comparatively small. Second, slavery took hold in Virginia but not New England partly for climate reasons. Third, the Borderers were fine with living in the Appalachians because they were used to marginal, violent settings. There’s also the unexplained matter of *why* these four groups came to dominate the colonies, as opposed to (say) the Catholic settlers in Maryland or the Dutch and English merchants who were crucial in the early history of New York.

    With that context in mind, it seems more reasonable to conclude that what we’re seeing is a kind of selection bias: the cultures / ideologies that found success in early America have found success in modern America as well, in similar areas of the country and for similar reasons. In other words, cultures imported to America have gone through a process of memetic evolution. It’s more meaningful to say that modern Americans adopt Puritan / Borderer / Cavalier / Quaker ideologies because those ideologies were *successful in the American environment*, not because they happened to be the ideologies of (some) early settlers. Which is still a kind of determinism, I suppose, but it’s one that feels a lot less arbitrary.

    I also suspect that the value alignment between Quaker-Puritan / Cavalier-Borderer and modern Blue Tribe / Red Tribe is not nearly as robust as this post makes it out to be. To take one salient example: the leaders of the (Northern) Federalists and the (Southern) Democratic Republicans in early U.S. politics seem to line up in the exact opposite direction if anything. John Adams and Alexander Hamilton were confrontational, mercantile, interventionist religious believers; Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were intellectual, (theoretically) egalitarian, isolationist religious free-thinkers. I realize this is a hopelessly approximated picture, but as an analogy to modern American politics I find it considerably more compelling than the opposite point of view.

    • sabril says:

      It’s interesting that the Puritans all had to carry guns to church. And yet Massachusetts today has among the strongest anti-gun sentiments even among Blue States.

      If Massachusetts was pro-gun today, you could easily point to the Puritans bring their guns to church and arguing a connection.

      In other words, there may be a bit of a “just so story” aspect to Scott’s analysis.

      • AJD says:

        If Massachusetts was pro-gun today, you could make that connection, and you would very likely be right! Given that it’s not, it’s a fact in need of explanation.

        • sabril says:

          “If Massachusetts was pro-gun today, you could make that connection, and you would very likely be right! Given that it’s not, it’s a fact in need of explanation.”

          Well how do you verify that any particular explanation is correct?

          • AJD says:

            I’m a linguist, not a historian or sociologist. But I suspect the answer would be, look closely at the social and cultural situations that obtained during the period in which it changed. When did people stop being heavily armed in Massachusetts, and why? Was there, at the time, a rising ideology of non-violence in Congregational religious philosophy? Was there a decline in sources of external physical peril that made bearing arms less necessary for survival? How quickly did the population density and urbanization increase?

            In order to explain why something changed, you look at the situations in which it changed and see what forces were active at the time.

          • sabril says:

            “But I suspect the answer would be, look closely at the social and cultural situations ”

            Please do so and summarize what you see. TIA.

          • AJD says:

            No thanks! I’m a linguist, not a historian or sociologist.

          • sabril says:

            “If Massachusetts was pro-gun today, you could make that connection, and you would very likely be right! “

            In that case, ISTM we’re stuck with an unverified just-so story.

    • Samedi says:

      If you start your analysis with a fallacy, in this case the false dichotomy of red tribe/blue tribe, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the results of your analysis are not very robust.

      I think the meme concept could be useful in tracing cultural history. I imagine a memetic tree of life showing how cultural ideas evolved: how they changed, how they adapted, how they have formed the equivalent of species, etc.

  56. Steve Sailer says:

    I’m a big fan of Fischer’s book, but it’s pretty much American History With New York City left out, which is a big hole. One excuse for the current Hamilton Mania of Chernow and Miranda is that it’s a New York City-centric counterbalance to the dominance of Fischer’s model in recent decades.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Donald Trump’s appeal seems to be correlated with how locals feel about New York manners, which doesn’t fit in well at all with Fischer’s model, which is latitude based (the four groups spread westward in four layers). Instead Trump’s appeal seems to be more longitudinal.

      I don’t know whether this is a unique fluke or whether Fischer’s model is running out of steam after having a good long run.

      • Jack H says:

        I’m not a Diamond fan, because he left the genes out of what should have been genetic geographic determinism, but there is something to the longitudinal New World/latitudinal Eurasia dichotomy.

        Postbellum immigrants seem to follow somewhat more the longitudinal New World physical orientation of America, so that Jews and European Catholics tend to stay on the East Coast and migrate south as they age; Republicans of European Catholic origin I’d imagine are strong Trump supporters. Out west, we see Mexicans migrating up the inland agricultural valleys right from Bakersfield to Yakima.

        Even the Borderers’ expansion was more longitudinal (Appalachia) than those of the other three, and that too is reflected in Trump country.

  57. Thrwayaway says:

    I was really liking this post right until the point where you say that this is all terrible news and it means your own culture is going to have a hard time making everyone be as you think they should. Was the consideration of using genetic engineering to modify human behaviour en masse for real? I thought the problem with doing this was ethical in nature and not merely the fact that you thought culture was a better platform to accomplish it. Is diversity valuable by itself somehow, or is it only valuable as long as you are not sure which one of the varieties is the most Optimal? (Or you convince yourself none is)

    I get some weird vibes reading this blog from time to time, makes me worry humanity might not need AIs to fall victim to that kind of cognitive cancer, despite our best intentions… Utopia for me would be a worlds “over-culture” based around the idea of cultural diversity and mutual loyalty, mostly monocultural cities that maintain their traditions with a few big multicultural cities. Best of both worlds.

    Why do people want what they love to become mainstream and loved by everyone else? I’m bisexual and I would actually prefer a society where sexual deviancy is kind of taboo, for a lot of reasons, with decent cultural engineering this would be better for the deviants too! Like how witchcraft or black magic etc are simultaneously taboo and respected/appreciated in some cultures.

    For example, there is no need to destroy marriage as a ritual related to the masculine and feminine or to erase those polarities from a culture’s imaginarium. We can preserve all this and make new things that run in parallel or even complement. Might even find our former adversaries happy to lend us a hand if our plans don’t work through occupation and replacement. The way India deals (Or is portrayed to deal) with their countless schools of thought is a good example of the right attitude ingrained in an “over-culture”.

    I like the illiterate redneck with a shotgun and a darkly humorous warning sign outside his property who teaches you to hunt after you earn his respect by not being condescending and I like the hippy who respectfully offers his blood to a mosquito. The nerd who cultivates lucidity, never does drugs and wants to die like a Klingon with open eyes and the psychonaut staring at semi controlled hallucinations… Everybody is awesome until they start trying to fix or kill each other 🙁

    I wonder if a world where a relevant percentage of the population sees the beauty on their respective “opposites” is even possible, the whole concept is paradoxical and immediately makes a new division between people who are inside one of these polarities and people who mistakenly believe they aren’t.

    The situation in America looks interesting. Having two opposing cultures interacting with each other like that is a high risk-reward thing, yes, you could get civil war or the missed opportunity to develop two fine separate societies, but you could also get some really nice synthesis.

    It would help if people abandoned this silly democracy idea, its not real, the hypocrisy is absolute, even the most progressive democrat (As in proponents of democracy, no the party…) won’t allow for something like half the world voting on the american elections, as we should on account of the fact that your government governs us too! I’m going to take american democrats seriously when you start offering your votes by proxy to people from countries that had their democratic governments replaced by the CIA, the people who get fucked by Saudi Arabia, etc. I wonder how would it look if every person on earth was given a number of votes proportional to the amount of influence the US Government policies have on their person? (Unless they are being individually targeted for some reason like an investigation etc) That would be true democracy, for us humans at least. Pretty ilegal though.

    • Eli says:

      What in the name of the Emperor!?

      Excuse me, you seem to be a decent, understanding, and good-hearted human being who is actually capable of seeing the world’s people as people instead of as the chess-pieces of cultural abstractions. What are you doing here?

    • Jiro says:

      I’ll tell you what: I’m pretty affected by a lot of the things Europeans and other foreigners do. When I get to vote in *those* elections, maybe you can vote in US elections.

    • Pku says:

      I wonder if a world where a relevant percentage of the population sees the beauty on their respective “opposites” is even possible

      I’d say this is not only possible, but pretty much the norm in a lot of places (Not the internet, though. Here it’s sadly rare). It’s getting a bit rarer in America with the heightened political division, but go travelling somewhere aligned with the opposite tribe and you’ll still find most people friendly and helpful.

      But I don’t think Scott actually meant “we need to make everyone think like us in every way” so much as a hope that we could make moral progress of some kind. There are a lot of things where variety is good, but it does seem like there are some things, such as ending slavery, that are pretty objectively good to have happened everywhere. But if we’re fundamentally unable to change, that puts a bound on how much we can improve.

  58. SJ says:

    The pattern of indentured servitude in New England was different than that in Virginia and further South.

    Probably fitting to a culture so strong in education and skilled-trade. The indentured servant learned the skills, and was likely able to go into business for himself after finishing the contract of indenture.

    Anyway, one of my paternal ancestors entered into a contract of indenture to fund his trip to America from London. (Circa 1640, I think on one of the first few ships to enter Boston Harbor.)

    After finishing out his indenture, he moved to a different New England town.

    His descendants moved into the Ohio valley somewhere along the way. Most of the people who carry that family name have connections in Ohio.

    • Mary says:

      Indentured servants in New England were not bought en masse. One bought one or two to work in your business or on your farm. In the south, they worked plantains with them.

  59. Zippy says:

    The idea of Cavaliers and Borderers combining to form modern conservativism is buoyed by modern conservativism’s obvious Border influences, but complicated by its lack of much that is recognizably Cavalier – the Republican Party is hardly marked by its support for a hereditary aristocracy of gentlemen. Here I have to admit that I don’t know as much about Southern history as I’d like. In particular, how were places like Alabama, Mississippi, et cetera settled? Most sources I can find suggest they were set up along the Virginia model of plantation-owning aristocrats, but if that’s true how did the modern populations come to so embody Fischer’s description of Borderers? In particular, why are they so Southern Baptist and not very Anglican? And what happened to all of those indentured servants the Cavaliers brought over after slavery put them out of business? What happened to that whole culture after the Civil War destroyed the plantation system?

    Oh man, and here I thought I had wasted my time reading The Sahara of the Bozart! It isn’t a very scholarly text, of course, but it’s main thesis is that the Civil War killed off all southerners of value (i.e. Cavaliers/aristocrats) and that’s why the south is so… Borderery.

    (Forgive me if you’ve already read The Sahara of the Bozart. You may have, but it doesn’t even seem to be notable enough to warrant its own Wikipedia page.)

    • Mr. Wilson says:

      The funny thing is that very shortly after Mencken wrote it, the South became one of premier literary regions of the US (possibly as a response to it?) with the Southern Renaissance.

      And almost all popular in the world music derives from Southern genres, so it would seem the sands of the Bozart have shifted northwards.

      • Anon says:

        Almost all popular music in the world is influenced by Southern genres, but much of it derives from e.g. British music hall or Tin Pan Alley.

  60. Mr. Wilson says:

    I’m an actual descendant of Virginian planters, on my mother’s side. I’d agree that our people have been disappearing as a distinct group from the American cultural scene, disappearing into either the Red or Blue tribe depending on educational attainment and urbanism.

    My grandparents’ friends included a lot of retired judges, Episcopalian priests with rarefied accents, people with eight-point bucks on their wall, that sort. They had a set of black and redneck folks who’d do handiwork around the house for them, that they’d take care in a weird feudal way. Politics were vaguely liberal, in a very condescending (ha!) way. I think they liked Al Gore. Not the astrology-obsessed rapists-on-horseback of yore, but they still go in for twenty-minute sermons followed by hours of socializing on the church lawn. The accent doesn’t sound like modern African-American dialect, btw, although I’m sure they have a common source. Rather, it’s almost exactly like Elmer Fudd.

    My great-nth uncle is name-dropped by Thomas More in the second sentence of Utopia. A genealogical tree I once saw at a family reunion started with a fellow who came to Normandy from Norway with Rollo in AD 911.

    I think that milieu can still be found in a lot of Great American Novels (look at the surnames of famous southern lit authors, only a couple of Mc’s among them), and in chick flicks about one’s quirky family ruled by one’s alcoholic mother/father and living in Grey Gardensesque squalor.

    Also, large number of Great Gay Authors come from us. Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Gore Vidal, but also Armistead Maupin, Christopher Bram, Edward Albee, and Edmund White. Kind of curious, when you think about it.

    • Mr. Wilson says:

      My mother is telling me that it only sounds like Elmer Fudd to me because of the shaky old-people voice thing. But anyone who drives out to the country in the Chesapeake region and talks to an old person will know what I’m talking about.

    • My impression is that (non-ideological) homosexuality was an allowable eccentricity.

      • Mr. Wilson says:

        I think it was Evelyn Waugh who wrote that the English upper class will forgive you for sodomy, but that birth control was hopelessly middle class.

    • My grandparents’ friends included a lot of retired judges, Episcopalian priests with rarefied accents, people with eight-point bucks on their wall, that sort. They had a set of black and redneck folks who’d do handiwork around the house for them, that they’d take care in a weird feudal way. Politics were vaguely liberal, in a very condescending (ha!) way.

      Sounds like the precise cultural context of Wythe Leigh Kinsolving (I started the Wikipedia article about him).

      My great-nth uncle is name-dropped by Thomas More in the second sentence of Utopia.

      In other words, Cuthbert Tunstall.

      • Mr. Wilson says:

        Sounds like the precise cultural context of Wythe Leigh Kinsolving (I started the Wikipedia article about him).

        Sounds about right. My grandmother once told me that we should believe Saddam Hussein about WMDs because ‘Arabs are men of honor.’ Turned out to be right, but I can see why we no longer rule everything.

        In other words, Cuthbert Tunstall.

        Yes! Mostly shows up as an evil plotting bishop nowadays.

  61. AJD says:

    “Much like eg Unitarians today, the Puritans were…”

    This analogy is unsurprising, given that the present-day Unitarian Universalists are the direct institutional successors of the Puritans, in the most literal sense.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Explain?

      • AJD says:

        Unitarianism first took hold in North America among the churches of Massachusetts that had been founded by the Puritans and Pilgrims. Some quotes from Wikipedia: “New England Unitarians evolved from the Pilgrim fathers’ Congregational Christianity.” “In the United States, the Unitarian movement began primarily in the Congregational parish churches of New England.”

        What I meant by “direct institutional successors in the most literal sense” is simply that a typical New England church that was founded by Puritans in the 17th century is now a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association. The First Church in Boston, founded in 1630 as the parish church of such famous Puritans as John Winthrop, is now a Unitarian church. The same is true of the First Parish in Cambridge, the First Parish Church in Plymouth, etc.

        (The other main denominational affiliation of former Puritan congregations is the United Church of Christ, if I remember correctly.)

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Obama’s church in Chicago under Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a Puritan-descended United Church of Christ operation.

          A lot of Obama’s life history is connected to institutions founded by descendants of Puritans, like Punahou School, Occidental College, U. of Chicago and so forth.

        • Pablo says:

          The United Church of Christ is indeed the other main affiliate of old New England churches. The congregation at the center of the Salem Witch Trials, the First Church of Danvers, is now part of the UCC and I am sure the original members of that congregation would be shocked to learn that same-sex weddings are now performed there.

        • Zaxlebaxes says:

          Though, to be fair, the Baptists are the institutional successors of the Congregational Church, too. The thing about Congregationalism is that it’s Congregational. It’s not just a denomination in the doctrinal sense, but it’s own type of ecclesiastical polity. (I’m not putting this here just to do the problematizing thing I complain about elsewhere; I agree with you, but just wanted to mention this in case Scott was unfamiliar with the institutions.)

          Congregationalism is a way of governing a church where individual parishes pretty much have complete autonomy and are not subject to external hierarchies. Each congregation more or less democratically elects its elders, who I think choose its preacher too. For the Puritans, this worked hand-in-hand with the typical New England Town Meeting system of municipal government, which is still common in the area. All the land mass in Mass, Conn and RI is incorporated into towns and cities, and many are governed by open meetings and nominal direct democracy.

          When the Puritans were Puritan, people generally agreed on doctrine; those who differed on even minor theological points left Mass, which is how Conn and then RI were founded. So there was not so much variation. But as people’s religious beliefs waned and diversified over time, the congregational polity allowed the doctrines of individual parishes to drift with them. Where beliefs converged with modern secular liberalism, churches became Universalist. Some more middle-of-the-road Protestant churches became Church of Christ, I guess, but I’m not familiar with that one.

          And some parishes fell under the spell of a new set of beliefs that arose as part of the Great Awakening of the 18th Century. Where Methodists emerged in the south from the established Anglican Church, Baptists emerged from the Congregational Church, the established church of the New England provinces, despite having beliefs radically incongruent with the Calvinism of the Puritans. Thomas Jefferson was writing to reassure the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut when he talked about erecting a “wall of separation between church and state”–a wall to protect minorities like them.

          The Baptists retained the congregational polity, which is sometimes even called the “Baptist polity.” This results in some weird (from a Catholic perspective) situations, including one where I had to send a card to a Baptist “bishop”; the best I can tell, she just kind of decided to grant herself the title, with her friends’ support, in honor of service.

          None of this is to subtract much from AJD’s point. The Unitarians definitely seem good candidates for the cultural descendants of the Puritan stock, more than the Baptists. I was just adding that it doesn’t necessarily say much that they are the institutional descendants of churches mostly lacking mechanisms of institutional and especially ideological stability.

      • AM says:

        Many UU congregations in Massachusetts were originally founded by the Puritans (and then over time became Congregationalist, then Unitarian, then UU). For instanceFirst Parish Cambridge was, in fact, the first parish in Cambridge.

        • AM says:

          (I missed AJD’s comment above, which says basically what I said — though UUs were influenced by other traditions as well, and the Puritan history is much less noticeable outside of Massachusetts, which has a high concentration of UU churches for historical reasons.)

      • Deiseach says:

        The attitude to religion from the son of a Congregationalist minister: Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. from 1858 “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table”:

        I am not a Churchman,—I don’t believe in planting oaks in flower-pots,—but such a poem as “The Rosebud” makes one’s heart a proselyte to the culture it grows from. Talk about it as much as you like,—one’s breeding shows itself nowhere more than in his religion. A man should be a gentleman in his hymns and prayers; the fondness for “scenes,” among vulgar saints, contrasts so meanly with that—

        “God only and good angels look
        Behind the blissful scene,”—

        and that other,—

        “He could not trust his melting soul
        But in his Maker’s sight,”—

        that I hope some of them will see this, and read the poem, and profit by it.

        (“Churchman” in the above means “belonging to the Church of England in particular, Anglicanism/Episcopalianism in other contexts”, not “religious believer”. He’s quoting from a poem by Keble, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement).

        You see? The doctrinal content is not the issue, one should be a gentleman (or, presumably, a lady) about it 🙂 It’s very easy to winnow out any dogma from that spirit and end up with a progressive church running by a general rule of “We should be nice to each other because niceness is nice”, a very active social charity/social justice ethos, and functional if not actual atheism.

  62. Sean says:

    You seem to edge very close to considering the notion that Trump supporters might just have a point in urging caution on mass immigration from parts of the world that have deep cultural differences from us. Did the thought cross your mind?

    As an aside, I’m a descendant from an unbroken line of borderers reaching all the way back to the founding of the country. Nevertheless, this is still my favorite blog. Another great read.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t know that you need the nevertheless, I think ya’ll form a plurality around here.

      • Sean says:

        News to me, although in retrospect it’s not all that surprising. Scott is at least willing to give notions that don’t fit the standard politically correct narrative a fair hearing, even if he disagrees. Having lived in the bay area for a number of years, now, that’s far better than I am accustomed to.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes, mass immigration has extraordinary potential risks as well as extraordinary potential benefits.

      The strongest argument I can think of against this is that immigrants tend to retain their culture more when they are founding new communities made up entirely of themselves, rather than dispersing into existing communities of natives. I don’t know how important this is, but certainly eg the Irish Catholics who came in the 1840s don’t seem to have maintained as separate and influential a culture as the Scotch-Irish.

      This is definitely a post for another day.

      • E. Harding says:

        “I don’t know how important this is, but certainly eg the Irish Catholics who came in the 1840s don’t seem to have maintained as separate and influential a culture as the Scotch-Irish.”

        -Those Irish Catholics became the seeds of the North turning Democratic. I think that’s pretty important.

      • Deiseach says:

        the Irish Catholics who came in the 1840s don’t seem to have maintained as separate and influential a culture as the Scotch-Irish

        Oh, this is a large area to cover! 1840s emigration would largely have been driven by the Famine, and there’s plenty of academic work on the massive changes in Irish society and culture pre- and post-Famine (things like, quickly off the top of my head: pre-Famine, the same model as the Scots-Irish of early marriage/pregnancy out of wedlock or before wedlock; post-Famine, late and delayed marriage, high levels of bachelors and spinsters as land/wealth was concentrated in leaving the land to the eldest son and a dowry for the eldest daughter, etc.)

        There’s an interesting pamphlet produced in 1902 and given as an address to the Irish Statistical and Social Enquiry Society of Ireland entitled Ireland Since The Famine (not to be confused with FSL Lyons’ textbook of the same name) that talks about the huge changes brought about in Ireland (including increases in lunacy).

        Irish emigrants in the 1840s were under strong social pressure to assimilate and not “stand out”; a lot of this started in Ireland itself where various authorities from the British government to the Catholic bishops blamed or tried to shift the blame onto the bad old behaviour of the people: if only they would settle down and be good British subjects, said the government, and if only they would settle down and adopt ‘Victorian values’ of thrift and sobriety and hard work, said the Church, then a like disaster could never happen again.

        Irish emigrants into America and Canada tended to land into large ports which were associated with large cities, because that’s where the ships docked. Having landed there, and with no real assets (people from a low socio-economic class fleeing death via starvation and fever tend not to have a lot of ready cash on hand) they remained in the cities looking for work and only moved out gradually, following the railway lines which provided both employment and transport. This effect was reinforced by later waves of emigrants who, upon arrival, depended on family or local connections to find work, a place to stay, etc. and started a clustering effect where people ended up in the same neighbourhoods of the same cities amongst their own ethnic grouping instead of striking out to the wide open plains or the mountains and setting up their own enclaves.

        They were arriving at a later date into a more settled and fixed society with its own culture and so less chance to stamp their own character onto it (think of the Nativist movement and the “Know-Nothing” party which established itself explicitly in opposition to the mass Irish Catholic immigration). So the later Irish Catholic emigrants were not arriving as one more group into virgin territory that they could settle and make to their own model, they were arriving into an environment that was alien at best and actively hostile at worst.

        Shedding the marks of poverty and backwardness and assimilating as much and as quickly as possible was seen as a good thing by the emigrants. The Irish language at home was seen as marking you for, and as a, failure and learning English was the way to go (“the perfect language to sell pigs in”)*. Adopting American values in how you spoke, thought, dressed, acted was both survival and the ladder to success. See the idea of “lace curtain Irish” versus “bog Irish” 🙂 They hung on to their religion but practiced it in a respectable American fashion, and the American St Patrick’s Day parades were a different matter to the Irish ones (we didn’t tend to have them).

        *To quote from Michael Hartnett’s 1975 work “A Farewell to English”:

        Extract of ‘A Farewell to English’ Part Seven

        This road is not new.
        I am not a maker of new things.
        I cannot hew
        out of the vacuumcleaner minds
        the sense of serving dead kings.

        I am nothing new
        I am not a lonely mouth
        trying to chew
        a niche for culture
        in the clergy-cluttered south.

        But I will not see
        great men go down
        who walked in rags
        from town to town
        finding English a necessary sin
        the perfect language to sell pigs in.

        I have made my choice
        and leave with little weeping:
        I have come with meagre voice
        to court the language of my people.

      • sabril says:

        “The strongest argument I can think of against this is that immigrants tend to retain their culture more when they are founding new communities made up entirely of themselves”

        Another thing to consider is that today’s immigrants can and do have easy communication with their mother countries.

      • Sean says:

        That appears to be what’s going on in Europe at the present. America has historically done a better job of assimilating Muslims, who generally do perfectly fine here. Whether that pattern would continue if we were to bring in large volumes of immigrants from the current wave from Syria is an open question.

        Of course hard core multiculturalists may take issue with the suggestion that migrants retaining their original culture is an undesirable outcome.

        • NN says:

          Though I’ve been looking into this issue in some depth recently, and I’ve found that while European countries are generally having trouble with immigrants, different countries are having different problems. British Muslims display high levels of religious fundamentalism and social conservatism, with polls finding that only 5% of British Muslims approve of abortion, 3% approve of premarital sex, and 0% (!) approve of homosexuality.

          French Muslims, meanwhile, actually are assimilating into France’s secular and liberal culture: surveys find that fewer than 5% of French Muslims attend mosques weekly, that a full 20% of French people with Muslim backgrounds no longer identify as Muslim, and on social issues 35% of French Muslims approve of homosexuality, 35% approve of abortion, and 48% approve of premarital sex. Most surprisingly, 42% of French Muslims support France’s ban on hijab in public schools. But despite the apparent cultural assimilation, France’s immigrant population is, of course, having various problems with ghettoization, crime, and terrorism.

          Some of these issues likely have to do with regional cultural norms rather than religion, broadly defined. It has been pointed out that all of the terrorists involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks have North African backgrounds, and none of them have come from Belgium’s large Turkish Muslim population. It has also been reported that the vast majority of individuals that have been tied to the New Year’s Eve attacks in Germany are migrants from North Africa, not Syria. Terrorists are disproportionately likely to have a criminal record, so the same factors are probably at work here. Though that does raise the question of why Algeria has one of the lowest homicide rates of any developing country.

          Whether that pattern would continue if we were to bring in large volumes of immigrants from the current wave from Syria is an open question.

          Considering that Somali refugees have done pretty well in America despite doing poorly in other countries, and that Lebanese immigrants, who came from the same part of the world during a very similar situation to the current one in Syria, have turned out just fine, I don’t think that America would have any problems with taking in Syrian immigrants.

        • dndnrsn says:

          North America in general has done a better job of integrating immigrants, from anywhere. Whereas in some EU countries, immigrants from other EU countries are considered a problem.

  63. Mirzhan Irkegulov says:

    Virginian aristocrats would rape their own female servants, then add a penalty term on to their indenture for becoming pregnant. That is an impressive level of chutzpah.

    I was really surprised by this passage. How is this chutzpah really different from, e.g., a routine practice used by rich people in Russia to hire illegal migrant workers for some job, then to call cops on them, so as to not pay for the job?

    • That’s chutzpah too.

    • E. Harding says:

      Gulf Arab oil barons do similar stuff.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Unsurprisingly, we non-Russians have lower standards for what level of horribleness surprises us.

      • James Kabala says:

        Is there a word in English (or any other language) for what we might call “reverse naivete” – when you just assume everyone is thoroughly despicable? (I guess “cynicism” and other words kind of fit the bill, but the way this comment started off – “I was really surprised etc.” really came off as golly-gee-whizness in reverse.)

  64. James Bond says:

    I think that there is still a strong Cavalier influence in the Red tribe, considering the general red tribe mentality about income inequality. The red tribe is against things such as inheritances taxes which, and a lack of an income tax makes it easier to have the sort of “Freedom” that a Cavalier wanted. You dont need slaves when you can inherit $100 million and then live off the interest, dividends, and whatever other passive income that you can get. You need a level of income inequality before you can have a “life of leisure”. There is also the stereotype of Southern Hospitality, which would descend from the sort of hospitality nobility would extend to their guests.The culture of hunting for sport and collecting weaponry(guns in this case) bears some semblence to the way that Europen nobility collect their ancestors swords and go fox hunting. The Red Tribe is also far more likely to say that certain people are inherently better than other, how a lord would think about his inferiors. Wealthy people arent lucky or winners of some power structure, they are better. They are superior in their intelligence ( hereditary talent, tends to run in families), their grit( culture), and networking ability( more genetic than one would expect and also tends to run in families).

  65. James Kabala says:

    Potential readers should not be scared away: I think this book actually is light reading for a history book. (Look at how Scott himself picked up dozens of colorful facts, some of which are merely anecdotal or of dubious value.) Do not fear that it will be 900 pages of charts – it is not.

    I might have more remarks later, but for now: “the historical Whigs and Republicans who preceded the modern Democratic Party” and “the Democratic-Republicans who preceded the modern Republican Party” are not statements of which I can approve. The long and complex history of the party system cannot be summed up “as some point they just kind of switched.” There are continuities in the parties even if their electoral bases and much (not all) of their platforms have altered.

    Also, you might want to read Perry Miller for more balanced views on the Puritans. (I actually remember Fischer as being relatively pro-Puritan, but Scott seems to have extracted every possible unpleasant anecdote.)

    • E. Harding says:

      “I might have more remarks later, but for now: “the historical Whigs and Republicans who preceded the modern Democratic Party” and “the Democratic-Republicans who preceded the modern Republican Party” are not statements of which I can approve.”

      -They’re good ’nuff. The pre-Civil-War Whigs were notoriously non-sectional, but they always won Vermont and Massachusetts, the most Yankee/Puritan-descended part of the country. Same with the Republicans until the 1920s, same with the Dems after the 1980s.

      • James Kabala says:

        But he isn’t just saying that they carry certain states, but that they “preceded” as if they actually evolved into the modern parties. New England did not change from Republican to Democratic until after the Yankees become outnumbered by the Irish and other immigrants (although it is true that the few Yankees who have been prominent in relatively recent politics – e.g., Lowell Weicker, Bill Weld, John and Lincoln Chafee, Howard Dean, Charlie Baker – have generally been liberal if not always Democratic).

        • James Kabala says:

          Unrelated P.S.

          Newark is a perfectly cromulent English town name (in Nottinghamshire) – the “New Ark of the Covenant” origin of the New Jersey city is probably a myth.

  66. Tom Scharf says:

    I did 5 minutes of checking here.

    Margin of victory for Trump.

    Borderer / Unhyphenated Redneck States, Land of Racists.
    WV N/A
    KY 4%
    TN 14%
    AK 3%
    OK -6% Cruz
    TX -16% Cruz
    LA 3%
    AL 22%

    Northeast, where all the smart multicultural tolerant people live.
    NY 35%
    CN 30%
    MA 31%
    VT 3%
    NH 19%
    RI 40%
    ME -13% Cruz

    Hmmmmm. I don’t expect that analysis to find its way into the NYT. My guess the likely reason for this is because people in the NE are total xenophobic morons with dubious ancestry are not as religiously affiliated and Trump is a NY native. There are many confounders of course, if you look at margin of total red + blue votes cast the numbers may switch around in blue dominated states.

    • Pku says:

      That’s margin *within the republican party* though, so unless you multiply by percentage of republicans it’s not very useful.

    • keranih says:

      I like these numbers because they let me laugh at snobby Yankees, buuuuutttttt…

      without knowing if the primaries are open or closed, and what the estimated percentage of cross over protest votes are, this data is not very useful.

    • James Bond says:

      I also think that in an area of pure blue tribe , those in the Red tribe will probably be more actively Red. When your default culture is Blue and the default party is Democratic, those who are uninterested in politics, nuetral, or even just mildly red, will drift over to the Blue side and just not vote. To vote in a Republican primary in a solid Blue state, you have to be a solid Red, and also very willing to associate yourself with the Red tribe. The sort of brashness and solid Red status necessary to go to a Republican primary in a blue state, overwhelmingly favors Trump.

      • E. Harding says:

        Cruz is the reddest candidate. Northeastern Republicans like dishonest non-ideological belief-free flip-floppers like Romney and McCain. Trump fits the bill.

        BTW, I support Trump, so it’s not like I’m promoting Cruz here. But at least you know where Cruz stands. Nobody knows which position Trump, Romney, or McCain will take next.

        • James Bond says:

          Cruz is the most ideologically Red, but Trump personifies that gung ho in terms of his red tribe associations. He is loud and brash and he talks in a very working class way. Even though both Trump and Cruz went to elite institutions (Wharton for Trump and Harvard Law or Cruz), Cruz seems far more cerebral to the public, and he is far more famed for his scholarship. I think that if you want to really associate yourself with the Red tribe, publicly supporting Trump is the right way to do it. ( I dont mean that in a negative way im a gray/red tribe type). Supporting Cruz either makes you seem reilgious or like an ideologue. Trump is a personification of the red -tribe, especially the tough talking values that it loves.

    • Tom Scharf says:

      I detect a bit of confirmation bias in the objections. Cover your eyes if you wish. Nobody is demanding rigor from a hyphenated name analysis (of all things) that paints a picture everyone is comfortable with. If these numbers were reversed I don’t think many people would be objecting?

      I did this on a whim and was actually kind of surprised given the current meme. There are lots of things that can cause problems here, some states had more candidates in play, etc. It’s certainly not the whole story, but it is a counterfactual to what is currently being sold. I’m not pretending this is scholarly work.

      • suntzuanime says:

        I’m probably one of the most pro-Trump people in this comments section, but I agree with the objections. There’s a huge amount of selection bias in who participates in a Republican primary, which makes these results next to meaningless.

        Personally I don’t buy into the meme that Trump is a border reaver cattle rustler either, but your analysis doesn’t really prove it. Some of the requirements that go along with “scholarly” work are there to make sure you’re actually saying meaningful things instead of bullshitting, and if anything, scholarly work is not strict enough about them.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Trump has done best in the northeast followed by the southeast. Cruz does best in the southern Great Plains.

      The GOP race has been pretty much orthogonal to Fischer’s latitude-based model.

      Fischer’s version of American history is laid out in layers north-south lines, with four different kinds of Brits moving west along their original latitudes: e.g., the Puritan/ Yankees from East England were the furthest northern group, moving from New England through Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and to the Pacific Northwest. The Pennsylvanians were Quakers and their German allies who moved west through Ohio and Iowa to Los Angeles. The Borderers/Scots Irish were frontiersman who moved west from inland Virginia through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and terminating, like Merle Haggard, in Bakersfield. The Lowland Southerners were southern English who became the deep Southerners.

      Trump however has turned this cozy framework 90 degrees into an east-west framework instead of Fischer’s north-south. He’s popular east of the Mississippi, doing well in primaries in both Massachusetts and Mississippi, but doing more poorly the further west in the center of America you go, with Cruz dominating in the Great Plains.

      I don’t really understand this new geography — latitude is usually more important than longitude — but that’s another thing that makes Trump interesting after a long era of political stagnation.

      • AJD says:

        (I thiiiink Iowa was mostly part of the Northern settlement stream, not the Midland settlement stream. At least that’s what the dialectological data indicates.)

        (Also, was the North Midland settlement stream really the Quakers? I thought the North Midland and South Midland were both chiefly driven by the Borderers.)

      • anon says:

        Without denying your point more broadly, it strikes me that the entire history of eastern Europe seems like a pretty important case where longitude dominates latitude. And that’s basically a story about waves of east-to-west migration, as far as I understand, although I don’t know the geography well enough to say if there’s an element of Diamond-esque geophraphic determinism at play. A first thought is that it’s more about the Dneiper basin (and associated avenues for Viking longboat raiding) than about longitude per se.

    • Rob K says:

      As a (non-native) Bostonian I wasn’t at all surprised by this. If you made the Boston Herald into a person it would talk quite a bit like Trump.

  67. zodphaybroxlebeeb says:

    “The Pennsylvania Quakers became very prosperous merchants and traders. They also had a policy of loaning money at low- or zero- interest to other Quakers, which let them outcompete other, less religious businesspeople.”

    That sounds like the J–
    Um… the Jains.

  68. Matt says:

    ” Attitudes about African-Americans are a major reason why the once solidly Democratic South has become a Republican stronghold”

    from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/03/03/how-political-science-helps-explain-the-rise-of-trump-the-role-of-white-identity-and-grievances/

    It seems Scott’s story was just that, a story.

    • E. Harding says:

      Yes; all the African Americans in West Virginia.

      Attitudes about African-Americans were a major reason for why the Deep South was the only region to vote solidly for Goldwater in 1964. They are no longer very important in explaining American political divides.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think this is very misleading. My heuristic, which isn’t perfect but which is better than not doing this, is to replace every reference to “Democrat” before 1965 with “Republican”, and every reference to “Republican” before 1965 with “Democrat”. The parties switched names but otherwise stayed intact.

      Do that, and your claim becomes “Attitudes about African-Americans are a major reason why the solidly Republican South remains solidly Republican”, which is somewhat true, although downstream from other factors.

      • keranih says:

        …This does not seem logical or accurate to me.

        It strongly reminds me of Soviet-style historical revision, which isn’t a comparison I like making.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        What policies changed?

        The parties didn’t switch names. This is revisionism by people who are ashamed of the history of the party they affiliate with.

        • LHN says:

          Yeah, the idea that, e.g., Wilson and FDR map to modern Republicans or that Taft and Coolidge map to modern Democrats at least seems like a thesis that would require substantial work to support.

          • James Kabala says:

            The electoral bases changed (but even there not entirely – the Democrats of the Northeast are mostly descendants of immigrants, not of the Puritans). The principles of the parties changed in some areas and not in others. I tried to make this point as well below.

            I think there is a distinct Republican personality – or rather two versions, the Mr. Burns version and the Ned Flanders version. The former may have switched from pro-tariff to pro-free-trade (unless he is Donald Trump) and the latter now may be pro-life and anti-gay instead of anti-slavery and pro-temperance, and both may now live in Georgia or Utah instead of Massachusetts or Ohio, but there is a continuity of personality type even if not of genetic descent. The Democrats have more genuine discontinuity.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            James Kabala –

            What discontinuity?

            The attitude of the Democratic party is a pretty consistent running theme. Their attitudes toward the public today are little removed from their attitudes towards slaves; if you don’t control people’s choices, they’ll ruin themselves and those around them, because they’re not smart enough to organize their own lives, and too selfish to make the correct decisions. They’ve held the same policies for the past hundred years; gun control (nominally today it’s not about disarming blacks, but in practice that’s mostly what it does), a strong welfare state, mandatory indoctrination through education (those who disagree with them are insufficiently educated), and eugenics (now merely hinted at through their belief in the “Idiocracy” vision of the future).

            The puritanical streak of the Republican party is little-changed as well; people are smart enough to manage their own lives, but vulnerable to temptation, so it’s the job of government to eliminate or at least reduce temptation. They’ve changed little; opposition to drinking and other inebriants, opposition to pornography, opposition to non-reproductive sex, opposition to sex outside marriage, etc. (Indeed, because of the puritanical obsession with temptation, Republicans are largely defined by what they oppose, rather than what they support).

          • E. Harding says:

            But Wilson and 1932 FDR do map to modern Republicans geographically, though not ideologically.

      • Nornagest says:

        This is only really useful when you’re talking about civil rights topics, and pretty rough even then — Strom Thurmond was a Democrat, for example, and he was one of the strongest voices against civil rights right up until his death in 2003.

        The Republicans have been pro-business since their inception, and there are other planks that have remained constant. There have also been realignments other than the Southern Strategy one — the Democrats went through a major one with the New Deal coalition, for example, becoming less of a rural and more of a technocratic party especially in the North and West.

        • E. Harding says:

          Kennedy and Al Smith were more important in Democratic realignment than FDR. All FDR accomplished was the Great Plains becoming even more solidly Republican than they used to be, as well as inviting Blacks into the Democratic party.

          Thurmond became a Republican in 1964, as he was pretty conservative.

      • My heuristic, which isn’t perfect but which is better than not doing this, is to replace every reference to “Democrat” before 1965 with “Republican”, and every reference to “Republican” before 1965 with “Democrat”. The parties switched names but otherwise stayed intact.

        That has a little bit of superficial rightness, and I suppose it makes a few things easier to understand, but it is so, so wrong.

        Yes, the states voting Republican in the 1896 election are almost precisely the states that voted Democratic in the 1996 election, and vice versa, but a lot changed during that century.

        Both parties have institutional continuity going back 150 or more years. There were realignments at various points, but there was never a moment when everybody switched sides. Millions of people spent their whole political lives in one party or the other, and the strands of those lives overlap each other in a thick braid going back a century and a half, as the parties themselves adapted and re-adapted to constantly changing conditions.

        As others have pointed out, there is a continuity among Republican figures like the presidents McKinley, Taft, Coolidge, and Eisenhower, and a continuity among Democratic figures like William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, Al Smith, FDR, and JFK.

        Depending on the issue, the Democratic leaders of a given era were typically more conservative than their Republican contemporaries. For a long time it would make sense to refer to the Democratic Party as the more conservative party, and the Republicans as the comparatively liberal party. But on the whole, both parties were far less ideological than they are today.

        The one area where you can make a case for a clear reversal is on the issue of race, and even there, the story is complicated, the neglect by both parties was profound, and the change took decades.

  69. Deor says:

    Fischer’s theories are very controversial among historians, and I think they are a gross distortion. Where are the Finns — the actual first European settlers in the Appalachians — or the Germans who settled the Shenandoah Valley? Western Maryland and central Pennsylvania are MUCH more German than they are Borderer.

    Another problem with these stereotypes: the most fearsome soldiers in 17th-century America were New England Puritans. By the time the Borderers came along the really serious Indian wars, the ones that threatened the existence of the colonies, had already been won. Nor is it really true that Borderers are over-represented among American military leaders. For every Grant there is a Lee (cavalier), for every Jackson a Sherman (one of the oldest Puritan families). In Maryland where I live the western part of the state was German-settled and was strongly pro-Union during the Civil War, but now it is a stronghold of the Klan.

    One can also point to lots of problems with the continuity model. Not just Michigan but the northern halves of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois were also mainly settled by New Englanders. If rural Indiana is now Republican country, that has nothing to do with the origin of its settlers.

    The Civil War is key in how all of this related to modern politics. Until 1860 Southerners were over-represented in the Federal government and many supported a strong state. It was their loss to anti-slavery forces in the 1860 election and then the war that turned them, for generations, against the Federal government.

    Absolutely nothing in history is as simple as Fischer makes this out to be.

    • Absolutely nothing in history is as simple as Fischer makes this out to be.

      Hear, hear.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I would suggest that NOTHING in history is ever as simple as it’s made out to be.

        • onyomi says:

          +1

          Academics love to “complicate” and undercut any attempts to generalize because you can always find exceptions and shades of grey. The question is, is our necessarily imperfect grasp of reality enhanced (or confused) by such generalizations.

          • See, the problem is that Occam’s Razor doesn’t work (consistently) in human affairs, notably politics. Any ringing clear conclusion about a man-made historical event is likely not to be literally true.

            Sometimes historians gloss over this with carefully chosen words. Frankly, I have done this myself. The trouble comes when someone who is not familiar with the detailed history summarizes the conclusion in different words, or presumes what seem like reasonable inferences, which are untrue, and worse yet, grossly misrepresent the circumstances.

            Already a couple times in this thread, in regard to the U.S. Civil War, I have had to rebut the seemingly reasonable but preposterous idea that the North went to war to free the slaves.

          • onyomi says:

            It is true that generalizations are often abused, but I get very frustrated by a culture in academia which works to prevent one even trying to say anything interesting. Even with a 900-page book to back up the thesis Scott summarized in a few thousand words, of course something like this would be controversial among historians.

            Not that people shouldn’t debate or, if appropriate, try to thoroughly debunk a book like this which is, in some sense, an invitation to further study. And yes, bigger theories are more likely to be problematic. But let’s not say “historians think the issue is more complicated than this, so let’s just drop the idea altogether” (unless the idea proves to be genuinely more obscuring than helpful).

            Re. the Civil War, consider the statement: “slavery caused the Civil War.” Overgeneralized? Yes. Potentially misleading? Yes. Untrue? No. So yeah, it’s totally appropriate to add nuance, but let’s not say the statement “slavery caused the Civil War” should be thrown out entirely. Because it’s not only basically true, but also points clearly to the big issues in play.*

            *(Though I’d agree with you that “the North went to war to free the slaves” is, I think, untrue enough as to be more misleading than helpful as a generalization; the reality, of course, is they decided halfway through that ending the institution of slavery was what it was “really” about, and that only by doing so could future rifts related to, e. g. the slave/free status of new Western states be avoided).

            Relevant SMBC: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2475

            (Not saying you said anything belonging on “Mt. Stupid”; just that there is a certain kind of halfbaked “knowledge” of exceptions and details which people not uncommonly use to undercut useful generalizations).

          • Zaxlebaxes says:

            Coming from an advanced degree program in history and social science at a top-tier university, I have to say that this tendency can rarely be exaggerated. My school has fortunately held back some of the most excessive practices of the stereotypical “critical victim studies” programs, and it retains a commitment to intellectual rigor that IMO makes it stand out from comparable social science schools like those in the Ivies. However, the sheer domination of “critical” approaches, compared to actually making bold, affirmative arguments, still drove me half mad.

            I think the crux of the problem is that it is just so much easier to problematize an existing idea than to come up with your own. It’s a truism that models and heuristics and generalizations fail to capture everything, but whereas people in most harder modeling disciplines recognize this as a necessary feature of models, and they evaluate generalizations with regard to their utility, historians have this failure mode where a model’s imperfection is sufficient cause to call open season on it.

            Part of this comes out of the historical method we are taught; the graduate discipline in our country comes largely from the influence of Germans like Leopold von Ranke and my own university. This is good stuff–rigorously interrogating historical sources and seeking imaginative empathy and understanding with historical actors are central–but the focus on an ideographic versus nomothetic approach leads us to be the ones at the table typically saying, “But it’s actually more complicated because…”

            So we’re trained to do that, as much if not more than we are trained to actually balance evidence to evaluate the broad validity of a general argument. And we read an argument and come into the seminar, and the typical graduate history student immediately faces a choice: agree with the book’s thesis or disagree on some grounds or another. In the first case, it is not necessarily as bold as proposing your own argument, but it is still an assertion requiring evidence; the amount of evidence you offer and cite to defend the argument is the cost of doing so. The benefit you derive from successfully doing so is status and recognition for your contribution to the discussion, and if you’re defending the book’s argument, you don’t gain many points for novelty. The more obviously defensible someone else’s claim, the less interesting your contribution. So this is a high-cost/high-risk (of losing an argument in front of your professor), possibly low-reward strategy.

            If you opt to problematize the book, though, you are making an argument that appears novel and edgy, but which is a much smaller and easily defended claim. This sort of claim, which boils down to “this model is imperfect” is in actuality an easy and even trivial point to make, but is cloaked in the magical history applause lights of the ideographic approach and critical theory. Use the right buzzwords to problematize the narrative, and you essentially sacrifice the historian’s work on a post-structural, postmodern altar.

            It becomes immediately apparent that this is the way to succeed, even if you want to go a different way. Because the seminar is a twelve-person prisoner’s dilemma where cutting down someone else’s argument for its imperfections is the “defect” option and steelmanning is cooperation. It becomes a race to the bottom to see who can critically problematize the most, while trying to go the other way gets you practically shouted down. Once a work starts getting this treatment (Marx and the Frankfurt School are often spared, of course, but precious few others), the outcome is determined. The work has passed the event horizon.

            The result is that nothing is true anymore, and that we spend our time “questioning” “unchallenged narratives” that actually no one my age believes anymore because we were never taught any affirmative historical narratives in the first place.

            EDIT: Incidentally, whenever I read one of Scott’s reviews, it tends to shock me, because I am still totally unused to someone actually acknowledging that an historical argument though imperfect may be broadly useful without at least spending 30% of the time signalling their ambivalence and agonizing over the dangers of generalization.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I agree with Zaxlebaxes. I did my time in history and related disciplines, and often the best way to deal with things is to basically say “it’s complicated” and avoid having hard-and-fast stances.

            “It could be argued that XYZ” is more defensible than “XYZ”, because you can fall back a lot more.

          • onyomi says:

            I feel like there very much should be, yet very much isn’t a norm in academia of mentally adding “of course there are exceptions and grey areas, but the evidence to me at this point seems to suggest… though I’m open to different interpretations and could be totally wrong” to every … anyone says.

            This, I believe, is because the currency of academia is status, and status in academia consists in having a reputation for smartness, and the easiest way to seem smart is to say “well, actually, it’s more complicated than that…”

    • Paul G says:

      Here’s something ironic: In the midst of a post criticizing how Fischer oversimplifies the complexities of the historical record, Deor asserts as historical facts some simple statements about history that are erroneous precisely because they lack any real nuance.

      Nor is it really true that Borderers are over-represented among American military leaders. For every Grant there is a Lee (cavalier), for every Jackson a Sherman (one of the oldest Puritan families).

      Deor’s inclusion of Sherman in this list indicates that he fails to grasp that Fischer doesn’t claim that it’s the four groups’ genetic heritage that is at issue. Rather, Fischer’s point is that it’s the cultural heritages of these groups that matters for understanding American history. Sherman was of good Puritan stock. As a general, however, he was the consummate Borderer: ruthless and vicious towards enemies who still fight back, magnanimous and generous towards enemies who have surrendered. For the purpose of historical analysis, Sherman’s genetic heritage is immaterial. For all intents and purposes, he was a Borderer.

      If rural Indiana is now Republican country, that has nothing to do with the origin of its settlers.

      This error is tied to the point above. It has nothing to do with the genetic heritage of its settlers; it has everything to do with what became the dominant culture of its settlers. While Quakers and Puritans were certainly the first to move there, the later Borderers established the state’s dominant culture.

      It was [Southerners’] loss to anti-slavery forces in the 1860 election and then the war that turned them, for generations, against the Federal government.

      This, as a broad generalization, is simply false. Mark David Ledbetter makes this point very clear in the first two volumes of his magnificent America’s Forgotten History series: Foundations and Rupture. Southerners had a deep general hostility towards federal government power from the very beginning. Even the one massively glaring and stupendously hypocritical exception to that hostility — slavery — didn’t develop until the late 1830s at the earliest. And after the Civil War, Southerners kept their massively inconsistent and stupendously hypocritical streak: they generally opposed the use of federal power except when it supported and enabled Jim Crow laws. Thus, they lauded Plessy v. Ferguson and many of Wilson’s racist policies.

      The lesson IMO is that reality is always more complicated than our explanations of it. That goes for history, but also for any other disciplines that purports to explain how the world works, including the physical sciences. If we don’t simplify it to at least some degree, we usually can’t explain it. The only question is whether the simplifying filter we use corresponds to what actually happened, and Fischer’s certainly seems to IMO.

      • brad says:

        I’m considering getting that book, but I’m concerned about this part of the description:
        “Modern historians extol activist war-like presidents, high taxes, super government, and aggressive international militarism. The Constitution, as it was written and intended, makes all that impossible.”

        Is it mostly history or a lot of polemics?

      • Deor says:

        Generalization is essential for understanding everything. I just don’t like some of Fischer’s generalizations. For example, what about Indians? If anybody in North America was really suspicious of government and devoted to freedom (for men, anyway) it was the Plains Indians. Could it be that America’s devotion to personal freedom, compared to Europe, has something to do with our exposure to Indians? And I agree with Russell Shorto (The Island at the Center of the World) that the commercial culture of American cities owes a lot to the Dutch. The rural culture of the Middle Atlantic states and Appalachia owes a great deal to German immigrants. And what about Africa?

        It is also important to ask, if certain things about 17th-century cultures survived into the 21st century, why those things and not others? Survival of cultural norms through 300 years of upheaval is not a given, and has to be considered in detail. I have offered the generalization that the political differences between north and south in the US represent 17th-century differences as refracted through the lens the Civil War. The politics of that period, I believe, are as important to modern conditions as the politics of the founding groups.

    • AJD says:

      The northern half of Illiinois, the northern fringe of Indiana, and the northern third or so of Ohio were settled by New Englanders. The bulk of Indiana is part of the Midland/Borderer settlement zone.

      • AJD says:

        Coincidentally, here’s a FiveThirtyEight article on the same point—Indiana’s settlement history is different from that of its immediate neighbors, and that persists into present-day cultural differences.

        (I wish the article didn’t lump together New York and Pennsylvania as a single source, though.)

  70. anonymous-317 says:

    I don’t support Trump any more than I support Osama bin Laden

    I hope this is not literally true.

    • Tom Scharf says:

      The piling on competition for who can hate Trump the mostest and bestest and cleverest has turned into a very extreme case of virtue signalling. The thought police will deal out summary executions for any violations here.

      I read somewhere today that Trump hosted The Apprentice for 14 seasons. I thought it was on for like 2 years. We can all virtue signal each other that we have never watched it because our TV’s cannot be switched from PBS. The theory was that the Trump voters watch a lot more TV and this is influencing them. Trump said he could shoot someone dead in the middle of Park Ave. and not lose any votes. Hilarious.

      • anonymous-317 says:

        Merely referring? As in facetiously saying statements similar to Russell Brand’s assertion that Fox News is worse than ISIS? I didn’t detect sarcasm.

        But, I’m totally open to the idea that Scott was using a figure of speech that should not be taken literally.

    • CommonPlebeian says:

      I don’t support Trump any more than I support Osama bin Laden != I don’t oppose Osama bin Laden any more than I oppose Trump.
      I (don’t particularly like)/(dislike) like what trump say != I oppose him as much as I oppose islamic terrorists.

      • Randy M says:

        That depends on whether support and opposition are two separate values or a single continuum, no?

      • anonymous-317 says:

        I’m not making the first conflation you’re listing, and the second conflation is only relevant if Scott is just being hyperbolic (which was the whole point of my original comment – to hope Scott is just being hyperbolic, and he DOES support Trump more than bin Laden).

        A person like Scott Alexander SHOULD support Trump more than they support Osama bin Laden.

        For instance, Trump believes in western liberal democracies where women can vote, drive, go into public places unchaperoned, etc. Osama bin Laden was against those things. Sounds like Scott Alexander would support the Trump position over the Osama bin Laden position. We could do this for many issues, and Scott’s support for Trump would be greater than Scott’s support for bin Laden.

        • Anonymous says:

          We could do this for many issues, and Scott’s support for Trump would be greater than Scott’s support for bin Laden.

          Yes, but Osama bin Laden is in favor of open borders for Muslim immigration and that issue is the most important one from an EA perspective.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Look, only Bin Laden is willing to take a tough stand against the House of Saud. Osama won’t sell out the American people to oil interests and will take all measures necessary to defeat the competition ISIS.

          • NN says:

            Bin Laden also spoke out against US campaign finance laws and the US’s refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Seriously.

  71. ad says:

    Everyone would stand there with their guns (they were legally required to bring guns, in case Indians attacked during the sermon) and hear about how they were going to Hell

    And that is why New England is, as we all know, the centre of the ‘God and Guns’ Bible Belt.

    Must be the founder effect.

  72. Some Troll's Legitimate Discussion Alt says:

    Unless you can solve the problem of Dixie and Black America being in the same place, carving this place up into a few separate countries and telling everyone to do their own thing won’t fly.

    • Michael Watts says:

      It worked for India and Pakistan. 😀

      • CommonPlebeian says:

        It “worked”, kinda. It just that guaranteed immediate tri/bi-generational cost and the possible long term cost in bloodshed and cultural strife make the idea politically untenable.

      • Some Troll's Legitimate Discussion Alt says:

        India and Pakistan had full blown wars every decade or so until nuclear weapons limited them to single-province slapfights.

        Actually, if the US government could be persuaded to devolve a sizable portion of its nuclear arsenal to to the new governments during its breakup, it could work. That seems even more impossible than figuring our a set of borders that would make everyone involved say “you know what? O.K.!” though.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        My understanding of Gandhi’s politics once he defeated Britain were “I’d rather we Hindus all live as dhimmis to placate Jinnah than partition India.” This backroom deal shows up in, for example, the biopic with Ben Kingsley.
        Of course he could only offer such a bargain for a first, undemocratic government before everyone got to vote. Representative democracy was impossible in a multi-religious state, Jinnah knew it, and Gandhi was a very silly person if he didn’t.

      • NN says:

        If you consider hundreds of thousands of people dying horribly and 14 million people getting forced out of their homes in the immediate aftermath of partition, a perpetual conflict in Kashmir that now has the potential to escalate to a nuclear war, and a further breakup of Pakistan that resulted in hundreds of thousands of more deaths “working,” I shudder to imagine what you would consider to be “not working.”

  73. gbdub says:

    This was a great review, but the tone at the end seems to have jumped disturbingly quickly from “Here’s some interesting tribal distinctions that explain some modern cultural differences” to “Man that Borderer-Cavalier alliance sure is awful and basically indistinguishable from Al Qaeda”.

    The Quakers sound pretty okay for prudes. Screw the Cavaliers, but I’d rather die a Borderer than live a Puritan 😛

  74. Paul G says:

    Walter Russell Mead’s Special Providence and Mark David Ledbetter’s America’s Forgotten History series both go into these themes much more deeply and build off of them. I don’t know if there are better layman-friendly sources for this topic.

    Mead’s work focuses on American foreign policy as seen through what he identifies as the four major “schools” in American society: Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, Jeffersonian, and Jacksonian. The co-existence of these four distinct traditions of policy and philosophy, notes Mead, often leads outside observers (especially western Europeans) to see America as chaotic, ignorant, or unrefined. He makes it clear, though, that it is precisely the dynamic created by these traditions — always competing with each other for influence, often teaming up with one or two others to disrupt the fortunes of the opponent(s) — that keeps American democracy alive and makes America so successful. I said after I read the book — especially his chapter on the Jacksonian tradition (which largely overlaps with the Boarderer tradition) — that I finally understood America. (He also blogs a lot about these issues at The American Interest.)

    Ledbetter’s Forgotten History series — especially the first book, Foundations — dives deep into the Puritan/Cavalier split and its implications through American history. He references Albion’s Seed pretty frequently. His view — which IMO seems fairly well supported — is that the Cavalier spirit’s influence on national politics died in 1896 with William Jennings Bryan’s nomination. If the Cavalier legacy seems difficult for you to find, I recommend reading at least the first book in this series; it will likely clear things up for you.

  75. mobile says:

    If you enjoyed this analysis, you might also like Scott Sumner’s analysis of the Driftless Area.

  76. So…

    The Puritans were the Friendlies, the Quakers were the Exotics, the Borderers were the Dorsai and the Cavaliers were the Cetans?

    • LHN says:

      Sounds about right. The Friendlies are pretty much Puritans shading into Scots Presbyterians.

      (Though I suspect that someone writing a similar story now– and not for John W. Campbell– would choose a different group to be the human splinter representing Faith.)

      Alternatively: Puritans->Fremen, Borderers->Sardaukar, Quakers->Bene Gesserit, Cavaliers->Houses Major.

      • In the backstory of “Undiplomatic Immunity” by Gordon Dickson and Poul Anderson (in a completely different universe), the planet Bagdadburgh was an originally-puritanical Scottish–Arabic colony and presumably involved a merger between Calvinists and Muslims.

  77. God Damn John Jay says:

    Borderer town-naming policy was very different from the Biblical names of the Puritans or the Ye Olde English names of the Virginians. Early Borderer settlements include – just to stick to the creek-related ones – Lousy Creek, Naked Creek, Shitbritches Creek, Cuckold’s Creek

    I cannot believe nobody has picked up on this and what it means for internet society.

  78. Brian K Miller says:

    Ecotopia!

    Why should Northern California be in the same polity as Alabama?

    (I kid. I kid.)

  79. Bond says:

    How about the counter-argument from geography? Appalachia and the swampier regions of the South were inhospitable lands – bad for farming, trade, and most of all – big cities. The Northeast (and later, Pacific) coast was great for all these things, and the metropolises that arose (Philly, Boston, NYC, SF, LA) drove modern liberalism – dependence on trade, multi-cultural tolerance, education, the mercantile class, etc.. Meanwhile, the Appalachian Borderers remain isolated and rural, doubling down on self-reliance and mistrust of the outsiders who periodically appear to cash in on coal and other resources.

    I guess I just don’t see the alternate history where rich, multicultural New York City appears in place of Charleston, WV, if only its original settlers were a bit more well-organized..

    • moridinamael says:

      Agree completely. Geography is destiny.

    • Nornagest says:

      On the other hand, Louisiana is in a great location for trade, and Mississippi isn’t bad. Swampy bottomland, yes, but bottlenecking the largest river system in the continent. Compare Cairo or Shanghai.

      • Michael Watts says:

        For whatever reason, Shanghai was not a location of particular significance for much of history.

      • NN says:

        Before the invention of modern medicine, “swampy bottomland” meant frequent epidemics of mosquito-born diseases. During the 19th century, an average of 466 people died in New Orleans from yellow fever every year. The epidemic of 1853 alone killed about 6% of the city’s population at the time. It is easy to see how that sort of thing could hold back development relative to places farther North that didn’t have such problems, especially given that the ruling ethnic group in that area (that is, white people) had little genetic resistance to West African tropical diseases.

    • John Schilling says:

      I guess I just don’t see the alternate history where rich, multicultural New York City appears in place of Charleston, WV, if only its original settlers were a bit more well-organized..

      On a purely geographic basis, the rich multicultural city should appear in place of New Orleans. And if I recall correctly it kind of did.

      • SJ says:

        There was a large project, called the “Erie Canal”, to make it easier for sea traffic to travel into the Upper Midwest on barges and ships.

        It was constructed partly to keep NYC as a more important port city than New Orleans. And partly to provide a waterway from the Atlantic into the Great Lakes basin, that didn’t require any portage.

        New Orleans was still the destination of a great deal of river-traffic. But it didn’t replace NYC as the most important port city in North America.

        (Historical footnote: A young man named Abraham Lincoln first saw an open-air slave market in New Orleans, after traveling down the Mighty MIssissippi from Illinois.)

    • Frog Do says:

      Singapore should be a disease ridden tropical nightmare, yet it isn’t.

      • Texas says:

        Well, it’s also located at a strategic choke point of martime trade, arguably the second most important now, has been important for trade to various degrees for a long time.

          • Baba oreilly rulesssssss says:

            Right, but one strategic choke point is populated by smart efficient economical Chinese, and the other is, ummmmm, “Evil Formerly slave-trading Caucausians”? Lol. In addition, Singapore is only at the choke point while there is much of Yemen that is not, such as Sa’ana.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “I guess I just don’t see the alternate history where rich, multicultural New York City appears in place of Charleston, WV, if only its original settlers were a bit more well-organized.”

      What about Charleston, SC? What about Geneva?

      The original book is very aware of this argument and discusses it in depth. I can only remember two points: first, that different groups selected geographies suitable to them, somewhat deliberately, and second, that when this didn’t happen, geography didn’t seem to change much – eg Yankees in Vermont, Southerners in Mobile, Alabama.

      • Nornagest says:

        Vermont is kinda weird for a Yankee state. It has very lenient gun laws, for one thing.

      • Bond says:

        Well, now I’m just curious as to how/when/why Geneva got so rich.

        Vermont is a very good/weird outlier. It’d be interesting to include Canada’s immigrant groups of the time (loyalists, french) in the mix as they’re even more “blue” than yankees, and had a lot of interaction with states like Maine, Vermont, and Michigan..

  80. moridinamael says:

    This is all very interesting, but does it really have more predictive power than simply observing how wealth and power dynamics have evolved over the centuries, leading us to a place where wealth or poverty are concentrated in the hands of the same places that (respectively) had them 400 years ago?

    I mean, wealth begets wealth, power begets power. The wealthy Puritans created a civilization where Harvard and MIT could be economically and socially possible. Scrape away everything you know about the Borderers’ cultural attributes and ask yourself whether you’re really surprised that there’s not an MIT equivalent in Appalachia, purely due to the poverty they started out with, and the relative lack of natural resources?

    I don’t have the time/energy/ability to fully argue this out right now, but look at Texas. Texas had this reputation of being basically hell for … forever. It seems like it was cultural a Borderer area for most of its history. Then oil wealth arrived. Now Texas hosts a number of top universities and some of the world’s biggest cities, and is gradually leaning Liberal politically.

    Places become “nice” when it is possible for them to do so. If they can’t become “nice”, then the people who live there decide that they like it they way it is.

    • Rum says:

      What do you mean that it had the reputation of being hell exactly? When it was an indepdent country it attracted many immigrants from Germany, Bohemia, Sweden, and even places like France and others. It was also recognized by multiple countries even though it only existed for a decade. Even after it became part of the US it had more European immigrants than any other part of the South except perhaps Louisiana

      A good example of how mobile Americans even back then is that Steven F Austin, the “Father of Texas”, was the son of two yankees(New Jersey and Connecticut), born in virginia, raised in Missouri, and then obviously moved to Texas.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell.”

        –General Philip H. Sheridan, 1866.

        • Schmendrick says:

          To be fair, Sheridan was referring to the outright guerilla warfare being waged between white ex-confederate southerners and black freedmen while he was military governor of Louisiana and Texas during Radical Reconstruction. Even for give ’em hell Phil, bushwhacker-style counter-insurgency fighting is damn hard, especially when the bushwhackers are nominally your fellow citizens.

      • moridinamael says:

        I am Texan. I love Texas. One finds occasionally historical references to how inhospitable the place is. And I haven’t looked into the history in detail, but it really seems like kind of a Borderer place, historically. That was all I meant.

    • cassander says:

      >I mean, wealth begets wealth, power begets power. The wealthy Puritans created a civilization where Harvard and MIT could be economically and socially possible

      Southern planters were, at least in 1780, at least as rich as the puritans, but they had founded one university, the puritans 6

      • Sastan says:

        Pretty much this. Ideology matters. And so does what grants you status. If the Puritans grant status for learning,……bam, some years down the road, they are famous for being learned! The southern plantations owners are granted status for…..apparently throwing nice parties and duelling. If that’s what gets rewarded, there aren’t gonna be a lot of colleges started.

        • moridinamael says:

          Education is one of those “convergent instrumental goals” of human civilizations. Everywhere you look, every civilization in history has “spontaneously” started building centers of learning when they arrived at the requisite level of material abundance and comfort.

          – The South, prior to the invention of air conditioning, invention of modern sewer technology, and the eradication of malaria (which was finished in 1950), was a place in which basic levels of comfort and health were historically very difficult or literally impossible to obtain.

          – The planters may have been as wealthy as the Puritans in some net sense, but my understanding is that there were far fewer wealthy aristicratic Southerners than there were Puritans/Quakers who could have feasibly paid for an education. Maybe the reason there were fewer colleges in the South is simply market forces implied by wealth distribution, and nothing more.

          – The Southern aristocrats did value learning, just not as much. Yes, “ideology matters”, but we’re not talking about morlocks versus eloi, we’re talking about two different flavors of literate Englishmen.

          I just can’t take this claim that “culture” in some indelible, unrealistic sense was the genesis of literally everything in America, when I just named three different things that seem equally relevant to the course of how things developed.

      • Hollyluja says:

        Just another thing I learned from that Eleven Americas book is that the Deep South folk mostly sent their kids back to England to be educated. They also bought knighthoods etc.

        They still wanted to participate in the social status of England. America was just a hellhole they had to live in to make that happen.

  81. 4bpp says:

    > acculturation of new arrivals

    Could this not also be genetic in nature? If you are A and move to a predominantly B area, those of your kids that have more B traits will be more reproductively successful.

    (Moreover, perhaps this happened often enough in human evolutionary history that the new A arrival themselves will be inclined to assume B traits on a deeper level than would enable them to still express their unadulterated Genetically Preordained Attitudes in opinion polls.)

  82. ad says:

    Well, that persuaded me not to worry about all those Syrians moving to Europe.

    • CommonPlebeian says:

      What’s concerning about the migrant crisis is that durable subcultures are forming, and the leftist policy of multiculturalism is detrimental to the acculturation of new arrivals. American policies while somewhat questionable are far better at acculturation of immigrants, presumably because “recent immigrant” becomes a bloc onto itself as opposed to ethnic tribalism. If america is historically a melting pot than western europe is a cold pot of stew that has had chunks of cheese dropped into it.

      • Randy M says:

        Probably that is because America is bigger, has immigrants from more places, and is bi-party politically. Any kind of national issues require coalitions. However, since immigrants will (quite reasonably) go where they have families, homogeneous groups could hold sway over municipalities.

        Melting Pot has not been politically correct in the states for a generation. We are a proud Salad Bowl now.

  83. philh says:

    > And I wrote about another stratum centered in the South marked by … support for the Republican Party

    This is only about 50 years old though. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy

    This seems important, though I’m not entirely sure how.

    • cassander says:

      The southern strategy is largely a myth. The south didn’t start to turn republican until the 90s. Republican presidents won there because republicans won everywhere on the presidential level, an average of more than 40 states per election between 68 and 92. the southern congressional delegation was almost solid blue as late as 1990.

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/01/1990_House_Elections_in_the_United_States.png/350px-1990_House_Elections_in_the_United_States.png

      The first election where the south went solidly republican, and the rest of the country didn’t, was 2000.

        • anonymous says:

          That statement reads more like “we regret that the Democrats have been so successful at pandering to the minority vote” than an acknowledgement of a coordinated RNC strategy to win racist white votes.

          He blames “Some Republicans” who “gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization.” That’s a lot different from acknowledging a coordinated national “southern strategy”. It appears to be journalists (two articles I looked up both read his statement this way) who are reading into his statement an acknowledgment of the southern strategy. Does anybody have the full text of the speech?

        • Cassander says:

          Right, because no politician would ever say something politically correct to win votes unless it was true…

        • Racial divisions were everywhere in the US. The Bus Riots were fought in Boston. My village, an Illinois stronghold which has a bit of an anti-slavery reputation for some reason, went to the Supreme Court over a race-related housing issue.
          California amended their Constitution in a more famous case to allow legal housing segregation, which also went to the Supreme Court. California lost their case.

          The race issue, and broader cultural issues, and Vietnam, destroyed the Democrat’s ability win Presidential elections. This wasn’t Southern. This was everywhere. And race relations were poor, everywhere.

          Note that this divide hasn’t fully changed, even today. Another commenter noted that Romney won a higher proportion of white voters than anyone else besides Reagan. Not exactly true, but you can see the numbers here. http://www.gallup.com/poll/139880/election-polls-presidential-vote-groups.aspx
          The 2012 vote was a blow-out number, if looking exclusively at White Voters.

          So this analysis, while interesting, leaves a lot of detail out in the new Salad Bowl politics we have.

          Also the change in voting alignment of the Elderly, which is another recent change.

      • E. Harding says:

        “The south didn’t start to turn republican until the 90s.”

        -In the House seats, yes. In Presidential elections, South Carolina stopped its Republican-hatred in 1952, and four years before, it nominated its own candidate for President.

        “The first election where the south went solidly republican, and the rest of the country didn’t, was 2000.”

        -True. But the Deep South went solidly Republican, while the rest of the country didn’t, in 1964, pretty much entirely due to Black issues.

        • cassander says:

          >-True. But the Deep South went solidly Republican, while the rest of the country didn’t, in 1964, pretty much entirely due to Black issues.

          One election dominated by a guy the party establishment hated and fought against does not a generation long strategy make.

  84. Vaniver says:

    There were no decorations except a giant staring eye on the pulpit to remind churchgoers that God was watching them.

    You should have included the picture! That was one of my favorite parts of the book.

  85. spqr0a1 says:

    For a less anglocentric take on the origins of American culture read The Island at the Center of the World. In which New Netherland and the Dutch contributions to American culture are detailed, such as diversity, religious tolerance, and free trade. As well as such ubiquitous elements as cookies, coleslaw, and Santa Claus.

  86. Tom Scharf says:

    WV was strictly blue from the 1930’s until the last 10 years. 2/3 of voters there are still registered Democrats, so this modern map applied for historical purposes isn’t quite accurate.

    “educated coastal elites” vs “rednecks”? What is this, Salon? I suggest a more applicable categorization might be “educated self worshipping assholes” vs. “rednecks”. Redneck is not an endearing term coming from an educated coastal elite. It is disrespectful. No, I don’t want a trigger warning, I don’t feel like a victim, I don’t need a safe space, and I am not requesting nor need anything changed. I will just trade you asshole for redneck and we are even, ha ha. Small potatoes, but it colors the reading of the article if you are in the redneck tribe, not to mention the fun facts for the borderers was almost universally negative, but likely universally true. You could have at least thrown in “really good with banjos” or something. I stipulate that elite can sometimes be used in a similarly derogatory fashion (as I do frequently) and if that was the intent than I withdraw my criticism.

    • Bob Lince says:

      Somewhat agree. I also found educated coastal elites , placed in opposition to rednecks, somewhat biased. For symmetries sake, I would have preferred blue-nose.

      • Nornagest says:

        Why not just “coastal elites”? “Elite” isn’t a borderline slur like “redneck”, but it does carry the implication of elitism, and no self-respecting coastal elite would fail to get their kids an education anyway.

        It does pull in first-generation coastal nouveaux riches, who might not fit the bill, but how many of those are there, anyway?

  87. Louis says:

    I have a little testimony about the Borderers part. I never heard the phrase Scots-Irish until I was about 20 years old, and when I read some of these theories they made so much fall into place. It was strange to see so many things in my own life explained by history.

    I grew up in North Alabama, in the foothills, to a big family of Presbyterians. Even though not all of our family was especially religious, one thing I remember was everyone made fun of catholics for their fancy pomp and worshipping the virgin mary and such. Likewise episcopalians, who we thought were fancy rich people. And Baptists because they didn’t drink alcohol and made it illegal to buy alcohol across half the northern part of the state.

    Cormac McCarthy said, ““If you grow up in the South, you’re going to see violence.” Since I’ve not lived there since turning 18, I’ve had a chance to talk to other people about their childhoods, and the disparity in acceptance of violence is amazing. We lived in a real shitty school district, and so for a few years my parents spent pretty much all of our money sending me to a private school. I was the worst kid in the school for a while and was suspended three times for fighting. When I was 11, I broke a bully’s nose. My dad was so excited he called his brother and told them the story at length, with massive embellishments. At home, my brother and I pretty much just fought all day long with no discouragement from anyone. There were no firework laws to speak of, and so we would put on paintball masks and shoot each other in the face with roman candles, bottle rockets, etc.

    For college I moved up north out of Alabama. What was I suppose my first St. Patty’s day, I was in a house party, and there was this guy making fun of an extremely drunk girl. It was almost nauseating and unbelievable, seeing an adult man mock an adult woman like that. I told this dude to leave her alone. He leaned in and said, “why don’t you make me!” He was a lot bigger than me, so I hit him as hard as I could in the face, and he got laid out half-conscious. One of his friends and I grappled until a bunch of girls broke everything up. Later on, I learned that none of those guys had ever been in a fight before nor expected a fight. The incident really cemented my reputation as a hick, and I felt embarrassed for a long time. This is all quite incredible if you met me, as I am pretty wiry and not verbally aggressive.

    One day, my Mom read this book Cracker Culture and told us that we were Scots-Irish and this explained everything about us, including why she drinks Wild Turkey only. Shortly thereafter, at church the pastor read Born Fighting and did a sermon on how we needed to quit fighting so much. I distinctly remember the phrase: “There is an epidemic of murder in the little honky tonks.” A few years later, we did 23andMe and found out we are almost 100% british isles, which I guess is as precise as you can get.

    Anyway, I guess the point is that I have never heard a sociological theory that resounded more completely with me.

    Here is a funny article from near where I grew up that I think really captures the spirit of the place: http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/08/talladega_mayor_larry_barton_d.html
    I love this quote from the mayor of Talladega: “Ain’t no doubt about it. If I hadn’t kicked him twice in the balls I’d be dead.”

    • Deiseach says:

      The incident really cemented my reputation as a hick, and I felt embarrassed for a long time.

      You shouldn’t be; my own bog- Irish background makes me go “You did the right thing”. I was reared that drinking is fine, fighting happens, but men should not hit or be rude to women. My mother would have approved of what you did (and if she’d been there, she’d have hit the guy in the face herself if nobody else would do it) 🙂

      • John Schilling says:

        Pretty much this. The rules for when violence is appropriately used to enforce social norms are sometimes hard to pin down, but I’m with the hicks, rednecks, borderers, and Irish on this one.

        And I’m confused as to how the offender and his clique could go from “why don’t you make me!” to “none of those guys … expected a fight”. Aren’t those pretty much the exact words that everyone in the Anglosphere uses to challenge someone to a socially-sanctioned fight over an issue of status or propriety?

        • Nornagest says:

          Well, I’ve seen “why don’t you make me?” used as a naked status grab before. Not intended to lead to a fight, just intended to humiliate the other guy by saying that he has no legitimate path to getting what he wants. A less violent culture is not necessarily a kinder one.

          Where I grew up, it could be one or the other depending on who you were hanging out with. It made parties interesting.

          • Deiseach says:

            Okay, I’m plainly from a culture where “Why don’t you make me?” invites a slap in the face at the very least. If you’re not prepared to get a box for it, you shouldn’t use it.

            I can see how it would be used as status-dominance in order to humiliate the party making the demands to desist: “you have no power to enforce your veto, you are not my boss or parent or police or other authority figure with the ability to back up your demands”.

            But drunken young men in a pack, whether at college or not, surely should expect some level of escalation from another young male other than backing down? If the guy was bigger than Louis and trying to use physical size to intimidate him (with the unspoken threat of force behind it), then he definitely should have been prepared to put his money where his mouth was: if you threaten someone with the implication that “I’m bigger, I can use my superior physical strength against you”, then you are inviting the use of force.

          • Nita says:

            I don’t see how “Why don’t you make me?” implies any restriction on means. Accepting that it does creates an exploitable social loophole where someone can get the benefits of both ‘might makes right’ and ‘violence is wrong’.

            Taken at face value, the challenge expresses enthusiastic consent to violence, so…

          • Nornagest says:

            See Teal’s comments below. There are American cultures where everyone thinks like that, including drunken young men in packs; in one of those cultures, at the worst you’ll see some shoving and posturing before their friends “break it up”. There are also American cultures where words like that could absolutely land you in a fight. In a lot of places they rub shoulders with each other.

            I tend to sympathize more with the latter, but I have Borderer genetics (along with some Puritan and a healthy percentage of Miscellaneous European), so I would say that, wouldn’t I?

            (Arrest for a bog-standard fight is unlikely in either case. Imprisonment is very unlikely.)

        • dndnrsn says:

          I suppose it’s like politely asking if the other person wants the last of something: they’re not supposed to say yes.

        • John Schilling says:

          Well, I’ve seen “why don’t you make me?” used as a naked status grab before

          It’s always a naked status grab, with the preferred outcome being the other guy backing down without a fight. But you’re right that it’s not exactly the same thing as a challenge to a fight. It’s an open-ended challenge to anything the challenged party might do in lieu of backing down, in hopes of the maximal status gain that comes from the other guy backing down on all fronts.

          Anyone issuing such challenges without having considered the physical-violence version of “make me”, is quite literally too stupid to live except by the sufferance and protection of better men than they.

          • keranih says:

            @ John Schilling

            I think I’d love JS Mills more if he had said more things like that.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Anyone issuing such challenges without having considered the physical-violence version of “make me”, is quite literally too stupid to live except by the sufferance and protection of better men than they.

            Agreed

          • TheWorst says:

            Anyone issuing such challenges without having considered the physical-violence version of “make me”, is quite literally too stupid to live except by the sufferance and protection of better men than they.

            Or they’re a child.

            …But on reflection, it seems that the same applies.

      • Teal says:

        It’s criminal assault, and it’s a good way to land in jail. Back in North Alabama maybe the deputy would say it was warranted and leave it at that, but in most northern cities if the guy pressed charges he’d be looking at a record and a ruined future. Not sure your mother would be too happy with that. Now if the guy had been physically molesting the woman that would be a different story.

        Given the “I hit him as hard as I could in the face” part, he got really lucky that the guy was just “laid out” and apparently decided not to press charges. A single punch from an adult man can easily do serious, permanent damage, I had a client the other day with a broken eye socket from a single punch. The security guard who did was arrested for felony assault.

        • Deiseach says:

          It’s criminal assault, and it’s a good way to land in jail. Back in North Alabama maybe the deputy would say it was warranted and leave it at that, but in most northern cities if the guy pressed charges he’d be looking at a record and a ruined future. Not sure your mother would be too happy with that.

          You didn’t know my mother 🙂 We were watching a television play based on the trial of the Chicago Seven (this would have been back in the 80s when it was broadcast on Irish television) and at one point in it, one of the defendants was handcuffed and gagged because he was protesting. My mother queried why he’d let them do that to him, she wouldn’t in his place, and when we pointed out that this was an American court room so the bailiffs* had guns and would shoot the guy if he didn’t co-operate, and if she were in his place they’d shoot her, she said “So what? I still wouldn’t stand for it!”

          Does that throw a light on Borderer culture for you? 🙂

          Anybody wimpy enough to go running to the cops for a bloody nose is not someone to be respected, and merely provides more proof (to go with mocking a drunken woman) that he is not a real man.

          Let me tell you a little anecdote about my mother’s side of the family, which she regaled us with back in the day.

          So my mother had a cousin (from a respectable family, his brother was a priest!, and he had what was considered “a good job” himself) and there was – I’m not sure if this was another cousin – anyway there was a married woman in the family whose husband used to beat her.

          Now, this being back in Old Gods Time before domestic violence was taken seriously by the police, and also that suffocating social mores meant you kept family troubles to yourself, on top of the cultural attitude amongst the lower middle class/working class that you sorted out your own problems, she did not involve the authorities.

          Various members of the family gave the husband warnings, but no dice. So my mother’s cousin went to the house and beat the guy up – so badly, according to my mother, that he had to (quote) “crawl into bed and stay there for three days, and his wife had to ring his job to make excuses for him being absent”. My mother’s cousin further delivered himself of the message that this was the final warning: if he ever lifted a hand to his wife again, my mother’s cousin would kill him. (My mother emphasised to us that this was not an idle threat).

          And that was the end of that: no more wife beating. And that, via my mother’s attitudes, is how I’ve developed my own attitudes to male-female interpersonal relationships 🙂

          I don’t know if that’s Borderer culture or not, but it was certainly ‘respectable’ lower middle-class/working class southern Irish culture at one time.

          *Apologies, I don’t know if this is the right term or not; whatever the armed attendants who aren’t police in a courtroom are called?

          • keranih says:

            The armed attendants are bailiffs. This is a title for the position in the court – they may (and usually are) police or sheriff’s deputies, but they can also be non-police members of the judge’s staff.

            I was told to think of them as the judge’s bouncers.

          • Teal says:

            Does that throw a light on Borderer culture for you?

            I thought you were Irish Catholic?

            Anybody wimpy enough to go running to the cops for a bloody nose is not someone to be respected, and merely provides more proof (to go with mocking a drunken woman) that he is not a real man.

            The real men can regale each other with war stories in prison. I’ll be out here in not-prison.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ll be out here in not-prison

            Pretty sure most of those guys are in not-prison too. And I might buy one of them a drink to hear their stories. You got any stories that are worth the price of a drink?

          • Teal says:

            I’m pretty sure most of those guys talk a big game on the internet but don’t actually go around committing felony assault, or at least don’t outside of places like Northern Alabama.

            As for free drinks, I can buy my own, thanks. Besides, I’m not sure I want to be around honor culture people when they’re intoxicated anyway.

          • Deiseach says:

            I am Irish Catholic, but Borderer culture is supposedly derived from Scots-Irish – which would encompass Scottish Scots, Ulster Scots-descended Irish, Ulster native Irish and some Irish from the rest of the country as well.

            Attitudes do not sound to me so very dissimilar on a broad scale.

            And we have our own version of moonshine (a bottle of which once came to our house courtesy of another cousin on my mother’s side, who had acquired it from a man who came from, as we say here, ‘back o’ the mountain’) 🙂

            Re: felony assault – it probably technically is, but most people (okay, festoon that with caveats about who “most people” would be) here in Ireland would see a difference between “A said something offensive/provocative so B hit him a box in the face” and beating up someone or pulling a knife on them or a gang of drunks kicking someone to brain injury or death.

            We’re definitely sorting ourselves out into who belongs to “that gang of rowdies who’ll get drunk and/or into fistfights and shouldn’t be let near the rest of us civilised types” with this thread, aren’t we? 😀

            Speaking of rough types, my sister linked me to this video.

          • John Schilling says:

            Re: felony assault – it probably technically is, but most people (okay, festoon that with caveats about who “most people” would be) here in Ireland would see a difference between “A said something offensive/provocative so B hit him a box in the face” and beating up someone or pulling a knife on them or a gang of drunks kicking someone to brain injury or death.

            By common law at least the first sort would be misdemeanor assault and/or battery. I am extremely skeptical that there is anyplace in the Anglosphere where a first offense of that type (by a white middle- or working-class man if it matters) is going to result in more than a few days in jail, arranged so as not to cost anyone their career, once the lawyers have sorted it out.

          • Teal says:

            @John Schilling
            If there’s serious physical injury it’s felony assault, and as I mentioned in the grandfather post, I have a client right now that had his eye socket broken by a single punch after some sort of argument.

            Although sentencing hasn’t happened yet, the guys already spent more than a few days in jail, and I’m guessing he’ll end up with 6-9 mo. and a felony conviction.

            If no one goes to the hospital, you’re probably right. No cop is going to want to write that up. But if someone goes to the hospital, even with just a concussion, there’s going to be real consequences unless the guy that was punched declines to press charges.

            At least where I live, honor culture types hit white middle class+ dignity culture types very much at their own peril. Which is as it should be.

            @Deiseach
            I don’t quite understand how Ulster native Irish or other Irish Catholics from the rest of the country qualify as “Scots-Irish”. I though the term referred specifically to these Protestant Scotland/England border guys that were imported by the English to Ireland in the 17th century.

          • John Schilling says:

            I was in a house party, and there was this guy making fun of an extremely drunk girl. It was almost nauseating and unbelievable, seeing an adult man mock an adult woman like that. I told this dude to leave her alone. He leaned in and said, “why don’t you make me!”

            “Dignity culture” in action.

          • Deiseach says:

            At least where I live, honor culture types hit white middle class+ dignity culture types very much at their own peril. Which is as it should be.

            Teal – so I should have called the cops on my sister for assault when she punched me in the mouth and split my lip? 🙂

            I did say something deliberately offensive and provocative (we were in the middle of a family row at the time) so by my culture, even though I wasn’t expecting her to do that (we generally don’t throw punches in my family, contrary to the impression I may have given) I accepted that I deserved it. And we did kiss and make up once we’d all cooled down.

            From what you’re saying, were I more middle-class or not Irish, I would have gone shrieking to the telephone to call the police because help, help I have been assaulted?

            I do understand the difference between causing injury and not. If your client had his face broken then yes, that’s a serious offence, regardless of what the instigating factor was. If it was random drunken yob hit him (or a boss, friend, family member, authority figure, whomever), go ahead with the full rigours of the law, I say.

            But two people in a row or one guy behaving like an asshole, there’s a smack in the face, the worst thing is a split lip or a black eye – obviously I’m not civilised enough or the right class to consider that “a police matter”.

            And I do not see it as conducive to one’s dignity to behave like a jerk, taunt another person who rebukes you for it, and rely on “we don’t use violence” to protect you in order to get away with being a jerk with no consequences. If you act in an undignified manner, the result should be “I am ashamed of myself for having behaved so poorly”, not “Ha, ha, you can’t make me!”

          • Aaron Brown says:

            Deiseach:

            My mother’s cousin further delivered himself of the message that this was the final warning: if he ever lifted a hand to his wife again, my mother’s cousin would kill him.

            This story reminds me of this scene from Breaking Bad where Mike tells Walt a story about answering repeated domestic violence calls at the same house back when he was a cop. (Obvious content warning is obvious. Also, I think violence is not how civilized people settle their disputes, but I offer this bit of fictional evidence as something interesting, not as a way of arguing against your mother’s cousin’s way of dealing with the problem.)

          • Teal says:

            Domestic disputes are a whole different ball of wax with their own norms and there own typical police responses. Also there’s a difference between a slap and “I hit him as hard as I could in the face”. Now maybe Louis wasn’t very strong, or didn’t know how to throw a punch, or something else. But the “laid out half-conscious” part to me makes it sound pretty serious. Maybe you’re at a house party, there’s underage drinking, the guy doesn’t want to let on that he has a concussion or is too macho to take it seriously — nothing happens. But maybe it does. As I said, you act like that at your own peril.

            In terms of posturing around the word ‘dignity’ I was using it as a term of art to refer to the non-honor culture culture in the US. Obviously there are jerks in any culture.

            If you think that making fun of a drunk woman is sufficient justification for an assault that causes serious bodily injury — well we live in different worlds, and I’m quite happy with mine, thank you very much.

            I wonder what the “real man” analysis would be for duels to death. Is the fact that they don’t exist anymore a sign of our “pussified” age? Would the honor culture types around here vote to acquit if they were sitting on a jury trying someone for manslaughter after a consensual duel?

    • Frog Do says:

      Chiming in to say Wild Turkey is good enough and cheap enough I’m not letting you lowland Borderers claim it for yourselves!

    • TheWorst says:

      But the shame makes sense to me. Class markers, and being overly self-conscious about them, are persistent.

    • Deiseach says:

      Your mayor of Talladega story reminds me of this one, where a Scottish taxi driver injured his foot because he kicked a potential terrorist so hard in the groin:

      He told the Daily Record: “I noticed a 4×4 sitting in the middle of the road. Then, as my passenger was paying and getting out, the Jeep rammed into the airport entrance right next to us.

      “Then he kicked and punched a man to the ground before punching a policeman square in the face.

      “That’s when I saw red. That sort of thing just isn’t on.

      “I told my passenger to run for her life, then I went for the passenger and managed to skelp him in the face. I followed it up by booting him twice.”

      The father of two damaged a tendon in his foot after he kicked one of the suspects.

      The cabbie said: “I kicked him with full force right in the balls but he didn’t go down. He just kept on babbling his rubbish.

      “I couldn’t believe that he was still standing. I know I would have been floored by that kind of kick.”

      Then he went after the driver of the vehicle.

      “It was obvious the driver wanted into the boot of the Jeep for something and I was worried about what it was. I thought it must be a gun.

      “He was going crazy, just lashing out at everyone and babbling p*sh in a foreign language the whole time.

      “I’ve heard people say since that he was shouting ‘Allah!’ but I didn’t hear that. It just sounded like a lot of c**p to me.

      “I ran for the guy and punched him twice in the face with pretty good right hooks.”

      Us Irish and Scots, we’ve just got no class, no class at all 🙂

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      This is a bit of a tangent but I’ve always been curious about the whole “defending women’s honor” thing.

      I understand why you would knock a guy out for insulting a woman in your family, by blood or marriage (including sexually-exclusive girlfriends in the latter ). But doing that for a perfect stranger seems odd. Why go out of your way for someone who would never do the same for you?

      Can someone explain this?

      • onyomi says:

        In such cultures, there is a general expectation that men help and protect women (and children), period. Think about the Titanic.

      • John Schilling says:

        But doing that for a perfect stranger seems odd. Why go out of your way for someone who would never do the same for you?

        Because they might do something different for you? The norm of men protecting women from physical harm does not exist in isolation, but as part of a code of behavior that includes many ways for each gender to serve, support, respect, and honor the other. Yes, including that one, and no, not just that one.

        Also, a social norm that says “men do not use their superior upper body strength, liquor tolerance, and/or social autonomy to make women suffer”, results in a better society than the alternative. If such a norm exists, it needs to be enforced. Whatever the enforcement mechanism is, and sometimes it does involve a swift right hook, maximal status goes to those who are seen to enforce the norm. Minimal status to anyone who conspicuously stands aside, and negative status to anyone who violates the rules and has enforcement done unto them. But, sometimes back into positive status if you can conspicuously violate the rules and get away with it.

        Nothing good will come from being seen as the guy who conspicuously stood aside and let some jerk treat a woman badly, so nobody wants to do that. Only question is what alternatives they think they have.

      • Nita says:

        In this case, he didn’t set out to “defend a woman’s honor”. He just said something like, “Knock that off, dude. Not cool,” which is a perfectly normal reaction to cruelty. Then the other guy, instead of either knocking it off or explaining why it’s cool, went, [paraphrased] “I’m bigger than you, so you’ll shut up and watch me do whatever I want.”

        For a gender-free analogy, imagine seeing someone kick a dog for no reason — you’d think it’s kind of a dick move, right? Would you say something only if it was your own dog?

        • onyomi says:

          Though this is also fraught in a different way, I think the better question is how one would react if another man were being bullied. Certainly there are cases when one could or should help another man out, but they are much less likely in such cultures (it would probably need to be perceived as a more genuine criminal threat or an “us-against-them”-type situation like a bar fight).

          The fact that you give the example of the dog is telling: traditional cultures emphasize the weakness and vulnerability of women: they are, essentially like children or pets. Other men, on the other hand, not only do not need protection, you run the risk of insulting their ability to protect themselves if you try to do so.

          I live in a very “bordererish” part of the South right now where men *will not* let me hold open a door for them.

          • LHN says:

            Out of curiosity, what are you supposed to do? Pretend they’re not there? (Letting a door close in someone’s face feels rude.)

          • onyomi says:

            You can always give them the “I got it started for you” hold as you walk in ahead of them. If you just held the door for a bunch of women they will usually stop and say something like “you go ahead.”

          • Deiseach says:

            Hm, well, where I am, everyone holds doors open for everyone else (the only exception is if the person following you is so far behind you’d be standing there like a lemon holding the door open for them).

            Not sorted by gender: women hold doors open for women and men, men hold doors open for women and men. The only kind of rule is that younger people hold doors for older people but shouldn’t expect older people to hold doors for them.

            It’s generally considered rude to slam a door in someone’s face, and letting a door swing shut when you’ve passed through and someone is following on your heels is the equivalent of that.

            Manners here may be changing though with modern kids, I’m too old and childless to know 🙂

          • onyomi says:

            That’s how it’s done in most places I’ve lived, but traditional gender roles are pretty strong where I live now.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          The way he phrased it made it seem like more of a chivalry thing than general anti-cruelty. Although I’m sure he’s opposed to people bullying men as well.

          For a gender-free analogy, imagine seeing someone kick a dog for no reason — you’d think it’s kind of a dick move, right? Would you say something only if it was your own dog?

          Yes?

          I mean, I wouldn’t clap him on the back and go “atta boy!” That’s a bit on the psychopathic side and he’s someone you’d probably want to watch out for. But I’m also not going to start something with some random guy when I don’t have a dog in the fight.

          • keranih says:

            Dude. If we’re not going to step in and prevent abuse of those weaker than ourselves, wtf are we here for?

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @keranih:

            What kind of a question is that? We’re not here for anything. Are you suggesting that the purpose of my life is to “step in and prevent abuse of those weaker than [myself]”? No, to hell with that; the purpose of my life is whatever I damn well decide it is. Anyone who tells me that I’m here for something, especially if they then chastise for not fulfilling that alleged, externally-imposed, purpose, can go take a flying leap.

            ***

            … so that’s a bit of a snap reaction, obviously, and I do feel strongly about this “purpose” stuff. But that aside, I’m actually rather surprised to see a comment like this, here; and thus I’m curious. Could you elaborate on what you meant?

        • Louis says:

          In this case, he didn’t set out to “defend a woman’s honor”. He just said something like, “Knock that off, dude. Not cool,” which is a perfectly normal reaction to cruelty. Then the other guy, instead of either knocking it off or explaining why it’s cool, went, [paraphrased] “I’m bigger than you, so you’ll shut up and watch me do whatever I want.”

          -accurate. see comment below.

    • Louis says:

      Wow didn’t expect this big reaction, especially about the fight. I’ll clarify a couple things:

      I’m pretty sure that guy was just not thinking about any outcome particular, but not a real fight. Maybe shoving or yelling. Young men will just stay stuff like that thoughtlessly cause they saw their brother do it or saw it in a movie or something. That dude actually turned out not to be that bad of a guy I learned later. Sometimes even a regular guy can be a real jerk when he gets drunk almost randomly, and that’s one reason I only drink beer.

      I shouldn’t have written “as hard as I could.” One of yall was right to point out that, if you bare knuckle hit in the face as hard as you can, you can really do damage. Hell you can kill someone if you hit them in the belly too hard. I didn’t hit him in the nose or in the mouth, and I could have hit harder. “Hard as I could” was an exaggeration. He really did get half knocked out though, but that’s because he was really drunk and he fell over in an awkward way.

      Exaggerating matters of extent in storytelling is part of southerness: google “southern storytelling exaggeration” or watch that Alabama movie Big Fish. I also wasn’t the very *worst* kid in the private school, my brother and I didn’t fight *all* day long, my mom also drinks Miller High Life and on special occasions something called Gentleman Jack, we are really only like 85% british isles (also native american like pretty much everyone down there), and there *were* firework laws to speak of in Alabama, just real lax ones. The quote from the mayor and my pastor are authentic though!

      I don’t think I was “defending a woman’s honor.” Just some guy being a jerk and it escalated because of his aggressive attitude and my defensive one. Could have started off with him eating my pizza.

      Also, this was a testimony, not a recommendation. I don’t agree with violence. I don’t think it is cool to punch jerks. When I have sons I am not going to teach them fighting is good. I had it lucky: throwing punches now and then is what nearly everyone everywhere in america would have considered normal for boys in the 1950’s. You want to see a real “culture of honor” among young men, look at chicago’s south side. If i’d grown up there acting like I did I’d be a dead body, not a professor. Alabama is much *funnier* because of its punching culture. The mayor of birmingham just went at it with a councilman and bit his calf to bleeding! http://abc3340.com/news/local/birmingham-mayor-involved-in-little-bit-of-an-altercation-outside-council-meeting Or this state senator punched a senator who called him a son-of-a-bitch because he took it as an insult to his mother: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Wpn1gp-gcU . But that culture also goes hand in hand with a not-funny-at-all homicide rate, inhuman treatment of prisoners, votes for war-mongering leaders and votes for Donald Trump (he doesn’t take shit!). In fact, just as I wrote that I googled “Scots Irish donald trump” and BAM…whole article about it https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/why-a-key-to-the-2016-southern-vote-lies-centuries-ago-on-another-continent/2015/09/09/41308276-518a-11e5-933e-7d06c647a395_story.html

      Yeah but anyway, pulling it back around, the main point is that I found this sociological theory to have a lot of explanatory power for things I saw in my own life. The borderer culture has really stayed distinctive.

  88. Hollyluja says:

    Great review! I have had this on my list for a while, and need to follow through and read it.

    American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. is also a (much shorter) fun, accessible book that breaks it down even further, and covers the rest of the continent as well.

    He goes into the distinction between Tidewater (Virginia) and The Deep South founders and history at length. The founders of the Deep South didn’t come directly from England, but from Barbados. Their brutality shocked eventhe Cavaliers:

    “On Barbados the rate of slave mortality was double that of Virginia. While the Tidewater gentry’s slave supply replenished itself through natural increase, Barbados’s planters had to import huge numbers every year just to replace the dead”

    Most of what we think of as Slave Life (whippings, brandings, starvation) happened in the Deep South.

    • Mary says:

      Yup. It is no accident the original zombie folklore comes from the Caribbean.

      Because the original zombie was not a danger to the people living about him. The horror of the zombie was becoming one — you could remain a slave even after you died.

  89. Lasagna says:

    I’ve had Albion’s Seed sitting on my shelf for a month now. I’d been meaning to get to it, but now you’ve told me the whole plot! You should use spoiler warnings. : )

    A fascinating article, as usual. Thanks!

    As always, though, when I read about how cultural differences may be hopeless, I get a little suspicious. Not that I have anything particularly against the idea, mind you, but a lot of the times I feel like the author may be inserting himself a little too much into the concept.

    For example: you assert that the Borderers + the Cavaliers = xenophobic. Fine. But can you real describe the Puritans as not xenophobic? How did that particular trait drop away in favor of the more huggy Quaker position, but is completely insurmountable when it comes to the Red Tribe, forever and ever, amen?

    And calling it genetic seems a little out there (and now I cheerfully admit I’m in an area where I have no idea what I’m talking about). Even if traits like “fond of rigorous, disciplined education” can be passed on genetically, isn’t cross-breeding way too common for that trait to cluster geographically? I’m half Irish, half Italian. I love it – fairly unusual outside of New York where there are millions of us, two great cultures that taste great together, I love food, booze, and story telling, etc. etc. Perfect!

    Except that I’m not ACTUALLY Italian/Irish. My grandfather on my mother’s side was Sicilian; my grandmother was from a small town in northern Italy. They would never have even met if weren’t for America. They shared a language, sure, but lumping them together culturally or genetically would be a stretch. On my father’s side, they were both Irish. Except, of course, they weren’t, if you keep looking – my grandmother was actually half Irish, the other half German on her mother’s side, who herself was kind of a mutt – there was Aryan German there, but also Jewish-German, and a few other things besides. But she (my great-grandmother) was born in Ireland, hence Irish.

    How do we fit into the red-blue state genetic theory? The Irish/Italian immigration was massive. I’ve lived in the Northeast my whole life and know WAY more Irish and Italian descendants than I know Puritan/Quaker descendants. How would that play out?

    My wife is 100% Irish, so we’re naming our children with all solidly Irish names – we want them to have a grounding in a shared European culture. Except, of course, she’s not – she’s maybe half Irish, taking a little from both her parents, with the rest a mix of a bunch of stuff, including at least two of the four groups you’ve described in your article (the Borderers and the Cavaliers, almost definitely). Assuming my genes have oriented me to the Blue Tribe, what does all this mean for our kids? And wouldn’t stories like this have played out an awful lot over the past three hundred years, to the point that “predisposed towards patriotism” probably wouldn’t mean too much?

    I know this post was kind of useless, but I love talking about stuff like this, so I’m posting it anyway. : ) Thanks again for always making me think!

  90. baconbacon says:

    Also, what does it say that Penn was born and raised a Cavalier?

  91. Mary says:

    “Much like eg Unitarians today, the Puritans were a religious group that drew disproportionately from the most educated and education-obsessed parts of the English populace.”

    Interestingly enough, the Unitarians appear to be a reaction to Calvinism. Indeed, there were cases where entire congregations switched en masse.

  92. No one says:

    I think you got part of the borderers story wrong. According to a couple of books I read, the Quakers invited them in, because in the western part of the colony they were getting slaughtered by Indians and Quakers would not fight. Then the Quakers decided that the borderers were no better than the Cherokee. You are also understating just how much the Cavaliers hated the borderers -presbyterianism was outlawed and their marriages were not recognized.

  93. Mary says:

    “Everyone was compelled by law to live in families. Town officials would search the town for single people and, if found, order them to join a family; if they refused, they were sent to jail.”

    Fun fact: having a servant was enough to make you a household rather than a single adult.

  94. Mary says:

    For the indentured servants, I recommend White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America by Don Jordan and Michael A. Walsh. Not light reading.

    There was considerable overlap between white indentured servants and black ones, and the slow mutation of black indentured servitude to slavery (which was not entirely negative for the blacks — it made them more valuable than the whites whom you didn’t care if they died in five years).

    The American Revolution was frustrating in that they had been forcing the colonies to accept convicts, and to pass no laws even to restrict it — Benjamin Franklin suggested that the colonists could ship back rattlesnakes in retribution, even though it wasn’t even exchange because the snakes would warn before biting — and the war ended it. They made attempts to restart it after the war. Two even succeeded in landing their cargo despite the strong reaction, but between that and the laws that were passed against it, it stopped. Now, the trade in free-willers petered off instead — over the next decades, when black slavery was in full spate.

  95. R Flaum says:

    Man, William Penn was such a Mary Sue.

  96. Terdragon says:

    “And Virginian nobles weren’t just random jerks, they were carefully cultivated jerks.”

    Something about this and the subsequent paragraph made me imagine every Virginian plantation owner as a Lucius Malfoy. Going along with this, and noting that we discuss exactly four social groups here, I propose the following pairing of early American colonies to Hogwarts houses:

    Puritans ↔ Ravenclaw: the group most in favor of education
    Cavaliers ↔ Slytherin: nobles oppressing everyone else
    Quakers ↔ Hufflepuff: work ethic, abolitionists
    Borderers ↔ Gryffindor: give me liberty or give me death!

    • No one says:

      This is so perfect, the Weaselys are clearly borderers with the run down house, dad likes to tinker with cars up on blocks, violent neer-do-well brothers,

      thread winner

    • Hlynkacg says:

      Lol, that’s perfect.

    • nydwracu says:

      “There isn’t a wizard that’s gone bad that wasn’t in Slytherin.” If the German proto-hipster artist with the funny mustache and the Italian newspaper editor aren’t Slytherins… And which of the ethnicities would be most inclined toward rough stone walls and silver lamps hanging from the ceiling?

      • AbrahamLincoln says:

        What are you saying here?

        • nydwracu says:

          It isn’t a perfect match, because Puritan culture is responsible for pretty much all of the horrors of the 20th century.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Any reading under which “Puritan culture” is responsible for even half of the horrors of the 20th century is an absurdly overbroad distortion of the term “Puritan”.

          • nydwracu says:

            The Nazi obsession with eugenics was straight out of Harvard. (And Yale, and Princeton, and Stanford.) If Harvard isn’t Puritan, what is? And Josef Mengele was once on the Rockefeller Foundation’s payroll.

            The link to Communism is less clear than the link to Nazism, especially given the ethnic pattern of support for it in America, but respectable Yankee society certainly wasn’t allergic to it in the end. FDR thought Stalin was a great guy. To the point of ordering Warner Bros. to produce pro-Soviet — and pro-Great-Purge — propaganda for domestic release.

          • Texas says:

            If you add Quakers and other weird evangelical or liberal protestant or secular sects that came out of them you get even closer. A bunch of Quakers and others like them in England were big supporters of socialism and eventually Communism

      • Hlynkacg says:

        In the real world there’d be “dark wizards” from each house.

        Sooner or later some Gryffindor would get it into their head that “There isn’t a wizard that’s gone bad that wasn’t in Slytherin” and start Avada Kedavraing every pre-teen in a green and white scarf they could find.

        That or some Hufflepuff would decide that “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” really is the highest ideal and start using crystal balls and mind control magic to build the perfect Orwellian state.

        Meanwhile evil Ravenclaws are basically fascist technocrats and Evil Slytherin gives you Death Eaters.

      • TD says:

        “There isn’t a wizard that’s gone bad that wasn’t in Slytherin.”

        This is one of the reasons I never liked Harry Potter, or at least how I remember it. It’s been a long time since I read them to be fair. Did the books ever resolve the fact that the sorting hat is basically an evil detector?

        Something that always bothered me is having the villains be a supremacy group in a setting that has de facto supremacy of one group due to what are pretty much superpowers.

        • Creutzer says:

          Something that always bothered me is having the villains be a supremacy group in a setting that has de facto supremacy of one group due to what are pretty much superpowers.

          Why does that bother you?

          • TD says:

            Because the entirely intentional political allegory is frayed at the edges.

            The Death Eaters are supposed to be the equivalent of racist bigots, and obviously JK Rowling (as confirmed by her other opinions) wants us to take away a pro-equality message from her story.

            Unfortunately, the relationship between muggles and wizards isn’t the same as that between, say, blacks (insert minority really) and whites. It’s not a broken Aesop, but it’s a bit scuffed up.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            I am guessing you are a fan of X-men First Class?

            I mean besides the bromance, character depth, music and the fact that it is the only Xmen film that really got Chris Claremont’s quirks.

          • Creutzer says:

            It would be ridiculous for the book to be an allegory about race relations. Keep in mind also that it’s not an American book – Europe is not as obsessed with race as the US. In order to convey a general pro-equality message, it doesn’t need to align well with any actually existing situations.

            But why would it make a difference that wizards have actual superpowers? This kind of goes a bit in the direction of the ominous implicit assumption that if HBD is right, racism (as in treating people badly on account of their race) is justified.

          • TD says:

            “It would be ridiculous for the book to be an allegory about race relations.”

            The book itself as a whole is not an allegory for race relations, but the Death Eater bloodline purity stuff pretty consciously is. JK Rowling has confirmed this.

            There’s also the unconscious element of Rowling being a left-liberal. Her value system has entered her work, and of course it would, because otherwise she wouldn’t find Harry’s adventures positive. It’s the same for Tolkien whose High Tory sympathies were obvious despite saying that he hated allegory and that we shouldn’t read his books in that manner.

            “Keep in mind also that it’s not an American book – Europe is not as obsessed with race as the US.”

            I’m British, and I think you’re wrong on this. I don’t see a difference in how obsessed we are, it just manifests differently. We get the same stuff about the English flag as America does about the Confederate flag.

            “But why would it make a difference that wizards have actual superpowers?”

            Because equality is supposed to be real, and refer to real average parity in capability. It makes a tremendous difference whether equality is factual or just window dressing for enlightened paternalism.

            “This kind of goes a bit in the direction of the ominous implicit assumption that if HBD is right, racism (as in treating people badly on account of their race) is justified.”

            Establishment left of center thought apparently makes exactly this assumption, which is why consistent HBD is considered close enough to be racism to be suspect.

          • LHN says:

            Even Tolkien had no problem with, as he called it, applicability. Middle Earth was very obviously written by a Catholic, even though it doesn’t contain the sorts of explicit Christian images and parables that something like Narnia does.

          • meyerkev248 says:

            We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

            Modern Liberalism is founded on a basic assumption that you can enforce the law against anyone.

            If 99% of your population is well… muggles, and 1% of your population are teleporting death machines, the muggles either figure out a way to make the teleporting death machines back off OR the teleporting death machines rule the world/are generally outside the Muggle law depending on personal temperament.

            Because there is a major power differential there.

            /Or as Scott put it: “The fundamental law of feudalism is that an armored knight can defeat an arbitrary number of peasants”

          • AJD says:

            Wizards whose parents are wizards and wizards whose parents are Muggles have the same level of superpowers, and it is toward the later that the (relevant) racism allegory in the Harry Potter series is directed, not toward the Muggles themselves.

          • JBeshir says:

            There’s two separate things in the books kind of being combined here.

            Purebloodism vs muggleborn wizards was depicted as straight-up racism-allegory, and true to that, the books were pretty clear on it being wrong, with the people backing it doing factually stupid things, e.g. the whole “they’re stealing magic” thing in the last book.

            Wizard supremacy over muggles- the whole Magic is Might deal- is the thing you’re thinking of as not being factually wrong, but the depiction of how morally wrong their actions there were didn’t rest on the difference in capabilities being false- in fact, the books went out of their way to show them easily succeeding at tormenting people.

            That part was more a fantastical depiction of amoral use of power by the powerful/skilled to dominate without concern for the dominated than a depiction of irrational discrimination.

          • Mary says:

            Because equality is supposed to be real, and refer to real average parity in capability. It makes a tremendous difference whether equality is factual or just window dressing for enlightened paternalism.

            Neither. It’s mystical. And has always been mystical because among muggles, it has always been conspiciously obvious that the equality is not empirical in the sense you say it need to be real.

            (‘ real average parity in capability” shudder. I remember some real nastiness from people who maintained that ability in one area necessarily meant a person had to be deficient in others.)

        • I never believed that Pure Bloodism really made sense for Slytherin– too much risk of self-destruction to achieve an ideal.

          Slughorn is my idea of a real Slytherin.

          • LHN says:

            Somewhere around the fourth book, there was a publisher-run website that asked kids what house they thought they’d be sorted into and why. One memorable response went “I’d be Slytherin, but I’d make sure to be friends with Harry Potter, because he always wins.”

            I was really disappointed that Rowling never had a student like that. Slughorn points in that direction, but the story was crying out for the pragmatic, self-interested bastard who’s a firm (if dangerous) ally, because he’s figured out that helping the hero is the main chance.

          • John Schilling says:

            Well, yes, Kerr Avon would have been a Slytherin. I’m still not comfortable with the idea of a universe where he gets actual magical powers.

          • JBeshir says:

            Rowling was writing before it became normal for characters to be essentially aware they were in a story and aware that their reality ran on story tropes instead of our reality’s rules.

            A character like that would be fourth-wall breaking.

          • LHN says:

            Harry comes in as the Boy Who Lived, with a respectable pedigree, and he publicly overcomes impossible odds repeatedly, in sight of the other students, every year. I don’t think it requires breaking the fourth wall for a Slytherin to see turning him into a resource, rather than an adversary, as advantageous by mid-to-late in his Hogwarts career.

          • JBeshir says:

            By late, Voldemort had come back to life, so the cost of being wrong about Harry winning would be a pretty obvious death.

            That’s all well and good, ambition is risk and all, but the reward would need to be comparable, and there wasn’t a whole lot of it. The most you’d get is maybe an introduction to whoever came out on top? You’d be better off cozying up to Slughorn, that wouldn’t get you killed and would work better.

            I think this might be kind of letting HPMoR influence things too much. In actual canon no one of any group was especially smart or clever, and Harry wound up a magic cop rather than running the political system and a vital political connection.

            HP children were still not very children-like, but they were a lot closer than HPMoR, and ambition within such a group is much more ordinary.

            Edit: More generally, it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to depict a world where the cynical self-serving thing to do is also the altruistic thing to do all the time. The real world doesn’t work like that. I get that it’s nice because then you get to have edgy amorality points AND not suffer social censure for doing nasty things to people, and if people want to write fic where that’s possible then power to them.

            But Rowling doesn’t have to be into the business of that particular fantasy, and it runs against some of the actual themes of the series.

            If you wanted a depiction of “good ambition”, a more realistic thing might be someone whose ambition is to make the world better or something. But I think Rowling viewed that as infrequent.

          • Anonymous says:

            Rowling was writing before it became normal for characters to be essentially aware they were in a story and aware that their reality ran on story tropes instead of our reality’s rules.

            Don Quixote predates Harry Potter by about 400 years.

          • JBeshir says:

            Thus the use of the word “normal” in there, as opposed to “conceived of”. Rowling was writing before the current normalcy of meta, if that trend even extends outside of fandoms and niche stuff now.

            It obviously has existed for a long time, but that’s not the same thing as being normal.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t know exactly where it is “normal” pre or post Harry Potter. The recent peak was probably early post-modernism in the late 1960s. But in even there it was rarely done, and even more rarely done well.

          • LHN says:

            @JBeshir It’s definitely not coming out of HPMoR, since I haven’t read it. And I’m pretty sure the comment that inspired the idea predates its composition.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ JBeshir
            Rowling was writing before the current normalcy of meta, if that trend even extends outside of fandoms and niche stuff now.

            A rather late Xanth book had someone whose ambition was to become a major character. In Discworld people used it more seriously.

          • Nita says:

            One memorable response went “I’d be Slytherin, but I’d make sure to be friends with Harry Potter, because he always wins.”

            I was really disappointed that Rowling never had a student like that.

            Draco Malfoy did try to befriend Harry Potter. But Harry wasn’t keen on it, and Draco took the rejection quite badly (which seems pretty normal for an 11-year-old).

          • Rowling was writing before it became normal for characters to be essentially aware they were in a story and aware that their reality ran on story tropes instead of our reality’s rules.

            As the time line of any extended-universe that enforces dramatic tropes increases, the difference between genre-savvy and observation reduces to zero. By the late books, it is an observable fact that if Voldemort really does want Harry dead, he’s doing a terrible job of achieving his goals, and it’s also observable that Harry has other non-murdered friends; it might not be the default assumption that cozening up to him is the Slytherin thing to do, but it is a reasonable assumption.

            But, as has been pointed out before, in the canon books, Hermione isn’t Ravenclaw, so the Hat really is sorting by dramatic role instead of actual temperament or attributes.

          • Publius Varinius says:

            > By the late books, it is an observable fact that if Voldemort really does want Harry dead, he’s doing a terrible job of achieving his goals, and it’s also observable that Harry has other non-murdered friends; it might not be the default assumption that cozening up to him is the Slytherin thing to do, but it is a reasonable assumption.

            Shit. I’m probably a character in some Islamic State fanfic.

          • JBeshir says:

            Rowling could have shoehorned in “being a manipulative exploiter of people is also altruistic from this person’s perspective, so this person gets all of the cool”, if it was a fantasy she wanted to facilitate.

            And I guess it could have been done without fourth wall breaking, fair enough, although doing it in the way suggested would definitely be lampshading at the least.

            But it’s not an especially realistic thing. If you were ambitious and would-be cunning, you’d *keep your head down*, as smart self-centred people in the real world have always done, and pursue something else for a few years. Especially if you were only averagely cunning as opposed to 130+ IQ.

            Couple that with the downsides both in terms of immediate social environment (you have to sleep in the same room with some of the people you’d be working with the mortal enemies of) and long-term (with death being the cost for loss). And the limited upsides; good people do in fact tend to be kind of limited in the extent to which they reward the people around them compared to people who don’t have a problem with nepotism.

            Rowling didn’t want to depict being a self-centred manipulative exploiter of people as being a Perfectly Valid Option Too that magically aligns with altruism, because she didn’t believe it was, and chose not to elide/minimise the lack of alignment between them for the sake of coolness because the lack of alignment between them was sort of a theme.

            It’s worth remembering that Rowling was on welfare at the time of writing the first book, as well as being British. It makes good sense for her to be fairly disinclined towards either thinking “ignore the needs of people you can’t use” is a Perfectly Valid Option With No Inherent Moral Badness, or pretending that it is for the sake of cool.

          • LHN says:

            Assuming that Rowling wasn’t aiming towards a “Slytherin, too, may have a part to play” (which at least seemed to be foreshadowed in places), that raises the question of why Slytherin continues as part of Hogwarts. It’s not only Evil House, it’s at least twice demonstrated that it’s Traitor House.

            Assuming their values are recognized as Just Bad, why not take advantage of its alumni community’s comprehensive disgrace and loss of influence at the end of the series, and shut it down?

            (Vs. having Harry reassure his son that he knew a good Slytherin once, so being sorted there might be okay.)

          • JBeshir says:

            I think the thing there is that being sorted there didn’t essentially imply amorality or (more accurately to the books) the rest of the usual Cavalier values system they were depicted as commonly having. You could, theoretically, be ambitious for accomplishing good things and count. It’s just that Rowling thought this was uncommon, and didn’t feature it, I think.

            Actual self-oriented amorality, of the “using other people as resources for your ends” thing (as distinct from “knowing the value of your pieces”), the only way to be more than a cowardly neutral at best was to surpass/change from that, to “try for some remorse”, or to change in the way some characters did.

            As for shutting it down, that’d be a kind of drastic thing to throw into an epilogue. I think they weren’t out to perfectly optimise the world, just to save it, and weren’t looking to tear down any thousand year old institutions, even if parts of the thousand year old morality were pernicious.

          • onyomi says:

            “Slytherin, too, may have a part to play”

            I found this (the failure to realize it), along with the foreshadowed-but-unfulfilled redemption of Malfoy to be among the most disappointing aspects of the books.

            But even if we accept the canon that basically all the dark wizards and traitors are Slytherins, I think we could still imagine them continuing to exist based on the real-life behavior of actual universities. Consider, for example, that among Hogwarts alumni, Slytherins seem to be the most wealthy and well-connected in the wizarding world, and also to care the most about tradition. Basically, don’t piss off your biggest, most actively involved donors.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s no secret that Rowling’s worldbuilding is bad. Attempts to make something that doesn’t make sense make sense usually end up not making sense either.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            There were some people who liked and admired Harry Potter and maybe some of them had Slytherin values. They just asked the Sorting Hat to put them in Gryffindor so they would be closer to Harry.

          • I’m rather pleased with myself for having figured out why Slytherin House exists at all– when Hogwarts was founded, there was a Slytherin who specialized in cleverness and ambition, but who wasn’t especially bad.

          • JBeshir says:

            I think that fits with canon and must be correct; it’s hard to imagine that Slytherin’s ambition wasn’t one of those uncommon examples of a not self-centred ambition, an ambition for educating the future well, or something. Otherwise why waste ages building a magic academy?

            (He did in canon put a giant killer snake into the castle as well, so he was not exactly good, but that is kind of beside the point. Also that was weirdly ill-fitting with the rest of the history.)

          • Mary says:

            Hermione is in Gryffindor not Ravenclaw because she wanted to be.

            As for fully developed Slytherins, one thing I notice about it is that very few of the other students are deeply developed. True, the stories got fat as it was, but even Ron was seriously underplayed.

        • grendelkhan says:

          Did the books ever resolve the fact that the sorting hat is basically an evil detector?

          Of course not; the whole thing is bits of Calvinism stripped of their meaning and context and thrown together into a senseless hodgepodge which, for my money, cries out for a horrific literary agent hypothesis.

          Harry Potter is fun, but wow is it a bad idea to try and take it seriously.

          • AJD says:

            I mean, it also turns out to be the case that “There isn’t a wizard that’s gone bad that wasn’t in Slytherin” turns out to be not true in-universe; witness Peter Pettigrew of Gryffindor.

          • Mary says:

            Chasing the plot holes of Harry Potter is a stunt and a half.

            Witness that the Deathly Hallows, Bill is his own Secret Keeper, and Arthur is, too. The whole series would have collapsed if James or Lily had been the Secret Keeper.

            Or that Cedric did not have to die. If he and Harry had adopted a principle not merely of “wands out” but “curse first and ask after” — they do have disabling jinxes — not only would Cedric have lived, but Pettigrew and Voldemort would have been caught.

        • arbitrary_greay says:

          The books “resolve” this by:
          1) Sorting isn’t strictly by hat’s judgement. The hat takes the kids’ stated preferences into account, most notably Harry Potter’s rejection of Slytherin. This means that tribal affiliations strongly come into play, and the original “traits” hold less and less sorting weight, in the face of what each House thinks it’s really about. Hell, you can go back to Founder effects here.

          2) In book 5, the hat laments how House-polarized the school is.
          There are some cursory gestures towards breaking down House stereotypes (most notably Regulus Black’s heroism), but the execution rather falls flat, on the whole, which is why fanfiction so hungrily leapt on the woobification opportunities for Snape, Draco, or trumping up Zabini and Daphne Greengrass into idealized Slytherins playing both sides.

          • JBeshir says:

            I don’t think Rowling intended to resolve it. I think Rowling intended it to reflect what they believe to be true to real humans, and that Rowling believes that in reality people who are big on ambition and self-determination and the success of the Better are also normally quite non-judgemental about each other morally and liable to agree on social darwinianism as the norm.

            (And it makes sense that this would mean being depicted as cruel. Being non-judgemental about morals means no taboo on direct shows of power, which in the absence of any reason why they’re not okay become means to status, and there’s no more direct show of power than showing how little you need to care what a person thinks by hurting them.)

            So yeah, pretty sure Rowling didn’t try to create a “but they’re all equally good” message and fail, but didn’t really intend that message in the first place. Even the ‘good’ ones only ever did good by turning their back on what they were and being something else.

            That message was just something the fandom made up because edgy and evil is high-status, and minimising anything wrong done by high-status people/anything wrong with cool edgy amorality comes naturally to a lot of people.

        • Mary says:

          It never really got a grip on the Team Evil aspects, which is really workable only in comic works. There were points where it was treated as a legitimate part, and points where it was so insane that you wondered why the other founders let it join.

          It really needed some virtues to compensate.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes. I also like @VesselOfSpirit: “The four Americas: Parody lawful good, parody lawful evil, parody chaotic good, and parody chaotic evil”.

    • Aran says:

      The analogy seems a bit forced, aligning only one aspect of each while ignoring the rest. Sure, the Slytherins put much stock in heritage and class oppression, but the Gryffindors aren’t crazy murderous blood-feuders – none of the Hogwarts houses are, really. With at least two dystopian societies, there aren’t enough “evil” Hogwarts houses to go around.

      If we can mix settings in coming up with a mapping, then the Cavaliers kind of remind me of the Culture’s “Affront” (which Wikipedia speculates to be a caricature of the English gentry, interestingly), while the Borderers seem like a more civilized form of the Reavers from Firefly.

      Or, if we go back to Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri as mentioned at the top, then I’d come up with something like this:

      – Puritans: The Hive
      – Cavaliers: Morganites
      – Quakers: Peacekeepers
      – Borderers: Spartans

      The Puritans could also be the Believers, but what struck me most was the collectivist aspect – aggressively limiting individuality, and outright forcing people to live in families – rather than the religious fundamentalism. And, of course, there is the education aspect you mentioned, which would align them more closely with the University. (What an odd pair to pick from!)

  97. TD says:

    I always felt that democracy was a truce and a way of continuing an intractable struggle in a non-violent form of give and take. Democracy isn’t great because the rights of man and so on, it’s great because the alternative is kill each other. (Of course, there is one more alternative; split into separate nation-states, but at this point that is geographically implausible and would almost certainly devolve into killing each other).

    If you find this pessimistic, then that may because you expected something more, like the possibility of progress or something, but really just the fact that we’ve come up with a (relatively) peaceful form of competition for totally incompatible cultures living in close geographic proximity is progress.

    “Many conservatives I read like to push the theory that modern progressivism is descended from the utopian Protestant experiments of early America…”

    You mean, Dth Etrs, right? I’d never heard this “protestantism is proto-progressivism” thing until I read Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. Normal conservatives like protestantism, and the ultra-religious ones tend to chalk up progressivism to the flat abandonment of religion, rather than any sort of theory of descent from the wrong religion.

    • onyomi says:

      David Friedman recently described the “social contract” as more like a “peace treaty,” and that makes a lot more sense to me.

    • Anon. says:

      I’d never heard this “protestantism is proto-progressivism” thing until I read Ophiocordyceps unilateralis.

      The idea actually comes from Nietzsche (and a bit earlier, the Young Hegelians). Not all of them considered it a “negative”… Feuerbach takes the idea and runs with it, for example.

      • Frog Do says:

        It’s really more of a huge running trend throughout post-Luther German(ic) philosophy, IIRC the Catholics reliably complain about it.

    • Frog Do says:

      It’s a safe bet to assume basically nothing Moldbug writes is original, he even cites his sources, most of the time. But his goal was to get “his types of people” to consider these ideas for the first time, so I suppose on that front being seen as an originator is a kind of success.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Moldbug’s version of history reminds me a bit of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ in that the both try strenuously to get readers to avoid thinking about the recent past. Coates doesn’t want anybody to remember that anti-racists have been in charge of race in America for half a century. Moldbug wants rightwingers to complain about Unitarian influence a century ago and not think about Jewish influence during their own lifetimes.

        This is not to say that there isn’t value in their versions of antiquarianism, just that both are increasingly irrelevant to the present.

        • Broggly says:

          Having just read his Open Letter, I’m not sure why you’re focussing on Jews as much as, say, his explaination of the Cold War as being really a power struggle between parts of the US elite, with the Soviet Union and PRC just pawns of the Progressive Establishment

        • E. Harding says:

          Steve, I suspect you are vastly underestimating Puritan influence. Jews have no power if noone listens to them.

        • zensunni couch-potato says:

          I don’t think Moldbug denies Jewish influence. I think he denies Kevin B. MacDonald’s explanation of Jewish influence as being due to a “culture of critique” and instead attributes it to an enthusiastic adaptation among Jews of Unitarian values.

  98. Leonard says:

    If America is best explained as a Puritan-Quaker culture locked in a death-match with a Cavalier-Borderer culture, with all of the appeals to freedom and equality and order and justice being just so many epiphenomena – well, I’m not sure what to do with that information. Push it under the rug? Say “Well, my culture is better, so I intend to do as good a job dominating yours as possible?”

    Of course your personal reaction can be anything, and it doesn’t matter. You’re just an individual citizen, not the Emperor. What matters in our system is how humans in general react to this sort of thing, and they way they do is domination. Those backward hicks who think fetuses are people can go suck eggs, and no, they cannot have different laws in “their” states.

    At least you are part of the dominating Puritan-Quaker culture! It’s much better to dominate than be dominated.

  99. AM says:

    For people who enjoyed this post, I’d like to recommend The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto, which is the book that Isaac Asimov would have written about the history of New Amsterdam if he’d only had access to recently-translated primary sources. (I say this as someone who grew up on Asimov’s non-fiction, but it also reminds me of Foundation.)

    It tells the story of the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam, and makes the case that the Dutch had an influence on New York disproportionate to how long they were actually in charge. Some of its arguments for the latter are a stretch, and it’s a popular history, not written by a history, but it’s still fascinating and entertaining.

  100. Patrick says:

    The only thing I can add-

    The most influential part of my family in terms of my life and values consists of a group of people who followed economic tides by moving from Appalachia to a northern Midwest state.

    They immediately set about adopting the norms and standards of success popular in the region in which they lived. Of the two generations I can see, my grandparents partially adopted these norms, two of their children adopted these norms so extensively that it brought them into conflict with my grandparents, and one backslid, eventually marrying and moving into one of my states many rural enclaves of Appalachian culture. The two who adopted local norms have educations and professional jobs, and two to three children who are pursuing the same. One has adopted local elite norms so extensively that he comes off as going overboard to the other. The remainder has eight children, few of whom are particularly educated, and many of whom have in turn started similarly large families, using foreign adoption to jump start them to the half dozen mark as swiftly as possible. Their entire social circle, life, and jobs are built around their charismatic church. A few of them seem to be breaking away from this life though, at least in part, but most have remained close to home. My grandfather always personally prized the success of his two localized children the most. But I’m slowly realizing that he respected the remainder the most, precisely because of the way that child’s family followed the cultural values he remembers from his childhood.

    Point is- if you want a data point on how local culture does or does not get changed by immigration, there it is.

  101. Ryan says: