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.
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.
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.
No way. Zakharov for President!
(But in case Aki-Zeta-V wound up winning, let it be known that I, for one, welcome our new AI overlords.)
“I did not research retroviral engineering with that woman!”
^^ the comment on SSC that I probably endorse the most.
Seriously. Domai will just outpopulate and out-produce everyone anyway. Just pop-boom with him, play coy while you do so, and win.
OK, I think it’s great that I read this wonderful review, and the first comment I see draws from SMAC/AC. I just happened to be playing it this weekend; found a version on GOG that easily installs and runs on my Win7 machine. SMAC is still one of my all-time favorite computer games, precisely because the factions really feel so different (vs. the Civ games, where they all tend to look and act the same [except nukin’ Gandhi]).
Here’s what you do: have an aggressively federal government.
Which is both unconstitutional and unlikely to win an election.
1. The constitution only explicitly gives the national government a few powers
2. The tenth amendment says powers not delegated to the national government go to the states or people.
How is that unconstitutional?
I think I may have misread Dan’s post, actually. Radical decentralization is constitutional, radical centralization is not(but has happened despite that minor setback)
It is a telling sign of how thoroughly we went wrong that one’s first reaction to the phrase “Federal government” is “big, powerful, and controlling”.
@Doctor Mist: That meaning arguably goes back to the emergence of the Federal form in contrast to the original Confederation. For all the efforts to limit it (enumerated powers, Bill of Rights, separation of powers, etc.), Federalism at origin was about increasing the power of the central government relative to the states.
Certainly the Federalists were accused (sometimes with reason) with wanting as big, powerful, and controlling a federal government as they could contrive, for as long as they were a going concern.
He said “aggressively federal government” which to be fair is easy to misread as “aggressive federal government” which would mean a strong, or at least grasping, central power.
The reason we have states rather than provinces is because they weren’t supposed to just be administrative units but (semi-)sovereign polities. A bunch of little countries committed to common defense, with a single shared currency and freedom of movement between them. In other words pretty similar to the EU, down to the point that the federal government was mostly unelected with senators and presidential electors chosen directly by state legislatures.
If the people of New Ariana want to make buzkashi the official state sport because it’s so fun to whip other riders when they pick up the goat carcass, and the people of the Commonwealth of Cascadia want to ban highschool football because of the risk of concussions why not let them both do so? Rather than having to fight out every cultural issue on the national level, the two can agree to disagree and maintain independent state cultures which better match their ethnic preferences. And a 2% difference in population is only a crisis with proportional representation: if New Ariana the Commonwealth of Cascadia both get the same two senators and semi-arbitrary number of presidential electors then it’s hard for one to really dominate the other.
Well, the problem is, We Tried That And It Didn’t Work. As in, having a devastating bloody war to establish that the Confederate region can’t have Slave States while the Union region has Free States. There was an amazing amount of legal and social effort to try to make that split remain functional while it lasted. And the problem of irreconcilable conflict has gotten worse. There was arguably almost another war to establish that the Confederate region can’t have Jim Crow States while the Union region has Integrated States. Some people think we risk a war now over whether the Rural region can have Gun Culture while the Urban region has No-Gun Zones. There’s too many issues where one person’s “culture” is another person’s “human rights violation”.
There’s some irreconcilable differences, but not really that many in the grand scheme of things. There’s no particular reason that gay marriage or pot or prostitution can’t be legal some places and banned others – it’s rather common, actually.
It’s not a question of how *many* differences there are, but whether those differences can be reconciled.
In the case of the US civil war, the differences could not be reconciled (in part) because southern states expected their laws concerning slavery to be upheld when slaves fled to free states, and people in free states were not willing to uphold those laws. One can draw an obvious comparison to gun rights vs. gun control — it’s difficult to control access to guns in DC if gun laws are relatively lax in Virginia.
Another big factor in the US civil war was free trade vs. protectionism — southerners wanted to keep manufactured goods as cheap as possible (free trade) whereas northerners wanted tariffs on manufactured goods to allow for some build-up of industry. One can draw a lot of comparisons to the modern situation in terms of the free trade situation being basically reversed, and also the different views on immigration.
Your examples — prostitution, gay marriage, and legalization of marijuana — are probably some of the least pressing differences between blue tribe and red tribe. I agree those are mostly no big deal (though legalization of marijuana would have some similarities to the situations with gun control and slavery).
I would argue that of those issues only gay marriage is a Blue rallying point. And look at what happens when minor Reds off in backwoods Redland oppose that position – see Kim Davis and the cake debacle. It doesn’t matter that the controversy is easily reconciliable if it’s serving as a proxy war between the tribes. The fact that they disagree is the only reason it was ever a major national issue.
re: same-sex marriage, there was an irreconcilability issue with the fact that states without same sex marriage didn’t want to recognize any legitimacy to any same sex marriage. In hindsight they probably could have held out longer if it wasn’t for DOMA (which had to be reversed eventually, and gave a big push to the marriage equality cause), but eventually you’re going to have problems where people married in a blue state and living in a red state want to claim benefits.
Prostitution is probably one of those cases where the irreconcilability is low, given that it’s a service and not a good (like guns or weed) you can export easily.
Denmark ran into a similar irreconcilability issue back in 1989 (since certain international treaties bind countries to recognize each other’s marriages) and we also didn’t want to upset the other Nordics too much (and the conservatives were talking about our reputation as a country). The way this was solved was by inventing so-called “registreret partnerskab” (registered partnership, basically a civil union) where same-sex couples could have the usual kind of paperwork-signing-at-the-municipality-office wedding (“usual” is not sarcastic, it’s quite common), but not be married in the church (Danish state church). We were very close to getting a whole different law there, though, where anyone living together with a partner of any gender would receive the right tax benefits etc. In the time afterwards, some churches came up with “partnership blessing” rituals which looked very much like marriage. Then in 2012 (!) Danish politicians somehow realized that we didn’t have “real” gay marriage yet (also something with adoption rights, but it’s simpler to think of it as signal politics) and, quite simply, wrote registered partnerships out of the law (though with an exception to convert an existing registered partnership to a real marriage), and (here’s the cool part) added a small new clause to the existing marriage laws saying that any law regarding someone of specific gender in a marriage doesn’t count for same-sex marriages, and that other countries aren’t bound to respect our same-sex marriages.
This, however, had an interesting result: now that same-sex marriage was officially exactly like any other marriage, this also meant gay people had the right to a church wedding. Some of the priests were pretty pissed, and church minister basically said “you’re government employees, deal with it”.
This turned into a long comment, but my main point is that the gay marriage irreconcilability issue isn’t actually much of one, given that civil unions don’t legally count as marriage outside of states that recognize them, but can be made arbitrarily close to marriage.
I’m not trying to quote mine, but this is a kind of funny contrast. It’s a tough sell that we’re in a more irreconcilable conflict now than when America was literally at war with itself.
That said, you have a good point. The US government gradually took on more and more powers between its founding and the Civil War, which made it a critical cultural battleground. Controlling the Senate meant you could decide which new western territories were admitted as states, which meant more votes in the Senate, which gave more control over westward expansion… The South ultimately seceded in large part because Lincoln’s election showed that a candidate could win the Presidency without needing Southern support: they had lost control of the federal government, perhaps permanently.
It might not be possible to set up a stable system where neither side feels threatened by the existence of the other while remaining in the same country. Or at least it might end up looking more like the Ottoman Millet system than American federalism. Then again the Swiss seem to have done an alright job at it.
I meant, due to greater interconnectivity, there are now many conflicts which once might be contained in the past, but in the near future may rise to becoming irreconcilable. “Near future” meaning not next month, but less than a century. For example, right now in the US, the gun-ownership debate is at a low level. If there’s some big massacre, there may be more intense conflict over the split where in some areas guns are freely available, where in other areas they’re highly restricted. It’s just not obvious if that difference can be maintained indefinitely, even though it’s been possible previously.
The way you do it is the swiss way. The american constitution did a number of things right in terms of establishing stable republican government, but it utterly failed to prevent the continual growth of federal power because it has no mechanisms that encouraged the reduction of federal power. The swiss did (or at least did it better), with their referenda that could repeal laws, but not pass them. You need to make it easier to reduce federal power than increase it, because if doing either is just as easy, as it is in the US, the temptations of centralization ensure a ratchet effect.
You can pass laws by popular vote (via changing the Constitution) just fine in Switzerland…
Interestingly, Switzerland had a civil war within a couple of decades of the ACW, which resulted in the federal government becoming much stronger and the cantons becoming much weaker. On the other hand, it lasted 26 days and caused a total of 86 deaths.
Only if by “didn’t work” you mean the puritans can’t resist altering the deal, and have the political muscle to do it.
That’s an interesting way to describe the civil war.
Interesting, certainly. Inaccurate? I think not.
The civil war kicked off because the south, a legitimately hatable political entity, rigged the Constitution to give them disproportionate political power. This worked for generations, until social change was enough that the north elected one president. The south knew that this president was unfriendly to their economic and social interests, and rather than deal with it for four years and then try to win the next election, they opted to secede. The north refused to permit this, and continued to insist on the illegitimacy of secession until the south opened fire. That refusal to acknowledge secession is the ONLY thing the north did that could be validly considered “changing the deal,” and whether a right of secession was ever part of “the deal” is highly debatable. And arguably it’s beside the point, as any worthwhile theory of just war would have permitted the north to conquer the south immediately post secession on humanitarian and war crime prevention grounds. That may not have been the north’s motive at the time, and the north probably wouldn’t have held the values necessary to do such a thing, but it’s worth remembering that had things been done by the book we’d have had an invasion, a whole lot of Hague style trials, and then hangings. Which makes complaining that the north “changed the deal” is a pretty weird thing to focus on. Like claiming that WW2 is a story of American disrespect for European sovereignty.
>The civil war kicked off because the south, a legitimately hatable political entity,
well I see we’re certainly off to a fair and balanced start….
>rigged the Constitution to give them disproportionate political power.
how’s that? Because if you’re talking about the senate, that benefitted small northern states like vermont, maine, and delaware a lot more than the south.
>This worked for generations, until social change was enough that the north elected one president. The south knew that this president was unfriendly to their economic and social interests, and rather than deal with it for four years and then try to win the next election, they opted to secede.
You mean like the way the north almost did during the war of 1812? And how, again, is secession evil? The South feared that a northern president would renegotiate the deal, so they decided to end it. They did not march on the north to impose their social system.
>That refusal to acknowledge secession is the ONLY thing the north did that could be validly considered “changing the deal,”
except, of course, for the subsequent invasion and decades long occupation.
>as any worthwhile theory of just war would have permitted the north to conquer the south immediately post secession on humanitarian and war crime prevention grounds.
Before about 1750, slavery was a nigh universal human institution that no one had ever questioned the basic justifiably of.
That may not have been the north’s motive at the time, and the north probably wouldn’t have held the values necessary to do such a thing, but it’s worth remembering that had things been done by the book we’d have had an invasion, a whole lot of Hague style trials, and then hangings.
“By the book” conquest has no such thing. in a by the book conquest, you march in, kill them until they stop resisting, then impose your governors on their provinces. You don’t bother to execute anyone besides the enemy sovereign who lays down arms, at most you take their property. And you certainly don’t have trials. And that’s basically how reconstruction worked.
Interesting idea about the senate. But looking at the population numbers, in 1840 the slave states had average population about 463 thousand (fairly evenly distributed), while the free states had average population about 631 thousand (with more small states, but pulled up by New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania). So I’m pretty sure you were just making that up as you went along.
Probably the 3/5th clause which made no sense at all in any sort of internally consistent framework and existed solely to give more political power to the south.
The deal was cut in 1787, not 1840. If any rigging was done, it was based on the status quo then, not unknowable future numbers. And as brad points out, you need to adjust for slaves.
>Probably the 3/5th clause which made no sense at all in any sort of internally consistent framework and existed solely to give more political power to the south.
If slaves were counted as whole persons that would have meant more votes for the south, not less.
The logical thing for the purpose of representation would be to count them as zero, along with “Indians not taxed”. Which is what the free states wanted.
3/5ths was thus the compromise.
@ Vox –
Actually, the South would have been fine with that. Except that the North insisted that the Southern states be taxed per capita including slaves. They were far more insistent at including slaves for taxing than the South was for including them for representation.
Then oddly enough that tax system (i.e. the one based on apportionment), so fought over at the convention, was never used. At least as far as I know.
What was the tax per capita like as opposed to some capital tax?
I find it odd to think that the north would have rather tax as slave as capita instead of capital in trade for giving the south disproportionate political power.
I find the Civil War as evidence for “we tried allowing self determination and it didn’t work” extremely unconvincing. One time, 150 years ago, some people who were obviously hypocrites about self-determination tried to use the rhetoric of self-determination and secession to defend an evil institution. Therefore, real federalism and/or secession may never be considered again.
I do think it’s a very interesting point Scott makes, however, how the Cavaliers, weirdly, may have shared the now usually left-wing idea of positive rights: not only to be left alone, but not to have to work to avoid starving, and that one way, probably the only way, to accomplish this in a world without robots was to establish a class hierarchy whereby the total lack of freedom of some enabled the positive freedoms of others.
At the risk of vastly overgeneralizing, it seems like the antebellum South’s gradual absorption of some traditional Puritan and Quaker traits, as well as many Northern states’ move toward a more, frankly, Cavalierish, aristocratic bent (though I get the sense Boston has almost always been kind of like that?) might explain some of the reversal in their economic fortunes.
“I find the Civil War as evidence for “we tried allowing self determination and it didn’t work” extremely unconvincing. One time, 150 years ago, some people who were obviously hypocrites about self-determination tried to use the rhetoric of self-determination and secession to defend an evil institution. Therefore, real federalism and/or secession may never be considered again.”
I agree that slavery is evil, and the north was likely justified on invading on those grounds. However, the fear is that the future-blue tribe and future-red tribe could see each other as equally evil, as the north saw the south.
For example, I could see the possibility of a civil war over LGBT+ rights if things go particularly badly.
” One time, 150 years ago, some people who were obviously hypocrites about self-determination tried to use the rhetoric of self-determination and secession to defend an evil institution. Therefore, real federalism and/or secession may never be considered again.”
Decolonization? That was only 50 years ago with plenty of secession.
I’m inclined to think that a civil war (both sides using government-scale weapons) isn’t going to happen because the big divide is urban/rural rather than regional.
I don’t think LGBT issues could ever result in a civil war, for a bunch of reasons.
1) It’s not a regional divide so much as an education/urban-rural thing.
2) LGBT people don’t represent as large a percentage of the population as slaves did (~4% vs ~13%)
3) There isn’t a huge economic issue here; slave owners weren’t just opposed to ending slavery on philosophical grounds, but because slaves represented a very large investment for them.
4) Wars in general are MUCH less common in modern developed countries.
re “in a world without robots”:
or, perhaps, in a world with robots. It still seems quite frighteningly likely that if we manage to successfully create strong AI without letting it destroy us, it may be because we recreate the corrupt social world of the Virginia planters, with humanity as the master race and the robots as slaves.
This is of course a staple of SF (starting with the SF that gave us the word “robot” in the first place, but note also how many robot-rebellion stories are essentially slave-rebellion stories) but seems like something MIRI type folks ought to be exploring more.
@ Nicholas Weininger:
Well, that seems to be goal, isn’t it?
The whole idea of “Friendly AI” is that the robots will like being our slaves. Or, separating this out from the issue of whether such robots would have subjective conscious experience, their highest goal would be to make us happy.
It is not clear, to put it mildly, that engineering an intelligent being to like being a slave is an ethical thing. The relevant SF here, if memory serves, is S.M. Stirling’s Draka series, where (spoiler for the later books, I suppose) this is done to humans, by other humans, using genetic engineering, creating a new subspecies Homo sapiens servus. If that would not be OK, why would it be OK to do the same to an intelligent robot?
@ Nicholas Weininger:
By what standard is it unethical?
I haven’t read the Draka series. By all accounts, the Draka people are cartoonishly evil moustache-twirlers. So I’m hesitant to endorse the specific practices they engage in.
But the problem with slavery, from the perspective of the slaves, is that people don’t like being slaves, and so the masters have to employ cruel punishments and tyrannical means of control that cause a lot of suffering for them. The problem, from the perspective of the masters, is that slaves work much more inefficiently than free workers and keep them in constant fear of slave rebellion.
If there were actually “natural slaves” of the sort hypothesized by Aristotle, then what would be the problem with slavery? It would be in the interest of both parties.
And anyway, even if you would for some reason say this was unethical to practice on an engineered version of human beings, that wouldn’t show that it’s unethical to practice on robots. Because you’re failing to distinguish between “intelligent” and “conscious” here. It’s not unethical to beat up or murder NPCs in Grand Theft Auto or something—they don’t feel any pain!
There is no particular reason to think that an intelligent being must necessarily have subjective consciousness and/or the ability to feel pleasure or pain.
I think most people would object to engineered Draka slaves because altering a race as a whole is unethical even if all individual members of the race post-alteration grew up liking slavery and were not altered within their own lifespan. The unethicalness of modifying the race carries over to the unethicalness of using members of the modified race as slaves. AIs designed from the ground up to want to serve humans would not fall under this.
Yes, but why is “altering a race as a whole” unethical?
Besides, who said anything about altering a race as a whole? Presumably, you’d alter a few individuals and create a new race.
Perhaps I wasn’t precise enough. It doesn’t really matter whether the group is a race or not.
As far as most people are concerned, if you alter someone’s mind, they have to consent to the mind modification in their unaltered state. The fact that they consent after the modification doesn’t count.
And if you alter them so that the alteration takes place before they’ve developed a mind at all, that doesn’t mean there is no consent requirement. It just means that their unaltered ancestors need to consent instead. (And perhaps even that isn’t enough, but it’s at least a minimum requirement.)
The ancestors of Draka slaves didn’t consent to have their descendants be made slaves, so making them become slaves is unethical. And we should precommit to treating the use of slaves created in such a manner as unethical.
Designing AIs from the ground up to serve humans doesn’t have this objection.
It’s an interesting comparison between the modern left’s conception of “positive right” and old aristocratic conception of rights. Remember that before enlightenment political philosophers started talking about “negative rights”, the idea of a right was directly connected to privileges of some sort of other (e.g. the divine right of kings, which is literally one guys right rule a nation).
I’d imagine that the idea of negative rights gained traction because they’re the only type of universal rights that could plausibly exist in a pre-industrial society. Only with recent technological advances (e.g. robots) can the left posit the existence of rights that are 1) positive and 2) universal
I’m not sure why the “unaltered ancestors” have to consent…
In any case, what if I’m the genetic engineer, and I clone my own cells, altering them in this way? Is that enough? Or do I need to take a poll of the fellow members of my race?
It is not clear, to put it mildly, that engineering an intelligent being to like being a slave is an ethical thing. The relevant SF here, if memory serves, is S.M. Stirling’s Draka series, where (spoiler for the later books, I suppose) this is done to humans, by other humans, using genetic engineering, creating a new subspecies Homo sapiens servus.
We’ve had those for long ages: Canis lupus familiaris. SF for the next step: Cordwainer Smith re giving them hands and teaching us to better speak their language.
That’s why I said it’s a minimum requirement and might not be enough.
You also have some obligations towards your descendants which include not deliberately altering their development in a manner that would be considered undesirable by them had their development not been altered. (This obligation only applies to major alterations, but making someone enjoy slavery is a major alteration.)
Note that most people who are not EAs differentiate inaction and action, so you may have more obligation to avoid actively making them X than you have to prevent them from becoming X.
Hope I am doing this replying thing correctly —
W.r.t robot slaves / genetically engineered human slaves, the obvious problem is that if you engineer a sentient being to look out for your interests rather than its own … how can you be sure the being will be taken care of? Dogs are a prime example; they will allow themselves to be beaten by their masters and not run away, but that doesn’t mean they like it. They still experience pain, they just want to be loyal to their human *more.* When you give all the power to one being and none to another, oppression of the latter is pretty much inevitable.
The other question is, is it unfair to take a whole species and never allow it to achieve what good it can for itself — never create art, never create music, never write memoirs, never create government … none of the things that we value about being human? Sure, they won’t want those things. But isn’t it a loss for everyone to *create intelligent life* and then leave it unable to do any of the really cool things intelligent life can do?
Was it unethical to domesticate dogs?
Dogs are not “intelligent beings” in this sense.
That’s a brilliant way of describing cultural incompatibility! I never thought of it that way. But I wouldn’t say that “it didn’t work.” Rather, I see American history as a slow, natural progression from conglomerate of sovereign states to single nation state. The only way we could bring everybody to the table in the beginning was by agreeing to a government that was just hodgepodge of disjoint entities in the Articles of Confederation. This naturally developed into a constitutional state through the need for a more centralized power, but only if slavery was off the table and only if we made the federal government reeeeally restricted. I don’t think it was as much of a “this failed, so lets try this” as it was “now that you’ve warmed up to this level of central government, lets try this new bit.” What exactly has driven this progression towards the highly centralized federal power of today, I’m really not sure. But just looking at the state of the federal government during each century seems to paint a very clear picture of progression towards a unified nation state.
There’s a pretty major question about whether you can centralise the military without centralising a bunch of other things,
I think the answer of history is “no”. That’s what brought about German unification under the machinations of Bismark.
The german states had agreed to pool their militaries under the leadership of the best one, Prussia. Bismark then went hunting for wars to fight as a means of bringing political unification out of military unification. It worked on the first try.
Basic ingroup/outgroup dynamics. The best way to increase ingroup loyalty is to have that scale of an outgroup.
> A bunch of little countries committed to common defense, with a single shared currency and freedom of movement between them.
The Americans had that under the Articles of Confederation. The central government was weak with no president, agencies, powers of taxation or judiciary, and although it could request money from the states, the states almost never gave it any money, forcing it to borrow heavily and print currency in order to pay for the war. The army was perpetually short of provisions and underpaid as a result. Many politicians felt that a stronger government capable of raising it’s own money was necessary, and so you get the Federalist Papers and the Constitution.
It surprised me to learn that James Madison was pushing for an even stronger federal government at the convention, one that would have (for example) a direct veto power over state laws. A few years after the convention, when the Federalist Party took control of the government, Madison switched to insisting that state law was supreme and nullification was a valid practice. And then a few years after that, Madison was President, and he signed a new charter for a Bank of the United States when he’d denounced the first one as a federal usurpation of state power.
This all goes to prove my theory: almost nobody cares about federalism.
It’s a good idea but considering that the divide these days seems to be urban/rural, federalism might have better success splitting the metro areas off in to the their own administrative areas separate from the states they are located in.
Cities for the progs, backwoods for the cons?
That’s basically how you ended up with Detroit and Flint.
Well, now I guess you “formalize” it.
Phew, being Death Eater is easy.
Huh? Your comment was dense with references and inferences I am unable to unpack.
Anyway my point was Detroit and Flint were quasi-independent communities with politics very different from that of the rest of the state. Those two communities have recently fallen on hard times and are now looking to the state to bail them out. The state has to an extent done so, but insisted on doing it “their way”, leading to some degree of friction between the city and state governments.
So you think a more centralized state government would have kept Detroit from where it’s at today? Possibly, but all the cities that were heavily based on manufacturing are doing pretty badly. I don’t think better government would have prevented that.
I’m not saying a more centralized state would have prevented Detroit. Rather, insofar as Detroit was independent (and the rest of Michigan independent of Detroit) it is now less independent because the state is stepping in to mitigate the failure of the city government.
So it’s more like, you might think you’re insulated, but that’s only true if you’re willing and able to let your differently governed neighbors fail.
If you mean metro area the way the census uses it and so are thinking about urban + suburban vs rural, I can’t see such a system working very well. Too many people and resources would be in the city-states and not enough in the vast rural rump states.
The top 200 metropolitan statistical areas, through Charleston, WV at population 200,000, collectively represent 250M people — around 78% — and I’d bet a significantly higher percentage of tax revenue.
The rump states would be outvoted in the senate, the gerrymanding would switch from favoring rural areas to favoring urban areas, and along with their new responsibilities under the strengthened federalism they’d had big drops in per capita revenue.
On top of that I don’t think it would actually reflect the culture divide. Suburbs are big, important, and divided. You can’t just sweep them under the rug and talk about urban and rural.
The federal government could still stay the exact same. It’s state and local governments that would be different.
You’re possibly right on the suburbs. I’m not sure.
People’s support for federalism, regionalism, localism and devolution of power generally dries up when they realize how members of their tribe, or even they themselves, would end up in ‘enemy territory’. For one, the urban/rural divide virtually guarantees you’d have substantial quantities of reds under blue rule and blues under red rule, only now without the protections the federal government granted them from the whims of the majority. Sure you can tell people to move if they don’t like it, if you want to reenact the Partition of India in the United States.
This is a very good point.
I am a lot less sanguine about decentralization than a lot of libertarians.
Isn’t this already happening though, with the increasing polarization of America?
Personally, I have my doubts. Bill Bishop in The Big Sort states that people move to communities not states. Living in a county that votes very differently than the state as a whole & noticing the trends for both, I think Bill Bishop is right. I do not see internal migration pulling my county toward my state’s majority party, but rather even further toward its existing majority party, even as the state as a whole shows no movement toward the party my county leans toward. Perhaps one would need to examine nationally counties which vote for the opposite party of the state as a whole to verify anonymous user on April 27 at 4:32pm’s concern, but I suspect anonymous user on April 27 at 4:32pm is correct.
1. Seems to me the solution here is not less federalism but more. Letting the blue cities in red states run their own shows and live by their own rules would resolve a lot of political conflicts.
2. Moving if you don’t like it doesn’t sound all that bad. This sort of thing goes on all the time under the status quo–LGBT kids from the sticks go to cities with LGBT communities, Californian engineers move to DFW or Flagstaff and buy suppressed SBRs–and it seems to work out OK, except insofar as newcomers threaten to change the character of the larger polity they move to. Which, again, seems like a problem to be solved by decentralization–let Boulder and Austin govern themselves and leave the rest of their respective states alone. To my way of thinking, the main problem is that moving if you don’t like it is impractically difficult for many. And this, too, strikes me as a reason to decentralize more, so that people don’t have to move as far.
It’s possible that decentralizing all the way would be good, but decentralizing just part of the way would make things worse.
This is basically my view, with decentralizing ‘all the way’ meaning ‘down to the individual level’, ie, classical liberalism’s emphasis on *individual* (negative) rights.
People are social enough that, for a lot of them, this leads to the government seeming *incredibly* intrusive, but most of that ‘intrusion’ is really just equal protection of people in the outgroup. So for conservatives, you get gay people ‘shoving their lifestyle down America’s throat’, and for liberals, you get big business ‘using their money to dominate people’, but all of this ‘shoving’ and ‘domination’ is social rather than political.
This isn’t an ideal system- social pressure really *does* influence people- but I don’t see any objective way of dividing ‘good’ social influence from ‘bad’ social influence. In practice, ‘bad’ social influence seems to mean ‘social influence practiced by my outgroup’.
I think that the ideal structure is likely to be power resting with the national government and the municipalities. Less power to the states, more to both the towns and the federal government. No states imposing the will of cities on the rural areas, or vice versa; the basic values of the nation, educational/labor/etc. standards strongly safeguarded by the Federal Government; cities and communities able to administer themselves, hopefully without too much interference from the government of a few arbitrary lines on a map; people able to take a larger role in their own governance at the community level; and less interference on the technical apparatus of the national state by legislators intent on pleasing their regional state. Frankly, I’d be fine with turning states into purely administrative areas, without legislatures or much in the way of their own laws.
Municipality line drawing is very important — almost outcome determitive on a lot of issues. With strong municipalities and weak states how does that get hashed out?
I agree that that would be an important issue. In many places, the existing lines might well work out OK. In some rural places, where communities don’t run together, this would probably be true. Of course, it would be more difficult in suburban areas and the cities, but I think that there wouldn’t have to be much restructuring there either. The problem would be oversight – getting rid of the astonishing levels of municipal corruption that some towns maintain, streamlining bylaws, making sure that town lines aren’t surreptitiously changed. I can’t say I know how that could be done. More open-records laws would help (in many states, it’s nigh impossible for journalists or ordinary citizens to get ahold of public records due to waiting periods and massive fees), as would a drop in voter apathy about town/municipal politics (few people vote, and the ones that do are the ones with an interest in seeing the status quo continued).
When I look at the health-care system that the blue-state government here in Massachusetts saddled us with, I thank my lucky stars that the federal government…. um. Erm.
I genuinely have no idea what this is supposed to mean
“Boo Obamacare”, I think. It’s closely related to the Massachusetts state health care arrangement that existed before it.
Presumably he’s objecting to the fact that Massachusetts implemented a healthcare law restricting his freedom, but the federal court system did not rule this state law unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.
Which is a fair objection to the idea that federal power will check all local abuses. But it leaves out the relevant fact that objecting to “activist judges subverting the will of the people by inventing unenumerated rights” is a game played by people on both the left and the right.
The smaller the entities are, the smaller burden moving to a different one if you don’t like the government is.
Which is why the idea of the entire US be that entity makes no sense to me. Here 45% usually live in “enemy territory”, and moving to Canada or Mexico is a really high bar.
Perhaps I don’t understand what “the protections of the federal government” would be lost under a more decentralized system.
Because if you have the federal government watching over everyone’s shoulders and constantly overruling their decisions, it isn’t really decentralized.
The northern areas of Mississippi and Alabama are part of the Appalachians and thus have a large amount of scots-irish blood. They also have a decent amount of mild or low class english, and some cavalier elite.
Cavaliers/Anglicans often led the south e even in areas where they were outnumbered, but after the Civil War Episcopalianism(American Anglicanism) really lost a lot of influence and has been continually losing it to evangelicalism and other more border culture.
This can partially be seen imo by the rise of the ku kluz clan, while it did have vaguely royalist titles like king etc. Really it had a lot more existing of Scots heritage and “clan” culture, vigilante justice etc.
It’s also important to note that as the group of people with almost all the slaves, the Episcopalian/Anglican planter aristocracy were the main people behind the war. Appalachians/Scots Irish often were lukewarm or outright hostile towards the war. Kentucky, West Virginia, West maryland, etc. Obviously very much didn’t like it. Upstate regions of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessew, etc. Often were dominated by pro-unionists as well. Andrew Johnson of Tennessee was a famous Southerner against the war, and Sam Houston first President and then Governor refused to secede from the union and begged Texas not to do it, but didn’t go as far to go to the north afterwards.
I think the failure of the Southern Episcopalians in war and the devastation afterward has a lot to do with the decline of southern influence.
In some ways Amglicanism was arguably stronger from 1865-1945, maybe even after in the north than in the south. Many people who were rich or self-made men joined Episcopalianism in the north from other denominations to join the high-class or prestigious society, from Dutch reformed, presbyterians, even some Congregationalists and jews.
Remember that both Ivey leauge schools Columbia(kings college originally) and U Penn were set up as Anglican schools. Brown was Baptist but also had a decent amount of Anglicans and other influences, open to many Christian religions from very beginning. Harvard and Yale started as Puritan theological schools obviously, and Princeton was started by and originally for Presbyterians.
See John d rockefeller, roosevelts, Robert moses, David dinkins, John Kasich, Bushes, etc. For people in North converting to Episcopalianism/Anglicanism.
The burning cross comes from a Walter Scott novel about the Jacobite risings, I believe.
This is a really good point about the “cavaliers” and/or Episcopalians joining the northern elites. Take a look at this list of American presidents by religious affiliation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_affiliations_of_Presidents_of_the_United_States
Even recently, some of the presidents who we think of as coming from the “elite” or strong political backgrounds (the Bushes) were Episcopalian. The “outsiders” who weren’t the political elite like Reagan or Eisenhower weren’t Episcopalian.
Also, it’s worth mentioning the huge influx of Catholic immigrants after the events discussed in this post. Catholics were about 1% of the population in 1776, and are now about 25%. For most of the existence of the Democratic Party, Catholics were solidly Democrats. They were all in on the New Deal coalition of labor, blue collar, anti-communism, but I think were also fairly socially conservative. Can they be solidly red tribe while also being crucial to the New Deal Coalition?
Remember that Southern whites used to be part of the New Deal Coalition too. It wasn’t called the party of Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion for nothing.
Episcopalians were always socially acceptable to the top crust in the 19th century. There were regional alternatives — such as Catholic in Baltimore, or Congregationalist in Boston, but Episcopalian was the elite denomination.
Some anecdotal evidence here, the “richest” of my ancestors in the 19th century was a Episcopalian cotton broker living in Mississippi. I’ve inherited some of his editions of Shakespeare and Dickens.
Albion’s Seed and it’s down market version Woodard’s American Nations comes up a lot in discussing political and social differences in American life. These discussions always seemed overly determinative to me because they basically treat people from different parts of America as characters from a lazy fantasy novel where people from X are nearly always Y in a certain trait.
The old Planet of Hats trope. I kind of agree. It’s a fascinating and interesting theory, and there’s probably some truth to it, but for the real-world places I know well, I can apply that kind of blanket social characterization to very few of them (how would you characterize California? Or even Connecticut?), which makes me wonder how much to trust these kind of histories.
…and yet we wouldn’t be surprised to find that different populations of the same animal species, if sufficiently isolated, eventually display different behaviour, leading in the longer term to speciation. Particularly where there is a ‘founder effect’ which limits the diversity of the initial gene pool.
I expect humans are no different – but – modern humans live in groups with more porous boundaries and more diversity in the gene pool in many parts of the world. The test of this hypothesis is that we should expect to see over time a reduction in ‘social group characterizations’ when the mixing of genetic backgrounds is greater.
These sorts of theories act as a political and social just so story. For most people they serve as comforting means of explaining why things are and why who are or are not getting your way. Real life is more complicated though. The different nations theory rarely take African-Americans or post-Independence arrivals like my family into account. African-Americans might have adopted Cavalier speech patterns but they do not have their folkways or Scots-Irish folkways as far as I can tell. According to Albion’s Seed I should have the folkways of whatever group colonial New York settled in, either 17th century Dutch or the Puritan English, but I really don’t see much of either in most ethnic New Yorkers.
Why do virtually all Americans speak English, despite English-speaking ancestry being a comparatively small minority? Founder effects, and the fact that all the later arrivals trickled in slowly and got assimilated to the dominant culture, while the early arrivals, even if few in number, created the dominant culture.
Go up to the Hudson Valley sometime, there’s plenty of Dutch folks still hanging around New York. “Ethnic New Yorkers,” in most of upstate and western New York, generally are either Dutch or German. Even our Jews in the city are German Jews for the most part, although I think that’s something of a coincidence.
As for the waves of immigration, I think you see that effect more strongly in cities than in the country. People want to move into areas which are an acceptable match for them culturally, so you can see immigration reinforce existing differences. In a city you can transplant in a whole neighborhood all at once but it’s not so easy to colonize thousands of miles of open country while making sure most of your neighbors are co-ethnics.
Or don’t. Most of the state is a depressing wasteland once you get north of Poughkeepsie.
NYC gets to outvote upstate. It’s hard on them.
Nor would you see the culture of the original settlers in the city of Orlando either (“sun belt young professional” I’d call ’em). That’s because exogenous forces ended up dominating whatever was going on there before.
Same in NYC: as the financial / fashion /X-industry mecca, exogenous forces, heck full nation states, are buying it up, sending in waves of immigrants, etc.
But if you cross off industry mecca cities – e.g. Hartford for insurance – or cities defined by a large employer who moved all their staff to the town – e.g. Bell Labs in Murray Hill or some defense contractor – the 99% of towns (who house actually < 50% of population) where not much has changed, the impact of early settlers will stand out.
re: African-Americans adopting Scots-Irish folkways
In his book Black Rednecks and White Liberals https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Rednecks_and_White_Liberals:
“Sowell argues that the black ghetto culture, which is claimed to be “authentic black culture”, is historically neither authentic nor black in origin. Instead, Sowell argues that the black ghetto culture is in fact a relic of a highly dysfunctional white southern redneck culture which existed during the antebellum South. This culture came, in turn, from the “Cracker culture” of the North Britons and Scots-Irish who migrated from the generally lawless border regions of Britain.”
Go down a level. California isn’t one piece. (And Mexican and Asian settlement complicate things.). But I think historical patterns of migration do a pretty good job of explaining the differences in the dominant cultures of, say, shall-issue CCW counties vs no-issue CCW counties. I haven’t spent enough time in Connecticut to be able to say anything about it.
(Substitute weed for shine and a good deal of the Sierra foothills and the Jefferson counties farther north start to look a hell of a lot like Appalachia. Although that substitution has already taken place in a lot of actual Appalachia if Justified is to be believed. And cf “Okies.”).
California has, or at least had, distinctive immigration patterns of its own. At the time of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo it was very sparsely inhabited, mostly by Indians and Mexicans, and the non-Indian parts were organized under a system of ranchos descended from aristocratic land grants before the Mexican War of Independence. A string of towns grown up around Catholic missions ran up the coast, and would eventually become most of central and southern California’s present-day coastal cities. (Los Angeles and Oakland are notable exceptions.)
Almost immediately afterward, gold was discovered in the hills, and attracted rootless ne’er-do-wells from all over the world (California’s large Chinese population got its start here) but mainly from the eastern US. Placenames in California’s Gold Country include such gems as “Whisky Falls”, “Humbug”, “Rough and Ready” (which briefly seceded from the Union in protest over liquor laws), “Calaveras” (Spanish for “skulls”), and “Tragedy Spring”: you get three guesses as to where most of the 49ers came from.
Each wave of immigration that followed was focused on a different economic sector and drew from a different set of demographics. At first these mostly centered around natural resources: oil deserves special mention, since the American oil industry got its start in Southern California, but agricultural land is just as important. Later, industry became more significant: media showed up early, while aerospace and software are more recent examples.
Finally, as the natural port of arrival for anyone coming to the States from the Pacific, California tends to pick up populations after every war and crisis in that area. A lot of GIs fought in the Pacific theater of WWII and contrived to miss the train home (creating San Francisco gay culture in the process, though a complicated sequence of events); later, refugee populations from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia showed up during and after the Indochina Wars.
I grew up in Connecticut. In my high school US History class, our teacher was demonstrating gerrymandering. He showed that the way Republicans would gerrymander the state would be to put all the lowlands in one district. This would be along the shore and up the Connecticut River valley. The rest of the state, which is actually quite hilly (with the edge of the Appalachians in the west) would become four republican districts.
The Democrats would simply cut the state into five vertical slices (forgive me if I get the number of districts wrong), where the population of the low lands would swamp the population of the hill counties.
Seems like a good fit to the whole story above. Maybe the roughness of the land where you grow up has more to do with things than your ancestry.
Explain San Francisco then.
That’s an excellent argument in favor of gerrymandering.
Also, note that the Blue Tribe decries the artificial straight lines on the maps of Africa and the Middle East as the signs of the white man’s folly, which ignored local cultures and lumped different tribes into the same nation; yet they want to do the same thing in their own country.
In what way is it an argument in favor of gerrymandering?
Also, I don’t know what you mean by “want to do the same thing in their own country”.
I’ve never understood the complaining about straight lines. They’re almost always in largely uninhabited deserts, where there was no obvious place to put a border and a straight line was a sensible enough choice. Western governments were perfectly capable of putting a bunch of conflicting tribes into countries like Nigeria and Congo without any straight-line borders.
Woodard’s “American Nations” does seem to add a bit, though whether it’s right I have no idea. Obviously it adds some of the non-English migrations not discussed here. But it also splits off a separate “Deep South” region as separate from “Tidewater”. I’m not sure that really helps answer Scott’s question, though, because it seems similar enough for his purposes.
Ah! Thank you for referencing American Nations. That’s what this reminded me of, but I couldn’t remember it.
I don’t know how accurate it was, but as a non-USian it was very very helpful for at least remembering how people thought about the different regions, before that I had NO idea about any part of America.
Agreed. Also these analyses fail to take account of race. For example, a massive 60% of white Americans voted for Romney in 2012, and if you only look at states’ white voters, Romney won a lot of states that would be classified as being part of this monolithic “Quaker-Puritan” bloc. Like Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey, etc.
I largely agree with you, but I think the Romney example is really muddled. For at least the last couple cycles, the Republican party has been going through a pretty significant coalition shift. Romney is probably one of the least “Red Tribe” Republican candidates I can think of in a while: He’s a moderate from New England who passed a universal healthcare plan. I would imagine the fact that he won the nomination has less to do with him representing the base and more to do with strategic concerns. Not to mention lack of an alternative: witness the parade of clowns (Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Perry) who were frontrunners before the base was reined in and Romney won the nom.
To be clear, Romney won a larger share of the white vote than any Republican candidate since H.W. Bush’s first term (’88), and he was effectively tied with H.W.
The last candidate to decisively outpace Romney’s share of the white vote was Reagan, who won 66% for his re-election in 1984.
W. only won 58% of the white vote in his 2004 re-election.
So here’s an interesting question: who was the last non-incumbent to win a larger share of the white vote than Romney, if we consider H.W. in 1988 to be an incumbent?
I suspect the answer might be Eisenhower in 1952, though I couldn’t find exit poll data by race for that election. Nixon in 1968 probably would have if not for Wallace running.
Of course, it’s fair to say that if this country were 100% white, we’d be living in a different world with fundamentally different politics. Counterfactuals about that world probably aren’t very meaningful.
If the Quaker-Puritan states had been 100% white in 2012, Romney wouldn’t have gotten 60% of white voters.
You mean 60% of the Quaker-Puritan vote specifically? Sure, but he still would have won every state but Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts.
I think the idea is not that people from X generally have trait Y but rather than in region X, there is a big set of cultural assumptions that define ‘normal’ default behavior and that differs noticeably from region Z. People appear as if they differ in traits but most are actually are just going along to get along in their particular culture. The idea is that ‘founders shape culture and culture is durable’ rather than ‘founders establish a genetic stock that predisposes descendants to particular behaviors’.
Or maybe it is the other way round and culture shapes founders as I argue in a somewhat lengthy comment below.
Sure. Founders bring their culture with them — genetics don’t have to play a significant role for them or for the latecomers.
“Advanced” topic, but:
Of course, the particular set of traits varies from individual to individual.
In reality, any “laziness” is on the part of critics, which make strawman arguments like you just did.
The “new” part of this book seems to be the origin of these regional cultural difference – not their existence itself, which have been rather obvious for a while, haven’t they? Regional conflicts over politics in America wasn’t exactly less common or intense in the 60’s (whether you talk about the 1960’s or the 1860’s). So I don’t really see why this in particular should lead to despair…
I guess the ending remarks just reflect a sense of hopelessness when realizing the longevity of the differences. Their age implies permanence against what we, well, many of us, want to believe in: the end of history in a broad sense, a kind of convergence of ideas and conduct, at least to the point of allowing the amiable compromises a democracy is supposed to have.
Compromise doesn’t require agreement (if it did, it wouldn’t be compromise), but it does require commensurability. A certain existential dread arises when you realize that people don’t just have conflicts and disagreements because some side or both lack knowledge, rationality or decency, but because they have genuinely different ways of both perceiving and judging the world. The task of setting up constructive discourse is just so much harder than we thought. (And I’m not even counting actual malice).
Differing empirical beliefs can be evaluated (even if it’s often practically difficult) or given degrees of confidence, and different values can be balanced in trade-off compromises, but incommensurable worldviews (on the individual level, “deep culture” on the social) just clash in ugly confusion – mostly because it lies under conscious awareness and we don’t at all appreciate the cognitive and emotional distances that need to be bridged.
Something something inferential distance.
Yes, and in addition to what you said after that also the realization that the progressive culture is not all that special, the North has it not because they suddenly realized what a great honking idea it was, but because the colonists who settled there already had most essential parts of it. The colonists who settled in the South didn’t, so their descendants still don’t. Very roughly speaking and only to a certain extent, of course.
Or to put it another way, it looks like Cthulhu swims left not through sending nightmares that psychically bend entire nations to its will, but via the spread of cultists intermarrying and outcompeting and spreading their values through immediate physical contact. Nobody wanted to go and marry those ne’er-do-well Appalachians so they didn’t get the germ. Again, I’m grossly exaggerating and intend this to serve as more of a counterpoint to the belief in the possibility of easy and fast Cultural Victory.
On the other hand, Quakerism seems to have crushed Puritanism fairly quickly and easily. There are a couple Puritan traits left in modern progressivism, but I think it’s telling that Quakers seem like normal people to many Americans, while Puritans sound like the villains from a YA dystopian novel.
I don’t know why Quakerism won such a resounding victory over Puritanism, but can’t take out the others nearly as easily. Maybe Puritanism is so utterly contrary to basic inborn human values that it was easy to lure people away from it. Or maybe a Puritan who moves into Quaker culture will have an easier time fitting in than a Borderer, so Quakers can destroy Puritans through their niceness, but can’t take out Borderers the same way.
Also, even though the Borderers and Cavaliers have been more difficult, I don’t think they’re completely unchanged. There is less crime and violence today than there was in the past, and I think that modern Borderers are significantly less likely to act like the bad guys from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” than they were in the past.
What? Do modern progressives not sound like YA dystopian novel villains?
And since when do Quakers sound like normal people? Quakers sound like a weird but mostly-functional religious cult. The type of weird but mostly-functional religious cult that I bet a lot of this comments section would join, but…
It depends on if you think that the left-wing social justice community is largely representative of modern progressives or not. I don’t think they are, they’re just louder and more annoying. Remember Scott’s “Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth” post? That was mostly about how “normal” progressives are waking up and realizing how they need to deal with a bunch of annoying fanatics who are trying to take over their cause.
Outside of tumblr and the “studies” departments of academia, most progressives are fairly normal and reasonable.
Some of the defining traits of Quakers include:
– Sheltering children
-Modern romance (albeit with that bureaucratic weirdness tacked on).
– Moral panics about harmless entertainment the youth engage in.
Those don’t sound like “weird” or “cultish” ideas, they sound like “American” ideas. Obviously the Quakers were a bit more prudish than many Americans, and more pacifist as well. But they were the most recognizably “normal” culture, and that’s because their culture has conquered the world.
@Ghatanathoah – the thing with the Quakers is that they adopted all those ideas when they were unpopular, and did so because they built a society that radically elevated individual conscience – by the standards of their time certainly, and even by the standards of our time in the degree to which they thought about it, discussed it, and built the institutions of their society around it.
And shit, the Quakers of Penn’s time were already backing down off the most extreme transgressions. Fox always wanted some degree of respectability and widespread acceptance for his sect; Nayler straight up reenacted the arrival of Christ into Jerusalem. That’s a sect that’s on some level willing to see your priesthood of all believers and raise you the messiah-hood of all believers.
Even over a century later when they formed the nucleus of the British antislavery movement the Quakers were seen as so weird that they needed Anglican leaders to put forward as the visible face of the movement (if I recall correctly Clarkson had basically gone Quaker in his sympathies by late in his career but it wouldn’t have been viable for him to publicly convert.)
They’re a pretty fascinating group.
The Quaker’s could get pretty crazy. For instance, read about Eastern State Penitentiary (https://www.easternstate.org/learn/research-library/history). The Quakers had the insane idea that the right way to handle criminals was to put them in solitary confinement for years, where the prisoner could be alone with God and their conscience, in order to meditate about what they had done wrong.
Indeed, there was this book called the Hunger Games. I think they made a movie of it.
The Eastern State Penitentiary doesn’t sound like a cruel idea when you consider what it replaced: hard labor. Leaving people to think about their mistakes was an attempt at reform, albeit one that didn’t understand what happens when you leave people in solitary confinement.
Puritans had a hard time keeping their kids as puritans.
a lot the fire died out in the second and third generations:
Yes indeed. And one of my deep disappointments with rationalism is that there doesn’t seem to be any sort of approach to dealing with this problem. It’s even hard to outline it sometimes. There’s an old joke to the effect of the average science fiction alien is less alien to the typical SF reader than the average Japanese would be. What do you when more reason and more discussions doesn’t seem to have any effect?
Think about cognitive biases. We can read about how biased we all are all the time and how true rationality is nigh impossible. But that doesn’t make everything hopeless, because we can use our awareness of the biases to think better, be more suspicious of our intuitive judgements and avoid a few traps. The biases are a problem, but less so if we make ourselves aware of them.
Differing cultural/psychological paradigms are similar. We can’t communicate very well across them, as messages become garbled. But we can step outside them by articulating their premises, making them explicit (this is similar to Popper’s criticism of Kuhn’s thesis on incommensurability in science). So public discourse has to discuss the differences instead of pretending they don’t exist (I’m not suggesting this is likely to happen anytime soon, but people like Haidt, and of course Scott, are doing important work).
I short: thinking you’ll just automatically understand what someone says just because they speak the same language is misguided in the same way as thinking you’re always rational. The way to combat it is also the same.
But does “articulating their premises, making them explicit” actually do anything?
We can articulate the premise of “There is an invisible but very powerful (all powerful?) spirit which has provided a Code Of Conduct for life, but unfortunately neglected to make it clear who actually has the final say on it while you’re alive, but there’s many people who can claim so …”. But that doesn’t seem to go very far. To strip it down, if someone says “Yes, my premise is I’m going to try to kill you because (my) God says you’re evil”, discussing this with them doesn’t seems have a good track record of changing their mind. If the idea is that’ll dissuade other people, why won’t they similarly just say indeed, God commands, death to the Evil One. That is, I think many disputes often can get to the differences in worldviews, but it doesn’t help. For example, with the Israeli/Palestinian issue, each side knows very well what the other thinks, but basically doesn’t care.
Trying to understand the worldviews of others have certainly helped me, for one. I seemed to have trained myself to react with annoyance to misrepresentations or mocking of other peoples views even if I don’t agree with them. But agreed, it doesn’t do much if people don’t want to play along (that’s the “malice” part, though “Moloch” might better describe it).
About your religion-example: here I’d say you really need to go deeper. The existence of an invisible world-creating spirit is not so much a fundamental premise as a conclusion or a lemma. The real difference is how one views knowledge, how to get it, what counts as evidence, what the purpose of a worldview is, reliance on mentalistic vs mechanistic cognition etc. You not only need to understand other people’s views but your own as well.
Charity and understanding has its limits of course, and can’t be used to defend yourself against someone wanting to kill you. At some point you’ll have to fight, but disagreement in western public debate is a bit removed from that.
My wish would be to try to get ideas like “awareness that faithful communication between people with radically different underlying assumptions is much much harder than it looks, and going directly to object-level issues without spending ten times as much time and energy in advance synching up your worldviews to make sure you’re understanding each other means discourse will be terrible” in the water supply.
I’m not holding my breath, though. Examining your own unstated assumptions and contrasting them with others’ is mentally taxing, unpleasant and culturally alienating.
Trying to understand the worldviews of others have certainly helped me, for one. I seemed to have trained myself to react with annoyance to misrepresentations or mocking of other peoples views even if I don’t agree with them.
I have had that reaction for many decades. When Sunday School in the Bible Belt taught that Catholics believed some weird XYZ, the conversation went like this.
Me: You must have got that wrong. Nobody could believe anything that crazy.
Teacher: I guess you come from a Catholic family.
Me: No. What would that have to do with it?
But we can step outside them by articulating their premises, making them explicit…. So public discourse has to discuss the differences instead of pretending they don’t exist.
That’s not always necessary, and the attempt may be less helpful than my teenage agnosticism about what their premises may really be.
I used religion as an example because the sort of kill-the-outgroup belief system is very different from the prevalent views here, and even in our culture in general. Yet nowadays, it would be relatively easy to have a conversation with such a person over the Internet, and to have them explain exactly why they think the outgroup should be killed. There are literally people posting videos of real beheadings on YouTube (well, if YouTube doesn’t take those down). It’s a deliberate extreme example, but not imaginary. I recently heard an interview with a Western journalist released from being held in North Korea. He was talking about how his captors believed all Western journalists are spies for the CIA. He was making the point they seemed to really believe that, it wasn’t just for show.
Stepping carefully, if we replace violence with mob hate campaigns designed to have people lose their reputations, friends, jobs, where even driving them to suicide is a potential outcome, that’s a scary feature of modern Western “debate” (which is justified by the hate campaigners under the theory that it’s not violence, or being done by the government). It’s possible to articulate the difference in how “one views knowledge, how to get it, what counts as evidence”, etc. But that seems to be a dead-end. It doesn’t provide any way of resolving the conflicts between the world-views. Not even in the cliche of being a first step, since that step runs into a wall.
I’m not sure I’m following you exactly, but what I’m getting as your point is: “some people can’t be reasoned with”, which is of course true and one needs to handle that.
Maybe you mean “you can’t get uncharitable people to be more charitable” and true, often you can’t. But sometimes people are not aware that they’re being uncharitable, and there there can be improvement.
I guess what I want said is that sometimes hatred is not just a given primitive, but a consequence of interpreting other people’s words and actions through your own paradigm which is beyond questioning to you, meaning that you can paint people as willfully evil or ignorant as if they were inhuman mutants. Breaking up such underlying assumptions could, in the words of someone whose name I can’t recall, make it harder for good people to do evil.
Also, I’ve often found people in the modern, liberal, pluralistic world genuinely baffled at “death-to-the-outgroup” values, implying that we need to understand human nature much better.
Again, you can obviously not talk to someone who refuses to talk. But people do talk, not all of it malicious, and I think it’s possible to do it better. Just look at this place compared to most comment sections, for example.
Hatred and misunderstanding feed on each other, and I don’t think hatred always comes first.
@John Nerst – It’s not quite “some people can’t be reasoned with”, but more at “reasoning seem overall, extremely ineffective – and what does that mean for people who want it to be the main mode of thought”. Not absolutely ineffective everywhere, in that there are certain areas it’s spectacular e.g. science. But in terms of general “conflicts and disagreement”, near-nil. On reflection, I’m disagreeing with you slightly about “mostly because it lies under conscious awareness and we don’t at all appreciate the cognitive and emotional distances that need to be bridged”, particularly the “because” aspect. I’d say bringing it to conscious awareness appears to do very little to actually resolve those conflicts and disagreement. For example, the slave-holders in the South had a very clear world-view about racial issues, and overall the abolitionists did not reason them out of it. When you say “Breaking up such underlying assumptions could … make it harder for good people to do evil.”, this is going back to the faith in reason. It *could* – but empirically, those underlying assumptions *won’t* be broken, almost all the time. Regarding “Just look at this place compared to most comment sections, for example.” – that’s proving my point. That, the key phrase is “most comment sections” (typical case), not “this place” (outlier).
I tend to think that dispassionate reason works well with people who are interested in having a discussion about cultural issues. But my personal experience is that those people are a tiny, tiny minority of the larger public.
Most individuals don’t want to question their assumptions. They aren’t interested in holding correct views; they’re interested in being told their existing views are correct. As soon as someone challenges their fundamental assumptions, they stop reasoning and start reacting emotionally, trying to end the discomfort as quickly as possible: usually through ad hominem attacks and appeals to their peers for emotional and social reassurance.
SSC has far more cordial and rational debate in its comments section than almost any other site I read, and yet it still stands out to me just how hard many commenters here loudly assert their tribal loyalties before saying anything that sounds remotely like support for the opposition or questioning of the tribe’s Supreme Rightness In All Things. If that’s still an automatic defensive reaction here, where a wide range of viewpoints are represented and we have a moderator who is fairly quick to clamp down on abusive ad-hominem attacks, how much more of an impediment is it in the outside world?
I gave up trying to have these discussions on Facebook or similar social platforms a long time ago. The likelihood of anyone being persuaded of a point is vanishingly small compared to the likelihood of being dogpiled and called a .
I’ll be very brief, since this is growing out of control…
I completely agree that most people don’t want to reason, and that raesoning in the individual discussion-case is extraordinarily ineffective.
Nevertheless, reason has been incredibly effective over centuries: the modern, post-enlightenment idea of individual rights and compassion even for the outgroup has grown out of the ideal of reason being in the water supply – people may not want to reason, but at least they dress up their argumentation in a reason-costume because we do feel we need to pretend to be reasoning and using argumentation instead of weapons. That’s progress. I think, over time, we might be able to push it further.
The US civil war isn’t a central example of what I’m thinking of. That was a clear, unambigous, material conflict. I’m arguing that other, more low level conflicts are exacerbated by confusion, to a larger degree than we seem to realize.
“low teenage pregnancy”
-Wouldn’t this be “low out-of-wedlock pregnancy”? A family size of 9.7 would have to have a high teenage pregnancy rate.
“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?”
-Wasn’t the Borderer migration very large? And Mencken said much of the planter aristocracy moved to the cities and to the North after the Civil War.
“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.”
-Thus, the third and fourth party systems, in which the Republicans pretty much held all the power, with one enormous miscalculation (1912) and one time when a New Yorker won the presidency by leveraging the NYC recent immigrant vote.
I’ve been working on a several thousand-word post about the changing support bases for the Democratic and Republican parties from the Civil War to today for an entire month.
Also, I think it’s important to mention New Yorkers. Manhattan was very different in its political preferences from Vermont until the 1960s-1990s.
“I don’t support Trump any more than I support Osama bin Laden”
-Trump is winning a lot of Northeasterners. Given his primary vote (96%+ that of Hillary) in PA, I predict he will win Pennsylvania in this election. And is that OBL remark meant to refer to your earlier post “I can tolerate anything except the outgroup”?
Also, there is a Scots-Irish option:
“And Barry Goldwater, a half-Jew raised in Arizona, invented the modern version of conservativism that seems closest to some Borderer beliefs.”
-Goldwater’s conservatism is closest to that of Ted Cruz, who isn’t exactly strong in borderer areas (but, without Trump, could have been!).
“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.”
-That was due as much to was happening in their home countries as in America.
“All of this is very speculative. It has some obvious flaws, and especially needs comparison to other countries like Britain or Germany with superficially similar splits but very different histories.”
-Good idea. Didn’t think of it -these places are not exactly Nations of Immigrants.
“Wouldn’t this be “low out-of-wedlock pregnancy”? A family size of 9.7 would have to have a high teenage pregnancy rate.”
Well, in part. But remember it was considered perfectly normal for the mother of the bride or groom to be pregnant.
Among Borderers, yes, but Puritans?
Yes. In Massachusetts that was normal.
One out of three!
Trump is interesting. With the exceptions of Nevada and Arizona (where he was first) and Maine (where he was second after Cruz), he’s a regional phenomenon of an unusual type — he wins in the east and loses in the west.
We’ll see what the general looks like. But Trump sounds like Gawker. I don’t think the East Coast goes in for ‘nice’.
Rum, Romanism, and rebellion. Also what about DC and Ohio lol. JK
D.C. is a Federal District. Heart of the Establishment. Like Manhattan. Ohio is classic favorite-sonism, plus Bernie supporters voting for Kasich to stop Trump.
Also, Trump isn’t Scots-Irish on his mother’s side, he’s Scottish Highlander. His mother was born in the Outer Hebrides at the other end of Scotland from the Border.
Fischer leaves out the Scottish Highlanders, but they are pretty important in American business history. Scottish-Americans used to be famous as captains of industry (e.g., Andrew Carnegie and Charles Blair Macdonald, the founder and architect of the National Golf Links of America). That stereotype has faded, although the evidence remains that Scottish-Americans, as opposed to Scots-Irish, are considerably above average in wealth.
Trump’s vehement personality rather reminds me of Charles Blair Macdonald, who more or less was the founder of golf in America. Macdonald tended to be extremely earnest, but his whole life could also be interpreted as a heroic comic adventure.
Trump’s highly competitive and feuding personality also reminds me of another German-American, George Steinbrenner, who rebuilt the New York Yankees into America’s top baseball franchise.
In general, Trump is a nightmare for making sense of via Fischer’s model. His background combines a whole bunch of aspects of America that Fischer left out of his book:
– New York City (home)
– Scottish Highlanders (mother)
– Germans (father)
– Jews (Trump has spent 50 years in a predominantly Jewish industry, New York real estate)
– Irish Catholics (Trump attended Fordham).
– Italians (Trump has presumably paid off a few mafioso in the construction site port-a-john business).
Trump is a like a cyborg from the future specifically designed to cause analytical trouble for people like me who’d gotten comfortable using “Albion’s Seed” as a cheat sheet.
I have a similar ethnic background as Trump (although the Scottish part comes from a border clan that apparently had a reputation for being unruly even for a border clan, which is not surprising in the least) , and yes, this is the reason my parents settled on Scottish (rather than English, Irish, etc.) as the ethnicity they claimed when ‘German’ wasn’t a viable answer — the Scots are good at money.
If anyone is still on the fence about stereotype accuracy, my grandmother never even saw a computer, but bought Google at IPO.
Trump lost Maine because it was a caucus and Trump loses caucuses because he doesn’t organize. If Maine was a regular primary, he would have won Maine as well.
“but if that’s true how did the modern populations come to so embody Fischer’s description of Borderers?”
-Borderers tended to support Huckabee in the 2008 Republican primary. Cavaliers, McCain (but these also had other bases of support):
The 2008 Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina primaries are especially good illustrations of this.
BTW, Cavalier culture sounds a lot like modern Saudi culture. Borderers sound much like Afghans.
If I understand you correctly, your main point is that the mapping between the Albion’s Seed cultures and the modern red/blue tribal division in America is fuzzy at best–and I agree completely. For example, African-American culture is as borderer as it gets–indeed, some explain its character as a result of its regional origins in the southern US–yet African-Americans are also as solidly blue-tribe as it gets. Likewise with, say, Mormons–puritan in culture, yet heavily red-tribe politically.
I’d go further, and argue that all essentialist explanations for the contours of the red/blue tribal division are doomed, because the tribes are actually extremely diverse, complex tactical coalitions, united only by a tangled collection of mutual support obligations. Both tribes include pairs of sizeable constituencies that generally loathe each other, but nevertheless join together in the same coalition because of the willingness of the whole to protect one or more interests the individual constituency holds dear. And the coalitions shift, as well, with constituencies changing allegiances as their interests or the coalitions’ priorities change. They hardly show cultural coherence and continuity over a given 50 year period, let alone fidelity to the ethnic and cultural groupings of 300 years ago.
No they aren’t.
The whole point of the Red tribe / Blue tribe thing is to point out a division in culture and politics among white Americans. That secular urban or suburban white-collar whites and religious rural blue-collar whites seem to be acting as two warring cultures rather than as part of one unified white American culture. It’s not just about party affiliation.
Black Americans pull the lever for Democrats now, but that’s about the extent of their similarity to white liberals. In terms of culture they’re as different as black and white.
Sorry–I was unaware of the “whites only” rule for the two tribes. I assume that means “non-Hispanic whites only”, then, for the same reason–right? Should it also be “Protestant non-Hispanic whites only”, to take care of the Mormon thing? (Don’t have to worry about Jews or Muslims that way, as well–not to mention those messy atheists…
Mormons are arguably their own tribe, but the Jews I know are all culturally Blue. I gather white Catholics were a third tribe forty years ago, but I don’t see much distinction now. Hispanics (and Asians, and recent African immigrants) seem to fall under Red or Blue (with the usual urban/rural split) if they speak English as a first language, or to fall outside the classification otherwise. Atheists usually follow their local culture, though Blues are more likely to identify as atheist vs. “not very religious”. I don’t know many Muslims, but the ones I know are black or Blue.
You could maybe make an argument for an emerging military caste, too.
The fact that, now, at least, a young black person from Washington D. C. feels like he has more in common with young black people from Los Angeles than he does with young white people from Arlington, Virginia shows that African American culture is now Its Own Thing.
It is interesting to notice how they don’t fit with the culture of what we call “The Blue Tribe” around here at all, even though they reliably pull the lever for the Democrats in recent decades. Culturally, I think they tend to be closer to some Red Tribe factions, albeit still very much their Own Thing.
This last bit probably shouldn’t be surprising, actually. Soul Food and Southern food have a ton of overlap, and while we think of Southern whites as being the most racist, that doesn’t change the fact that African American culture is more nearly Southern in quality than Northern.
As with “I can tolerate anything but the outgroup,” white people living alongside a great many blacks probably needed much stronger racism if they wanted to maintain their distinction, precisely because there always was the danger of mixing.
In other words, there may be certain ways in which different factions of the major “tribes” are actually bound together by a deeper historical animus precisely because they are so close.
Nornagest, you’re getting closer to the mark…Culturally, there’s such a rich collage of subgroups that defining two cultures, red and blue, is hopelessly simplistic. The red and blue tribes are actually political coalitions, not cultures, and each consists of numerous cultures and subcultures that have formed a broad alliance of convenience in the pursuit of greater political power. That’s why mapping the red and blue tribes to two broad contemporary cultures–let alone four cultures dating back some 300 years–makes little sense.
It’s a simplified model, sure. But I think it still sheds more light than heat, understood properly.
Democrat and Republican are political coalitions, and it would be misleading to map them to discrete cultures. But there is an underlying cultural division in the American mainstream — actually several, as you’ve pointed out, but the culture war being waged right now centers around one of them, with minor theaters elsewhere. (L’affaire du reproductively viable worker ants is mainly a fight between Grays — themselves a Blue offshoot — and a minority faction of Blue, for example.)
Scott may have been better off with different names, though; it’s very tempting to map “Red” and “Blue” to electoral preference, when in fact there are Red Democrats and Blue Republicans. Not many, but they exist.
The key to understanding the Mormons is this line:
The Mormons might seek puritanically to impose their values on their communities if they were in power, but they’re not in power. Since they’re not in power, it does them no good to ally with the puritans who are in power, since they would impose alien values instead of Mormon values and next time you look you’re being forced to bake a gay cake.
“If I understand you correctly, your main point is that the mapping between the Albion’s Seed cultures and the modern red/blue tribal division in America is fuzzy at best”
“For example, African-American culture is as borderer as it gets–indeed, some explain its character as a result of its regional origins in the southern US–yet African-Americans are also as solidly blue-tribe as it gets.”
-They’re not Blue tribe. They’re Black. They were converted to voting Democrat by a concerted propaganda campaign during FDR’s first term. Blacks generally seem especially susceptible to race-based propaganda -how else to explain their astonishing approval of the Kenyan-American president and Queen Rodham?
“They hardly show cultural coherence and continuity over a given 50 year period, let alone fidelity to the ethnic and cultural groupings of 300 years ago.”
-Disagree. The parties have coalitions, but you can see cultural coherence (and decoherence) and lots of continuity across time.
You say “they’re not Blue tribe. They’re Black”–and yet there are few Blue-tribal markers more potent than embrace of African Americans–their culture, their inclusion, their interests. And if one wishes to establish one’s Blue-tribe bona fides by attacking the Red tribe or its members, the first and easiest charge is always animosity toward or incompatibility with African Americans.
This is the sense in which the Blue and Red tribes are fundamentally political, not cultural: their boundaries routinely cross cultural lines–or in this case, racial ones. A diehard Blue tribe member would sooner disown his or her own Red tribe family members–cultural clones of themselves–than turn his or her back on an African American with whom he or she shares virtually no common culture.
I do not believe that Blue Tribe embraces African-American culture in any but the most superficial ways, e.g. listening to some of their music. Nor does it really include any but the elite – you pretty much need a college degree to be a full member of Blue Tribe.
Blue Tribe’s relationship with Black Tribe is essentially paternalistic. And I think they do sincerely believe that Black Tribe will eventually grow up to be junior members of Blue Tribe, once the evil Reds allow them a proper education and birth control and stop throwing all their men in prison. So, yes, you score Blue Tribe points by making a point of how you champion the interests of Black Tribe against their evil Red Tribe oppressors. That doesn’t make Black Tribe a part of Blue.
Black Tribe, for its part, I think mostly doesn’t want to grow up to be Blue Tribe, is aware of and resentful of the paternalism. Culturally, they are a very good fit for Red Tribe. Except there’s that thing about the well-deserved reputation for Red Tribe racism that is going to have Black Tribe holding its nose and politically allying itself with Blue for a generation or more to come.
This is sort of true but I don’t think it’s useful in the way you think it is. Black culture is different from white culture. if you want to be successful in any prestigious institution like politics or academia, you need the shibboleths of upper middle class or higher. This is, itself, a form of white culture–Blue tribe and Red tribe disagree, but they disagree in Standard-ish American English, and you don’t even get to speak if you’re speaking Ebonics. (I gather that there is often tension between black people who choose to adopt white culture for personal or professional reasons and those who don’t.) This is why black politicans/academics speak and act very similarly to white politicians/academics, but your average black and white guys on the street are likely as different from each other as from the politicians.
The thing you mention, about Blue tribers tolerating African Americans more than Red tribers, I would say is true on the whole, though maybe not to the degree you assert it. (For instance, they tolerate black individuals much more than black culture.) It’s probably the reason why most white-cultured black people are Blue tribe, like Obama or Niel deGrasse Tyson. I know I’ve read about some who seemed Red tribe, but I can’t remember their names; they do seem to be much less common, though.
tl;dr: “Most black people for whom the Red/Blue tribe model is accurate and useful are Blue” is not the same as “Most black people are Blue.”
“Except there’s that thing about the well-deserved reputation for Red Tribe racism”
-You make good points throughout your comment, but this is not one of them. Blacks started voting Democrat in 1936 -while the South was still solidly Democrat.
“Culturally, they are a very good fit for Red Tribe.”
-70% out-of-wedlock births?
“Black Tribe, for its part, I think mostly doesn’t want to grow up to be Blue Tribe, is aware of and resentful of the paternalism.”
-Black Tribe obviously, for the most part, does not want to be Blue Tribe, but I see no resentment of the paternalism.
“So, yes, you score Blue Tribe points by making a point of how you champion the interests of Black Tribe against their evil Red Tribe oppressors. That doesn’t make Black Tribe a part of Blue.”
“Most black people for whom the Red/Blue tribe model is accurate and useful are Blue” is not the same as “Most black people are Blue.”
The bluest of blue-tribe candidates (Sanders) gets almost none of his support from Blacks.
You make good points throughout your comment, but this is not one of them. Blacks started voting Democrat in 1936 -while the South was still solidly Democrat.
Yes, and solidly Red Tribe at the same time.
If we’re going to keep using these labels, which I have to admit is an increasingly dubious proposition, we are going to have to break out the clue-by-four and knock it into peoples’ heads that RED TRIBE DOES NOT MEAN REPUBLICAN and BLUE TRIBE DOES NOT MEAN DEMOCRAT. I mean, we’ve already got perfectly good words for “Republican” and “Democrat”. But sometimes we’re talking about something different.
The Red Tribe and its cultural ancestors have always had the lion’s share of the nation’s overt white racists. In 1936, many of them expressed that sentiment by electing overtly racist Democratic politicians. Now they don’t do that so much. Doesn’t make them any more or less Red, then or now.
John Schilling –
The Republicans didn’t become red tribe while the Democrats became blue tribe; the South went from blue tribe-controlled to red tribe-controlled.
In terms of this article, Cavaliers systematically prevented Borderers from voting – literacy tests and poll taxes and the like resulted in poor whites being just as unable to vote as poor blacks. When the voting rights act passed, Borderers began to vote, and to vote their own guys in.
In terms of Texas, where people sorted themselves in a fascinating way, Houston is the Cavalier city, Austin is the Quaker city, and Dallas is the Borderer city (nobody else would want to live there). Puritans mixed with Borderers in the rural areas, with Borderer attitudes dominating.
@Orphan: I’d be very interested to hear what definition of “blue tribe” you are using, that is consistent with the South ever having been controlled by blue tribe.
Well, unless it’s the one where “Blue=Democrat”. But if you can express it without using party labels or obvious proxies for same, please do.
Well, if RED TRIBE DOES NOT MEAN REPUBLICAN and BLUE TRIBE DOES NOT MEAN DEMOCRAT, then I think we need a clearer definition of the tribes, because “people like me, a left-leaning SSC reader” and “people like me, a right-leaning SSC reader” aren’t very useful definitions, and the broader–and hence more useful–the definitions get, the more (I strongly suspect) they’ll converge on “Democrats” and “Republicans” (or at least “political liberals” and “political conservatives”).
I feel like I’m back in the AI risk debate–everyone’s using vague, inconsistently-applied and possibly-nonsensical terms whose definitions they steadfastly refuse to discuss because they’re convinced the definitions are obvious and understood by everyone.
So–anybody want to try their hand at it? Who does the Red tribe consist of? The Blue tribe? What properties cement/exclude one’s membership in each? And–here’s the most interesting one–does everyone here agree, more or less, on the answers to these questions?
Belief in technocracy (meritocratic aristocracy); the problem with government is the people in it rather than the system itself, skepticism of expert opinions is wrong and ignorant, politicians know better than their constituents the best course of policy
Belief in positive rights, and more generally that freedom is the ability to do things, as opposed to freedom from constraint from doing things; free education, free food, free housing, free contraception, free healthcare
Belief in limiting (other) people’s choices to keep them from (as opposed to spiritual) physical harms; gun control, tobacco regulation, sugar regulation, GMO regulation
Belief in providing support to limit the material harms people suffer as a result of those choices they do have; welfare in all its various flavours, debt forgiveness
Belief in communal good as an independent quantity from individual good
Belief in military interventionalism (although they pay lip service against this idea when they aren’t in charge)
Essentially, the idea of a natural aristocracy complete with responsibility to make sure their inferiors are both well-controlled and well-treated, with Red Tribers as upstart and ignorant fools who keep taking their rightful status as rulers and making a mess of things.
Orphan Wilde’s definition is wrong both in that it focuses on the wrong things, and even on the things it focuses on is inaccurate.
Sometimes I wonder how you guys even manage to get up in the morning with so much seething resentment.
Given how you totally misunderstand the concept you probably shouldn’t be posting over and over again your incorrect idea about how everyone misunderstands what happened in 1968.
Dan Simon: go read Scott’s post where he defines the terms: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i-can-tolerate-anything-except-the-outgroup/
“Yes, and solidly Red Tribe at the same time.”
-Yes; John, that was my point. The racism of Red Tribe 1930s Democrat Southerners did not prevent Blacks from turning into Democrat voters. So it’s not the reputation for Red Tribe racism that’s keeping Blacks away from the Republican party.
“I mean, we’ve already got perfectly good words for “Republican” and “Democrat”.”
-And I used them.
I’m clarifying my definition. John Schilling is free to correct anything he feels is incorrect; once we can agree about what we’re talking about, then we continue.
Go be a linguistic prescriptivist at someone else. I’m a descriptivist, and we have irresolvable axiomatic differences.
Do you think you could pass an ideological turning test for — say — a typical Williamsberg, Brooklyn twenty something that voted for Bernie Sanders? Because I have extremely strong doubts.
Blue and Red are clearly confusing designations nobody can seem to agree on, so it’s a good thing we’re moving to Cavalier, Borderer, Puritan, and Quaker instead.
I think “red tribe” and “blue tribe” are very modern terms, potentially meaningful since around the year 2000, and perhaps a few years leading up to that. Before that, people didn’t subscribe to that world view, even under other names, and didn’t divide up along today’s “red/blue” lines.
(Isn’t it meaningless to speak of tribes without tribalism?)
American politics as of 1860 or 1900 or 1940 was very different from today, with different issues, different priorities, different coalitions. Even the political descriptors we use today had different meanings then.
Beware taking any old-time political speech at face value without knowing something about those differences. Beware taking modern political motivations and attributing them to old-time people who had very different ideas and priorities.
I think it’s worth exploring and understanding political history, but it’s bad faith to use the events of a hundred years ago to gin up grievances against a year-2016 political faction.
So it’s not the reputation for Red Tribe racism that’s keeping Blacks away from the Republican party.
Correct. It’s not the reputation for Red Tribe racism that’s keeping Blacks away from the Republican party. It’s the reputation for Red Tribe racism that’s keeping Blacks away from Red Tribe. If Red Tribe shifts its political alignment to a different party, Blacks will very likely avoid that one going forward and might make a move to reclaim the Party of Lincoln.
And, yes, gmail anonymous has got the definitions right. Loose modern definitions, at least – tracing the tribal identity and ancestry as far back as can be reasonably accomplished is left as an exercise for the student. The path that gets us a blue-tribe-controlled South, without using the word “Democrat”, I’m really not seeing.
It’s simply farcical how so many people are trying to pigeonhole everything in American—and indeed international—politics into these four categories.
I’m starting to think this thing might end up amounting in practice to a difficult-to-refute way of saying “your culture is pure fuckin’ evil”. Of course, everyone in Internet politics throws “evil” around like it’s taco day in a chimp pen; but in the Red/Blue case that’s tempered at least a little bit by the fact that no one’s machine-gunning kittens or building volcano lairs from the bones of toddlers, even in the places where those cultures are currently ascendant.
This, though? All it takes is a plausible just-so story, and you can lay whatever past atrocities you want at the feet of whichever culture you want. If those atrocities aren’t happening now, that just means they’re barred by temporary historical circumstance.
Anonymous, thanks for reminding me to go and read (or rather, re-read) Scott’s “outgroup” post. It touches on several of the points I’m making here:
– The Red and Blue tribes are fundamentally political, not cultural or ethnic.
– Such political tribes can include groups that are radically different culturally or even racially (he gives the example of the Nazi Germans and Imperial Japanese). All it takes is a strategic, mutually beneficial alliance between two groups.
– Tribalism can also divide groups that are culturally nearly identical (for example, Nazi Germans and German Jews).
– The Blue and Red tribes frequently use symbolic cultural markers–positions on specific issues, in particular–to identify tribal friends or foes.
– Members of one tribe shun members of the opposing tribe far more assiduously than, say, members of a different race or religion.
One point which he doesn’t make here but in a different post (“The Ideology Is Not the Movement”) is that the fundamental beliefs of a movement aren’t nearly as fundamental as they seem–rather, they form to give substance to the existing movement more than vice versa. He didn’t make the connection, but I’ll make it explicit here: the “ideologies” of the Red and Blue tribes aren’t the fundamental beliefs of their respective members, but rather are constructed by those members in order to give coherence to their respective tribal coalitions. And those “ideologies” shift and change over time as their coalitions and interests change.
Now, one can quibble over whether Scott’s original definitions of the Blue and Red tribes are precisely coterminous with the Democratic and Republican parties–the terms, “political left” and “political right” might fit slightly better–but it’s clear that he’s talking about such broad, diverse political coalitions. For example, the differences between white and black culture in America aren’t enough, in his model, to separate liberal whites and blacks into separate “tribes” in the Blue-tribe-Red-tribe sense.
I therefore stand by my original point: the Blue and Red tribes both contain subcultures resembling each of the four “founding cultures” identified in “Albion’s Seed”. They’re large, diverse coalitions bound by political alliances among their current member constituencies, not by supposed inheritances from sub-populations of British immigrants 300 years ago or more.
Dan Simon wrote:
Did we read different essays?!?
He is clearly not talking about political coalitions, because if he was the Romney types, the libertarians and even the *redacted* would “count”.
He then goes on to make it explicit.
African-Americans aren’t Blue Tribe by and large because they drive Priuses, the don’t eat Arugula, they aren’t disproportionately educated, and they like American football.
I really don’t understand how you could have drawn a diametrically opposed lesson from the post.
Yes. Not really a challenge.
I disagree with basically every policy Sanders has, but he’s “my” kind of Democrat (as far as I’m concerned if Clinton is nominated the Democratic party is unsalvageable), and my fiance is a Sanders supporter (a non-trivial portion of her discretionary portion of our budget has gone to campaign donations). (For me, the ideal case is that Sanders loses and then Trump takes him as VP, because screw both the party establishments.)
Sanders is the Quaker candidate (for a given value of Quaker values), and he’s what the Democratic party has claimed for the past forty or so years to have reformed into. He’s also losing, because the Democratic party did not, in fact, change, and is exactly what it has always been.
There’s the possibility that the Democratic Party could become what it claims to have become, by virtue of people believing that that is what it is taking over the party (as people are attempting to do with Sanders). For now, however, that isn’t what it is.
In terms of Red Tribe and Blue Tribe – Sanders supporters are not Blue Tribe. They’re another tribe entirely, which hasn’t been named yet, but are offshoots of the Blue Tribe in something the way Gray Tribe is described as offshoots of the Blue Tribe.
You’ve just proved my point. Your fiance may not be Blue Tribe and you might think Sanders is the second best thing since sliced bread for special snowflake reasons, but there are plenty of bog standard (if more on the hipster side and less on the yuppie side) Blue Tribe members in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and other places like it that supported Bernie Sanders in the primary. Not Sanders or maybe Trump, but Sanders but otherwise definitely Clinton. It’s clear from your response that you have no insight into these people at all.
Which in turn means you have no business putting forth any definition of the Blue Tribe because you aren’t familiar with the central examples. Just a caricature you’ve built up in your head from god only knows where.
*Laughs* Bog-standard, but hipsters rather than yuppies.
There’s a lot of no-true-Scotsman inherently involved in all of this, because we’re talking about labels invented to describe groups of people, but insofar as you can distinguish between the two groups based on distinctive cultural differences, they’re different tribes.
We can name them “light blue” and “dark blue” if you want, and argue that there’s some encompassing “blue” tribe (which may or may not be true), but the existence of cultural differences, given that a tribe is a cultural cluster, implies tribal differentiation.
So where can I meet the central example of people you describe here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/04/27/book-review-albions-seed/#comment-351289
Because it certainly doesn’t fit anyone I’ve ever met. And I don’t think I’m going to be able fit inside your head.
Michael Bloomberg is almost a perfect example of both the prototypical blue tribe described by Scott (except he drives an Audi, not a Prius, and I have no idea if he likes arugula), and of the more abstract principles I described.
He believes in technocracy; he replaced school boards with direct personal control, for an example of this principle in action. The “right person” is always yourself.
For positive rights – is there anything in the list he doesn’t think should be provided? (That would be newsworthy. Red Tribe is against some of those positive rights, but lukewarmly for others.)
As far as limiting people’s choices to keep them from physical harm, he goes down the list; gun control, tobacco regulation, sugar regulation, trans fats. As far as I know he doesn’t care about GMOs, but if that’s the case, it’s because he doesn’t regard them as harmful.
I am unaware of any unusual positions he holds with regard to welfare or debt forgiveness.
I am unaware of any statements he’s made about favoring community over individuals.
He’s a supporter of military interventionism.
Hillary Clinton is another good example. So is Obama. Nancy Pelosi. The list of good examples is pretty much a list of the best-known blue-tribe politicians in the country.
The central example of a group of millions of people is a famous billionaire and prominent politician? And even he only meets about three quarters of your description?
I rest my case. You have no clue what you are talking about, just a boatload of poorly directed or understood resentment.
So you want a central example you’ll recognize – but anybody I name, but virtue of being famous enough to recognize, is automatically an outlier and therefore not a suitable example of millions of people. Which is to say, you asked for evidence you would never actually accept.
I can’t decide if you knew what you were doing, in engaging in that tactic, or not. Which way does charity lean? Assuming you’re clever enough not to mistake argumentative tactic for correctness, or assuming you’re honest enough not to engage in such a disingenuous tactic?
I said where, not who. You rejected hipsters from Brooklyn as non-central, and implied that yuppies wouldn’t work either. I thought maybe you meant college kids on twitter, which has its own problems but is better than Bloomberg as a central example of anything.
That is not a substantively different question, but essentially every major metropolitan area in the country.
But your claim that I misinterpreted your question is irrelevant (I didn’t – the people who support these politicians are more or less part of their tribe, which is why they support them). Suppose I name a place. Say, the neighborhood East of 496 and North of MLK in Lansing, MI. What then? Do I win? Do I change your mind? Or is the question exactly what I already described it to be – pointless, because you’re going to reject any answer I give you.
It’s very explanatory, actually. I can believe that you know about whoever lives there. It’s clear you don’t know anything about who did or didn’t vote for Mike Bloomberg (including me, three times) and why.
I’m not from Michigan. I lived there for a few years. Along with Connecticut – which is the most Cavalier place I’ve ever been, holy god, it’s a bunch of aristocrats and poor people – Washington state, Texas, Florida. I’ve stayed for shorter durations in Utah, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Minnesota, California, and Rhode Island, and used to do business in New York and New Jersey although I haven’t been to either in a few years. I haven’t been to Vermont yet, but I have spent at least some time in every other state in the country. (Although in the case of a couple in the Northwest, it was just driving through, because there’s nothing there, there.)
And yes. People match their politicians. Not perfectly, but the vast majority of people choose politicians based on tribal affiliation more than policy. (Or as Scott Adams would put it, based on identity.)
New York City is an aberration, because it has too many tribes for any one tribe to hold a majority. The problem isn’t that I’m overgeneralizing, the problem is that you live in a city which is distinctly outside the American norm, and apparently believe it’s representative. (If you want my attitude towards New York City: It’s the world’s most expensive slum, and while the Iranian street food in downtown is amazing, I’d rather live anywhere else in the country.)
I agree that up- & down-voting would be bad, but things like this make me wish we had a Funny button.
Part of the reason for calling them Scots-Irish is that at home a lot of those emigrants would be Ulster Irish, the descendants of the Scottish settlers who were brought into the North of Ireland under the Plantation of James I.
These would have been both culturally closer to the native Irish (due to the long history of links between Ireland, particularly Ulster, and Scotland) than the English settlers, and paradoxically seen themselves as more separate; Lowlanders rather than Highlands, Presbyterians and Free Church rather than Papists. Their descendants would have inhabited that paradoxical psychological space: still looked down on by the ‘real’ English (the vote on Scotland leaving the Union in the 2014 referendum shows the tensions still alive) but holding themselves apart from amalgamating with the native or ‘wild’ Irish.
It’s not really surprising that, with this view of themselves as independent, answerable to God rather than the King (the Church of Scotland, unlike the other Established Churches in the United Kingdom, is not Anglican) and a separate culture needing to differentiate itself from its surroundings, allied with the native clannishness and behaviours, that their American immigrant strain should have created its own little cultural enclave.
The justice system of the backcountry was heavy on lynching, originally a race-neutral practice and named after western Virginian settler William Lynch
The Irish version of that is that it derives from a magistrate named Lynch, in the city of Galway, who hanged his own son for the murder of a Spaniard in the 15th century, but Wikipedia casts doubt on it:
Harking back to our ingroup/outgroup discussions, the choice of outgroup is crucial for the identity of any ingroup. It defines a group by what it is not. If the “borderers” were neighbors with…….say…….the Taliban, they might well start conceiving of themselves as the intellectual and enlightened ones, and move that direction in the future. Moving scots presbyterians away from anglican competition and toward catholic competition would tend to reinforce the protestant emphasis, rather than the inter-protestant rift with the state church, for instance.
I’m wondering if you could draw any comparisons between the Borderer / Cavalier split and the contemporary Trump / establishment civil war in the republican party.
I’m not sure if the modern republican establishment has much in common culturally with the old Cavaliers; but it would be interesting to see if, say, the Bush dynasty was descended from Cavaliers – or money who married into the Cavaliers.
Bush dynasty are dyed in the wool Yankee Puritans who very recently moved to Texas after hundreds of years of being puritans/unitarians/episcopalians.
Jeb Bush is now pretending to be aexican/Cuban/Hispanic american, only slightly more ridiculous than thinking of george hw Bush or even w really as Texan.
Family compound is in Maine, Yale skulls and bones etc.
Republican elite is disproportionately yankee/puritan/Unitarian/Quaker/Northern whatever you want to call it because they control schools, media etc.
To be fair, Jeb married a Mexican, which is at least some first-tier cred.
The Trump split in the GOP is, if anything, Great Plains+Mountain West+Wisconsin v. Everyone Else. Trump is Everyone Else.
The most Blue Tribe GOP candidate is definitely Kasich.
H.W.’s grandfather was from New Jersey.
Yes, and going back further still you will find the bushes in upstate New York, than Connetichut, and then I believe Massachusetts, I think not sure on Mass.
Actually, they have a lot in common with them:
The Cavaliers – The Unz Review
What do you mean by they have a lot in common? Historically the Bushes were part of Yankeedom for many generations. Do you mean they have some cultural affinity in very modern times?
The Bush family isn’t as Yankee as you think.
That’s three times as much Northern ancestry as Southern, so still not very Cavalier at all.
And strictly speaking the Bushes who had that last name had a higher percentage of ancestry from New England proper.
OK, this statement about the origin of “condescension” is literally true, but Virginians and Virginia had nothing to do with it. If you read Jane Austen novels, the word “condescension” is used in exactly this sense, referring to people of higher class interacting with people of lower class as if the class difference weren’t there, or were less than it was. It is complimentary. I assumed our modern use of the term reflected that Americans don’t have formal social levels, and therefore the word, which couldn’t refer to any existing phenomenon, shifted to indicating that someone was acting as if they were on a higher social level than you, when in fact (by definition) they weren’t.
Race and class are always closely related to each other. Race is your ancestry; the concepts are one and the same. Class is a measure of who you can marry. But while there are obvious differences between the questions of “who were your ancestors” and “who can you marry” from the persepctive of any given individual, in a multigenerational model they will of necessity largely coincide; your ancestors consist of people who married each other.
Read Gregory Clark. Class has a lot to do with your ancestry, too.
I don’t quite understand the point of your reply. My comment states:
1. Race is your ancestry.
2. Class is who you can marry.
3. Therefore, considered over multiple generations of marriage and reproduction, race and class coalesce into the same phenomenon — the people you can marry are also the ancestor pool of your descendants.
“Class has a lot to do with your ancestry, too” is a restatement of my point 3, with less detail.
It is a reference to Farwell to Alms. The argument is that the upper class displaced parts of the lower classes by having more surviving offspring and downward social mobility.
No, to The Son Also Rises.
> polite way of showing respect those who were socially inferior
Missing “to” ?
I went to Amazon expecting to find a dozen excellent William Penn biographies, but the selection turned out to be extremely disappointing. What gives?
That’s a pity.
Was just awesome in my book and leaves me wanting to read more about his views on everything, which is rare in a person from the Past.
Interesting puritan fact #11 was pretty much the norm in western Europe if you go back another few centuries and stayed popular in Scandinavia up until around 1900. I’m not sure it’s a bad idea at all.
Reinstating #16 would do wonders for curing my akrasia problems.
Regarding the “unhyphenated Americans”: if you’re a white American, and you don’t have a fairly recent immigrant as an ancestor, you’re not likely to actually know your ancestry unless you’ve done some genealogical research. So “stubbornly ignoring the point of the question” is, I think, an unfair characterization. “American” is just the best answer they can give.
This is exactly what I wondered. In the UK I have no idea what my ancestors were doing in the 1800s, let alone the 1600s. I can guess they maybe lived in the same area of the country as my grandparents, but that’s about all. I know in the US it’s more common to identify as a 6-th generation or 10th generation whatever, but is it true that EVERYONE does?
I also wonder, 100 years ago, when people married, did they not typically adopt a majority culture from one or other parent, not both? But my ethnicity would depend on all ancestors. So even if I were descended from famous founder X, 2^n-1 of my ancestors would be someone else, would I know who ALL of them are?
I certainly don’t. I identify as “American” because I don’t have a clue what my ancestry is. Probably largely Scots-Irish (I’m from Alabama), but my last name is Welsh in origin.
The only thing I’ve heard people talk about a lot is that my great-grandmother’s grandmother was apparently a Cherokee Indian (making me 1/32nd). I have about as much hard evidence for this as Elizabeth Warren, but it seems quite plausible as my relatives from that part of the family have fairly Indian-looking facial features and complexions. My great-grandmother was alive until my teens (she was, uh, only 16 years older than my grandmother), and she would have been 1/4th Cherokee—and she looked like it, too.
Welsh is one of those names that get adopted to replace exotic foreign ones, too. I’ve heard of a writer named Williams because he was of Finnish extraction, and when his ancestor told the boss at the lumber camp what his name was, his boss told him he was Williams.
Pretty sure he means the name originates from Wales, not that it is the name “Welsh”.
I think that’s what Mary meant – “Williams” is a name that is recognised for being frequent in Wales (despite having an English etymology).
I’m pretty sure Mary picked up on that, haha.
Williams is a Welsh last name. Well, Anglo-Welsh, but very common in Wales.
Anyway, my family all goes back many generations in the US, as far as I know. They weren’t Continental Europeans who might have gotten their names changed at Ellis Island or something.
My dad did have a friend in he met in medical school whose father changed the family name during WWII from the German “Schoenberg” to the French translation “Belmont”.
It varies. We have genealogical nuts in my family and everyone’s been traced back to the boat. That gets you back to four generations in one case and thirteen in another; all my father’s grandparents were born out of the USA, but three were born in Canada.
I think that people who have decidedly “ethnic” surnames tend to be more interested in their genealogy and their “mother country” than those who don’t (i.e., those with British surnames). My surname is decidedly Slavic and not Americanized. When people ask me for my last name, I give them my first name instead, unless pressed, because spelling it will be a tedious chore.
This can then lead to questions (What country is that from? Do you speak the language?) Which naturally, from an early age, leads to an interest in those kinds of questions. If your name is “Smith”, you might very well never have thought about your ancestral homeland until asked by a census-taker. If your name strikes people as bizarre, you will think about it much earlier.
In truth, I am many generations removed from any immigrants, and thus entirely assimilated with no real links to any other country, as were all of my grandparents. I’m less than one-quarter Slav. But there’s still a certain affinity or at least interest I have in the “old country”, as did my father and his father before him.
Well, and even if you know… what do you answer?
I’ve got German, Dutch, English, Irish, Scottish, and French ancestors, almost none of whom immigrated within the last 100 years. What’s my ancestry?
Heinz. (57 varieties.)
You pass down family traditions, which may get mangled. My mother’s family knew it was Irish, and my sister’s research did indeed track everyone down to the boat, and they came from Ireland. (Fun fact: Connecticut marriage certificates had a place for bride’s mother’s place of birth, bride’s father’s place of birth, bridegroom’s mother’s place of birth, bridegroom’s father’s place of birth — but none for the actual name of these people.
My grandmother maintained that her grandmother was Irish — actually it was her great-grandmother. OTOH, the story that a certain branch of the family that claimed an ancestor had married an Indian woman because there were no white women to marry, he had come over so early — well, it turned out that the brother of an ancestress of mine had done that, but not in my family line. (I do have apparently local ancestry — up my Acadian branch. There were several women who apparently appeared out of nowhere on their wedding days. But not where the story put them.)
Sometimes the family traditions are wrong, especially in places north of DC. One side of my family was Scottish until a few years ago, when the NYT ran an article on German-Americans and made it acceptable to admit to having German ancestry again — it wasn’t for about a century.
It’s interesting. I never really thought about people not knowing. My family came from southern Italy at the turn of the last century, so we know exactly what’s going on. I guess if the immigration occurred much farther back in time it’s a lot harder to know about.
This ties into the main post in another way: I think that what the book is saying makes sense in a general way, but it seems to be lacking an explanation for the more recent groups of immigrants. There are a lot of Italian Americans and Chinese Americans and stuff like that, enough that the actual puritan/cavalier/etc. descended population is probably pretty diluted.
Also, about those settlements… youch! Most of the people’s actions and motivations make sense on a basic level, but the whole thing feels like it’s taking place on another planet.
My parents (and I, to an less vehement extent) would be in the “unhyphenated Americans” group. I distinctly remember as a child having to turn in reports for school where I had to say “what I was.” It drove my parents nuts, “You’re American. Good grief! Just put American. What’s the matter with these teachers?” In their case, it was 80% an objection to the arbitrary nature of the question. Because people aren’t trying to compare things evenly. They don’t mean, “Let’s compare where everyone’s family was four generations ago, or ten.” They mean, “Just go back as far as you have to to get to a different country – doesn’t matter if that’s 2 or 20 generations. The only rule is you can’t claim to be American.” The last 20% was being contrary and not knowing more than 1/4 of the answer.
My dad is one of these types. He knows his ancestry — Irish, Swedish, French, etc. — but he won’t give that out to people who ask. He says loudly that he’s AMERICAN, because when his ancestors came to this country, they gave up their old countries and assimilated as Americans. They spoke English and they didn’t hyphenate their identities. He won’t even identify as “white” even though he’s about as white as you can be. He looks down on anybody who speaks a language from an “old country” or is a “hyphenated American” because, to him, that goes against the ideals of melting pot America.
You really have no idea? No, aunt or cousin that’s proud to be the descendant of the mayflower? No sauerbraten family recipe? No grandmother with a maiden name of O’Sullivan? Usually people can come up with an answer for at least one branch of the tree if they really want to.
In my case (which is similar to most of the people in the regions that identify simply as “American”), I know that (at least the vast majority of) my family originates from somewhere within the island of Great Britain, but not anything more specific than that. Nobody claims to have an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower (that would be geographically implausible). Family meals with grandparents and so on were classic Southern food: cornbread, okra, lima beans, turnip greens, catfish, barbecued pork, etc.
What’s wrong with British-American?
My wife and I started taking our fathers out to restaurants together for Father’s Day. One time we went to the Old Town German restaurant, and my Dad mentioned that his father was of primarily German heritage. This was news to me, (though physiologically not terribly surprising), even after 30 years, so little was it mentioned growing up. I also heard at one point my mother say her father could trace his heritage back to early English settlers (I want to say Mayflower, but that may be unconscious embellishment on one of our parts), which was cool but hardly emphasized beyond a passing mention. Instead we had generic American and Christian identities.
Red-tribe emphasizes devotion to America as a whole at the expense of any further ethnic ties. I suppose this is noble to a point, but at times can seem like unilateral isolation.
If I had to put an answer other than “American” it would be British just becuase most of the surnames sound British. But I am similar to Vox Imperatoris (grew up in the Piedmont South) and I really don’t know. If anything I think of myself as culturally Southern. And also like Vox I have been told that I am 1/16th Cherokee and I have some of the looks to believe it. But really I have no idea other than most of my peeps have been here at least 150 years some probably more like 300.
I have ancestry from the Piedmont as well as other areas of the South. I’ve heard the Cherokee claim as well.
What the hell use is identifying *one* strand of your ancestry out of the half-dozen or so? That’s not good statistics.
It’s great statistics about which identities are best at preserving themselves. Where did the English go between 1980 and 1990?
So is the tentacled monster that has taken over all of our information sources itself mixed between these two cultures? Is it having an acculturation effect?
If we ever establish an extraterrestrial colony, we’ll see founder effects unlike anything ever seen on Earth.
Wanna be an astronaut? You need 1000 hours of jet time, a bachelor’s degree in engineering or science, with advanced degrees preferred. Obviously you need 20/20 vision and perfect health. Mission specialists are an even more rarified pool.
Imagine the sort of talent we’d send to establish a permanent base on the Moon, or Mars. It’d probably make Lesswrong look like a short bus.
These astronaut prerequisites are only true for NASA astronauts. We don’t know what SpaceX will require. And if SpaceX do manage to build a private colony on Mars (seperate from the state or international colony they’ll make possible), I’d love to see their founder effects.
You’re not going to see any founder effects unless you establish a breeding colony. And the people willing to move to the moon or Mars permanently are likely to be the dregs of the dregs.
That isn’t necessarily true. Corporations have cultures, and I’d wager that Antarctic research stations(the closest extant analogue) do too. Even if the population rotates, culture often doesn’t.
Nonsense. You’d have far more of the “best and brightest” willing to move to Mars than could fit on the ships.
Fanatics are another possibility. The Borderers would like Mars, for instance. For reasons discussed here:
The first people will likely be non-breeding, because it will take a lot of work to get a colony built up to the place where we can have a good obstetrics unit.
In fact, the first pregnancy will likely be illicit, because we won’t think we’re ready, but after it happens everyone will think it’s normal.
“Easy to get along with” might also be a qualification for space colonies. From what I’ve heard, Russians demand more of this than Americans.
“The Claustrophile” is a Theodore Sturgeon story on the subject, unfortunately not available online.
“If we ever establish an extraterrestrial colony, we’ll see founder effects unlike anything ever seen on Earth.”
Yes, though the founders will be machines.
We are likely going to have embryo selection for intelligence by 2020. People who want to go to Mars will likely be especially interested in using genetic engineering on their kids.
Very interesting link, thank you.
Every time I learn more about the Puritans I like them less. But heck, I’m getting my revenge in a few days when Easter rolls around here in Romania, and I get to light candles inside a richly-painted church, sing songs, drink wine, dance, eat lamb, and basically be the least Puritan person in Christendom.
So is that how we’re referring to Voldemort these days? Granted, the idea is not unique to him, but he’s probably the most well-known vector of it around these parts.
Voldemort argued that the US Civil War was Massachusetts conquering the United States?
Curtis Yarvin, AKA Mencius Moldbug, did.
Because the name of his political philosophy is banned here, we initially called it things like “the Ideology-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named” which eventually mutated into being Death Eaters and Voldemort. Plus it fits with the 3edgy5me Sith aesthetic a lot of early dark enlightenment folks played with.
Ahh, sorry. I don’t spend that much time in the comments here, due to poor software(no notification of responses makes carrying on conversation much harder).
No problem. And I agree about the software, notifications would be very nice.
It’s funny but I guessed you were talking about him despite not really following comments (I wasn’t aware he was a banned topic)
I don’t think he or the-topic-which-shall-not-be-named are banned per se; I think it was something to do with not using the _term_ itself, since it was used irresponsibly and muddies the waters, or something. I don’t recall exactly because it’s been some time and my Google Fu is failing me as I try to find the original policy.
“Appears in Google and attract the undesirable” would be the most likely reason to ban the term.
It was in one of the deleted scenes of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.
This is the single most amazing book review I have ever read.
What might I learn from the book that I did not learn from this?
Seconded. This is an excellent review.
Lots of linguistic analysis of words and phrases from the four groups’ dialects, which can probably be found in other sources. There is also a large amount of folk history/knowledge if that is your thing.
I only know Albion’s Seed secondhand, via its importance to Labov’s analysis of American dialect regions. However, Labov cautions that Fisher doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he actually says things about dialects.
I only made it through the first part of the book, but from what I read essentially take that list of “interesting facts about puritans” and extend it to 200 pages.
You need to read more.
It’s certainly not a bad book, but there’s lots more out there.
He said most amazing book _review_, not most amazing book. Unless you mean that he needs to read more book reviews because there are a ton of amazing ones. I dunno, I’ve read a lot of book reviews and I still tend to prefer Scott’s (to be fair, it’s because his interests and style of writing are pretty well-suited to me while most book reviewers are going for a wider or different audience).
Point still stands.
Though this review is quite good, some key missing elements notwithstanding.
So it’s interesting to reflect on how post-Civil War immigration integrated with these existing groups. I watched (listened to) a really fascinating lecture on this on YouTube a while ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2ndkCvHGj4
It describes how the Catholic and high-church Lutheran immigrants into America in the latter part of the 19th century wound up aligned with the Democratic party, precisely because they were held in suspicion by the Puritan-descended Republicans who hated popery and superstition. This created a large block of people in urban centers and throughout the Upper Midwest who were very different, religiously and culturally, from the Borderers and Cavaliers, but who were bound into the same political alliance. This alliance persist in many forms to the present day, though the party labels have switched.
The big exception to the party switch is the lack of a big GOP recent immigrant block (except maybe Soviet Jews).
Fascinating stuff, though obviously it discounts a lot of other phenomena – immigration from other countries, to name the most obvious. Also, I suspect that the ancestry is a lot more muddled than the geography – kids from Appalachia who don’t like their local culture traditionally move off to the big city, after all.
That said, I think “deep culture” has a lot to do with self-identification. Every tribe has its tribal myths, and because people like to believe good things of themselves, the tribal myths are always positive. They can be “We got screwed by XYZ”, they can be “We were awesome back in 19-dickety-2”, they can be “We’re responsible for all of history’s advancement in widgetology”, or whatever, but they always paint themselves positively somehow. This is even more pronounced for tribes where the individual members aren’t doing so well – marginalized subgroups often turn resentment into an art form.
So let’s say you’re a typical 2016-era Borderer descendant from West Virginia. You’re likely to have internalized stories about how the educated elite were all eugenecists 100 years ago, Communists 50 years ago, and just a pack of smug jerks today. You’ll say they’ve all been on the wrong side of history over and over, but they keep cramming their lies down your throats anyways, because they control the education system, the media, and Hollywood. So you think you shouldn’t kowtow to the educated, because it takes a university degree to be truly stupid, you should ignore the mass media other than what small bits your people have managed to carve out, and you should view Hollywood with suspicion. Instead you stick to the timeless truths that these modernist fools have forgotten – the Bible, the Constitution, maybe the Federalist Papers if you’re a bookish type. You get annoyed that so much of American culture is dedicated to spitting on people like you, because you feel that your people are what really makes America great – you’re the ones who’ll fight for freedom, you’re the ones who remember what the country is all about, and you’re the ones who’ll keep the fires burning while the ivory tower types are off chasing the latest fad and ramming it down your throat.
Do you really think a worldview like that can be attacked with pot legalization or campaign finance reform?
Attacked? Why on earth would you want to do that?
Not an American myself, but the real question is how can US elites absorb and learn from the obvious truths that worldview contains, without falling into the opposite errors.
Presumably, you want to attack it because you’re an educated elite, who really understands how the world works, and you just get so frustrated with those rubes who go in for cheap slogans instead of scientific knowledge, who seem to dominate talk radio and Congress and the police forces, and who set back the cause of human progress every time they open their mouths. Your tribe is better in every measurable way than theirs – higher income, better education, more successful children, people are happier in countries where people like you are in charge, on and on – because you’re empirically correct about so many issues, and the couple minor mistakes that the other side is always carping about don’t really amount to much in the grand scheme of things. So naturally, it’s frustrating that they seem to have all the power in society, and you’re marginalized into ghettos of sanity.
I’m not saying that I personally want to attack the people in my first post – I have a foot in both camps, but by temperament I’m more like the West Virginian than the New Yorker. But they do get attacked, and the attacks on them are in the same vein as what I suggested. No wonder both sides feel like they need to worry so much about collective self-defence.
Did you steal my brain for these posts, Alsadius? I’m not american but pretty much everything outlined here is as I would have put it.
Paging the rest of the commentariat!
Can we get an honest-to-god lefty’s read on Alsadius’ summaries? As someone who inhabits the first camp I’d say the first is spot on, and the second sounds accurate. But I’d like someone who inhabits the second camp to confirm.
If so, I nominate Alsadius for the next comment of the week.
I hang out with a fair number of lefties, and so I’m fairly certain it isn’t too far off, but I’m a bit less in tune with the mindset in my own right, so I won’t vouch for it. I think I also came off a touch too smug. Oddly, a lot of that viewpoint is also important to the thought processes of a lot of libertarians I know as well, though it’s much less pure in them.
And thanks for the vote of confidence. I must confess, I smiled. 🙂
As an honest-to-god lefty, I’d say that take on the left is a fair articulation of how it can feel at the most politically frustrated times. On a normal day, though, I’m not calling rural rightists rubes or berating them for failing to acknowledge how correct I am (I grew up in a place where they were the dominant bloc, so we’re talking about folks I consider friends and family. I imagine it could be very different for a city-kid).
There are some other small things I’d quibble on, but Alsadius has a pretty good portrait there.
The first post matches pretty closely to my experience with the rural right, give or take a few racial/sexual issues, so kudos on being able to accurately model both so closely.
Response to Hlynkacg’s comment as a lefty who was raised on the border of Northern Appalachia and is one of those kids who ran for the big city without looking back.
The comments are fairly correct and a good model from my perspective. I agree Esteban B. that the frustration isn’t around as much in everyday life, but when it shows up it shows up hard. I’ll try to explain it nicely below, but I know that some of the rhetoric is a bit harsh.
It’s incredibly frustrating to look at the area I was raised in and see the same idiots who were proud of being uneducated blowhards as elected officials. They don’t know how the world really works, have no interest in learning about it, and expect their opinion to still be taken seriously on topics that require a lot of knowledge. The biggest examples I can think of here are climate change and evolution/the teaching of evolution.
Worse yet, through weight of numbers, they’re able to get enough people in Congress that the federal government, one of the only organizations that has a chance of solving collective action problems, has ground to a halt. There’s so much more good that can be done, but every step has to be fought for tooth and nail.
I think they still should be able to vote as much as they want to though, as should everyone else, because of how bad the incentive structure for any sorts of voting tests are.
These thoughts are worsened by the social issues where far too many of them seem to want the ‘freedom’ to discriminate against anyone and pull many of their stated values/reasons from a two thousand year old book of myths that’s be translated who knows how many times. I think this knowing full well that religion is one of the other major methods of solving the same sorts of problems that I want the federal government to solve.
The social part of the culture war is the one that I really don’t think there can be much compromise on. It’s going to be long, nasty, and will result in one side having the other’s values forced upon them. There’s no other way around it because some of these things can’t just be left up to the states. As soon as someone is afforded a social status, such as marriage, in one state and needs to use it in a different one, the federal government needs to get involved and one side is going to lose.
By the same token, I grew up in the rust-belt and speaking as one of those stubbornly conservative (if somewhat bookish) working class folk clinging to his guns and his religion; Alsadius’s summary of the right strikes me as dead-on.
His take on the left sounded accurate but I wanted a second opinion seeing as I’m was less confident of my ability to model those outside my peer group. It feels good to have my initial guess confirmed.
I second the kudos for being able to accurately model both groups accurately.
Conversely, it’s incredibly frustrating to see the same people who would have been inquisitors had they been born in medieval Spain, Puritans in Colonial America, Cheka in soviet Russia, or SS in Nazi Germany declare “This Time we’ve solved it! This time we are on the side of the angels, and anyone who doesn’t immediately adopt our way of thinking shall be consigned to the dustbin of history”.
They don’t seem to realize that there is nothing new under the sun. Works like the Iliad and the Bible endure because what was true of humans 2,000 years ago, remains true today. Anyone who argues that “This is the 21st century, things are different now” is delusional. The blood, sex, and terror of the ancient world hasn’t gone away you’ve simply been insulated from it by those same uneducated blowhards.
First the negative: While I’m not sure I can convincingly pose as an honest-to-god lefty in the sense you mean, I think it’s odd to claim that the uneducated blowhards–who openly boast about their lust to spread bloodshed and terror–are insulating us from all the bloodshed and terror.
Insulating us from it is what the rest of us are doing, and we’re doing it over the increasingly-loud protests of the borderers.
Conversely, it’s incredibly frustrating to see the same people who would have been inquisitors had they been born in medieval Spain, Puritans in Colonial America, Cheka in soviet Russia, or SS in Nazi Germany declare “This Time we’ve solved it! This time we are on the side of the angels, and anyone who doesn’t immediately adopt our way of thinking shall be consigned to the dustbin of history”.
Yes. This. The Borderers are still with us, but so are the Puritans. And people who weren’t susceptible to moral panics didn’t become Puritans in the first place.
And distressingly, people who think they have smug contempt for the kind of rubes who’d be susceptible to moral panics don’t seem to be any less susceptible to them.
It’s as if all the Puritans have become unshakably certain that they’re immune to outbreaks of Puritanism… and then got their hands on some power. And immediately dropped their previous beliefs about how those in power ought not to abuse it.
Sheep/wolf/dog boasting incoming. Or maybe that TR quote again.
> and pull many of their stated values/reasons from a two thousand year old book of myths that’s be translated who knows how many times.
Or I suppose twice if you belong to one of those denominations that bases the Old Testament on the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic Text, but that’s pretty rare among American Protestants.
Really? If you were to witness a violent crime or suffer a traumatic injury what would your most likely response be? I’m going to wager that it’s something along the lines of “Call 911” (or your local equivalent).
Do you not see how weird that is?
On one hand it is a credit to our civilization that most people today will be able to go their whole lives without ever having to see death up close.
On the other, this lack of familiarity the with baser aspects of life means that a lot of people are in for a rude awakening when the Gods of the Copybook Headings show up to collect their tribute.
Any day now, the world’s going to change. Any day now, you are going to wish you stocked up on gold. Any day now, you are going to wish you knew how to kill. Any day now, I’m going to be a hero.
Any day now.
Change? who said anything about change?
I suppose that anon@gmail believes the US government fakes hurricanes and car accidents the same way they faked the moon-landings. And that meat magically appears on supermarket shelves without ever having been “on the hoof”.
When my parents house was burglarized a few years back, the police did fuck all. The police in that county, some of the highest paid police in the entire nation, are very good at doing fuck all. The only institution that was at all helpful was the insurance company, a decidedly white collar place.
Relevant. You weren’t smug enough. (I’ve got to get the Brian Leiter helldump from Theden back up somewhere — that’s illustrative. It’s not your tribe vs. theirs; it’s the objectively superior rightful masters of the universe vs. a subhuman mass-mind of pure evil that ought to be rounded up and incinerated.)
For background, I’m pretty much a blue tribe native. I have lived in California for nearly all of my life, and I’ve spent significant chunks of my lifespan in both the Bay Area and in parts of rural SoCal with what seems to be a hybrid of standard Californian culture and bizarrely Cavalierish attitudes. My family is part English and part Sephardi Jewish by way of many, many other places, but leftist and intellectual enough to blend in here.
Alsadius, your reply is an extremely accurate description of the mindset I used to have, when I was much more heavily involved in environmentalism and social justice. I still have the same kind of elitist fury you describe, but now I just feel it toward people who are heavily involved in politics on the left and the right. I’m not sure that’s any better. It is, however, still an accurate description of a lot of people I know, even without swapping out a few nouns. I would not be surprised to hear this exact monologue come out of my high school biology teacher’s mouth.
Why is it always biologists?
Because they tend to take evolution more personally, I’d wager. Same problem climatologists have – when someone is attacking your life’s work, it annoys you more than most.
This matches the description from the recent “Smug Liberal” article at Vox.
>Attacked? Why on earth would you want to do that?
sometimes it really takes a university degree to be truly stupidif they had anything worth learning about, we would already know it, of course.
This is a terrific point, and really well written. I’m half ready to move to Kentucky immediately. Thanks!
2016 Borderer living in Appalachia here. I’d say you’re right, except for all those conspiracy theories and resentment of elites are secondary to the basic internalization: that what’s left of your culture is in deep decline, and those with power (either gov’t or business) have alternately ignored/screwed you. Whether you end up focusing this anger against Democrats or Republicans, the source is the same.
West Virginia sat atop of the richest energy resources in the US, yet remains one of its poorest and least developed areas – you don’t get that way without a solid century of resentment towards both “blue” government and “red” business.
The thing is, West Virginia elects pro-gun/pro-coal Democrats all the time. Its current governor is a Democrat, and until last year, both of its senators were too. Why attack the worldview when you can win with two simple issues?
“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.
The idea that ‘cracker’ meant anyone in the prosperous farming regions has never seemed correct to me, and more of a backwards-working justification for the disdain for that class by African-Americans.
However, the independent backwoods farmer/peasants(*) of the southeast Gulf region (FL, GA, AL & MS) would move cattle and other livestock with whips (like the Australians) – by sound, mostly – making a popping noise to herd the cows, rather than raising welts (although a cowhide on a tough woods bull takes some effort to get a reaction from).
So the whip connection was there, but those ‘crackers’ never owned enough wealth to afford a slave.
The Newberry awarded book Strawberry Girl covers some of the cultural conflicts of rural pastoralism.
(*) I need a word for American agriculturalists that implies farming as principle economic activity, unsophisticated, rural location, and lack of wealth, but includes political independence in a way that the Old World use of ‘peasant’ does not. “Sharecropper” is very like peasant, but not all farmers – regardless of race – were sharecroppers.
“Yeoman” would be the proper old English term but the modern usage doesn’t really fit.
“Freeholder” probably has clearer implications in this context. You could also use “ceorl” or one of its cognates, if you want to go back further.
“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. ”
In Michigan, the blue areas you’re seeing are the urbanized areas — the corridor north from Detroit including Flint and Saginaw. In the north central and western LP, the blue dots are Midland (anomalous wealthy educated area in the middle of nowhere — home of Dow Chemical), Traverse City, and Marquette (the UP’s only substantial metro area). You also have the cities along the I-94 and I-96 corridors (Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Grand Rapids). Probably more than anyone not from Michigan wants or needs to know, but the point is that the patterns probably don’t have much to do with colonial-era migration. On the other hand, the great migration of southerners to work in auto plants in the 20th century seems much more relevant. This included, BTW, not only a lot of black southerners, but white ones as well (locally here in Ann Arbor, for example, Ypsilanti used to have the derogatory nickname of ‘Ypsitucky’).
Yeah, but you could take any area of similar size and notice that it has some cities, especially if you’re willing to count places as small as Battle Creek. A population density map of the US doesn’t show that part of southern Michigan as much denser than other areas.
I live in Ypsilanti and was unaware of the “Ypsitucky” connection, but it explains a lot.
When I saw the blue in southern Michigan, I assumed it was retired UAW employees.
Well, Battle Creek is 50,000 people — not tiny (about the same size as Saginaw now). And those blue areas do include essentially all the African Americans in Michigan.
There’s one exception to the blue urban pattern which is also a Michigan oddity — there is an urbanized ‘red’ area in West Michigan (Grand Rapids/Holland/Grand Haven). It’s not Borderer at all though but rather Calvinist Dutch Reformed who — unlike the New England Puritans — have held on to their religiosity and conservatism (along with their tulips and windmills). Not surprisingly, Cruz won those areas over Trump rather decisively:
Side note: my wife and I pass through Battle Creek fairly often, and once it occurred to us to look into whether there was a museum dedicated to the titular battle. (I’d accidentally run into the one for Battle Ground, Indiana, at the site of the Battle of Tippecanoe, and it had been interesting to see.)
I discovered that it would probably be more accurate to call it “Attempted Mugging Creek” The “battle” involved four people: two members of a white survey party, two American Indians, likely Potawatomi. No one was actually killed. The latter reportedly tried to steal supplies from the former, and the surveyors shot one of the Indians, nonfatally, and restrained the other.
Given that Battle Creek reports 66 robberies per year, they probably currently have battles on that scale on roughly a weekly basis.
I once knew a Puritan type from Michigan, and the way he told it, Dutch Michigan was the Fourth Reich.
The West Michigan Dutch have always struck me as being more like Mormons — conservative, religious, wholesome, orderly, dull, blonde, and really *nice*.
It’s more complicated than that. I assume you live in the city of Ypsilanti, which is an old Yankee college town. The Yp*****ky term (a slur when used by outsiders) refers to eastern Ypsilanti Township.
The original site of Willow Run, built around the bomber plant to house war workers, is now a predominantly African-American neighborhood, but the substantial Appalachian-origin community remains in the general area, has maintained its identity, and continues to be culturally and politically influential.
(A local woman I used to know would get questions about her accent, such as “What part of the South are you from?” She would say “Southern Michigan.”)
Asterisking out words strikes me as sad and pathetic when used for the most offensive terms in the English language, let alone something like Ypsitucky.
And confusing! We asterisk-out words when they’re notorious, when Everyone Knows the awful thing and simply referencing it brings it to mind. You can’t just add asterisks to emphasize that something offends you.
I can’t? But I did. And you’re the one offended, not me. I wanted to be crystal-clear which side of the use/mention distinction I was on.
Did you momentarily forget that I’m a politician, explaining part of my own constituency?
The word was already highlighted in quotation marks immediately above. I didn’t imagine anyone here would have trouble getting the point.
More likely they simply didn’t know who you are, Larry.
Mostly the distribution of left-leaning in michigan is a simple combination of two groups, black americans and universities. Blacks are the majority in Detroit, Flint, Saginaw and Jackson. Lansing, Ann Arbor, Marquette and Kalamazoo are all college towns. Traverse City is where the wealthier crunchies from Ann Arbor and Lansing have their summer homes/cottages and so has become a magnet for every hacky-sacking pot smoker* in the north of the state.
*or, if you prefer, every artistically inclined free spirit
There are colleges that don’t seem to lean as far left in the state (GVSU, Michigan Tech and Central spring to mind). Or at least they haven’t influenced their towns as much. Still, I think this is a much better explanation for the political distribution than anything else.
I’m not accepting any connection between the theories in Albion’s Seed and current voting patterns in Michigan, but I couldn’t let this stand unanswered.
You are mistaken about almost every blue county in lower Michigan. You apparently didn’t look closely at the map.
First, of those cities, in the 2010 census, only Detroit and Flint are majority black. Second, the map showing Obama/Romney support is based on counties, not cities. No county in Michigan is majority black. Besides Wayne (Detroit) and Genesee (Flint), no Michigan county is even 20% black.
They are college towns in the strict sense that universities are located in or near those places. But college students make up a very small minority of the votes in each of those counties, like single digit percentages. And those areas (notably Ingham, Washtenaw, and Kalamazoo counties) all have considerably more going on than just higher education; they are not dominated by universities.
You’re not alone in being unclear about this. When I tell people that Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor), formerly a Republican bastion, has become steadily more Democratic over the last 40 years, outsiders often say, “oh, right, because of the students.” No, college students are a tiny portion of the county’s electorate. If anything, students as a group have moved to the right since the 1970s, and their voter turnout is down sharply from those days. The shift toward voting Democratic has affected every part of this county, including suburban and rural areas far from the university.
Wrong again. The resort region around Traverse Bay is dominated by vacationers from Chicago and Grand Rapids, not from southeast Michigan.
I think that’s a wild exaggeration, but in any case, that whole area is reliably Republican, and all six of the Traverse Bay counties (Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet) voted for Romney.
You might have been fooled by two blue counties right nearby, Manistee and Lake, but they are about as “crunchy” as wet newspaper. Lake County, notably, is the poorest rural county in Michigan, and has voted for Democratic nominees in twelve of the last 13 presidential elections.
Leaving aside the counties mentioned already, what about Monroe? Shiawassee? Bay? Van Buren? Eaton? Calhoun? Macomb? None of your theories has anything to say about those areas, which are all overwhelmingly white, non-poor, without universities, and voted for Obama in 2012.
All likely true, but you’re arguing against something I didn’t say.
Cities are not counties.
Right, but you were trying to explain the map Scott provided, which only shows counties.
Out of curiosity, is there a list somewhere of which presidents fit in which of the four groups? Or a list of American authors? Emerson and Hawthorne are definitely Puritans; I wonder if Twain is from a Cavalier group.
The last chapter of the book covers, in brief, how the various groups evolved over the subsequent two centuries, and does this.
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?
Geography, climate, evaporative cooling and the effects of war.
As a part of the eastern seaboard, the ‘MidAtlantic States’ of Virginia and the Carolinas had access to trade wealth and cultural influence from both New England and Europe. This was rather lacking in the Deep South. So was a ready escape from the heat and disease of Southern summers.
Additionally, the Deep South plantations depended the management of cheap labor to be profitable. The American Civil War created a shortage of management (sons of white landowners) and of labor (everyone else – there were no slaves and fewer white-nonslaves.) Really, the economic crash that followed should have been obvious to everyone before hand.
Finally – Mississippi et al were much closer to the West than Virginia, etc. Saying “the hell with this” and packing up for new territory was much easier for many than to stay and try to rebuild in the ruins of the Old South. Those that stayed were the most impoverished and the most stubborn.
I think it’s important to recall the racial demographics of the Deep South as well – the two populations had an influence on each other (how could they not, when African-Americans had been nannies to wealthy ‘white’ babies for ever) and intermingled more than might be thought by outsiders. Modern Deep South is a meld of those cultural influences, and not just the Border vs Cavaliers.
A list of Scott’s book reviews, for those who may want to read more: https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/3w4ip3/the_book_reviews_of_scott_alexander
Given just where you focused your commenting, you might have fun with George Macdonald Fraser’s “The Steel Bonnets”, a history book about the Borderers I found very interesting to read – from a point simultaneously sympathetic to them and impressively horrified by them.
Fraser is the best. He also wrote a very funny novel called The Reavers, set on the Anglo-Scottish border during one of its historically rowdy periods.
Which is a parody of his earlier (serious) novel “The Candlemass Road”, also set on the Anglo-Scottish border during the same period, and dealing with the same subjects. 😀
A branch of the Shaftoes in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, and also in the Baroque Cycle, are borderers and descendants. I also think of Faulkner’s “Barn Burning.”
Daniel Waterhouse is a Puritan who personally goes through the transformation from religious Puritan to atheist in the course of the Baroque Cycle.
Yeah, this post has me thinking of the entire Baroque Cycle in new ways. Waterhouse becomes Quacker-y, his great rival Anglesey is obviously a cavalier, Eliza is a Puritan.
The Baroque Cycle is an exploration of all these ideas.
I’m a little surprised by the libertarian=borderer thesis given that Borderers seem to have fallen heavily for Trump while seems likely to be the absolute last choice for Cato and Reason Magazine.
Also, I think you might want to consider the possibility of another colonial era influence on the American senses of liberty, egalitarianism, and anti-authoritarianism — namely the Indian tribes who colonials lived and interacted closely with for generations. I first ran across this in Charles Mann’s ‘1491’ (which everyone should start reading right now if they haven’t already), but here’s a NY Times piece by Mann on the same topic:
I guess it depends on what your archetype of a libertarian looks like.
If you think of libertarians as “those survivalists in Montana who live innawoods so that they can resist Obama’s UN black helicopters” then sure, border reavers sound like a natural fit. If you think of them more as “those randroids in the economics department who study the Icelandic Sagas so that they can design an ideal stateless society” then it makes a lot less sense.
Also Trump has broken a lot of rules, and is also pretty tough to classify ideologically (since he mostly doesn’t seem to have one). I’m also not sure why we should expect survivalist-type libertarians to be particularly opposed to him, since free trade and open borders are typically framed as moving us closer to world government rather than weakening governmental power.
‘Border reivers’ also seem like a poor fit for the Adam Smith/Bastiat/Hayek/Milton Friedman/Jane Jacobs libertarians (unless you want to wedge them all into the ‘randroid’ box). And what about, say, the ‘Free Range Kids’ folks:
More like a ‘reivers’ or ‘randroids’?
Yup, they go in the randroid box. My examples were purposefully caricatures: most Tea Party libertarians don’t believe in black helicopters after all.
Free range parenting and unschooling are, in my experience, far more popular on the hippie-to-professor spectrum. Earthier types who do most of the same things would just call it homeschooling or letting kids be kids. Something of a theorist versus traditionalist divide in terms of doctrine despite similar practice.
But the big part of the free-range kids movement that pushes it into the libertarian realm is not that it’s not just ‘letting kids be kids’ but also fighting back against government authorities (politicians, police, child protective services caseworkers) who arrest and threaten parents for engaging in free range parenting.
Right, and the survivalist types have their own version of fighting back against the government trying to take their kids. It sometimes involves actual fighting, though more often it’s just a lot of bluster from third parties about shooting CPS agents attempting to kidnap their children.
Personally I’m more on the Reaver side of this issue, despite being about as Scots-Irish as I am Martian. Lawsuits, even when they succeed, routinely soak up years and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. A shootout is probably just as unlikely to go your way but at least it’s quick and will make them think twice about trying it again the next time.
Yeah, there seems to be a real distinction between the “red” libertarians and the “blue” (“gray”) ones.
Well, progressive liberalism is supposed to be descended from classical liberalism, aka whiggism, so the progressives and reason magazine type libertarians share the same origin. You can observe this culturally in that they are culturally similar, but disagree on economics.
The survivalists in Montana might be called libertarians now, thanks to the explosion in popularity of the term after Ron Paul, but they are much more represented by conservatism than anything else. Libertarianism is kind of an aberrant bridge philosophy held in its fullness only by a few people, so it has areas of intersection with progressives, and areas of intersection with conservatives that get emphasized differently depending on the times; during the Bush era, libertarians forged close links with liberals, but in the Obama era, they have forged close links with conservatives.
Libertarianism may not fit neatly into the cultural categories laid out here.
“but in the Obama era, they have forged close links with conservatives.”
Really? I’m not seeing it. If anything, the split keeps getting wider since the fall of the Soviet Union despite Obama’s best efforts.
Obviously an outsider. Libertarians are keenly aware that the Rand camp and the stateless society camp are two quite different groups.
Borderers are libertarian as a temperamental matter, not ideological. This is the “leave me alone, love my guns, don’t tread on me, get off my land” side of libertarianism. None of them would actually vote for a libertarian egghead, because they would (correctly IMO) sense his tribal affiliation with the progressive ruling class.
Cato and Reason are, in Fisher’s terms, basically Quaker operations. They are preaching pacifism and tolerance to the ruling Quaker/Puritan elite and being notably unsuccessful. Not 100% fail, but close. This shows the capability of reason to alter people’s inborn temperaments and tribal mindlessness: nearly though not exactly zero.
They’ve been very successful. Libertarian ideas are far more mainstream and acceptable today that they were back in the 60s and 70s. The number of libertarians in these groups is tiny; they have a very outsized influence relative to their numbers. They would be ludicrously successful if they had brought about a complete 180-degree turn in progressive intellectual establishment.
I would also say, more generally, that the use of reason to change people beliefs has been enormously successful. The attitudes of the modern-day descendants of the Quakers and Puritans toward religion, for instance, could not be more different. And in the South, people don’t support slavery and bloodsports.
Maybe reason can’t change people’s “inborn temperaments”, if you define that in terms of whatever reason can’t change. But reason has a huge ability to change the actual content of people’s beliefs.
I think this has a very good point. I’m not sure if letting the Borderer or Cavalier cultures run unsupervised and unchecked for a couple of centuries might eventually take them back to somewhere bloodsports and slavery are on the table, but for the here and now it isn’t just the battle lines that have moved, it’s also what people consciously wish for, and it could well be that that sticks on its own. It’s certainly possible to keep it stuck by continued effort.
(I think reason selects for truth, but am suspicious that things like equality-before-the-law are not truth but truce and require deliberate maintenance, because otherwise it might be truth that breaching them is to someone’s advantage sometimes.)
They’ve been “successful” to the extent which they’ve changed their mission from “tolerate the outgroup and the social technology they use to preserve their lives and culture” (i.e., the old freedom of association libertarianism) to “the outgroup should really tolerate our pets that they find viscerally repulsive”.
You’re darkly hinting at something, but I honestly have no idea what it is.
LGBT, particularly G and T.
You’re probably right that that’s the intent, but I can’t think of a reading of Vox’s comment where it’s actually true.
He’s charging them with abandoning an abstract commitment to freedom of association/assembly in favor of promoting tribal priorities.
@ Frog Do:
And I believe Nornagest is pointing out that they’ve done no such thing.
They’ve consistently argued both in favor of gay marriage and against non-discrimination laws.
My comment was posted before I saw the replies. I didn’t think the “dark hinting” was about LGBT anyways (it could be, I guess), it’s part of a more general accusation which is common from right-libertarians.
How’s progress going on the latter?
Well, Eu….Anon, I’m wondering if visceral repulsion us a game anyone can play. For instance, had the firing of Brendan Eich been justified by people in SV finding his views viscerally repulsive, would it have been justified?
This might have something to do with the thousands of Northerners bearing guns and inflamed by Puritan ideals who marched through the South burning cities and killing off the resistance.
I’m going to go back to “reason can’t change people’s beliefs” — but men with weapons and good propaganda can.
None of them would actually vote for a libertarian egghead, because they would (correctly IMO) sense his tribal affiliation with the progressive ruling class.
Except that Rand Paul, closest thing to a “libertarian egghead” to win a major election, is a Senator from Kentucky.
Others: “Pennyslvania”, “anddemanded”
excesse , mehalncholy , THen , divuldged , pacificism , ths , conservativism x2 , conservativism’s , Alhough , Tennesee , descendents x2
…probably should be either ‘who are cross-checking’ or ‘cross-checking’.
(Loved the review, it was an excellent read. That said, after that lead-up, I was expecting more amusing SMAC parallels, but the colon links will do. 😀 Thanks for sharing your thoughts, as always!)
Who were the British settlers in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand? Do the cultures in those countries match what we would expect extrapolating from the USA?
Well, Australians were often convicts and Australia in many ways is the most illiberal part of the anglosphere ( gay marriagw, Tony abbott, Lebanese riots, etc.)
Canada has a much higher percentage of Anglicanism and I believe the Tories were very strong atleast into 1830s, there were a lot of freedom Whig revolts but they all failed.
I don’t know much about Australia, but a quick Googling tells me that convict transportation was more common in some regions than in others. I would expect that the next wave of immigration during the Gold Rush was also geographically imbalanced. Can these patterns of settlement be seen in cultural differences between modern Australian states?
I’m not sure saying Australia is the “most illiberal part of the Anglosphere” quite holds up (although admittedly I’m a politically left-ish Australian, so I’ve probably got some personal bias there; and it depends on your definition of “illiberal”).
Surveys show that Australians support gay marriage by a strong margin, and legally it’s being held up only by internal issues in the ruling federal government coalition; Tony Abbott became massively unpopular with most of the public, to the point that his own party deposed him; and the Cronulla riots were more than a decade ago (2005) and probably (hopefully) an unusual outlier.
Also it’s potentially misleading to overemphasise the convicts in Australia’s development. Convicts were outnumbered by free settlers over the first 60-70 years of British colonisation. Gold rush settlers (1850s+) had a significant impact on the demography, as did especially the big waves of immigrants after WW2 (many Brits, but also many Greeks, Turks, Italians and other Europeans), and Asian immigrants after the 1970s (including a significant cohort of Vietnamese war refugees).
Canada was basically the Loyalist part of the US. There was a lot of French influence that the US(save Louisiana) lacked, a lot of pro-British Americans coming up here after 1783, and a lot closer a connection to the UK during the great liberalizations and development of the early 19th century. We became a country in 1867, and did so basically as a colony-plus – we didn’t have our own foreign policy until the 1920s, for example. But that meant that we started with universal male suffrage, abolished slavery, and so on. We also had way more of a Tory influence generally – the equivalent of the American “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” up here is “peace, order, and good government”, and that difference persists. Our Senate has explicit property requirements(and very high ones when written), because it was intended to ape the House of Lords in a country that didn’t have nobility as an explicitly designed check on radical democracy.
Are there any big cultural rifts in Anglophone Canada (for example, Western provinces vs. Ontario)? If so, could they be linked to these regions being settled by different types of people (for the present discussion, we’re mostly interested in different types of British folk)?
Wikipedia tells me that there are was a significant Scotch-Irish immigration to Canada. Do Scotch-Irish Canadians have a similar reputation to their Appalachian kin?
I think these are the kinds of questions we should be looking at if we want to evaluate Scott’s thesis.
I don’t know what percentage of Scots-Irish people live out in the western provinces, but there’s definitely a major cultural rift between, say, Alberta and Ontario, and said cultural rift is very similar to the one between the Red and Blue tribes in the US.
@Will/Galle: A major cultural rift? There’s some political bad blood on a national level (“let the Eastern bastards freeze in the dark”) but I wouldn’t call it a major cultural rift, or a political rift like in the US – Alberta’s currently got an NDP provincial government.
The cultural rifts/issues in Canada that seem most relevant right now are the disgraceful way the Aboriginals are/have been treated, the division between French Canadians and everyone else, and the position of Atlantic Canada.
Local politics can be misleading, don’t assume that just because the provincial NDP won that the national NDP would have a chance in Alberta outside of a few ridings – such as the one I live in.
Relevant to whom? Treatment of aboriginals is important to them and in an abstract sense, and likewise I assume French Canadians and Atlantic Canadians care about their respective positions/divisions, but these don’t seem to be pressing political issues in Alberta.
dndnrsn: The NDP got 41% of the vote in the last election, the two parties that used to make up the PCs got 52% between them. They’d have won an easy Klein-like majority if they were still together. That was a vote-split election, not a sea-change election.
@Simon: Not to Alberta, to Canada as a whole. There’s a West-East political split, to some extent – but not a cultural split a la Fischer’s book. Fischer’s thing is “look, these wildly different people from different parts of England kept their wildly different cultures in the US and we still feel it today”. Your average Calgarian and your average Torontonian are not working from wildly different cultural norms, etc.
@Alsadius: True, vote-splitting did happen. My point is that the regional-political-cultural splits are greater in the US, by and large.
Will: Oh good lord yes. Almost every province has its own stereotypes and general attitudes, and they tend to differ surprisingly strongly from each other.
BC is like California, Alberta is like Texas, Saskatchewan is sort of Kansas with a socialist-populist streak on occasion, Manitoba is sort of a more-French Saskatchewan, Ontario is like if New York and Michigan got put together and had the expectation of always running the country, Quebec is closer to France than anything else(but still not terribly close), PEI is a bunch of sedate potato farmers, Nova Scotia is a bunch of hard-partying unemployed dockworkers, Newfoundland is a bunch of harder-partying unemployed fishermen, and New Brunswick…I’m actually not sure what their stereotype is, they’re a bit too boring to have one.
Not all of those are particularly fair, and none are universally accurate, but that’s the sort of impression you get. It leads to some fairly natural rifts, particularly Quebec vs the rest of Canada(“ROC” is commonly used in newspaper columns when discussing Quebec, with no explanation given), and the West(usually led by Alberta) against Ontario/Quebec – that one is actually the best explanation for the bizarre treatment Harper got as PM, where he governed like a boring moderate and was treated like a screaming lunatic, because he dared to try to build a power base that didn’t include downtown Toronto or Montreal.
And here I thought I had been reading all those op-eds about conflict between Quebec and Taiwan. Makes a lot more sense now.
The differences in culture suggested by here are attributable to geography once Canada was settled, not culture of the settler populations. Albertans for instance are very culturally close to Ontarians, but have differing political inclinations due to geographical circumstances. E.g. there are both Texans and Eastern Canadians in Alberta due to the oil boom. The E. Canadians blend in a lot easier than the Texans. A good example of this is the English Canadian accent, which is essentially the same in everywhere west of Quebec. The big divide in English Canada attributable to settler patterns is between Atlantic Canada and the rest as the Atlantic region was settled early by waves of British (proportionately very heavy on Irish and Scots compared to English) and received little new immigration after the 19th century while the rest of English Canada had new waves of settlement afterward.
Also, when your talking about Canadian settlement your talking about entirely different founder populations than the ones that settled America, because the British who emmigrated in the late 18th and 19th century that made up the founder populations were different groups. So a huge component of British settlers were different groups than the American founders, for example Highlander Scots and Catholic Irish. Meanwhile religious differences weren’t as big a deal in England so you don’t have anything like the Puritan/Quaker element in American settlement. Also since, there wasn’t a particularly strong geographical element separating founding populations (the Orangemen were in the same regions as the Catholic Irish and the Highlanders and the English, as well as the Germans and other Europeans who came after) most of the English Canadian ethnic differences faded by the mid-20th century, with the new out-group being more recent immigrants.
Long story short, the Canadian settler dynamics are very different from the American ones due to a different history and geography, so conclusions from the American experience may not be relevant.
In southeastern Ontario, at least, a lot of the early settlement is American settlement—loyalists fleeing from, I think, Pennsylvania and New York after the Revolution. Which would make southeastern Ontario part of the Quaker and Puritan settlement areas, maybe?
Its plausible to a certain extent sure. But I think it may be a case of putting to much work into the original concepts to refer to it as a combination Quaker/Puritan influence because by that time neither of those identities were all that prominant. It would be fairer to say that the Ontario culture had a strong family resemblance to Northern United States culture, particularly the Mid-West, an area settled after the religious identities became less prominant.
I think if your going to look at Canada through an Albion’s seed lens, it might be more interesting questions about founder effects in Canada a good place to look is the very large proportion of British settlers there being Scottish rather than English and ask if that had any long term cultural effects.
I mean, sure, but the point of the Albion’s Seed analysis is that it doesn’t matter that “neither of the identities were all that prominent”. Michigan and Indiana were settled after the religious identities became less prominent, but there’s still cultural, political, and linguistic evidence of Yankee background in Michigan and Borderer background in Indiana, right?
Fischer deals with the New Zealand example explicitly in a later book “Fairness and Freedom” in which he contrasts the open societies of New Zealand and the USA. His thesis is that New Zealand (like Australia and Canada) focuses on fairness as the fundamental quality of an open society, while the US emphasizes freedom/liberty. He seems to be arguing that the timing of colonization (and the political climate in Britain at the time) was an important factor in creating this distinction. (Caveat: I’m only partway through this book)
There’s a potential for miscommunication here. As e.g. Haidt discovered early in his work, “fairness” to some people means “everybody gets about the same as everybody else”, whereas to other people means “everybody gets about what they have earned/contributed”. If all you say is that the fundamental quality of a society is “fairness”, prepare for some heated arguments.
You could in principle close the gap by saying that “fairness” means everybody contributes the same as everybody else, but even if you normalize by ability that’s basically never going to happen.
“The Puritans: I hear about these people every Thanksgiving…”
“I knew about the Mayflower, I knew about the black hats and silly shoes, I even knew about the time Squanto…”
I think you’re confusing the Puritans and the Pilgrims. The two groups had similar beliefs, but were nevertheless different groups. The Mayflower was a Pilgrim ship; Squanto helped the Pilgrims, not the Puritans.
We Americans often hear about the Pilgrims at Thanksgiving, including the myth that the Pilgrims came here seeking religious freedom. They didn’t. They went to the Netherlands for that (and received it, because Netherlands.) They left the Netherlands because they didn’t like the fact that their children were becoming Dutch!
P.S. Corrections aside, I really enjoyed the review!
You beat me to it. The Pilgrims shared many of the Puritans’ beliefs, but they were nowhere near as gloomy.
Also no black hats and silly shoes with big buckles — it seems the Pilgrims actually dressed in the typical bright colors of the Elizabethan era.
(concerning the “myth” of the pilgrims seeking religious freedom)
I’ve been seeing a similar argument a lot lately concerning migrants in Europe: “These people claim to be seeking asylum, but they had that in Turkey yet chose to go on to Europe. So clearly they’re just looking for money.”
Something seems flawed to me in the general form of these arguments. The facts are “So some people have a strong preference for A, which they can get at that place over there. Yet they come here, where we have A as well as B.” From this outsiders draw the conclusion that their true preference is B, and they only claim to want A as a path to acquire B. But why do we draw such an ungenerous conclusion? Isn’t it the case that their main preference is A, but given that there are many places that provide A they had to narrow down their choices based on a secondary preference?
It’s not like there’s anything wrong with wanting to “escape religious persecution while maintaining their own culture”, but people react like having more than one goal is immoral. Am I missing something / being naive?
Well, how much harder are you going to work to get your B? In the case of the current migrant crisis, the migrants had to cross an entire continent and enter a much more dissimilar host culture to get both A+B rather than simply A, which makes one thing that the relative importance of B must be pretty high.
Likewise, the Pilgrims had to sail across an ocean and establish brand-new settlements in a cold climate populated by hostile natives, which makes one think that whatever it was that they didn’t have in the Netherlands must have been pretty damn important to them.
In re “just looking for money”: Poverty kills, so I don’t hold it against people if they’re moving to have a chance at not being poor.
And I don’t think it’s awful for people to move to have a chance at making more money. This generally isn’t considered objectionable when it happens inside a country.
As the “inalienable rights” were, in the first draft, life, liberty, and the pursuit of profits, I think the founding fathers would have agreed with you.
They were struggling to articulate the idea that people were allowed to own their own things, and do with them as they liked – in some of the early documents it was “life liberty and property” or “life liberty and wealth” – as the basic things which a government wasn’t allowed to take away.
(posted too soon)
Having said that – I think a government has the right to control its borders and choose who can become a citizen, or even enter to tourist. I might strongly disagree with how a particular country chooses to structure their entry rules, but hey. Their country, they get to decide.
It is, if not awful, at least dishonest to say, “If you don’t let me live in your nice rich country (OBTW I’ll need you to pay my living expenses), I’ll be murdered by ISIS” when the actual choices are living in your nice rich country and living in someone else’s less-rich but nowhere near starvation-poor country.
In all fairness, it’s generally refugee activists who say these sorts of things. The refugees themselves don’t tend to have a lot of access to the media.
The refugees say it privately to the immigration officers and caseworkers. The activists take the message public, partly in the hope that this will lead to refugee-friendly policies being flowed down to the bureaucrats in the field.
Which is fine and good if “murdered by ISIS” is what’s really going on, understandable but dishonest if it’s really just about living in a richer country.
What you’re missing is that most people are not EAs and don’t think there is an obligation to help people just because the people would gain more utility than you lose. Helping people with a need for asylum is an exception to the general rule that you are not required to help other people (particularly noncitizens). And you’re only required to help people who need asylum to the extent that they will no longer have need for asylum–you don’t need to give them a choice between asylum and additional utility and asylum without additional utility.
It isn’t that having more than one goal is wrong, it’s that if they have more than one goal, there is only moral obligation on us to satisfy one of the goals. Satisfying both of the goals at the cost of additional utility from us is something we’re within our rights to prevent.
Thank you! I had a feeling there was a different value system at work here, but I have a lot of trouble simulating alternative points of view.
I think the point that race, class and culture are not identical, but often map closely with each other, is important.
One of my favorite examples of this was the Richie Incognito bullying scandal in the NFL.
Incognito was a white player accused of bullying a black player, and was roundly excoriated by the media and the league. He was backed by his mostly black teammates. Because while his alleged victim was black racially, he was considered too intellectual, effete and weak to be “really” black. And Incognito was displaying the aggression and vaguely homophobic physical dominance games so popular with the other black players. He was voted “dirtiest player in the league” one year. Here’s what a black teammate had to say about him:
“Richie is honorary,” one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told me today. “I don’t expect you to understand because you’re not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It’s about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you’ve experienced. A lot of things.”
Incognito was black, and Martin was white. Race can reverse with culture. Or, perhaps more precisely, what we call “race” isn’t really genetic race at all, but more of a combination of race, class and culture. And two out of three is enough for membership. Martin was of african descent, but was from a different culture and class. Ergo, not black.
One of the major fault lines in american society is that we’ve started to figure out how to discriminate based on culture rather than race. Almost no one is a real racial supremacist. And for half the country, that is a legitimate heuristic on which to proceed, while to the other half, it is racial supremacy. And never the twain shall meet.
I hereby grant you the Steve Sailer Award for Best Interesting Albeit Uncomfortable Story About Race Framed As Sports Journalism.
A Saily? For me?! This is all so unexpected! I’d like to thank God….and my producer…..
I may have to move that sixth-grade karate trophy.
Here’s SJWSpin’s Token Black Guy blacksplaining to his white readers how the whole notion of “honorary black” is false consciousness:
“we’ve started to figure out how to discriminate based on culture rather than race”
Is this all that new?
From growing up in the South, and from living in other parts of the country…most of the anti-black bigotry of Southern whites seemed to have been rooted in a rejection of Southern black culture. Or – what Southern whites characterized Southern black culture as – ‘lazy’, ‘loud’, ‘hypersexualized’, ‘thieving’, and so forth.
(Turned around, though, and described with more neutral charity, and Southern black culture becomes “valuing family time more than money and having a high time preference”, “emotionally open”, “sex-positive” and “having high social capital that borrowed a lot of things with an intent (but no particular hurry) to return them”. So it’s more I think of ‘my tribe vs your tribe’ than (as much) one culture being superior to another, despite what the different tribes would claim.) (*)
It is possible, as many people claim, that some (many?) despised ‘the black man’ because of skin color and hence anything associated with them, but I suggest that the differences in culture were more significant. And we know how this goes – I am particular, you are biased, he is a bigoted ass who should be shot.
To me, the kicker became watching non-Southerners talk trash about ‘racist white Southerners’ and their lazy, slow ways, their low-class hick accents, and their preferences for fried food. It was obvious that any such low class Southerner was worthy of disdain – just look at how those racists called blacks lazy, hated Ebonics, and mocked blacks for liking fried chicken! Only bad people would engage in sterotypes like this! If any blacks did come to the non-Southerner’s town, of course, they would be treated quite differently. (Why, there was a black man on the bus the other day – everyone pointed and waved at him!) This non-Southern town isn’t racist, you see. They just don’t have any blacks. Well, a few, but not in this neighborhood, of course.
But if there were any here, they would fit right in, and be just like everyone else, and they would be treated like everyone else.
(*) Not wanting to get into moral equivalence, etc. It is possible for one kind of apple to be qualitatively better than another kind of apple, and yet I myself will prefer one type on purely irrational grounds.
I think most humans simply aren’t mentally capable of being pure racists. Humans are a naturally empathetic lot, so most of us can’t just hate someone for purely arbitrary reasons. We feel the need to justify our racism by claiming the people we hate are behaving negatively, because we know in our hearts that “this person has a different skin color than me” is not a good reason to mistreat someone, but “this person engages in behavior that hurts others and might hurt me” is sometimes acceptable.
Discrimination on the basis of culture is common because the better angels of our nature usually won’t let us be true racists.
I think you are right about people being bad at racism.
Even the really virulent racists are rarely perfect at it. One of Dylan Roof’s good friends was black……
The other question really boils down to how good of a heuristic is it to discriminate based on culture. I mean, it tells you a hell of a lot more than race would, but it’s still a fairly crude instrument. Good at predicting group behavior, bad at predicting individuals.
Yeah, it’s about culture.
As I’ve often said in discussions about police profiling, a black guy with a british accent, wearing a salmon-colored polo shirt climbing out of a Porsche is going to get a lot less grief from the cops than a white kid in a hoodie and baggy trousers with “Fuck the Police” tattooed on his chest.
I have to play the age card here. Y’all don’t seem to realize just how bad things were before you were born. You’re baffled by blood-based racism, because it makes no sense in modern cultural terms.
But most of the quotes above (and the amusing bit that nydwracu linked to) would have been incomprehensible to the average American in 1950.
Back as recently as my childhood, racism/white supremacism really was about race. Not culture.
Just a few anecdotes:
* In 1963, when Alabama governor George Wallace declared “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” he literally meant the systematic exclusion of every person with Negro ancestry, following the one-drop-of-blood rule. Millions of people shared his views.
* When African countries gained independence in the early 1960s, many of them would economize by sending the same diplomat to the U.S. and the U.N. Driving back and forth between New York and Washington, they passed through then-segregated Maryland, where they were obliged to use the “colored” restrooms, if they were given service at all. This story is usually framed as JFK’s “let them eat cake” moment (he suggested they fly instead of drive), but in any case, foreign accents, expensive suits, and diplomatic license plates did not exempt them from Jim Crow.
* In Lansing, Michigan, in 1955, the white establishment was very alarmed at the prospect that a black attorney, William Jenkins, would win election to the city council. It was a very close call, since he lost by only a handful of votes to a white candidate in a west-side ward that had become majority-black. Immediately afterwards, the council was restructured with fewer, larger wards, all with white majorities.
This is somewhat parallel with Steven Pinker’s point about the past being shockingly violent. These incidents (and many, many others like them) happened during my lifetime. You don’t have to look back very far to a time when millions of ordinary, well-intentioned white Americans, North and South, had hardline racist views.
First off, nothing I said diminished the hold of purely racist ideologies in the past. We were talking about the present, and I specifically contrasted that to how it was in the past. 1955 was……sixty plus years ago.
And I have to stir the pot just a little, as I’m from Michigan as well. How did the black political takeover of major cities go? So well that no one in the US has ever heard a bad word about the black-majority Michigan cities like Detroit, Flint, and Saginaw. They’re practically a byword for peace, prosperity and most importantly, Diversity!
Maybe you did, but there were also comments along the lines of humans are just too humane and reasonable to be pure racists.
I guess that’s what I get for playing the age card.
Not a simple story.
I don’t think it has anything to do with reasonableness. I think it has to do with people being inconsistent and illogical. Which can be bad or good. I’ve seen too many people who espouse ideology be unable to follow through in personal life to take it too terribly seriously.
My mother, as hardcore a fundamentalist christian as ever fundied, has a gay best friend.
My commander in a veteran’s organization, who will wax long and loud about the many shortcomings of black americans in a manner guaranteed to send modern college kids into a coma, voted for Obama twice and his vice commander and good friend is black. He may not like black people in general, but his loyalty to the union and the veterans comes first.
This doesn’t mean hatred of groups is a positive ideology, just means people aren’t any better at following it than they are at following other ideologies. Relationships, conflicting loyalties and a nested set of ingroups can make inroads into the best or the worst set of beliefs.
>And I have to stir the pot just a little, as I’m from Michigan as well. How did the black political takeover of major cities go? So well that no one in the US has ever heard a bad word about the black-majority Michigan cities like Detroit, Flint, and Saginaw. They’re practically a byword for peace, prosperity and most importantly, Diversity!
This interjection seems to severely undermine your claim that modern “racism” is solely about culture, and has nothing to do with older, essentialist narratives.
Frankly, it seems a little absurd to complain that people are accusing you of defending “purely racist ideologies in the past”, and then immediately bring up the racial makeup of cities and their “diversity” as supposedly a cause of problems.
I’m not sure if I’m failing to follow you or if you’re failing to follow me.
I did not defend racist ideologies, nor did anyone accuse me of that. Mr. Kestenbaum accused me of not understanding that they had been a real thing. So I’m not complaining about it, because it didn’t happen.
My argument is that very few people today are essentialist genetically based racists. No one has contested this. Mr. Kestenbaum wanted to emphasize that they existed in the past, which is fair enough. I get that, although I think they were probably less numerous than people often think.
And there is nothing genetically determined about the way that single-party black-led rule accelerated the decline of many cities, of which the Michigan examples are perhaps the most salient. It is not an argument for black inferiority to say that their strategy of single-party alliance and ethnic cleansing has been less than successful. It has nothing to do with genetics. It has everything to do with culture and political alliances, and ingroup/outgroup biases.
If that be a defense of genetic racism, then you have a more flexible mind than I do.
Which no one even hinted at until you dreamed it up.
Stepping aside from who is a racist and who isn’t – I think that assigning most of the responsibility for the poor management of specific cities to a racial group rather than to the single party factor is an error.
I didn’t think that I was being accusatory. Other than that, you summarized my point accurately.
@ Larry, I only used the term for parity in the sentence. No offense meant or taken!
My grandparents were born in the 1920’s and lived in the South since the 1940’s. I absolutely agree that there was deep, deep bigotry towards African Americans in decades past.
For my grandparents it wasn’t because “they have black skin.” It was because “people with black skin have bad habits and bad values.” And there was disagreement (in my grandparent’s social circle) about how “innate” the badness was – that it was primarily inborn or primarily learned.
(One especially depressing conversation went down the path that either could be true, but if it was mostly inborn, then even black children who were adopted by whites would still be “black”, and if it was learned, then it was a major mistake to let white kids socialize with blacks because the white kids would learn bad black habits. (I was mentally headdesking then and I’m headdesking twice as hard now.))
Additionally, while there were people (one particular great uncle comes to mind) who thought that all non-whites were all the same sort of muddy mongrel, the common thought was that this was obviously stupidly narrow minded. There *were* good people and lousy people of every sort, and it was obvious that Chin and Juan and Leroy were different sorts of people, with different non-white flaws.
It was generally agreed that the darker an African American was, the more “ignant” they were likely to be – but most of my grandparent’s circles could bring to mind an exception, and it was thought by many that the traits of laziness, lying, and chasing sex were passed on separate from pure skin color.
(God, do I ever wish I was making this up.)
The point is, yes, I agree that there were people who did look at other races and assume skin color represented innate negative qualities – but just as many (if not more) assumed that skin color represented the family members who raised one, so that the negative culture traits of that group were likely to be shared by the individual in question.
And none of them thought that skin color alone made the difference – “like you are stupid if you wear a yellow hat and smart if you wear a blue one.” (*)
(*)Which iirc led to a discussion of a long dead cousin who really did repeatedly only do truly stupid things while wearing a green John Deere hat. No, seriously, I can’t make this up.
Why are you headdesking over this? This is a simple nature v. nurture question, of the sort that we’ve discussed here many times, and it seems pretty clear to me that you have to take one fork or another of the dilemma posed above. Is it simply because they’re labeling these undesirable qualities “black”? Does it change things if we replace “black” with the substance of the archetype, ie. “low educational and economic achievement, high levels of violence, drug use, and out-of-wedlock childbearing”?
After all, the current understanding around here (not sure I yet buy it, but…) based on sociological studies, is that genetic influence > peer group influence >> parental influence.
Minus caveats for exceptions existing to trends, that doesn’t sound too different from what your shamefully bigoted relations were discussing.
I’d assume it’s headdesk worthy because it’s blatant motivated reasoning, designed in advance to suggest the reasoner’s preferred policy regardless of the facts.
First, seconded what Mai La Dreapta said. There’s no point in your “headdesk” quote that doesn’t logically follow.
In a context where you only have experience with black people and white people and the black people are all to some degree mixed this is moderately accurate as a rule of thumb (of course this goes out the window when you get different groups of whites and other groups of non-white / non-blacks).
It’s also testable (but, of course, that test will never happen because progressive scientist instinctively know that the answer will come out “wrong”).
Dismissing hard earned cultural wisdom borne of millions of data points isn’t rational – especially if the entire educational establishment, media, and government dismisses that viewpoint.
Conservation of expected evidence. If someone argues that bad traits being heritable means that you can’t reform black people and bad traits being learnable means you can’t reform black people (because they will contaminate the children), that’s headdesk-worthy.
Soumynona, I don’t think that is the issue. If bad traits are heritable, then you can’t reform them away by socialization. If bad traits are social, and if group A has the bad traits and group B the good, then socializing between the groups will (presumably) help group A while hurting group B. This can be a net benefit if the benefit to group A is greater than the harm to group B.
Thus, in the white v black scenario, one who believes blacks have “bad traits” and those traits are social traits should encourage white parents to sacrifice the welfare of their children to bring about greater benefits to black children by allowing the two to socialize. Thus, socialization would only be a “mistake” for white parents if those parents care more for their own children’s welfare than for the welfare of other children (which admittedly they probably do; no one claims that all improvements are Pareto improvements.)
[Note that it is also possible that socialization is good, period, and has nothing to do with good or bad traits–this can be true even if the bad traits are entirely heritable. The opposite is also possible: socialization might provide a wholly harmful addition to otherwise totally heritable good and bad traits.]
You’re assuming the conclusion – that black people can be “reformed” (presumably so they become white people).
If black dysfunction is genetic then there’s no change to be made.
If it’s cultural and you don’t even have the power to begin to change their culture then it’s imperative to keep your children from acculturating to their norms if you want your children to avoid their outcomes.
Not assuming anything. Just pointing out that this pattern of thinking, where both possible answers to a questions push your beliefs in the same direction, is stupid.
If you jump off that cliff over the ravine you’ll either be killed or you’ll break bones and likely either bleed out or die of thirst after a few days of agony because you can’t move to get water.
I guess that pattern of thinking is a stupid because both possibilities lead to the same conclusion so go ahead and jump.
The reasoning that mystified the original poster:
1) It’s genetic – nothing to be done, avoid black people for your own safety
2) It’s cultural – ensure your children avoid the carriers of that culture for their well being
Both are equally valid. That they point to similar conclusions isn’t any kind of argument against them unless you start with the assumption that you don’t like that conclusion.
If I try to grow plants in the sun without water, and I then try to grow plants in the shade without water, and neither of those works, I can explain both of those away without being inconsistent.
No, Soumynona is right here. You’re just reframing the question at hand in such a way that makes it irrelevant, able to offer no information. You say that if black dysfunction is genetic, then there’s no change to be made; if it’s cultural, then they can change you for the worse. Therefore, broadly, the races shouldn’t mix.
But the corollaries to these two racist stories must also be considered. If the first scenario is true and it’s genetic, then your second scenario doesn’t happen; one’s children will retain their ‘superior’ white genes, and you have nothing to worry about from them interacting with black children because their superiority cannot be threatened.
And if the second scenario is true and it’s cultural, then your first scenario is false. There is a change to be made. Culture is more malleable than genetics–and so in the original example that means white parents should adopt black children and raise them in a good culture. Furthermore, your second scenario doesn’t make sense in its one-sidedness. You say cultures are hard to change, but that the risk comes from one’s children becoming acculturated. It could therefore just as likely go the opposite direction–children of better cultures could acculturate ones of worse cultures into the better culture at least as easily as the other way around. At least, there is no principled reason contained in that argument as to why acculturation only goes in one direction. It is just assumed.
The headdesk comes from carefully examining these arguments as if they’re serious hypotheses, and recognizing that they can both be arguments both against and for some of the sorts of race-mixing that they are exclusively being offered as arguments against. This means that the nature/nurture debate is irrelevant to whether races should mix. Sure, there are different arguments that they should not, which are each independently compatible with one or another side in the nature/nurture debate, but not with one another. But this means that answering the nature/nurture question should give you no additional reason to believe they should not mix. So the family members were being irrational by using them as affirmative arguments against race-mixing.
The cliff analogy fails because “you will die” and “you will get hurt” do not run afoul of the law of the excluded middle. Both are bad outcomes; “don’t jump off a cliff” is sound advice because we accept the premises that if you jump off a cliff, then bad things will likely happen to you, and good things will likely not happen to you. If we disagreed as to whether you would be hurt or benefited by jumping off a cliff, then the answer to that question should affect whether we want to jump off or not.
The race-mixing thing is more akin to if you are being pursued by a murderous maniac with a chainsaw, and you come across a ravine. You try to decide whether you should jump across it to escape the maniac. If it is too wide, you may get hurt or even killed. If it is too narrow, he may be able to cross it as well and continue to pursue you. So you reason that your best bet is to give up and let him get you, because you will either die or continue to be pursued. Does the width of the ravine matter, then? What if it were one foot wide? Wouldn’t the argument not to jump a narrow ravine, because you won’t lose him by doing so, and thereby to stop in your tracks, justify never having run away from him in the first place? If so, then why does the presence of any ravine matter at all?
@Jiro, you can indeed explain both plant death scenarios without being inconsistent. But they could not tell you anything about the effect of light on plants. You included the alternate (and presumptive) hypothesis in your example–lack of water. It was neither because it was too bright or too shady that your plant died; it was another factor altogether, and you have no reason to bring light into it.
Keranih was headdesking because different family members introduced mutually exclusive nature and nurture explanations to justify racism. These explanations relied on different answers to an empirical question. This meant that if one justification were discovered to be true (one factor was dominant over the other), the other would be false and therefore should cause the competing family member to be less opposed to race-mixing, or to abandon the reasoning they previously used to oppose it. In reality, they already opposed race-mixing, and each rationalized that existing belief post-hoc with reference to competing ideas. They covered the spread together, but could not both be right.
Your example does not show their reasoning to be justified, because it is not analogous. The analogous situation would be one where both Jiro A and Jiro B (roommates) hate the apartment they live in together, and both try to justify to their phytophile landlord that they should be given another unit, by claiming the lighting in their current one is not conducive to keeping their plants alive. Jiro A says, “It’s too bright; it kills my plants!” While Jiro B says, “It’s too dark in there; my plants don’t get enough sunlight and die!” Both can point at the same dead plant as evidence. The landlord says, “You didn’t water it; that’s why it’s dead.” To which both Jiros respond in unison, “Sure, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give us a new unit. In fact, whether it’s the shade or the light killing our unwatered plants, we have a reason to move.”
That may well be true but your children aren’t out there changing black culture – they’d be changed by it.
Why? Who cares? Someone is supposed to sacrifice having more children (or having children at all) so they can improve the culture of unrelated children? Even if what you’re assuming is true it’s trying to drain a bottomless well – adopt a few black children and their mother will just have more children because she’s been raised in a low parental investment culture. On a large scale this just result in the extinction of the high parental investment culture (and genetics).
No, I said that the people who conveyed wisdom to keranih that he chose to ignore were in no position to change black culture – making no claims on the difficulty or ease of such a change. Either way, change in a positive direction would be a tiny, insignificant force compared to the larger culture which has changed massively for the worse in the last 60 years with regard to every single civilized norm in the black community.
On the other scenario:
Children who are raised together are in the same mating pool so genetic advantages are threatened as well.
And just to add, I think Sastan’s point in the parent comment was precisely that culture-based racism replaced actual blood-based racism to no small extent, not that the real racism didn’t exist.
My only question is: is culture-based discrimination inherently bad? Unlike races, I think some cultures are just plain better than others (obviously most cultures have their good and bad points, but some have a lot more good points than others). 21st century Western liberal democracy culture is better than Wahhabism. Period.
That said, culture-based discrimination, to the extent we think it is okay, is at least partially based on the idea that it’s a choice to subscribe to Wahhabism rather than liberal democracy. But this study makes it seem like maybe it’s less of a choice than we think.
I’m moderately on board with using culture as a heuristic to predict group behavior.
I’d caution against using it to predict individual behavior, and I think people often conflate “average” with “every single member of a group”.
Ultimately, I think it’s not a moral question but a practical one. Does the heuristic you use improve your performance in the real world? If it helps cops to profile based on clothing or tattoos, then by all means. If we find that it’s leading to large amounts of false arrests on the other hand……maybe we don’t use that metric.
As to the validity of Albion’s Seed, I think it is interesting, but not anything close to definitive. And one could just as easily posit a cultural mode of transmission rather than a genetic one. My rule of thumb is to assume that pretty much every trait is half genetic, half everything else. We know how much culture, institutions and politics can change outcomes (I always come back to the Koreas). Genetics do differ in aggregate and on average, but the overlap is huge. Average genetic advantages of groups can explain why the NBA is mostly black, or why physicists are mostly not, but it’s not very good at explaining the success of societies. It can have large effects at the tail end of the bell curves, but we are usually concerned with the big, fat middle.
Given that the vast majority of people are not actually descended from the Albion’s Seed “founders” of their region, the book is probably not postulating a genetic mechanism for cultural transmission.
Can you back that up? I mean, I know there has been a lot of immigration and mixing, but do you have data that, say, the 80%+ of residents of Appalachian areas have less than half Borderer genes?
I think this is a critical distinction which has been given far too little consideration in popular discourse. My initial thoughts:
* If you are dealing in small numbers (individuals) then cultural heuristics are far less likely to be predictive than information you can directly find out about from the person. Eg. if a person is from Canada, you can ask if rather than assume they like hockey.
* If you are dealing with large numbers of people, you need to make policy based upon the greater averages and culture matters more. For example, do we want to allow 50,000 refugees into our country? If so, should we select from those cultures who are more likely to be compatible or contribute to us?
Most people aren’t very good at understanding base rates (or statistics generally).
So when someone hears a simple fact like “young black males are twenty-five times more likely to commit a murder than young white males” they interpret that as either A: racist and wrong, or B: proof that all blacks are murderers. But since the base rate is so minuscule, even a twenty-five fold increase still isn’t very much. It tells you very little about an individual. But it tells us a lot about where we should concentrate police resources, for instance.
Culture-based discrimination is theoretically okay, but only if my culture is the only one doing it. This is unlikely enough that I’m willing to accept some general rules against culture-based discrimination.
In what way? It’s simple politeness most of the time. When you go to much of the world you have to accept that things aren’t going to happen when the sign says they’ll happen. Some cultures do not value punctuality. For a westerner or an American specifically, this can be infuriating or charming. But to those cultures, people who rock up on time and expect people to be ready are not adhering to cultural norms. And if you live and work there and act like that, you’re going to get some discrimination.
Let’s also acknowledge that some cultural differences are morally neutral and some aren’t. Genital mutilation is a cultural thing, and it’s abhorrent. In the west we mutilate the boys and then are shocked when other cultures mutilate the girls. Both are awful. On the other hand, in the west, a gay person might (if they search very hard) find a baker unwilling to cater their wedding. In much of the world, they’d just be publicly lynched. We should not have too much trouble telling the difference.
Because some readers seem deliberately obtuse, allow me to be specific. In those examples, punctuality is the morally neutral, genital mutilation is the both-are-wrong, and treatment of gays is a clear win for one.
In the morally neutral category, it’s just the cultural version of your dad’s “my house my rules”. If you go to someone else’s country (or culture distinct within your own country), you will be expected to follow different norms and sanctioned (discriminated against) should you fail to do so. This is right and proper.
Yeah, I don’t see any problem with people from other cultures expecting me to make at least some effort to abide by their norms when in their neighborhood. If it is discourteous for men to enter a temple without a hat in country x, then I will put on a hat (or take it off, as the case may be) when I enter the temple, even if I don’t really like hats.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t circumcise my daughter (or son) even if I somehow ended up living in Northern Africa, because there are some things which are not like “you like vanilla, I like chocolate.” But it’s not unreasonable for them to expect me to wear a hat in their temple.
Thanks for discussing this book, it got me quite interested even though I’m not an American in any sense of the word.
Maybe I can also offer a potential reprieve for the rather pessimistic conclusion. In your previous entry “IN FAVOR OF NICENESS, COMMUNITY, AND CIVILIZATION” you convincingly argued the view that “Cthulhu may swim slowly. But he only swims left.”. So even if America might be locked into “49% people like me and 51% members of the Taliban” for many generations to come, as long as the whole system swims ever so slowly and steadily to the left, it might still be a net benefit in the long run? Perhaps comparing the “Taliban of today” with those of tomorrow paints a friendlier and more relevant picture than comparing them to “people like me, today”, which will always look bleak.
We’ve discussed recently how now our worst problems in America seem to be related to who can use public restrooms and what you can write on a cake; we’ve also mentioned how the SJWs embody the mentality of the Spanish Inquisition.
On the one hand, I totally agree that the SJW would be Red Guard if born in Maoist China and maybe inquisitors if born in 16th c. Spain. On the other, arguing about cakes and video game boobs is a lot less terrible an outlet for these things, so maybe progress consists not in changing fundamental human nature, but in pushing the window for expression of awfulness in an ever more innocuous direction.
The only reason Cthulhu only swims Left is that the direction of Left changes every few decades. For example, eugenics used to be a “progressive” idea.
Does the left itself change, or is it that new movements have a period of not knowing whether they belong to the left or not? Perhaps left is this broad current called “equality” and various tools for achieving it can become either associated or disassociated with it over time. There seems to be a long term continuity of the left, marked by brief periods of shuffling things about a bit. It is as if there is a core concept that never alters, but it swaps out the attending ideas that facilitate it.
Things like eugenics had wide support across the spectrum, being represented in different forms. Prohibition, associated with the progressive movement also had strong support from conservatives, such as the KKK. Whereas now it is a solely left wing movement, early feminism was strongly split into left wing and right wing segments, with right wing feminists supporting WWI in the UK, and left wing anti-war feminists going on to become Marxists in many cases. Female franchise was even pushed by white supremacists to keep the white advantage. Point is; every new movement that comes along has to find out where its piece goes in the puzzle, and there is a period of conflict before things crystallize, and then the new movement becomes absorbed into the historical binary coalition. Fascism and National-Socialism possess so many characteristics that place them firmly in the right wing camp, but there was a process of accumulation that made that so, and the philosophies have their genesis in pro-WWI socialism. Essentially, some new condition shook things up, and a new concept began growing on leftism, before budding off from it and traveling over to the right. Same with eugenics which would merge with National Socialism, and leave the left for good.
I’m having a hard time thinking of ideas that went in the other direction though. Perhaps “authority” and “order”, which have in some US circles become associated with modern progressives, despite having deeply reakshunarie origins. Of course, everyone believes in authority and order in a basic sense, but only a right winger would put a political emphasis on such things. Or so, I though, until the rise of the post-Ron Paul libertarianized Tea Party caused progressives on a sci-fi forum I visit to make their user titles “authoritarian technocrat” and things like that. In the US, we have reached the stage where the idea of “left wing anarchism” is nonsensical to people, even though left wing anarchism was the original anarchism.
Yet, throughout all of this, equality remains on the left. Equality was the left during the French Revolution, equality was the left during the Bolshevik Revolution, equality was the left during the Sexual Revolution, and equality is the left today.
This reminds me of a David Cross bit where he talks about how the “red neck voice” is the only accent that can be found all over America. That would make sense considering the role borderers played in westward expansion.
There’s a huge national park in the absolute Northwest corner of the country, just west of Seattle. My friend and I spent a few days driving a loop around it and stopping to hike. There’s nothing between the park and the coast except for the highway, and the occasional very-isolated services (like a cafe with a house across the street and nothing else within a 4 hour drive along the highway). My friend noted that, somehow, a few hours drive from Seattle and only an hour or two from the last port cities, everyone picks up the “redneck” accent.
Also, is this the link you meant? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPuS1XoRoJs
Yes, that’s the link I meant! I’m not sure what happened there, and now it’s too late to edit my original comment, but thanks for putting up the correct one!
Nice to hear some confirmation of his description. There are lots of states where people say you can unexpectedly hear that accent once you get out of the city. I’ve heard California is like that well.
If you ever find yourself in Pennsylvania for whatever reason, take a look around some of the larger public buildings, especially the Capitol Building in Harrisburg. Not only is it the most ornate and palatial American public building I’ve ever seen, it’s full of gigantic murals lionizing William Penn. My favorite is probably ‘William Penn as Law-Giver’, which is one of a series of murals in the state Supreme Court’s courtroom.*
My favorite story of William Penn: Penn was legendary as a law-maker, philosopher, philanthropist etc., but he was also famously absent-minded and left his staff to take care of administrative details. Even really, really important ones. So later in his term his business manager, Philip Ford, noticing that Penn would sign anything he put in front of him, tricked Penn into signing the colony of Pennsylvania over to him and agreeing to an unpayable rent, after which Penn was thrown into a debtor’s prison. This eventually led to the Lord Chancellor of England ruling that the contract was so absurdly unfair that equity demanded Penn be allowed a do-over, but Ford still managed to wring virtually all of Penn’s fortune away from him. These setbacks reputedly crushed Penn’s spirit, and later in life he was ‘no longer a man of bold vision’.
By the end of his life, William Penn was nearly destitute and decided that his only recourse was to sell Pennsylvania back to the Crown, despite all of the cries that this would surely lead to new management which would undo all his visions of earlier years. As Penn began serious negotiations for sale, however, he suffered a stroke, and the Crown never reclaimed its colony.
Anyway, I’m generally pretty skeptical of the theories which come from Albion’s Seed- I mean, undoubtedly the original cultures did influence the evolution of the nation which came from them, but these stories always strike me as suspiciously pat.
What I can’t deny, however, is the influence of the Quaker foundation of Pennsylvania on the later America, and I can’t deny that because Pennsylvania will not shut up about it. Pennsylvania is extremely proud of its influence on the greater America, from the founding to the Civil War. Sessions of the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court commonly open with the Chief Justice reminding everyone that it is the oldest court on the continent, and interpretations of the Pennsylvania Constitution have occasionally resulted in commentary about how the Federal Constitution is just cribbing off the state (and, incidentally doing it wrong).
*Said series also has a great backstory- after the old brick capitol of Pennsylvania burnt down, the state was determined to spend all of its money building the nicest capitol it possibly could, and commissioned a lot of artwork. The artist they commissioned for the Supreme Court’s chambers, Violet Oakley, was a fervent believer in William Penn’s vision of the world and chose to depict a ‘history of law’, beginning with divine law and moving through the evolution of it, as musical notes. Her paintings describe the evolution of law as divinely-guided and enacted through the benevolent leadership of wise prophets and (small-d) democrats, leading inevitably to world peace and the coming again of the age of god.
That’s a sad ending for Penn. I find it hard to reconcile setting up a thriving colony and all the stuff he did with not reading contracts like that… I wonder if he had gone senile by that point? It bears an uncanny resemblance to a lot of cases of ‘elder abuse’ these days. (Plus, if he had an outright stroke afterwards, that suggests an ongoing problem, and microstrokes are a major contributor to senile dementia and age-related cognitive decline.)
Elder abuse, or he simply trusted his trusted associates, one of whom turned out to be a scoundrel.
If you’re interested in a potted timeline of Penn’s life, his Irish connections*, and a portrait of him in armour (from his time helping to quell a minor Irish rebellion in 1667), go here 🙂
*Look, there are always Irish connections, all right? His father, who although allegedly friendly with the royal family, was an admiral in Cromwell’s time was awarded an estate in Ireland as payment for his service – the Commonwealth tended to grant lands that had been seized to their army in lieu of paying money which they frankly hadn’t got – and when the Restoration happened, he found it prudent to go live there for a while. But plainly being able to get on with whoever was in power at the time, he found favour with Charles II (to the extent of lending him £16,000 in settlement of which debt later on, Charles adwarded his son William Pennsylvania) and did a swap where he gave back the Irish estate to the owner from whom it had been confiscated and got Macroom Castle in exchange.
His son William, founder of Pennsylvania, spent some time in Ireland and it was there he came under the influence of Thomas Loe who converted him to Quakerism – and the rest you know 🙂
So if you think about it, really Thomas Lowe was the most successful person ever.
I think you miss something WRT the Cavaliers; the Cavaliers as you describe them were the nobility, whose lives were supported by slaves and cropsharers who vastly outnumbered them. I’ve hammered this point before, and I’ll hammer it again: The Republicans who took over the South after the Civil Rights movement weren’t just rebranded Democrats. The political emphasis changed entirely.
The modern red tribe doesn’t resemble the Cavaliers much because the Cavaliers were always, by necessity, a minority. Their lifestyles required them to be in the upper class, and others to be in the lower classes. They controlled the South through, essentially, massive voter fraud, primarily disenfranchising anybody who wouldn’t vote for them. As soon as Civil Rights legislation put a stop to that, they lost control.
What your analysis is lacking, focusing as it is on the upper classes of Cavalier society, is recognizing that there were lower classes of Cavalier society with a substantially different culture. That is the culture of the South today.
What happened to the upper class Cavaliers?
They’re part of the blue tribe, and they’ve mostly left the South, which became rather hostile to their better-than-you attitude when they were no longer forced to put up with them. They’re the reason gun control used to be an exclusively Southern ideal, from when the blue tribe ruled the red tribe (a mixture of lower-class Cavaliers and borderers who they regarded as unruly).
TIL I learned I’m descended from the Borderers. The Maxwells, to be specific. They did indeed become Southern Baptists; my grandpa was a preacher.
Sorry about those flayed skins, man.
I really want to know how this went for the rest of the alphabet. I’m imagining something like this:
“Look, Abner. I’m all for using up all the letters and this new Jay-walking law I think will work, but we’re never going to find anyone guilty of Xenophilia or Zebra-rustling.”
I’m imagining the worst children’s picture book ever.
Wearing a “C” for counterfeiting would be a much softer punishment than the usual judicial punishment, which could be cropped ears . Edward Kelley, assistant to the famous Dr Dee, was alleged to have suffered this penalty:
If all the Puritans did was make a counterfeiter wear a badge of shame, they were definitely going soft by the standards of the time! 🙂
I’ve lived in New Orleans, Connecticut (close to NYC), Rhode Island (close to Boston), and Tennessee, and they culturally remind me quite a lot of your descriptions of Cavaliers, Quakers, Puritans, and Borderers, respectively.
Ah, the Borderers. I live in Teesside in the North East of England. The descriptors in here fit the people to a tee!
HBDchick will love this article.
Yes, she’s got a lot of interesting speculation about the historical influence of family systems on the distinctive cultures of the various American migrations. See for instance https://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/east-anglia-kent-and-manorialism/ and https://hbdchick.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/libertarian-crackers/.
I thought libertarians were supposed to be autistic, weak nerds who didn’t care about their country, not the exact opposite.
Once again, there seem to be two sorts of libertarians. There’s the “red” libertarians and the “blue” (“grey”) libertarians, and they’re usually pretty distinct from one another.
Then there are the libertarian-libertarians who think that the reds and blues are both full of it! 🙂
I’m libertarian-libertarian. Also I’m annoyed that Scott stole the color gray for his tribe.
So mine will be silver. It’s like gray, but better, and shinier, but still fairly easily mistaken for it.
HBDChick’s comment was that I must not have read JayMan’s series on the same. I think I’ve read it (though might have missed some) but I thought the book added a different perspective.
@PSmith, that’s the stuff I was talking about.
@Scott, that’s interesting. I too thought I’d read Jay on the topic, but I don’t remember any significant schism between his and your conclusions. IIRC he also talks about later german migration as well, which is from that Woods fellow’s book. Merits a second look.
;o another Teessider reads SSC!
Today, two. Tomorrow, all of Stockton.
Virginia was founded by Cavaliers? Suddenly everything makes sense! 🙂
What, you’ve never heard that the American Civil War is the English Civil War, take two?
I have now.
Really well written, Scott. The idea that culture is so deeply rooted that we’re helpless against it is pretty saddening, but if we’re going to try avoiding these pitfalls then more insight into things like this might help!
That may be the point of this book, but it’s a weak one. Cheer up!
Culture is deeply rooted, but it is also highly volatile. The problem is it is very difficult to change on purpose, in a specific direction. Blind chance seems to play a pretty big role.
The biggest obstacle we have to engaging in a serious effort to change our more dysfunctional cultures is the current cult of “multiculturalism” and “diversity”. Once we dispense with all that idiocy, we can get down to the business of promoting the best parts of our culture, and slowly strangling the worst bits.
What percentage of Americans are actually descended from these people, as opposed to somewhere entirely different?
The Italian immigrant waves, the German Midwestern immigrants, the Chinese/Vietnamese/Mexican/etc.
If culture really were so strongly genetically determined, then shouldn’t we be seeing 15, 20+ different Americas?
I think the point of a lot of this is that it’s the “founder effects” that really matter — that is, those who show up in a place first (for whatever definition of “first” we use that of course ignores the American Indians) strongly define what that place is like.
It’s interesting reading about all of these various colonial “tribes,” though I personally don’t have much connection with them. My own “tribe” was the group of people from the British Isles who came out west to Utah as part of the Mormons in the mid-1800s. I’d be interested to see an analysis of that particular group from an “Albion’s Seed” context and how that influenced the founder effects that are obvious in the Mormon Corridor.
Though is it really just pure good luck (based on grant from a king, it might seem so, but…) that the Quakers happened to live where the pacifist Indians were? It may be in this case, but what I’m getting at is I always wonder if Native American influence on American culture isn’t underappreciated, and one form that might take might be people settling in areas where the native culture was congenial to their own culture (which might include a warlike native culture good for battling against in the Borderer case).
That’s a really good point. There’s a tendency to lump them all into a single “Native American” group in our mental model, but the fact that large confederacies of Native tribes were so historically noteworthy is obvious evidence that that wasn’t the case. It’s an interesting question if colonist populations being geographically “paired up” with certain tribes was important. The trick would be to have good historical/archaeological evidence from populations that quickly failed in a particular area — that way the analysis isn’t just a “just so” story of how the groups we know survived ended up surviving.
Related if tangential: I haven’t looked at a lot of actual linguistic studies, but I have long had a sneaking suspicion that at least part of what constitutes the American English “accent” comes from contact with Native Americans. This because every Native American language I hear sounds intensely “American” to my ears, if also totally unintelligible (As Korean, before I studied it, sounded like unintelligible Japanese and Hindi also sounds to me like English I can’t understand, even more so than French or Spanish, randomly, which might tend to support some theories that Northern Indian languages are surprisingly closely related to Germanic languages, though it’s well-accepted that they’re Indo-European, of course).
There’s basically no likelihood that that’s correct.
I recently read that the Australian accent, in addition to the obvious English and Irish influences, also partly comes from drunken slurring.
This feels too good to check.
Also obviously false.
Yeah, nah mate, it’s bullshit. I mean, we’re a nation of piss artists, but we don’ always sound like that!
I don’t think it’s about genes (why would the borderers be genetically very different from the English or the Scots?) It’s about how culture is much more resistant to change than people usually imagine.
China spends most of the Common era years repeatedly getting conquered by horse people of varying ethnicities. and conquered, in this case, almost invariably means mass settling of non-chinese people. Despite this, it remains culturally chinese. Not completely unchanged, of course, but with a very clear links.
>the German Midwestern immigrants,
Scott doesn’t mention it, but there were a lot of lutheran germans who settled in Pennsylvania in the early waves of settlement, and were instrumental in building the culture that became what scott is calling quakerism. midwestern germans were less alien than you think, certainly much less alien than, say, the irish.
Scott did mention that there were german sects close enough to the quakers who immigrated early too. However, sorry in advance this is probably really nitpicky, I partially disagree with the comment “certainly much less alien than the irish”. A little bit to maybe a moderate bit less alien, but not a lot.
The reason I say this is that there was an Irish Catholic signer of the declaration of independence, charles carroll. The number of lutherans and Catholics who signed it were thus the same number. In addition, for obvious reasons, many more Irish Catholics spoke English than Germans. Two Irish catholics signed the constiution, the same or possibly twice as amount as many lutherans
For linguistics, yes, but even then only in the last 400 years. For genetics, there is very little evidence of any kind that supports the idea that the Northern Chinese are descended in any appreciable degree from the horsemen of the north.
Thanks for this great summary! Now I don’t need to buy the book (though I might anyway).
I did want to disagree a little with your tentative conclusion about the cultural roots of modern America. There is a simple alternative hypothesis for “frontier culture” (to use a PC term): maybe tough, freedom-loving, violent, lawless, clannish, hardscrabble cultures are well-adapted to farming marginal land on violent frontiers. Thus when some of these sort of people immigrated from the UK, they found their niche on the American frontier, and the frontier continued selecting for these cultural traits.
So it’s not that the Scotch-Irish’s border heritage was their destiny. It’s that they moved into a similar environment in the New World, and their culture thrived and developed there.
As to the other cases, as you yourself admit, it’s much more difficult to draw connections to modern America. Yes, having the Ivy League schools in the Northeast probably made valuing learning culturally sticky, but New England is pretty godless and socially permissive today, so actually the opposite of the Puritans in most respects. Also, New England had a large secular merchant class right from the start competing with the Puritans, and arguably their culture won out. Likewise, Philly isn’t actually a city of gentle pacifists. I think it’s a simpler hypothesis to say that the US grew up to reflect general Enlightenment values than Quaker values in particular.
And I think Thomas Jefferson’s conception of Liberty wasn’t just for the landed elites. He seemed pretty Enlightenment-influenced, and wrote a lot about independent farmers and so on. So I’m not sure that that bit is correct.
So really, the only connection from the four groups that seems very strong is the Frontiersmen, but there it seems likely that the English/Scotland frontier culture was just a well-adapted frontier culture, and thus could easily move to the American frontier.
By the way, I totally buy that these categories are useful for understanding American history, and thereby (indirectly) have large consequences today. I just don’t buy that we can directly map cultural traits of the founder populations onto modern populations. (Not that I reject it; I’m just skeptical.)
>Yes, having the Ivy League schools in the Northeast probably made valuing learning culturally sticky, but New England is pretty godless and socially permissive today, so actually the opposite of the Puritans in most respects.
Try using the word Ni**er in a new england town today. You’ll get run out of it just as quickly as their ancestors ran out witches. what is permitted has changed, but not the attitude directed towards people who do things that aren’t on the list.
>So really, the only connection from the four groups that seems very strong is the Frontiersmen, but there it seems likely that the English/Scotland frontier culture was just a well-adapted frontier culture, and thus could easily move to the American frontier.
If you think this, you really need to read the book. the links are incredibly stark.
Doesn’t this prove too much? Insult a Borderer family, and you’ll be faced with a feud. Aren’t you just saying that it’s possible to offend people, and since the original Quakers are pretty much gone, people will retaliate in some way?
He’s not saying that black people will beat you up for insulting them, which as you point out wouldn’t really prove anything, but that the sort of New England whites who studiously avoid contact with actual black-majority communities would be offended on their behalf. That is, that modern New Englanders are offended by hate-speech in much the same way that their forefathers were offended by blasphemy.
Hmm. Perhaps flag-burning is the Red Tribe equivalent of blasphemy?
For some it’s blasphemy is still plain old fashioned blasphemy. For the rest there’s “stolen valor” which totally different from cultural appropriation you guys!
The difference between “stolen valor” and “cultural appropriation” is that the white kid wearing an eagle feather headdress generally isn’t demanding tribute from people as a war-leader of the Sioux.
Yes, they are similar concepts but so is skipping out on your bar tab and robbing a bank.
Whether cultural appropriation is A Thing or not seems to vary wildly based on whether one’s tribe thinks the culture being appropriated deserves respect.
It’s an easy problem to fall into, and I don’t think I know anyone who’s never done it.
Just a note on the idea that cultural appropriation and stolen valor are the same, they’re generally not.
Most people “appropriating culture” are just copying or using a small bit of it, without claiming membership. Eminem isn’t claiming to be black, he’s just using a bit of black culture with his own twist on it. This is a positive thing. It used to be called “multiculturalism”, before that term got appropriated by anti-white racists.
Stolen valor is a bit more like Rachel Dolezal, not just using bits of a culture, but wholesale claiming to be a member, and trying to get benefits/advantages associated with membership.
It’s one thing to wear a “black” hairstyle, it’s another to become a local official of the NAACP when you aren’t in the “CP” group.
Another of the things that complicates this is that there’s very clearly Puritan-descended groups around nowadays in the form of the religiously political, with publications like First Things, and even people whose project is centred around literally forming new separate communities due to the threat modern liberalism poses to the maintenance of a virtuous, religious way of life (who are linking this blog in that particular post).
And they’re very much not on speaking terms with what is identified here as the descendant of Quakerism and Puritanism.
Did they split in two? Did the parts of it which were most focused on punishing moral indecency end up in a political alliance with the Borderers against Quakerish tolerance but remain culturally more likely to interact with/mix with Quakerish sorts? I don’t get the impression that there’s good mutual comprehensibility between the modern literal-religious-Puritans and the blues in the way that second hypothesis would suggest.
Still could be more true than not. The stuff the modern day maybe-descendants demand that people don’t like (at least, the parts of it with mainstream popularity) basically boil down to “mandatory Quakerishness”, which is pretty much exactly what you’d expect a fusion of the two under memetic competition which favoured Quakerishness to look like.
What makes you classify First Things as Puritan? They’ve always been heavily Catholic in my eyes.
The centrality of religious guidance to how life should be lived, the idea that there should be rules- exactly and specifically the ones the Lord requires in order for a person to be virtuous in the right way, etc.
You raise a good point, though. If it’s centrally a different religious tradition, it could be some other element becoming more culturally like Puritan ideas rather than a descendant. Could explain it by shift of culture rather than people switching religious tradition.
I don’t think any of the things you list there are unique to Puritanism, or even Christianity. The main point of departure for Puritans was to remove non-biblical* practices, whereas other Protestants were willing to carry on inherited practices on the belief that anything not forbidden is permitted, albeit not essential.
*”non-biblical” meaning “not found in the Bible,” which differs from “opposed to the Bible.”
Not found in the Bible in their interpretation. They had some — interesting — interpretations.
I guess I’d say that they show up commonly in the group called ‘Puritan’ described here, and not any of the others, which means a modern day group which shares those traits and is reasonably numerous seems likely to have descended from them culturally unless there’s some other group which is very much like that.
The traits don’t need to be unique, and they can be common in other groups elsewhere in the world, just so long as they’re mostly specific to a single group there.
But JBeshir, the traits that you mentioned are not at all specific to Puritans. They are rather, shared by basically all Christians prior to the 19th century, not to mention a great many of the world’s non-Christian religions. Nearly every single Christian group in America in the year 1800 would have had the characteristics you mention; the groups that still have them today are culturally conservative, but not especially linked to Puritans.
To be specific, the Quakers were every bit as religious and concerned with rules as the Puritans. Their niceness and pacifism were facets of their religiosity, not evidence of its absence.
First Things is about as Catholic an you can get. Insofar as it’s concerned with the “centrality of religious guidance to how life should be lived”, it’s continuing a Catholic tradition that goes back to the Apostles.
I’ll take your word for it. Maybe many of the Puritans stopped being religious faster than other groups, and subgroups that came from bits of the other groups that held onto their religious ideas better took over as the most in favour of religious rules today.
It’d be counter-intuitive, but still perfectly plausible.
I agree that this stuff is commonly called “Puritan” around here, but I think that is a very ahistorical label. The error, I suspect, was inherited from Moldbug, who himself inherited the error by taking on faith progressive stereotypes about the Puritans. You can see similar in the original post, where Scott quotes Harriet Beecher Stowe as a source about Puritan life, even though she was born after Puritanism had died out.
Most of our talk about Puritans is like when people talk about The Dark Ages as if they were an actual thing.
A lot of it also shows in the influence of “The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism”, which is what Moldbug is basing a lot of his stuff off of. There’s similar stuff in southern Baptist literature which I have also seen, it is not unique to this one book either, but it’s a good non-religous source to cite.
And there are two groups that bang on about everything being Puritan and the Dark Ages being a thing: new atheists.
Atheists were saying that in the 20th century as well.
Also, if these founder effects are so strong, you should see something very similar play out in South America. Does that fit at all?
PS – If you’re going to accept the premises of this book, it would be a little hypocritical to look down your nose at the ignorant Borderers and/or Cavaliers for their racist attitudes. (For the record: I am not condoning, nor very sympathetic to racism. I’m just asking for consistency.)
I think you state towards the end that you realize this worldview has some dismal consequences.
Chile was largely settled by the Basque and I believe they had dispeportionate cultural influence because of that there.
Suriname largely speaks dutch, Guyana largely English, Guiana largely french, despite all of these being very small countries surrounded by much larger countries speaking different languages in every direction, and having East Indian/ Indigenous/ black etc. blood.
Belize as well, it speaks a lot of english still even though all the countries around it speak spanish. A lot of people do speak spanish there though as well tbf.
Maybe I should finally learn another language and look into South America (history, etc). It seems like an interesting place.
Is that why they’re unintelligible?
Oh, and another little bit of hypocrisy:
If you are going to accept the premises of the book, you realize towards the end that splitting up into smaller nations, rather than glomming together into giant superstates, is probably optimal. If so, then I would ask, for consistencies sake, that secession be treated like a political arrangement, not moral backsliding from the Arrow-of-History.
It’s rank hypocrisy if secession is evil when Tribe A wants to divorce Tribe B (because they’re stupid and stubborn and just want to give reign to their pre-modern atavistic impulses rather than accepting the rule of civilized people), but maybe regrettably necessary when Tribe B can’t stand the evil domination of Tribe A. I’m thinking mostly of all the noise in the news lately about Brexit in addition to the eternal American culture war.
I think everyone could probably benefit from a little more autonomy in any case. Freedom of trade and movement is good. One Culture to Rule Them All is dystopian.
You may disagree with this, but it’s by no means hypocrisy.
Is it hypocritical to punish people who are guilty of crimes, but not punish those who are innocent? Is it hypocritical to think it’s appropriate to bomb Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan, but not to crash planes into the Twin Towers?
Certainly not. There is no hypocrisy in saying that secession is right when done on behalf of a good cause, but wrong when done on behalf of an evil cause. There is no hypocrisy in saying that slaveholders have no right to force free people to uphold slavery, but free people do have the right to force slaveholders to abolish slavery.
For instance, Timothy Sandefur makes the argument from a libertarian perspective that secession, in the case of the Confederacy, was both unconstitutional and immoral:
Yes, but the rhetoric typically used doesn’t match this. For instance, referring to the South in the Civil War as committing treason with the implication that committing treason is inherently bad, rather than situationally bad (even though George Washington committed similar treason against his King).
I’m not sure if you’re referring to modern rhetoric or Civil War era rhetoric, but I think that at the time it was easier to persuade Northerners to go to war if you framed it as punishing traitors, rather than if you framed it as freeing a bunch of strangers they’d never met from slavery.
Wasn’t a very big percentage of the Union army also recent immigrants? Like “welcome to America, put on this uniform.” On the one hand it’s strange that people would fight for a country they just arrived in. On the other, maybe they saw it almost as a right of passage/act of devotion to their new home, maybe even a straightup quid pro quo (assuming they had any choice in the matter at all once they got here).
No, “freeing the slaves” was NOT the Union’s goal in 1861. The war did end up freeing the slaves, yes, but is incorrect to attribute that intention backwards.
Yes, clearly many did not want to go… nothing like fighting slavery with…
Ask a Northerner(or most Southerners) now whether they are ok with the contemporary South seceding. They actually do refer to it as treason.
@ Wrong Species
Ask a Northerner(or most Southerners) now whether they are ok with the contemporary South seceding. They actually do refer to it as treason.
Are you sure? ‘Treason’ seems an oddly old-fashioned view.
I don’t recall seeing Southerners talking about it much at all. Northerners call it “good riddance”.
Back in my hardcore libertarian days, I used to have this debate with progressives all the time. “Treason” was used quite frequently. And yes, it is old fashioned. I found it very strange how the only time progressives used the word treason was in reference to the South seceding.
I found it very strange how the only time progressives used the word treason was in reference to the South seceding.
Heh. The 1800s South, yes, current Progressives (and others) talk about that secession having been ‘treason’. But I haven’t seen that word being used by any current people about a current speculated secession of the South.
There may not be hypocrisy, but there is a very difficult problem there. It has to do with moral and intellectual autonomy. Each secessionist believes that they are acting because of just grievances, and each opponent believes that the secessionist isn’t.
So a principle like “Don’t secede unless you have major just grievances that cannot be addressed by lesser acts,” is almost impossible to apply. As is “Allow secession when there are irreconcilable differences.”
There is a reason why the international laws of war don’t mention the justice of the war. They say things like “No chemical weapons. Ever.” not “No chemical weapons unless your cause is really righteous.”
There is a reason why the laws say “The police cannot beat confessions out of anyone,” not “Only beat confessions out of the guilty.”
It may not be hypocritical, but there is a problem with your position. It assumes facts that are in dispute. Namely, the justice of a cause and if other remedies should be attempted first.
On the other hand, the law says that you are permitted to eat a hamburger if you own it, despite the fact that someone might dispute whether a particular hamburger is owned by him. It even says you’re allowed to kill someone if it is in self-defense, although whether an action is in self-defense certainly can be a fact in dispute.
Yes, and think about the sheer number of “reasonable person” standards in law… Not to mention that it’s against international law to wage an aggressive war.
It would be nice if we had bright-line tests for everything, tests that nobody could ever disagree about. The problem is that the number of things that nobody ever disagrees about is very, very small. If you want to forbid people from fighting for any cause that someone, somewhere might think is wrong—then you are advocating pacifism.
Otherwise, you have to recognize that in some cases there may be honest people on both sides of a conflict. And you just hope, as Abraham Lincoln said, that “right makes might”.
Think of it like the law/norm against wars of aggression. There’s always some casus belli used to defend wars of choice, some fig leaf of justification: we’re invading France before they invade us, Iraq is a threat to our safety, etc. That doesn’t mean the norm is without value.
There’s also the Scotland referendum, where the bulk of the people wanting to secede were on the opposite tribe (Scotland leans more left-wing than the rest of the UK) to either of the other two cases.
I think a perfectly reasonable attitude to hold is that self-determination and secession is good, but stopping slavery is a legitimate justification* for the invasion of a country and so also a legitimate justification for blocking secession.
* (Edit made after replies: For me in particular, this admittedly doesn’t say anything more than “I think people treating this and things of similar severity as legitimate justifications doesn’t endanger any more important truces and is likely to fulfil my values”, but ‘slavery is bad’ is a fairly common value so in practice I suspect that should be the case for most people, and I think this is also true in a lot of more deantological systems.)
The problem with the US civil war is that both sides had crazy rhetoric that was opposed to any justice of their claims.
The North’s best case for war was eradicating slavery. A lot of the rhetoric they used was “No self determination for you” and “Pay your taxes.”
The South’s best case was self determination, and leaving an arrangement that didn’t help them. Then in the cornerstone speech there rhetoric was “We want slaves.”
There was no way to abolish slavery except by preserving the Union, so that had to come first.
And surely refraining from morally pure rhetoric that will lose you your war and so your moral objective is important? Lincoln telling Northerners that the contrabands were vital to the war effort was the sort of thing that allowed their actual freedom.
No, eradicating slavery in the short run was NOT on the North’s agenda when it went to war.
Northern leaders were striving to preserve the Union. Immediate abolition of slavery was a fringe radical view in 1861.
That’s more or less where I am. I believe slavery was evil and eradicating it was good.
I also think that it’s a weird justification to use to try to claim that political autonomy itself is evil, trying to split from a (real or imagined abusive) political union is evil. “Your distant ancestors owned slaves, therefore your complaints are invalid. ZOMG, you might actually win an election, we’re out of here!” is what I get from a lot of the rhetoric surrounding the issue in America.
I’m similarly against cultural domination, but I don’t think statewide secession is the right way to deal with it – I think we just need to accept different cultures in the same country.
The prime example is Israeli arabs v. Palestinian arabs: They both have fairly similar cultures, both of which are distinct from Israeli Jewish culture, but the first is relatively okay with being a minority culture in a country, while the second are violently opposed to it. The first group seems to have things better, all around.
(Also, If, say, Quebec secedes It just means a bunch more bureaucracy because you’d have to have one extra government, without much influence on the actual culture, which is already pretty separate. This doesn’t seem like a moral evil, just a lot of pointless inconvenience for everyone involved).
Wouldn’t Quebec seceding be one less government, in a sense? The inhabitants formerly had Canada’s federal government and Quebec, now they just have Quebec.
Of course it’s one more government in the sense “there is one more top-level government in the land mass”.
Quebec would still be duplicating all the things the Canadian federal government does for them now – foreign relations, military, bank regulation, etc.
Quebec succeeding could lead to the general break up of Canada because of the difficulties of running a nation with a hole in the middle.
Yes, but that wouldn’t be *more* bureaucracy. Instead of Canada+Quebec they’d just have Quebec, with some of the things that Canada once did now moved to Quebec instead.
Alaska and Hawaii have a combined population in the same range as the Maritimes, and seem thus far sustainable. But I don’t know if there are regional tensions that would come to the fore once Quebec established that secession was practical. (Assuming that the aftermath looked attractive, rather than a cautionary tale.)
I think we just need to accept different cultures in the same country.
I’m reminded of the section in William J. Stuntz’s The Collapse of American Criminal Justice on what he calls America’s first cultural war, the postbellum to early 20th century campaigns against “white slavery”, prostitution, gambling, drugs and alcohol, “obscene literature” (including not only pornography, but contraception and information related thereto; see the Comstock laws), and so on. This, to paraphrase, was mainly what happened once telegraphy made it possible for Puritans to read in their newspapers about how Borderers were living out West; the former thus launched crusades against the “vices” of the latter. Any previous “acceptance” was mostly a product of “out of sight, out of mind.”
A general “live and let live”, “what foreigners do to each other on their own land is none of my business” is, in my experience, a fairly rare attitude (and part of the reason libertarians are such a minority). I know personally more than one person whose “what my neighbors do (or smoke, or snort, etc.) doesn’t matter to me” position of their youth evaporated rapidly and totally upon becoming a parent. And consider this example of what happens when you have differing cultural positions on parenting techniques in the same country. Basically, I question whether this is possible to any great degree in an integrated age of telecommunications.
In fact, being in different countries isn’t necessarily enough to get acceptance of different cultures. There seem to me to be plenty of cultures with a history, often originally religiously motivated, of seeking to “convert the heathen/infidel” and “uplift the savages” wherever they went. And while they may or may not still be religiously motivated, their modern descendants still seem to show the behaviors, just now using terms like “humanitarian intervention” and “education on human rights” and “universal values”. So long as one person’s “cultural difference” is another’s “human rights violation”, then maintaining distinct cultures at all becomes difficult to accomplish except by possessing sufficient military and economic wherewithal to make it too costly for a rival culture to forcibly “civilize” them.
I see your point, but like you said, desire to enforce cultural values doesn’t vanish just because you put up a border, and can in some ways be made worse (as well as having a bunch of other disadvantages).
Even in cases like Quebec or Scotland where those disadvantages would be relatively minor, I’m still leaning towards it being a bad idea (and in those cases there’s a clear halfway policy – Quebec could achieve the desired legal outcome by arguing for stronger local sovereignty laws a lot more easily than for outright secession).
This isn’t something I’m completely sure of. Israel/Palestine, as things are now, seem like one group where splitting the country is obviously a good idea. That said, I have to wonder what would have happened if, back in 67 (decades before the first intifada, when the palestinians didn’t hate Israel on modern-day levels), everyone had known how badly annexation would turn out and had tried to think of a reasonable solution instead.
Part of the problem, though, is people for whom “secession from America” is One Thing; I remember the utter horror my 4th grade teacher expressed when my social studies paper on the Alaskan Independence Party was insufficiently condemnatory. For these people, any potential secession from the United States is morally equivalent to all others, and thus anyone who supports any secession from the U.S. for any reason is as evil as Simon Legree or Calvin Candie.
(It’s like the commenter at Marginal Revolution who, every time Tyler writes about CRISPR, calls everyone who doesn’t totally oppose genetic modification Nazis; for him/her, “eugenics” is One Thing, and thus use of CRISPR on the human germ-line is morally equivalent to Dachau.)
I’m amazed at how common that second attitude seems to be; poll results from YouGov (page 5) showed only 2% of people thinking genetic engineering to make humans better was acceptable. That’s well below the lizardman threshold.
It’ll happen anyway, but still.
The Nazis are certainly evidence that human societies in the real world are incapable of handling “making humans better” responsibly. It is possible that something could be theoretically okay, but incapable of being implemented by actual humans in a way that isn’t prone to abuse. And of course, poll respondents won’t make fine distinctions between “is unacceptable for real human beings in practice” and plain “is unacceptable”.
@KevinC: (If you’re talking about sci-fi human genetic modification, (as opposed to specific CRISPR modification research being done today) without going into the weeds of how effective it will be, how much control it will really give you, how we’ll blunder through the learning curve to the point where we know what we are doing, etc):
I think there’s a pretty strong incentive problem that has to be overcome.
Parents are the only group of people who have motivations that are aligned with the welfare and goals of their children.
The rest of society given the ability to screw around with your fundamental nature? They see you as either ( a) cannon fodder b) a potential serf c) an “obstacle” (aka competition) )
When you talk about making (other) people “better”, you have to complete the sentence: Better for who?
Perhaps the best way that this can go is for parents to maintain full authority over whether or not, and how, to modify their children.
PS – I’m not opposed to this research at all (either the sci-fi end-goal, or the things we might do soon to cure diseases). The possibilities make me regret not having a stronger background in organic chemistry. I also think that it has the potential for doing a lot of good, and will do a lot of good as long as people maintain their freedom of choice. Any utopian social programs to “improve” “undesirables” are going to go to hell predictably and hard.
“It’ll happen anyway, but still.”
Yes, but the resulting reaction will be the question; how many of that 98% will react by going full Blue Cosmos?
About as many people as act on their belief that abortion is murder by shooting abortionists, I suspect. Which is to say, it’ll be a simmering thing, but people will mostly stick to following the laws while other parents go wherever they legally need to go to make it happen.
They might keep the government from authorising it in any way at least until it has become too common worldwide to ignore, slow it down and such, but I don’t expect them to either stop it or get violent over it at any scale.
But here I’m just wildly guessing based on what I think is plausible from the closest analogies I have. No good information.
Prents have motivations that are more alinged with their children’s motivations and goals than other people’s motivations, but the alkignment isn’t perfect.
Parents even when acting on their children’s behalf also tend to make different tradeoffs for their children than people make for themselves, which sometimes is good and sometimes isn’t.
“Prents have motivations that are more alinged with their children’s motivations and goals than other people’s motivations,”
And even that’s only on the whole. There are certainly non-related people whose motivations are more closely aligned with the children’s than those of some parents.
Andrew Jackson, who was president at the time of the Nullification Crisis, predicted that the South would eventually try to secede under the pretext of protecting slavery. The key word here is “pretext”.
At the time, there was a conspiracy theory that the South wanted to establish a continent-wide empire and felt that they were hindered by the North. I say “conspiracy theory”, but the Knights of the Golden Circle existed…
Isn’t this another instance of popular conspiracy theories accusing coastal mercantile empires accusing inland agarian empires of huge expansionism? Britain v Germany (or France, or Spain, or …), NATO v Warsaw, Hellenes v Persia (fractally into Athens v Sparta), Carthage v Rome (but Rome won that one).
Woohoo possible apophenia.
Agreed on the warning against hypocrisy, though I think that Scott was nodding toward that sentiment (even if not stated explicitly) with his comparison about Afghanistan in the article.
When you look at really alien-seeming societies that are thousands of miles away or hundreds of years ago it’s easy to take the “enlightened anthropologist” view and say, “Well, this culture is behaving in these ways due to historical and societal forces that have been playing out for ages, and it’s all very fascinating to understand.”
It’s a lot harder when that alien-seeming society is right next door to you and made up of people that almost but not quite look like you. Then when you talk about that society it’s colored with tinges of “Why are you so backwards and wrong? Aren’t you so close to how we are? Shouldn’t you know better with all that reason and enlightenment we both should have?”
Scott’s talked about some of this with his “I can tolerate anything except the outgroup” series of articles. The way I see it, there’s a tendency among some circles to treat kin/strangers as friend/foe not as a monotonic function as has been traditional, but more like an Uncanny Valley distribution where the people who are your neighbors but “ideologically wrong” feel more like zombies than complete strangers do.
I think it does to some degree. I recommend V.S. Naipaul’s “the middle passage” for a quick ethnography of a swath of the carribean and South America.
South America also had different cultures due to founder effects just like North America.
For example, here’s Gary Brecher describing how the specific combination of Jesuit and Guarani culture made Paraguay a very peculiar country:
They were a little similar to the Quakers in some respects, except the most important one: After independence, the first Constitutional president dragged the region into the second largest war in the continent ever (the first was the American Civil War).
War Nerd references are always +1 in my book.
It makes me wonder if the Border Counties are still more violent and backward than the rest of the UK (which is way less violent than the US at this point!). It doesn’t look like it, on first glance, but perhaps that’s because all the Reavers came here.
Frankly, the first time I looked into it in detail, I was amazed at how much Ulster Protestant culture and religious rhetoric resembles that of the Deep South. I mean the Ian Paisley / Democratic Unionist Party type stuff: I thought, hey, this is just like what you’d hear from some fundamentalist preacher in Alabama!
And I believe that population has a similar lineage.
An excellent review of an excellent book. I’m glad Scott read it.
A minor quibble: borderers and cavaliers were a mighty uneasy coalition, at best. West Virginia seceded from Virginia to rejoin the Union in the midst of the Civil War, and I understand Kentucky and western Tennessee–basically, the parts of the south settled by borderers and unsuited to slave agriculture–were none too fond of the Confederate project either.
tfw you realize not everybody is a nice northern coastal liberal deep down
Anyway, isn’t this the whole point of the Archipelago and related pan-secessionist proposals?
How German was West Virginia? The Germans tended to side with the Union as well.
WV had few non-borders at the time of WV succession.
WV had a period of immigrating miners, but that came in the early 20th century.
Not sure about WV, but hilariously the population of Omaha in 1910 was 57% german. This was viewed as such a problem that after WW1 the state of Nebraska passed a law forbidding public school teachers to speak or teach German to any student below 8th grade. The law was struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of substantive due process, but that’s neither here nor there. For extra lulz, the second largest ethnic background of Nebraskans in 1910 after German was Czech; refugees from Habsburg persecution in Imperial Bohemia and Moravia. Oops.
I wonder whether this has something to do with the odd American custom of only starting to teach foreign languages after children are too old to learn them easily.
Note: I’ve also heard that it isn’t really easier for children to learn new languages, it’s just that adults underestimate how much effort children put into it.
It is definitely easier for children to learn new languages.
A wrench or two. A fair amount of work recently implies that the wild west wasn’t at all wild. Violence between settlers and natives appears to have been infrequent and on low levels, violence between the Federal government and natives frequent an on a large scale, and most of the latter violence was perpetrated by the military victors of the civil war. The red/blue or progressive/conservative or puritan/borderer divides don’t look as neat if the borderer settlers of the west were generally peaceful while the puritan government was committing genocide.
I thought the Wild West was less about Indian vs. cowboy violence and more about cowboy vs. cowboy violence like the battle at the OK Corral. Has that been disproven too?
There was a great deal of essentially recreational drunken brawling, with informal but effective rules to keep things nonlethal. There were occasional cowboy vs. farmer land wars, which was at least in part a Borderer/Quaker culture clash. There was very little rape, robbery, murder, or other predatory violence. It was probably safer to walk the streets of the average Old West mining town, than the average American city today(*).
Reference, with extensive subreferences. Or just consider the implication that you know the name of the specific site where three criminals were shot by police more than a century ago. That the handful of people who could make a living by armed robbery in that environment, are legends more than a century later. Mostly, people had better things to do than that, there was always someplace to go if you didn’t fit in where you were, and if you really wanted to fight someone, there were always Indians that needed killing.
Unless you were a Native American, in which case there were too damn many white people to kill, but you could have fun trying at least.
* I believe there were generally-accepted ways to signal “I am not interested in a recreational brawl at the moment” without losing face.
I believe there were generally-accepted ways to signal “I am not interested in a recreational brawl at the moment” without losing face.
Probably the same as Kenobi used in the Mos Eisley canteen.
What, slicing the dude’s arm off?
Wasn’t there a fairly massive entertainment industry built around selling the mythology of gunfighters and outlaws as far as the eye can see?
For amusement, compare the North Hollywood shootout to its numerous reincarnations in the media.
The bank robbery shootout scene in “Heat” preceded the real life North Hollywood bank robbery shootout by a few years. The two North Hollywood bank robbers were fans of action movies, so their plans were fairly cinematic.
My father had been a customer of the bank they robbed in North Hollywood, so I’ve thought about that shootout a lot. At the time, it seemed like The Future of Crime. But, now 18 years later, it seems like the past. The cops have “militarized” since then, so the robbers’ plan to concentrate more fire power and body armor than the cops had access to, which came pretty close to working in 1998, seems more like a legend from the days of yore now.
@Steve Sailer – having looked it up, not only are you correct, but apparently Heat was based pretty closely on actual events. I learned something new!
Really? This seems… unlikely. DiLorenzo doesn’t provide much in the way of actual numbers, but let’s have a look… ah, there are some homicide numbers here, which seem to indicate that murder was more common on the frontier than it is nowadays even in cities.
For example, the lowest they found (these are likely undercounts) was 30 homicides per 100,000 people per year in Oregon, 1850-1865; that’s about as bad as modern-day Columbia. Dodge City’s homicide rate was greater than that of modern-day Caracas, more than thrice that of modern-day St. Louis, the muder capital of the United States. (More than ten times that of Chicago!)
So while I can’t tell you how much of that homicide occurred within consensual, sanctioned dueling, I can tell you that living in a modern-day city, all things being equal, is less likely to end in your violent death than living in the Old West was. Steven Pinker was, in this case, right.
(DiLorenzo also uses the phrase “War Between the States” unironically, and goes to great pains to connect Sherman’s March to the Sea and the genocide of the Plains Indians; a commenter uses the phrase “the final solution to win the war with the Confederacy”. I sense the grinding of an axe.)
DiLorenzo is totally untrustworthy.
I got that impression, but it felt like maybe he just doesn’t share my politics, and in any case, he wasn’t quantitative. Has anyone bothered to critique him well?
Just venting here, a bit: “The U.S. government dehumanized the Plains Indians, describing them as “wild beasts,” in order to justify slaughtering them, just as Sherman and his wife, among many others, dehumanized Southerners during and after the War Between the States.” Really? Really?
The War Nerd was right. Sherman was right. This is some God’s Not Dead level stuff right here.
So while I can’t tell you how much of that homicide occurred within consensual, sanctioned dueling
The best available proxy for predatory as opposed to social violence is probably robbery(*). Rape might also be useful in this context, but good luck getting reliable numbers for that anywhere.
David Kopel, The Samurai, the Mountie, and the Cowboy, cites Roger McGrath, Gunfighters, Highwaymen, and Vigilantes (Apparently the Rule of Three is strictly enforced in this context. Possibly by vigilantes), as having found an annual robbery rate of 84 per 100,000 in the Sierra Nevada mining towns of Aurora and Bodie. I don’t have the latter reference in my library, alas, and I can’t find an unpaywalled version online. If it holds up, compare 84 per 100,000 to 102 per 100,000 for the United States as a whole in 2014. Theft is given at 180 per 100,000 in the Old West, 1837 per 100,000 today. Rape, for what little it is worth, is given as “essentially unknown”.
Lots of drunken brawling, not all of which could be kept knife- and gun-free. But if you stayed out of the bars during Angry Hour, and otherwise didn’t go looking for a fight, it seems like the fights didn’t come looking for you and you were safer there than in contemporary America.
* By definition, this mean theft by violent confrontation, not burglary or shoplifting or the like.
Couldn’t something similar be said of various ways of winding up in the way of violence in contemporary America? Seems to me that any society will have its “predictably violent” settings, and it’s not particularly useful to compare only the unpredictable violence from society A to the total violence from society B.
Couldn’t something similar be said of various ways of winding up in the way of violence in contemporary America?
Yeah, sort of. The violence reflected in contemporary America’s murder rate is something you can mostly opt out of if you understand the problem. The violence reflected in the robbery rate, not so much, because the robbers will follow the money.
Which is to say, Aurora and Bodie were probably a bit safer(*) than contemporary America if safety is what you were after, and a lot more fun if recreational violence is what you were after.
But in an absolute sense, scale matters. Aurora and Bodie were small towns with essentially no native population, making it almost trivial to opt out by not going there in the first place. Telling someone born and raised in South Detroit that, sure, they can opt out of the violence, they just have to not socially interact with anyone else in Detroit, is a bit tougher.
* Counting only violence-related risks; you don’t want to know what OSHA would have to say about the mines…
South Detroit is Windsor, Canada, so it’s actually fairly easy to avoid dealing with Detroiters if you so desire.
I’m still not buying it. Rob K is right in pointing out that you can’t compare “only the unpredictable violence from society A to the total violence from society B”, and using anything other than homicide (especially rape–do I really need to explain why?) to compare disparate societies to each other is a hopeless endeavor. From “The Anti-Reactionary FAQ”:
The idea that one could “opt out” of violence on the frontier in a way that one can’t nowadays reeks of pure fantasy. In any case, while violent crime is generally evenly distributed between strangers and acquaintances, homicide shows a very strong bias toward known offenders. (Figure 4.)
Again, a minimum count of the homicide rate in Dodge City in the Old West makes it ten times as murderous as modern-day Chicago, which is a relatively violent city, as well as being far, far denser. (It’s seventy times that in New York City.) Your handwavey conclusion that the Old West was safer than a modern-day city is pure fantasy, largely based on the utterly unquantitative work of a Lost Cause apologist with a vested interest in valorizing that portion of the past.
I’m open to having my mind changed on this, but the evidence looks positively overwhelming.
“The murder rate tends to track the crime rate in general”
“violent crime is generally evenly distributed between strangers and acquaintances”
“homicide shows a very strong bias toward known offenders”
I don’t see how you can claim all three of these things simultaneously. If murder tracks violent crime generally, and violent crime generally happens between strangers as often as acquaintances, the murder should happen between strangers as often as acquaintances. It doesn’t, so I think one of those assumptions has got to go.
And the one that has to go is I think the one where murder is a good proxy for violent crime generally. Because we already know that one has holes in it. For robbery, we get a surprisingly constant rate of ~100 reported offenses per 100,000 person-years in societies as diverse as Old West mining towns, the contemporary United States, and the contemporary United Kingdom. Murders, or at least homicides, were relatively common in the Old West, relatively rare in the modern UK, and somewhere in between in the modern US.
The simplest model I can find to fit the observed facts is that there are two different patterns of criminal violence at work. One, predatory violence, is directed at strangers and typified by robbery. Is there any society in which robbery (not theft) of acquaintances is at all common? The other pattern is violent resolution of social disputes, which almost necessarily occurs between acquaintances. And is most commonly going to be unreported simple assaults, but murders-of-strangers is may be a good proxy.
These two types of violence do not necessarily track each other. The contemporary United Kingdom has as much predatory violence as anywhere else in the Anglosphere, but any social violence is clearly being kept well below murderous levels. The Old West had an awful lot of uncontrolled social violence, but was no worse and maybe a little better than the contemporary US and UK when it comes to predatory violence.
Well, among whites at least. Predatory violence between Cowboys and Indians is another matter entirely.
As for “opting out”, ReluctantEngineer already noted that after the most famous gunfight in the Old West, the people of Tombstone opted to have everybody involved on both sides get out of town, and ultimately made it stick.
I don’t know about “modern day city”, but I’ve seen comparisons between Tombstone Arizona and Chicago of the late-1800s, in which Chicago was the more violent city.
I have definitely heard arguments that the Wild West wasn’t actually very violent.
(Fun fact about the Gunfight at the OK Corral: the surviving losers tried to have the winners charged with murder, with the support of the local sheriff and the district attorney. There was a lengthy investigation, witness testimony was collected, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were jailed during the proceedings, etc. The shootout was Very Controversial).
Both sides had an argument that they were the law. For a long time, the people there would tell you the Earps were in the wrong.
More people died of snakebite than of gunshots.
The violence of the West is part of the mythos, and it’s hard to separate reality from the stories we’ve been telling ourselves for centuries.
A person from the Boston dock-side slums would probably find the West peaceful and full of…well, nothing, but the folks that were there were disinclined to rob or murder the Boston man. A person from a quiet Quaker farming town would find “the West” rough, rowdy, and full of people willing to use violence to get what they wanted. Places with lots of bored unmarried men – like cow camps, mining camps, and army posts – were, well, like places with lots of bored unmarried men.
As a Californian who has had multiple run-ins with rattlesnakes in otherwise-civilized suburbs, I could totally believe that snakebite fatalities among immigrants from Europe or city slickers from the Atlantic seaboard who didn’t know how to deal with rattlers or copperheads might have been shockingly high.
I read a study of a mining boom town a few decades ago. There was a lot of single men shooting and knifing each other, sometimes in duels, sometimes spontaneously, but the relatively small number of women were quite safe. One prostitute was murdered during the years studied, but her killer was immediately lynched. Schoolmarms and the like were inviolate.
The West had its rough spots (most boomtowns for the first year or so, before people got sick of daily stabbings and drunken shootouts), but was overall pretty peaceful. Part of this may have been the low population density, partly the necessity of staying on good terms with one’s neighbors, given the realities of life at the time.
Rootless, greedy and drunken young men acted pretty much as they have always acted, but this tended to be relegated to the bleeding edge of gold rushes and the like. Some people will take a six-month period in Dodge or something, and extrapolate hilariously high murder rates, but those tended to smooth out pretty quickly once the law got enforced.
As to the native Indians, most of the violence against them was by the government, but it was largely because these rough groups of pioneers kept chasing gold into indian territory, then screaming for help from the Army when the Indians acted as they usually did.
More successful than Mohammed?
Or Temujin, first Khan of the Mongol empire, or Alexander of Macedonia?
Depends what you mean by successful, but what do we do now only because of Temujin? What did Alexander put in place that stands today? Mohammed, maybe, but if you can pin even a chunk of the ascendancy of modern liberalism on William Penn, that’s a damned hefty legacy.
Also, if you consider only achieving positive change as being successful, Penn probably shoots way way past the others on that list (depending on your values, I guess).
The immortality through procreation types worship Temujin as a god.
“It occurs to me that William Penn might be literally the single most successful person in history.”
Another candidate would be Benjamin Franklin, who was almost comically successful at everything he tried. He was pretty much of an atheist at 21 but by 80 was convinced that Somebody up there had to be looking out for him because what else could explain all the good fortune he’d enjoyed?
All those people were friends of the admins of the giant ancestor simulator we all live in, having a full immersion adventure.
I thought, that original red tribe / blue tribe piece was an allegory, that used a somewhat hyperbolical and certainly clicheed image of the “typical” voter of the red and the blue party respectively to make an observation about ingroups and outgroups. I thought it to be implicitly understood that “the” x-tribe is a stereotype and that in reality a given individual will be red in one regard and blue in another and basically vote the lesser evil.
This model, or at least so I thought, could be applied not only to the original example of tribes but also to traditional two-party conservative/socialist splits e. g. in UK, France and Germany [albeit these systems being on the verge of a meltdown and the “blue tribe’s” party traditionally using the color red] or the urban / rural divide as observed in basically every modern civilisation or academia vs. everyone else or basically any case of “them” and “us” in history ever. The author went on in the ideology / movement piece to argue that most of it is semiotics anyway. The actual characteristics of tribe members are only relevant in the early “stages” of “pre-existing differences [and] a rallying flag”.
In short: it is accepted theory that ingroup behaviour is deeply ingrained in “the human nature” and here is our host pointing out interesting ways in which this can surface. The real kicker though is that “red” and “blue” are incredibly intuitive concepts. Eagelism and Rattlerism are arbitrary, made-up ideologies. Nevertheless, we can intuit that “proper-and-moral” Eagelism is “blue” and “rough-and-tough” Rattlerism is red.
Let’s run with that idea:
There are two ways to coordinate a society, the red way and the blue way, which are fundamental in that we can intuitively assign answers to political and societal questions their respective color. The actual society has converged to neither singular coordination point. Both, political parties and individuals tend to prefer different modes of coordination for different problems. However democracies typically end up in having one more blue and one more red party. Surely a grand theory.
Let”s apply this to the subject at hand:
Due to “pre-existing differences [and] a rallying flag” in combination with the lesser mobility of past times, localized groups of people tend to arrive at prefering the red way or the blue way in the majority of questions. Once “the other way” gains the upper hand, they flee to America. There they do not suddenly change their preferences, because why would they, they flew to avoid just that. Instead, in the new world, they seek out living conditions that match their preferences, preferably in the vincinity of like-minded others, because this is what people do. This in turn induces a certain geographic distribution of preferences and such things tend to be persistent. The process described continues to the day and therefore we still have the same divergences of preferences in approximately the same geographic locations.
In short: The possibility to choose between red and blue politics causes tribes.
However the article at hand proposes the opposite. It may be shortened to:
17th century tribes cause red vs. blue politics.
I find this to be exceptionally out of line with the author’s earlier work and he seems to have trouble believing this degree of long-term influence himself. So I wonder, why is that?
I think these 17th century patterns are the pre-existing differences.
I understood that. What might not have come across is that I’d rather suggest that yes, 17th century patterns form the border in the 17th century red / blue divide but 21st century patterns form the border in the 21st century red / blue divide and there is a divide in the first place because politics come in red and blue.
In my theory, geography is persistent because incrementally the n+1 generation of reds gets along better with n-th generation’s reds than with their own generation’s blues, and therefore differences realign to geography. [E. g. rationalists gravitating to bay-area]
Other than that, red / blue divide is persistent where pre-existing differences are not. Otherwise you’d have to explain why proto reds and proto blues never underwent “development, and dissolution” as per your own theory.
So we are arguing opposite cause-effect direction, are we not?
>17th century tribes cause red vs. blue politics.
it’s more like “the folkways [David Hackett Fischer’s word of choice] of red tribe and blue tribe today are remarkably unchanged from the folkways of their ancestors 350 years ago.”
That wasn’t specifically Puritan; it goes back far enough to have been recognizably proverbial for Shakespeare’s audiences. (I think it’s medieval, though I’m having trouble finding a reference.) In Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice dismisses all men as unsuitable for marriage thusly:
OTOH, one notes that the Protestant reaction was strongly pro-marriage — partly because it was anti-monastical, but still pro-marriage. So it could have erupted about this time. Of course, the medieval tradition was not for the single life as such — you were expected either to marry, or to take vows and enter some order, thus making a commitment to singleness more definite even than marriage.
I note that Puritan captives during the wars were frequently handed over the French, and many were lodged with an order of nuns in Quebec. No less than six young women threw over the injunction entirely and took vows.
That’s 10 years before the Puritans moved to the US.
But Shakespeare wasn’t putting the line in the mouth of a Puritan character, or writing for Puritan audiences. If it was a common English idea at the time, that suggests it wasn’t a distinctive Puritan belief. (Unless there’s evidence that it originated or persisted longer with them.)
This (paywalled, JSTOR) article suggests it emerged in the 1570s or a little before as a Protestant, but not specifically Puritan belief. (But the article is over fifty years old, so there may be further scholarship that says otherwise.)
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.
Hmm. Settle a continent? Make the world safe for democracy? Make room for countless millions of refugees from failures of democracy? Establish women’s suffrage? Convince the French that you’re so awesome they should make a ginormous statue in your honor? Create more raw wealth than any other group of people in history? Defeat the Nazis? Walk on the Fucking Moon, just because you can?
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The best part about that Onion piece was the link to the page 13 editorial. Tech is easy, society is hard.
True. So should we have tried to settle some Border Reavers somewhere between Hanoi and Saigon, or would Puritans have worked better?
Emm. Vietnam already had its own rednecks.
Hill tribes gonna hill tribe. Appalachia, Switzerland, Chechnya, Kurdistan, Gorkha.
In Southeast Asian history, there’s the ‘Zomia thesis’, which basically says that the hill tribes headed for the hills to get lawns that centralized states wouldn’t get on. Some of these hill tribes (especially the Semai in Malaysia) are pacifists. But some aren’t.
In the mountainous, Sino-Tibetan-speaking northeast of India, there’s some Anglo-American influence. There were Protestant missionaries, and now there’s country music.
Now compare Zomia to the hippie movement. There’s nothing new under the sun.
Fischer is working on the cultural roots of the rest of the groups who came to America. In the course of checking on whether my memory of that was correct, I found this, which I recommend reading for the description of how he chose Brandeis as his academic home.
As for pessimism, it’s clear that cultures change sometimes, but it’s slow. Renaissance Italy didn’t have much in common with Rome. Modern Italy is yet another thing.
Another interesting fact about Quakers– they invented solitary confinement with sensory deprivation.
Yes, imprisonment as an alternative to the death penalty as punishment for serious crimes. Before the Quakers, long-term imprisonment was only for debtors.
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, built in 1829, is the first modern prison, and the term “penitentiary” comes from Quaker ideas about penitence and reform.
The cell blocks radiate from the center in a very distinctive pattern; flying into Philadelphia some years ago, I recognized it from above.
At Eastern State, prisoners in solitary confinement (systematically deprived of all human contact) went crazy. Eventually they had to rethink that strategy.
When Charles Dickens came to visit America, there were two specific things he really wanted to see: Niagara Falls and Eastern State Penitentiary.
Eastern State is in ruins now, but it is open for tours. It’s only a few blocks from the Museum of Art. Don’t miss it if you’re in the area.
Where did you read that the prisoners went crazy? I’m not doubting you (I don’t know anything about the prison), but Wikipedia says they abandoned the system because of overcrowding:
The article goes on to say that the Quaker influence was limited, and that in addition to mere solitary confinement, cruel punishments were imposed:
The confinement was apparently not strictly solitary (presumably apart from “The Hole”), as visitors were able to talk to the prisoners, though the prisoners weren’t allowed to invite friends or family to visit for personal reasons.
Thanks. I was going by memory of an NPR piece, but I haven’t been able to find it.
I’m having trouble remembering where I heard or read that. Possibly it was during the tour of the prison complex. I see that Wikipedia has it differently, but my understanding was that (at least originally) they put big cones or hoods completely over each inmate when moving them around the prison, so they wouldn’t see anyone.
Ah, here’s an article about Charles Dickens’ visit that confirms those impressions.
But that takes us back to the cultural founder effects which are the subject of the book reviewed above. The world’s first penitentiary appeared in the world’s most distinctively Quaker city. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
I don’t know. I have to say: I’m very sympathetic to the idea they had there. Deprivation of all human contact? Yeah, that’s probably bad.
But keeping the prisoners in separate cells and isolated from each other, so that there’s no “prison culture” that develops? And having them just allowed to work, to exercise, and to read in their cells? That sounds pretty good. Better than the current prison system, anyway.
I agree, but I suspect we’re somewhat more introverted than the average prisoner, who would see it as more cruel than we would.
I’m not saying they would find it fun, but it sounds like a nice combination of “unpleasant” (to deter crime) and “encourages reform, or at least doesn’t make them worse” (by not putting all criminals together in a separate cultural environment). Not with the cruel practices mentioned in the Wikipedia article, but a similar idea anyway.
Oh, yes, certainly, it would have objectively good consequences of limiting the use of prison as a criminal finishing school, I was just pointing out that a reason you may be underestimating the subjective misery.
I suspect Randy M and Vox Imperatis are underestimating the effect of pretty serious isolation that goes on for a long time + drab environment. There will probably be physical discomfort or worse.
From what I can gather, no one seems to like solitary, though there are some who prefer it to being with other prisoners.
I have some doubts about this because of the massive immigration into what was already the US of A during the latter half of the 19th century. You would expect millions of people coming every year to change the society a lot if it was this deterministic. True, the original settlers came to a land that was sparsely inhabited and the native Indians had probably no influence on the cultures of the settlers, whereas the 19th century immigrants came to an industrial country with its own culture(s) and could not just ignore the locals. But still you have a huge contrast between a few cultures having such a huge influence and then the later masses seemingly dissolving in the American melting pot. Maybe the later immigrants did not form tightly-knit groups and since they were spread out too thin among the locals, their identities and cultures merged into them.
If that is the case, it might be plausible. The Arabs and Muslims in the US seem to be way better assimilated to the American society than their European counterparts (but it could also be caused by different strata of Arab and Muslim societies coming into Europe and to the US). Also, there do not seem to be any uniquely Muslim enclaves in the US, whereas there are predominantly Muslim ghettos in France, Britain, Belgium, to a lesser degree Germany and Austria. Also, note that while European Jews managed to keep their culture (and even laws) for an impressively long time while being forcefully separated from the rest of the society, this became increasingly difficult once that separation ended.
The Puritans, Quakers and Borderes all had a separation by default – there was nobody else there. The later US immigrants did not and even though there may have been a lot of prejudice say against the Irish (as late as the time of Lovecraft…although he was probably an exception even in his time), it was nowhere near the level of medieval jewish ghettos, and maybe (but now I am getting especially speculative) modern European labour laws which, even though it is not their intention, may in fact be responsible for the very clear Muslim ghettos in Europe (this is partly supported by the fact that these seem to be the worst in France which is also the country with the most illiberal labour and other economic laws in the EU).
Similarly, the rather totalitarian-ish Singaporean emphasis on Singaporeanness and unity (with policies directly aimed at mixing the local diverse ethnicities) seems to also lead to the culture “melting” (and remaining in those areas where no pressure is applied such as cuisine or non-political religion). Of course, this is all hand-waving. A study of immigration (and its structure) to the US over all of its history would be very interesting. USA seems to be the ideal example, as Europe has until recently not been an “immigration land” at all and still is not in the sense the US (or Brazil for example) is.
The thing about a melting pot is that you need quite a lot of heat to actually get to the point where people are malleable.
Germans in the US, for example, had a separate ethnic identity and language that English Americans had seen as a threat since Benjamin Franklin. They had settled heavily in the formerly Dutch and Swedish colonies, as well as Pennsylvania and a few other enclaves, from very early on and new waves of German immigrants would periodically arrive to join them. It wasn’t until the legal suppression of the German language around the first world war that they were really forced to assimilate into broader white American culture.
That is, it doesn’t seem that unusual that immigrants, particularly those that come in large numbers, will form separate communities and maintain their cultures even over centuries. Overcoming that inertia takes work.
If that is the case, then I find the “today’s Republicans are basically descendants of Borderers and possibly Cavaliers and today’s Democrats are descendants of Puritans and Quakers” even more oversimplifying. The US politics has changed considerably since the large migrant waves in the 19th century and one could probably construct a similar story about how Germans or Italians shaped the modern US politics. On the other hand, the voting patterns Scott shows on the map do seem to support his thesis.
What about the Irish or the Italians?
Also, what do you mean exactly by legal suppression of German language? I know that the US does not officially have an official language but it has always been English for all intents and purposes. If insisting on having legal documents in English was enough for the Germans to assimilate into the larger American society (similarly for the Italians) then it is really not all that hard, i.e. you do not probably need to go all the way the Singaporean way (although Singapore is a country started 50 or so years ago with no history in an area where everyone had their own roots and loyalties, so there the “need” to build a unified national identity was probably stronger).
I would really love to see an Albion’s Seed style analysis which included various waves of immigration and the national origins of modern African American populations. It sounds like it would be very enlightening.
No, it wasn’t just legal documents. They closed down the German-language schools and newspapers, and removed German books from public libraries. People were afraid to speak German in public, both for fear of mob violence and because of the risk of being seen as disloyal by a government that was paranoid about German spies.