Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Pt. 3 Pride, Money, Sex and So Much More – by Amanda S. Green


Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Pt. 3

Pride, Money, Sex and So Much More – by Amanda S. Green

Thomas Sowell is one of those writers who challenge you to consider “truths” you’ve held for years. He tears holes in the revisionist histories and narratives being taught in schools today and, yes, yesterday. Some of his comments and observations are uncomfortable. But he makes you think. That is his strength and that is the danger he presents to those who blindly push the narrative – any narrative. It is one of many reasons it is so important to read his work.

“Observers of the white population of the antebellum South often commented not only on their poverty but also on their lack of industriousness or entrepreneurship.” (BRAWL, p. 13) Coming from Texas, which isn’t really part of the South but is close enough, that comment rubs against the grain. The image so many of us have of the antebellum South is of a region suffering after the war. It was an area where a way of life had been challenged and changed and where General Sherman and others laid waste to towns and fields, burning them as they rode through. Then there were the carpetbaggers, those evil Northerners (not really, but that’s the image often given in schools at one time) who came in to take advantage of the situation.

Contemporaries described many Southerners as “too poor to keep slaves and too proud to work.” (BRAWL, pg. 13) Others commented on their “lack of industriousness or entrepreneurship.” (ibid) Frederick Law Olmsted called it “lazy poverty,” where they basically did only what was necessary to get by. According to Sowell, “When Olmsted found work done efficiently, promptly, and well during his travels through the South—when he found well-run businesses, good libraries, impressive churches, and efficiently functioning institutions in general—he almost invariably found them to be run by Northerners, foreigners, or Jews.” (BRAWL, pg 14)

One example Sowell gives is that of butter. The South had as much, if not more cattle than the North. Yet its dairy production was much lower. As a result, butter had to be imported from the North. According to one source cited by Sowell, where butter wasn’t imported, it was made locally. However, it was made by people of non-Southern origin. These local sources were almost always found to be under German or Swiss management. Why was this? “German farmers, wherever they were located, tended to build fences and huge barns for their livestock, and to feed them there during the winter. Southerners more often let their cows and hogs roam freely during the winter, even though this meant that “in the spring they turned up half starved and it took the summer for them to put on normal weight.” (BRAWL, p. 16) This is a trend that continued until the 1930’s when the South produced something in the area of only 7% of the nation’s processed dairy products.

In other words, those German farmers did more than the least amount of work necessary to get by.

Lest you think Sowell relied only on Northerners and foreigners in describing Southern whites after the Civil War, far from it. “No southern man,” South Carolina’s famed Senator John C. Calhoun said, “not even the poorest or the lowest, will, under any circumstances … perform menial labor…. He has too much pride for that.” General Robert E. Lee likewise declared: “Our people are opposed to work. Our troops officers community & press. All ridicule & resist it.” (BRAWL, p. 18)

Specifically, here some of the traits Sowell points out with regard to Southern whites:

  • Disdained business as a career
  • More concerned with entertainment than business
  • Improvident spending and indebtedness
  • Not being alert to profitable investment potential (for example, importing coal instead of mining it locally)
  • As late as WWI, white soldiers from Georgia,Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi scored lower on mental tests than black soldiers from Ohio, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania. (BRAWL, p. 23)
  • A more casual approach to sex and sexually provocative attire
  • A more “enthusiastic” approach to religion (holy rollers, charismatic, etc.)
  • A melodramatic and emotional oratorical style

In other words, much of what plagued the South for so many years, both before and after the Civil War was missed opportunities.

It would be easy to sit here and simply list all the facts and figures Sowell discusses in the essay. Frankly, I’d love to do it because I find it all fascinating. Not only because it makes me think about what I thought I knew about the South, but also in light of some of my own family. My father’s family came to Oklahoma from Kentucky and Tennessee. So much of what I heard and saw about that branch of the family conforms with what Sowell writes. In fact, it runs so close to it that it’s scary and I’m thrilled my father broke away from the mold (and I thank goodness for my mother’s family’s Pennsylvania and New Jersey roots).

Don’t get me wrong. I loved my dad’s family. Yes, loved. Unfortunately, the last of his siblings passed away a few years ago. The cousins have spread across the country and we’ve lost contact with one another, with a few exceptions. The reason for the latter is really simple. It would be easy to explain it away as distance and having busy lives. But that would be the excuse. The real reason is because most of us were uncomfortable with the lifestyle of the previous generations. It’s not that we were embarrassed by it, at least not to the point of shunning the previous generation. It was more a desire not to be pulled into it.

When I read the description of the Southern whites, my first thought was, “Damn, he’s describing my family”. They did what was necessary to get by and not much more. My grandmother always fell back on her family pride, especially if any of us grandkids asked why she or one of the aunts uncles hadn’t done something to better their condition. We’d get the story about the grandmother who was one of the first women doctors in the Indian Territory. Of course, there were no record. The courthouse burned down. Yes, that courthouse. That fictional courthouse where all the fictitious family records from all over the country had been kept.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we can see this mentality, this almost inbred way of thinking, in our own families if we look. It’s not fun seeing it, much less admitting it is in your own bloodline. It is also this sort of introspection certain folks ought to be making when they turn their attention to today’s social issues. Not that they will because they aren’t about to do anything to rock their comfortable liberal boat of “right think”.

If you were to remove every instance of “white” used above and were to read the comments without any identifier, what section of society would you assume Sowell was writing about? No, this isn’t any sort of intellectual trap or liberal “Aha, this proves you’re racist!” moment. I don’t play those games. To me, the answer simply proves that there is a connection, as Sowell contends, between the behavior we’re seeing today in some sub-sets of the African-American community and the behaviors and beliefs of Southern Whites.

Much of the cultural pattern of Southern rednecks became the cultural heritage of Southern blacks, more so than survivals of African cultures, with which they had not been in contact for centuries. . . Moreover, such cultural traits followed blacks out of the Southern countrysides and into the urban ghettos—North and South—where many settled. (BRAWL, p. 27)

For example, some speech patterns and words now considered to be “black English” have their roots in the dialects of the regions of England where white Southerners originated. Those patterns of speech died out long ago in England and, eventually, in the South. However, they continue, according to Sowell, in “black English”.

Where a northerner said, “I am,” “You are,” “She isn’t,” “It doesn’t,” and “I haven’t,” a Virginian even of high rank preferred to say “I be,” “You be,” “She ain’t,”“ It don’t,” and “I hain’t.” …These Virginia speechways were not invented in America. They derived from a family or regional dialects that had been spoken throughout the south and west of England during the seventeenth century.

From these same regions of England came such words as “yaller” for “yellow,” “ax” for ask, “acrost” for “across,”“y’awl” for “you,” “bile” for “boil,” “do’ ” for “door,” “dis” for “this” and “dat” for “that.” Many of these usages have long since died out in England, though the word “chittlins” for hog entrails continued to be used in some localities in England, even in the twentieth century, as such usage remained common among black Americans. But no such words came from Africa. Nor did the holiday Kwaanza, which originated in Los Angeles. The slaves’ custom of marking their marriages by jumping over a broomstick—a custom resurrected at a posh wedding among blacks in twentieth-century New York, as a mark of racial identity—was in fact a pagan custom in Europe in centuries past and survived for a time among Southern whites. (BRAWL, pp 27-28)

Taking language as one indicator, it appears evident that there is at least one sub-set of the African-American community that absorbed their culture from Southern whites and, in a more distant fashion, from parts of England.

  1. E. B. Du Bois’ painted the following picture of his fellow blacks in the 1890s: Probably few poor nations waste more money by thoughtless and unreasonable expenditure than the American Negro, and especially those living in large cities. Thousands of dollars are annually wasted…in amusements of various kinds, and in miscellaneous ornaments and gewgaws…. (BRAWL, p. 28)

That sounds a great deal like one of the descriptions of the Southern white male after the Civil War, doesn’t it?

For the lower socioeconomic classes among blacks, Gunnar Myrdal’s descriptions of them near the middle of the twentieth century still bore a remarkable resemblance to descriptions of Southern whites and their regional forebears in Britain, including “less resourcefulness,” “disorganized” family life, “lax” sexual morals, and “recklessness,” with tendencies toward aggression and violence. (BRAWL pp, 28-29)

Myrdal also noted, “the so-called ‘Negro dialect’ is simply a variation on the ordinary Southern accent,” that religious “emotionalism was borrowed from and sanctioned by religious behavior among whites” in the South, and that the “Negro trait of audaciousness is characteristic of white Southerners too.” (BRAWL, pg 29)

Writing the post this morning, I realized I’d been considering what Sowell and the others had to say while I slept. Something about it resonated with me on an unconscious level. It took time for it to work through to my subconscious and, when it did, it was like I was part of one of those old V-8 commercials. It was the smack to the forehead, followed quickly by a “Duh! Why didn’t I see that before?” sort of moment.

You see, it made me think and consider beliefs I’d had, beliefs engrained by our education system (both public and college). But this morning, everything Sowell said struck home. I recognized a lot of what he discussed about Southern culture, especially poor white Southern culture in the antebellum South. How did I recognize it? Simple. It was like looking at a description of my father’s family. Almost every cultural trait Sowell discussed could be used in the check-off list of problems with Dad’s family.

Then I compared his family with my mother’s and more of what Sowell said came into focus. My dad’s family, on both sides, came from the area of the South Sowell writes about. They immigrated to Texas (my grandfather’s side) shortly before the Civil War broke out. Much as I hate to admit it, they came with a handful of slaves between the large, extended family. I knew that much from genealogical research I’d done. (And I got raked over the coals by my dad’s siblings for finding that black eye, let me tell you)

His family — as well as my grandmother’s — never really broke out of the mindset they brought with them from the South. They did just enough work to get by. The men would leave work for a good fight or a drink or other types of “fun” at the drop of a hat. The women were “dainty” and prone to the vapors. Proud? Hell yeah and to a fault and often at their own expense (both male and female). Education was seen as a necessary evil to keep the State off their backs where the kids were concerned.

That tendency to follow the old Southern culture that had been brought with the family started breaking with my father’s generation. Not with all the kids, mind you. But with some. It continued, to a lesser extent, in my generation. But still, there are more of the cousins who would rather drink and fuck and be “laid back” than work — and that’s their lifestyle. It is only in my son’s generation that I can see a true break from the mold. Almost every one of his generation has gone to college, gone into a profession and made something of themselves.

Mom’s family, conversely, follows what Sowell said about the German and Dutch immigrants and the differences between Northern cultural attitudes and Southern at the time of the Civil War and after. What polar opposites the two families were and are. The Schalls and Thrashers, the Wilkinsons and Fergusons, worked hard to make a better life for themselves and their children. They weren’t afraid of taking chances if the probability of success was there. Education was a must, and everyone was expected to do their fair share around the house and in business. Sitting here today, all I can do is thank my lucky stars to have her side of the family in my background because the alternative scares the shit out of me, especially as I take a hard look at what my father’s family.

As Sowell points out, there is evidence to support at least the idea that some of the traits we see in certain sub-sets of today’s African-American community have their roots in Southern society. More than slavery is involved. It was a culture that went back to certain parts of England that helped form not only the culture of the Southern white but of the African-Americans who originated there.

The neglect and disdain of education found among antebellum white Southerners has been echoed not only in low performance levels among ghetto blacks but perhaps most dramatically in a hostility toward those black students who are conscientious about their studies, who are accused of “acting white”—a charge that can bring anything from social ostracism to outright violence. (BRAWL, pg 30)

As noted just after the above quote, we have, as a society, spent a great deal of time looking at the question of ability and not enough time looking at the question of cultural attitudes. Professor Shelby Steele has written about seeing a determination not to learn, at least not in school. This is in contrast to “a study of West Indian blacks in the United States noted that “the Negro immigrants, particularly the British West Indians, bring a zest of learning that is not typical of the native-born population.” (BRAWL, p. 32) It would appear from this that there is something to the idea that cultural attitudes play a very large role in what we see in the different communities and how they adapt, adjust and succeed in society today.

Sowell also notes, in looking at these differences in attitude, that “Nor can slavery [be blamed], since native-born blacks and West Indian blacks both had a history of slavery. (BRAWL, p. 33) So what’s the explanation?

With blacks as with whites, the redneck culture has been a less achieving culture. Moreover, that culture has affected a higher proportion of the black population than of the white population, since only about one-third of all whites lived in the antebellum South, while nine-tenths of all blacks did. From the 1960s onward, much of the transplanted Southern culture would—like “black English”—be seen as sacrosanct features of a distinctive black “identity,” despite their mirroring very similar cultural patterns among Southern whites in times past. (BRAWL, p. 33)

Education, as well as the growing realization of the negative impact of this cultural attitude and its counterproductive effects, has caused much the same change in cultural attitudes among a number of African-Americans, as it has with Southern whites. So, can we really say the Southern culture has such a firm hold on some sub-sets of the African -American culture today? Can we say there is such a linear relationship between that Southern culture and today’s African-American culture to have any impact?

Those are questions we’ll look at in the next post when we finish up this essay. As I said earlier, Sowell makes you think. At least he does me. That makes it difficult to sum up what he says in a few paragraphs or even a few pages. Part of me would prefer to post the entire essay for you to read and then just throw the floor open for discussion. But I can’t – copyright, you know. So, I’ll do the next best thing. I’ll quote and discuss the text and examine my own thoughts and beliefs. It might not always be comfortable, but it is important. After all, the only way to move forward and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past is to learn from them. To do so, we have to recognize those mistakes first.



[For raising the tone of this blog — ATH is culture! — and helping me with the exposing of the roots of the current mess — in her case with more facts! — if you decide to  send the woman a drink–  And her Amazon author page is here –  Also, she has a new book: Light Magic, under her Ellie Ferguson pen name. SAH]

229 thoughts on “Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Pt. 3 Pride, Money, Sex and So Much More – by Amanda S. Green

  1. Embarrassing family history, and the discovery thereof, has entered a new era with the wide availability of genetic testing. If one signs up for testing, one has to sign waivers acknowledging that it’s possible that the test results might contradict family history or genealogical sequencing to a major degree.

    It must be fascinating to be on the testing side of that commercial transaction (specifically their IT folks, who of course see everything, and are thus hopefully honorably discreet) and watch the various connections light up in the database.

    1. Agreed, although my faith in those tests isn’t high, especially considering some of the stories I’ve seen of late. As for my family, even though Dad’s family suffered from the Southern cultural problems, they didn’t hide the fact there was Cherokee in our blood either. In fact, Dad’s generation took pride in it – and detested the grandfather who sold their Indian rights. Unlike Fauxcahontas, I can trace my lineage back to the Trail of Tears and before.

      1. Wow. Wonder if we’re related? I recently found a note online written by the last of 14 Moore siblings of my dad’s generation to die, where he traced the Cherokee history Grandma Etta’s side of the family back to the 1700s. My dad, who fled Oklahoma (as the joke says, as soon as he found out he could leave) very much downplayed our Indian roots. We were cut off it we ever asked about it. Trail of Tears, and all that. I’m at least 1/64 Cherokee through that one early ancestor alone, probably a lot more.

        But it explains so much. My grandparents seemed to have cashed in on some federal land grant programs to put together a huge spread near Claremore (neighbors: the Rogers family – yes, that Rogers) that they then lost in the Great Depression. Dad and couple younger brothers fled west, but most of the rest stayed. When we visited as a child (very rarely) we met a proud old spinster aunt in a tiny cute old house; and lots of relatives in doublewides with cars on blocks, etc.

        Dad was possessed of a rather bitter ambition, and was quite the success, certainly in comparison. But he was unable, mostly, to pass it on: only two of his 5 sons did a traditional college/career/marriage/family route; two never did any, and definitely took the do the minimum approach. But mom’s family – Czech immigrants from east Texas – had the Czech love for learning and tradition of hard work. I come from a very weird family. I could describe my childhood as idyllic, and as something out of Prince of Tides. Both are true.

        Time to spit in the tube.

        1. I ‘speck ya’ll find Sowell’s upcoming essay on German (and Eastern European) History quite informative. You might want to buy the book (accessible at Amazon via links embedded in Sarah’s book covers, above right – Sarah gets some slight vigorish from every purchase thus accessed) and read ahead.

          Cherokee culture was, in many senses, an advancement over that of the Crackers. They readily adapted to “The White Man’s Ways” as those paralleled many traits within the Cherokee Way, and (according tot he Cherokee) rather out-stripped the Whites’ economic success. That this did not greatly endear them to the Crackers explains much of the cultural antipathy which followed.

          It is useful to keep in mind that nobody can help what culture they’re born into and that these essays are merely descriptive, reflecting the need to see clearly before attempting to “fix” a problem. As Sowell will point out before this essay’s end, treating the “Cracker” Culture as an authentically African-America heritage is responsible for the continuance of much of the social ills plaguing the African-American community. As WSJ editor Jason Riley requested s plaintively in the title of his recent book, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.

          1. Some friends of mine are related to a Cherokee who was so (misguidedly) confident in assimilation that he spent a lot of money to build a lovely house that is a state landmark in Georgia now. (Not only do they share his last name, the brother is visibly related to the portrait of the son of the confident builder—I think that’s the one that actually got his land and goods taken and who went on the Trail of Tears.)

            As you can imagine, Andrew Jackson is one of their least favorite Presidents.

          2. Your comments about how Sowell concludes the essay are exactly why I didn’t try to get all the way through it this time. He has so much to say — and causes me to think so much about the topic — in the last section or two that I didn’t want to rush it.

            1. I think you’re spending about the right amount of time on each segment thus far — long enough to cover all major points, not so long as to drag it out so we forget the starting point by the time we reach the end.

              I think subsequent essays might require less time as Sowell is clearly using a similar format for each of these, which will facilitate briefer summarization.

              But Sowell is like fine whiskey, too strong, too tasty, to gulp hastily

      2. There was a family legend about how one of our ancestor immigrated to Quebec so early that he married an Indian woman for the lack of white women.

        Research has found them both. Also his second, white wife, who bore all his children.

        Best I’ve got is that up the Acadian branch of the family tree, there are a few women who, as far as the records go, could have just appeared on their wedding days.

      3. My paternal (grandmother’s side) great-great grandfather married a Cherokee woman back in the 1870’s. I have an old photograph of them from the 1890’s, and it’s obvious she was an Indian. Occasionally the Cherokee comes out, like it did for my youngest brother and my grandmother, darker skin, high cheekbones, thick blackish hair. Myself and my brothers and male cousins all tan very easily in the summer.

        They lived most of their lives in the Piney Woods of East Texas, as great-great granny did not want to go back to the Oklahoma territory. Great-great grandpa Sanders was a sharecropper farmer and probably was one of those do enough to get by types, as he never amounted to much in his lifetime. I know great-grandpa Sanders was that kind of footloose type. I heard lots of stories about uncles and cousins from the Sanders clan that confirms Dr. Sowell’s book.

  2. I was raised by grandparents who were born turn of the last century. They lived in a small Illinois farming community, owned the local bakery, and several other commercial properties as well. They were successful business people through both World Wars and the Great Depression. From earliest times I can remember they had a rather extensive truck garden in the back yard with fruits and vegetables that were eaten fresh or put up in Mason jars to store away in the root cellar.
    When I moved to Alabama I was curious about the history of the community I now called home. One story that stuck in my head was the actions of the cotton farmers during the depression when the market for cotton tanked. Those farmers plowed up their front yards to plane even more cotton because a landowner growing their own food simply wasn’t done. That was the sort of thing a sharecropper did. Thankfully most of that attitude has faded away, though you will still see vestiges of it in some southern policies and practices.

    1. I’m not surprised by the story. It’s sort of like what my grandparents did during that same time. They had a small farm and grew food crops. But they sold them and then went to town to buy their own food or traded with neighbors. The very thought of growing for themselves was an anathema to my grandmother.

  3. Disdained business as a career
    More concerned with entertainment than business
    Improvident spending and indebtedness

    How to phrase this….

    This attitude is something that, proverbially, belongs to the ultra-high class of the idle rich. (at least according to my personal biases.)

      1. And a subset of those ancestrally rich. Very few new-money “I made this all myself” first generation rich person would just switch over to idle-richness when they reached a certain bank balance, but I think the second or especially third generation moneyed can easily fall into this trap, with the resources to make it work, for given values of “work” (see: The Kennedys).

        The interesting thing about the Sowell premise is that those immigrants from the UK had absorbed it without the means to make it actually work, yet retained it across generations.

        1. Although the entrepreneurial class tend NOT to become leeches their children often get bad habits by be given things without having to work for them. I attended a private high school where many of these folks also attended. One particular egregious example was a young lady that for her 16th birthday was presented with a Mercedes 300 (350?) class SLK soft top in lipstick red. Within about a month she had wrapped it around a tree. Luckily she survived the experience with (minimal) impact (pardon the pun). Daddy kindly provided her with replacement (although a much less potent one). As far as I can tell her life went on like this up to graduation and beyond. Certainly at the 5 year reunion she was still struggling to graduate from Connecticut College for Women (Now Connecticut College) in some pointless major (Psychology? Dance? Drama? it was 30+ years ago). Other scions of the Nouveau Riche fared equally well. There was one that had ab 550 point total SAT score in the days where filling the bubbles for you name got you 400 points. He was inordinately proud of this achievement. The big issue for all theses folks seemed to stem from divorcing outcome from action. Bad actions had no bad results.

          1. In my experience such people as the lassie you describe are, whatever their Baccalaureate Degree, Drama majors.

      1. I’ve read that the South, especially Virginia, was populated by a lot of English nobility fleeing after Cromwell took over, so you got the planter/aristocrat type. Though there were also the Scottish clans, especially from the borders, where you didn’t build anything, you got rich by stealing from someone else – very primitive.

        1. Yup. There was a wave (I refer to it as Wave 1b) of immigration of political refugees after Cromwell won. It’s why you see the “Cavalier” theme common in Southern Maryland, Virginia, and parts of North Carolina.

          1. No kidding? I thought it was simply a fetish for poofy hats. As for the swords … well, I think we all know what that‘s about.

  4. ‘Tous que ca change, tous que c’est le meme chose’ (sorry, I can’t do the accents on this keyboard). But we’re seeing the same attitudes nowadays among university students who spend their time ‘having fun’ and then complain that the exams are too hard and they deserve higher-class degrees. One over here even sued her University for not educating her – and got thoroughly slapped down by a judge who told her she’d been there to study, not to play.

    1. Yep. We can thank the snowflake culture for that as well as the attitude of some parents that demanded their children never face the consequences of their actions — or inaction. These are the same parents who told their kids they could do anything they wanted but forgot to add the most important part of that saying — as long as they put their back into it and tried their hardest. They also forgot the corollary – that they would fail and would not always be the best at any given thing they tried.

      1. These are the same parents who told their kids they could do anything they wanted…

        My translation of this from the receiving end, and I think it has held up as I acheived tha lofty status of legally being able to say “You kids, get off my lawn!” was always “You can try anything you want, but succeeding is up to how hard you work, plus a degree of random chance, so make sure you have backup plans.”

        1. Absolutely. I could hear my folks saying just that as I read your comment. I don’t know how many times they told me that — just as they told me they’d let me fail and be there to help me back up. But deciding how to respond to the failure would be up to me. They just hoped I learned from it and moved forward instead of wallowing in self-pity. Why? Because I was the only one who could determine the path of my life. They could guide me and offer advice but the final decision had to come from me.

        2. I told my kids that they can’t be anything they want, that genes create limits. But they can do the best with what they have, and succeed in life. Goal setting and setting themselves apart have to be realistic.

          I also give the same lesson to each new crop of Scouts I get. I tell them straight out- only one person can be the star quarterback. Only one person can graduate #1 in the class. One person can be class president. Or POTUS, for that matter. And other examples of the same. But, I go on- only a small percentage of Scouts achieve Eagle. Which sets them apart from everyone else and gives them a big leg up in many careers. Well, any career actually. And that every single one of them CAN become an Eagle if they work at it- but it’s up to them. The leaders are here to help them if they want it, to encourage them to work for, but we’re not going to do it for them. I’ve been working with the same troop for about 20 years now. Every Life or Eagle Scout during that time is gainfully employed, but for those still in school. Including a few who quite frankly lacked the smarts to have gone on to college. But when they went job hunting, the Eagle Scout on their resume got them a job.

          Teaching children how to be a success and giving them the tools to do so is work. Used to be, like for people my age, 62 plus many -3, school, church, parents, neighbors, all taught the same cultural lessons. In 1963, 2nd grade, the Bible came off it’s lectern one day and was put on a shelf, never to be read from in a public school again. That would be the day that liberal judges started their systemic dismantling of American culture. Even if you don’t believe in God, following the other ones of 6 is a pretty good life guide. And I’d even include the 3rd as a guide- setting one day a week aside for family, friends, and reflection is a good thing.

          1. Scouting teaches one to fail, then to figure out how to succeed after failing. There are many points they can fail at. They have to succeed in ALL parts of the requirements. There is the work, then there is communicating both written & oral, sometimes both. My son never had any problem doing the work; again & again. Communicating it was a whole new level. He almost always did the written even if only verbal was required. He had to have the former to be able to talk out & discuss the requirement. We had other scouts where the opposite was true. They couldn’t write up the requirements until they had discussed them.

            It is relatively easy to get any scout that halfway wants 1st class, from scout to 1st Class. Getting a scout to Star, Life, & Eagle, well you can whine, yell, encourage, (metaphorically) kick butt, throw a tantrum, but unless they want it, they won’t advance to earn Eagle. No adult is ever sorry they earned Eagle, but those who did not preserver, that could, at sometime express regret.

            Yes, our son earned his Eagle.

            1. My elder older brother did not earn his Eagle—because the troop dissolved out from under him as he was planning his project. He was close enough to 18 (and a bit too much afflicted with the senioritis) to do the extra work necessary to have another group step in to help. My other brother got his Eagle, as did his entire Webelos group… every last one of them a “screaming Eagle” (getting the award just before the 18th birthday.)

              1. Screaming Eagles are quite common. In my personal experience, at least 40%. The one who’s now a school principal turned in his paperwork at 4PM the day before his 18th birthday. The Rainbow Council offices closed at 4PM back then….

              2. “troop dissolved out from under him as he was planning his project.”

                That’s what happened to husband. We had a troop dissolve too, but none of the boys were close to Eagle. We tried to keep the other 3 in, but no joy. Other troop lost boys because they moved across town &/or one (or more) parents were out of town & other parent (or guardian) wouldn’t transport. Tried taking over transportation, but there is only many times backup can take an extra hour (or more). We tried finding troops in those areas, but ultimately no joy. Scouts do the work for Eagle. But they need some support from guardian’s. If nothing else but getting them to activities.

                Our son was one of the “missing” parents. Dad got transferred to “middle-of-no-where-ville” (600 miles away) as son was planning Eagle, starting HS, & I wasn’t working. No choice, he went. If we’d actually moved, son probably would have gotten Eagle, if only because he’d have another 4 years, from that point, to work with new troop. Since I was just as involved in the troop & outdoor stuff, continuity ensued. Dad stayed active on outings, but he showed up either super late Friday, or early Saturday morning; even if we were backpacking.

                *FWIW as much as I whined about the transfer. Hubby not in service, it was not over seas. Just something we hadn’t worked into our plans.

                1. The dissolution in this case was very quick due to a minor scandal that thankfully never got past the early stages. The ASM had brought in a volunteer from The Acronym That Shall Not Be Named (because they seek out mentions and ew) and had started in on the troop. By the time the fallout had happened, there were all of three boys left—one my brother, who was aging out, one who left for unrelated reasons soon after, and one who ended up being the sole older Scout for a couple of years.

                  I was working at summer camp when the big case in Florida (where an out gay leader was suing the Scouts) happened, and at the time I knew that whichever way the verdict went, the BSA was going to be screwed over it. Even though their own literature and training made a very specific effort to point out that homosexuality and pedophilia were not related issues, the fact that they had to hit it so hard meant they were still conflated in people’s minds—and this was still only about ten years after the pedophilia scandals of the 80s. People weren’t ready for the idea yet.

                  1. whichever way the verdict went, the BSA was going to be screwed

                    Yes, it was obvious from the start that screwing Boy Scouts was their goal.

                    1. “whichever way the verdict went, the BSA was going to be screwed”
                      “Yes, it was obvious from the start that screwing Boy Scouts was their goal.”

                      Agree. Can’t answer for any other troop, but other than following two deep leadership, age requirement range for sharing tents (or not). The relevant supposedly (legal) limiting membership topics never came up, either for youth or leadership. Leadership was co-ed. Outings were co-ed as troop partnered with Venturing Crew of same number as soon as Venturing was available. Yes, we figured out how to work this for standard summer camp; wasn’t easy, but we did it. As far as confidential conversations between youth & leaders (2 deep leadership here), we let them know nothing was off the table … it was confidential. Don’t know if it ever came up, because (duh) confidential.

                      On the other “topic”: Area council & district had a couple of scandals (’90s) before we crossed over from cubs to scouts; one a registered leader (hadn’t been caught yet), one a parent who got foster son in scouts to get access, both adults active with local youth sports. In both cases, scouts, when approached, reported it & turned them in immediately, to all relevant legal, & scouting authorities. Reporters made a huge deal that scouting was involved, with barely a line mentioning the kids they accessed as “coaches”. What they conveniently left out, that Scouting STOPPED IT.

                      Anyone who thinks Girl Scouts, 4-H, or Campfire, or any other organized youth, group doesn’t have the same underlining problems, is blind & an idiot. Scouting has been hammered so hard, that there are required rules & training one must have to register as a leader; other groups aren’t there yet.

                  2. Troop failure more mundane. We had tried to restart a troop in our area which, although HS had an abundance of troops, they really did not cover our area (it is amazing the difference of a few miles). Had a lot of encouragement from cubs in the groups following us, & promised their kids would follow with a troop closer, that didn’t materialize/didn’t follow through, the sons of other 2 leaders got involved with other activities & dropped out with their parent, & ultimately was just not fair to our son. So, we first partnered then combined with one of the other troop from the HS. FWIW, the troop we partnered with has migrated to our neighborhood, chartered with the agency (original troop’s charter) that my son did his Eagle project for (old charter dropped troop because recent scouting “ethical changes”), & is stronger than ever, but this has occurred over the time since our son received Eagle & left for college.

                    After merging we couldn’t keep the kid of the family whose parents dropped the kid off drunk (parents not kid), the kid who was involved because he was a young cousin of a (remote) district executive’s wife whose parents (kid’s) fought over who had to have custody, no matter how much troop tried, they (the kids) were the ones who needed scouts. We lost the remaining 3 because of the distance from our neighborhood; never mind that we were doing all the driving because both of us were going anyway.

          2. Same here, Scoutmaster for 15 years, quite a few Eagles (including my 4 spawn), but I stressed they HAD to want it enough to work for it. T464 alumni Eagles include a school principal, baseball coach, 2-3 cops, 3 firemen, 1 member of Seal Team 6, 2 Marine infantrymen, 3 engineers, and 2 nuke navy reactor operators.

      2. Every time I hear or read that, I remember the novel where the three-year-old declared she would be a ladybug when she grows up.

        1. A technical writer friend of mine, when she was in 5th grade, wanted to be a little white house with a white picket fence when she grew up.

          Her teacher was disturbed by this revelation and set off to notify Faith’s mother about the problem. Mom considered the issue for a bit, then sighed and allowed as to how it sounded pretty nice to her.

    2. (Semi-)Pro-Tip: For accent marks without having to modify your keyboard there are several paths.

      The simplest is to plug the desired phrase into a search engine and then copy/paste the resulting phrase from the s/e results into your writing page:
      ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.’

      As can be noted, this is not precisely the phrase employed. Two solutions are available. In the first instance we could simply employ a one-foe-one substitution of characters requiring diacritical marks — resorting, if need be, to Microsoft’s character map, a process altogether more tedious than such comments likely merit except to the extreme perfectionist (who will undoubtedly perpetrate a typing error in compensation for such punctilious attention to diacritical marks.)

      The second method entails opening a browser tab to one of the many translation apps, typing in the English equivalent of your phrase and copy/paste the French/Latin/Polyglot result into the comment window. This requires you have rough knowledge of both the English and desired [your language here] translation for idiomatic phrasing, but it can be quite simple.

      Or, of course, you can simply put it up undiacritically.

      1. I have a word processing file named “ALT” on all my computers. Hold the alt key down and using the number keypad NOT the top lines, you get your characters. ALT135=ç ALT 145=æ and so on.

        The ones I use most often-ALT 171=½. ALT172=¼ ALT 167=º, ALT 0153=™

        All (almost) the special characters are available in this manner.

          1. On Linux, the Compose key (see my comment below) serves this same function, in a way that’s much easier to remember. On a Mac, the Option key allows to you type an alternate set of characters, though the last time I owned a Mac was more than ten years ago so I don’t remember whether it’s easy to remember the Option key combos or not.

            1. The ones you use fairly often, yes. Others not so much. But there is a virtual keyboard that you can bring up from the menu bar, which makes things easy.

              1. Or you can simply hold Option down and start pressing likely keys, which is what I do. `¡™£¢§ˆ¶•ªº–≠œ˙´®þ¥¨ʼø,“‘«¯ßðƒ©ˍ˝˚-…æˀ.¸ˇ˘˜˛≤≥÷ (and adding Shift gets you a whole lot more.)

        1. Also, known as the ASCII key set. Difference is the standard qwerty English keyboard auto enters the ASCII key stroke for the A – Z, 0 – 9, & special characters defined. How various OS platforms allow one to get to the other ASCII items depends on implementation. The ALT + ASCII number of the character you want, is how Windows platforms define it. Don’t know about Apple or others. (

      2. Or the third option, use Linux. Linux has a feature called the Compose key, which can be assigned to one of a dozen different keys in the keyboard options; I picked the Windows key for mine, since I never use it for anything else in Linux. You then press the Compose key as if it were a normal key (i.e., NOT like a Shift key; you just type it like it was a letter) and it makes the next two or three characters “compose” into a single character in a way that makes sense mnemonically.

        For example, if I press the Compose key, then press e, then press ` (the “backtick” key found in the upper left of the keyboard just below the ~), the result is è. If I press Compose, then a, then ^, the result is â. Compose, then, c, then comma, produces ç. And so on.

        There are other combinations too, like Compose+o+o to make ° so I can type the phrase 360° easily. Or Compose+a+e to make æ, or Compose+m+u to make µ (the Greek letter mu, used as the “micro” symbol in “microseconds”), and so on. Not every single letter can be typed this way (there’s no default way to type the letter π, a strange omission), but every accented character I need often can be easily typed with an easy-to-remember Compose key combo. So when I’m writing about Tolkien’s works, I can easily write about Lórien or Khazad-dûm, rather than writing about Lorien or Khazad-dum.

              1. I use Mint Cinnamon and Compose+8+8 worked for me. If it doesn’t work for you, try following the instructions at — edit a file called .XCompose (one period, capital X, capital C, rest lowercase) in your home directory and add in the compose key sequences that you want. (Note: That answer mentions installing something called “uim”, which is NOT a typo for “vim”. I don’t know if you need that or not; I’ve never used it).

            1. While I’ve been at time annoyed at what characters (often moron-quotes) Geany (text editor) refuses to save, it does amuse me that it refuses to save the hammer & sickle. For those wondering: [COMPOSE]CCCP

  5. I find it interesting how this southern culture has managed to spread north of the American border. I have seen similar discussions and attitudes from similar demographics up here. Learning and finding out it was a southern WHITE attitude that got transplanted is terrifying. Almost as if a cultural meme has spread like a virus.

    1. What you might want to do is look at the settlement patterns for your area. Where did the initial settlers come from? It’s possible some came from the same areas as those who settled the South. Also, as Sowell discusses in the essay, a lot of those attitudes did move North as first Southern whites and then, later, Southern blacks migrated North. The larger the number of migrants, the less likely they were to be integrated into the existing culture and society and the more likely their own cultural norms were to be adopted by the existing culture.

      1. British Commonwealth. I know that we were the end of the underground railroad. Most of the “African-Americans” (Canadians?) have come from the Caribbean or were here pre Civil War. Still, it would be interesting to look deeper into it.

        1. The Canadian side of my family are from Scots-Irish stock, same as the US southerners (one even fought for the south in the US Civil War, not sure why). The cultural traits did not originate in the South, they were brought with them from the UK.

      2. Will make a prediction: The records will likely show three waves of immigration from the South in the period from 1865 – 1880. It was likely blacks, followed by white, followed by a second wave of blacks.

        Why? Because Blacks tended to leave even before the war was over. The big reason was that they had no land. If a freed slave had a skill, such as a blacksmith (and there were more than a few black smiths), they could do well. If not, the predominate industry was agriculture, most slaves were trained in it, and that meant being a sharecropper. But if you were a sharecropper, it was mighty hard to move up economically. No land and no prospects meant you looked for work elsewhere. The North had more industry, and that required laborers and that meant employment.

        When certain people who tended to wear white sheets began to do certain things, that probably led to another wave of immigration.

        Note: there was some movement West as well, and not necessarily Texas. There seems to have been some excitement about Mississippi, at least in Georgia.

        You might also be interested in the town of Fitzgerald, Georgia, founded by Union and Confederate veterans, so there was at least some postwar immigration South as well.

  6. One example Sowell gives is that of butter.

    This section flabbergasted me. The idea that an area which could support dairy herds paid the extra costs to import their butter, often shipped from Europe, because the butter locally available, when it was available, was considered largely inedible. This illustration certainly supports the thesis that there was little entrepreneurship, as there was a great big opportunity to anyone who cared to do the work to produce decent quality butter.

    1. I imagine there are amazing stories there from those German immigrants with successful businesses in the antebellum South who made it through the war only to be tarred with the same brush as the plantation owners during reconstruction.

      1. Celia Hayes has written a lot of stories on the German/Czech immigrants to Texas. These people had an outsize influence on the areas they settled in and all the ones I grew up with in Glasscock County had ancestors who settled originally in the Hill country. Very industrious folks. Most of the ones I grew up with farmed at least 2-3 square miles of land each, now mostly in family corporations.

    2. I know. Then you look at what happened with the German and Dutch dairy farmers, how much more successful they were simply because they had a different attitude about how to run their business and it makes your head spin.

      1. The maternal line has equal parts Scots-Irish and German in it. The German ancestors were engravers, craftsmen, blacksmiths, and read a great deal. The Scots-Irish tended toward agriculture and liftin’ the kai. Dad’s side is lowland Scottish, English, and Scots-Irish. The Scots-Irish are the ones we still tell and hear stories about…

      2. More significantly, look at how the already resident Crackers failed to emulate the demonstrably superior methods of the German and Dutch farmers.

        Had the “immigrants” brought with them a superior method of distilling liquor you can bet the locals would have copied them.

      3. Sigh – I wrote a whole series about this – the German settlers in Texas. Even had Frederick Law Ohlmstead as one of my serious references, as he was so observant regarding details of things like – how much basic commodities cost in Texas in the mid-1850s. The German settlers in Texas brought a whole new aspect to economic enterprise in Texas, from the 1850s on. They did cattle-ranching, just as their Anglo neighbors did – but they set about all kinds of other enterprises as well: milling, hospitality, ranching of prize goats and sheep, brewing … and OMG, the technical skills, such as engineering, medicine …
        Yes, there was a considerable culture clash, with the German element, and the Southern Anglo element.

        1. Especially with the drinking and dancing between the Catholic germans and the Baptist ranchers. The preacher at the church mom drug us to as kids would rail about the monthly CYO dances at St. Lawrence as several of us who went to them were nursing hangovers in the back pews…………

    3. Not the whole story. See my post below.

      I will comment that in 1860, Florida was largely known for cattle ranching. It was either Winder or Wirz who wanted to drive a herd into Georgia to supply food for Camp Sumter.

    4. While culture was probably the largest factor here, I also wondered how much the warmer climate had to do with the lower production of butter, cheese, etc. Pre-refrigeration, it would have been harder to keep dairy products from spoiling in the South.

      1. I wondered that too. I think it can also apply to energy levels as well – heat + humidity will sap you quick.

        1. Not to mention the major contributing factor of endemic malaria… also present in Southern England (and southern Europe) for centuries. When exerting yourself too much can kill you, doing as little as you can possibly can and still not starve becomes a means of survival.

          Quinine: Malaria and the Quest for a Cure That Changed the World, by Fiammetta Rocco, covers a lot of how malaria damaged cultures.

        2. One of the things Sowell does in making his argument is to look back to the historical reports of the practices and behaviors in the regions of Europe from which various groups of settlers ancestors migrated and then documents how they continued in settlements in the U.S.. This occurred even when the different groups settled in the same or similar areas.  

          (Sowell thoroughly documents his material; I have found it useful to keep a book mark in the reference section so I can flip easily back to read the notes as I go.)

          1. You get weird stuff. Like the lack of haying in most of the history of Ireland, because hay tended to mold, and the grass tended to stay alive all winter. Hay got to be more of a thing as harvesting technology improved, and as outdoor drying and storage methods got better. But it was still common to let animals stay in the fields, and to save hay for the really bad weather. Barns took a long time to show up, among those not well to do.

            1. Interesting. It makes sense. Mold could be a problem in any location that a high level of precipitation / humidity with milder temperatures.

        1. Given the Dutch and German dairy farmers were able to run more productive herds I think we can surmise the answer.

      2. There was a great deal that folk could d to keep products cool absent refrigeration. Wells were often employed to such purpose, and icehouses could have been built, even if it was probably they’d have had to import ice for them (likely still cheaper than importing butter, as ice required less* labor to produce.)

        *At a guess – my knowledge of pre-refrigeration ice production is comparable to my knowledge of butter manufacturing.

        1. I recall reading something somewhere a few years ago that they used to ship ice to India (!!!!) from New England and parts north west of there. So shipping it south would probably be easier and feasible.

          1. Wiki – Frederic Tudor (September 4, 1783 – February 6, 1864) was an American businessman and merchant. Known as Boston’s “Ice King”, he was the founder of the Tudor Ice Company and a pioneer of the international ice trade in the early 19th century. He made a fortune shipping ice cut from New England ponds to ports in the Caribbean, Europe, and as far away as India.

          2. It was – there was a whole ice-shipping industry; Texas got ice at the ports of Indianola and Galveston before the Civil War. Indianola had a massive icehouse to store the stuff behind double-thick insulated walls.
            Kind of interesting to think that people in Indianola and Galveston would have been able to sip iced drinks, and eat ice cream … while inland, a hundred or two hundred miles away – they would have been eating beans and shot at by Comanches…

        2. Mark Twain, in his “Life on the Mississippi”, goes into some detail about ice factories in New Orleans making ice year round. In a book published in 1883.

        3. Pre-refrigeration ice production involved 3 things: A long cold winter of single digit temps, a body of relatively still fresh water nearby, such as a millpond, where a thick enough ice layer could form to support the workers and usually a wagon / sled to haul it off, and someone with the tools to break it up into manageable chunks, and haul it off. A cross-cut saw was evidently preferred so you could cut blocks, leading to this old joke about the two Irishmen who went out to cut ice. One takes out a coin and says, “Now, Seamus, play fair. Heads or tails, who goes below?” Someone’s got to pull on the other end, of course. 😎

          Once you got it out and to the ice house, you packed it in sawdust and shipped it, because sawdust was a pretty good insulator.

      3. Pre-refrigeration, it would have been harder to keep dairy products from spoiling in the South.

        My understanding is that that is where buttermilk comes from. Is buttermilk more common in Southern than Northern cuisine? I’m West coast, and can’t claim to know either.

        1. According to Wiki:

          Buttermilk refers to a number of dairy drinks. Originally, buttermilk was the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cultured cream. This type of buttermilk is known as traditional buttermilk.

          Most Buttermilks now on the market are made by introducing a culture to the milk.  For the purpose of baking a substitute can be made by souring milk with either a little vinegar or lemon juice.

        2. Born and raised on the west coast, lived there 64 years, moved to Minnesota in ’14.

          My father’s side of the family was from Texas (and points east-ish), his mother liked buttermilk and I took to it a bit. Mom’s side from Oregon (and points due east-ish), and didn’t seem to drink it at all. (Very little contact with that side of the family, as she passed when I was five, and they lived closer to Canada than us in L.A.)

          Buttermilk seems to be available in every grocery store that I ever patronized, I don’t recall seeing it up here anywhere. Have to check when I get groceries this afternoon, I might just have missed it.

      4. Yet in Richmond they brought butter in from Europe.

        I poked around a bit and found that the crossing time from Ireland to New York in the 1840s and 50s ran around a month if things went well. I did not find times for more southern ports, I suspect that it might have been a couple of days more.

        All this time it would have to be kept from spoilage before they could bring it to market. Obviously the shippers found a way. It does make me marvel at their ingenuity.

        1. See my comment on shipping ice. Sawdust and ice. I seem to remember that you could also ship it in sealed casks, because that would keep the air away from it and keep it from going rancid.

          1. Yep.

            We tend as a society to ‘forget’ how things were done when we no longer have to do them in that way.

            The Daughter and I once spent a good part of a day tromping around Historic Williamsburg seeking the the answer to her question, ‘How did they get their (eye) glasses?’ But we are both ODDs.

              1. It was one of our favorite destinations for Home Education trips. We always found something new of interest.

                Another was the Smithsonian. We always stayed outside of D.C. and took the subway into town. That is with one exception – November of 2001. We went up for The Daughter’s birthday that year. Hotels in the city were surprisingly cheep at that time. At the Smithsonian employees met you at the doors of the various buildings and enthusiastically welcomed you as you came in.

    5. I’ve heard similar in the Middle East. The local citizens of the oil-rich nations essentially refuse to engage in anything remotely resembling manual labor. That’s why they have to bring in so many workers from the poorer parts of Asia.

      It’s worth noting that the oil wealth of the nations means that none of the proud citizens are in any danger of starving due to their attitude. But that might change in the not too distant future.

      1. Most of the stuff that military service requires falls into the Arab definition of “work” and thus is to be avoided by those Arabs who are in Arab militaries. Armored vehicle maintenance definitely falls into that category, and thus in the richer Arab nations a company that gets the contract to supply tanks and APCs and AFV and such also has to provide expat contractors to perform the normal maintenance tasks that the vehicle crew performs in the West.

        1. The Quran and ahadith – they say that Muslim fighters are supposed to be supported by spoils or by taxing the dhimmi unbelievers. Same thing for the poor Muslims. Muslim women or farmers or tradespeople, not so much.

          So… Yeah.

  7. We saw this when my family moved to North Carolina about 1961. My father was a steamfitter and found a job easily, but had a hard time making a living because most of the work was construction. When it was cold or raining it was ‘too nasty’ to work and when the weather cleared up they rejoiced at a chance to go fishing…

    1. When my son was doing his internship his last year in college, he worked with a construction firm. He basically acted as an assistant project manager and he was constantly grousing about seeing all too much of that attitude. So, while it might not be as prevalent as it once was, that sort of thing is still happening — unfortunately.

      1. I never observed that, but we were from a lower economic level and that skewed our perception. You worked or you went hungry, period. My tenant farmer grandfather despised someone who was supposed to work and goofed. When there was no farming, he picked up other work. Everyone of that economic level did. So it was that he and his brother in law did some timber rafting, and road paving and cut timber. The latter was when they contracted to cut a stand that was bought by a black man, who came to them and said he’d understand if they didn’t want to work for him. My grandfather and great uncle looked at each other a moment, told him the color of his money was the same, and completed the job.

        That said, I will not say that attitude of too good to do work didn’t exist. What many don’t realize is that the South had a strongly stratified society almost like a cast system. It was more mobile, but if you were in a certain “class” there were things you didn’t do because they were “beneath you.” And there were some who, like the Britcom Hyacinth Bucket, pretended to a class of which they weren’t a part, and never really would be.

        I will say that the home where my father was born was built before 1820 by a man who was a jack-of-all-trades and who had a smithy just a few yards from his house, and who made the brick in the fireplace. Highly industrious, and noted as more of the wealthy. He was also born a Southerner. Therefore, to have the attitude observed by Lee and others, including my own family, either he was an outlier, or the stratification happened later. I lean toward the latter. I think it came out of a bad case of resting on laurel.. The thing about resting on laurels is that everyone else passes you by.

      1. Not so much you worked or you didn’t eat. More you worked or didn’t have a roof over your head. Money was needed for taxes, rent/ mortgage. If you wanted to eat, you hunted & fished, & put in a truck garden, put in fruit trees or plants (blackberries, etc.), kept cows or goats for milk (if not butter) & chickens for eggs. I think my generation is the first to buy most, if not, all our food. I grew up on city lot (not in city), so we didn’t have the latter (cow, goat, or chickens). Milk & eggs were purchased or gotten from relatives who still kept them. Otherwise we didn’t have fruit or vegetables, unless the garden was successful. Ditto for meat. Either one or more deer, elk, & fish, were caught, processed, & frozen, or we didn’t eat meat; period. Not only that, everyone hunted & fished, gender did not matter. Once in a great while folks would go in with a relative that kept small farms, for beef, sheep, or hog. They’d help with financing the raising, then the meat would be split according to contribution.

        1. FWIW, I am 7th (?) generation Oregonian on Dad’s side, & mom is 6th (?) generation Montana (grandparents moved to Oregon via Colorado after WWII). Or not-native, not explorers, but as early settler homesteading as each state got, migrating from the east coast, generation.

  8. The image so many of us have of the antebellum South is of a region suffering after the war.

    Um… “antebellum” means “*before* the war”.

    1. It’s a little tangled, but I think that’s what she means: The post war Reconstruction South and its troubles get back-pollinated into the antebellum South and the run up to the war.

  9. A couple of observations while still reading the post. I feel a strong urge to pass this along because us older heads are fewer now, and not many of us remember the old ways, and when we’re gone, they’ll probably be lost forever. I also think they offer important insight into this discussion.

    We still have a family butter churn. We also had a ceramic one, but it broke. The surviving churn is made from wood, like a conical barrel, held together by iron hoops. The handle is shaped, not by a woodworker but by generations of hands using it. It dates from close to 1800 and maybe before. It could also be made in a jar, and into the 1960s you could find such churns for sale.

    The point? Into my parents’ lifetime, most Southerners made their own butter. The wedding present my mother’s parents gave her and my father was a milk cow. My father’s family had four, which he milked.

    While I know of an old dairy, I don’t know if it predates 1930. Yes, we had them in the South, and they seemed to coincide with the rise of urban areas where people didn’t have access to raw milk or to churn their own. You can make it with homogenized milk, but it takes a lot longer. I remember when my mother showed us how, and she complained that it took longer.

    Consider this: Mine is the first generation in my family who has never churned butter on a regular basis. Thus butter is a poor measure for Sowell’s argument, because if most Southerners were making their own, there simply wasn’t the market. Again, note that the rise of local dairies seems to coincide with the rise of urban areas.

    Sowell cites criticism of the old method of letting livestock run free. Yes, there are problem with this, some familiar with fans of Westerns, because it was basically the same thing. The older way of marking hogs and cows and, yes, sheep, was to notch their ear. My father and I are probably the last one of my family to know the family mark. The kids know the family hog call, because I used that when they had selective hearing, and they found it embarrassing because you could hear that hog call for maybe a mile; further under the right conditions.

    Digression: There are similarities between our family’s hog call and the Rebel Yell, which makes me wonder if it had it’s origin in some Southern smart alleck, who did it as though he were calling the enemy up to slaughter, as you would a hog. Something to ponder.

    Anyway, yes, Southerners let their livestock run free into the 20th Century. Yet this isn’t the entire story. There’s a reason my father knew how to split rails for fencing. There was some confinement, notably the fattening lot. This is where livestock for butchering or sale were fattened up. But I think there was also a sort of reverse confinement. You fenced your fields, notably corn fields, and turned livestock in to glean it after harvest. Our family used to have a small black bean we planted at “laying by” time, and which would run up the dying corn stalks like vines up a pole. These were for animal, not human consumption, and also helped put some nitrogen back in the soil. Since the rows were five to six feet apart then, and the corn about a foot apart in the row, there was plenty of light to pull this off. We commonly turned our livestock in after harvest and it did a pretty good job of fattening before they ever saw the fattening lot.

    My point is that what was criticized as a lack of industry was a different form of agriculture. For one difference was that in parts of the South it was practically impossible to cultivate all the way down to the creeks. Those pictures of brooks running through pastures looked like something out of a storybook to us. This meant there were usually wooded areas capable of supporting livestock. I remember the old folks complaining that people didn’t let their livestock run free anymore, and that led to the woods choked with underbrush and infested with rattlesnakes. Living where we did, we had more woods than most and that likely influence agriculture as well.

    I’m not going to tell you that the old Southern way of agriculture was perfect, because it wasn’t. It wasn’t perfect anywhere. What I’m saying is that it was a different sort, one unfamiliar with critics who likely didn’t spend an entire year observing it or who were already prejudiced to begin with. The most accurate criticism was the local joke about the farmer who turned to another crop after he couldn’t make money in cotton, made good money, and was happy because that meant he could plant cotton again. All that changed with the boll weevil, but that’s another story.

    1. Kevin, been there, done that. But what you are overlooking is the subtext in what Sowell said. By letting the cattle run during winters and not feeding them as they would if the cattle were penned, the cattle were not capable of producing the dairy to the level of those that were kept penned. Too much time in the Spring had to be spent “fattening them up”.

      Were there reasons for doing it that way? Sure. But you can flip it and look at it as a lost opportunity. By not doing it, they lost money that could have been made — or saved.

      It all comes down to culture. Or, perhaps more accurately, different agricultural cultures.

      1. Amanda, the milk cows didn’t run free. Families had enough for their own needs. There wasn’t an extensive market until the rise of urban areas where you had people without access to cows. Therefore, butter is a poor metric for Sowell’s argument.

        Now, you can call it a lost opportunity. So be it. I’ve posted what I’ve seen and what I’ve remember, in part because there’s very few of us left. In a few decades we’ll be gone, and they’ll read Sowell and think “Lazy Southerners couldn’t bother with dairy farms” and have no one to point out that most had their own milk cows.

        BTW, when you think of livestock running free in the woods, consider this: Winter was for butchering, when it was cold enough to preserve meat. You fattened them up in the fall, not the spring, and you didn’t slaughter your entire herd. Something else I suppose will be lost when we older heads are gone.

        It’s probably time for me to mosey on elsewhere for a while, anyway. Ultimately what I remember won’t matter, anyway. Y’all have fun.

        1. Something I have seen elsewhere points out that feeding animals rather than letting them forage is pretty expensive for grain. Would that cost if feed play a role in the agricultural pattern you describe?

          1. Letting cattle forage unrestrained also exposes them to parasites of various degrees.

            Of course, from the cattle point of view, humans are parasites.

        2. Yup. My grandfather’s place was just like that.

          A cousin tried to novelize the “recent” family stories. One of the stories I hadn’t heard was that my grandfather’s mother died when he was an infant. An uncle agreed to raise him–on the condition that he never know he was “adopted.” He called his real father “uncle” for much of his life.

          Why did this man give up his son? Because, his brother had a cow.

          That was the short form. The long form made it clear that this was not usual. Cathy didn’t know why Great-Grandpa was dairyless, but it was unusual. Dairy farming in Carroll County, Tennessee was not a great opportunity.

          Granted, why nobody tried it in Memphis is another question…

      2. That goes even further than you might think. Pigs, for example, were always turned loose in the forest to feed on acorns and other nuts; even today, acorn fed pork is considered a delicacy. You see that in both history and fiction; remember the opening scene in Ivanhoe. In England, there were also as many or more forests to run pigs in than pastureland to graze cattle.

    2. I wonder how much of the stuff Sowell notes, both in Southern underclass whites and Southern-origin blacks, is the result of copying the forms of behaviors they saw without understanding the underlying functional prerequisites to make those forms actually work.

      Sort of like the UK immigrants – I wonder how much of what they brought over was aping the patterns of the British landed classes without any of the underlying obligations-to-the-tenants stuff one can see illustrated in the historical documentary “Downton Abbey”.

      1. the historical documentary “Downton Abbey”.

        Please tell me there’s a sarc tag missing. I wanted to like the show for costumes and dialogue.

    3. There seems to have been an obsession with cotton in the Cotton South. Cotton = Wealth. When they would have done better to have grown almost anything else.

      1. Much insight can be gained through study of the life of George Washington, who realized that selling his crop to an English middleman and importing finished goods bought on credit extended by that same middleman was a good way of staying perpetually in debt to your middleman. His consequent diversification and efforts to develop a self-sustaining farm not only alleviated his debt and susceptibility to vagaries of markets, it made him quite receptive to Hamilton’s economic proposals.

      2. Mike, it may have had to do with having a crop that no one else (in the US, anyway) _could_ grow. Cotton wasn’t the ~only~ crop grown in the south, but it was a cash crop that could be exported without worries about it spoiling en-route.

        1. It was. Cotton (and tobacco) were cash crops that could be sold at a profit in Europe. What interests me are the accounts of just how obsessed the Cotton Belt was with the stuff.

          1. Yes. Before the war many southerners were convinced that King Cotton was just that. They should have taken a lesson from tobacco. Southern tobacco had suffered when faced with competition from other sources and European market prices dropped. Eventually the same happened to King Cotton.

    4. And, what you describe sounds very similar to the Scots-Irish method of ranching. Which is also why there was so much rustling along the Scots borderlands. It’s much easier to do when the cattle aren’t confined in any way.

  10. I have to shake my head. When I first started doing genealogical research on our family, several of the family legends didn’t survive the scrutiny. The “von” prefix to our surname disappeared. The supposed nobility ties disappeared. The alleged suffixes to our last name disappeared. But it was the level of anger I got from aunts & uncles & cousins merely for uttering that no record of those things existed to support the legends was absolutely scorching.

    On the other hand, it looks like my patrilineal descent is from Bohemia. So I guess I can Czech that one off.

    1. Oh yeah. I can’t count the number of family stories that have proven to be wrong, twisted or whatever. One thing I know for certain is that I come from a line of folks who love to spin a good yarn. VBG

      1. Gramdpa Pete (Mom’s father) had a great collection of stories, many from the years around WWI when he was working as a carpenter and munitions worker. I think his story of using the escape chute when a batch of TNT went up is plausible. My niece tracked a good portion of that side of the family. There’s an interesting cast of characters.

        Not quite so many stories about Dad’s ancestors, though family legend has a blackguard, a prominent preacher, and the devout atheist who was furious at discovering the link to the preacher. Life is too short to track this stuff down, so I put it in the “it ought to be true” bin.

    2. We’ve got a pretty good genealogical record, and AFAIK nobody complaining about certain things disappearing. The one issue we have is that we don’t have a record of the name ancestor coming over from England (which means he probably came on a Dutch trader or something), but we *do* have a drawn coat-of-arms. The coat-of-arms has one interestingly unique element which might make it a real thing, but it was drawn in the 19th century* and there are no colors to it, which means that to check it with the College of Heraldry in Britain we’d need time and money, and it’s not that important to us. (We *do* have a connection on the English side; we’re just missing several years and a marriage in the genealogy.)

      *You know all of those “discover your family coat-of-arms” rackets? They had those then, too. So I’m skeptical of the provenance, but like I said, there’s one element (a crown of brickwork) which is unique enough to be plausible.

    3. My wife’s grandmother, Bohemian (NOT GERMAN!) got upset and railed at those family members who attempted to Von their names.

      One thing a lot of people don’t really realize. For a long part of American history there were German speaking immigrants, but no German immigrants. There were Prussians, Bavarians, Hessians, Bohemians- but no Germans, for there was no Germany.

      1. Heh. You’re going t really Herr Doktor Professor Sowell’s essay on German History.

        Shame it will be months before Amanda gets to it. If only it were available for Kindle or on Audible! (BTW – I have no idea who the reader for Audible is, and it means you lose the footnotes, but he is far from a neutral reader, adding some inflections that would scald a cat.)

      1. $STEPFATHER spent part of WWII in Bohemia as a “guest” of the Reich. He was lucky; the farmer actually was willing to take a chance and feed his workers. Since he wouldn’t have survived long after repatriation to the Ukraine, he ended up in the USA. Yikes.

  11. “The image so many of us have of the antebellum South is of a region suffering after the war.” That would be the post-bellum South. Not at all like the first half of the movie, “Gone With The Wind”.

  12. Significant parts of your description of southern culture make me think of one of my favorite books, Jane Jacobs’ Systems of Survival. Jacobs argues that there are two different systems of ethical thought, which she calls the “guardian” and “trader” mindsets. The guardian mindset is focused on taking as a source of wealth (which need not mean piracy or robbery; occupying and defending land is also “taking,” and Jacobs argues that for the guardian mindset land and wealth are virtually synonyms); the trader mindset of course on trading. She presents a long list of different and sometimes incompatible moral values that go with these. For example, being open to a deal is a virtue in a trader, but you don’t want it in a soldier or police officer; caution in spending is a virtue in the bourgeoisie, but aristocrats are expected to practice largesse, spending freely and giving wealth away to those around them. I think you can see that this looks a bit like South (guardians) and North (traders).

  13. Interesting– I think the example of working (for the men) and the vapors (for the women) kind of hit home too. My mother finally realized that the vapors didn’t work and that dad would disappear for a month in the summers– to travel. So she went to work. I don’t know where my dad got that attitude… his parents and his siblings didn’t have that need to just quit when overwhelmed.

  14. My mother and father took one of those ancestries dna test. It came back pretty much as expected. The only surprise was it said there was 1% jewish on my mother’s side

    We all commented how that 1% seemed to have overwhelmed everything else in my mother.

  15. I bought a copy of the book so I could follow along, and am glad I did. We need more intelligent, independent thinkers like Thomas Sowell (and it doesn’t hurt that he writes in a very readable way).

    1. I think I am going to have to as well. Looks like the 9$ Kindle edition is the cheapest option since even half price book has it at 12$ used in paperback which is what Amazon has it for as well with even the cheapest used copy on Amazon going for 11$

      Shows his work has value when it’s not on the 1$+5$s&h lists 🙂

  16. There’s a different, but similarly destructive cultural pattern in downeast Maine. There people (usually the men) work hard, demanding physical jobs that don’t earn much for the effort (tree tipping, blueberry raking, clam digging) and are seasonal. The women tend to marry young (yes, marry) and have kids out of high school. The high schools don’t teach much of use in modern times and so if anything happens to the one breadwinner in the family, they have NO reserves, no backup plan, and if the couple splits the woman is left with kids and no job skills in an economically depressed area. The one common element with the Southern culture described here is a tendency to buy fun toys with extra cash (ATVs are a perennial favorite). These are usually good, honest people but they have no concept of how to maximize return on effort.

    1. One defense on spending extra cash – in a lot of poorer extended families (or families that were poor in previous generations), there’s a tendency for one’s property/earnings to belong to everyone. There was no point in saving (or even becoming wealthy) because some other relative would claim it, or even steal it. I’ve seen that happen with friends and their families today. So you might as well spend it on yourself now rather than lose it to someone else.

      1. I recall recently reading why Africans did not own/run stores in Africa: they were members of large families, and anything they had “extra” would be/had to be given to someone poorer. No accumulation of wealth.

        1. Yes. That was one reason why European docs and African docs in the same hospital had problems. All were paid the same, but the Africans were expected by their clansmen to support the rest of the clan, so the docs could not save and had no income for luxuries, unlike the European contract docs. It wasn’t in Sowell’s book, but somewhere else I read about the problem.

        2. It happens in PNG as well- the successful are expected to share with the rest of the family.
          Which makes sense- very, very few physical things in the traditional PNG culture survive for very long- tropical country. So, there’s no real incentive to save, and every incentive to give stuff away- which helps build personal ties, ect.

        3. I think I read the same thing: If young man opens a store, relatives from young man’s extended family immediately show up asking for free stuff (not surplus – from store stock), which young man has to give them under the rules of the extended family.

          Thus all the stores and like businesses are run by foreigners with no family in-country, and if young man wants to open a store, he has to move to a country far enough away that the relatives can’t easily get there to do so.

      2. One side of my family was like that, one hard luck story after another that always ended with: “so can you ‘lend’ me a few bucks to get by?”
        I early on learned to poor mouth, never share my successes because that was always a red flag that had the greedy sods demanding that I share my good fortune.
        And to the best of my recollection, no, none of those loans was ever paid back.

        1. Not as big of a concern now as immediate family, both sides, are self sufficient.

          But learned very early in our marriage to not have any “spare change”. First instance was SIL who needed money for kids cloths & didn’t want to go to the folks again for money. Significant other asked how much my net pay (entire month) had I just deposited & did we have anything we had to pay out of it? Wrote a check to her for that amount … so why in HECK (you may substitute correct wording) was I working? Suppose to be a “loan”. Never saw money back. Second instance was his other sister whose husband was dying, she needed some money until she could sell something. We sent the money. Did not expect to see it back; lesson learned, eyes open. We were paid back.

          Still very cautious to let anyone know that we are beyond just getting by, & not living beyond our means. Immediate family self sufficient, but doesn’t take very far before extended family, isn’t. Guaranteed should we publicly win the lottery, the hands out showing up at the door won’t be the long lost, it will be the known legit shirt tail relatives from both sides.

    2. I think there’s a bit of difference with the Downeasters. You note that they work hard, even if a lot of those jobs are seasonal; they alternate jobs throughout the year, so they’re often full time (or more) employed. That doesn’t square with the Southerner just enough to get by lack of work ethic. A good question is whether, and how much, in total personal wealth they manage to accumulate, and what forms they sink it into/invest in. 200 acres of prime oyster beds don’t look like much, but the income can be significant.

      1. Well, maybe. My last duty station was Maine, and the person working for me was native. Said that Maine had the largest number of people who earned $50,000 on the books during the 3 month tourist season, and were on unemployment the rest of the year. Not to mention that a fair number of people I met there worked on a cash only basis for a large part of their business. Cash only income was rarely reported to the tax collectors.

        Of course, I also saw the cash thing in Illinois. Went to a pick it yourself strawberry farm. There was an article in the next week’s Sunday paper on how the pick it yourself portion of the farm provided some supplemental income to help keep the farm running, maybe $200 on a really good weekend. They rang up over $300 while I was standing in line to pay for what we had collected. The line was as long when I left as when I got in it.

        1. Well, considering it’s practically a civic duty to turn over the least amount of money to the government; cash is the way to go to avoid the corrupt tax collectors. After dealing with Son One’s taxes this year, anything that avoids having to report income from a personal small business strikes me at the best thing in the world to do, even if it smacks of tax evasion. Kid got two stinking 1099-MISC forms totaling $2100 for being a non-employee contracted judge at a couple of gaming conventions around the East Coast. and Uncle Sam wants to roast him for an additional $1500 in self-employment taxes. I had to send him back to his apartment to dig out all his expenses for those two trips which should zero most of that out, showing either a loss or zero net profit for them.

          I recall talking, well, listening really, to Jerry Pournelle several years ago at a coffee klatch about writing, taxes and record keeping. Son One’s story sounds so familiar in that light.

    3. For us, the prior generations that was true. Mothers stayed home & worked (might bring in cash on the side), might have worked out of school, but quit when married, & was 100% dependent on what hubby brought home.

      My generation. No way was I going to be 50 & have to find work without any extended schooling, or experience. All too common in preceding generations, either main money earner died, or became disabled & not enough put aside for family to weather bad days ahead. Yes extended family was expected to “assist”. Sorry would rather be the one assisting vs begging for the help. Guess my generation (both sides) across the board, broke that pattern (more like shattered).

  17. “Our people [Southern whites] are opposed to work”

    Huh. My family is split 50/50.

    Both parents were born and raised in East Tennessee, of Irish/Scot ((French, English, who knows what else)) decent. Mom’s family was the “just enough” group – unless it was finding a way around work/rules. Dad’s family was more “work until you drop” (although, I can see some of the ‘just enough’ in Dad from time to time.) Caveat here, I’m speaking of the men here, none of the women on either side were much fer jus sittin’ round.

    1. I’m split 50/50 myself. I think hard work is an admirable thing for others to do but have less enthusiasm for doing it myself.

      1. Sounds like me. I’ll work hard when I consider it necessary – to the point of 16+ hour days – but detest make-work shams.

        1. “Hey Orville. I’m getting tired of walking. Let’s invent a way to fly instead.”
          “Wilbur, I think you’re on to something.”
          “And guess what? There aren’t an FAA regulations to worry about yet.”
          “Hot Diggitty Dog! Close up the bike shop and let’s get to building!”

          1. Anyone who has spent a couple of winters in Ohio might argue that the brothers found an excuse to go to the beach…

            North Carolina had the image of the Wright Flyer and the slogan ‘First in Flight’ on the licence tags.  Ohio objected, arguing that they deserved the recognition as the brothers owned and ran a their bicycle shop in Dayton.  Eventually it was settled with Ohio putting ‘Birthplace of Aviation’ on their licence tag.

            1. I see the “appropriation” movement was alive and well before they started complaining about taking the good parts of other cultures.

  18. “If you were to remove every instance of “white” used above and were to read the comments without any identifier, what section of society would you assume Sowell was writing about?”

    Does “New Orleans, LA” count as a “section of society”? One of my biggest frustrations living there is that for all there is to love about that place (the music, the food, the history good and bad), there is an inbred attitude across the board that they need to do only what they need to do in order to get by, and things will get done on their time (typically days late and dollars short). Yup, Sowell’s description was full of check marks.

    1. Montgomery, AL also fit that description pretty well at least through 2006 when Em and I left.

  19. Better the grasshopper than the ant. The sub-culture seems the same in some of the big cities in the UK. Life at the bottom by Theodore Dalrymple describes a similar sub-culture.

    1. I think we’ve possibly glossed over the matter somewhat, but Sowell is careful to anchor his description as reasonable for the environment in which the culture arose. Where life is tenuous, such as in the area of the English/Scottish border, the payoff of hard work and prudence is typically to see others — raiders, lords*, descendants — profit from your efforts.

      In such circumstances it makes eminent good sense to work only as hard as necessary, to carpe diem, and to forgo investment in items (e.g., education) with only a distant payoff.

      *But I Repeat Myself

      1. Yes, I hadn’t put together the connection with confiscation by the aristocracy, but yeah – certainly that’s how a slave would feel as well. Why work extra when you don’t get to keep anything?

        The people I know have to watch out for their own families taking any extra cash.

        1. Confiscation by the aristocracy.
          Robber barons.
          Roving bands of bandits.
          Zero effective difference to their victims, who usually have little to no resources to defend themselves with, or time and energy to even learn.

        2. Everything belongs to the Emperor is also an explanation for why if you walk into the high stakes gambling areas of any casino you’ll see percentagewise more Asians then in the population. Money earned quickly from luck is yours, to use just as quickly as it is obtained. Wealth is something that belongs to the ruling class, who can take yours on a whim.

          Had a Chinese guy explain that to me.

          Asked a dot Indian one time why so many gold chains. Answer- portable wealth. If your driven from your hearth and home, you can flee wearing your wealth. A minimum investment is put into house building, since they’re fixed in place and better housing makes the areas more attractive to those who would take it by force…

          Both, to me, good arguments for a strong second amendment. YMMV

          1. There is a school of economics which attempts to ascertain why the Anglosphere has prospered so greatly when other, more richly endowed cultures (I’m looking at you, S. America) fail. Prominent among them is Hernando de Soto Polar, a Peruvian economist who has focused on the primacy of property rights.

            Tsarist Russia and most Latin derived cultures tend to recognize very weak rights to hold property (well, weak for the holder, not so weak for the ruler) as do (as you noted) Asian cultures. It is useful to recall that the original formulation of the Declaration of Independence invoked Locke’s “Life, Liberty and Property” — not pursuit of happiness.

            1. A very long time ago, I read an article that touched on the same basic idea. Two neighborhoods were side by side in a particular South American city (unfortunately, I don’t remember which one). One neighborhood was full of homes with successful families. The other was not.

              Apparently at one time both neighborhoods had been owned by absentee landlords who completely ignored the property they owned. The residents in both neighborhoods had essentially been squatters. And that was still true in the neighborhood that wasn’t doing as well. But in the more prosperous neighborhood, the locals had filed suit and successfully gained ownership of the neighborhood from the absentee landlord. This meant that they now owned the land that they lived on, and they were more confident in their ability to safely improve their homes.

              1. That has interesting implications for those areas of America where the primary (or merely a significant portion) of residents are renters. As we can see in NY City, the pressure for government to enact rent control tends to drive out “affordable housing” ad lower the stock of apartments.

                Recent reports have found that Millennials are disproportionately renters (those not living in their Mum’s basement) which suggests the politics will reflect their lack of investment.

            2. It’s also worth noting that the superior “Life, Liberty and Property” formulation foundered on the shoals of slavery.

              If the British had experienced their attack of conscience 100 years earlier and successfully abolished slavery across their empire before the American Revolution (and the Continental Congress had avoided reinstating it to buy-in the ex-slave-holding southern planters), I submit that an explicit and undiluted property-rights assertion in the founding documents would have resulted in a cleaner US legal history.

              To say nothing of removing the top named cause for the Late Unpleasantness, though the rest of the underlying conflicts between the North and South would have still been festering.

              1. In his essay on the History of Slavery (you guys got soooooo much fun ahead, you ought buy the book and read ahead!) Sowell notes that both Virginia and Georgia had attempted to abolish slavery but were blocked by the Crown.

                Adds some insight to the infamously deleted “waged cruel war” clause:

                He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

          2. VDH noted that the Ottoman Sultanate stagnated economically because they didn’t have a tradition of ownership. All the lands belonged to the Sultan, land ownership was temporary, and wealth could be compensated at a whim. Which meant that there was no incentive to better your grant, or build something too nice, lest you grab the eye of the taxman. You grab what you can, and hide what you get.

            1. “Which meant that there was no incentive to better your grant, or build something too nice, lest you grab the eye of the taxman.”

              Biggest reason for objection to the property tax in New Hampshire. It severely disincentivizes people from building with future generations in mind; or acquiring enough property around each dwelling for real lebensraum. Cheaply built, overpriced, McMansions on postage stamp sized lots, built all-to-frequently on flood plains or barely filled wetland.

              “Oh dear! Global warming will raise the sea level by 12 inches and flood out my 1.5 million dollar home on the seacoast! The Federal government has to do something!” Enough to gag a maggot.

  20. It is the nature of Culture to resemble the iceberg, with ninety percent of its mass being below the observable surface. So much of it is imbibed with mothers’ milk and formed into the subconscious grasp of “what is natural” that often only an immigrant can see the breadth and depth of it. Sowell’s application of a gimlet eye is useful in that we are enabled/forced to consider his evidence in order to engage with his arguments. He demonstrates the importance of a truly educated mind that is not simply engaged in recitation of received facts.

  21. Somehow my extended family in Arkansas missed out on all the fun described here. I must have been deprived, because every adult I knew while growing up worked all the time and never accepted “just enough.” My hard-working maternal grandfather ran successful grocery stores all his life and his brother established a very profitable sales and repair shop that is still in business after 70 years. My father set up and ran several businesses and was a salesman who worked for years to support us four boys. Many of my high school classmates started flourishing service businesses or went on to college for careers, two of my brothers earned BA degrees in business, and I earned a Doctorate in Engineering and had a 50 year engineering career, including a stint in the White House Science Office and co-founding a NASDAQ-listed software firm and a biotech equipment company, while writing a little science fiction along the way.

    As I said, somehow we missed out on all that lazy Southern fun.

    1. That’s because “The South” isn’t monolithic.

      Seriously, at the beginning of the Civil War, there were at least two Souths.

      There was the Cotton Belt, the seven states that grew cotton, left the Union immediately after the election of 1860 but before Lincoln’s inauguration, and had a culture very stratified and very heavily influenced by their notions of English country life. Planters who owned land and slaves to work it on top, farmers who worked their own land in the middle, and slaves on the bottom. This culture extended into the Tidewater Tobacco areas of North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, but not far inland.

      On the other hand, there was what I call the Tobacco Belt…which was mostly small farms and businesses. Kindly note that the major industrial firms in the Confederacy were in Virginia. They were much more inclined to at least try business and enterprise than their neighbors further south.

      1. Or Tennessee, for that matter. It’s worth noting that East, and to a lesser degree Middle, Tennessee were more like the Tobacco belt than the Cotton Belt. West Tennessee, on the other hand, was more like the Cotton Belt.

        1. And Tennessee was the last state to leave the Union, the first back in. And had tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides. For largely the reasons you mention.

      2. Had a great-grandfather in the tobacco raising business, and he did some of everything. Raised livestock, grew and cut trees, tobacco, tinkering, put in his own sawmill – he was the one to get rural electrification into his township and county. He worked all his life. The rest of his immediate family did likewise; pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, even one doctor who (best I can track down) died during the Spanish Flu.

        The generation after that seems to have gone a bit nuts, and I have no clue why. Although drugs were involved in some instances.

        Odd thing is that as far as I’ve been able to track back, that particular family came over from somewhere in Wales/Southern England prior to 1630, and seems to have been hard workers all that time. *Shrug* So, definitely not monolithic, no.

      3. Tobacco raising was better for slaves. The work required too much judgment, and it was not simple for an overseer to evaluate your work on the spot. Masters had to reward good work to get it. Cotton? Much easier to evaluate, so they set quotas, punished failure, and gave out fewer rewards.

    2. I am presently reading Black Rednecks and White Liberals and am to the conclusion of the first essay. In that, the title essay, Sowell is discussing the effect of a particular sub-culture that came over from areas of Great Britain. He is clear that it is not the only culture.

  22. It’s interesting to compare American Southern culture to that of the other place where low class whites were sent- Australia.
    In both places, you had a group deliberately trying to ape the aristocratic manners of the upper class Englishman- the planters in the South, and the Exclusives in Australia. That land rents were the only noble means of getting wealth, or that trade was somehow “dirty”, or that manual labor was beneath them- all of those attitudes were assumed and amplified by commoners trying to pretend to be gentlemen.

    Yet different- the Bunyip aristocracy never really took off, and pretty much faded with the end of the Assignment System.

    1. I loved the scene in Snowy River II where the colonel shoots down the banker by observing that the colonel’s ancestors had hung the banker’s ancestors for cattle lifting. 😀

    2. Anthony Trollope’s mother traveled around America around 1830 and wrote an account of it all. The thing that really surprised me was her observation that the goal of every small farm family was to buy two slaves, a male and female, who would then do all the work, and the farmer and his wife would live a life of leisure. So it wasn’t all big plantations, apparently.

        1. I think they overestimated the wealth two industrious people could generate, especially burdened with idle patrons. But we see the same aspiration expressed in moderns playing the Lotto.

  23. I !earned word ‘feckless’ listening to my scottish grandmother talk about my granda, who hated going to work week in, week out, year after year after year. My granda did not think humans were meant to work forty hour weeks for asshole employers, he felt he was wasting his life at work when there were so many other things he could be doing.

  24. Huh. So the ones accusing others of “acting white” are really the ones truly “acting white” — and Euro-Noble-ish white at that. History must be racist or something, huh?

    1. Persecuting those who were “acting white” isn’t unique to the descendants of the Old South. I saw the same attitudes among many of the Latinos I grew up with in the 1960s. If one wanted to improve his situation via education, he tended to get bullied for trying to be “too good” for his peers. In a sense, if he persevered, they were right, he ~was~ better than them.

      1. It would be an interesting (if “bad think”) experiment to map success in modern America according to cultural values — say, long- vs short-term, the former including investment in education, reliance upon thrift as opposed to the Cracker “Live for today” attitude — and incorporating such factors as intact nuclear families, delaying sexual activity and such rather than ethnicity.

        Of course, as such a study might invalidate the premises of the many race hustlers afflicting us we can be sure that it would be immediately denounced and suppressed as racisssssss.

      2. In many parts of Africa, doing better than your neighbors can get you accused of being a witch.

    2. I wonder how well received Sowell’s booklet was by the black population? The implication that much of black culture was appropriated from less than successful white people should have had them screaming in the streets for his head.

      1. I seem to recall some folks denouncing him. But there’s also the element that you can still blame slavery for why blacks suffer (after all, they wouldn’t have absorbed those awful cultural traits if they hadn’t been slaves to those people).

  25. Another factor that we need to remember is that the old regional cultures have become jumbled over the last century. Too many people have moved. South to North. North to South. East to West…and back again. Plus the cultural impact of the First and Second World Wars, and the massive mobilization effort in both.

    So none of us should be terribly surprised to see some of these traits in our extended families.

  26. I have a suspicion Sowell is not looking far enough back.

    I look at Africa and I see people who largely have no desire to work, and who never do more than the minimum to get by.

    I look at the Middle East and see a culture that believes only slaves work; no one else will touch the nasty stuff.

    Come the slave-owning South and naturally no free man wanted to work harder than a slave, and I can’t imagine that enslaved blacks worked any harder than their free African forebears. That goes on for a couple hundred years and by then only the most anally ambitious, which is to say latecoming Germans and Dutch, actually did any real work, and meanwhile the slave-owning culture of not-working and do-just-enough is strongly established in poor whites as well as in freed blacks.

    And there’s tremendous peer pressure to not get uppity — so the only way out of that culture-of-lazing-along is to leave it.

    But the idea that blacks caught it from whites? I think it’s rather the other way around; no one freely settled in the New World who lacked all ambition, if only because of the difficulty of reaching it.

    1. I look at Africa and I see …

      I see plenty of people eager to work at improving their lot in life. There’s Mr. Mugabe, and whoever is currently in charge of South Africa and there’s …

      Our knowledge of African culture is highly limited and I, for one, would not use it as a basis of projecting several centuries into the past.

      In some instances of which I am aware American slaves worked very industriously when provided effective incentives, such as a master telling a hired-out slave that “everything you make after 4:00 pm is yours.” There are not a few tales of slaves buying their freedom from money earned and saved.

      As for “those who freely settled in the New World” they were likely a smaller percentage of the whole than you think. Transportatioin: It’s not just to Australia!

      1. The task system in the Low Country – overseer said ” OK, today this, this, and this must be done.” And when they were done? That time was a slave’s to do with as he or she saw fit. On the big cotton farms it was the gang system, which is what most people think of, and much harder to get time away or to earn extra money if you were not a specialized, skilled worker.

    2. It’s not a matter of lacking all ambition–it’s a matter of lacking ambition to do more than is necessary to get by. You’ve also overlooked the fact that a lot of people came here either via indenture or because they were convicts or otherwise in trouble with the law.

      1. Or fighting men for whom there was no longer going to be a place in peaceful society. Like Borderers as the area became pacified.

    3. I have to disagree with your premise. Plenty of people migrated to the Southern colonies, because of various expectations having little to do with working ~hard~. Among the reasons they came were: expecting to become landed gentry based on royal land grants; or because they expected to make a living as a politician or bureaucrat; .

    4. no one freely settled in the New World who lacked all ambition
      And how many of the Scots-Irish “freely settled”? A great many of them were dumped here after, for example, Bonny Prince Charlie’s failed revolution.

      1. Georgia — which as a British colony was originally chartered as a charitable project to provide for ‘the worthy poor’ as an alternative to debtors prison and later saw an influx of persons sentenced to deportation there.

    5. The immigrants I know from Africa are pretty motivated. (And mostly working in the medical industry, as it happens—at least the ones I know.) Of course, those are the ones pursuing opportunities in another country, so they’re self-selected for ambition.

    6. The question is what the culture in the seventeenth and eighteenth century was like among the various tribal populations from which slaves were taken.  What we see now in Africa is not necessarily what was then.

  27. As the great grandson of German Farmers in northern Alabama (Saint Verran) they did have problems with cattle being stolen. During WW 1 they had to leave the state.

  28. Two things:
    First, during World War I, soldiers from the North would, when writing of Southern soldiers, say that they talked like black people.

    Second, my maternal grandfather was the first in his family to go to college, because he didn’t want to stay on the farm. Absolutely no one in his family supported him in that decision.

  29. a) poverty in the South after the war. I remain convinced that crooked politics played a role. Yes, I believe the claims of family stories of crooked Scalawags and Carpetbagger, believe that the stories were told. The stories may be true. Political operators do not fix elections for free. The history shows too much effort put into restricting the vote and terrorizing sectors of the populace to believe that the Segregation era political establishment did not fear free elections, and weren’t fixing at least some. That political establishment was not squeaky clean, and the corruption would have had an economic cost. (Maybe I’m too heavily shaped by oral history from my semi-South neck of the woods, and should not be extrapolating.)
    b) I’ve assumed for some time that the respective political cultures were likewise learned from another.
    c) I’ve got some hard workers in my ancestry, who were an influence. An unreliable source claims one side of the family did have some of those behaviors. That side is currently mostly hard working and ambitious. I have a ne’er do well or two on the other side. Plus myself. I spent many years trying as best I could, became depressed and demoralized for a time, and am now trying to teach myself to work harder, past the point I have managed before. Having a good close industrious contact in real life when you can and need to learn is mighty helpful for not going down a wrong path.

  30. And thinking about it, the attitude that manual labor is somehow degrading has never really gone out of style in the USA, and has in fact become more prevalent. Any kid who skips college to learn a trade is assumed to be lacking somehow, that he’s not smart enough for higher education.

    1. There was, and maybe still is, a concerted effort in high schools to shame kids out of considering the trades. Or so I’ve heard.

      Propaganda has an effect.

    2. More people strive to merely skim 10-35% off someone else’s wages and live well enough. The entirety of government is such. Some of the losses pay themselves back, normally in defense of property rights, but I’d guess that 2/3 minimum is lost. And the cut desired just keeps growing. Not only monetarily but in choice and freedom.

      If your only choice is to be the tick or the dog, the tick is the easier life. Especially if the tick is forcibly installed on dog by someone else.

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