Strange Seeds on Distant Shores

In Soviet Russia, Pravda punches you

I once asked a coworker who had grown up in the Soviet Union "What was the most surprising thing about coming to the West?" I was assuming it was going to be something physical and mundane: the shape of traffic lights, or the fact that you can't find Vodka for sale in bus stops – something like that.

His answer, though, made me realize that I'd accidentally asked a really interesting question. "Growing up under communism, things didn't make perfect sense. Facts didn't quite fit together. But because everything – schools, newspapers, radio – was all from the same people, you never knew what was wrong…but you could tell that something wasn't right. It was like boxing while you're blind folded. You keep getting hit in the face, but you don't know why. Only after I got out did I see how the real world really was, and how everything we'd been told was lies and distortions." (Quote is from memory ten years later)

There's an aphorism that "fish don't know that they're in water." While googling up the phrase to make sure I had it exactly, I learned that Derek Sivers has made exactly the point I wanted to make next, and made it well, so I'll let him speak:

Fish don't know they're in water.

If you tried to explain it, they'd say, "Water? What's water?"

They're so surrounded by it, that it's impossible to see.

They can't see it until they get outside of it.

This is how I feel about culture.

We're so surrounded by people who think like us, that it's impossible to see that what we think are universal truths are just our local culture.

We can't see it until we get outside of it.

I was born in California and grew up with what I felt was a normal
upbringing with normal values.

My Russian friend was a fish, and it wasn't until he got out of the water that he could look down and exclaim "Holy shit! That is why I felt so wet all the time!"

Well, lucky us – we live in the West where the schools, the media, and the government aren't all held captive by one totalitarian ideology, so we get a diversity of viewpoints and can see how things really work.

I'm joking, of course.

(I thought briefly about putting an image of Bush, Clinton, Carter and Obama all sharing a laugh here to illustrate the humor, but I don't want to belabor the point. And also because picking 21st century presidents gets the timing wrong by about 500 years.)

There's a war going on out there that you people know nothing about

If you don't know any history, you're like the Ani DiFranco's goldfish, surprised afresh each time the plastic castle comes into view.

The Democratic push for Obamacare, and the Republican push against it, is a one-off event.

The truth is, Obamacare is just a small battle – alongside gay marriage laws, campus speech codes, anti-"Brogrammer" fatwahs, and more – in a long running culture war.

If you know a little history, you might see some of this, and think that today's culture battles are part of a tradition that goes back to FDR (who, by the way, tried to push RooseveltCare in 1935, before the American Medical Association scuttled it).

If you know a bit more history, you might see that this culture war stems from North Eastern progressive tradition dating back to the US Civil War.

The truth is that our culture war does date to the Civil War. Just not the US Civil War in 1861. It's the English Civil War in 1640s I'm talking about.

A way too brief history of the English Civil Wars

First of all, I'm not an expert in this area. Second of all, even if I were, a few paragraphs is way too short to do the subject justice.

That said: for most of the second millennium England was split into three groups: the King, the upper middle classes (who thought that they should rule), and the lumpenproletariat.

The division of labor was this:

The king made the laws.

The upper middle classes believe in progress. Specifically, progress to a world where they got to make the laws.

And the peasants? The peasants might prefer that no one taxed them or made laws for them, but they stuck to hoeing and shit shoveling, if they knew what was good for them.

Around 1200 AD the first two groups hammered out a temporary truce, the Magna Carta. One detail of note is that King could not collect new taxes with out the approval of Parliament. (huh! What a coincidence – the US Constitution written almost eight centuries later has something similar. It's almost as if institutions and culture wars echo down the centuries!).

Four hundred years later, in the early 1600s, the King wanted more revenue but didn't want to convene Parliament to pass new taxes (quick note: wouldn't it be wonderful if Obama had all the power he needed?), because if he did convene them, who knew what mischief they'd get up to? ("No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.")

…and mischief he got. The progressives – wait, excuse me, I'm jumping ahead – the Parliamentarians soon presented a bill to the king, asking him to kill his friend and advisor Thomas Wentworth. They were motivated by several reasons, one being that Wentworth was too soft on hate speech and racism. Oops. I'm jumping again. Anyway, the attack on Wentworth was two-fold: First, like the King, he was soft on the thought-crime of his day, Roman Catholicism (which held to the dastardly belief that there was an authority beyond that of the government). Second, and this seems to be trumped up propaganda, the blue state parliamentarians worried that Wentworth was getting his the backbone of his military – the Scots Irish soldiers stationed in the north – ready to attack and overthrow the parliamentarians.

Long story short, the Parliamentarians wanted Wentworth dead. And, for that matter, killing the king wouldn't be a bad idea either: one clean spasm that would overthrow the old order, create a Year Zero, and make progress into a new promised land where the Right People got to dictate national policy with out icky old hold overs of class privilege.

…and that's how the blue states Parliamentarians started a civil war against the red states royal forces.

How did the war end?

It didn't. We're still fighting it. And that, my friends, is the hidden thesis statement of this entire rant.

Albion's seeds

One of the best books I read in the last decade was Albion's Seed. It was a hand that scooped me up out of the 21st century and let me look at the water.

The core point that David Hackett Fisher makes in his book is that English emigration to the Eastern seaboard of North America was not homogeneous: it was heterogeneous, and cultural groups persisted. Strongly.

(source: http://jaymans.wordpress.com)

Compare this emigration map with the English Civil war map earlier. What do you see?

  • East Anglians, the core of the Parliamentarian (blue, progressive) army, moved to Massachusetts (and promptly formed Harvard University in 1636…right during the era of Personal Rule before the Short Parliament )
  • Midlanders with out strong political opinions moved to the (US Midlantic states, which today generate mild democrats and Christie RINOs)
  • Minor nobility from the royal families (red, conservative) moved to Virginia (although it took them a bit longer to establish VMI)
  • The Scots Irish armies loyal to the nobility (remember? The ones that the Parliamentarians were so worried that Wentworth was stirring up?) moved to the American South (although the minor royalty, being minor royalty, was used to eating high on the hog: they took the best farmland and gave the Scots Irish the scraps: crappy hill land and "hollas".

The American Revolution

The American Revolution was, arguably, not one secessionist movement, but two of them, starting for different reasons, and running in parallel.

If we look at the text of the Declaration of Independence , we see two different types of complaints about the English government. The document is, quite frankly, schizophrenic, complaining simultaneously that the dish of the king's governance had both too much salt and too little.

On the one hand, the king meddled in the freedoms of the common people by having too many laws and too much taxation (you can find all of these complaints in any Republican party platform of the last fifty years):

  • "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance. "
  • "For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent"
  • "For abolishing the free System of English Laws"
  • "He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death" (black helicopters! NAFTA highway!)

Yet on the other hand, the king meddled – not in the freedoms of the common people – but in the freedoms of the Harvard elites to rule the common people:

  • "He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."
  • "He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance"
  • "He has refused to pass other Laws"
  • "He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws "
  • "For suspending our own Legislatures"

The first is a list of red state complaints: "the government is too big!". The second is a list of blue state complaints: "the government is too small!".

This is a compromise document, and an incoherent one, where Massachusetts Roundheads are complaining that the king won't let Harvard Light Bringers such as themselves lay the pain on nonconformists, dissenters, and Climate Deniers, and the Southern Scots Irish are complaining that high taxes and black helicopters make it impossible to buy as many Jet Skis and as much Everclear as they'd like.

Conflict wasn't baked in to the American experiment because one side wanted slaves and the other didn't. That's naive "I can look back 150 years; I'm a scholar!" thinking. Conflict was baked in to the American experiment because the continent was settled by two peoples who have despised each other for a thousand years and committed the worst atrocities imagineable on each other every time they got the chance.

On across the centuries

But it didn't end with 1776. Compare the English emigration pattern with a map of the US Civil War

…or the 2012 election.

Like the bard says, "the past didn't go anywhere, did it? It's right here, right now."

The Standing Wave

If you visit a red state you will notice higher than average levels of tobacco use, Evangelical Christianity, Ford F-150s, and so on.

If you visit a blue state you will notice higher than average levels of organic foods, evangelical Brightism, Priuses, and so forth.

To a first approximation, these two bags of cultural signifiers have absolutely nothing to do with King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell and the cultures around them.

In fact, though, if you dig a bit deeper you'll see that there are very solid strands connecting them. The Parliamentarian Roundheads were made up of
Diggers (agrarian socialists – who'd think that farmers would be socially liberal?), Levellers (who were into "popular sovereignty", which is a fancy political science term for
a drum circle, I think) and a bunch of near heretics who's spiritual descendants believe in Crystal Power and Chakras (or perhaps having their female priests and rabbis perform gay marriages in an inclusive church), and always voting Democrat. In short, you've got a pretty similar culture alliance in 1614 as you do in 2014.

On the red side of the equation, today we've got a similar wacky alliance between business elites who are mostly motivated – pace their propaganda – not so much by keeping taxes and regulation low, but by keeping disruptive change low (the cultural descendants of King Charles), and, on the other hand, the less rich, less educated, more violently inclined Scots Irish who want to be left alone from the gay marriage cultural depredations of the progressive Roundheads so they can get back to poaching alligators (the cultural descendants of people who poached deer).

Who cares?

Having an accurate view of the world is rewarding in its own right, but it's especially nice when the alternative is being blindfolded and punched in the face.

If you think that the today's headlines are primarily, or even largely, about today, you're mistaken: they're just reports from the latest skirmishes in a war started a thousand years ago because of climate change and technological progress.

If you think that because you're on the winning side of the culture wars the footnotes are boring or irrelevant, I suggest that you're wrong. I think that over the next decade or two the Roundheads (read Harvard Yankees) are going to take a major fall. Like dwarves delving too deep or Hitler pushing too far into the East, the irrational exuberance (not to say hubris) of roaming the culture war battlefield and humiliating your downed opponents before brutally executing them can have detrimental effects.

After all, culture wars aren't won or lost in a single century.

To be continued.

(note: the next edition of Thunderdome may include references to priest hunters, college speech codes, Mexican immigration, Enoch Powell, Women in Tech, the median voter, and maybe even Baen vs Tor / New York publishing vs Hugh Howey).

Last 5 posts by Clark

Comments

  1. Mu says

    And here I thought that Burke's Connections would never be trumped in finding convoluted reasons for historic events.

  2. Craig says

    Nice, but I don't think the DoI is quite as self-contradictory as you make it out to be. It actually makes reasonably good sense: the King's government, thousands of miles away in England, demands a lot from us but doesn't pay much attention to our needs or interests (your "red state complaints"); and at the same time, the King's government won't let us take up the slack by managing local affairs ourselves (your "blue state complaints"). This puts us in a situation where proper governance of our colonies is effectively impossible, and England doesn't seem much interested in acknowledging or fixing the problem. Therefore: to Hell with you, King George, we're going to run things on our own from now on.

    But your main point, that the culture wars of today are really a continuation of conflicts that have been simmering and occasionally boiling over for centuries, is insightful and correct.

  3. Aaron says

    Wow, thanks for this! Didn't really realize that the conflicts go that far back (and probably further, really). I knew the US Civil War was more than just slaves (industrialization, railroads, etc), but I hadn't realized you could trace it back even further.

  4. Unburned Hydrocarbon says

    I am more bummed out by the blue state attempts to impose their culture on me through judicial activism.

  5. Craig says

    The blue states do the same thing, though. Everyone wants the rest of the world to agree with them on certain things that they consider crucial, and usually they're willing to enforce that desire through legislation, sanctions, or warfare. The difference is just which things you consider to be important enough for that.

  6. darius404 says

    I am more bummed out by the courts' refusal to negate red and blue state attempts to impose their culture on me through judicial abdication.

  7. Nancy says

    Trying to boil down several hundred years into a few paragraphs can be frustrating, and I appreciate that you didn't take several weeks of posts in trying to explain the sometimes confused nature of American backgrounds. But stark simplicity can expose huge holes, some of which need clarifying. Massachusetts and New Hampshire were settled by the same people. In fact, part of New Hampshire used to be in Massachusetts, until they decided to draw a line and announce that the group over there was in Massachusetts, and the group over on the other side was in New Hampshire. But the two states are extremely different. New Hampshire has a strong libertarian tradition that Massachusetts doesn't. In fact, the six New England states are very different from each other, just as New Yorkers and New Jerseyites are very different. The homogeneity you see I don't.

    You swept across the religious differences very quickly, yet that was the major difference, right there. Virginia and some of the other southern states tended to be settled by Anglicans (today's Episcopalians) and New England was settled, at least in the early years, by Puritans (today's Congregationalists). Roman Catholicism was banned both in England and the colonies. In fact, the Puritan faction made a definite decision to settle in the northern section of the British colonies for the sake of being able to control what religion was practiced. Years later, however, Cotton Mather imported five boatloads of Presbyterians (from Scotland and Ireland) in 1718, who had their own effect on the local population, settling in the Berkshire region and parts of Maine. The religious differences, the agricultural differences (plantations in the south needed many people to work them, thus importing many hundreds of slaves. Northern agriculture was based on smaller farms, so there were fewer slaves. (There were indeed slaves in New England, just not a lot of them).

    On a different note, of the protestors and agitators who helped push the idea of revolution, most of the famous names are from Virginia and Massachusetts. And it was the Massachusetts group, the home of the blues, where people were pouring tea into the harbor.

    I understand the point you're trying to make, but I think you're leaving out way too much material.

  8. Doug says

    2011 ancestry of US population by rank:

    1. German
    2. African
    3. Irish
    4. Mexican
    5. English

    So I'm having a bit of a problem with the geographical premise.

  9. Jim Salter says

    Nice try, except like many armchair political philosophers you conveniently leave out the fact that southern states are rarely more than 60% red (Midwestern states going into the 80s and up) and that regardless of what state you're in, cities are predominantly blue and rural areas predominantly red.

  10. Marconi Darwin says

    Interesting. A fish telling other fish that they're in water.

    Jim Salter October 10, 2014 at 4:38 pm: spot on!

  11. parabole says

    Interesting. A fish telling other fish that they're in water.

    Congratulations to all of those who've demonstrated their superiority by making the leap out of the bowl.
    How're those gills working out for you?

  12. Arthur Kirkland says

    If the argument is that intolerance and superstition are about to make a major comeback (outside the established backward pockets of America), I am skeptical to the point of near-dismissal.

  13. jdgalt says

    Some good bits, but the overall gist is not only silly but incoherent. The writer needs to put away Hunter Thompson's recipe book before he suffers the fate of Abdul Alhazred.

  14. Jim says

    Not this site's usual fare, and not quite to my taste. There is some good here, but the signal to noise ratio is off.

    I will admit the problem for me: I come here looking for Ken White. This isn't Ken White. I'll continue to come here looking for Ken White's posts, but otherwise I am uninterested. Ken is major league, the rest of this is minor leagues or worse.

  15. AlphaCentauri says

    The premise that the pattern of emigration from England determined US culture doesn't hold up, I agree. Very few people in my area are actually of English descent at all.

    On the other hand, patterns were established early on that determined where various groups were welcomed. Even after religious freedom was established by the US constitution, people naturally settled in communities where they found other people like themselves. Some of it was due to the tolerance of the communities where they were received, such as the religious tolerance that was part of the earliest charter in Pennsylvania, But much was probably the random result of the first settlers becoming an anchor for subsequent immigrants, such as the Portuguese concentrating in Massachusetts and the Croatians and Lithuanians in Chicago.

  16. Kevin says

    @AlphaCentauri

    The premise that the pattern of emigration from England determined US culture doesn't hold up, I agree. Very few people in my area are actually of English descent at all.

    The pattern being referred to is more memetic than genetic. Thankfully, you provide your own illustration of this point:

    after religious freedom was established … people naturally settled in communities where they found other people like themselves.

    Though there may have been significant genetic drift over the last 200+ years, the memetics have remained surprisingly stable.

  17. d-day says

    I don't have anything clever to add here, just dropping a quick note to say thanks for the post — not what I expected, but I was glad to learn something I didn't already know.

  18. A.P. says

    @Nancy
    As a rule, native New Englanders are socially liberal or libertarian, and politics is fought on a mixture of economics, personal impressions, and influence from the national mood.

    Most Republicans in New England, as Bill Weld put it: "want the government out of their bedroom and out of their pocketbook."

    Most independents, myself included, are socially liberal/libertarian, and either "fiscally conservative" or "economically pragmatic." In fact a lot of independents are former Republicans, since the local branches of the GOP tend to lose members everytime the national party goes on a RINO hunt.

    The strongest strains of social conservatism in New England actually come from urban Democrats from strongly Catholic cultures, and they're of a much milder sort than evangelicalism in the South or Midwest. For example while marriage equality was a bipartisan project in Vermont and New Hampshire back in 2009, a handful of Catholic Democratic politicians managed to delay it until 2013 in Rhode Island.

    Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island began to turn blue largely thanks to Catholic immigration in the late 19th century. Vermont and Maine become swing states then went largely Democratic mostly as a result of the growing influence of the religious right in the GOP (Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and Reagan's "three-legged stool"), which also locked southern New England into the Democratic column.

    New Hampshire has managed to remain somewhat of a swing state through a combination of its native politics (very close to Northeastern Mass) and the Great Sort, which has seen Republicans and independents from other parts of New England move to the Granite State in search of economic liberty. However it's still culturally very much part of New England.

    As for New York and New Jersey, when you take Upstate New York out of the equation, I think you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

  19. Just a thought says

    Not this site's usual fare, and not quite to my taste. There is some good here, but the signal to noise ratio is off.

    I will admit the problem for me: I come here looking for Ken White. This isn't Ken White. I'll continue to come here looking for Ken White's posts, but otherwise I am uninterested. Ken is major league, the rest of this is minor leagues or worse.

    I'm sensing you may be fairly new here. Clark may be bonkers, but on this site, he's hardly minor league. This particular article, whether he's right or wrong, has led to some interesting discussion, as he often does.

  20. Db says

    Awesome post! I am officially adding Albion's Seed to my list of Clark book recommendations. (Still working through some of the sci-fi titles, got sidetracked by Rothfuss).

  21. says

    @JimSalter

    But they're also about 40% black, who vote 95% Democrat and obviously aren't amenable to this analysis. Their whites are astonishingly Republican.

  22. David C says

    Nice try, except like many armchair political philosophers you conveniently leave out the fact that southern states are rarely more than 60% red

    I wonder what the percentages were in the 1600's in England? Surely not 100%.

  23. says

    Nice thesis. It is correct that the war of independence was a continuation of the civil war. I did one July 4 get into a minor argument in Boston on that point :).

  24. Nancy says

    A.P. I think you are also forgetting industrialization. The growth of factories during the Industrial Revolution brought enormous changes to cities and other urban areas, including what people expected from the states. (I deliberately left out later immigration patterns in my earlier post, since the discussion related to English patterns, but yes, I am aware of them, and no, New York City in not like New Jersey). However, I sense that the discussion regarding why some states are labelled blue and others red could continue for months, if not years, and I'm reluctant to keep the Comment section tied up with a continual debate on the matter. But I did agree with quite a bit of what you said, and the topic is an interesting one.

  25. A.P. says

    @Nancy
    You're right about urbanization. I was observing that most of New Jersey and all of downstate NY are an extension of NYC. I don't really care if you're from Westchester, Jersey, or Long Island; it's all greater New York to me.

    In light of Clark's thesis, what I should have said is that rural parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware do have a lot in common, though upstate New York also has a lot in common with New England.

    I'll leave it at that, since I too have some comments I want to make about Clark's thesis itself.

  26. A.P. says

    Clark's thesis is interesting, and superficially plausible, but the biggest problem is that he glosses over internal divisions in the Revolution and Civil War with misleading state-level analysis.

    In the Revolution, the county was essentially divided in coastal areas with strong rebel sentiment and inland areas with strong loyalist sentiment (though rebels and loyalists could always be found throughout).

    In the North, Eastern New England, New York City, and Philadelphia were centers of revolutionary fervor while the Connecticut and Hudson Valleys were centers of loyalism. Later these same areas were also centers of anti-federalism, and anti-state-government rebellions sprung up in both western PA and western MA.

    In the South, the lowland plantation owners were often pro-independence, but the small farmers of the upland south were some of the most loyal to Britain, and again, centers of anti-federalism, though not armed insurrection.

    The Civil War actually *was* about slavery for both the elites of the lowland South (who said as much in all their public pronouncements, declarations of independence, and Constitution), and for the abolitionists in places like Boston and Philadelphia.

    However much of the interior of the North only went along with the war, just barely, out of resentment that the Southerners had taken their ball, said they were going home, and then flung it in their face so hard that they knocked out a few teeth at Ft. Sumter.

    Meanwhile, in the upland South, the hillbillies were so against secession that West Virginia split from Virginia and rejoined the Union. When parts of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama tried to do the same, the poor freedom-loving Rebs were forced to send in armed forces to sit on them.

    None of which makes a strong case for the English Civil War governing modern American politics.

  27. A_Lurker says

    Along the lines of this analysis, there is some analysis that the US consists of 11? regions. Each region has very similar culture and politics.

    Interesting idea is the cultural framework of many areas of the US up to 1900 could be described by the culture of the original settlers from GB.

  28. says

    Along the lines of this analysis, there is some analysis that the US consists of 11? regions.

    I am a big fan of Joel Garreau's Nine Nations of North America.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nine_Nations_of_North_America

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Nine-Nations-North-America/dp/0380578859

    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/07/03/where-do-borders-need-to-be-redrawn/nine-nations-of-north-america-30-years-later

    His book "Edge City" is also worth reading.

  29. Al says

    Nancy:

    New Hampshire and Maine also saw some immigration from Ulster in the 18th century. That accounts for place names like Londonderry and Antrim in New Hampshire. Also, a common phenomenon in New England was the resentment of outlanders for the clerical and commercial establishments in the big cities. There was always some friction between Boston and outlying areas like New Hampshire and Rhode Island. This wasn't shared by Connecticut or Vermont, states that were further removed from Boston's influence.

    A similar opposition of highlanders and outlanders to the influence of big cities is also seen in the South. West Virginia and Virginia, for example, seem to move in opposite directions politically over time. Sometimes they converge to vote for a popular president, but then they're drawn apart again. The idea of history as one big squabble between Puritans and Scots-Irish backcountrymen can only be sustained by smoothing away a lot of anomalies.

    Simple geography has something to do with how things turned out politically. In Massachusetts, you just can't get away from Boston and its influence. That goes for Rhode Island and Providence or Delaware and Wilmington. New York, Chicago, Detroit and other cities dominate their states. In Mississippi or Wyoming, where cities are small and most of the population lives outside their influence, politics takes a different shape.

  30. princessartemis says

    This reminds me a bit of Black Rednecks and White Liberals by Thomas Sowell, though a good bit wider in scope.

  31. Ryan says

    While Clark acknowledges he's not an expert in this history and rushes over a number of details (coming to some convenient but very over-simplified conclusions in the process), thought thought-experiment provoked by the piece is, in general, sound. Really, the only truly problematic paragraph in the whole thing that spoils the effect somewhat is the fourth-to-last.

    People have a habit of believing that contemporary social issues have their roots in the recent past, and are often unable or unwilling to see how the roots of social conflict are sown hundreds, possibly thousands, of years in the past. The United States, being ostensibly a melting pot (but funnily enough, not actually a melting pot) is perhaps the best example of this in the modern world. Certainly, it's better than its cousins (Canada, Australia) in this regard.

    Where I find Clark's assertions problematic is in the idea that a persistent core of beliefs have remained with very little change between these culture groups as they settled in the United States today. There are quite a number of shifts which have occurred in American culture as a result of demographic changes, which Clark largely ignored.

    In other words – a great piece as a jumping off point for discussion, but not one that should be looked at uncritically as truth. Like most opinions based on history, it's a version with some truthful elements depending on one's perspective. But not bad, Clark… a departure from your usual fare, and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

  32. says

    @Ryan:

    Where I find Clark's assertions problematic is in the idea that a persistent core of beliefs have remained with very little change between these culture groups as they settled in the United States today. There are quite a number of shifts which have occurred in American culture as a result of demographic changes, which Clark largely ignored.

    Not so much ignored, as was unable to address in the time and space I had. This is a key point, and I'll address it later in this sequence.

  33. Jenny says

    Oh, Fischer is amazing… Albion's Seed is easily the best popular US history book I've come across in years. I do wish Fischer had continued that line of work, but more modern work by other authors looks to have taken up the slack.

    Certainly Fischer's work is far from complete – and Clark's few paragraphs of summary necessarily much more so – but to cavalierly dismiss the premise out of hand is deeply ignorant.

    For all the shifting cultural alliances, new arrivals, and cross-fertilization of the last two hundred years, the crusading grandiosity of a Massachusetts reformer is unmistakably of a piece with their memetic ancestors – likewise the God and Guns core of the reactionary wing of the Tea Party and the pragmatic Old Boys Club of the Beltway. Details have shifted, but you can't not see the lines of descent once you're lifted out of present day squabbles to see the battlefield unfolding over time.

    I need to think more about the English Civil War struggles and what preceded them to intelligently engage the core of that point – certainly the tribal fault lines are still quite visible, but to what extent do the old arguments themselves still shape us?

    … looking forward to the next installment. :)

  34. picklefactory says

    Apparently Mencius Moldbug has hooned so many urbs to Clark that he's gone full Dark Enlightenment.

  35. says

    @pickelfactory

    Apparently Mencius Moldbug has hooned so many urbs to Clark that he's gone full Dark Enlightenment.

    When Mencius and I sit in his private airplane "The High Country", sip port, and talk politics and old books, we argue more than we agree. He once said of my opinions "nothing enranges me more than when a good man speaks with the voice of Satan".

    You are free to guess exactly how much of that previous paragraph is true.

  36. says

    Fascinating article – spot on in many ways —

    But it seems to ignore 1) the mixing up of many other nationalities and mindsets within, over, under, on top of and along side the English of history … 2) it ignores the movement of the English once they got here — and particularly in the past several decades – a good 1/3 of the South is from the North – and good 1/3 of the West is from the South … and so on. 3) the gay marriage thing is an outlier, and there is no other subject like it under the sun — it wasn't but a two decades ago when the opinions of heterosexuals were nearly uniform and rock solid .. it is not really related to the trends you so amply layout — but, thanks for thinking of us! …

  37. Narad says

    note: the next edition of Thunderdome may include references to…

    Don't forget Bohemian Grove and Operation Mockingbird in the denouement. An introduction to the Metropolis algorithm and basic Jungianism might also help.

  38. Narad says

    The (genuine) connection between imported Lebensreform thought and the role of Jack LaLanne on its mass dissemination ought not to be ignored in the modern context, either. Nat King Cole didn't get "Nature Boy" from nowhere.

  39. Nancy says

    @Al, I believe I mentioned the early Presbyterian settlers in my second post. There were five shiploads in 1718, and they settled inland in Massachusetts and along coastal areas that had been abandoned in Maine due to Native American attacks. There were others following them, but not enough to sway the politics of the area. And for quite a long time in New England the clergy dominated to the extent that they often decided the course of action for their towns. It took quite a while before civil law replaced church law. It was the decided differences between Massachusetts and New Hampshire I was stressing, simply because Clark had lumped them together for the purpose of explaining how English settlement habits had caused the Red State/Blue State split, and they were quite different, even when separated by only a few yards.

  40. Matt says

    Clark, I gotta be honest, I mainly read Ken's stuff here (I came for the Carreon v The Oatmeal, stayed for the Prenda), but you've definitely piqued my interest with this one, and I look forward to the future installments. :D

  41. Philosopherva says

    AlphaCentauri October 11, 2014 at 9:23 pm
    It would be interesting to follow the English revolutionary divisions further back, to the Norman vs. Saxon vs. Celt divisions.

    Actually, my hunch is that it can be traced back to the Gnostics of the first century, but in am not prepared to defend that assertion with scholarly citations at this point.

  42. Kevin says

    @AlphaCentauri

    It would be interesting to follow the English revolutionary divisions further back, to the Norman vs. Saxon vs. Celt divisions.

    I suspect this might be sarcastic, but I would actually be legitimately curious to see this.

    @Philosopherva

    Actually, my hunch is that it can be traced back to the Gnostics of the first century, but in am not prepared to defend that assertion with scholarly citations at this point.

    Yes, that had occurred to me as well. In fact, if we weren't limited by the extent of recorded history (i.e. if we had a time machine we could use to go back and observe) I suspect it could probably be traced back to farmer vs forager, or some even earlier, proto-human cultural divide lost to history.

  43. says

    @Kevin

    @AlphaCentauri
    It would be interesting to follow the English revolutionary divisions further back, to the Norman vs. Saxon vs. Celt divisions.

    I suspect this might be sarcastic, but I would actually be legitimately curious to see this.

    I think it's entirely reasonable, and I was thinking of doing it myself…or more.

    Sketch in Hadrian's Wall in that map.

    Also note that culture may very well interact with genes; the longer civilized south eastern English might very well have slightly more genes that lead to emphasizing social harmony and collectivism, and the more recently civilized north and west might very well have slightly more genes that lead to emphasizing individual autonomy.

    There's some interesting reading out there that talks about when various regions phased out cousing marriage (which is correlated w small-scale tribal loyalty).

  44. Michael Price says

    "The Parliamentarian Roundheads were made up of
    Diggers (agrarian socialists – who'd think that farmers would be socially liberal?), Levellers (who were into "popular sovereignty", which is a fancy political science term for
    a drum circle, I think) and a bunch of near heretics who's spiritual descendants believe in Crystal Power and Chakras (or perhaps having their female priests and rabbis perform gay marriages in an inclusive church), and always voting Democrat. In short, you've got a pretty similar culture alliance in 1614 as you do in 2014."
    The Diggers weren't a major part of the Parliamentarian alliance, and in fact scared the crap out of them.. The Levellers were basically saying "Hey everyone should have the same rights and we should all vote on it.". Every democratic reform in England until the early 20th century was enacting stuff the Levelers wanted in the 17th. They had strong support in parts of the army. Unfortunately not strong enough to stop Cromwell taking their leaders prisoner.

    Most of the Parliamentarians were just strong Protestant who thought the King was going to go dictatorial/Catholic. Most probably didn't bother to distinguish between the two.

  45. wumpus says

    I think the end says it all "Roundheads (read Harvard Yankees)". If you need to claim what is typically seen as the liberal elite as the same force of Calvinistic Christianity, your thesis is in trouble.

    I've said it elsewhere that the modern conservative movement consists of the Cavaliers (i.e. the 1%) and the Roundheads (i.e. fundamentalist christians) teaming up against America.

  46. Al says

    Also, the US sees the same North-South or Grayfields-Greenfields dynamic as other western societies — Britain, France, Germany. The areas that industrialized first tended to be where coal and iron deposits were and those were (for whatever reason) somewhere in the North of those countries, roughly speaking. In the 19th century early industrialization brought great wealth to areas that hadn't been thickly settled or prosperous earlier.
    .
    A century or two later, the north of England, northern and northeastern France, the Ruhr region of Germany, New England mill towns, and the Midwest rust belt all had the familiar problems of decaying industrial areas — reliance on dying industries, pollution, chronic unemployment, high labor costs, decaying housing stock, and general bitterness — while less developed "greenfields" further South attracted new investment and growth.
    .
    Much of what we're seeing in politics now has as much to do with this divide between areas that industrialized early and those that developed later. All the suspicions Southern Jeffersonians, Jacksonians, and Populists had about industry, finance, banking, paper money, and commerce have been replaced by an enthusiasm for free markets, while the states that pioneered economic and technological development find themselves saddled with the social costs of earlier industrialization. Those states that got an early start in development now move beyond industry into softer fields — education, communication, high tech, information– and take on attitudes that neither the Puritans, nor the early industrialists would have countenanced, and the older hard-headed habits of industrialism take root in formerly agricultural states.
    .
    The Yankee-Dixie dichotomy is a structural thing, though. It goes beyond whatever intellectual or ideological content you want to give it. As if by some magnetic polarity, South Carolina and Connecticut, Mississippi and Vermont are almost always going to vote different ways in elections. If one pole transformed itself into something wildly different one almost suspects that the other would reconfigure itself to stay remain the opposing opposite.
    .
    Our current highly polarized political climate means that more moderate voices — the Pennsylvanian Midlanders and Midwesterners get crowded out of the political debate, even though more of the population probably falls into that category than into the poles of Dixie and Yankeedom. It also means that just what comes from the Cavaliers and what comes from the Borderers and Scotch-Irish gets obscured. If you want to sound a populist note, you'll want to sound more like Andrew Jackson than like some aristocratic Byrd or Randolph, even though your thinking may actually owe something to the FFVs.
    .
    Another casualty of the current political climate: the people I grew up with in New England had little use for the old Yankees, the Brahmins, the Harvards — whatever the caricature was. Those Brahmins, old or new, didn't really have much in common with the old Puritans, and they weren't loved by the immigrants who came along afterwards, or even by the "swamp Yankees" who never achieved Brahmin status. But through assimilation, and after a few decades of venomous regional polarization and recriminations, I've come to feel better towards the old Brahmins and Yankees, and even towards the new Brahmins, the new upper and governing classes in the region. I don't love them, but realizing that I could never hate them as much as some people do makes me a little mellower.
    .
    The more Southerners and libertarian-conservatives harp on the Yankee-Dixie split, the more a lot of Northerners are going to come to identify with the Establishment and even the officious and meddling progressives that they never much liked before. The breast-beating about how awful Yankee Northerners are rubs many Northerners who can't trace their ancestry back to the Pilgrims or Puritans the wrong way.

  47. Kevin says

    @wumpus

    Calvinistic/Evangelical Christianity may be associated with the political right today, but back at the time of the English Civil War, it was the radical leftist/progressive ideology of its day. The Overton Window has shifted significantly left since then, to the point that what was a radical leftist ideology in the 17th century is a radical rightist ideology in the 21st century. But the Roundhead Harvard Yankee contingent has remained consistently at the far left side of the Overton Window throughout its ever-leftward move.

  48. Al says

    Alpha Centauri:

    "It would be interesting to follow the English revolutionary divisions further back, to the Norman vs. Saxon vs. Celt divisions."
    .
    That was common in English thinking in the 19th century, and even made its way over here. The Cavaliers were identified with the Normans, and the Roundheads with the Saxons. And in the US, Southern identification with the Royalists, and New England identification with the Parliamentarians was carried back to the presumed Norman and Saxon roots of the dispute. Celts complicated the picture in both countries, but the large German population of the American North only strengthened the association with the Saxons.
    .
    But now we have DNA data, and that doesn't usually back up 19th century armchair speculation.

  49. Al says

    Kevin:
    .
    "But the Roundhead Harvard Yankee contingent has remained consistently at the far left side of the Overton Window throughout its ever-leftward move."
    .
    Really? There were times when Harvard and Boston were quite conservative. In the Federalist era and the Progressive era, for example, they certainly weren't on the leftward margins of politics. The perceived conservatism of Massachusetts elites accounted for the great hostility intellectuals and artists directed at Harvard and Boston over Sacco and Vanzetti in the 1920s. Even in the Eisenhower years, the attitudes of Harvard and Boston as a whole differed sharply from those of the most vocal and visible and liberal professors.

  50. Kevin says

    @AI
    I'm not an expert on the matter, I was just trying to explain Clark's thesis to wumpus, as it seemed he misunderstood what was being claimed.

  51. Buboe says

    Like Michael, I think you've mis-understood the levellers.
    They were representative (small d-) democrats, who wanted to institute a voting mandate independent from accidents of birth.
    They basically were against the innate rite of the upper class to rule – "when Adam delved and Eve Span, who was then the Gentleman".
    They were also over-represented in the armed forces of the day, and made up many of the best regiments – obviously this aggression against authority didn't make for longevity once peace was achieved…

  52. Ibidem says

    Conservative of Yankee ancestry here (at least 4 ancestors on the Mayflower, plus a deacon from Leyden.)
    To say that the Separatists and Puritans were "liberals" is only true insofar as "liberal" means "against the current order of things"; they correspond more closely to the more extreme "social conservatives".

    Yes, some sort of communalist tendency was common on the Roundhead side. But that didn't quite start how you might think: the "commons" had long included tilled grounds, and only in the 16th and 17th centuries were they privatised (by turning them into pasture). The "Enclosures" that figure so prominently in that era's history are the privatisation of the commons.
    For what it's worth:
    AFAICT, "commonweel" or "commonwealth" originally referred to a system with property held in common.
    Plimoth Plantation was originally supposed to be run that way; when it failed, they divided the land up (and it worked much better, because people improved their land).

    "Fifth monarchy" beliefs correspond to modern "Dominion theology", as far as I can tell (working for the human inauguration of Divine rule). I don't see how they correspond to generic "spritualism".

    The Declaration of Independence might correspond to saying that the meal had too much salt and too little, but that isn't contradictory; it's entirely possible to have too much salt in the pudding, and not enough on the meat. (Unless you're Yahi, in which case any salt is too much.)

  53. Rich Rostrom says

    "Roman Catholicism (which held to the dastardly belief that there was an authority beyond that of the government)."

    That's a very odd way to describe a mighty authoritarian institution with its own thought police and the death sentence for anyone who publicly disagreed with its doctrines.

    Tolerance for Catholics (and for their priests and bishops) was seen by many Protestants as a Trojan horse for restored Catholic supremacy.

    And that was only half of Wentworth's problems. His previous career as Lord Deputy of Ireland and royal adviser seemed to indicate that he favored royal absolutism and would use the army to abolish Parliament.

    He was extremely unpopular, and himself suggested that Charles should sign the bill of attainder (for his execution) rather than risk further political division in the kingdom.

  54. says

    @Rich Rostrom

    That's a very odd way to describe a mighty authoritarian institution with its own thought police and the death sentence for anyone who publicly disagreed with its doctrines.

    Well, in one comment I've been accused of presentism, and in the next I'm taken to task for NOT using presentism to judge 1,500 year old events.

    My reading of the historical record is that the Catholic Church has always and everywhere been in advance of the ethical thinking that it replaces.

  55. Brian says

    Interesting thesis. I'm not up with U.S. politics, but I think it's important to not assume presentism and Whigism. Which is what Clark has done.

    Clark, can you change your avatar? I disagree with most of your posts, which is good, because otherwise I'd be just reading stuff I agree with in some sort of echo chamber-circle jerk, but the smug look on the avatar ….;)

    It's funny, but I see that submitting to a higher power than the law, is submitting to totalitarianism (do what God says or burn in hell forever), so I would've thought an anarchic type like yourself would've rejected the law and any power that claimed to be higher, existent or not.

  56. says

    it's important to not assume presentism and Whigism. Which is what Clark has done.

    Actually, I'm very anti-whig, and I think that the blue cultural side is the Whig side, always presenting Whig versions of history. I do not assert that things are always better nor that there is some teleological end point in sight, so I'm not sure how I'm at all a whigger.

    Clark, can you change your avatar?

    No, in the sense of "I have no idea how to do that".

    It's funny, but I see that submitting to a higher power than the law, is submitting to totalitarianism

    I submit to gravity, too. I may not like it, but it's better than refusing to do so.

    (do what God says or burn in hell forever)

    "Burn" is an interesting word. Matthew 3:12 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%203:12 reads to me not as punishment but as sorting. One does not heat ferrous oxide bearing rock until the iron flows out because one hates the contaminants but because one desires to purify the iron, to refine it, and to take it into one's home.

    …or perhaps iron is not the best metallurgical reference.

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Zechariah%2013:9
    This third I will put into the fire;
    I will refine them like silver
    and test them like gold.
    They will call on my name
    and I will answer them;
    I will say, ‘They are my people,’
    and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”

  57. sinij says

    Interesting read, but too much of conspiracy-illuminati for my liking. I am skeptical cultural conflict could be deeper than couple generations.

    Any of you tried talking to seniors about any cultural issue? We could hardly have much in common.

  58. says

    @sinij

    I am skeptical cultural conflict could be deeper than couple generations.

    LLLLLOL.

    Remind me what Jesse Jackson wants reparations for?

    Remind me what the sides in the Balkans wars are?

    Remind me why there's fighting over the Gaza strip?

  59. Jenny says

    "I am skeptical cultural conflict could be deeper than couple generations."

    Yugoslavia.
    The Levant.
    Heck… Dixie.

    The story of ancient cultural antipathies is the story of mankind.

  60. Jenny says

    "It would be interesting to follow the English revolutionary divisions further back, to the Norman vs. Saxon vs. Celt divisions."

    Purely armchair rambling – but I'd not be surprised if the division doesn't go much further back than the high/late medieval era conflicts of commercial vs. feudal status jockeying.. and that the Netherlands plays a bigger part than even Fischer describes.

    Recall the East Anglians were just over the water from the Netherlands, and IIRC Fischer mentions an ongoing commercial relationship there. Also, remember the Puritans tried refuge in the (Protestant friendly) Netherlands before lighting out for America – and the Dutch financing of the American Revolution.

    I'm sure there's a deeper story in there, just not one I've been deeply exposed to in American history reading. Certainly worth following up on though.

    (Also – Tuchman's A Distant Mirror mentions riots in London by English natives incensed over immigrant Dutch fabric laborers in the 14th c. – I could imagine, though haven't yet seen discussion – of Dutch presence in East Anglia being a significant progenitor of what would become the roundhead faction)

  61. says

    @Jim:

    Not this site's usual fare, and not quite to my taste…

    I will admit the problem for me: I come here looking for Ken White. This isn't Ken White. I'll continue to come here looking for Ken White's posts, but otherwise I am uninterested. Ken is major league, the rest of this is minor leagues or worse.

    My God, you sure use a lot of words to deliver a banal insult.

    I'll continue to come

    I'm sorry to hear that.

  62. RB says

    A thought provoking post. But has anyone considered that the split in ideology that Clark is talking about is part of the human condition and is the root behind nearly all conflicts that aren't caused by pure greed.

    People are social animals. We need one another. In order to live together, we have to have rules.

    People naturally chafe against rules.

    So we have an internal conflict. Some people prefer their fellow man more than they hate the rules. We call them blue. They tend to live in cities with other people.

    Others hate the rules more than they love their fellow man. We call them red. They tend to live in rural areas with some space between them and their fellow man.

    It's a difference in values. People are not homogeneous and so such a difference will always exist, although exactly where the lines are drawn constantly change.

  63. Jenny says

    I'm sure since RB loves his fellow man more than he hates the rules, he'd be overjoyed to live within the rules of 1835 Mississippi. Or heck – 1835 Massachusetts.
    Or if neither is cosmopolitan enough – perhaps 2014 Dubai?

  64. RB says

    Jenny, I never said where I stand. I just said there is an internal conflict in all of us. Some people tend to one side. Some people tend to another. Where people tend is impacted by the rules in the society in which they live and how they are personally impacted. If I were an oil sheik, I would likely enjoy living in 2014 Dubai. I don't think I could handle 1835, since I don't think my iPhone would get service.

    The mistake you are making is the same mistake most people make. You are assuming everyone shares your values and judges things the same. That is not the case. Everyone has to make up his or her own mind about where they stand and what issues are important to them. Notice, I'm also not talking about right or wrong.

    When the rules get to the point that enough people hate them, then there is a revolution of some form. The red-blue analogy breaks down before that point, but it's still useful in the current context.

  65. Kevin says

    @sinij

    I am skeptical cultural conflict could be deeper than couple generations.

    Any of you tried talking to seniors about any cultural issue? We could hardly have much in common.

    Thought experiment: you feel like you don't have much in common, culturally, with your grandparents. OK. Do you think, though, that you have more, or less, in common with them than you do with a Maori tribesman?

  66. Rich Rostrom says

    I wasn't applying "presentism" , I was referencing Roman Catholicism as it existed at that time (1640). The MPs who condemned Wentworth weren't concerned about Catholic theology as much as Catholic authority. The many Protestant Dissenters among them agreed that "there was an authority beyond that of the government" they did not agree that it was a rival power structure.

  67. Ibidem says

    RB, "conservative" does not mean opposed to rules. In the strict sense, it means in favor of some previous set of rules. In the common American usage, it means being in favor of any of numerous rules that have more in common with older rules than modern rules have with those rules. "Leftism" is being in favor of change away from the past.
    What you describe as "red" falls somewhere in the libertarian-anarchist range; while one logically expects them to gravitate towards rural areas, many conservatives, including a lot of rural people, want a different set of rules rather than less rules. But if the coice is between less rules and wrong rules, we'll settle for less rules.
    And many of those those you describe as "blue" are only happy with the rules because they made them.

  68. Ryan says

    Also note that culture may very well interact with genes; the longer civilized south eastern English might very well have slightly more genes that lead to emphasizing social harmony and collectivism, and the more recently civilized north and west might very well have slightly more genes that lead to emphasizing individual autonomy.

    Having formally studied and earned a degree in genetics, including courses in behavioural genetics, sociology, and psychology I'm going to throw a gigantic flag on this and say that it is, at best, wild speculation that we are years (if not decades) away from being able to study in a meaningful way. At worst, it's quasi-"science-sounding" frivolity.

    We aren't even close to mapping out human genes that might affect collective behaviour, nevermind looking at their synergistic and antagonistic effects with other behavioural traits, nevermind determining precisely what influence that has on culture. Behavioural genetics is a fascinating field that's moving in leaps and bounds, but that movement is almost entirely in animal model organisms and it focuses more on very broad-strokes impacts – genetics of sexual pairing, bird song, etc.

    Human culture may interact with genes. Human culture may also be a product of the local ant population's mating habits. We are so far from meaningful data on this that the speculation is entirely irrelevant to any meaningful historical thesis today. Tossing out a comment like that harkens back to the science of "phrenology." It does your core argument a disservice, Clark, to wander into that kind of territory.

  69. says

    @Ryan:

    it is, at best, wild speculation

    Indeed; I thought it was pretty clearly labelled as such.

    We aren't even close to mapping out human genes that might affect collective behaviour

    That's certainly not a precondition for knowledge; we hadn't done full genome workups of goats and dogs before concluding that they were different species. We didn't understand gravity ( we still don't, arguably) before Kepler's laws, etc.

  70. says

    @Rich Rostrom

    I wasn't applying "presentism" , I was referencing Roman Catholicism as it existed at that time (1640).

    You were doing both. You did not merely state a fact about Catholicism in 1640; you judged that fact by contemporary morals.

  71. says

    @RB:

    A thought provoking post.

    Thank you!

    But has anyone considered that the split in ideology that Clark is talking about is part of the human condition and is the root behind nearly all conflicts that aren't caused by pure greed.

    Absolutely; I think that two cultural factions is an emergent effect that arrises from the interaction of game theory and evolved-in human primate behaviors (jockeying for status).

    People are not homogeneous and so such a difference will always exist, although exactly where the lines are drawn constantly change.

    I disagree with some, but not all, of your thoughts on red/rural vs blue/urban divide , but I fully agree the above quoted sentence.

  72. anonymous says

    Can you go back to the format where we have to click "see more" to see more? Cause I'd hate to have to forego the occasionally great pleasures of this blog, just because it's not worth scrolling through screen after screen of crazy shit like this to get to the stuff that doesn't make my head hurt.

  73. babaganusz says

    O Authors, i hereby volunteer to undertake those cost-effectiveness studies deemed suitable for coddling delicate thresholds of (a) scrolling, (b) being compelled [by the power of the popehat] to read, (c) thinking.

    scrolling or reading first? need to wait for permission on thinking, apparently.

  74. babaganusz says

    i just imagined M. Byron declaiming a slight derivation of the old chestnut attributed to Mme. Antoinette.

    also, the preview lied to me and spoiled the copyright joke.

  75. Odelay says

    So later waves of immigrants from other areas (Germany, Eastern Europe, etc) sort themselves according to preexisting cultural templates in the US, or do they make subtle or not so subtle changes to the culture wars? Or is that Part II (III, IV?) of this sequence? Thank you for the intriguing post.

  76. schism says

    Well done. Had been seeing a lot of the divisions you highlight over the years but not seeing the connections; linking it back to the English events — wow.

  77. Glenn Beck says

    The fascist liberals have been trying to overthrow our rightful place as lawmakers with their disruptive environmentalism and generally kooky so-called "pseudo-science" ever since the 13th century…I couldn't have said it better myself.

    *makes circle on chalkboard, tying it all together*
    *takes off glasses*
    *wobbles lower lip and sheds a tear*

  78. Jenny says

    The mistake you are making is the same mistake most people make. You are assuming everyone shares your values and judges things the same. That is not the case.

    Funny, that's precisely my critique of your "prefer their fellow man more than they hate the rules. We call them blue…" argument.

    Most particularly – WHICH rules?

    Pull someone out of deep Georgia, and he'd say he hardly minds the rules of Georgia at all, and loves his fellow man. He just doesn't care for Massachusetts laws.
    And vice versa.

    One tends only to notice the laws that chafe one's own hide.

  79. Jenny says

    PS – that incidentally is where I quibble with (at least some) of Clark's interpretation of the DoI, and take to Ibidem's "salt in the meat / salt in the pudding" analogy.
    Certainly there were numerous factions in the Continental Congress – but I don't believe it inherently schizophrenic to complain both about – for instance – the King dissolving your local legislature, and about him installing his own puppet governor in their place.

  80. says

    @anonymous

    Can you go back to the format where we have to click "see more" to see more?

    Sure thing. It's just a matter of each post author remembering to add a "more" tag, which I've just done for this post.

  81. RB says

    Jenny, I think your response to my second comment should have been "Whoosh."

    I totally missed the point of your comment. You are correct, I'm fudging the red/blue thing horribly and everything is relative to ones surroundings.

  82. mark power says

    Nice article. I have heard this explanation before, but you explained it clearly. I noticed several PC progressive scumbags commented negatively about it. Ignore them, they are brain damaged.

  83. says

    @mark power:

    Nice article.

    Thank yoo!

    I noticed several PC progressive scumbags commented negatively about it. Ignore them, they are brain damaged.

    I engage with people who disagree with me and raise interesting points. I ignore people who say "You're making stuff up" and/or "I like Ken. Ken is better. You're not Ken."

  84. babaganusz says

    mark, if Clark had actual need of your rarefied enlightenment and healthy advice, there would be far more pointless exchanges in the comments than there already are.

  85. Fragmites says

    A couple of points (from a UKian). Firstly, at the time of the English civil war you have to distinguish the Catholic church (of Rome) from the Church of England, which is also catholic, from the non-conformist levellers movement which was against a heirarchical church. The Roundheads, especially the levellers section of the roundheads, are not in any sense socially liberal; they are the puritans, complaining about how the church has become over secular, and not holy enough. They are banning plays, enforcing Sabbath laws.
    Secondly, the thesis that cultural influences have persisted over 400 years despite immigration etc. seems liable to be drawing unjustified conclusions from the facts. You are starting with a large number of ill-defined choices (400 years ago) and the possibility that you find the conclusions you do by cherry-picking from the set of all facts seems very great to me.
    My thesis is that voting patterns are determined largely by urbanisation, and, for the States, a little googling found that there is a strong corelation between voting and population density :- http://www.citylab.com/politics/2012/11/what-republicans-are-really-against-population-density/3953/. Do you think that immigration patterns are more explanitory?

  86. spinetingler says

    I purposely try not to notice who the author of a post is before I read it, but as soon as I got to this gross mis-characterization I immediately knew.

    The second is a list of blue state complaints: "the government is too small!".

  87. says

    @spinetingler:

    I purposely try not to notice who the author of a post is before I read it, but as soon as I got to this gross mis-characterization I immediately knew.

    Serious question: what's your goal here? Am I supposed to read this drive by and realize that I'm a stupid loser and never post again? Are other readers supposed to read my entire post, then read 110 comments, find yours, and say "you know, that @spinetingler is one perceptive guy. I hated this post and this whole thread too!"? Or something else?

  88. spinetingler says

    Serious question: what’s your goal here? Am I supposed to read this drive by and realize that I’m a stupid loser and never post again?

    If that's what you want to take from it, feel free to do so. It's not what I said, or even implied.

    I hated this post

    Again, not something that I said. In fact, I found most of the post rather interesting, and it lead me to some informative additional reading.

    you know, that @spinetingler is one perceptive guy

    That will, however, be my pull-quote for the movie poster.

    this drive by

    I've commented here before. Just because I don't have the keyboard diarrhea of some posters, that makes my comment a "drive-by"? Let me know how many comments you require me to make daily for consideration as non-drive-by.

    My point was simply that my appreciation of an interesting post was slightly diminished by a gross mis-characterization and absurd simplification of a political philosophy that immediately identified to me the author of the piece just as effectively as if every other word in the piece had been replaced with "CLARK!"

    You may consider that a feature.

  89. barry says

    The similarity of the US Civil war map with the red/blue map of the 2012 election might just be coincidence.

    There is a site showing 57 presidential election maps going back to 1789. I don't think there's any state that hasn't been both red and blue at different times. I suspect you could find an election year where the party votes correlated to almost anything you wanted.

    The political maps look too fluid for "the past didn't go anywhere" to be true. If you go somewhere you've been before, it doesn't mean you've always been there.

  90. says

    @barry:

    I don't think there's any state that hasn't been both red and blue at different times. I suspect you could find an election year where the party votes correlated to almost anything you wanted.

    Agreed, but the conventional wisdom (and I think it's correct) is that our politics are now more divided along cultural fault lines than they have been at other times. Thus electoral maps are a good proxy for culture war < 1860 and > 1990.

  91. says

    @babaganusz:

    point of clarification: is "schizophrenic" being used to imply multiple personality? if so (and for incidental edification in any case),

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_misconceptions#Psychology
    (second item)

    I'm aware of what clinical schizophrenia is, but I'll defend my use of the term. It has a meaning in vernacular English outside of the DSM:

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/schizophrenic

    noun
    1.
    Psychiatry.. Also called dementia praecox. a severe mental disorder characterized by some, but not necessarily all, of the following features: emotional blunting, intellectual deterioration, social isolation, disorganized speech and behavior, delusions, and hallucinations.
    2.
    a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements.

  92. Nick says

    Midlanders with out strong political opinions moved to the (US Midlantic states, which today generate mild democrats and Christie RINOs)

    I don't know if this is lack of knowledge, or that this group doesn't fit well into the red/blue narrative that Clark is describing, but the idea of labeling this group as non-political is so weird I'm not sure where to begin. It's a group chock full of protestant religious minorities (with a generally anti-establishment bent) that got to both the Anglican and Protestant lead persecution without ever having the critical mass or the organization to establish their own fiefdoms (like the Puritans did in New England and, briefly under the Lord Protector, in England). The idea that a migration largely done to escape a state church was non-political is just strange.

    But in a lot of ways that error is part of the larger issue of the absence of religion is Clark's narrative. The extent to which that these English conflicts were about religious rather than secular authority as England deals with with the rise of the Calvinists and others in the wake of the English Reformation taking a hatchet to the Catholic Church's authority is at least on par with secular conflicts.

  93. babaganusz says

    a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements.

    bloody vernacular! fair enough; though the elements are only contradictory in proportion to the degree they're oversimplified, and isn't part of the point of parliamentary procedure [ideally, i suppose] to tease a synthesis out of 'incompatible' sensibilities? (or is that too… ~representatious~ for the hard-line constitutionalists? i still try to keep the legislative sausage-mill at 10'-pole's length…)

  94. babaganusz says

    [before] 1860 and [since] 1990

    i've misplaced the source–something like a D.C.-based journo plugging his book on talk shows–but one of the core assertions was that Speaker Newt put pressure on his congresscritters to the effect that Rs stop living in the same town with Ds off-season, which broke the supposed tendency to befriend/send kids to the same schools as the opposition and rapidly contributed to the particular entrenchment 'we see today'. anyone with a decades-old taste for politicians' quasi-gossip know of any anecdotes by way of 'confirmation'?

  95. James Nelson says

    It must be true, I saw it on the internet. Worst piece of oversimplified horse crap I have seen in a long time.

  96. Lucius says

    I will admit the problem for me: I come here looking for Ken White. This isn't Ken White. I'll continue to come here looking for Ken White's posts, but otherwise I am uninterested. Ken is major league, the rest of this is minor leagues or worse.

    I also want all blog sites to write only what I personally prefer to read. Unfortunately, they never seem to change themselves to conform to my superior wisdom. So, like you, I face the problem of how to adapt to others creating what they want to create.

    Fortunately, Popehat provides ways of achieving our goals that more primitive sites do not. At the left side of the top of the main Popehat page is a list of "authors". The very first one is Ken White. Click on it. Now you are on your dream page of posts only by Ken White. Put this in your bookmarks instead of the Popehat bookmark. Enjoy your personalized exclusive restricted reading!

  97. GeoffreyK says

    As a PC progressive scumbag, I'll say that I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. Minor thoughts:
    – In my personal experience, the appropriate pronunciation would be "holler".
    – Given that "schizophrenic" derives from "a splitting of the mind", its non-clinical use to indicate cognitive dissonance, and/or something being simultaneously of two different minds, makes perfect sense; the only risk is that such usage promotes the sort of clinical mis-understanding @babaganusz was trying to offset, which seems like a pretty small price.

  98. b says

    @clark: "LLLLLOL. Remind me what Jesse Jackson wants reparations for? Remind me what the sides in the Balkans wars are? Remind me why there's fighting over the Gaza strip?"

    The poster's point aside, that's a phenomenally facile, even cheap, reply. Your comparisons aren't undying casus pugna, refusing to expire from inanition. Rather, they've been fed well by violence, substantial disagreements, and real grievances felt by many in each of their families — not to get too histrionic — whatever their causes, proximate or otherwise.

    I enjoyed the article more than I expected: your thesis was well served by your brevity and directness. But the jokes, specifically the transpositions of past conflicts to the present or vice versa, grew tiresome very quickly, even if you aimed them at both sides, as it were. I realize this is a though exercise meant to amuse as well as enlighten, but these seemed sophomoric in an unfortunate vein. Even if they were intended to have illustrative or didactic function, they were also jarring.

    Even if you're just riffing, don't be afraid to show more restraint as you get to the medulla of the matter, presumably once you've got the reader with you. Of course, maybe I'll read it again and find them less irksome.

  99. babaganusz says

    @GeoffreyK well said, and i should know better than to jerk the terms-police knee in such circumstances–certainly given the resident grace period for editing! upon adequate reflection, the usage (especially applied to a long-dead group of somewhat varied individuals) should not be taken as [mis]diagnostic, and generally only the individual can prevent one's own misapprehensions and conflations. still a fairly small embarrassment, set against the counterfactuals to the many moments in which i've actually managed to muzzle my spasms of nitpickery. one of my favorite aspects of popehat is the prevalence (and nuances) of understanding that words/definitions/etc. truly matter beyond ivory-tower indulgence or trivia.

  100. babaganusz says

    @James Nelson you realize that we can't actually tell whether you're referring to anything in particular, right?

  101. Tahn says

    An interesting article. Thank you.

    Not having the education or knowledge of most of you, I see the division as an ancient one but formed by two opposite groups. Both believing in laws that protect against "mala in se" but separating past that point, with one believing in laws that enforce "mala prohibita" (their own prohibitions of course) in controlling others and the other side that does not want "prohibita" laws at all and just wants to be let alone.

    Of course, there are many who do not understand the difference and are easily confused or led astray and others of us who don't mind "prohibita" laws as long as we agree with them.

    The 'controlling other people side' ,"probably" had its origins in religion but was quickly utilized by those seeking power or wealth.

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