03 November 2010

The Historic Divide

At New Geography there is an article by Joel Kotkin (28 OCT 2010) Suburban Nation, but Urban Political Strategy, and it looks at a theme I have been pointing out for awhile (like I did with this article) and what, exactly, it represents.  The demographic shift from the US being a rural and agricultural nation to an urban and industrialized one was finishing up just as the Great Depression hit.  How else could so much manufacturing go south and have such a huge impact on a Nation that was based on agricultural output?  The shift in population was largely finished by the early 1930's, and the Dustbowl drove others out from the agricultural areas that had utilized poor farming techniques pushed by the US Dept. of Agriculture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to 'settle the land'.  In two generations masses of people left from those areas and Appalachia, where they followed railroad work and then took the railroads to the new urban industrial centers in the North East.

These two groups, the settlers, western mountain peoples and eastern mountain peoples all represented a common ethos of US culture: a DIY spirit, the attitude of being able to fend for oneself, and disliking having a boss over one who told you what to do and how much you got paid to do it.  The urban political machines of Chicago and New York, as well as other cities, exploited this and tension between the industrial sector and the incoming rural workforce and got political clout via pushing unionization and alleviating the worst of urban ills.  The 'Toddlin Town' of Chicago had been so from before the turn of the 20th century and the incoming European immigrants who stayed in the major east coast cities tended to bring with them Old World views on corruption and unionization.

But who were these people?

The migration across the Great Plains, westward, was a diverse set of peoples ranging from Hispanic origins (Spain, Florida and Mexico) in the Southwest to far Southeast, to Germans, Swedes, Norwegians, French and others moving first from the east coastal areas through the areas settled by the prior wave of settlers and picking up some of their attributes and attitudes towards this new Nation.  While the Southwest would garner its own groups with similar acculturation, it is those coming from the Old World, experiencing America on the move through the Appalachia region and heading westward that would begin to spread the earlier ideals of the Piedmont, Yankee backwoods and central states Hillbillies and brewers forward with them.

Those people we refer to as the Scots-Irish to represent the long term shift of peoples over nearly two centuries from Scotland and Ireland (and Scots living in Ireland) to America.  This would be more Irish towards the coastal areas, more Scots in the backwoods of New England and become an amalgamated culture in Pennsylvania.  If anything can be used to define this entire swath of post-Dutch, post-English settlers it can be seen in their attitudes towards the family, religion, self-defense and alcohol.  This potent combination was a result of the Clan fights in Scotland and then both Scotland and Ireland having to deal with the shift of the English into their lands.  That culmination of beliefs would become touchstones that would help put down a solid foundation of a new land: religious tolerance and freedom, limited government, ability to have a family unimpeded by government dictates, defending one's land and property as they represent the work of one's life, and giving a lot of leeway, socially, in a 'live and let live' atmosphere.  These were not Puritans, nor Amish, nor any other Protestant group back in the days of the Colonies and Founding, although the change from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism would take place in many non-urban settings and that would be influenced by that second wave of poor people from the Old World coming over through their lands.  To these first settlers ownership of the land was paramount, having a family and raising them right was mandatory, and being scandalized by one's neighbors and, in turn, them finding you scandalous was a way of life.

Note the role of government in that?

After the Revolution these would be the people who nearly brought the US under the Articles of Confederation down with the Shaysite Rebellion, and many similar to that demanding that the government actually pay out on its obligations to the unpaid soldiers of the Revolution.  They demanded reform and got the 1787 Philadelphia Convention which would form the US Constitution to help show that those in political power were not going to try and shaft the common man with the debt of the Revolution.  The Nation that took on debt with the French to win the Revolution, nearly went bankrupt and broke the poor rural farmers in the North East with that debt, now had to reconcile the prosperous South with the relatively poor North in a common Union.  Do remember it was the US South that held the economic cards for the Nation, not the North as this was before the Industrial Revolution.  In essence the Shayesites, although never a proper rebellion, brought down the Articles of Confederation and got a government that would stick to its obligations and not stick it to the little guy.

Note the role of government in that?

These would be the peoples that supported Andrew Jackson, POW from the Revolutionary War and war hero of 1812, as their icon and representative and the staid, puritanical, blue-nose, coastal elites have been trying to deal with them for decades before that and ever since.  They stand on the dividing line of the Nation and it is not Red nor Blue, Left nor Right, but Urban and Rural.  The political Left in America will point to the 'Trail of Tears' as the great disgrace to President Jackson's two terms and vilify him as 'racist' although he had adopted a Native American child into his home, told Congress to properly fund Native American trusts held by the government, made treaties and agreements with Native Americans, and then faced the nasty problem of the Georgia militia being larger than the US Army (as I went over in large part in this posting).  The political right has forgotten the signal achievements beyond that (as I go over here), as the vapors of the Left have clouded them: that States which have Representatives do have to pay federal taxes, which he threatened his home State of North Carolina over and kept the Union together, and the signal achievement of getting the political class out of banking by vetoing the National Bank of the United States.  That veto of the National Bank is one of the most far ranging documents on the problems inherent in the government attempting to guide a National economy that has come out of the 19th century and is still, to this day, perfectly understandable to any who wish to find out why a 'strong' federal government creates a weak Nation:

It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society-the farmers, mechanics, and laborers-who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing. In the act before me there seems to be a wide and unnecessary departure from these just principles.

Nor is our Government to be maintained or our Union preserved by invasions of the rights and powers of the several States. In thus attempting to make our General Government strong we make it weak. Its true strength consists in leaving individuals and States as much as possible to themselves-in making itself felt, not in its power, but in its beneficence; not in its control, but in its protection; not in binding the States more closely to the center, but leaving each to move unobstructed in its proper orbit.

Experience should teach us wisdom. Most of the difficulties our Government now encounters and most of the dangers which impend over our Union have sprung from an abandonment of the legitimate objects of Government by our national legislation, and the adoption of such principles as are embodied in this act. Many of our rich men have not been content with equal protection and equal benefits, but have besought us to make them richer by act of Congress. By attempting to gratify their desires we have in the results of our legislation arrayed section against section, interest against interest, and man against man, in a fearful commotion which threatens to shake the foundations of our Union. It is time to pause in our career to review our principles, and if possible revive that devoted patriotism and spirit of compromise which distinguished the sages of the Revolution and the fathers of our Union. If we can not at once, in justice to interests vested under improvident legislation, make our Government what it ought to be, we can at least take a stand against all new grants of monopolies and exclusive privileges, against any prostitution of our Government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many, and in favor of compromise and gradual reform in our code of laws and system of political economy.

That is directly taken from the 19 JUL 1832 National Bank Veto Message (Source: The Avalon Project) and yet it reads like a summary economic analysis done by a modern scholar.

It is at this point that the analysis of Angelo M. Codevilla on America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution (Source: JUL-AUG 2010 American Spectator) comes into play.  He does an excellent job in outlining the Gentry Class, that is those in the ruling Elite precincts in politics and residents of the urban climates, and the Country Class which is the Do It Yourself common man who does not want to be interfered with by government.  The Country Class in the United States would now transform from its generic Scots-Irish roots (influenced by English, Roman Imperial and Nordic cultures) into the Jacksonians.  For the Elite Gentry Class it is who you know that is important: how well connected you are, what degrees you have, what institutions you are affiliated with will define you as being in the Gentry Class.  The Country Class exists via Meritocracy, honesty, hard work, and expecting that your voice will be heard and your liberties will not be trodden upon by government.

By comparing an earlier piece by Walter Russell Mead on the The Jacksonian Tradition (archived by Steven Den Beste at his site) the extreme similarities of honor, family, community, religious adherence, openness to civil movements, and rejection of elitism point to the cornerstones that identify the Country Class in America as Crabgrass Jacksonians.  From Mr. Mead the playing out of the Jacksonians in the US becomes a clear shift, over time, from rural precincts before industrialization to urban ones during the early industrial period and then the mass migration from the urban centers to the new suburban areas after World War II.  This echelon of the Country Class would support the Democratic Party for generations, starting in the 1830's and go through the 1960's and the party mascot represented the Jackass Jacksonians.

This block of voters are not 'conservative' in the sense of supporting a regime system mindlessly.  Nor are they 'retrenchment' minded as they believe that wherever they are is the embodiment of human liberty and freedom, and that it is the simple recognition of one's responsibilities towards oneself, one's family and one's society that makes each individual the most powerful thing in their own lives.  As Mead points out this can be co-opted, to a degree, by government if it can push the banner of 'help' on the actualization of one's liberty and freedom to use them.  Acceptance of such 'help' is not a co-opting of ideology, however, but of actualizing circumstances, thus the entire Elitist and Gentry Class mindset does not get backing from the Country Class and any misreading of that by the political class will lead to long-term problems as overbearing government bears down upon the civil right and liberties of individuals to succeed and fail by their own hand.  When 'help' becomes dictation as to who can and cannot succeed by political fiat, the Jacksonian Class begins to walk away from that 'help' as it is not worth any cost to lose liberty to government.

Machine Politics of the late 19th and early 20th century was a creation of the inculcation of the Progressive mindset with the corrupt, urban Gentry Class using a spoils system to 'reward' the working class in cities.  As the cities swelled with people, their political power became vested in the corrupt Machines that 'ran' cities.  In Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago these Machines would cross party lines and co-opt both parties via their spoils systems.  Those seeking partisan favor could run 'against' the Machine of the 'other' party, but that Machine was the same for both parties and as faces would change the policies would remain the same. 

It is in this era that the transformation of the Constitutional system of the United States was altered so as to establish more power in the hands of the cities and urban areas under political Machines.  I wrote about this transformation of the system in The 10 years that changed the path of America, and it was a decade that radically altered the Constitution and legislative structure of the federal government, along with the application of regulatory power that is still with us to this very day.  This system we have for politics is one that is highly altered from the period of the Framing to the Progressive era and represents the instantiation of Progressivism as a system that displaces the system of Individual Liberty and Freedom from the Founders.

In the wake of the collapse of the structures set up by the Progressives in Banking with the Federal Reserve (reversing Jackson's removal of the National Bank style system), they continued under Hoover and FDR to push government as the 'solution' to problems caused by that structure: SEC, Social Security and National Firearms Act.  This would create drains on the economy, put heavy regulation on top of failed regulation by the Federal Reserve on businesses, and create new bureaucracies to do things that had never been seen in the US although they had been tried in places like Germany under Bismarck.  Under FDR the first National form of policing with the FBI would come into being, ostensibly to fight organized crime which had been deprived of its ready cash source via the repeal of Prohibition.  The NFA would see the first move to restrict weapons to the people, something never thought of beyond traditional localized State militia rules and requirements until the excuse of organized crime was cited for it. 

Only World War II would shake this system up enough to make it work, but what happened after veterans returned home was without precedent in US history: soldiers with their back pay married and bought houses outside of the cities and cars to commute to and from work.  The industrial boom in the one Nation to escape World War II unscathed would reshape the global economic order and landscape while, at the same time, putting down the roots of an unsustainable system within the United States as government extended its intrusion into home mortgage lending and then into other areas of regulation where it had never been before that post-war era.

The other major post-war shift, however, was fully supported by Jacksonians as pointed out by Mead, and that is the civil rights movement.  This movement was a continuation of a long-lasting presence of blacks seeking political equality and having it waxing, during the Revolution, waning in the South, then resurrected in the South after the Civil War, then repressed during Reconstruction and the Progressive eras, and then coming forward once more as part of the post-war shift that started with, of all places, the US Army.  Woodrow Wilson re-segregated the US Army during his highly racist terms and that remained through following Administrations up to FDR.  FDR wanted to continue racial segregation of the military, but the US Navy would have none of that as it is necessary to have an integrated crew on a naval vessel.  The US Army, however, succeeded in forestalling this via its command structure and outlasted FDR, the war and Truman only to have the Eisenhower Administration de-segregate the Army.  What followed was the US intervention in Korea with a largely de-segregated military that then had veterans return home to highly segregated societies in the US South.  These comrades in arms who fought, bled and died for each other re-forged the ties between them that traditionally last beyond enlistment or conscription with the men and their families after the fighting is over.  Racial intolerance in society would be in stark contrast to that comradeship as these men knew they were equal as all their blood was the same color.  While the Left will lionize those college students from the North, very few will ever look at the returning veterans from Korea some years before the Northern activists showed up and examine their work at the lower end to change the tenor of Southern culture.  In any event the civil nature of the protests, standing up for one's rights and an equal opportunity in society spoke volumes to the white Country Class, to the Jacksonians and to Americans as a whole.  Progressivism in support of racism and 'Jim Crow' laws via the Democratic Party were being confronted by those same individuals who were the back-bone of the party which would lead to contention within the party heading into the 1960's.

What is rarely pointed out is that JFK's Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson, had worked to water down and substantially change the bill that would become the Civil Rights Act of 1957 via committee as he saw it as divisive inside the Democratic Party, especially in the South.  By stripping teeth from the enforcement of the provisions for voting rights the abuses of the South would continue and party unity retained by doing that.  When LBJ became President he pushed for the expansion of the Progressive structures put in place by FDR and Eisenhower to start the 'Great Society', Medicare and Medicaid.  The programs combined in the 'Great Society' to start the destruction of inner-city neighborhoods which represented the attempt of the poor and black Americans in urban settings to own their own part of the American Dream.  What this did was remove the basis for an ownership society from the inner-city and turn prior home owners into renters.  The addition of welfare services and rewarding those who did not work but had children became an intense system to break up the poor and black family structure and create a permanent urbanized class beholden to a single political party.  Protecting black voting rights and creating an enforced urban environment to keep blacks in that environment is not one of a civil rights leader, but one of a person using civil rights towards political ends.

With so long in power the Progressives in both parties had started to put in place a structure that threatened not just black Americans but all Americans by disintegrating the older system of schooling, housing, mortgages and then rewarding individuals based on race and ethnicity by an enforced system of racial quotas in education.  This was continued through multiple Administrations from FDR through to Obama, and while there have been attempts to reform this system or otherwise bring it back under the older ideals of personal liberty, they have been thwarted by the structure put in place to remove localized control of banking, home ownership and even such things as medical care and centralize them at the National level.  In examining the current 'housing bubble' the underpinnings for it date back to the FHA and the changes it was seeking through the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development brought in under LBJ as I looked at in It seemed like a good idea at the time.  The very first time the appreciation rate in homes increases above its post-war baseline is right after HUD is created, and that would start the idea of the home as an 'investment' not as property that provides shelter and is to be passed on to one's children. 

If the suburbs is where the Country Class was fleeing to, then they were beginning to get federal 'attention' to the fact that they were no longer behaving as good, urban residents in Machine politics.  At the behest of HUD President Nixon would create Ginnie Mae to 'securitize' home mortgages, which would start to change the Loan to Value ratio create a 'national' market for home mortgage lending that put the local and regional banks into direct competition with the heavily capitalized national banks.  Home mortgage rates rose during the 1970's mostly due to economic factors, but the belief that a home could become an 'investment' was further backed by the IRA system which would create investments beyond the reach of bankruptcy courts.  Thus your IRA was now a safer investment than your home was.  This did not stop the shift from urban to suburban venues, however, and even hastened it as home values rose so did government encouraged Loan To Value rates via the Community Reinvestment Act.  This was noted not only in some commercial venues, but in the FDIC in the 1990's as they were trying to figure out just where all the risk injection was coming from in the home mortgage market and how that impacted banks and covering deposits.  They identified the coincidence of events between the traditional S&L's getting hit by the hammerblows of lower interest rates from national banks and being unprepared to invest in profit making venues to help keep their local concerns afloat.  In other words the federal government was liquidating the local economic markets for housing and banking in one shot, and putting larger banks down with 'securitized' risks graded by the federal bureaucracy.

And this brings us back to Mr. Kotkin!

He identifies the clear distinction between suburban and urban political landscapes:

Now the earth is shaking under suburban topsoil -- in ways that could be harmful to Democratic prospects. “The GOP path to success,” according to a recent Princeton Survey Research Associates study of suburban attitudes, “goes right through the suburbs.”

The connection between suburbs and political victory should have been clear by now. Middle- and working-class suburbanites keyed the surprising election win of Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts in January. Suburban voters were also crucial to the 2009 Republican gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey, two key swing states.

This is not 'white flight' suburbia, but modern suburbia in which a fraction of the black upper and middle class have been able to get out of the urban environment away from the corrosive influence of federal 'help'.  And yet this is Ground Zero for the home mortgage lending bubble spurred on by the CRA, 'securitization' and the gaming of loan risks at the behest of both parties so as to make your home something more than just 'property'.  Who gets rewarded for this activity?  The home owner or the lender?

Much of the suburban distress, of course, stems from the still perilous state of the economy. Obama’s mix of fiscal and monetary policies has provided much succor to Wall Street, where stock prices have soared 30 percent, and to big corporations, whose profits have risen by 42 percent. This has been great for Manhattan plutocrats -- but not particularly helpful for the suburban middle class.

Indeed the indicators most important to suburbanites – private sector employment, weekly earnings, home prices and disposable income – have all stagnated or even fallen since Obama took office. Fifty-three percent of suburban residents, according to the Princeton study, described their financial situation as “bad.” The vast majority have either lost their job or know someone who has lost theirs. Almost 40 percent have either lost their home or know someone who did – up from 27 percent in 2008.

President Obama is trying to play both 'Good Cop' and 'Bad Cop' with the banking executives, bailing them out and then saying he is the only one to stand between them and the pitchforks.   Yet he is no obstacle to pitchforks as he is also telling the general populace that it is those banking executives who are to blame, while he never, once, addresses the toxic policies that led to the crisis in the first place.  Instead he seeks more power over the entire economy via unread, huge bills that create autonomous government offices beholden to no one and accountable to no one, but funded by the Federal Reserve.  Anyone caught 'underwater' will see this as a pure hoax and feel that they have been played by politicians.  They are right in that assessment and it dates back to HUD and Ginnie Mae, brought in under Progressives in both parties to the benefit of their backers.  The backers know that the 'Good Cop/Bad Cop' is a charade as they seek to eliminate the lowest level of banking and finances, those run locally, and secure the market share under a guaranteed oligopoly that is enforced by the financial regulations that decides who is 'too big to fail'.  They get guaranteed market share and the ability to work out with government just how much you will pay for the privilege of having your cash held by someone else.

What this is, all of this charade with banking and mortgages, is to do to middle class America what was done to poor and black Americans back in the 1960's: force it into State designed and run housing schemes.

When the president visits suburban backyards, it sometimes seems like a visit from a “president from another planet.” After all, as a young man, Obama told The Associated Press: “I’m not interested in the suburbs. The suburbs bore me.”

More recently, Obama made clear that he is more interested in containing suburbia than enhancing it. In Florida last February, the president declared, “the days of building sprawl” are “over.”

Much of the Obama policy agenda – from mass transit and high-speed rail to support for “smart growth” policies – appeals to city planners and urbanistas. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has spoken openly of “coercing” Americans out their cars and the Department of Housing and Urban Development is handing out grants to regions which support densification strategies that amount to forced urbanization of suburbs.

Isn't that sweet?

Inner-city life coming to a suburb you aren't in because you need to be 'densified' closer to a city and since you already unwisely had a home mortgage that went under you can't really help the need for 'affordable' government housing.


I mean the black community successfully waged a campaign to end the worst of the housing complexes... twenty years after the destruction of the traditional black neighborhoods and family structure had been accomplished.  If that is what the Progressives want to do to the poor and black of this Nation, imagine what is in store for the middle class of all colors!

Utopia, isn't it?


What is at work is the conception known as a 'fantasy ideology' at work, and I examined it for this concept of cities in the piece Fantasy Ideology and its fallout.  A 'fantasy ideology' is the belief that taking certain actions will, under a belief system, yield definitive results that are unconnected to the actions.  Thus al Qaeda had a belief that the US would crumble with massive attacks on the business and military centers of the Nation, not just rile up the largest Nation on the planet against them.  It is an unconnected belief system in which a given effect is believed to have a cause that, if you can just do it, will get you the effect.  To do this requires creating a fantasy of reality in which anything that fits with what your ideology agrees with is lauded, out of proportion, and anything that doesn't is ignored or explained as contrary actions by those you disagree with trying to stop you.  Thus standing up and spraying bullets around from an AK-47 is seen under the direction of Allah, while a sniper from a mile away depends on his skills to take out said person standing up on the 'spray and pray' method.  Skill trumps ideology and knowledge of cause and effect as seen from real world evidence trumps ideologically based actions in pursuit of given effects.

To reprise my previous piece, the creation of an urban setting is one that puts the works of man over and on top of the works of nature.  Thus we 'control' nature on the local level.  Cities come together for needs from various societies for business, government and other purposes that are suitable to those domains.  Thus cities arise from trade routes, ports, or center on a local, regional or National capitol.  Other investments for transportation also take place there due to the ready market that is within a city for goods and services outside of it.  Due to the number of people in cities, the government needs to be involved in road, sewage and other systems to keep the infrastructure of the city running.  That begets urban planners who know how to plan cities ever so well, and then can't explain why some projects just never do work out to be cost effective.  The growth of suburbs vexes urban planners because these people aren't listening to them and build what works for themselves in an uncontrolled environment.  To those inside cities the idea of having centralized services makes sense, like sewage maintenance, say.  In suburbs that is a less centralized proposition as each community has to work with neighbors to get things achieved, and there is, from that, diversity needing to come to common agreement.

Cities have top-down control structures being highly integrated constructions.

Suburbs, small towns and rural areas have lateral control structures needing to work in agreement with each other.

The love of cities creates Homo Urbanis and the strange belief that everything can be well controlled from a centralized system, which is a very European idea that comes from the old cities of Europe and the Roman Empire and, indeed, every city ever made as that is what is required with highly dense human living conditions be it in Mayan cities, Chinese cities, African cities, Imperial cities, or your struggling hometown of 80,000 trying to keep city status.  The idea of regulating life is seen as an artifact of cities, not rural and suburban communities, as the idea that you can perfect man, just as you have perfectly covered over Nature, means that all you need is the right circumstances and right regulations and mankind will be perfect.

In cities.

That is a fantasy ideology and even in cities it doesn't work as it creates the other form of human that you get when you have so many regulations that you have to become a law breaker just to get anything done:  Homo Criminalis.  Situational criminalism is where the environment sets up the preconditions that require criminal activity to occur and that is the perfect description of the highly regulated system that Progressives of any stripe strive towards.  Progressives detest individual liberty and want to see you controlled, as an individual, in all aspects of your life so that you are restricted from doing anything, at all, outside of the Progressive mindset. 

This they call 'good'.

Everyone else calls it 'tyranny'.

Thus, as Walter Russell Mead predicted, the next great movement from American culture would be a Crabgrass Jacksonian one.  Or a Country Class one, as they are the same thing in American culture.

Remember that in everything you do, every form you fill out for government, every tax you pay and every goody you seek to get from government: that is their control on you.  You might want to keep track of that for a few days, and mark it down on a piece of paper with hash-marks or keep a clicker handy... you just might be surprised to see how controlled you actually are, already.  And you have, probably, broken at least one law amongst them over a week. 

Don't worry, its not as if they want to 'densify' you or anything, right?  Or find some way to deprive you of property, money, and coerce you into a different life.

Oh, wait...

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