Category Archive 'United States'
12 Mar 2018

Counterfactual Mexico

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One of Noel Maurer’s commenters asks what would Mexico be like if the US had taken a larger slice of Northern Mexico after winning the Mexican War, Maurer has some intelligent analysis, arguing that those Northern portions of Mexico were precisely the regions that provided the leadership of Mexico’s Revolutionary, anti-clerical nasty totalitarianism, so with those territories gone, the residue of Mexico would have wound up a very different state. link

05 Aug 2017

The Earliest Photographs of the United States of America: 1840’s

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You are going to want to watch this in full screen mode.

25 May 2017

The Casual Revolution

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Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, corner of Main & Centre in front of Miners’ National Bank, circa 1940: coal miners on their days-off would customarily wear suits, neckties, and hats.

G. Bruce Boyer contemplates contemporary society’s abandonment of formality and dignity in favor of “casualness,” i.e. self-indulgent comfort and the absence of effort.

In the early years of the nineteenth century there had been what fashion his­torians have called the “Great Masculine Renunciation” in Western male dress, as men turned their collective backs on all the silks and satins, buckled shoes and powdered wigs of court dress, and assumed the Victorian black worsted suit and cotton shirt of bourgeois middle-class business attire and propriety. The theory, first popularized in 1930 by the psychologist J. C. Flügel, attempted to account for the radical shift that men made to more sober attire after 1800, and the shift is usually seen as an expression of the triumph of the middle class, ­enlarging democracy, and the Industrial Revolution. A more ornate and chivalric ideal was replaced by the modest masculinity of a bourgeois gentleman in a democratic society. A gentleman’s clothes became more sober and standardized, his manners more reserved and proper. The very idea of a “gentleman” seems stuck in the nineteenth century.

At the end of the twentieth century, dress underwent another great change; call it the “Tailored Renunciation” or the “Casual Revolution.” Underlying it is not the triumph of one class but rather the loss among all classes of a sense of occasion. By “occasion” I mean an event out of the ordinary, a function other than our daily lives, an experience for which we take special care and preparation, at which we act and speak and comport ourselves ­differently—events which could be called ritualistic in matters of ­propriety and appearance. There used to be many of these events, social rituals that filled our non-working lives: weddings and funerals, going to church, restaurants, parties, and theaters. Meeting important people of various stripes, people who had greater social standing than we did, was an occasion for our parents and grandparents to dress up, and that included going to the doctor’s office when you were sick, because the doctor was thought to be an important person worthy and deserving of that outward sign of respect. Respect for the event and those in attendance was what made the occasion special.

It can now be said that this sort of an outward sign or almost any of the older outward signs of ritual are considered pure snobbery. After all, wasn’t the Edwardian Age the last time the really rich could hope to think that showing off their wealth in public display gave the poor a nice bit of entertainment and ray of sunshine in their drab lives?

But then, if these outward signs are socially discouraged today, what makes an occasion special? And how do we know? Can an event be an occasion if there’s no attempt to outwardly manifest it? ­Ritualized behavior of one sort or another may be considered an outward sign of our inward disposition. But how complete can this be if it is not expressed in our appearance? We need not agree with Nicolás Gómez-Dávila’s claim that evening dress is the first step toward civilization to think that something has gone amiss. Is it possible to believe that when we now wear polo shirts, khakis, and hyper-designed athletic shoes to weddings, funerals, and graduations, it’s a sign that we have forgotten how to enjoy the events by which we measure life?


Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

12 Sep 2015

Why Americans Today Dress Like Slobs

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Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, corner of Main & Centre in front of Miners’ National Bank, circa 1940: coal miners on their days-off would customarily wear suits, neckties, and hats.

The Washington Posts’s Roberto A. Ferdman discusses with University of Nevada Fashion historian Dierdre Clemente the fashion triumph of “casual dress.”

There’s this fashion theorist who wrote in the 1930s about how in capitalist societies, clothing serves as this way to jump in and out of socioeconomic class. Now, he was writing at a time when people were still really trying to jump up, and could feign wealth. You could buy a nice-looking suit and make it seem like you were a lot more wealthy than you actually were then. But in the second half of the 20th century, what we’ve seen is people doing just the opposite. …

There’s something called collective selection. And what it is, is the idea that no longer is it the rich people telling the poor people how to dress, no longer is it that the poor people want to wear what the rich wear. Nowadays it’s a group decision. Because class is so wishy washy today, since everyone thinks that they’re middle class, the collective selection is what is acceptable in different scenarios — the office, the church, the classroom, etc. It’s decided by the group.

Read the whole thing.

28 May 2015

Evolution of US County Boundaries

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We need a way to slow it down.

09 May 2015

Cryptozoological Map & T-Shirts

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Disinformation links the Hog Island Press Cryptozoological Map of the United States, which is at least amusing.

Some states haven’t got any imaginary monsters. Connecticut and Rhode Island, for instance, are out of luck. Pennsylvania gets Thunderbirds, which I and Wikipedia have never heard of.

06 May 2015

Redrawing the US Map



1:35 video

27 Nov 2014

As Others See Us

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21 Aug 2013

Rudest, Hottest, Dumbest, Most Arrogant, Best and Worst Scenery, Weirdest Accent States

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Rudest state results. Surprise! surprise!

Business Insider asked Americans which states were the rudest, the drunkest, the hottest, had the weirdest accents, and so on.

14 Aug 2013

US-Canadian Border

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10 Mar 2011

America Isn’t Canada

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Karl Smith, an Assistant Professor of Public Economics and Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, shares his confidence in the survival, and continued inevitable advance, of the welfare state, even in the face of federal deficits.

In reality, Professor Smith informs us, the only thing really causing Americans to object to wholesale redistributionism is racial animosity.

Contrary to Jonah Goldberg and others who see Canada and the United States as examples of two clashing ideologies, they are actually examples of two different ethic distributions. The United States is not Canada because there is ethnic strife between Southern Blacks and Southern Whites. That strife reduces the sense of moral obligation on the part of the white majority and so reduces government spending.

I want to be very clear that I don’t say this to paint those against social spending as racists. From where I sit I am betting that most of the intellectuals lined up against expanding the welfare state are naively unaware that their support rests upon racial strife. Otherwise they would realize that as America integrates they are doomed. They are fighting as if they believe they have a chance of winning. Given the strong secular trend in racial harmony, they do not.

I point this out also to show why the major Republican strategy for limiting government was doomed from the start and why I am also not particularly worried about Americas fiscal future per se.

I must say that Professor Smith’s perspective on the fundamental character of African-Americans seems a bit excessively pessimistic.

We have here, it seems, a vision of a nation permanently and irremediably divided between between productive, independent and self-supporting whites and needy and dependent blacks, in which the only thing that is going to change is white resentment of exploitation gradually being reduced by social integration and racial harmony. In other words, as we attend school with, mix socially with, and come to know better our helpless, ineffectual darkie neighbors, we will like them better, recognize our moral obligation to support them, and quit complaining about our tax burdens and the federal budget.

Obviously, there does exist a pathological and dependent black subculture, but it is not unique. There are significant sized white and Hispanic welfare-dependent subcultures as well. Dependency is a product of culture, of a cultural aversion to effort and education and of a cultural acceptance of unmarried promiscuity and unwed childbirth, not specifically of ethnicity or race at all. Those cultural pathologies are difficult to change, and they are cultivated rather than opposed by the condescending paternalism of Professor Smith and his ilk.

According to Smith, it is completely impossible to restrain federal spending in the face of the intransigent, irrefutable moral obligation of socialism.

Much of the handwringing about fiscal irresponsibility is a sense of alarm not only on the right, but throughout much of the political center, that these spending cuts are not actually materializing.

But, by what theory of government did you ever believe they would? Governments don’t look at how much money they have and then decide what they want to buy. They decide what they want to buy and then they look for ways to find the revenue.

Divorcing the two – through sustained deficits – was only going to lead to ever increasing levels of debt. This is what we got. At no point was the beast ever starved. The peace dividend lowered government spending growth somewhat, but that was undone by the war on terror. Otherwise spending hummed along, as it always will, with the government buying things the public thinks it ought to buy.

Yet, if this is causing upset stomachs among many of my fellow bloggers it calms mine. Its quite clear how this will end. Racial strife will continue to abate. The public will coalesce around the welfare state and taxes will be raised to meet the cost.

The fundamental do not predict rising debt forevermore. The fundamentals predict a VAT.

This is not to say I am unconcerned about our economic future. Health care costs will continue to eat up more and more of our economy unless something is done. However, trying to convince people that health care is not a social obligation a fool’s errand. The best you could do is convince them we have no obligation to the other. As the other integrates this will likewise prove impossible.

No, people will ultimately believe that health care for all is a social obligation and therefore government will pay for it. There is no more analysis to be done on that part of the question.

And, there you have it. There are people who require other people’s money to meet their personal exigencies. There are the people like Professor Smith who understand that altruistic redistribution of other people’s means on the basis of one’s moral intuitions is obligatory, and that is the whole story.

There is democracy, a hungry mob, and an indulgent and sentimental bien pensant elite, and the rest of us are in the position of the sheep participating in the democratic process with a couple of wolves to decide on what’s for dinner.

Fortunately, I think Professor Smith is as bad a prophet as he is a sociologist and an ethicist. The compelling power of liberal moral intuitions is, I would predict, going to be proven to wane very significantly as the general public inevitably comes to recognize that current (pre-Obamacare) entitlements are unsustainable, and faces a choice between maintaining entitlements and economic prosperity and growth.

You do not have to be Tocqueville to recognize that the fundamental American character has always featured a powerful determination to get ahead, to build a better future on the basis of current effort and sacrifice. It is not sectional ethnic animosity that stands in the way of implementing socialism in the United States, it is the fundamental American character and the values and attitudes that the country was built upon.

We are not Canada, not because we have blacks, but because we are the rebels who threw off the yoke of monarchy in favor of Liberty and individualism, and Canada was, practically speaking, founded by the Tories who preferred being subjects and dependents. We will never be Canada.

09 Apr 2010

Europeanizing America

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When the arguments got down to the nitty-gritty on the health care bill, the liberals I know were prone to admit that what they really most cared about was completing the European-style welfare state. Lacking a health insurance safety net simply offended their sense of how things should be. It didn’t matter to my liberal friends that the poor actually could get treatment. They wanted systematized, state-organized entitlement.

Interestingly, my liberal friends felt sure that the costs would not be significant.

Jonah Goldberg offers the argument, which I think we are going to see repeated and elaborated, that the cost of socializing the United States is liable to go far beyond high domestic taxes and less US economic growth, and the full cost may seriously impact Europe, too.

[L]iberals insist conservatives are wrong to think that Europeanizing America will necessarily come at any significant cost. New York Times columnist and Princeton economist Paul Krugman says that in exchange for only a tiny bit less growth, Europeans buy a whole lot of security and comfort. …

I think the debate misses something. We can’t become Europe unless someone else is willing to become America.

Look at it this way. My 7 year-old daughter has a great lifestyle. She has all of her clothes and food bought for her. She goes on great vacations. She has plenty of leisure time. A day doesn’t go by where I don’t look at her and feel envious at how good she’s got it compared to me. But here’s the problem: If I decide to live like her, who’s going to take my place?

Europe is a free-rider. It can only afford to be Europe because we can afford to be America.

The most obvious and most cited illustration of this fact is national defense. Europe’s defense budgets have been miniscule because Europeans can count on Uncle Sam to protect them. Britain, which has the most credible military in NATO after ours, has funded its butter account with its gun account. As Mark Steyn recently noted in National Review, from 1951 to 1997 the share of British government expenditure on defense fell from 24 percent to 7 percent, while the share on health and welfare increased from 22 percent to 53 percent. And that was before New Labor started rolling back Thatcherism. If America Europeanizes, who’s going to protect Europe? Who’s going to keep the sea lanes open? Who’s going to contain Iran? China? OK, maybe. But then who’s going to contain China?

But that’s not the only way in which Europeans are free-riders. America invents a lot of stuff. When was the last time you used a Portuguese electronic device? How often does Europe come out with a breakthrough drug? Not often, and when they do, it’s usually because companies like Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline increasingly conduct their research here. Indeed, the top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other single country combined. We nearly monopolize the Nobel Prize in medicine, and we create stuff at a rate Europe hasn’t seen since da Vinci was in his workshop.

If America truly Europeanized, where would the innovations come from?

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