Money, and the drive to get more of it, is such a dominant, all-encompassing aspect of modern life in the West that I’m hesitant to even attempt to describe it for fear of egregiously underrating it. Most people today sense it, even if it’s never quite completely grasped or articulated. The phrase “money obsession” gets 54 million hits on Google. Indeed, it’s not even limited to economics. The ultracapitalist prioritization of choice above all permeates the very fabric of modern society- choice of hairdressers, of social media, of ideas, of children, of lifestyles, of thedes, of religions, of genders, even of race. All of which, it turns out, ends up padding the bottom line of some entrepreneur, abortionist or plastic surgeon. The essence of modernity is a self-reinforcing cycle of profiting from degeneracy. Ultimately, We The People have demonstrated that we’re willing to sell everything, even that which is priceless, in the pursuit of money and choice.
I’ve often thought, while reading and thinking about the history of the South, that Southerners are exceptionally good at being poor. By this I mean that within the Southern way of life, money is relegated almost to an afterthought, a necessary evil for which you give the requisite time and no more. Anyone who’s grown up or spent any real time in a traditional Southern community has no doubt witnessed the phenomenon of the family of many children and little means, living in a humble house or cabin, who are nonetheless exceptionally content with their station in life, satisfied to be simply alive and well. Often they have very little choice in any of it, yet this seems to bother them not at all. Perhaps this phenomenon is only a result of decades of practice which Southerners have had at being poor, but it’s my belief that it is a feature characteristic of the Southern way of life, though it’s not limited to Southerners. Parallel scenarios come to mind, such as accounts of white captives raised with American Indian tribes who stoutly refused to go back to white civilization once recaptured.
Most who are unfamiliar with these traditional lifestyles seem to view the modern obsession with money as absolutely necessary to maintaining a livable existence. The only other option, they say, is communism, and we can all agree we don’t want that. Is this belief well-grounded? I’ll concede that it’s at least possible – I am nowhere near properly versed enough in the school of economics to conclusively prove the binary view wrong. But I will say that the traditional Southern way of life, and its disdain for dollar-chasing, is alive and well despite being surrounded by the cultural trappings of modernity, and I think this is strong evidence that it is indeed possible to survive and thrive in a non-communist and non-ultracapitalist society today. I believe ultracapitalism, far from being an unavoidable consequence of a non-totalitarian economic system, is simply another manifestation of Leftism and can therefore be repressed in a proper Rightist society.
While Adam Smith-style capitalism in the antebellum US thrived, to say the least, in the egalitarian North, it was restrained from the start in the South. One reason for this is that the planter class, exhibiting good judgement as the leaders of their society, preached the evils inherent in uninhibited capitalism. Here we call on John Taylor of Caroline:
“The whole world proves that there is no fellowship between overflowing treasuries and the happiness of the people; and that there is an invariable concurrency between such treasuries and their oppression.”
Aristocrat and plantation owner George Fitzhugh was perhaps the strongest critic of capitalism the South produced. Here is an excerpt from his Sociology of the South:
“In free society none but the selfish virtues are in repute, because none other help a man in the race of competition. In such society virtue loses all her loveliness, because of her selfish aims. Good men and bad men have the same end in view: self-promotion, self-elevation. The good man is prudent, cautious, and cunning of fence; he knows well, the arts (the virtues, if you please) which enable him to advance his fortunes at the expense of those with whom he deals; he does not “cut too deep”; he does not cheat and swindle, he only makes good bargains and excellent profits. He gets more subjects by this course; everybody comes to him to be bled. He bides his time; takes advantage of the follies, the improvidence and vices of others, and makes his fortune out of the follies and weaknesses of his fellow-men. The bad man is rash, hasty, unskilful and impolitic. He is equally selfish, but not half so prudent and cunning. Selfishness is almost the only motive of human conduct in free society, where every man is taught that it is his first duty to change and better his pecuniary situation…
A beautiful system of ethics this, that places all mankind in antagonistic positions, and puts all society at war.”
Another reason capitalism was repressed was the relatively strong hierarchical social divisions. The working classes had little social mobility due to the restrictions of the agrarian lifestyle, lack of education opportunities, and lack of political power. Earning power being thus limited, people learned to simply make the most of what they had. Cultural mores also discouraged overbearing efforts to rise above one’s class, viewed as disrespecting one’s family by “getting above your raisin’.”
Here we see strong evidence of the benefits of traditionalist, hierarchical society. The aristocracy, being tied to the common people, acted as leaders, rejecting the evils of unbridled capitalism for the good of the whole, although they would very likely have stood to gain monetarily from transitioning to Northern-style wage slavery. Also, restrictions placed on the working class against things which are taken as unqualified goods today, like social mobility and universal education, ultimately resulted in a stronger and more fulfilled society. Where opportunity, or choice, did not exist, the commoner made the best of his situation, the result being the traditional Southern worldview which still exists nearly 200 years later and still produces a happier, more satisfied person than modernity could hope to.
Tradition, hierarchy, and agrarianism provide the requisite checks to capitalism. Economics is subordinated to social and cultural values. The modern world shows us what happens when this relationship is inverted:
I think this graph is more useful than regular happiness surveys, because asking a person if they are happy with their life invites philosophical contemplation of a person’s current station in life against a backdrop of modern societal measures of merit. Asking about a person’s day is a better gauge of overall contentment because it is more precise. We see that the more modernized a country becomes, the fewer had good days. Could there be a reason, other than the corrosive effects of modernity? I can’t come up with one. The position of Japan suggests that this is not just a Western problem. We also see that the US is an outlier. I attribute this to the aforementioned relatively large contingent of people still practicing the traditional lifestyle, to include Southerners.
Today, money is an idol to most and a god to many. This problem is part and parcel to the rest of the problems brought on by Leftism. Industrialism destroys agrarianism, severing the people’s connection to the land, encouraging individualism. Individualism destroys the patriarchal family, freeing people to forsake family for the opportunity of fortune. Equality destroys hierarchy, eliminating the controls on dollar-chasing and encouraging the measuring of a man’s merit by the size his wallet. Feminism gives women the ability to press their husbands into wage slavery so the wife can gain in status and possessions.
Today the Southern worldview is marginalized and ignored, because they have been beaten in the marketplace of ideas. Is this a vindication of the marketplace, or the idea? Modernized people, judging the idea to produce a backward and miserly people would answer the former. And yet, which group is the happier, the more contented with life? In short, which group has transcended petty materialistic concerns? The answer is obvious, and provides us with valuable insight on how we may build a future Rightist society.
The main question we face is: Can the Wealth of Nations genie be put back in the bottle? I believe so. I’d like to hope so. I do know that we can help ourselves by abolishing undue prioritization of materialism in our own lives. Work for what you need to be reasonably comfortable; no more, no less. Respect your lineage by accepting and embracing your station in life. Move to a small community where you can more easily put traditionalist principles into practice. Turn down the raise and the extra 10 hours a week if it takes away from your home life. In short, subordinate money to the higher virtues of life. I know, easier said than done. But we’re not here to take things easy. Make the hard choices and you will reap the rewards.