Prof Richard Weaver’s description of the modern social order has earned him a lot of well-deserved praise. In small part he writes,
‘The old idea of rewards was vanishing, and instead of receiving a station dictated by a theory of the whole of society, men were winning their stations through a competition in which human considerations were ruled out. It was the age of Carlyle’s “cash-nexus.” Everything betokened the breaking-up of the old synthesis in a general movement toward abstraction in human relationships. Man was becoming a unit in the formless democratic mass; economics was usurping the right to dictate both political and moral policies; and standards supposed to be unchangeable were being mocked by the new theories of relativism. Topping it all was the growing spirit of skepticism which was destroying the religious sanctions of conduct and leaving only the criterion of utility’ (The Confederate South, 1865-1910; A Study in the Survival of a Mind and a Culture, 1943 Doctoral Dissertation for LSU Dept of English, pgs. 257-8. Later published as The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought.).
Much of what we are seeing today is simply the worsening of the decay Prof Weaver saw at work 77 (and more) years ago. Klaus Schwab, for instance, the founder and chairman of the globalist World Economic Forum, writes in his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution,
‘The emergence of a world where the dominant work paradigm is a series of transactions between a worker and a company more than an enduring relationship was described by Daniel Pink 15 years ago in his book Free Agent Nation. This trend has been greatly accelerated by technological innovation.
‘Today, the on-demand economy is fundamentally altering our relationship with work and the social fabric in which it is embedded. More employers are using the “human cloud” to get things done. Professional activities are dissected into precise assignments and discrete projects and then thrown into a virtual cloud of aspiring workers located anywhere in the world. This is the new on-demand economy, where providers of labour are no longer employees in the traditional sense but rather independent workers who perform specific tasks. As Arun Sundararajan, professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University (NYU), put it in a New York Times column by journalist Farhad Manjoo: “We may end up with a future in which a fraction of the workforce will do a portfolio of things to generate an income – you could be an Uber driver, an Instacart shopper, an Airbnb host and a Taskrabbit” ’ (Geneva, Switzerland, World Economic Forum, 2016, pgs. 47-8).
Already in the middle of the 19th century Southerners like Rev Robert L. Dabney were declaring with Sir Edward Coke ‘corporations have no souls’. But now we find in Mr. Schwab’s vision of the future an even more dehumanized economic system where men and women will be reduced to some sort of virtual haze, a ‘human cloud’, and who are expected to have a mad-dog fight with those belonging to it in order to collect enough tiny pieces of the fragmented economy to scrape together a living.
And now with news that the Federal Reserve is getting ready to replace paper money with a digital currency as part of a universal basic income scheme, the dehumanization is very nearly complete. Whenever the bureaucrats in Washington City or their bankster bosses deem a person to be expendable (because his buying habits don’t meet with their approval), they could simply delete his virtual fed coins and leave him destitute.
The Southern soul recoils at such execrable systems and abstract planning. They are all aimed at greater efficiency but at the price of destroying true personhood. Modern Yankee/globalist economics we may say, therefore, is efficient (to a degree; more on that below) but impersonal. Southern economics, on the other hand, is efficient as well, but it is also personalizing, i.e., it strengthens personhood rather than weakening it.
Since we have just spoken of money, George Fitzhugh’s thoughts on this subject in his book Cannibals All! are an apt place to begin:
‘From the days of Plato and Lycurgus to the present times, Social Reformers have sought to restrict or banish the use of money. We do not doubt that its moderate use is essential to civilization and promotive of human happiness and well-being—and we entertain as little doubt, that its excessive use is the most potent of all causes of human inequality of condition, of excessive wealth and luxury with the few, and of great destitution and suffering with the many, and of general effeminacy and corruption of morals. Money is the great weapon in free, equal, and competitive society, which skill and capital employ in the war of the wits, to exploit and oppress the poor, the improvident, and weak-minded. Its evil effects are greatly aggravated by the credit and banking systems, and by the facilities of intercommunication and locomotion which the world now possesses. Every bargain or exchange is more or less a hostile encounter of wits. Money vastly increases the number of bargains and exchanges, and thus keep society involved, if not in war, at least in unfriendly collision. Within the family, money is not employed between its members. Where the family includes slaves, the aggregate use of money is greatly restricted. This furnishes us with another argument to prove that Christian morality is practicable, to a great extent, in slave society—impracticable in free society’ (Cannibals All! Or, Slaves without Masters, Richmond, Va., A. Morris, 1857, pgs. 303-4).
Mr. Fitzhugh touches on the key to the Southern approach to economics: the centrality of the Christian family. This is what preserves and uplifts the personal identity in the Southern economic order. He says,
‘It is pleasing, however, to turn from the world of political economy, in which "might makes right," and strength of mind and of body are employed to oppress and exact from the weak, to that other and better, and far more numerous world, in which weakness rules, clad in the armor of affection and benevolence. It is delightful to retire from the outer world, with its competitions, rivalries, envyings, jealousies, and selfish war of the wits, to the bosom of the family, where the only tyrant is the infant—the greatest slave the master of the household. You feel at once that you have exchanged the keen air of selfishness, for the mild atmosphere of benevolence. Each one prefers the good of others to his own, and finds most happiness in sacrificing selfish pleasures, and ministering to others' enjoyments. The wife, the husband, the parent, the child, the son, the brother and the sister, usually act towards each other on scriptural principles. The infant, in its capricious dominion over mother, father, brothers and sisters, exhibits, in strongest colors, the "strength of weakness," the power of affection. The wife and daughters are more carefully attended by the father, than the sons, because they are weaker and elicit more of his affection.
‘ . . . It is an invariable law of nature, that weakness and dependence are elements of strength, and generally sufficiently limit that universal despotism, observable throughout human and animal nature. The moral and physical world is but a series of subordinations, and the more perfect the subordination, the greater the harmony and the happiness. Inferior and superior act and re-act on each other through agencies and media too delicate and subtle for human apprehensions; yet, looking to usual results, man should be willing to leave to God what God only can regulate. Human law cannot beget benevolence, affection, maternal and paternal love; nor can it supply their places: but it may, by breaking up the ordinary relations of human beings, stop and disturb the current of these finer feelings of our nature. It may abolish slavery; but it can never create between the capitalist and the laborer, between the employer and employed, the kind and affectionate relations that usually exist between master and slave’ (Ibid. pgs. 300-1, 302).
Henry Hughes, using more scientific language, says of the old feudal Southern economic system that the members of it were ‘affamiliated’. ‘The capitalist is the economic head of the family. He is the economic father of all the children. He maintains and protects them. His capital is answerable for their livelihood. He represents them; they are his economic constituents’ (Treatise on Sociology, Theoretical and Practical, Philadelphia, Penn., Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1854, p. 155).
The Southern economic system, then, is one in which employees are more than just contract laborers, here today and gone tomorrow, with whom the employer has no real deep or long-lasting bond. Quite the opposite: The ‘employee’ in the Southern economic system becomes a member of the farmer’s or business-owner’s family, which in turn strengthens the worker’s status, identity, and stability.
Perhaps a defender of the current Yankee economic system will grant that this does build up personhood. But how can it also be more efficient? Doesn’t this complex web of close personal relationships inhibit the swift working of anonymous business transactions the Yankee is so fond of? Mr. Fitzhugh has already given us part of the answer above when he says, ‘Every bargain or exchange is more or less a hostile encounter of wits. Money vastly increases the number of bargains and exchanges, and thus keep society involved, if not in war, at least in unfriendly collision. Within the family, money is not employed between its members’ (Cannibals All!, p. 303). All these ‘unfriendly collisions’ between what Rev Dabney calls ‘useless middle-men’ in A Defence of Virginia make Yankee economics less efficient than the affamiliated Southern system. Here is Rev Dabney’s full explanation:
‘The simple system of slaveholding distributed that part of the products of farms, which properly went to the labourers' subsistence, direct to the consumers, without taxing it unnecessarily with the profits of the local merchant. The master was himself the retail merchant; and he distributed his commodities to the proper consumers, at wholesale prices, without profit. The consumers were his own servants. He remarked, in the language of the country, that, for this part of his products, he "had his market at home." Now, is it not obvious that the consumer, the slave, got more for his labour, and that the system of hireling labour, by invoking this local storekeeper, instead of the master, to do this work of distribution to consumers, which the master did better without him, and without charge, has brought in a useless middle-man? And his industry being useless and unproductive, its wages are a dead loss to the publick wealth. This coarse fellow behind the counter, retailing the meal and bacon and soap, at extortionate retail prices, to labourers, should be compelled to labour himself, at some really productive task; and the labourers should have gotten these supplies, untaxed with his extortion, on the farms where their own labour produced them, and at the farmer's prices. Is not this true science, and true common sense? But this is just the old Virginian system’ (A Defence of Virginia [and through Her, of the South], New York, E. J. Hale & Son, 1867, pgs. 329-30).
It is very reasonable, then, for Southerners to prefer their own economic system to the Yankee/globalist system that has been imposed on them for more than 150 long, abusive years. For it is better at producing and distributing goods and at forming hale, balanced people, rather than meaningless wisps in the ‘human cloud’, than the latter one. It is true that the Southern system was distorted because of the presence of African slavery and because of the lengthy struggle with lunatic abolitionists, but the principle at the heart of the system – that the laborer becomes a part of the farmer’s, lawyer’s, craftsman’s, etc., family – was not overthrown prior to the War. It is that patrimony that the South must re-claim and re-implement if she wants to avoid the revolutionary violence overtaking the completely Yankeefied parts of the union.
Yet our words are poor, so we will let Prof Weaver’s much more elegant oratory help us close this essay in the hopes that they will stimulate the love of truly Southern ways:
‘The relative self-sufficiency of the plantation; the noblesse oblige of its proprietor; the social distinctions among those who dwelled upon it, which had the anomalous result of creating affection and loyalty instead of envy and hatred; the sense of kinship with the soil, present too in its humbler inhabitants, who felt pangs on leaving “the old place,” – these were the supports of the Southern feudalism, which outlived every feudal system of Europe except the Russian, until it was destroyed by war and revolution’ (The Confederate South, pgs. 19-20).
Prof Weaver would no doubt be heartened by the resurrection of traditional Orthodox culture in Russia and other countries that suffered under the communist yoke for so many years. Resurrection, through the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, is possible for Southern culture as well. But rebirth is not automatic. It requires struggle, sacrifice, repentance. And thus far the South has been far too enamored with Yankee mammon to make an attempt at them.
Walt Garlington is a chemical engineer turned writer (and, when able, a planter). He makes his home in Louisiana and is editor of the 'Confiteri: A Southern Perspective' web site.