Southern History Month 2019: Rural Electrification Administration

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic.

No, I am not feeling nostalgic for the War Between the States, a devastating period of our history in which nearly 30 percent of White Southern men of military age died while many more were maimed for life in hideous ways. It is depressing and stomach churning to think about that carnage.

This is a much better story from another epoch of Southern history:

“When the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) was created in 1935, less than 4 percent of farms in the southern states had electricity. Without it, many of the comforts of modern life were unavailable, and for that reason the South enthusiastically welcomed the REA. In 1936, when Congress gave the REA statue authority, southern congressmen were among the agency’s most ardent supporters. The Southern Policy Association, a group of southern congressmen eager to promote southern development, endorsed the REA bill and regarded electrification as an important step in that direction.

As the REA began operation, southern farmers quickly established electric cooperatives, and the percentage of farms with service slowly grew. By 1941 the national average had climbed to 30 percent, and, although the southern percentage was lower, the South moved steadily ahead. At the end of World War II, the REA started a massive construction program to finish the job, and by 1955 virtually 90 percent of the South’s farmers had electrical service. Although the effects of electrification were evident nationwide, they had the most dramatic impact in the South, owing probably to the region’s higher number of substandard homes when the REA started.

By providing running water and indoor toilets, the REA finally helped bring an end to the hookworm that had ravaged the south for over a century. Refrigeration had a similar beneficial effect on diets through the storage of perishable foods. In some small towns, cold-storage cooperatives were started. Incandescent lighting improved the quality of life in homes and schools, and radio became a regular feature in southern homes. Electification stimulation diversification: the Bureau of Agriculture Economics reported an increase in dairy farming, and the South became a major poultry producing region. Most important, however, was the great comfort and sense of satisfaction that southerners felt as they began to enjoy the numerous conveniences provided through electricity. Electification must be considered one of the most significant reasons for the modernizaiton of the rural South”

Now, my friends … THIS WAS PROGRESS.

Look at what was accomplished by our ancestors in such a short span of time … a mere 20 years in which infrastructure was built all over Dixie. Contrast it with what has been accomplished over the past 20 years with all of these dumb, sterile debates in our hyper polarized political system.

Why aren’t we doing great things like China and South Korea? Why do we have this shitty infrastructure which was built by our grandparents and great-grandparents? Are we incapable of even maintaining that infrastructure? Are we incapable of achieving even a fraction of their accomplishments?

According to free-market theorists, the entrepreneur should have responded, but … sigh. Anyway, next time libertarians tell you “the state” has never accomplished anything remind them of the TVA, mass literacy, splitting the atom, NASA putting a man on the moon, eradicating the boll weevil, ending malaria, polio, pellagra and hookworms in the South, taming the Mississippi, ending sharecropping and abolishing child labor and bringing electricity, highways and investment to the rural South. Remind the progressives of what got done when they weren’t arguing over transgender pronouns.

If FDR had simply avoided World War 2 and given people the money through direct deposits into their bank accounts instead of “earning” it at Normandy, it would have been even better.

Note: This excerpt comes from p.194 of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Agriculture & Industry.




About Hunter Wallace 9315 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

1 Comment

  1. We need purchasing and farming cooperatives. The Grange was a farming cooperative that was politically influential in the 19th century. Not sure how they stopped that one but I might look into it.

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