Southern History Month 2019: The Southern Progressive Era

As per Fulwar Skipworth’s suggestion, I have continued to read past the first few pages of George B. Tindall’s The Emergence of the New South: 1913-1945:

“As the national movement approached its goal, Southern legislatures gradually yielded. Arkansas in 1917 and Texas in 1918 admitted women to their primaries; Oklahoma adopted statewide woman suffrage in 1918; Tennessee granted a Presidential and municipal suffrage in 1919; Kentucky offered Presidential suffrage in 1920. However, only five Southern states contributed to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. The rest rejected it or failed to act, but the Tennessee legislature had the distinction of completing ratification in August 1920, amid a fierce struggle during which the embattled champions of masculine prerogative fled the state in a vain effort to prevent a quorum.”

The South was lukewarm on women’s suffrage.

Some of the Southern states supported it while others opposed ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. Once again, the past is more complex than the present. Few modern day progressives are even aware that the South hasn’t always been as “conservative” as it is today.

Anyway, North Carolina was in the vanguard of the rejection of lolbertarian economics:

“North Carolina stood at the forefront of the movement, and it was more in the 1920’s than in the prewar progressive era that the state won its reputation as “the Wisconsin of the South.” During the period it developed under President Harry Woodburn Chase the leading state university in the South, embarked upon the most ambitious highway program in the area, and expand its activities in education, public health, and welfare. In the active expansion of public services North Carolina set the pace for other Southern states and ranked high in the nation at large. Between 1913 and 1930, taxes in North Carolina rose by 554 percent, a rate of increase exceeded only by Delaware. Between 1915 and 1925 state expenditures grew by 847 percent, a rate of increase greater than any other state’s, nearly thrice the national average. Between 1920 and 1930 the total state bonded debt soared from $13,300,000 to $178,265,000.

The expansion began in the administration of Governor Thomas W. Bickett, 1917-1921. That period saw, among other things, the creation of a state public welfare system in 1917, the state guarantee of a six-month school term in 1919, and rising expenditures for salaries, public health, and state institutions. In 1919-1920 Bickett sponsored tax reforms that segregated the general property tax for local and county uses, extended the income tax from property, and doubled property assessments. Increased income taxes brought receipts in 1926 almost twelve times those of 1920. Inheritance, license, privilege, franchise, automobile and gasoline levies all rose during the 1920s.

It was Cameron Morrison, however, who in the face of postwar depression led the greatest expansion. In his 1921 inaugural address Morrison called upon the forces of “progressive democracy” to “war for righteousness with the reactionary and unprogressive forces of our State.” Overwhelmed by his crusade for highways and schools, the “reactionary” forces faltered, and in 1921 the legislature voted a $50,000,000 bond issue for highways, $5,000,000 for school buildings. Before the end of Morrison’s term it had approved a total of $65,000,000 in highway bonds, $33,718,700 in expenditures for benevolent and educational institutions, and had more than doubled public school expenditures. …”

North Carolina began its march to a modern economy earlier than other Southern states. We will explore this further when we look at how the Research Triangle got started.

This was going on all over the South at the time:

“There can be no question that the South strained its resources more than any other region to support and expand public services. In both the ratio of tax collections to private income and in per capita state indebtedness the region ranked ahead of all others by 1930. Yet despite the increases the South lagged behind in revenues. In 1932 the general revenues of state and local governments in the thirteen Southern states amounted to $33.26 per capita, less than half the $69.63 per capita for the non-South.

In the development of state government, a student of Tennessee finances identified three main stages before 1929: the “debt” period to 1904, during which debt service dominated expenditures; the school period to about 1921; and the highway period thereafter. This was characteristic of other states. “Good roads,” Francis B. Simkins wrote, “became the third god in the trinity of Southern progress” – after industry and education. By 1930 highways and education far outdistanced other state functions. Every Southern state channeled at least 60 percent of its expenditures to those two purposes and all but three more than 70 percent. Some idea of the priorities of business progressivism, however, may be derived from the fact that in all but the same three states, the expenditures for highways exceeded those of education.”

The South was still extremely poor in this period.

The story of the 1910s and 1920s, however, is that Southern state governments were trying very hard to overcome the economic legacy of the War Between the States. It wasn’t until these people had a powerful ally in the White House though, President Franklin Roosevelt, who opened up the floodgates of federal spending in the South, that the wheels really started moving.

The collapse of sharecropping and debt peonage in the South, which had lasted for generations, was driven both by technology and “inflating” the money supply which made it affordable to Southern farmers who previously couldn’t afford to mechanize cotton production. Stupid people on the Far Left who don’t study history look at our past and and see nothing but lynching and segregation.

If they took the time to study our history, they would know that the federal anti-lynching bill which Cory Booker, Tim Scott and Kamala Harris recently took such a bold stand for never passed Congress in the 20th century BECAUSE lynching had almost vanished by the 1950s anyway, so it had ceased to be a pressing issue. The mainstream media blew the Emmett Till case out of all proportion to reality by exaggerating it as a “hate crime” emblematic of Southern culture.

The trend had been away from lynching for decades and it would have disappeared anyway as the South became a wealthier society without their sanctimonious virtue signaling. See, when people are optimistic and see their standard of living improving, they feel less threatened and become more tolerant. In contrast, when their standard of living is declining and they feel threatened and they are feeling pessimistic, they respond more negatively to other groups. Such is human nature.

Here’s something to think about: in the FDR era, we had the end of Prohibition, an immigration moratorium stemming from the 1924 immigration act and the construction of the broad American middle class. By the 1950s, the country was wealthy and in a highly optimistic mood.

Imagine it is election night in 2020 and watching Blompf and Conservatism, Inc. go down in flames as Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Arkansas are called for Yang. I can see Andrew Yang being the first Democratic president to carry Mississippi since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Note: I read this book many years ago. I just thought it was interesting and worth pulling off the shelf in light of the Yang phenomena. Yang’s idea of Universal Basic Income reminded me how that previous surge of federal investment solved a lot of economic problems here.

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2 Comments

  1. “Stupid people on the Far Left who don’t study history look at our past and and see nothing but lynching and segregation.”

    Those people are simply anti-White, anti-Southern types who care only about the cultural/political ascendancy of the North over the rest of America, and their own power and sense of self worth. Or they’re Jews exploiting the Northern people’s ancient and enduring animosity towards the South and West, to advance Jewish interests.

    As an aside, I don’t believe that an automated economy and UBI are possible, for political reasons, in the so called “United” States.

    In an independent South. Or in whatever nations the western former U.S. States create, yes, definitely, it’s possible.

    But certain people and their anachronistic politics need to be dispensed with first. Else it won’t happen, ever.

    There’s no place for Democrats, Republicans, SJW/Leftists, Labour Unionists, Neo-Yankees, Cold Warriors, Plutocrats, Scalawags, managerial tyranny, and Jews in the new Century. Or in the new economy.

  2. Another aside.

    In Fourth Wave Civilisation, a factory isn’t a building with machines inside of it.

    It’s a building sized machine organism that eats up raw materials and ideas, then shits out products and money.

    The sociopolitical implications for our old fashioned political factions and their 19th and 20th Century politics, is enormous. Their irrelevance and anachronism would become immediately apparent.

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