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Wednesday, 17 November 2004

Red State / Blue state & Population Patterns

There's a map going around the internets which compares red states to pre-civil war slave states and territories. And Blue staters have noted that areas that supported slavery now vote republican.

The popular assumption is that any system which relied on race-based chattel slavery was obviously racist. Racist systems contain racist people. Racist people are also undoubtedly sexist and homophobic because if they beleive in the dominance of whites, they must also beleive in the dominance of heterosexual white males. And the red stateness of certain areas shows they're still mired in attitudes of the past.

I don't want to comment on the above paragraph, but rather discuss the economic aspects of slavery. Slaves are best suited for grunt agricultural labor. Not because of anything intrinsic to slvaes themselves, but rather, economies intrinsic to slavery. The Roman Empire could ahve industrialized, but it did not, possibly because of slavery. Slaves are the ultimate cheap labor. You can get them to do anything by hand. You don't want to give them specialized skills. They're slaves. They're not worth investing in. For a slave to use machinery, that machinery must be extremely simple to operate, such that almost no training is required. Slaves could use the cotton gin, but slaves would not be sent to work in the mills. Slavery is incompatible with industrialization.

In the non-slave areas, industrialization did occur. Labor was inherently more valuable. Free workers are worth training. The earliest industrialization was in the textile industry. Giant looms. Industrializing countries all had or wanted access to cheap cotton. The US got in a war with Mexico to seize the prme cotton-growing land in Texas. England seized India. The cotton for England was cheap because it was imported from a subjegated colony. Cotton was cheap for the US because it was harvested by subjegated slaves. However, like colonialization hurt the economy of India, slavery harmed the economy of the south. In the north, industrialized cities sprang up, where there were workers and factories. In the south, labor was too cheap to bother building a factory. The south failed to urbanize in the same was as the north because it failed to industrialize.

Blue staters feel as if something is seperating them from the red state brethren, but they may be surprised to learn that red is all around them. Urban voters voted blue. Rural voters went red. The cities in the south are as much specs of bluein a sea fo red as are the cities in the north. So the fact that former slave areas went red may show more the economic consequences of slavery, where urban centerss did not develop, more than it points to a geographic character flaw.

It's worth noting that rural political movements of the past have sometimes been extremely progressive. If you want to reach out to your out-of-town neighbors, instead of acting as if they are flawed or stupid, perhaps it would be better to make the positions of their candidates more clear, so that it is more obvious when people are voting according to their own self-interest. How do we do this?

Sources: slavery and industrialization from class notes from Prof Noonan, Mills College, 1995. Industrialization and cottom from Noam Chomsky

1 comment:

Jesse said...

Three interesting exceptions to the rural-Republican voting trend in this election were in northern New Mexico and Arizona, the Southwestern border, and along the Mississippi River, where rural districts voted overwhelmingly democratic. This is visible on this county-by-county map. In each of these three rural areas, the populations were comprised largely of minority groups — Native Americans in New Mexico and Arizona, Mexican Americans and immigrants along the Southwestern border, and African Americans along the Mississippi, constituencies that tend to vote Democratic. This points to how urban-rural distinctions, class, race, religion, and other facets of folks identities complicated the election.