american nations
The United States is a big country, but its population is anything but homogenous. For its entire history the people of its various regions have clashed over everything from politics and economics, to religion and cultural norms. But why? Today on MindMatters we discuss Colin Woodard's book American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, inspired by the earlier work of David Hackett Fischer. The current cultural landscape of North America traces back to its beginnings: the first settlers of its numerous colonies and their eventual spread west across the continent. From the Tidewater gentry and Puritan Yankees, the Spanish mestizo in the south and French in the north, the Dutch in New York and the Quakers in the Midlands, to the plantation slavers of the Deep South and clannish warriors of Greater Appalachia, the Left Coast and the Far West - the cultural template of each region was set by their respective 'founding fathers', and those trends have continued to the present day.

Tune in for a look at the fascinating, bloody, and often courageous history of North America, with all its twists and turns. This isn't the history your boring high-school teacher taught you!

Running Time: 01:13:59

Download: MP3 — 67.7 MB

Here's the transcript of the show:

Harrison: So, a couple of years ago when I was reading Jonathan Haidt and listening to his lectures I heard him talk about this book a couple of times. It's American Nations by Colin Woodard. The subtitle is A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. I hadn't heard about this before so it was kind of a new idea for me. While reading Jonathan Haidt, in Righteous Mind he's talking about moral taste buds and the different moral frameworks that people have. He made reference to this idea about there being 11 distinct cultures in North America and how that determines the value framework of those different cultures, just as you can compare two different cultures.

First of all, you can assume that a given culture has its own homogenous set of cultural values and then you can compare that with another country as he does with broadly western culture and then Indian culture, for instance. He talks about how he went to India and experienced culture shock because everything was so different and that prompted him to look for the commonality that are expressed in different ways in different cultures. But when you're looking at North America you can actually find breakdowns and differences within North America itself.

So that made me curious so I got a copy of his book and read it recently and then recommended it to you guys so I hope you enjoyed my recommendation. I'll just say that I find it really enjoyable and really informative so far. What do you guys think?

Elan: I love it. I don't know how much education you had on American history...

Harrison: None.

Elan: "Canadia" - none. Well that's close to what I got in the US. {laughter} Obviously they focus in quite a bit on some of the major points of history in the US but the perspective that you get from this book, that the United States had these very distinct cultures and reasons for being, and ideas about themselves and their ways of going about things, their religious ideas, their influences, and connections to, and loyalties or disloyalties to, the royalty back in the United Kingdom, in England, all of these things. Granted, it's many years since I've had any kind of formal education on any of these things, but to revisit them in such a refreshing way has been super enjoyable. I love the guy's writing. He's always quoting from people in history who were a part of the scene.

Harrison: Yeah, basically primary sources. He quotes letters that might have been written or legal documents or something, just to give a flavour of what's going on. Someone from England will come over and then share their observation on what the colonists are like and what they're getting up to over in the New World. Oftentimes those statements will reveal a lot about the cultures that were developing 300-some years ago. That's what stood out for me.

I want to follow up on something you said because I didn't get an education in American history. I was focused mostly on Canadian and European history. So when we were learning in grades 8 and 9 I think, about Canadian history - I'll try not to externalize blame - but I had a horrible social studies teacher which was where we learned Canadian history. He turned me off of history completely. It wasn't just his fault because I think the curriculum itself was seemingly purposefully designed to be as boring as possible. There was nothing to get most kids interested in it. It was just boring as hell.

So I had no interest in the course material itself and then absolutely no interest after that in doing my own reading into Canadian history. Why would I want to subject myself to hours and hours of utter boredom. There is some Canadian history in here too. It was nice to have it presented in such a way that actually makes it interesting. I don't know how much that is me having changed over the years or how much is the presentation of the material. It's probably a bit of both. But I find myself much more interested now in not only this time period but in finding out what happened and how it has contributed to what the present is, how it contributes to the present.

Elan: Just to clarify, the time period we're talking about is roughly around the 1490s and a little earlier maybe, the time of Columbus's "discovery" of the US, and events that happened just prior to that time leading through to the American Revolution and he even alludes to more contemporary times and influences from then on.

Corey: It's nice because it adds a lot more colour to the picture of American history. You get a black and white, "We came out for freedom then we kicked a lot of butt and now we've got freedom and we're the best people in the world!" {laughter} Or you've got the other, "They're a bunch of god-dang slaveholders. They came and they murdered everybody and it's the worst genocide the world has ever seen", but when you read this book you get an idea for how each group that came over with different motives contributed differently to this. Some people did their best to live with respect and intermingle with native populations. Others had no need for anybody. They didn't want anyone. They wanted their own religious purity and didn't want to intermingle with their own neighbours necessarily, if they went bowling on Sunday or something like that.

So you get an idea of just how important culture is. You get to see the DNA I guess, of these different cultural groups and how they left a lasting impact on today's political scenery. You get a better idea of why people have different attitudes towards different things and how that manifests even in recent elections. He has a map of the Trump election, how people voted for Trump and then how centuries ago how these different identities map right onto people's different voting attitudes.

Harrison: Yeah. That's a good point to get into just a little bit, why things are that way, why these 11 distant cultures have persisted in specific geographic areas. Adam, can you just bring up the map for a bit? This is the contemporary map that he gives of what it looks like today. What that started out was individual colonies on the east coast and in the southern United States, northern Mexico. Starting from those small beginnings with the advance westward they took their cultures with them and implanted a few new cultures in the process.

The way that happens gets back to another book that I haven't read yet but which is kind of an inspiration for this one that I'm going to get to. That is David Hackett-Fischer's Albion's Seed from 1999. Fischer's idea was that there were what he called four British folkways. People from four distinct regions in Britain made their way to the colonies and established four separate nations/cultures. What Fischer does is trace all of these aspects to these regions and cultures in what's now the UK.

Woodard doesn't go that far. He sticks just to the colonists. He doesn't go back and look for the specific origins, where they came from. He just says, "This is what they were like when they arrived and that determined the course of history". Apparently this is the way it happens. A group of colonists will come to a new place and their culture, the structure of their belief and the society they set up, determines what it will be like for the coming generations because they set the template and then new immigrants, whether or not they come from that culture originally, tend to integrate and assimilate in that established culture.

So that's why they persist. The template was set down by those first colonists and the way they did things. That has persisted to the present day. Like Corey was saying, it shows up in numerous ways and one of the ways is in voting habits. You can look at a map of the 2016 presidential election and see regional differences that line up with these 11 cultures.

For example, in southern states on the border with Mexico you've got El Norte, very democrat, left coast, like San Francisco, Seattle, all the way up into Canada-Vancouver in British Columbia, all the way up to Alaska too. That's very democratic. Of course east coast very democratic, Tidewater, New Netherland, Yankeedom. Then the Midlands circle around Yankeedom. They'll go either way. They're more centrist, so not as polarized. And of course the deep south primarily republican, greater Appalachia strongly republican, same with the far west.

Elan: Adam, can you put up that map again just so people can get a sense of those regions and where they are geographically?

Harrison: We'll leave the map up for a second. I'll describe a bit of the history that he lays out because he goes through each one pretty much chronologically, how each nation was founded. The earliest one is actually El Norte because it was the Spanish first that were colonizing up through Mexico and by 1595 they reached what would be the southern United States now so around Texas and New Mexico. Then the next nation to develop was New France, so up on the east coast of Canada.

I found with the descriptions of all of these nations you admire certain bits and then are kind of repulsed by other bits. I kind of liked the New French. Maybe it's because I'm a quarter new French myself.

Adam: Well I thought they were interesting too and I'm not Canadian.

Harrison: So the thing about the French, one of which was Samuel de Champlain. I knew that from my Canadian history. At least that name managed to stay in my memory despite my history teacher's very poor teaching. But Fischer actually wrote another book 10 or 15 years ago called Champlain's Dream about this culture, this nation, because Champlain and the French had this idea that they were going to go and establish this New France and they were going to keep it using the French system that they had inherited so it was going to be a feudal society just like France. But in order to make it succeed they would have to integrate to a degree with the native population. They'd have to establish good relations.

So that's actually what happened in the early years of the New French. They immediately established as good relations as possible, engaged in trade. They would mingle back and forth. The French would send people to live with the Indians and learn their skills. So the French adopted all kinds of native practices and technologies, from something as simple as snowshoes and canoes to social habits like the dances and some of the ceremonies that they would do. They shared in all of that and married too. They mixed their two races or mixed their genes and that led to the Métis.

That was 1604 when they established that colony. It was interesting to read that when you contrast that to Tidewater, the first colonies in the eastern United States like Jamestown which nowadays is what? The east coast of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia. In 1607, three years later they came over with a totally different idea. They were going to recreate their culture and society. It was also going to be this aristocratic society but they were coming as conquerors. How does Woodard put it? I think he's referencing Jamestown when he says that it was a corporate owned military base. So they were coming to take over, conquer and steal.

So totally diametrically opposed to the attitude of the French just a bit north of them. But in common with the French, if you look at how the Spanish were doing things, the Spanish also didn't have a racial ideology like would develop in the deep south. They had more in common with the New French in the sense of having nothing against the natives except for their cultural practices. They thought the natives were culturally backwards so they were going to teach them the right ways, the Christian ways and integrate them into their own culture. So they developed a missionary system to bring neophytes, people from the native population to teach and bring up as good Christians and that developed, like in New France with the Métis, into the Mestizo culture, so mixed Spanish and native.

I can't remember what he says, but by a certain time, just like in Mexico and South America, if you look at the gene studies in David Reich's book, it's pretty much that everyone living there now has Spanish and native ancestry just because the cultures mixed, unlike in most of the American colonies where they didn't mix, where it was more categorized by warfare. But one of the differences between New France and El Norte was this missionary culture that developed. One of the accounts of people coming to visit and then saying what they saw was that they came and looked at what it was like, these actual missions with the native neophytes trying to learn their way and earn their way into that new society. He said it resembled a slave colony because in practice it was...

Elan: Highly repressive and oppressive.

Harrison: Yeah, because there was no incentive to actually grant the neophytes their full membership because as long as they were at that low level they could be treated as servants or slaves.

Corey: Yeah, and they were making a good profit off of all of their labour.

Harrison: Yeah.

Elan: I was mentioning a little earlier that my history or social studies education is quite limited. You mention El Norte, and Tidewater, and New France, and there are a bunch of others we haven't even gotten to yet, which never even made their way into the pages of the history lessons I received. You grow up hearing...

Adam: The education we'll say, that you were given was given from a particular example. So they were looking at history through a certain lens and that lens, if I understand it correctly, is more of the Yankeedom kind of perspective.

Elan: That's exactly what I was going to get to.

Adam: So it gives you an actual map of reality for the situation as it is, which is something that he talks about in the book. You look at all of these different maps, the electoral maps, etc., geographical including state lines and stuff, but state lines don't really mean anything. It's just an arbitrary thing, right? The El Norte for example, half of it's in Mexico, half of it is in the US. It's just an arbitrary line and yet there are these cultures, each one having their own desires and ambitions, trying to come up with ways to become cohesive and create peace pacts in a sense, in order to get certain things done. But it's a completely different view of the situation in the United States as it is, compared to just looking at it, as "Ohio voted..." whatever way.

Elan: You mentioned this kind of perspective or this lens from which we came to understand what the United States is as this almost homogenous...

Adam: Yeah.

Harrison: USA!!

Elan: Yes! One of the few things I remember is "And the pilgrims left the English country to come to the United States to seek religious freedom and they landed on Plymouth Rock and then they got their religious freedom and then they made peace with the Indians and that's how we have Thanksgiving". That's really the extent of it, right? So then you read about Yankeedom, which was established by these Puritans and you touch on this quite well in your article recently Harrison, and how the Puritans in trying to escape the religious oppression of England, had their own religious oppression. These guys were bastards!! These guys were hard on themselves and like you mentioned earlier Corey, they had all of these kinds of religiously inspired so-called rules that they imposed on themselves with harsh punishments if you did certain things on the Sabbath and whatnot. They could be quite violent with one another.

If you've ever seen the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller about the Salem witch hunts, all of that god-awful, self-righteous, high and mighty perspective, that's one of the real seeds of what the United States is. Something that the Yankeedom and the Puritans seems to have in common with a lot of these separate nations would seem to be that a lot of them had some biblical foundations as a substructure of their culture and they were all god's chosen people wanting to come to create a new Zion! So you had them, you had the Quakers of the Midlands, although diametrically opposite to the Puritans in their sincere openness and very embracing of all different cultures and groups, but who also were informed by a very strong biblical way of life.

There were one or two others.

Harrison: Well I just want to talk about the Quakers a bit because, as you mentioned, they were very much ideologically opposed to the Puritans even though they were both Christian groups. The Quakers came over, kind of like the New French. They were actually pro religious freedom. So the Puritans basically wanted religious freedom for themselves but not for anyone else. It was their freedom to oppress every other religious group, including the Quakers. They would cut off their ears and mutilate them in various ways to label them and punish them for being heathen Quakers.

The Quakers on the other hand would take anyone in. They'd take in the Germans. That's the origin of the Amish and the Mennonites and groups like that. The way Murray Rothbard describes them, they were anarchists. They were very much against any kind of government control. Even though they had government buildings they were used not very often. They had a court building that was used two or three times a year because they resolved everything one-on-one or with mediators interpersonally as opposed to in the court system.

The point I was going to make was that like the New French, they also went there with the idea that the best way to survive, live and create a good society would be to have good relations with the natives. So they would actually buy land from the native populations. They'd say, "Okay, what can I pay you for it?" They would buy the land and then it would be theirs and they'd trade, like the French, with the natives. Again, totally opposed to what the Yankees and the Tidewater aristocrats would do - just go in and take it - they actually had good relations.

That's just the point I wanted to make about them. They were actually the ones advocating for religious freedom and it was a constant battle for them. This was before the revolution so they're still nominally under the control of the king and the British government. But it was a constant struggle to keep what they had established and the rights and systems that they had practiced for these decades until the crown came in to take control again.

So for the Quakers it was this short, successful while it lasted, but ultimately failed experiment in total self-government, kind of like the libertarians' dream. They just had nothing but disdain for leadership. Oftentimes when there would be appointments for government positions, the individuals appointed would refuse to take the position because they didn't want to be in government. So it was a constant struggle with the Yankees and with the crown to keep their American freedom.

But really briefly, that leads to another point. A lot of these groups had different notions of what freedom meant. Nowadays the US on the world stage talks about freedom and it's known as either sincerely or with a hint of irony as the land of freedom and it's spreading freedom and democracy, right? That's what a lot of Americans believe as if there was this one identifiable concept of freedom. But no, you actually break it down and even behind the propaganda layer of it and the actual beliefs about freedom, they're vastly disparate in these different regions too. Different ideas about what freedom actually means.

Corey: For example, I can't remember if it was Tidewater, the deep south or both, but there was an idea of liberty that is vastly different from the concept that you hold in your common sense, juvenile dictionary idea of what liberty means. But for them liberties were - I don't know if you want to say earned - but they were granted by social status. So the more liberties you had, the higher you were in the hierarchy and this was moral and right and proper so slaves who had no liberties, it was because they were less of a person.

This was something that was deeply entrenched in society to the point that he makes the remark in the book that the south wasn't created for slavery but that the south needed slavery in order to continue to exist because there were only so many ways that you could maximize your personal liberties at the expense of other people and at a certain point if people are mobile they can leave. They can go. They can work their way up the ladder. They could sharecrop or whatever they're doing.

You lose those slaves. They're not slaves but they're servants or they're just people lower than you and if you feel accustomed to this liberated lifestyle where you don't have to work, where you get to do all of the things like the ancient Greeks, you're like Plato, you're like Aristotle. You get to sit and think about the great things in the world and plan your great estate and think about how you're going to expand your estate in the next spring and what you're going to do with this great harvest and all of these organizational, philosophical and religious things that you get to spend your time and your mind on. You can't keep that and have to go out and work. The more people that you have to do all the work for you, the greater your liberties are.

So there was definitely a lot of manna I guess you'd say in this idea of liberty for people in the deep south and I think Tidewater, but not as entrenched. It was something that was diametrically opposed to the ideas of the Yanks and all of these other people who were so much more authoritarian in a slightly different way. They're still authoritarian but their attitude was "We're going to conquer the world!" He points out that the ideologies of manifest destiny and the idea that America is supposed to go forth and conquer the world for god, those were very Yankee concepts. It was up until the early 19th century that they still believed they were going to conquer every other nation of these 11 nations that existed and that he argues still exist today but at that time it was very conscious that "These people are different. It's a different nation. We need to force them to submit to our Yankee idealism" which is manifested in the Captain America principle that is so rife for parody and shows horrendous results all over the world.

Elan: I think the quote was "I believe in liberty but not equality".

Corey: Yeah, that's right.

Elan: What's fascinating about this book is that you get the full spectrum of authoritarianism in these different nations. From the Midlands and the Quakers to the Puritans and then increasingly to the slave-owning nations of Tidewater and the deep south and then this hyper deep south authoritarianism of the Barbadians who kept slaves in Barbados, had farmed out this little island as much as they possibly could and needed to expand. So they came to the deep south and began to, at first, bring in African slaves in I think the late 1600s until it expanded into this entire slave industry and huge plantations of the south.

Corey: There's one thing I want to comment on. How interesting it is that it's these individuals, these "founding fathers", mothers, the founding people, and it's their character that has determined the shape and the contour and trajectory of the generations and generations and generations. Their marks of character are still reflected in these nations today, which I find absolutely fascinating. When you think about how important character is, it's not something that's really talked about a lot these days, but when you look at it in the context of these founding fathers and mothers and the choices that they make, what they will allow, what they will not allow, how they interact with other people, these marks of character become marks on history. They become the marks of history.

Adam: And that ties in with the Yankeedom and as well the New Netherlands. That one in particular I thought was incredibly interesting because it really, really held over as far as "We're on this island and we're doing things the way that we did in the Netherlands which is 'we're going to tolerate everyone, we're going to have all the diversity and we're just going to make money'" and what is New York City, if not that, in its entirety? {laughter}

Elan: Well that's funny that you went to that Adam because I have the page open to Founding New Netherland. I'm from New York City.

Adam: Nooo!

Elan: And the lovely thing about New York, if you appreciate diversity, in school I had a Puerto Rican friend, a friend from Ecuador, Trinidad, China, South Korea, Jewish kids, everybody. It was a real melting pot. This was a place that was founded on, like you said, making money and anybody who wanted to go there and just make money and be embraced by this innovation and capitalism probably in its rawest sense, found success there.

So it became this center of commerce. New Netherland eventually became this kind of intermediary between the types of corporate merchandising and selling between Yankeedom and the south, neither of which did business with one another. I'm going to read a little bit from the book because it's fascinating and I also wanted to mention something.

"New Netherlands was founded in 1624 just four years after the Mayflower voyage and six year ahead of the Puritans' arrival on Massachusetts Bay. Its capital and principle settlement, New Amsterdam, was clustered around the wooden Fort Amsterdam which stood where the Museum of the American Indian is now located next to Battery Park and Bowling Green where the Dutch had their cattle market.

When New Amsterdam was conquered by the English in 1664 the city extended only as far as Wall Street where in fact the Dutch had built a wall. The main road, brede weg (Broadway) passed through a gate in the wall and continued on past farms, fields and forests to the village of Haarlem on the north end of the island. Ferrymen rode goods and people across the East River to Lang Elant (Long Island) and the villages of Breukelen (Brooklyn), Vlissingen (Flushing), Vlacke bos (Flatbush), and Niew Utrecht, now a Brooklyn neighbourhood, or across the harbour to Hoboken and Staten Eiland. The area had about 1,500 inhabitants."

Now I was born and raised in Vlissingen or Flushing, so to read that there was a place as far back as the mid-1600s that I grew up in which I always considered just this kind of working class armpit of Queens...

Harrison: Did you ever wonder or know what the origin of the name was? Flushing?

Elan: No.

Harrison: If I were raised in a place called Flushing I'd wonder. {laughter}

Elan: Yeah. Well I got flushed right out of there. And there were other areas I sort of grew up in, but the area was very interesting because it was known - I grew up in the projects known as Pomonok which was named after a group of Indians in the vicinity. So this is a place that, even if it didn't retain any - well that's just the point! It did retain a lot of its multiculturalism.

Adam: Its culture is multiculturalism.

Elan: Yes. And it was highly tolerant. Of course for a very long time there was a very politically middle of the road sensibility. People worked. You didn't see any serious libtardian sentiments in the 1970s and 1980s. John F. Kennedy came to Pomonok when he was campaigning for President in the early late 1950s or whenever he was campaigning. Part of the point of the book is that these influences have lasted for so long. It's like this template of ideas or of how to live have been impressed upon the people generation through generation.

Corey: But to the people who live it, it just is so matter of fact. It's like the nose on your face. You just think that everyone has one and then that's just normal. But the problem is that you have all of these nations and there are all of these differences that are unspoken and unknown and you're unaware of these differences, the real roots of these differences. Obviously there's a few things, like you're aware of that we've been talking about with the slavery, the Yankees and that Puritanical...

Harrison: And Californians.

Corey: And Californians, and you're aware of them, but at the same time we don't really take them seriously. That's the thing that has kind of shocked me for a long time, how important culture is in general, just being aware of culture and how it operates. I remember reading a book about these early anthropologists and their confrontation with this native tribe. It wasn't really a confrontation but they went to study this native tribe and they were shocked. It was a common thing that there was some kind of an experience that you would undergo as an anthropologist as you started to realize that this is the same species as you but everything they do is completely, completely different.

There was one tribe that the young men, in order to be initiated into manhood, had to circumcise themselves and that was how you became a man and if you didn't circumcise yourself, then you were considered a woman and you were unclean. So that was just a matter of course. That was part of their culture and of course as an anthropologist, when you go and you spend years - you don't go native, you're a professional so you just spend years studying these tribes, you go back and you write papers, whatever, you teach a class and you go back and you study them - I think that develops some kind of a mental illness and some sort of a pathological thing starts where you question everything that you take for granted and all of these other things. That's where I think a lot of that postmodern "All reality is pure language. All reality is fake. There's no real truth because I do things this way, you do things that way. We do things this way".

Well that's not true at all! What's true is that there are vastly different value systems that exist in conscious beings. From what we've been talking about, at the top of the value hierarchy you have money for some people. For others there's religious purity. For others it's liberty, 'my' liberty, 'my' estate or the liberty of my fellow liberated men or however you want to put it. There's still one reality but there are value systems that can stretch on for who knows how far. There are obviously some that, according to your value system, are better than others. I think there are value systems that are objectively better than others and you know those by the fruits of the society. You can see and you're attracted to things that are beautiful, things that are effective, things that produce benefits for other people. You say, "That's good!" as a value. That's a good thing.

Other systems, like in the deep south and the Barbados slave society or in Tidewater. It's one that is demonstrably bad. Here is the founding of Tidewater. I just want to read this really quickly.

Harrison: Yeah.

Corey: "In the traditional account of the Jamestown story, the dashing Captain John Smith leads a can do party of adventurers as they hunt for gold, fight with savages and seduce Indian princesses. They construct a fort, tough out the winters and build the foundations of "real American society", bold, scrappy and individualistic."

Everyone's familiar with this story. We all know what this is.

" Well in reality, the first lasting English colony in the New World was the hell hole of epic proportions, successful only in the sense that it survived at all. Founded by private investors, it was poorly planned, badly led and foolishly located with much of the American seaboard at their disposal, the leaders of the Virginia Company chose to build on a low lying island surrounded by malarial swamps on the James River, a sluggish body of water that failed to carry away the garbage and human waste the colonists dumped into it creating a large disease incubator.

To make matters worse, almost none of the settlers knew anything about farming. Half were haughty gentleman adventurers, the rest beggars and vagrants rounded up on the streets of London and sent to the New World by force. 'A more damned crew, hell never vomited' the Virginia Company president later said of them."

Most of these people refused to work! Even while they were starving to death they refused to work! He talks about one guy who murdered his wife!

Adam: His pregnant wife.

Corey: His pregnant wife. He murdered her and he ate her. He goes on story after story. A lot of them just didn't want to go out and do any work. They would rather die than actually do any work! And they all went there thinking - this is what they thought! They thought that the Indians would be so overwhelmed by their impressive technology that they would just immediately be the rulers of the continent! {laughter} More narcissistic...

Adam: And then when they get there the Indians...

Corey: ...and stupid idea. Yeah. It's ridiculous.

Harrison: Well that reminded me of something that I read in Murray Rothbard's book because while I've been reading this I've also been listening to the audio book of Murray Rothbard's history of pre-revolutionary America. It's four volumes so it's super long. I've just been listening to it like I listen to podcasts. He's talking about these original companies because these original colonies were set up as companies, so they were privately owned. They were enterprises. The early economies of some of these colonies were essentially communist in nature.

The company had set it up so that everyone had to work and then everyone got an equal share. That was a big contributor - at least in Rothbard's view - to why a lot of these people didn't want to work. There were numerous reasons, but there was no incentive for them to actually work for themselves because no matter what they got, they only got a pittance and the company got everything else. So they were ruled by their corporate overlords and in that case they were like, "Well screw it. I'm not going to work!"

And then as soon as they introduced private property then things took off and farms started doing well and they thought, "Oh, that's kind of a good idea. I guess if we just let people make as much as they want to make, that'll actually work." And it worked because then they actually started producing and the colonies ended up thriving to a degree. They were still ruled corporately and they still had all these other negative features. But that was one of the economic points that Rothbard makes as an economist.

I want to come back to Tidewater and the Yankees and their attitude toward the Indians. Woodard just mentions it briefly and Rothbard gets into it a bit more in detail. So this is another example of that carrying over of cultures and similarities. The colonists that came over, the tactics and strategies that they used were directly copied from the British strategies towards the Irish, against the Indians and other colonies.

I don't have a great Irish history. I've got bits about it that I've learned and of course Joe and Niall who were doing NewsReal have a better idea of this. So there's a comparison to be made between the treatment of the Irish by the British and the treatment of the Indians. There are so many examples in both these books of the downright treachery of these colonists. It's just sickening, especially after you've read how the New French and even the Spanish, even taking into account the negative parts of their treatment of the Indians. This is just one example of many.

Let me find it here.

First I'll preface this by saying that the colonies themselves would fight amongst each other and oftentimes there'd be a battle or invasion. They'd say, "We want to take over their colony so we're going to get together a fighting force, a militia and take it over." So there would be battles and then at one point one side would surrender so they'd make an agreement. "Okay, so we surrender. We'll come over with you guys to hash out the terms of surrender" and the other side would say, "Okay, we guarantee your safety and that sounds like a good idea."

So one side would surrender and as soon as they surrendered, the side that accepted their surrender would either kill them or put them in jail or assault them in some other way. There was no sense of living by your word, no honesty. It was the most cutthroat environment possible. We haven't talked about the Appalachians either but they were probably the most cutthroat of the bunch. But let me read this. I've got one example just to kind of put it into perspective. I'll just read this paragraph. It's kind of long but it'll be good.

"While the gentlemen of New France were inviting Micmac chiefs to their gastronomic competitions, hungry Virginians resorted to extorting corn from the Powhatan Indians by force triggering a cycle of violence. The Indians ambushed one raiding party, killed all 17 soldiers, stuffed their mouths with corn and left the corpses for the English to find. John Smith led another party to try to capture Powhatan and instead stumbled into another ambush. Brought before the chief, Smith was subjected to the Indians' adoption ritual, a mock execution interrupted by the chief's 11 year old daughter Pocahontas and theatrical ceremony which, from the Indians' point of view made Smith and his people into Powhatan's vassals. Smith interpreted the situation differently. The child, overwhelmed by his charm, had begged that he be spared. Smith returned to Jamestown and carried on as if nothing had changed, flabbergasting the Indians. Skirmishes eventually led to massacres and in 1610 the English wiped out an entire Indian village, throwing its children into a river and shooting them for sport. Pocahontas herself was captured in 1613 and married off to a colonist and sent back to England where she died of illness a few years later. The Indians gained revenge in 1622, launching a surprise attack on the expanding colony that left 347 English dead, a third of Virginia's entire population. The English offered peace the following spring but poisoned the drinks they served at the treaty ceremony and slaughtered all 250 attendees. Warfare would continue off and on for decades."

Elan: It's like the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones.

Harrison: Yeah, it's similar to Game of Thrones.

Elan: Yeah. You used the word treachery. We're looking at all of these seemingly disparate pieces of these different nations that formed the DNA of American thinking and methodology and modus operandi and approaches to things. Again, going back to grade school history, you read about the US revolution and revolutionaries and the US citizenry uniting to fight against British rule and come away with a real independence away from the yoke of British tyranny. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. That's what the civil war was about. No kind of nuance there.

I want to say something about how all of this brought us to where we are today with the US, because when you read about all this treachery, when you read about the northern British and the Scots who came into the US and formed the Appalachia group and how they went on raiding parties and just wanted to live on their own and were basically a mass population of thugs - it's not that simple but it approaches it in some ways. {laughter} It's incredible.

You have to imagine that yes, you had a lot of innovation. You had a lot of sincere attempts at building religiously free, civilized communities. You also had all of these different sensibilities coming up that might have been ostensibly good, but the amount of unnecessary carnage, vicious killings en mass that came to form the US, probably not unlike many other nations that were European or Asian because history is a history of suffering and war, but it's like in spite of the mythology of George Washington insisting that he wouldn't be king, he would be President, and despite Benjamin Franklin and the founding fathers coming up with the Declaration of Independence and later on the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, this is a country built on a lot of death, destruction and connivance. And that's how this country has been maintained among a certain elite who have refined a lot of their methods and have become the intelligence agencies and all have their angle on fleecing half the world of its blood and toil and its soul.

Of course the United States isn't all that. I think these things largely occur in ignorance on the part of many people in the country. But all of these shenanigans we're reading about certainly go some way to explaining the pathological DNA of the US. I don't know. Any thoughts on that?

Adam: Well it's not just the US then because it's also coming from all of the places where they came from, all of the Puritans from England. These were things that were occurring in all of these other places so it's not just America's DNA, but all of these other places as well. They have the same or similar treacherous beginnings as well.

Corey: I think whenever you're starting some sort of a group, there are a number of questions - I don't know if questions is the right word - but there are a number of challenges that present themselves. Probably across the board you're going to face these challenges. How are you going to make money? How are you going to feed yourself? How are you going to defend yourself? How are you going to allot power? Who's going to have power? All of these different questions and challenges have to be solved by normal people, based on their limited knowledge, their programmed, conditioned childhoods, their upbringings, the societies that they're coming from, the cultures that they're coming from and their own narcissism, people as smarter apes. You think about the average American and you realize that the other half are dumber {laughter} than that.

You're looking at a lot of just stupidity. There's a lot of stupidity in the world and when you're faced with all of these challenges, it's a lot easier to go with just simplistic moralistic kinds of easy answer. But the question of how do you deal with this other people, you see how the Tidewater settlement had the attitude that "They're going to worship us as gods and they're going to be our slaves" or you look at New France. "How are we going to deal with these others? Well we're going to network with them. We're going to share knowledge and we're going to build relationships so that we can both prosper."

Well, you look at which one worked. Obviously there's just different ways of solving this problem based on your values. Do you see them as human beings? Have you actually even tried establishing some form of relationship? There are all these different ways of going about things but if you start with a bunch of narcissistic idiots, that's the kind of crazy mess you're going to get into. It's just this huge labyrinth of all of these twists, turns, challenges and Minotaurs and monsters that people have been struggling to adapt to, survive, not get crushed by for millennia and millennia and millennia. God knows it's probably not easy to unite an entire kingdom. It probably takes some massive fortitude to be able to. And bloodshed too to unite a kingdom. You don't just go, "Hey guys, I'm going to be your leader now. Stop fighting and killing each other. Stop being a bunch of idiots." It's the dilemma that we live in. It's not going to be easy. It's never going to be pretty. As individuals we make the best choices that we can. Try to not get sucked into it when a whole mob of idiots decides it's time to go attack the Indians because "Hey, we're drunk! They're evil and we're going to take their corn!"

Harrison: One of the themes that sticks out for me, reading this and Rothbard, is that while the United States has this self-image as being the home of freedom, it's really more accurate to say that the history of the United States up to the present, is like a sine wave of the battle for freedom, the fight for freedom. At some point it's rising and there's glimpses of it shining through and at other times it just goes down completely to no freedom. But some gains are held over time.

So it's not like today in the United States it's a totally unfree society. There are elements of freedom that still remain, some that have been acquired and taken away and others that were never there in the first place, that were only there in potential when you look at the histories of all of these colonies and the individual struggles that they all went through and different types of struggles too.

Going back to the Quakers, in that settlement it was a constant struggle to keep what they had gained and then losing it. In the other colonies there were struggles for freedom that never came to fruition and others where it was a mix of the two. Look at the history of indentured servants, which were essentially temporary slaves. There are differences there. There was the slave society of the deep south where there was no social or economic mobility. You were in the slave class or you weren't. With the indentured servants, even in Tidewater there were rich blacks, for instance, who were not slaves and that was totally accepted. There wasn't as much of a racial component to it, but with the indentured servants who were essentially slaves, once their term was up if they managed to work off their term, they were then free according to the limited definitions of the time and place.

A lot of other indentured servants would just get fed up and go native essentially. They'd move out and live with the Indians. That happened in New France too. The people who came at the bottom end of the social spectrum who weren't getting what the expected or wanted, at that point had the freedom to leave that society completely and enter a new society.

So it's a complex picture. There's this complex battle, an opposition between control and oppression and the struggle against that. Sometimes that struggle went somewhere, sometimes it never did, but the fruits and the results of that and just the presence of that past is all within the present. It's easy to make blanket statements and all those blanket statements will be true in some cases but there's always a different subtext or an area in which that doesn't apply. I think that becomes clearer by reading this history. You get the idea of the waxing and waning of these trends and struggles. Oftentimes it's horrific. Oftentimes there are heroes, people that you really admire for what they did, what they accomplished or what they were struggling to accomplish. At other times, like you said, they're villains. They're absolute villains in these stories in this history.

But like you said Elan, that's the history of the United States. It's the history of humanity. It's the same in every country. Any country you live in, when you go back far enough either in the present or the past and you find these conflicts and you find this struggle of values. I used the image of that sine curve. There's multiple of those at all times in all places and sometimes you'll have a bit of good that shines through while there's other bits of just pure evil that are manifesting and other times those bits of evil recede into the darkness where they belong and others come forward.

So in modern American history I think we have new manifestations of old evils. We have some new evils that probably couldn't be imagined back then but we also have the entire history of that, including some of those original values, the good values that are held onto, that, in some cases, will be held onto sincerely and with authenticity and conviction and other times where they are recycled and turned into slogans or empty words that don't actually have any significant meaning.

Just the word freedom itself, when America exports freedom in warfare, what they're actually practicing is that technique borrowed from the war and oppression of the Irish, the Indians and the other colonists. That's the Yankee freedom. That's the freedom to oppress. That's not the freedom of the Quakers to be free from oppression. Those are incompatible ideas of freedom. In the cases of foreign intervention, of exporting freedom to other nations, it hasn't been an export of any kind of productive or I'd say value-laden freedom.

It has been that libertas, the liberty to take and impose one's will on someone who doesn't want it and that is totally antithetical to the other idea, to be free from coercion and oppression of the power elite essentially, or whatever group it is that wants to impose its will and coerce the people underneath it to achieve their own ends. That's totally antithetical to this other visions of freedom which is a subtext and a current within American history.

Corey: I agree 100%. I think that's why this book just exemplifies why history is so important in terms of understanding the world around you. For whatever political theories that you have, political biases or whatever, history is history. It's what happened. It's complex. It's chaotic. It's messy. Just by reading this book you gain so much insight into all these vast dramas that are still ongoing in front of us. It's like being blind and mute really. You just miss out on so much of the colour of the reality that's all around you without history.

Elan: Yeah. I agree Corey. It's as though by holding a spyglass to history we're using a mirror to exactly where we are today where people are observing what the other half is saying or what the other group is saying and their words and sentiments or values are completely unfathomable to a whole segment of one population. There are these disparate groups in the US today, one looking at the other, that might as well be from another planet given the way they think about things. And to know that it has always been that way, to some degree or another, and informed by different values based on where these people came from and what their visions of the future were, it helps one to reconcile the fact that there will always be differences. Ultimately, is the United States a successful experiment? Is it the shining city on the hill? Is it this chosen land of freedom and opportunity?

Harrison: Freedom!

Elan: Yes and no. It has managed to manifest all of these different visions and quietly export all the terror that it could muster abroad where it does so in ways that most people don't understand, so that there's this semblance of placidity - not as much anymore - but a semblance of cohesion that sits atop this malevolence that gets exported abroad.

Harrison: Before we end, I've got one other little topic to bring up. We'll end pretty soon. I think maybe sometime in the future it might be fun to get into some more later history because we covered the founding of these nations. We didn't really get into the far west or the left coast because those were actually more recent developments. So maybe we'll get a bit further into history in the coming weeks some time, including the revolution or the revolutions because as Woodard makes clear, the American Revolution wasn't a singular thing. There were actually many cross-purposes and different agendas going on at that time.

But one thing before we do end, I want to just do a quick movie recommendation. So if you want to get a visual representation of the time period, 17th century - you already mentioned Arthur Miller's The Crucible as a play - but there are a few movies to check out, maybe a couple of books too. The New World of course, Terrence Malick's movie with John Smith and Pocahontas. It's not completely historically accurate in various areas, but very authentically shot. What you're seeing is a good representation of what things looked like at that time. And of course there are some things they get right, but some things that are changed for narrative purposes.

Another one is a novel by a Canadian author called The Black Robe and that was made into a movie I believe in the 1980s, again in this time period. I believe that one is in New France, so to get that perspective. And then one I haven't seen yet but that I want to see, not as historically accurate but set in that time period, is The Witch - VVitch, Witch. It came out in 2015. It's more of a horror movie inspired by the witch hunts of the time. They set it in 1630 I believe, so very early. I think that was a generation before the Salem witch trials, something like that.

I only read the first book of this, but this is an author I think you like Elan, Neal Stephenson. He has written Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash. I can't remember what is other big one was.

Elan: The Diamond Age.

Harrison: Yeah. He's a pretty well known sci-fi author. But he wrote an eight-volume historical fiction. Is that The Diamond Age or was it a different one?

Elan: No, no. I didn't read it because it's quite long.

Harrison: I read the first book, which is 8 novels, so 250 or 300 pages each. I read the first one called Quicksilver of the Baroque Cycle. It's set not exclusively in that time period and not exclusively in the states, but it gives an idea of that time period. They go over to Massachusetts for a while. It's got all these historical characters too because it's also about the rise of science. So you get to meet Newton and Leibniz and all this stuff. Just to get back into that time period you can check that one out if you like. Who knows? Maybe we'll do a show set in the 17th century at some time or something like that.

Elan: I have a quick film recommendation along those lines as well. It's not set in the 1700s but more the 1840-1860s and that's Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York which is wonderful because you really get a sense of place, if it's correct and I would tend to think it is given the amount of research I read that was done. There are some hellacious events that are historically correct that occur in New York City around the time of the civil war and actions that the government had to take around drafting New Yorkers to get involved in the war. You had the draft riots and all of these events that, again, if you're a school kid in the US you're not likely to have heard about. The period detail is wonderful. The storytelling is great. The acting is great. Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio and a bunch of great character actors. Gangs of New York. I've seen it number of times.

Harrison: Alright. That said, see you guys. Thanks.

Elan: Take care everyone.