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Certainly in the USA Enlightenment values never became the popular norm.

The early American colonies, states were very egalitarian societies by historical norms:

VOX (June 16, 2016):

Colonial America was the most income-egalitarian rich place on the planet. Among all Americans - slaves included - the richest 1% got only 8.5% of total income in 1774. Among free Americans, the top 1% got only 7.6%. Today, the top 1% in the US gets more than 20% of total income. Colonial America looks even more egalitarian when the comparison is by region - in New England the income Gini co-efficient was 0.37, the Middle Atlantic was 0.38, and the free South 0.34. Today the US income Gini is more than 0.5, before taxes and transfers. Colonial America was also far less unequal than Western Europe. England and Wales in 1759 had an income Gini of 0.52,and in 1802 it was 0.59. Holland in 1732 had an income Gini of 0.61, and the Netherlands in 1909 had 0.56.  Also, if you agree with neo-institutionalists that economic equality fosters political equality, which fosters pro-growth policies and institutions, then America's huge middle class is certainly consistent with the young republic's pro-growth Hamiltonian stance from 1790 onwards. That is, the middle 40% of the distribution got fully 52.5% of total income in New England, the cradle of the revolution!

Weak social stratification could not decide the fate of Enlightenment values in the US.

Without overwhelming financial-industrial authorities yet, Enlightenment was basically claiming substantial authority in the early US. It was almost a dream case for Enlightenment values, except that great many humans were not inclined to give central authority to a set of novel abstract principles. Powerful drive for romanticism, "weird" religions emerged as opposition to the high-minded authority.

And that remains the issue for today as ever. Intellectual authority was never fully acknowledged. Speculation about reasons for that could be endless. But for a start, progressives have to acknowledge the reality that they had hardly earned any congruent authority. We may anxiously chuckle at authoritarian sentiments of Trump supporters, but to many brains of Homo Sapiens (i.e., a primate species) progressive reverence to Enlightenment values is just another case of authoritarian sentiment - no matter if the sought authority is abstract.

Recently Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted plainly that all policy making should be rationally based on evidence. It is worth to see a few critiques of that.

by das monde on Fri Jul 15th, 2016 at 04:37:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Weak stratification was only present in New England. The Dutch employed slaves from the start in New York and the planters in the South largely replaced convicts sentenced to 'transport' and indentured servants by slaves by the 1680s.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jul 15th, 2016 at 03:50:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is not from the VOX article, right?

Even with slavery, standard equality measures look similarly and historically good through the colonies. The original hierarchical social-religious projects, indentured white servitude dissipated within a few decades. The colonists were rather equal before typhoid, dysentery, labour demand. With basic survival resolved, the birthrate was high in all colonies, indicating a broad well-being basis.

Sustained inequality trends started with land scarcity within the original colonies, including New England. The Salem witchcraft episode underscored interesting religious and social-economic dynamics.

Here is a compelling resource:

1. Worries plagued the God-fearing pioneers of New England settlements

a. The pressure of a growing population was gradually dispersing the Puritans onto outlying farms, far from the control of church

b. Although the core of Puritan belief still burned brightly, the passage of time was dampening the first generation's flaming religious zeal

c. About the middle of the 17th century a new form of sermon began to be heard from Puritan pulpits -- the "jeremiad"

d. Taking their cue from the doom-saying Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, preachers scolded parishioners for their waning piety [...]

2. Troubled ministers in 1662 announced a new formula for church membership, the "Half-Way Covenant" that offered partial membership rights to people not yet converted; it dramatized the difficulty of maintaining the religious devotion of the founding generation

a. Jeremiads continued to thunder from the pulpits, but as time went on, the doors of the Puritan churches swung fully open to all

b. This widening of church membership gradually erased the distinction between the "elect" and other members of society

c. In effect, strict religious purity was sacrificed somewhat to the cause of wider religious participation (more and more women)

3. Women also played a prominent role in one of New England's most frightening religious episodes to ever occur in the area

a. A group of adolescent girls in Salem, Massachusetts, claimed to have been bewitched by certain women and a hysterical "witch hunt" ensued, leading to the lynching in 1692 of twenty individuals, nineteen of whom were hanged and one whom was pressed to death

b. Larger-scale witchcraft persecutions were then common in Europe and several outbreaks had already flared forth in the colonies but the reign of horror in Salem grew not only from the superstitions of the age but also from the unsettled social and religious conditions

c. Most of the accused witches were associated with Salem's prosperous merchant elite; their accusers came largely form the ranks of the poorer families in Salem's agricultural hinterland

d. This episode reflected the widening social stratification of New England, as well as the anxieties of many religious traditionalists that Puritan heritage was being eclipsed by Yankee commercialism

The first Great Awakening was basically the first mass movement in America, demonstrating the born American suspicion of authority - be it autocratic religion, British royal, or intellectual. It also rationalized or mitigated effects of cultivated land scarcity - perhaps the core driver of growing inequality.
by das monde on Sat Jul 16th, 2016 at 02:14:14 AM EST
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My response should have read ' "Weak stratification" was... ' Only those two words were quoted and from your post. There was a distinct hierarchy in Virginia, though there was also social mobility. Level of education, starting with the level of education of the parents, was a dividing line. This was still true by the early 19th Century. Lincoln rose from humble beginnings, having become literate at home, by self study and apprenticeship to an attorney, under whom he 'read the law'. Then his innate abilities allowed him to use this knowledge to rise to elected office.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jul 16th, 2016 at 03:35:45 AM EST
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The paradoxical problem with education is that humans are competitive. A consequence is this: many kids at school loose interest in education (especially sciences) not because of low confidence in learning the curriculum, but because of low confidence in competing with nerdy kids in glasses. They would rather enjoy social superiority over the nerds.

It is easy not to pay attention to this from a progressive-institutional point of view. But on a massive behavioral scale, the value of education is its competitive edge rather than rational competency. Armchair progressives should better start paying attention to this.

Intellect is generally a higher status characteristic for humans. How else did our outsized brains evolve? The modern society and universal education messed up this linkage somewhat. But with glorious times of swift progress and ample resources apparently ending, the future is with masses that do not particularly value education (especially knowing the recent screw-up in high education). People, especially men, will rather look for narrow mastery than broad education. And they will be comfortable with selection by inequality.

by das monde on Sat Jul 16th, 2016 at 01:15:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 "And they will be comfortable with selection by inequality." That is the problem. And what we call 'civics' needs to be thoroughly reformed so that students get a clearer idea of how the world really works and what influence they can have upon it. But, were teachers to start doing this en masse there would likely be great public outcry about 'polluting the minds of our youth." Imagine if I were to expalain money with Warren Mosler's example from British African Colonization; to paraphrase:
The British went in and established plantations to grow crops for export: indigo, sugar, bananas and coffee and established mines for available minerals, but the natives did not want to work on the plantations. They lived in thatched huts, grew food crops, did some hunting - all on their own terms - and were self sufficient. So the British Governor established a hut tax - pay so many shillings per month or the colonial army would destroy your hut!

Now there were plenty of workers available. They needed to earn shillings to pay the hut tax. And, best of all, actually paying the workers with actual coins was optional. The plantation owners could just report that the required work had been performed for each family that provided so much labor. (End of Mosler's example.) Of course they could also establish a colonial store that carried items the natives wanted which English manufacturers made and pay the natives more than just that required for the hut tax, which they could then use at the colonial store. And they could also offer to but things the natives could obtain by hunting or foraging such as ivory, feathers and furs.

This would offer a clear example of how money can be made to work and how power relationships operate. But it would likely be a bit too clear for many parents in the community. Damned Communist teacher!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jul 16th, 2016 at 08:33:18 PM EST
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