How the South Skews America
Every year the Fourth of July is marked by ringing affirmations of American exceptionalism. We are a special nation, uniquely founded on high ideals like freedom and equality. In practice, however, much of what sets the United States apart from other countries today is actually Southern exceptionalism. The United States would be much less exceptional in general, and in particular more like other English-speaking democracies such as Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were it not for the effects on U.S. politics and culture of the American South.
I don’t mean this in a good way. A lot of the traits that make the United States exceptional these days are undesirable, like higher violence and less social mobility. Many of these differences can be attributed largely to the South.
All English-speaking democracies share certain characteristics in common. Compared to continental European and East Asian democracies, the Anglophone nations tend to be more market-oriented and less statist, with somewhat lower levels of social spending and weaker bureaucracies. We might even speak of “Anglosphere exceptionalism.”
Minus the South, the rest of the U.S. probably would be more like Canada or Australia or Britain or New Zealand—more secular, more socially liberal, more moderate in the tone of its politics and somewhat more generous in social policy. And it would not be as centralized as France or as social democratic as Sweden.