Sara Robinson wrote a thoughtful piece for the Alternet, called “Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America”.
In it, she says rich people are not alike. America was once ruled by a Yankee elite, who in spite of gaining their wealth in ways we might not admire, were governed by Puritan principles: those who have must give; public service is a duty and an honor; and mass education and human rights are to be encouraged by good government. Out of this ethos came many of our Presidents: both Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson, Kennedy, and Bush Senior.
The wealth of the South, on the other hand, came largely from slavery, with its divinely ordained inequality and love of hierarchy. A tiny elite commanded obedience and enforced it with state-sponsored brutality. Universal literacy, public schools, libraries, and a free press were opposed.
In the North, liberty resided largely with the community, not the individual. Personal needs and desires were to be balanced against the good of the collective. Those with means gave, and a community had a moral duty to care for the sick, educate the young, and provide for the needy. Out of this code grew today’s progressive politics.
In the South, liberty was a function of your place in the hierarchy. The higher your status, the more authority you had. No one had the right to tell a southern gentleman what to do with the resources under his command. This was the definition of freedom, and anything (education, progress, public investment, the right to vote) giving more freedom and rights to lower-status people, lessened the liberty of the upper classes.
Robinson says the Civil War was a battle between these two elites for the soul of the country.
Post-WWII-prosperity opened the Sun Belt to new wealth from real estate, banking, defense, and energy. New cities arose: Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and the elites who built them arrived with the South’s values. God and Ayn Rand wanted them to take America back from the Yankee liberals.
We now live in a country where Republicans tell us government is bad, and inequality is accepted, even celebrated. Welcome to Plantation America.*
*But we can vote (unless your name has been removed from the rolls by one of those States engaged in cancelling this right)