The Southern political tradition, in practice and theory, is one of its most valuable contributions to America and the world. The one constant theme of that tradition from 1776–through Jefferson, Madison, John Taylor, St George Tucker, Abel Upshur, John C. Calhoun, the Nashville Agrarians, Richard Weaver, M. E. Bradford, down to the scholars of the Abbeville Institute–is a systematic critique of centralization. Nothing comparable to it exists elsewhere in America or in Europe.
A criticism of centralization presupposes that decentralization is a good thing. But why is that? The answer is complex and requires viewing what was happened in 1776 from a trans Atlantic perspective. The Declaration of Independence is merely the American version of a conflict that had been going on in Europe since at least the 17th century between the emerging centralized modern state and a revived interest in the classical republican tradition which goes back to the ancient Greeks.
The South Was Right!
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There are four principles to this republican tradition: First, republican government is one in which the people make the laws they live under. But, second, they cannot make just any law. The laws they make must be in accord with a more fundamental law which they do not make but is known by tradition. Third, the task of the republic is to preserve and perfect the character of that inherited tradition. And finally, the republic must be small. It must be small because self-government and rule of law is not possible unless citizens know the character of their rulers directly or through those they trust.
The Greeks created a brilliant civilization that was…