Opinion

Why Democracy Matters

Just to make it simple, let’s define Europe’s “illiberal democracies” as those countries where elected leaders profoundly disagree with the liberal, inclusive, affluent worldview of the EU’s political classes.

On a Pedestal: National Flag Foundation, Clarion Quartet

The National Flag Foundation — What’s in a symbol? One great thing about pittsburgh is that, as long as you may have lived here and made a study of the area, surprises always pop up to greet you. Case in point: Pittsburgh is home to the National Flag Foundation, a nonprofit that…

The Media Has It All Wrong

I mentioned last week that I recently visited Switzerland, Austria and Hungary, and that if we think things have gone nuts in the U.S., we have no idea.

The Hillbilly Saga: Conclusion

The bottom line of J. D. Vance’s book, “Hillbilly Elegy,” is that far too many people from southeastern Kentucky are trapped in a hillbilly culture that stands in the way of their own success. As if that weren’t bad enough, hillbillies are discriminated against because people aren’t willing to distinguish…

How to React to a Hillbilly

Last week we tried to imagine how Professor Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize-​winning author of “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” would react if he saw a couple of hillbillies coming into his store. This week we’ll re-​look at that situation, pretending that Kahneman isn’t a Nobel Prize winning professor at all, but…

The Stubbornness of Culture

In 2013 J. D. Vance graduated from Yale Law School, an accomplishment he shared that year with the following fraction of his fellow Americans: 0.00000063.

Don’t Even Think About Crossing a Hillbilly

We’ve talked about several obstacles to success in middle class Ohio for migrants from southeastern Kentucky: they had horrible accents and they tended to dress funny. But the biggest obstacle was the most difficult to overcome: their behavior.

Don’t Dress Like a Hillbilly

Last week we discussed one of the major hurdles recent immigrants from southeastern Kentucky faced when they tried to assimilate into middle class society in Ohio: they talked like hillbillies. This week we’ll look at a second hurdle: the matter of dress.

Opining on Eponymy

by Diane Vrabel
It used to be you had to die to get your name etched in stone.

The Inscrutable Foibles of Hillbilly Talk

Although the parallels between my life and that of J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” seem flat-​out astonishing, it’s actually the differences that are more interesting.

Why Were Pittsburgh’s Scots-​Irish So Successful?

If Malcolm Gladwell is right that the cultural legacy of the Scots-​Irish explains the poor outcomes experienced by people in southeastern Kentucky, how do we explain the exceptional success of these same people in Pittsburgh?

The Culture of the Scots-​Irish

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” –Peter Drucker (supposedly)

Leaving Kentucky for Two Very Different Reasons

You can take the boy out of Kentucky, but you can’t take Kentucky out of the boy. – Mamaw Vance

The Weird Parallels Between the Hillbilly Elegy Author and Me

I just completed a series of posts on Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-​First Century,” a book that experienced an astonishing publications history — despite being 700 pages long and a hard slog — because it caught the exact tenor of the times. A very different and more accessible book that enjoyed similar popularity,…

Contemplating the Death of Mice

I sit in my living room on a quiet winter morning dimmed by an opaque, gray sky. I hear crunching, first thinking a squirrel is playing on my roof, or winter snow and ice is starting to slide. The intermittent sound is persistent and peculiar. I walk toward it. It…
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