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319 of 344 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I can already hear the Hank Williams Jr protest song in my head...
First things first; I'm a Southerner, born and bred (not inbred, I think). Chuck Thompson's new book "Better Off Without 'Em" should make me angry, and it does. But not for the reasons you might think, what with this review coming from below the Mason-Dixon line. Much like Bill Bryson before him, Thompson uses sarcastic and acid-tongued humor to arrive at some...
Published on October 13, 2012 by Trevor Seigler

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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A new way to start thinking about the southern states of America
Okay, I will step in this briar patch. The southern states are a maze of contradictions. Southerners are the only Americans in the last 150 years to take up arms to shoot their fellow citizens in an organized effort to destroy the Union. Yet, the descendants of those same southerners claim to be superpatriots: say anything negative about the country and they will take you...
Published 22 months ago by Doug Terry


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319 of 344 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I can already hear the Hank Williams Jr protest song in my head..., October 13, 2012
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First things first; I'm a Southerner, born and bred (not inbred, I think). Chuck Thompson's new book "Better Off Without 'Em" should make me angry, and it does. But not for the reasons you might think, what with this review coming from below the Mason-Dixon line. Much like Bill Bryson before him, Thompson uses sarcastic and acid-tongued humor to arrive at some uncomfortable truths. How you respond to those is your call, but I'm writing this review.

There are a lot of things here that Thompson uses to indict the South that strike me as of the "duh!" category (slavery, Jim-Crow-era-and-beyond systemic racism, backwardness, Larry the Cable Guy)in terms of "reasons to hate the South and wish it gone" (as he advocates quite clearly in his subtitle, "A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession"). But he also uncovers some facts that show pretty clearly that we as a region are indeed dragging down the rest of the country.

Labor unions are unwelcome in the South, which boasts a "pro-business" mindset that would make Charles Dickens weep. Wages and benefits in the South are the lowest in the country, and we've managed to poach Detroit's auto industry because we bend over backwards to accomodate outside businesses (to hell with the workforce as a result). Racism is everywhere, but in the South it's the not-so-subtle motivation behind "Christian academies" and the subtle motivation behind the closing of an historic all-black elementary school in Biloxi because it outperforms white schools. The BCS, which is supposedly how the college football rankings are arrived at "scientifically," seems to favor the SEC at the cost of other conferences (many with better overall records, as Thompson shows). Even relations between white and black churches aren't above suspicion, as the white churches became primary organs of the Klan in the wake of the Civil Rights era.

All this is damning stuff, but Thompson has more: for a region that eschews national government and demands to be "left alone" by Washington, the South bellies up to the bar for federal aid (with little paid back) more than any other region. The South also boasts the largest population, in terms of mass: we are and always will be fond of greasy food that leaves us in ill-health from the cradle to the (before our time) grave. Violence in the South is tied to the way in which we settle for the absolute lowest common denominator in terms of education and economy (we don't train our kids to use their brains for anything other than as a conduit for beer to go through after a long day making a few cents at the factory). All of this should be the primary cause for people to find outrage at Thompson's book.

However, I'm guessing the reaction most people in the South will have is predicted by Thompson, who seems even to encourage it with his confrontational style: we'll get our backs up and take offense at Thompson, not the facts. Like I said before, Thompson is in the grand tradition of Bill Bryson and Anthony Bourdain, a snarky and opinionated individual who isn't won over by the usual platitudes of genteel tourist brochures and skirting-the-truth historical sites. And he is vicious when dealing with people whose mindset does not equal his own, in ways that can seem positively childish and mean-spirited. But here's the thing: he's right about the facts he cites, and while his solution seems far-fetched, he goes to the trouble to examine why it is that the South is both the political leader and cultural doormat of the rest of the country. An elite who prospers by keeping the working man down (the same working man that country music supposedly celebrates while at the same time pandering to) is the real villain here, not Thompson. I don't know that I'd grab a beer with him, but I wouldn't leave my seat if he came over to sit down.

The South, of course, is no more one stereotype or the other: we have honest-to-goodness diversity that we can be proud of. And writers from Faulkner to Walker Percy have given us a literate, introspective voice that goes beyond the hoary platitudes and lip-service paid to the South by those who benefit from our supposed backwardness and slow-mindedness. I'm a Southerner, yes, and I know firsthand that our education system is not conducive to actual critical thinking (as the only person to come out of Walhalla High having read "The Scarlet Letter" instead of the Cliff's Notes, I'm qualified to speak on such things). Chuck Thompson serves up a fiery, uncomfortable brew in "Better Off Without 'Em," but it doesn't mean that he doesn't speak the truth.
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83 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the "Bless His Heart" Southern Sympathizers, October 5, 2012
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This is a gritty, hard hitting, political commentary on why our political system is in trouble. Thompson will gain no popularity, in southern political circles, for his "tell it like it is" appraisal of the south. As a southerner, I see first hand exactly what Thompson exposes. Those people who study political systems will see the book as a likely start in opening a dialog where the myths of the southern systems are opened to full examination.
If you believe that humans rode dinosaurs, that the BCS is a fair system, and that education is not something that everyone is entitled to, then this book is not for you.
If you're even debating the purchase, then you may already have a more liberal stance on social issues than is prevalent throughout the south.
Thompson backs up his assertions with references, and although his commentary is laced with his own brand of sarcasm, he makes case after case that the south has not yet decided to join mainstream America.
Fascinating reading, well put together. This would not be something that I would take to the local gun club in SC to read while waiting my turn at the range.
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57 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This books offends my southern honor, October 15, 2012
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Unlike most of the one star reviewers, I actually read this book. To be sure, this book is obviously a polemic. In between statistics are a lot of .stories like the one of the Maryland black state senator from ten years ago who stopped in a Florida bar and was told "we serve blacks in the back room." In short, the south is full of racism and uneducated people many for which the "War of northern aggression" happened yesterday. I wouldn't recommend this book if it was just an amusing polemic, but it comes at a time when the Supreme Court is set to invalidate major portions of the most significant civil rights legislation, The Voting Rights Act. The Court is also set in this term to overturn affirmative action in college admission (ironically Clarence Thomas, who benefited more from affirmative action than anyone in America, is set to cast the deciding vote against it). At the same time the South is increasingly causing significant economic damage to the U.S. and it's reputation by being the refuge of Northern industry (eg Boeing), high wage European companies (eg Ikea) and auto manufactures worldwide who want a nonunion U.S. factory.
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84 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking and Humorous, August 30, 2012
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Not surprised to see a mix of 5 star and 1 star reviews, but hopefully the latter spent time to actually read the book beyond the first several pages to recognize the hyperbole. I found the book to be extremely well-written, insightful and humorous. The facts that stick with me include the data on very low property tax rate structure in southern states relative to the rest of the country and the social, economic, and cultural impacts that has had through generations. Do southerners really take more federal assistance than they contribute, while other parts of the country have positive ratios? Interesting read that I would recommend to others who appreciate a dose of humor with their politics. Thompson has nutz to take on the topic under this title. That much is inarguable. The author uses the premise to pull out some thought-provoking insight and facts. I guess everyone understands that he's not really serious -- right?
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98 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sadly Speaks the Truth, August 29, 2012
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I spent the first 31 years of my life in the northeast, followed by the next 19 in Atlanta, and the last two back in the northeast. Thus, I feel qualified to speak about the topic of this book. As other reviewers say, there is still some good in the south, some good people, good educational institutions, etc. However, the good are overwhelmed by the majority this book describes, stuck in the past, wanting to govern by religion and only their religion and their interpretation of religion at that, clueless as to what constitutes a good education, unwilling to fund public education sufficiently, uncaring about the well being of others as long as they personally are okay - I could go on. As the U.S. becomes more diverse and multicultural, the South fights to remain the country of the white male. I can only hope that the younger generation in the South starts to wake up and change things, or we will be "better off without 'em." If Southerners are offended by this book, then I would ask them to look in the mirror and do something about it. For me, this book was a catharsis. For others who feel as I do, you will find yourself nodding your head in agreement as you read this book just as I did.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is Secession a Bad Thing?, July 16, 2014
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I agree with the author to an extent. One of the greatest tragedies of the Civil War was the near end of secession as an idea in America. I have multiple degrees in History and Political Science, and one of the very first things that you learn by yourself and taught is that the most well-run nations in the world tend to be about the size of California, or Washington and Oregon put together. When a nation gets bigger it becomes impossible to adequately manage regional differences. Dividing the US into 4-9 smaller nations with some sort of mutual defense clause and perhaps the mutual support of the Bill of Rights, would eliminate the gridlock now in force in Washington and maybe even spread the campaign dollars a bit thinner. My only difficulty is that I am Roosevelt Democrat and less than thrilled with current social trends and love to shoot. Frankly, if you aren't wealthy, you become quickly aware that you are your own first line of defense. I am not anxious to give up on the 2nd amendment, but living within Cascadia it's easy to picture confiscation. My personal dilemma aside, practically, how do you reconcile the deep and abiding differences between America's regions? I can barely understand a person from NY. What seems everyday common sense in Wyoming seems like primitive survivalism to many in the East. One thing is for certain it'll take something dramatic to break the current deadlock and I would prefer it to be peaceful.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth, December 22, 2012
If you are "outraged" by this book, you've either not read it or are in denial. His opinions may make you mad but check his facts - any of them. Go ahead. I've spent an equal amount of time living in both the North and the South and from my perspective this book is in many ways right on but again, read it for yourself.

You may be surprised how many ways Thompson points out the South contributes to and yet helps decimate parts of the US. For example, some may be incensed that American jobs are being sent overseas. Corporations have found a way to fatten their pockets with cheap, non union labor and these fat cats have found also refuge in governments who fancy deregulation for money over the health of their citizens. While places like Detroit were being stripped of its unions and its jobs, Southern states were trying to outbid each other, to give tax breaks to corporations who would call their state home. In the meantime, governments were taking from its citizens form places like its education funds to pay for these huge corps to come to town. So go ahead and add lack of education to the list of things corporations like in their overseas workforces.

Well gee, places like Georgia and their "Right to Work" state has created a mini-China -- except for those silly Federal laws that say you have to at least pay minimum wage and your workers have to be of a certain age. But never fear - several Republican Reps have already talked about getting rid of those last two pesky Federal intrusions once and for all. Oh, and you should ask GA about the state of their public education... yikes. Places like Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina are fast tracking a corporation takeover of all things. All I can say is, good luck with that. ANYWAY --

In this book you will also find many open debates and no, not all go Thompson's way. It's not like the author drove through the South. He spent a couple of years in many different parts of the South, interviewing tons of people, getting to know the locals, observing, debating, learning, and... keeping an open mind. He explores the many contributions of the South, its heritage, its people, its day-to-day norms so again I say, having also lived in the South and having experienced the very things Thompson speaks of, I maintain his book is very much on target.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, January 12, 2013
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I stumbled on this book quite by accident and am so glad I did. I was born in Louisiana, now live in Florida and know many intelligent individuals in those states but the overall culture is exactly as the author describes....closed-minded, anti-intellectual, prejudiced and clinging to their past. I have never understood why they haven't progressed from the civil war beliefs, but many seem to hold on to those beliefs like they happened yesterday. This author provides clarity to the problem and a solution (I think "tongue-in-cheek" but maybe not) to let the south form their own country so the rest of us can get on with our progress. Of course, I will have to move first!! California, here I come. Great, thought-provoking book!
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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A new way to start thinking about the southern states of America, March 18, 2013
Okay, I will step in this briar patch. The southern states are a maze of contradictions. Southerners are the only Americans in the last 150 years to take up arms to shoot their fellow citizens in an organized effort to destroy the Union. Yet, the descendants of those same southerners claim to be superpatriots: say anything negative about the country and they will take you on, quick. Yet, they often consider themselves not really part of the rest of the nation, as if New York or California were actually foreign places to them.

What is useful about this book is that it has shock value to encourage those willing, north or south, to think again about who and what we are. Why is it that the south has in many different ways over our history, rejected so many basic American values, like the Bill of Rights, yet proclaims itself more American than the rest of us? What is it that makes the south so different than the rest of the country?

The answer, not contained in this book, is not just slavery, but the culture that surrounded slavery. The south was not a democracy during slavery and for a very long time afterward. The habits of a democratic people were foreign to the south. Newspapers and all public institutions were forced to get in line behind slavery and its all enveloping mindset. As a result, southerners did not have unbiased information upon which to make judgements. The rest of the population was forced to follow the dictates of the ruling, wealthy classes. Those habits continue, in varying degrees, to this day. Education is not valued because it creates people who question how they are being treated and question the system itself.

The south has an established system of laws designed to keep those without much money, especially the very poor, in their places. Yet, it is the very people most harshly subjected to those laws, the working class, who defend the south with every breath. The southern states, generally, treat their poor the worst, yet take in much more in federal money than they pay in taxes. (According to one source, New Jersey sent out more than 700 billion dollars in tax money than it took in over one recent 20 yrs. period.) Their system is being supported by the rest of the country.

I think it is time for southern change. I would caution people in Texas, my ancestral home state, to stop talking about secession, because a lot of people everywhere else might vote for it, in a heartbeat.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hysterical, yet frustrating for a Southern, December 3, 2013
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As a Texan, I found this book to be quite amusing. I have to disagree with the author though in separating Texas from the rest of the South. Seriously, you ever been there? All jokes aside, the book seems to me to be well researched, and is choked full of excellent arguing points that I wish I would have known going to college at one of the big state universities. Sometimes it hit so close to home that I would audibly sigh and shake my head in frustration. The separatist mentality isn't going to solve all of our qualms, but at least we can get a few chuckles along the way with books like this.
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Better Off Without 'Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession
Better Off Without 'Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession by Chuck Thompson (Hardcover - August 14, 2012)
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