We are glad that our paper on Frontier Culture is receiving attention outside economics, but based on the comments here it is clear we need to make some clarifications. Thread [1/12]
2 The paper was not a project to endorse Turner. His work has received vast criticism and much of that criticism is absolutely justified. Below is a paragraph from our introduction. [2/12]
Our paper is not about whether rugged individualism is good or bad for society. Btw in more recent work we show that frontier culture is hampering collective action against the COVID-19 pandemic. [3/12]

The history of westward expansion involved a process of conquest. There was violence and extermination of Native Americans. Settler colonialism could be worse than imperialism in terms of destruction, oppression, and death. This is a hugely important aspect of US history [4/12]
This paper does not study that aspect. We did not attempt to offer a comprehensive history of the frontier. (We do have other ongoing work on westward expansion as a process of conquest.) [5/12]
This paper is about the culture of settler colonizers on the frontier, and its legacy. We think it is important to understand how the beliefs and behavior of settlers were shaped. [6/12]
The formation and persistence of frontier culture has implications for political and cultural landscapes today. Simply condemning this ideology and not doing more to study it would limit our understanding of the past and the present. [7/12]
The beliefs and behavior of settlers has been a topic of considerable interest in social psychology, e.g. the work of Varnum and Kitayama (2011), an important reference for our paper [8/12]
Throughout our research we’ve read great studies by historians and other social scientists on the American frontier, and we are still learning while working on the cultural legacies of the frontier for gender roles, religion, and racism. [9/12]
We look foward to learn more from historians and other social scientists, and have been looking to organize an interdisciplinary workshop on topics related to the frontier. [10/12]
Two aspects that deserve more in-depth examination: (i) How was cultural formation influenced by instances of collective action, government intervention, and the context of territorial expansion and conquest? E.g. these are interesting comments [11/12]
(ii) To what extent is the myth of the frontier as land of opportunity a factually true narrative? Culture may be based on beliefs with varying degrees of grounding on facts. What's the role of motivated reasoning in the formation and persistence of frontier culture? [12/12]

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More from @MartinFiszbein

28 Aug
“Rugged Individualism and Collective (In)action During the COVID-19 Pandemic” – new paper with @SamuelBazzi and @melesemesay [1/8]

Full paper: bu.edu/econ/files/202…
In previous work, we show that historical frontier experience across U.S. counties explains the long-run prevalence of rugged individualism—a distinctive combination of individualism and opposition to government intervention. [2/8]

Full paper: tinyurl.com/yy9gx9lo
Rugged individualism may be the backbone of American innovativeness and resourcefulness, but it can also be dangerous—particularly during a pandemic that desperately calls for collective action and for internalization of externatilities. [3/8]
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