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20181209 – The Virtue of Nationalism

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MAIN IDEA:

The main idea of this book is that people are better off if they allowed to live according to their traditions and religion in nation states that are independent and are not subordinate in any way, shape and form to any transnational or global organization and not included as a part into any other nation with different culture, traditions, and religion. These other forms author defines as imperialist regardless of whether these are organizations such as UN or EU or plain old empires like Rome or USSR.

DETAILS:

Introduction: A Return to Nationalism

Here author discusses how the notion of nationalism turned from something noble and progressive early in XX century into something awful and unacceptable. Author provides this theoretical notion that nationalism is: “a principled standpoint that regards the world as governed best when nations are able to chart their own independent course, cultivating their own traditions and pursuing their own interests without interference. This is opposed to imperialism, which seeks to bring peace and prosperity to the world by uniting mankind, as much as possible, under a single political regime.
“.
Author makes the point that reason for this change is that new form of imperialism – transnational globalism in form of UN and EU or New world order of Pax Americana became an objective that global elite is trying to achieve. Further author proceeds outlining the argument of this book in some detail.

PART ONE – Nationalism and Western Freedom

I Two Visions of World Order

The two visions author discusses here are: the vision of multiple independent nation-states based on common history, language, religion, and culture with their idiosyncratic legal and political system, peacefully coexisting without any territorial or other irreconcilable demands to each other vs. the vision of one global community with common set of values, one superior legal and political system that could impose these values to member nations by force if necessary.

II The Roman Church and It’s Vision of Empire

This brief chapter is about Western history and Universal Catholic Empire that outgrow from Roman Empire and despite nearly thousand years of attempts failed to unite western Europe into one transnational whole, ending up with multiple nation-states system established after the peace of Westphalia in 1648 and end of Christian religious wars.

III The Protestant Construction of the West

Here author links development of the world of nation states in Europe to Protestantism, which based it construction on two principles:

  1. The Moral Minimum Required for Legitimate Government and mainly based on 10 commandments from Jewish bible
  2. The Right of National Self-Determination.

Author believes that this Protestant approach led to formation of political order beneficial to national freedom and eventually led to the creation of United States, and dismantling of colonial Empires.

IV John Locke and the Liberal Construction

This chapter starts with reference to Atlantic Charter of 1941, which established notion of only liberal construction being a legitimate form of government based in individual freedom and best expressed by Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government”. Author puts against this idea what he calls protestant construction, which is based on national freedom. Author assigns all that he considered good and proper like God, family, property, and limited government to national freedom and treats individual freedom like something that denies all these. In his view some given at birth circumstances of life including cultural, religious, and family belonging are not subject to individual consent and therefore make such consent at best irrelevant and at worst detrimental. Author also rejects ideas of von Mises and Hayek about need for individual freedom for prosperity and overall classical liberalism. In his view too much individual freedom is not consistent with freedom of nation, which is community of individuals with common ethnic, religious, and cultural background.

V Nationalism Discredited

Here author discusses reasons for why nationalism was discredited, starting with denial of Hitler being nationalist, similar to socialists’ usually denying that he was a socialist. The main reason for this denial is that Hitler would not accept Westphalian approach of coexisting nation-state and was aiming to subdue the whole world to the will of German nation defined as ethnic, rather than territorial and cultural entity. Author sees continuation of this objective in after war unification of Europe, albeit without Master race ideas somewhat substituted by ideas of Management by the best and brightest recruited from all different ethnic groups. The chapter ends with discussion of American protection, which also diminished traditions of independent nation state, but provided security and prosperity after 1945 so any suggestion to return to more Westphalian order is treated as call to return to barbarism.

VI Liberalism as Imperialism

This is an interesting chapter where author defines liberalism as form of imperialism because it strives to substitute the multitude of diverse nation-states with divers cultures, attitudes, and laws by the universal super entity, which laws and rules are the same, defined by some super national elite and forced on everybody in the world regardless whether they want it or not.

VII Nationalist Alternatives to Liberalism

Here author discusses alternatives to imperial liberalism:

  1. Neo-Catholic opposition, which does not mind coercive international order as long as it is consistent with biblical teaching, which imperial liberalism actively denies in relation to sexuality, family, and human life.
  2. Neo-nationalist or statist view originated from French revolution, which raises state above nation
  3. This is author’s preferred position and he expresses it in such way: “The third alternative to the liberal order is what may be termed a conservative (or traditionalist) standpoint, which seeks to establish and defend an international order of national states based on the two principles of the Protestant construction: national independence and the biblical moral minimum for legitimate government.

PART TWO The Case for the National State

VIII Two Types of Political Philosophy

Here author goes back to Greek political philosophy that was concerned with form of government: monarchy, democracy and so on. Another issue is what author calls philosophy of political order that is what causes a specific political order: what allows a group of people to constitute one political entity.

IX The Foundations of Political Order

Here author elaborates what he means by political order that creates government and it is mainly combination of force and mutual attractions between individuals and groups, starting with family, then clans, tribes, and eventually nations.  Author calls these attractions the bonds of mutual loyalty created by common language, culture, and history. These bonds are much more powerful than various forms of universal ideology either religious or secular.

X How Are States Really Born?

Author starts with very reasonable rejection of ideas of mutual consent between individuals creating the state. He also rejects ideas of natural state when individuals were free and independent either in condition of beautiful and peaceful world of Rousseau or cruel world of war all against all of Hobbes. Author believes that it was one of two or combination of both processes: voluntary merge of tribes into the free state and/or violent conquest by more powerful tribe subjugating others. He also very reasonably notes that in either case nobody ever asks a regular individual for consent or approval.

XI Business and Family

Here author puts in opposite positions business and family, rejecting idea of state formation as kind of business enterprise with voluntary participation of consenting individuals and promoting idea that it is based on mutual loyalty between individuals, families, clans, and tribes with force routinely used against individuals who fail to demonstrate sufficient loyalty. So author’s main point is that state as business – voluntary contract of individuals, need continuing consent based on calculation of costs and benefits and therefore is unstable because cost and benefits are subject to change. The nation-state, which is based on belonging to a family or tribe is given, is not subject to individual consent, and therefore could not be dissolved easily.  Consequently his inference is that nation state is stable and therefore could be free, while multinational state, which has little if any mutual loyalty of its individuals and groups, needs force to keep it together.

XII Empire and Anarchy

Here author looks at history and suggest that most of it people lived in anarchy meaning small entities of tribes, clans, and families fighting each other, creating and dissolving loose alliances with loyalty owned to individual – tribal chief or some equivalent, which is familiar to members of the group.  This necessarily limits the size and power of the group. Empire is completely different because it is based on abstraction of universal order so loyalty owned to the abstraction and individuals from emperor down are not familiar and only in control due to bureaucratic and military organization formed around this abstraction and capable enforcing such loyalty. But it is not all. Author claims that any look underneath of empire would show that core of its bureaucratic and military machinery is actually consist of members of ruling nation bound by the same bonds of mutual loyalty as nation of nation state. Around ruling nation there is a circle of allied nations that maybe not in the core, but are loyal to empire and maintain superior position to nations downstream more recently conquered or allied with empire.

XIII National Freedom as an Ordering Principle

Here author establishes his understanding of political order in such way: Anarchy when loyalty goes from individual to individual, Empire when it supposed to go to humanity overall, and Nation when loyalty is to the Tribe and Nation – group of people with shared culture and history. Author is making case that, as an intermediate point between anarchy and empire, nation represents best off all. After that he is trying to make the case that such thing as freedom of nation can exists in form of individual submitting to the will of collective because if collective is suppressed by the will of more powerful collective, individual, who belongs to this collective could not be free.

XIV The Virtues of the National State

Here author lists virtues of National State:

  1. Violence is Banished to the Periphery
  2. Disdain for Imperial Conquest
  3. Collective freedom
  4. Competitive Political Order
  5. Individual Liberties

For each of this virtues author is trying to provide some explanation for why for example real national state would maintain these virtues

XV The Myth of the Federal Solution

Here author is trying to prove that federalism, as superstructure of nations, could not work. His reasoning is that dispute between parts of federal state could not be resolved:

  1. Voluntary adjudication. Nations in conflict choose whether to submit a dispute for adjudication, and the choice of whether to comply with the decision of the judge or adjudicating body remains in the hands of these independent nations.
  2. Compulsory adjudication. Nations are compelled to submit a dispute for adjudication by the officials of the international federal state, and compliance with the decision is likewise enforced by the agents of the international federal state.

However when author moves a step down to dispute resolution between tribes within Nation, he somehow finds resolution at the Nation level compulsory for tribes quite feasible. Author then discusses American federalism and convincingly demonstrates that it works only partially and even this was continuously diminished by more and more power shift to the federal government. At the end of chapter he similarly demonstrates that EU is moving in the same direction, albeit much faster.

XVI The Myth of the Neutral State

Here author moves to the notion of Neutral state in which individual representative of multiple nations dispersed geographically throughout State’s territory could maintain their national specificity as something separate from the state similarly to separation of religion and state. Author discusses that such Neutral state has to have something common and sacred for everybody such as Constitution for Americans or Koran for Muslims. However he rejects the idea that such document could possibly exist without relation to some nation’s cultural heritage and traditions, making it alien to individuals not belonging to this nation.  Once more he uses America as example, stating that contrary to idea of Neutrality of American constitution it is really a product of a nation, specifically English speaking religiously protestant, culturally based on European Enlightenment. Incorporation into American state of large number of Catholics, Jews, and others is nothing more that adoption into this state of other nations, which do not constitute majority in any of American states or territories. Finally author looks at example of new states created when European countries liquidated their colonies and created territorial states without any regard for national character of people living there, such as Iraq or Syria. In many cases it led either to cruel dictatorship of one nation over other or civil war, or both. As successful alternative author refer to true National State of Israel and a number of other states with overwhelming majority of one Nation allowing for stability and minimal if any oppression of minorities mainly because minorities do not have power to threaten the state.

XVII Right to National Independence?

Here author addresses an issue of self-determination to increasingly smaller entity. His criteria are quite simple: Nation’s ability to protect itself from aggression and its economic viability.  His example for this is American Civil War when Confederacy after asserting its self-determination failed to repel Northern Aggression, consequently preventing survival of Southern Nation that merged eventually with the Northern Nation, even if the process took more than 100 years. In short, author deems universal self-determination right non-feasible, while specific cases being highly dependent on military, economic, and political circumstances such as support of some serious power, even if it is temporary.

XVIII Some Principles of the Order of National State

Here is how author formulates it:

In the first place, the order of national states is one that grants political independence to nations that are cohesive and strong enough to secure it.

The second principle is that of non-interference in the internal affairs of other national states.

The third principle is that of a government monopoly of organized coercive force within the state.

The fourth principle is the maintenance of multiple centers of power.

The fifth principle of the order of national states is parsimony in the establishment of independent states.

Protection of minority nations and tribes by the national government is a necessary sixth principle in an order of national states.

The seventh principle is the non-transference of the powers of government to universal institutions.

PART Three – Anti-Nationalism and Hate

XIX Is Hatred an Argument Against Nationalism?

The point author makes here is not that nationalists do not hate, but that there is no special feature that makes nationalists more hateful than other people. Actually people who are empire builders are much more hateful because they demand and force other people to comply with their ideas, while nationalist just want space for his nation to be left alone to live in accordance with its culture and traditions.

XX The Shaming Campaigns Against Israel

Here author repeats well-known fact that international community or more precisely elites of developed countries hate Israel. However he does not link it to inherent anti-Semitism, but rather to nature of Israel as Nation state specifically created by minority of world Jews who rejected all kinds of global holistic movements, seeking one world wide perfect empire either in form of communism, United Nations, European Union or whatever else, where people of all nations would have similar lives and circumstances. For such globalists/imperialists the existence of successful Israel is unacceptable violation of laws of history, which was a historical mistake of the Western world and should be eliminated.  Author defines it as paradigm similarly to scientific paradigm as it was defined in Kuhn’s work and expresses his believe that it has similar staying power and could not be overcome easily.

XXI Immanuel Kant and the Anti-Nationalist Paradigm

Here author looks at sources of Anti-nationalist paradigm to philosopher Kant and his ideas of universal power of reason that should win over nations with their “savages who cling to their lawless freedom” and bring everybody under an universal rule of international state.

XXII Two Lessons of Auschwitz

Here author applies Universalist and Nationalist points of view to Auschwitz. From nationalist point of view it is historical event when one nation – Germans forfeit any notion of humanity and tried annihilate another nation – Jews, who did not have their own state and army and therefore where defenseless. To avoid repetition Jews created their own state – Israel, with Army that proved to be effective in defending this state. From point of view Universalist Jews created Israel in denial of common humanity and universal laws to selfishly protect themselves by all means necessary even if it means to use violence against everybody who attacks them, currently Palestinians. For Universalist there is no difference between German soldiers killing Jewish children and Jewish soldiers killing Palestinians in order to prevent them from killing Jewish children because in both cases it is nation against nation and therefore violation of universal rules of reason.

XXIII Why the Enormities of the Third World and Islam Go Unprotested

This is an interesting part where author discusses difference in attitude of western elites to offensive violence of Islam and Third world, which they generally justify, and defensive violence of Israel, which they consistently condemn. Author’s point is that it is because these elites consider Jews their equal in moral and technological development, kind of adults who should know better and avoid violence at any costs, but Third world people are kind of children who still did not achieve moral and technological age of maturity and there could not be blamed for any violent actions.

XXIV Britain, America, and Other Deplorable Nations

The similar attitudes global elite expresses towards USA and Britain, the latter mainly for its Brexit vote. In both cases people of this countries prefer their own nation and its idiosyncratic laws and mores to global order based of Reason, the attitude elites find deplorable.

XXV Why Imperialists Hate

Here author makes point that Liberal Imperialists hate probably much more than nationalists and this hate directed at everybody who is not willing meekly accept their rule. Author puts it in historical context, stating that it had always been so when some Universal Truth whether it is Christianity or Islam or Nazism or Communism or Liberalism encounter resistance from so local non-universal and practical truth adherents of which resist this Universalism. Jews with their god and covenant are usual objects of such hatred because they do not intend to comply with universal truth. Interestingly enough Jews are joined by Evangelicals, Catholics, and others former Universalists, who accept diversity of the world, forfeited ideas of dominance, and seems to be happy just to maintain their own national idiosyncrasies.

Conclusion: The Virtue of Nationalism

In conclusion author restates his believe that only national state with sufficient viability is capable to provide conditions for the flourishing of freedom and prosperity, while all and any Universalist movement will always end up where they ended up before. Moreover he expresses strong believe that humans are intolerant by nature and therefore the only way out is to maintain national state in which individual bound by common culture, history, and believes would be capable maintaining cohesiveness of society without resorting to massive use of force.

MY TAKE ON IT:

It is interesting and unusual approach to the question of nationalism vs. universalism. Author makes a lot of very valid points, especially when explaining his views on reasons for hate of Israel. However I would not agree with main thesis of this book about superiority of national state and impossibility of federalism. I believe that nations as well as empires do not have brains or hearts or ability to act, all these are characteristic of individuals and nothing else. So the idea that nation is somehow less depends on force than empire does not seem to be supported by reality. It could definitely be that in a nation any given individual at the top would have more in common with any other individuals at the bottom than in empire, but they would still have enough differences to hate each other guts and resort to violence when they believe in probability of success.  I think that the effective and efficient society with minimal violence is only possible when as vast majority of decisions are done at the lowest level as possible, while costs and benefits of implementation of these decisions would be matched at the level of people who make these decision. So let’s say 60% of decision impacting individual live that have no impact on lives of others, should be done by these individual with cost and benefits accrued to this individual. Correspondingly another 30% of decisions impacting not only the individual, but also his or her family should be done at the family level with option for non-compliant individual to be excluded from the family. Finally remaining 10% of decisions mainly relevant for society defense again external and internal attacks (military and law enforcement) should be done at the level of society, again with option of exclusion for non-compliant individuals.

As for some special loyalty between individuals of one nation it could not be any higher than loyalty between individuals of multinational state, members of which have one common language, common set of rules, and constantly voluntary work together in all kinds of businesses where success or failure is accrued in the same manner for all participants. I believe that process of universalization occurred many times at lower level when clans formed from families, tribes formed from clans, and nations from tribes. Genes, or culture, or history does not define this process, albeit all above have some influence, but it is defined by proximity, ease of communications, and marginal increase in value via cooperation and interaction. We live in the world where communications became instant, any person could get into personal face to face contact with anybody else within 15-20 hours that it takes to fly from one end of earth to another and any business includes intermediate products created all over the world, assembled in multiple places, and distributed once again all over the world. In this environment Universalism become inevitable, but it could not be achieved from top down by force. It will be achieved from bottom up, by rejecting all socialistic ideologies and leaving individuals decide as much as possible what and how to do things.

As to the current struggle between Nationalism and populism on one side and elitist internationalism on other, I think it is not just the pain of the growth, but rather the beginning of massive revolutionary (hopefully bloodless) process of societies restructuring to accommodate for integrated world economy in which individuals participate in one labor / capital market where everybody has both and can have decent living on equal rights capital only and great living if capable provide labor.

 


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