34 Comments

Nationalism is a red herring. Humans are social creatures. You are part of a group, often many interlocked stacked groups, with stronger and weaker bonds. You are part of a culture. We all deside our obligations to our group/groups/culture, often those decisions are made collectively. At the end of the day you have to work with other people. Shared culture, shared group membership helps make collaboration easier. Some actions weaken groups which makes it hard to work together, some actions stregthen groups, which going to far could make it hard to work with outsiders.

Nation is just one level group. If you believe we are social its really just about what obligations do we have to that group? Some folks favor more and different ones from you. That is normal. That idea that nationalism is something different is wierd. It's the same, what do I have to do as an amish person? do I want to keep being associated with that group?

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A "nation" is properly defined as a community of common discourse. It is having a shared language and at least a minimal shared set of norms that facilitate the formation of mutually-beneficial relationships in a wide variety of social contexts that makes the nationality of others important to an individual. It is not just collective decision-making that is impaired by linguistic and cultural barriers; every social institution that forms spontaneously out a vast network of individuals engaged in voluntary interactions with each other (engaging in trade, sharing ideas, etc.) is also impaired by the existence of such barriers.

There are costs as well as benefits to overcoming such barriers, so the basic libertarian insight here is that societies work better when individuals can internalize the costs and benefits of linguistic and cultural assimilation and are free to make their own decisions about how far they must go in that respect. The benefits of discriminating in favor of those who don't pose costly linguistic and cultural barriers to one's interactions with them are not undermined by tolerance with respect to other divergent values of theirs that don't create such barriers, let alone more fundamental differences of world-views you might have with them.

Efforts by political or religious authoritarians to tilt the balance in either direction, imposing greater or lesser uniformity on society than individuals find warranted on the basis of their own rational understanding of their own experiences, is basically a rejection of individual moral and intellectual autonomy in favor of central planning, and thus displays all the flaws of central planning in terms of making people miserable with tyrannical regimentation, undermining social cohesion, and diminishing the utility of all institutions (including market-driven production) that rely upon spontaneous ordering for their peak performance.

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Mans life requires a focused mind protected by individual rights. The unfocused minds of Leftist subjectivists and Rightist mystics, their blood-drenched lust for sacrifice, and the resulting statism are destructive of mans life.

>Humans are social creatures

This is a rationalization of the hatred of mans survival need to focus his mind. The mind should never be sacrificed to social approval.

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deletedJan 20
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Religion is another big one. In many places denouncing the religion of your parents is punished by death. Some people don't choose their spouses. Caste is a thing in some places in the world as is perceived race. It seems like a varying percentage of groups you're part of have the characteristic of being born into them. Some are chosen, true. But if you are looking what's unique about nationalism you need to look elsewhere.

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deletedJan 20
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And yet they are....My religion will outlast your liberalism. Ought meet is.

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That claim is a lot more debatable than you might think. The Christianity of today is very different than that of 200, 500 or 1000 years ago, much less 2000. Likewise with all the rest (that have been around that long). We keep the names but change the content a great deal. And that is just for the big names; smaller religions, sects and cults crop up and die quite rapidly.

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Jan 19·edited Jan 19

>Outcomes would be worse if an individualistic Israel would not have so generously volunteered for one another (ignoring the draft)

It's weird that government imposed slavery where getting blown up and killed, as well as being expected to kill others is part of the forced labor is being portrayed as an exercise in individual altruism.

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Conscription is usually a sign that your cause isn't just. But I don't think that is 100% the case.

Imagine for instance that only the Axis used conscription in WWII. Obviously, they would have won the war (at a minimum they would control everything up the the Urals).

Here's a rule of thumb:

1) Did the other side use conscription first, and your basically just trying to even the score?

2) What objectives does conscription allow you to achieve that volunteers do not? Are those objectives worth the costs of conscription.

3) Does the public basically accept conscription as an ordinary duty of the citizen? Could the current war government survive an election? Do people generally accept their conscription without argument, or are they constantly trying to get exceptions of desert whenever they can? How harsh do you measures to enforce conscription go?

By contrast, one could argue that conscription by the British in WWI was a mistake. Had the British not had the option of conscription they would have needed to approach the war differently, and they might have negotiated a settlement with the Germans. Conscription allowed the English to force men into battles like the Somme and Paschendelle that were a total waste. (Obviously, America conscription in WWI was even worse).

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It's not at all clear to my that the Axis would have won the second world war, if only they had conscription.

Instead of taxing young men in kind to provide military services, they could have taxed everyone in money and paid volunteers to provide military services.

You could even have an auction model: the government announces that they need eg five million soldiers, everyone posts their reserve price for becoming a soldier, the government picks the five million lowest bidders, pays them a dollar more each than the highest 'winning' bid; and charges everyone else a tax to pay for this.

(The tax can be shared equally or according to income, land holdings or whatever.)

From the point of view of the army, this acts like conscription in that it gives a predictable number of soldiers. But from the individual's point of view it acts like a volunteer army in that everyone is only there if the pay is large enough to convince them.

The main difference is that the burden of service is now distributed over society, instead of concentrated on young men.

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It seems to me that this assumes that the reserve price on ones life and limb is low enough that the government can afford it.

Governments turn to conscription as a kind of asset seizure. They can pay less for a life than its worth. This allows them to turn a long run asset (the productive capacity of the man over his entire life) into a short term boost in combat power.

Militarily speaking, society is applying the bulk of its strength (even over time) at the point of maximum impact (a particular time and place), which is essentially what the military is all about (get there the first-est with the most-est). If you overpower the enemy at that critical point you win the war, and then the spoils of war come to you, making up for the loses (which are hopefully lower if you win a quick victory by applying maximum force).

Of course if the other guy also uses conscription and you both get there first-est with he most-est, neither can overpower the other at the critical point and it descends into an attritional grind. Generals keep throwing away lives cheap because they can compel conscripts through force, punishment, and propaganda.

I can buy that, because the war between the Anglos and Germany was a sea/air battle that didn't require mass personal and where we had dominance, that we might have been able to get by without conscription, though I think D-Day wouldn't have happened with conscription.

And of course had we not invented the bomb conscription would have been necessary to invade the Japanese home islands (its possible we could have starved the population to death instead).

The more difficult question is the Soviet Union, which obviously would have lost to the Germans if they didn't use conscription. That leaves Germany in control of everything up the the Urals, with the resources necessary to stalemate the Anglos indefinitely. Most "realistic" versions of Germany "winning" WWII basically end with them in control of western Russia and in a stalemate with the Anglos, Man in the High Castle is more fantasy genre.

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Nationalism can never work in the United States because there is no nation, properly defined as a unified ethnic group within a geographically contiguous area. So she's really advocating for statism, which has even worse connotations.

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The alternative to Nationalism is what?

I want an American Nationalism that teaches the US Constitution is superior and must be followed in all governments instituted on American soil. I want community civics that teach respect for the law and the process used to modify the law both locally and nationally. Tell me, what ideology and culture will do better for Americans than this?

Up until the 1980s the vast majority of American were taught this American Exceptionalism. Now Americans are being taught something else. Is the new way better? How?

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I'm just saying that American Nationalism is an oxymoron because the US is not and never has been a nation. What you're talking about is perhaps patriotism and civic virtue, but not nationalism, unless you identify a specific ethnicity in a particular area that is the American nation.

Plus, if you read RW Twitter, it's apparent that for many of them, "civic nationalism" is a Trojan horse for ethnonationalism, which is a scourge that must be eradicated.

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I mostly agree with your take on what American was. Today I fear the governments, corporations and institutions of the United States have embraced a national ideology. Unfortunately, that ideology is anti-American.

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Surely you can have a unified national culture without a unified national ethnicity?

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Switzerland

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That's definitionally not what a nation is, though

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Civic nationalists explicitly reject ethnic nationalism, though. Maybe that's not technically nationalism, but it's probably something like what OP means for the USA.

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Not all nationalism is ethnic nationalism.

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Because a nation is based on ethnicity, all nationalism is necessarily ethnonationalism.

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Jan 20·edited Jan 21

Nationalism is originally a liberal idea. I see why libertarians dislike it but it stems from a pretty shallow understanding of what nationalism is IMO.

All else equal, a Norwegian should prefer to do business with another Norwegian compared to a Japanese: a shared culture (including language) reduces the risk of miscommunication, and shared norms for conflict resolution makes it easier to resolve conflicts. I.e. transaction costs are lower when dealing with someone from your own nation. This applies even if everyone involved is a staunch libertarian fully committed to the non-aggression principle.

(In some transactions, the exotic experience may be a value in its own, and then this must be factored as well.)

Apply this logic to a state or a state-like entity, and it becomes obvious for why I would want my state to be of my nation (and why I would deem it unfortunate if my state was dominated by a nation that wasn't my own). E.g. if I was falsely accused of a crime, I would much rather go into a courtroom full of people who speak my language and share my culture than a room full of cultural strangers.

(Note that this is neither unfair national favouritism or "parent-like nationalism", just transaction costs. "Parent-like nationalism", human biases and intentional unfair nationalism can be stacked on top of this to strengthen the effect.)

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From the following logic culturally similar states would drive towards trans-national unions and linguistic assimilation towards more widely used languages. Though nationalism might have made economic sense in the 19th century, it hardly does so today - EU is the only example of an effective trans-national union of culturally similar states that reduces barriers to trade, and almost all instances of nationalism give preference to smaller local languages as opposed to English, Russian, French, German, etc. Modern nationalism is raising barriers to trade and taking pride in ancient writers nobody else cares about because they chose to write in your language. I find it hard to believe that it is as conducive to trade as something like unification of Germany or Italy.

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Jan 21·edited Jan 21

Sorry for going quote by quote but there's so much I disagree with.

>From the following logic culturally similar states would drive towards trans-national unions and linguistic assimilation towards more widely used languages.

Not at all: I much prefer to keep my language and culture and I don't want it replaced or assimilated. That's my preference and I'm willing to pay a premium for it.

>Though nationalism might have made economic sense in the 19th century, it hardly does so today - EU is the only example of an effective trans-national union of culturally similar states that reduces barriers to trade

That's why I made the "all else equal" qualifier. Obviously international trade is a huge boon. Some goods are easier to trade cross-culturally though. I'd rather buy steel than justice from Japan. There's a reason why the EU hasn't federalised.

>and almost all instances of nationalism give preference to smaller local languages as opposed to English, Russian, French, German, etc.

I don't understand what you're trying to say here. Obviously English, Russian, French and German nationalism have been important forces through history, often to the determent of smaller local languages.

>Modern nationalism is raising barriers to trade

That's bad (with some qualifiers like national defence). Most people are economically illiterate, some of them are nationalists.

> taking pride in ancient writers nobody else cares about because they chose to write in your language.

Culture is deep. If you are Japanese and want to understand other Japanese, you will benefit from knowing the Kojiki. But jingoism is bad.

>I find it hard to believe that it is as conducive to trade as something like unification of Germany or Italy.

You find it hard to believe that nationalism benefits trade more than the unification of Germany or Italy, which were nationalist projects that were performed by nationalists and violently opposed by anti-nationalists? You're comparing something to itself. Is it better for trade if all the Norwegians and Japanese stop being that and become some kind of Esperanto-speaking globalists? It would likely improve trade between Norway and Japan if that happened, but it would likely decrease trade within Norway and within Japan.

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>which were nationalist projects that were performed by nationalists and violently opposed by anti-nationalists?

Protectionism, barriers to immigration and linguistic planning are effectively synonymous with modern nationalism. Most of this usually hurts trade.

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Yoram Hazony makes the case for such a "parent-like nationalism" in his book The Virtue of Nationalism. It's well argued and worth reading even for libertarian skeptics. One of his main points, apart from the family analogies which he develops in detail, is contrasting nationalism on the one hand with empire with the other. Hazony argues that many of the things that have given nationalism a bad rap are actually bad things about *empires* — basically defined as nations imposing their rule on other nations.

(Of course there remains plenty of room for territorial and violent conflict between nations over areas that are ethnically heterogeneous and historically contested, but having an ongoing quarrel about Alsace/Lorraine sure beats Paris aiming to rule Berlin and vice versa.)

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deletedJan 20
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Fair point about France, but I can also think of a couple other reasons why Germany wanted to occupy the better part of France during WW2, with the Vichy puppet regime (not in Paris) governing the rest of the country. I can imagine if they'd won WW2 the occupation might have ended in favour of an arrangement not so dissimilar to the one the USA imposed on West Germany after the war, with a very significant military presence (and quite probably less freedom given to a nominally free French government).

As for Germany's other imperial ambitions during WW2, I'm not aware that they wanted an ethnically pure nation state all over, but rather a Germanic/Aryan Northern Europe run from Berlin with the "lesser" peoples in the periphery enslaved.

Fair point also about Turkey. Establishing national states has certainly been a bloody affair in many places — though not so much in regions where the population was already very homogenous (i.e. Scandinavia; some tiny minorities such as the Sami and Roma suffered under assimilation policies, but there was no genocide). One could also make a cynical argument that ethnic cleansing, by allowing the establishment of a functioning national state, can be a win in the long run, as compared to never-ending conflict. (Not very dissimilar in my opinion to our host here pointing out that the socialist countries that went through the most brutal transition to capitalism post-1989 were better off for it.)

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The practice of Nationalism may seem bad for some, but I think of France in the 30's, pre-1939. Against Germany and the Nazis France could have used a little more nationalism.

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French nationalism in the early 1800s though motivated France to aggressively occupy Germany and Italy and myriad other countries; the rise of German nationalism ironically was largely a consequence of aggressive french nationalism. At best, it’s a coordination problem, where being the only non-nationalist country is sometimes perilous, but that still implies that a world where all countries are nationalist is disastrous compared with one where none are. Because nationalism is rarely confined to mere defense, it tends to lead to transgenerational military vendettas that wreak enormous havoc, which is basically what European international politics from 1789 to 1945 was.

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If the French were to defend themselves, they would say that the revolution gave the rights of man to everyone and that they were merely defending themselves from successive coalitions of the monarchic powers trying to reimpose the old order by force. The levee en masse was an attempt to keep the crown heads of Europe from turning them all into peasants again.

Conscription was used in a very patchwork way during the American Revolution under the same justification. While the Atlantic Ocean prevented much direct conquest by the Americans, they did attempt to conquer Canada during the revolution.

Anyway, re-litigating the Revolutionary/Napoleonic era will get you a lot of he said/she said on this stuff.

The WWI era is a much greater indictment of nationalism, though personally I think the Franco-Prussian war wins the award for stupidest of all time.

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The French occupations of Germany and Italy were not beneficent occupations; the French used those regions for extractive purposes to fund their war against the British. Also I'm not remotely persuaded by the idea that the French revolutionary wars somehow weren't an act of aggression by France. Requires considerable mental gynmnastics.

I think the general point though is that as national conflicts are understood through the lens of national identity, tit for tat series of wars like this tend to happen. A big reason the Vienna Congress succeeded and Versailles failed was because a pre-nationalist like Metternich wasn't hobbled by the kind of sentiments (or accountability to the thoroughly irrational hoi polloi) like say Raymond Poincare was.

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I agree that French actions in Germany and Italy (and elsewhere) were extractive and not consistent with revolutionary ideas. In fact this is a commonly cited reason that Napoleon eventually lost. On the one hand bringing the the Code Napoleon to a region did have profound long run positive effects. On the other a mixture of Napoleons personal failings and the French states inability to finance itself without plunder led it to prioritize (flawed) realpolitik in a way that provoked backlash by other nations.

Metternich and his order ultimately fell, because it sought to arrest the rights of the common man in a way inconsistent with emerging reality. It's telling that on the form where Gavrilo Princip was arrested it asked "to whom does this serf belong". Even as someone that admires Metternich like myself, I can't help but note that the order he wished to preserve had major flaws.

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Yes, in the real world being the only non-nationalist one will be perilous because coordination is an illusion not reality.

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Jan 19·edited Jan 19

Europe since WW2 however (and much of the rest of the world as well actually) have been fairly effective at solving this coordination problem, through institutions like NATO, the UN, etc., so it’s clearly possible, so a competitive nationalist arms race is probably not something we should be aiming to return to.

From a foreign policy perspective it’s hard to see nationalism as anything other than a solution in search of a problem (and worse, a solution that tends to cause the problem it’s searching for). And since nowadays nationalist countries (at least Russia) seem if anything to struggle militarily, it’s hard to see what the advantage is.

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deletedJan 20
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> But I don’t think it’s good for parents to treat their independent adult children better than other independent adults

Perhaps not a good thing on paper, but extremely common (as long as the parents still like their kids, I suppose), and I'm not sure how one could force anyone to refrain from this behaviour short of extremely authoritarian measures.

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