How Important Is the Nation-State?

 

Today I’ve been reading over the first issue of American Affairs, a new intellectual journal that appears to have grown out of the (largely Claremont-based) American Greatness movement. American Affairs seems to understand itself as a possible seed-ground for exploring an intellectual foundation to Trumpism.

I should admit forthrightly that I look on this project as a skeptic, and as one who considers that the founders of this project have taken a large (not to say foolhardy) burden on themselves. I’m not, in general, the sort of person who seeks to shut down ambitious intellectual projects. But to my mind, the trouble with American Greatness was always the extent to which it understood itself in rejectionist terms. The spirit of the thing seemed not to be, “The right could use some fresh ideas around now, so let’s explore,” so much as, “The whole conservative movement is intellectually and (probably) morally bankrupt, so we’re starting over. Sign onto our program or be rendered irrelevant.”

That kind of “convert or die” attitude makes it hard to climb aboard, especially if you think (as I do) that there’s quite a lot of good to be found in the conservative movement from Buckley through the dawn of Trump. I’m in favor of exploring new ideas and making needed adjustments, but I’m also quite opposed to chucking free-market economics and neoconservative geopolitics as though they were groceries past their expiration date. Reading the American Greatness blog, I regularly have the same thought: This is all fine, but apart from the overt belligerence, these arguments could easily have been advanced in the conservative movement of yesteryear. What has your blanket excommunication accomplished, except to insulate yourselves from critique that would likely be quite helpful?

Having said all this, I pulled up the first issue of the new journal resolved to give it a fair shot. I could only read three articles without subscribing, so I haven’t gone through the whole thing. Here’s my reaction thus far: This reads to me like choir-preaching. It’s hard to see how these arguments would be compelling to anyone who wasn’t already deeply sympathetic to the perspective being advanced. Perhaps that’s the idea; after all, if the rest of us anachronisms have already been excommunicated, maybe we’re not worth the trouble. Or we could just say (to put the point less snarkily) that it can be acceptable to have a journal. It still seems a little unfortunate, because after all, Buckleyite conservatism has been developed across many years, and even its origins involved some large and very theoretical brains. If the Great Americans are looking to toss out whole realms of conservative theory (or perhaps I have misunderstood?), they should really be revved to start laying some serious, theoretical foundations. I would have expected that to be the point of starting a journal.

Of course, it’s only the first issue. Maybe they’ll get there. But here’s a concrete example of where the argument seems so thin that I can only suppose that the author is presuming a sympathetic readership. In his opening article, Joshua Mitchell argues that Trumpism is not populist, because it in fact represents a struggle against a real enemy (globalists) on behalf of a real good (national sovereignty). Once we understand the evils of globalism, we will appreciate that Trumpism, as a part of the global war against globalism, is substantive and entirely coherent, and not (as detractors like me suspect) an emotion-driven uprising whose goals mostly boil down to a resentment-and-nostalgia-tinged wish-list. The globalists are deeply wrong, Mitchell argues, because they do not appreciate that national sovereignty is, “the final word on how to order collective life.”

At this point in the 9.000-word article, I was intrigued, presuming that Mitchell would now undertake to argue for the extraordinarily strong privileging of the nation-state that, in his view, is the motivating and justifying principle behind Trumpism. Although I have encountered a great many people who assert the primacy of the nation-state, I have yet to hear a really thorough defense. Here’s what Mitchell gives us to justify his principle:

The Peace of Westphalia, which formally inaugurated the modern European system of nation-states, came into effect in 1648. Shortly thereafter, in 1651, Hobbes wrote one of the great works in the history of political philosophy, Leviathan. In a now-common reading of that work, and correct so far as it goes, Hobbes’s Leviathan provides us with the individuated self, oriented by self-interest and the fear of death. These ideas are in Leviathan, but they only scratch the surface of that great work. Hobbes’s deeper concern in Leviathan was the English Civil War, which in no small part was a religious war involving the claims of Roman Catholics and Presbyterians. The doctrinal difference between the Roman Catholics and the Presbyterians need not concern us; what matters is where each of these Christian sects located sovereignty. Hobbes thought that Roman Catholics were guilty of what we might call “false universalism,” because they vested sovereignty at the supra-state level, in Rome. Hobbes thought that the Presbyterians were guilty of what we might call “radical particularism,” because they vested sovereignty at the sub-state level, in private conscience. The English Civil War occurred, on Hobbes’s reading, because of these religious wagers that peace and justice were possible without national sovereignty. In his estimation, these supra- and sub-state alternatives are perennial temptations of the human heart. Their defenders may promise much, but neither “commodious living” nor justice are possible through them. Only by vesting sovereignty in the state can there be improvement for citizens and workable understandings of justice.

The post-1989 experiment with globalism and identity politics demonstrates that Hobbes was correct, so long ago, that supra- and sub-state sovereignty are perennial temptations of the human heart. The post-1989 version of that temptation saw global elites use the apparatus of the state to bolster so-called free trade, international law, global norms, and international accords about “climate change,” the advances towards which purported to demonstrate the impotence of the state itself. In such a world managed from above, the only task left for the Little People was to feel good—or feel permanent shame—about their identities, and perhaps to get involved in a little “political activism” now and again, to show their commitment (on Facebook, of course) to “social justice.” The Little People in such a world were not citizens, they were idle “folks,” incapable of working together, because what really mattered was not rational deliberation with their neighbors, but what they owed, or were owed, by virtue of their identities. Determining the calculus of their debt, in turn, were Very White Progressives in the Democratic Party who cared not a jot about the real outstanding debt of $19 trillion owed by the U.S. treasury. These Very White Progressives sought to adjudicate justice from above, by legal carve-outs or, if necessary, by executive actions pertaining, for example, to transsexual bathrooms, so that all “identities” could have their due. Fortunately, 2016 was year the American electorate decided this ghastly fate was not to be theirs.

That’s it. In two paragraphs, Mitchell dispenses with the absolute prioritizing of national sovereignty, and moves right along to lambasting universities, discussing different possible strains of nationalism, and complaining about the undue influence of European thinkers on Buckleyite conservatives. This is an absolutely crucial piece of his argument (and indeed, in his view, a dividing line so critical that people who fail to side with him should not even be regarded as Americans but rather as “proxies for globalism”). Nevertheless, he evidently regards those two paragraphs as sufficient to establish the point.

This seems to me like a pretty blatant example of what I call “the Fallacy of Confusing Complexity.” Political and moral reasoning are really so much easier and less complicated if we presume that we don’t have significant moral obligations to non-Americans. Once people start thinking they might have obligations that go “above” (cosmopolitanism) or “below” (individual conscience) national boundaries, who knows where we’ll end up?! Probably fighting among ourselves, like the English did! The only solution is to insist that national sovereignty is absolutely primary, and that no other sources of obligation can really count.

As a pragmatic claim it might be true. But of course, life often seems simpler when we dismiss as too messy or complicated obligations that may in fact still exist. I think patriotism and shared nationality mean something, but I don’t they don’t mean everything. I believe that I can have obligations to non-Americans for all sorts of reasons: Because they are my blood relatives or personal friends, or because they are my co-religionists, or because our nations are allies and have assumed obligations towards one another, or possibly just because they are human beings in great need. Any of those might, in some respect, affect my compatriots as well as myself, thus going outside (either above or below) national sovereignty.

In other words, I don’t see how national sovereignty can be the absolute “final word” on collective life. Moral obligation is indeed quite complicated at times! But we aren’t entitled to dismiss moral truths just because they’re complicated and confusing.

What do others think? Is there more to this argument than I have appreciated, or is it really as thin as it seems to me?

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  1. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Rachel Lu:

    …undue influence of European thinkers on Buckleyite conservatives.

    Darn those European thinkers, like Adam Smith, F. A. Hayek, Aristotle, and pretty much every other Western Philosopher in the last 2000 years. But, maybe I am being overly glib.

    The problem with the absoluteness of National Sovereignty is that it is unAmerican. The very construction of our political system asserts that sovereignty emanates from the individual, and that we dispense with parts of our innate sovereignty for the creation of governmental institutions in order to secure for ourselves the freedom to exercise our rights without fear of oppression. How much we give and to whom is up to the individual, and is in essence contractual in nature. Our founders made it among themselves, we sign up with every new generation, but it is in our power and right to alter the social contract. To contract or expand it. The philosophical basis for this is a universal assertion about the nature of mankind and what is the moral way in which men can form a government to exert power over other men justly.

    Without this universal philosophical underpinning, one is only left with nothing but naked force and arbitrary power. What can’t the Nation not do if it is truly sovereign? But, what is a Nation really if not a government? So what then can’t the Government do because it is sovereign?

    • #1
  2. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Rachel Lu: “Sign onto our program or be rendered irrelevant.”

    Now there is an excellent summary of the attitude of the Trumpian hordes.  Rivaled only by the pomposity and self-importance of the entertainment industry, and by the attitude of teenagers who believe they are the first generation to have discovered sex, many Trump supporters are deeply entrenched in this attitude which holds that all that came before them is suitable only to be thrown into the ashcan of history.  Nice turn of a phrase, Rachel.

    I happen to believe in the value of the nation state, but if we believe the evidence rather than ideology, we have to suspect that one of the common results of the nation state is the emergence of cosmopolitanism and/or some form of communism.  At least, it seems to me that this has happened over and over during the last hundred years in nation states everywhere.

    Then again, it may be that globalism is simply the result of the fact that the Earth is, you know, a globe; and transportation costs keep falling.

    • #2
  3. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    A simple cup of Americanism is what is being served.  Drink it, spit it, or contemplate and pass but it is the beverage du jour now.   Pretty soon it will be put in the water faucets at a school near you.  It tastes just like victory.

    • #3
  4. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Rachel Lu: “Sign onto our program or be rendered irrelevant.”

     

    Then again, it may be that globalism is simply the result of the fact that the Earth is, you know, a globe; and transportation costs keep falling.

    Simple economics explains everything. Since trade is the best way to obtain scarce goods and resources people will naturally engage in it and always have. Where ever there is trade a need arises for a uniform set of rules to govern the exchange to ensure safety and stability, and most importantly to guarantee property rights and enforce contracts. Without these guarantees trade becomes very haphazard and dangerous. Going from individuals all the way up to states the dynamic is the same. To facilitate a stable economic interchange you need the rule of law, to have law you need to institute governing bodies, to enforce the law and adjudicate disputes. What people do for themselves nations will also do with each other, because nations are just groups of people.

    • #4
  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    The problem with the absoluteness of National Sovereignty is that it is unAmerican. The very construction of our political system asserts that sovereignty emanates from the individual, and that we dispense with parts of our innate sovereignty for the creation of governmental institutions in order to secure for ourselves the freedom to exercise our rights without fear of oppression. How much we give and to whom is up to the individual, and is in essence contractual in nature. Our founders made it among themselves, we sign up with every new generation…

    Even if we set individual sovereignty aside, our nation isn’t one state, but several, each endowed with its own police power, which is delegated to municipalities, and held in union by a federal government whose powers are supposed to be enumerated. We’re not really one nation, one state, or at least that wasn’t the original idea; but one nation, several nested levels of government, in a union of several states. The stronger our federal government becomes, the closer we approximate a nation-state, I guess, but it doesn’t seem a natural fit to who we are.

     

    • #5
  6. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Rachel Lu: (Quoting Mitchell) “The Little People in such a world were not citizens, they were idle ‘folks,’ incapable of working together, because what really mattered was not rational deliberation with their neighbors, but…”

    …If rational deliberation with our neighbors is what we want, isn’t local government a more suitable place for it than national, in a nation the size of ours?

    • #6
  7. Trinity Waters Inactive
    Trinity Waters
    @TrinityWaters

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    Trumpian hordes.

    Done reading.

    • #7
  8. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty
    @PaulDougherty

    I recall going on a detachment to Thailand in support of a joint exercise between Thai and US Marines in the early ’90’s.  Before allowing we barbarians into the land, we took part in a class which can be though of cultural sensitivity training.

    We had to be aware not to disrespect the royal family (or their monetary image), not to touch people on the head, particularly with your feet (body’s hierarchy must be respected), and don’t abuse people you may find weird.  There were other points but these are a few I remember.

    What are people traveling to America told when being briefed on cultural sensitivity?

    I suspect that Nationalism would not be an issue if we as Americans knew who we are and how we fit into our community. Understanding our differences and commonalities as opposed to pretending they don’t exist may help us be great and less insecure.

    • #8
  9. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    Rachel Lu:Political and moral reasoning are really so much easier and less complicated if we presume that we don’t have significant moral obligations to non-Americans.

    Well, we don’t.

    To the extent that I care about any such obligations (whether real or imagined), it depends upon the country’s cultural similarity to the United States (the Anglosphere), or its usefulness to us as an ally (Japan). That rules out nearly the entire Third World.

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  10. Michael Collins Member
    Michael Collins
    @MichaelCollins

    Start with the Golden Rule -which points to a universal standard of justice.  As you say we have obligations to our fellow human beings, even in different nations, “possibly just because they are human beings in great need”.   This has to be counterbalanced by the recognition that we have special responsibilities to those people who are closest to us, starting with members of our families and working outwards.   Human beings have obligations (usually abstract) toward all children, but special obligations toward their own children.   You couldn’t nurture everybody’s children as effectively as you can nurture your own, because 1) it goes against your natural instincts, and 2) you don’t know those other children very well anyway.   By analogy I owe something to my fellow citizens that I don’t owe to citizens of other nations, because I am more likely to understand their needs -and also because of a common national obligation.   Each nation has a culture unique to itself.  France, Germany, and America have much in common, but there are differences.  Their different national cultures nurture the development of the human personality in different ways.  All nations would lose if they were melted down into some common global culture, just as all children would lose if they were raised in impersonal communes by interchangeable parents.   Preserving a common national culture is part of the mission of a nation -but when national identity conflicts with universal obligation, national identity must give way.

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  11. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Rachel Lu:Today I’ve been reading over the first issue of American Affairs, a new intellectual journal that appears to have grown out of the (largely Claremont-based) American Greatness movement. American Affairs seems to understand itself as a possible seed-ground for exploring an intellectual foundation to Trumpism.

    Stipulating that I am someone who has listened to semi-literary podcasts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that are longer than the episodes they cover, this strikes me as an exercise in “Here is a thing that is popular. Let’s assume it has a coherence worth exploring.”

    In fairness, it worked for Buffy.

    • #11
  12. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Michael Collins (View Comment):
    Preserving a common national culture is part of the mission of a nation.

    This is an interesting point. You say it is part of the mission of a nation to preserve a common national culture? How is it to do this and further more how does it determine what then national culture is? The answer to the first part would seem to be the government, but the government does not create the culture the everyday actions of people create the culture. The government can preserve the people which is what our constitution calls on it to do. But what if the people should change? Then the culture too must change. But how then is the Government supposed to preserve the culture, other than by making sure the people do not change? How can it do this and still preserve the freedom of the people?

    In a republic such as ours were the function of the government is limited the Government simply can not preserve the culture, because for it to try would necessitate placing restrictions on the people which it does not have a right to do. Now under a different governmental system such a problem does not exist. Especially if that system does not recognize basic human freedoms. To value human freedom is to value humans capacity to change themselves and their views and thereby change the culture in both subtle and dramatic ways.

    • #12
  13. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Tom Meyer, Ed. (View Comment):

    Rachel Lu:Today I’ve been reading over the first issue of American Affairs, a new intellectual journal that appears to have grown out of the (largely Claremont-based) American Greatness movement. American Affairs seems to understand itself as a possible seed-ground for exploring an intellectual foundation to Trumpism.

    Stipulating that I am someone who has listened to semi-literary podcasts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that are longer than the episodes they cover, this strikes me as an exercise in “Here is a thing that is popular. Let’s assume it has a coherence worth exploring.”

    In fairness, it worked for Buffy.

    In fairness some never saw the vampires and refused the merits of Buffy’s wisdom in slaying them.

    • #13
  14. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Stipulating that I need to read the article, my frustrations with this subject is that it presumes that globalism and nationalism come in only one flavor each, and that it’s impossible to favor a mixture of internationalism and political sovereignty.

    For example, contrast Daniel Hannan and Nigel Farage, both champions of British sovereignty in general (and Brexit in particular). The similarities break down pretty quickly after that point, though. Hannan is a classical liberal who wants Britain to be free so that it can better engage and trade with the world while Farage is a nationalist Tory who wants (in addition to some things I might like) Parliament to be able to afford a better welfare state for Britains. Unsurprisingly, Farage considers Trump an ally and Hannan detests him.

    • #14
  15. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I don’t think the essay and title match up well.

    • #15
  16. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):

    To the extent that I care about any such obligations (whether real or imagined), it depends upon the country’s cultural similarity to the United States (the Anglosphere), or its usefulness to us as an ally (Japan).

    To a very large extent, I agree. At the risk of quoting myself:

    [T]he government of the United States exists for the benefit of its citizens, not those of other countries. While foreigners have the same inherent, inalienable rights as Americans, their protection is simply outside of the responsibility of the United States government.

    In other words — and to paraphrase Derb — genuine altruism and charity are nice on an individual level, but they’re wholly inappropriate to a nation-state. That said…

    That rules out nearly the entire Third World.

    Totally disagree there. First, a lot of the third world is finally entering modernity. That poses a lot of potential as well as a lot of danger, and I’m not just talking about India and China (though, obviously, them too). From a wholly selfish perspective, I think it’s both in our interest  to cultivate friendship with decent people around the world while giving our enemies every reason to fear us.

    More simply, I’d like the same blackhawk to inspire hope and relief for good people in need of help just as it brings fear and panic to those in need of killing.

    • #16
  17. Michael Collins Member
    Michael Collins
    @MichaelCollins

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    This is an interesting point. You say it is part of the mission of a nation to preserve a common national culture? How is it to do this and further more how does it determine what then national culture is?

    A nation can be defined as government, so I guess I was ambiguous.  What I had in mind is the idea of a nation as a people sharing a common language, culture, and history.   It is the people who preserve and change their own culture, primarily by living it.  One role of government, its primary role in fact, is to defend the nation.  The very term “nation-state” implies that their is a distinction between “nation” and “state”.   Iraq is an example of a state that is not a true “nation-state” since it is composed of three major groups that don’t consider themselves as one nation.   The Civil War was the catalyst that changed the United States from being a Union to becoming a Nation.   Come to think of it war in general is a major force leading to the creation of nations.

    • #17
  18. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty
    @PaulDougherty

    In the time my clumsy thumbs could peck out a thought, Mr. Collins expressed it better.

    • #18
  19. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    This is an interesting point. You say it is part of the mission of a nation to preserve a common national culture? How is it to do this and further more how does it determine what then national culture is? The answer to the first part would seem to be the government, but the government does not create the culture the everyday actions of people create the culture

    As an American, this is likely difficult to discern for those not well-versed in our nation’s founding, difficult as well to observe in the actions of our government over the last half-century. I say that it is indeed part of the mission of  of the U.S. government to preserve a common national culture. This is done by faithfully executing the oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution. We are supposed to be a government of, by, and for the people and our elected federal government branches, and the judiciary appointed and confirmed by those elected officials, have all failed in this responsibility. By their failure to honor faithfully these Constitutional responsibilities to have a nation ruled by law coming from the people, our cultural traditions are at high risk. The government does not create or change the culture but by its failure to govern constitutionally and insure everyday actions are governed by rule of law, the culture is changed wrongly by default. I leave it to you to figure out the specifics.

    • #19
  20. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Michael Collins (View Comment):
    The very term “nation-state” implies that their is a distinction between “nation” and “state”.

    True. Although the institution of the nation-state also seems to presuppose that it’s best when the nation and the state are one – when each nation is enclosed in one state and each state contains just one nation.

    • #20
  21. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Excellent piece @rachellu. As a former student at the Claremont Institute I’m rather disappointed in the quality of the linked article.

    My degree in philosophy was over a decade ago and merely at the undergraduate level, but my first thought is that he gets Hobbes entirely wrong here. Am I right in that?

    • #21
  22. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Michael Collins (View Comment):
    The very term “nation-state” implies that their is a distinction between “nation” and “state”.

    True. Although the institution of the nation-state also seems to presuppose that it’s best when the nation and the state are one – when each nation is enclosed in one state and each state contains just one nation.

    The idea that the American founders were concerned with a Nation State or a National Culture is belied by both the Articles of Confederation and all of the writings and culture of the time. Jefferson and Madison considered themselves Virginians first. Our nation as conceived as a federation of constituent States. America exists because it’s people allowed it to be and no other reason.

    • #22
  23. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):

    Rachel Lu:Political and moral reasoning are really so much easier and less complicated if we presume that we don’t have significant moral obligations to non-Americans.

    Well, we don’t.

    To the extent that I care about any such obligations (whether real or imagined), it depends upon the country’s cultural similarity to the United States (the Anglosphere), or its usefulness to us as an ally (Japan). That rules out nearly the entire Third World.

    Given that American’s can’t even decide on what constitutes American culture I don’t find this a particularly helpful metric on how to decide where our moral obligations lie.

    • #23
  24. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):

    Rachel Lu:Political and moral reasoning are really so much easier and less complicated if we presume that we don’t have significant moral obligations to non-Americans.

    Well, we don’t.

    To the extent that I care about any such obligations (whether real or imagined), it depends upon the country’s cultural similarity to the United States (the Anglosphere), or its usefulness to us as an ally (Japan). That rules out nearly the entire Third World.

    I think Jefferson was right when he said we are friends of liberty everywhere, but guarantors only of our own.  It expresses our moral obligation to non-Americans as well as our national self-interest. But even the obligation is a matter of self-interest, if it’s true that freedom is indivisible.

    • #24
  25. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    The idea that the American founders were concerned with a Nation State or a National Culture is belied by both the Articles of Confederation and all of the writings and culture of the time. Jefferson and Madison considered themselves Virginians first. Our nation as conceived as a federation of constituent States. America exists because it’s people allowed it to be and no other reason.

    I agree. Many of the founders were strongly repulsed by anything close to ‘national’.  And cultures change normally and usually at a rate that does not disrupt the society. I think our American cultural condition began to get visibly beyond these norms about half-century ago. We have seen this significantly in the Supreme Court rulings, in Congress delegating its legislative responsibilities to the administrative state, and in the Executive’s complete failure to enforce immigration laws. This election year the people demonstrated an unwillingness to continue defaulting to this way of changing the culture.

    • #25
  26. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Rachel Lu: complaining about the undue influence of European thinkers on Buckleyite conservatives.

    It’s a little amusing that a movement that seeks to return us to European Blood and Soil Nationalism are complaining about the undue influence of European thinkers.

    • #26
  27. Michael Collins Member
    Michael Collins
    @MichaelCollins

    Paul Dougherty (View Comment):
    In the time my clumsy thumbs could peck out a thought, Mr. Collins expressed it better.

    Thank you very much.

    • #27
  28. Michael Collins Member
    Michael Collins
    @MichaelCollins

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Michael Collins (View Comment):
    The very term “nation-state” implies that their is a distinction between “nation” and “state”.

    True. Although the institution of the nation-state also seems to presuppose that it’s best when the nation and the state are one – when each nation is enclosed in one state and each state contains just one nation.

    Good observation.   Norway and Sweden used to be a single nation, but decided to part ways peaceably.  They spoke different languages and there weren’t any good communication routes over the mountains of the Scandinavian peninsula.   Canada has endured a long running controversy over Quebec separatism.   And of course there was Brexit.  Will Europe ever become either one state or one nation?  What is the future of nationalism?

    • #28
  29. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    More than accusing Mitchell of misreading Hobbes (which is hard to say with such a flyby reference, but I think it’s true that Hobbes wouldn’t be a fan of either supra-national tied or individual conscience) the question I would ask is: Who wants to be a Hobbesean in this respect? Maybe Mitchell does, but does anyone else here want to sign on to the “no individual conscience or loyalties to anything above the nation-state, including the religious authority (or perhaps even God himself)” social theory? And we’re supposed to agree that this theory is so obviously right that anyone who doesn’t sign on should basically be viewed, not even as an American, but as a faceless “proxy of globalism”?

    That’s pretty creepy, frankly. I don’t want to drop the evil f-word here, but I won’t deny that I’m thinking it, especially when we get to the “European intellectual influences bad” part.

    Speaking of that, if we’re so bothered about foreign influences, why is it okay to draw so much on Tocqueville? Burke and Aristotle and Smith and Hayek are bad, but we’re going to trust a Frenchy to tell us who we really are?

    • #29
  30. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    I would not presume to claim as a certainty that the nation-state is the be-all and end-all best way of organizing civilized societies. I would just paraphrase Churchill’s reputed quote on representative democracy, and offer that the nation-state is the worst possible principle on which to organize civil societies, excepting all the other available principles.

    • #30

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