Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Why Nationalism is Always a Bad Thing

Nationalism is always a bad thing, even if the folk costumes are pretty or we like the literature.

The 20th century was characterized by bloody warfare, economic dislocation and misery primarily for one reason: Nationalism.

Nationalism applied to social policy was at the root of ethnic cleansing and/or genocide in Turkey, Germany, Japan (in China), Cambodia, Rwanda, China (Tibet) and the former Yugoslavia.

Nationalism applied to economics led to wars over resources that would have been more efficiently traded for than conquered. Germany's invasion of Russia was largely motivated by the Nationalist/Autarkic view that trade was insecure and only through conquest could Germany assure access to needed resources. Japan had a similar motive for their invasions of neighboring countries.

Nationalism applied to competitive politics justifies an endless list of abuses of liberty and civil rights. That's why we are all so upset about Bush's "War on Terror" jive. It's also why Italians are upset about Berlusconi's cooptation and abuse of his countries media. And it's why we should be equally upset about Putin's actions in Russia which have included, in all likelihood, murder and attempted murder - even of the leader of a neighboring country.

Nationalism can also be appealed to for it's own sake. The claim that a people has a right to a "Place in the Sun" was the motive for Germany's (and the rest of Europe and the USA's) quest for imperial possessions in the run up to World War I.

Putin is championing a combination of economic and political nationalism and the "place in the sun" appeal. He's nationalized his country's gas/oil industry and now uses it like a diplomatic bludgeon to bully neighbors into falling into line. He's ordered the murder of dissidents and neighboring leaders. He's bullied the media almost to the point of taking it over outright and muzzled many of the most widely used news sources.

When cynical leaders use nationalist appeals to distract their populations from bad government, they are risking a return to those horrible experiences. Bush is wrong to do it in America. Chavez is wrong to do it in Venezuela. The Chinese Communist Party is wrong to do it in China. And Putin is wrong to do it in Russia.

LTG would have us praise Putin for raising Russian self esteem and establishing himself as a benevolent strong man. I say this is a tragically misguided point of view. Putin is no Stalin granted. But Russia would be better off with a corrupt, drunken oaf like Yeltsin than a sober tyrant like Putin - even if he does make the trains run on time.

Liberty is the key. Prosperity is the point. Long term, stable prosperity cannot be got through nationalism. Only through economic and social liberty can such national happiness be attained. Ask the Germans and the Japanese how far their nationalist experiements got them. Then ask them how things have gone since 1945.

63 comments:

Tiger Coach said...

I can honestly say that I was sucked into the vortex of Nationalism after 911. Who wasn't? I am sure it was quite similar to WWII.

You are 100% correct in you assessment that Putin is no Stalin...and unfortunately, Bush is no Roosevelt.

A darn intelligent blog. Stop by and visit mine some time.

BD

The Law Talking Guy said...

RBR, I never said anything about a "benevolent strong man." Putting words in other people's mouths is dangerous.

Let me suggest that nationalism is always a powerful force, and it will always be available so long as we are organized into nation-states. So it is better that it be directed more into civic pride, as I argue Putin has done in Russia, than negatively into genocide and war, as Milosevic did in Serbia. Chauvinistic nationalism can be distinguished from simple patriotism and civic pride, plain old love of country, which I would argue is an important asset in any democratic republic. We need people who put the collective good ahead of their own self-interest, and waving flags is part of how we generate that behavior. Fourth of July fireworks celebrations are not malevolent.

Raised By Republicans said...

I know that's not what you said but it comes through in your message. You pardon Putin for an awful lot of awful stuff for making the trains run on time - or rather more on time than they have been lately.

I can't get past the Yushchenko and Litvinenko poisonings combined with the use of the oil/gas spicket as a means to bully neighbors like Ukraine, the Baltic Countries and Poland.

Putin goes way beyond "I'm Russian and I'm proud." He's clamped down on press freedoms, he's bullied his neighbors, he's arrested businessmen he didn't like and nationalized or shut down their companies (most notably Yukos - the only major private competitor to Gazprom). http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3213185.stm

All the major TV stations are government run. And there have been politically motivated police raids on indepdent news organziations. Editorial directors have weekly meetings with Kremlin officials where what the Kremlin will tolerate is laid out.

If this kind of stuff was happening in Mexico (a country with many similarities to Russia in terms of economic and political development), we would be freaking out. Russia is further away so we shouldn't freak out. But Poles, Balts and Ukrainians should worry A LOT.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Why? What has ever happened to Poland? ;O

Raised By Republicans said...

"Once all the Germans were warlike and mean
But that couldn't happen again
We taught them a lesson in 1918
And they've hardly bothered us since then."
- Tom Lehrer

The Law Talking Guy said...

You know, this reminds me that when I was in Russia in 1992, it was popular to refer to it as "Weimar Russia." For those of us with that viewpoint, we tend to be grateful that Russia did not choose fascism or a return to communism. I concede to RBR that Putin looks good only when compared to such alternatives, not even when compared to - say - Huey Long.

J. Woodward said...

I disagree completely. I don't think nationalism is a bad thing. Granted, it can be taken to extremes which can have bloody outcomes, just like religion can. In itself, though, there's nothing wrong with being proud of your country, whichever it is.

The main reason I support nationalism is that it perserves cultural identity. We can still have a peaceful world and have distinct cultures. If we completely took down nationalism and culture, we'd still come up with reasons to kill each other. In short, I believe that eradicting nationalism as a means to "end conflict" is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Well, there's my two cents. Thanks for listening. :)

thinkFree said...

i think you guys confuse nationalism with patriotism!!! Being proud of your national identity and your country is just patriotism. Both the patriot and the nationalist believe their way of living is the best, except the patriot does not want to impose it on others!!!

Just Jab said...

Although there is a difference between nationalism and patriotism as two ideas, their effects are not much so.
Pride in your country just separates you from pride of a much larger whole, humanity or simply the world.
Most of the time, it's simply just a ploy to keep people happy while the nation rots. It becomes a distraction from trying to solve the problem since you can't be proud and happy of your country and at the same time find major fault in it. It breeds complacency.
I very much appreciated this blog. Well done sir.

Anonymous said...

Nationalism listen to that word. Nations are composed of people of many races now a days separated by racism and segregation. I like to believe a true nationalist can look past race and religion and see his comrades beside him and give them their pride and their love for their country back. Nationalists should be united behind a countries ideas not some feudal destruction of another based off some trivial lines on a map. Hitler as evil as he was took a battered war torn Germany and turned it into an economic and militaristic super power with just a properly placed idea. If he wasn't greedy and insane he would of kept it at that.

Birthright said...

Cleary written by a far-left communist marxist scumbag!

There is no way I would live under your third world marxist dictatorship!

Anonymous said...

To me nationalism means being proud of what our country does and defending its basic premise. ie one nation under God. Nationalism is being a veteran of the military and not liking to come home and see 3rd world people here victimizing people who work for thier living, and have the ideals of Nationalism. I will die before I become a Marxist or a Communist. Remember they do not work. I see liberals endorse things than become afraid of them. In Minnesota many Somolians were imported, now the good people who brought them here are afraid of them. That is your socialism in action.

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realist said...

I am now convinced that nationalism is always evil. I used to have your notion of there being a happy balance of pride and the same sense of dichotomy between nationalism versus wholesome patriotism. But in the analysis nationality is a nonsense concept. Ethnicity is a genetic continuum between regions of an especially small genome for a species. Language can be learned and is in flux, usually devolving. Immigration builds a complex web of competing loyalties and relationships. All the major world religions decry prior loyalties and promote the brotherhood of man. What is left? Mythologising based on ignorance or fallacy to glorify an arbitrary collection of individuals who call themselves a state.

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Anonymous said...

I will not die for an abstract concept like "America". in that sense nationalism is stupid. I would fight and die for the preservation of my self, my family and my folk and the civilization which they give rise to for the sake of future generations, posterity. I am for real nationalism not mere statism, which is based on abstract ideologies and dogmas, but most modern states are not based on folk. I am for blood and soil. Let's get out of our conceptualizing and think about nature- in nature the strong and those with an instinct for self-preservation will survive, the rest will perish. Why do you not criticize israel here for being nationalistic? They have a right to be as everybody, but as usual they never come under liberals' radar. Commercial path to success is an illusion, at least when there's international finance and speculation which "owns" the labor and objectifies human beings. In sum, I believe a state should be based on a "nation" or an ethic group. Those with solidarity will survive according to nature's laws, and a state should exist to take care of it's people, and not as an abstract entity and not for some ideological reason and not for commercial or economic purposes alone, and not to be a vassal to another state, and all your social conditioning and your intellectualization from these natural truths and all your criticisms will just roll off my back like water off a duck's.

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