TCS Daily

Universalism vs. Nationalism

By James Pinkerton - May 23, 2006 12:00 AM

Here's a question: Why do Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and The Wall Street Journal editorial page have such similar views on immigration?

The answer is that all four of the above -- Mahony, CAIR, the ACLU, and the Journal -- have chosen universalism over nationalism. The four embrace different visions of universalism, to be sure, but each one of them is similar insofar as it seeks to transcend passports and borders. Each of the four pursues a trans-nationalizing, world-flattening globalism that regards nation-states as, at best, necessary evils -- and at worst, unnecessary evils. Far better, the universalists say, to unite the world, regardless of color and class, according to common belief. In terms of either religion or ideology, many find it inspiring to think that the whole world might be united into one big system, in which all pursue purity or prosperity. It's all pretty heady stuff, these universalisms.

But there's one big catch: Such universalizing is terrible politics -- the folks at home don't like it, and they won't vote for it. Regular people don't seem to like universalism; they like nationalism, particularism, localism. Electorates, each in their own homeland, seem to reject new world orders, preferring to organize themselves into something that many thought was dead and discredited: the nation state.

Let's consider the four universalizers in turn:

First, the Roman Catholic Church. The notion that all, everywhere, are equal in God's eyes is deep in Christianity; in Galatians 3:28, Paul declares, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." More than any other Christian church, the Catholics -- the word itself is derived from the Greek katholikos: "about the whole" -- have embraced the idea of a single unitary world church, and held on to it, for 2000 years. Meanwhile, other great religions, such as Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, have made little attempt to proselytize beyond their traditional group of adherents. And as for Confucianism and Shintoism, they are even more closely linked to their homelands in China and Japan. So the Catholic Church is noteworthy for its commitment to open borders, as befits an organization headquartered in Europe, yet with an ambitious presence in every country in the world. And Mahony, who leads the largest archdiocese in the US, has said that he and his priests will disobey any restrictive new laws that might emerge from Congress; as the Cardinal said to ABC News on May 16, "The law of Christ -- welcome the strangers in your midst -- is a higher law than the law of the House."

The second universalizer is CAIR and, of course, Islam itself. CAIR has been active in pro-immigration protests in the past few months. And why not? Islam has long been an expansionist religion; TCS contributor Stephen Schwartz has written about the latest surge in Islamicization, financed by the Saudi Arabian government. And it's working: the number of Muslims in Europe has tripled in the past three decades; in Great Britain, more people go to Friday prayers than Sunday church. Meanwhile, powered by strong birthrates as well as a strong message, Islam is on the march not only in Europe, but also in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

The third universalizer is left-wing internationalism, as espoused by the ACLU, which has been staunch in its opposition to any measure that would do anything to restrict the "constitutional rights" of would-be immigrants. It's fair to say that the ACLU combines a little bit of the old ideology, "workers of the world unite!", with a newer sensibility that summons believers to higher states of consciousness and loyalty -- "Imagine there's no countries" . Inside the ACLU, Leninism, Lennonism, and, of course, legalism, all combine into a worldview that sees nation-states as obstacles to the realization of everyone's rights and potential. Not surprisingly, ACLU-ers find themselves in frequent alliance with other "transnational progressives," such as those found in the United Nations, the European Union, and the worldwide gaggle of NGOs.

Fourth and finally, we have right-wing internationalism -- or globalism. During the high tide of globalism, The Wall Street Journal routinely editorialized for the following Constitutional amendment: "There shall be open borders". That's it. No mention of any sort of security. The Journal first suggested this exact wording in a 1984 editorial, and kept after it till as late as July 2001 -- it hasn't been heard much since 9-11. But the Journal's view was perfectly in keeping with such prominent pro-business, pro-globalism books from the same era, works with titles such as The Twilight of Sovereignty and The Borderless World. Even now, in May 2006, the Journal dismisses serious efforts at border-restriction as "short-sighted," since everybody knows that immigrants help the economy; indeed, the editorial page has specifically zapped those who insist on "pretending that more border police will solve the problem."

Looking at these four universalisms, we see similarities and differences. Obviously, Christianity and Islam are different religions, but they are similar, too, insofar as they are both evangelistic, world-girdling monotheisms. And if Christianity and Islam are two sides of the same religious coin, so the ACLU and the Journal are two sides of the same globalizing coin.

Whoa! Wait just a second, some might protest: the ACLU and the Journal as two sides of the same globalizing coin? Is that really true? Just as Christianity and Islam are different, but share certain characteristics, so it is with the left-wing and right-wing globalists. Both left and right "globalists" share a secular faith in abstractions: rights, markets, freedom, etc. In the minds of globalists, national differences should recede as the great ideas of history make their advance.

One individual epitomizes the ultimate similarity of the left- and right-globalists: Tom Friedman. The New York Times columnist is pro-globocapitalist; he has never met an Indian outsourcer he didn't like, but at the same time, he admires Karl Marx. Am I smearing him? Decide for yourself; this is page 202 of Friedman's book, The World Is Flat:

Reading The Communist Manifesto today, I am in awe at how incisively Marx detailed the forces that were flattening the world during the rise of the Industrial Revolution, and how much he foreshadowed the way these same forces would keep flattening the world right up to the present.

Friedman's awe of Marx inspires him to quote the bearded sage for a full page in his book; according to Friedman-reprinting-Marx, the bourgeoisie and capital are flattening: "All fixed, fast, frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned."

Old opinions swept away? Solid things melting into air? Sounds like the gleeful vision either of the Fortune 500, putting forth a new restructuring plan, or of the ACLU preparing a new lawsuit. But there's another voice to be heard here, that of Joseph Schumpeter; the gloomy Austrian-American economist admired capitalism for its power, but put equal emphasis on both halves of his famous phrase, "creative destruction." Schumpeter worried that capitalism would undo itself by undermining the original habits and virtues that made capitalism possible in the first place.

And so we come to the problem with any and all of these isms: they make for unpopular politics. Let's review:

  • Cardinal Mahony may want an open border with Mexico, but most Americans -- even most Catholics -- do not. And in Europe, even traditionally ultra-Catholic Spain is tightening up.
  • Various Islamists may wish to see the Caliphate restored, but there will be many wars before it happens. And that's just between Shia and Sunni Muslims, let alone Muslims and everyone else.

  • ACLU-ers and left-wing internationalists might have cheered when then-Vice President Al Gore said, with a perfectly straight face, that US troops "died in the service of the United Nations" -- but most Americans hated that thought.

  • And as for right-wing internationalists, such as those at the Journal, they've certainly got strong arguments when it comes to Ricardian comparative advantage, but other attempts to implement their political agenda, such as keeping the border open and bringing the blessings of liberty to Iraq, are, shall we say, less viable.

All these universalists have come to agreement on the desirability of more immigration. And they have something else in common too: they are being routed in the public square by the nationalist immigration-restricters. Grand belief systems, vaulting overhead, are being shattered on the low-rising rocks of stable communities and reliable neighborliness.

The universalists have big ideas, but they are, well, too big. Albert Einstein, a big thinker if there ever was one -- who would be categorized into the lefty ACLU grouping -- disdained anything less than full internationalism: "Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind." But half a century after Einstein's death, it's apparent that humanity isn't growing out of its nationalism. The Kurds, the Chechens, the Palestinians, the Tamils, and the Montenegrins, to name just five groups insistently pressing for independence, would say that the full realization of nationalism has a way to go.

To the endless consternation of the globalists, most people prefer to think small: to express affection for their own, first. Just about every American gets misty eyed recalling the words of Lincoln's First Inaugural:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Sentiments such as those -- mixed with the blood of all those who died in the subsequent War Between the States, plus that of Lincoln himself -- animate the Civil War buffs, North and South, who provide a permanent audience for the endless stream of books and shows about the momentous conflict. Indeed, many are inspired to become re-enactors, which means that in open fields across the eastern half of the US, Americans perform a kind of civic mass, reverently recreating the deeds of worthy figures who went before them. That's powerful psychic brew for many Americans, because it speaks to the deepest sense of self-definition. But it's exceptionalist and country-specific; surely memories of Gettysburg mean little to a Bolivian or a Burmese.

Around the world, not all countries are viable -- for example, various "nations" in Africa that are destined to be wracked by civil war until either one side wins decisively, or else they break up -- but every country that is viable is unique. And most likely each country wants to stay that way: viable and unique. So of course nationalists, seeking to defend the specific integrity of the nation, will challenge the power of the universalists.

And that's what's happening in the United States today. The nationalists may believe in God, alongside Mahony, but most of them don't think that God wants the US to merge with Mexico. Instead, many believe that God ordained this country to be a City on a Hill, the New Jerusalem, maybe even the Arsenal of Democracy. But they draw a line somewhere -- and they want a secure border.

Those who argue that America should be just a small part of a universalist whole are doomed to defeat. Mahony, CAIR, the ACLU, and the Journal all aspire toward open borders, but the bulk of the country wants closed borders. A few pictures such as this are enough to put the wind at the back of the border-closers. To put it another way, the wind is in the face of the border-openers, such as George W. Bush. As usual, Peggy Noonan put it best, describing the President's current poll problems as "the result of being lost in some geopolitical-globalist abstract-athon that has left them puffed with the rightness of their superior knowledge, sure in their membership in a higher brotherhood, and looking down on the low concerns of normal Americans living in America."

In the long run, "normal" wins, because normal is also numerous. Which is why Bush & the Open Borderers are being beaten so badly on the immigration issue -- they are outnumbered. As we have seen, the normal mode of behavior is to be loyal to people, family, flag, and place, as distinct from distantly vaporous abstractions.

Those who aspire toward abstract universalism thus had better learn an important lesson: humility. And yet "humility" and "universalism" don't naturally go well together; after all, if one Knows the Truth about the whole wide world, it's hard to be modest.

So the struggle continues: Freedom of religion is great, but striving to reorganize the world political order in the name of religion -- either Christianity or Islam -- is not great, and politics pushes back. Hard.

And the same hold true for the left- and right-wing internationalists: Respecting rights and promoting trade is to be admired, but the permanent celebration of unhealthy deviance at the expense of healthy normality is not going to be prove politically acceptable for very long. Neither will the dogmatic elevation of "liberty's century" prove to be politically acceptable, especially if its elevation requires military force.

The challenge for all of us is to maintain a balance between inspiring universalisms and required particularisms. Yes, we dream big dreams, but politics is the art of the possible. So politics becomes our humility-enforcement tool. Political pressure checks the universalists, balancing their grandiosity with practicality.

All things in reference and proportion, Edmund Burke said. And he was right.

James Pinkerton is TCS media critic and fellow at the New America Foundation.



"Why then, even after Samuel warns the Israelites about the high cost of kingship, do the Israelites reject his warning and demand to have their king? Why are men willing to pay such a high price for so little? I think I know the answer, and I believe it is clearly implied in our text. Men loathe grace. It is detestable and loathsome, because it is charity. Grace does not bolster our pride; it produces humility. When we pay for something (by works or money), we think we own it. We think that when we pay for something we are in control. When we receive grace, we are not in control. God is in control. Grace is sovereignly bestowed, and so we cannot dictate how and when God will grant it to us; we cannot control its benefits. But good old fashioned work (we falsely suppose) obliges God to bless us. When we do the right things, God must respond predictably. We are in control. God becomes our servant. And so men would rather pay – and pay greatly –to maintain their pride and sense of control. This is why men prefer idols to God, even if they have to carry them. They believe that serving idols keeps them in control of their “god.” How foolish."

All four institutions want to place themselves above the individual, to control the individual.
I prefer the situation where the individual is sovereign and he can choose or create the jurisdiction he decides to live in. And he can decide who or what to worship with no intervening organization.

God warned us about government, 1 Samuel 8:1-22.

Thank you for putting into words what's really going on.
The reason why current conditions today seem so intractable(sp) is almost certainly because of the philosophical foundations between the two camps. Who knew philosophies were so important, when they stopped teaching philosophy/morals in school? Now we have to go back to the things our parents taught us, and rediscover their implicit, inherent grounding.

Thank you for helping me wake up

People are tribal in nature, we organize as groups, the way we live, the way we govern, the way we play.
We organize as family, tribe, nation.
However being more and perhaps less than animals we confuse race, religion, and geography with tribe and nation.
Our idea of tribe varies with circumstance, when it comes to sports teams, politics, or religion. family members may join different tribes, but stay family or nation.
I remember reading somewhere that in some societies the word for stranger is enemy. For strangers bring new diseases and disruptive ideas.
In an ideal word everyone would be a member of the same tribe, nation, etc.
However unless we are attacked by some alien race I wouldn't hold my breath waiting.
I think we need the differences so we will compete and change and perhaps advance.
Unfortunately "tribes" become convinced their way is best and decide to force their way on others.

A Nice Umbrella Theory
When I read the first paragraph, I thought there was going to be something here I could dispute. But after reading the article, it makes a lot of sense. I have always thought the WSJ was open borders capitalism, the globalism tag is familiar and works within the Universalism framework.

People have a need to identify with concepts they are comfortable with, family, friends, associations, religions and nations. That is why universalism will never succeed unless it incorporates this inborn need.

Nationalism might also be better termed "Localism" where people identify with concepts as small as family and as large as a religion. But in a religion, it gets down to personal and family relationships. Perhaps the submission aspect of Islam, may confuse the theory as muslims personally identify with their submission to Allah. Something else to think about...

Universalism vs.Nationalism
James Pinkerton doesn’t mention the Enlightenment, nor the rise of modern science, both of which movements have brought about the material progress we see today, and neither of which was nationalistic, or limited to a single country. Where can Pinkerton point to comparable benefits that have resulted from nationalism? We are all too well acquainted with the harm that nationalism has done. The horrors of the 20th. century, making it the bloodiest century in history, were the result of the nationalisms of several countries, Japan, Germany, and Russia ("international" communism, Marxism, was abandoned soon after the revolution). And only by not remaining isolated in our own nationalsim did we help to bring those particular horrors to an end. What would the world be like now if we had not done so? Furthermore our own present material, and spritual affluence is much more the result of international movements, movements of people and ideas across borders. What good has ever come from the great "walls" of the past? Yes, I'm with the WSJ, let's have "open" borders.

Caring is so important
We love to say we care about the poor man living in India. I believe that each human being's suffering affects every other human being, because there is a part of us that is one.

But what can I do for that man? If I send him money I have alleviated his pain for a day. I can send him money every day and alleviate something of his pain his whole life. Then I will be out of money.

It takes connection and involvement to improve any condition. I can't see how a universal mode of handling problems is going to be worthy of resources. I can only see the problems in my town.

The worst problem under a localist philosophy is the indifference. Under a universalist philosophy, indifference is a given. A general assumption that the government will handle things would have to suffice. Well, that's intolerable. Under a universalist philosophy, of course the sounding cry would be greed and racism. Under a nationalist philosophy, the way to get people to stop being indifferent is to reward caring and involvement, and pay money to it, rather than paying poverty. And for that to happen, people have to want to be good, so faith of some sort, or a belief in principles, is key.

Am I getting the ideas right?

The Enlightenment?
And how plain it is that different national groups approached the Elightenment with differing degrees of seriousness and devotion. The more more potently that "reawakening" took hold, the more apt it was to promote prosperity in the locale it took hold in. And prosperity is the key concept that Islamists, Old line Catholics, and ACLU devotees don't grasp.

Prosperity in all its definitions has a minimal ability to be shared. Despite all the holier than thou contentions of Socialism, open borders amount to a sharing of poverty, not prosperity.

Nationalism aided the englightenment and as you suggest, resulted in the several wars.
Those nations who valued the individual, or where the government served the citizens, not the citizens serving the government, advanced liberty.
Nations can protect and nurture liberty or they can supress it.

James Pinkerton, are you there?
This is a well-written essay, and seems to me that Mr. Pinkerton is rather sympathetic to “universalist” ideas and ideals, but that he is describing how these impulses will be circumscribed by the socio-political realities of human nature. I think this is a valid point. Moreover while the term “tribalism” does not appear in his essay, it is certainly lurking in the subtext. So I am overall impressed with his observations, but then I run into this:

“…but the permanent celebration of unhealthy deviance at the expense of healthy normality is not going to be prove politically acceptable for very long.”

Say what? Is this saying what I think it’s saying? It is hard for me to imagine what else it could be, within contemporary American political culture. If so, Mr. Pinkerton goes off the rails at this point, and I have serious objections to this particular point.

But in a gross departure from typical internet behavior, rather than rant and rail against this perceived gross intolerance, let me invite Mr. Pinkerton to clarify. If you read this forum, sir, (and I bet you at least check it out sometimes) would you please explain just to what you were referring to by “celebration of unhealthy deviance?”

Ron Gainey

Nationalism and universalism
Peter Berger noted the tendency of some since the Enlightenment to downgrade and undermine what he called "mediating institutions" that are less than the government, whereas Lincoln and the Catholic Church support subsidiarity: the government should only do those things that cannot be done or done well by a non-government institution or a lower level of government. The indidividual, the family, voluntary associations (praised by Tocqueville so strongly), religions tend to be undermined by liberals and socialists. Likewise, inidividual states tend to be undermined by federalist ambitin and nations tend to be undermined in favor of universalist ideas and institutions. The nation should be seen as valuable human good, even though it should not be absolutized, as it was by Hitler. The abstrationism of the universalist tendency calls to mind its tendency to love the human race and hate or neglect the individual (and mediating institutions).
RLA Schaefer Dubuque Iowa

open borders amount to a sharing of poverty, not prosperity.
One would like to know the basis for the statement appearing in an earlier post: "open borders amount to a sharing of poverty, not prosperity." Isn't it movement of mostly products, but more and more people, across borders, that is finally allowing the Chinese, tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of them, to pull themselves out of poverty? Although I readily admit that China did seem to prosper when it lived for thousands of years as if it were alone in the world. But then throughout most of recorded history China has been a world unto itself, its population making up, along with that of its neighbors to the South and SouthEast, well over one half of the population of the world. Finally, are we sharing our poverty or our wealth with the Mexicans who come here to pick our fruit?

Civil Condition
This concept (universalism) is also closely tied with the concept that the nation states of the world belong to a common civil order (international law) and that any actions that must be undertaken must be within the legal context of this international civil order. This of course leads to preposterous conclusions.

Such are the idealists. Wishing it were so, makes it so for them.

The reality is that among nations there is no civil condition, but instead a cold (and in some cases a hot) war. We are not at the point where there is a global government and a global civil condition. Those idealists that would wish this to be so before it occurs, put our nation in risk of great harm. They assume a civil condition and lay down their arms when our enemies believe no such thing and await the opportunity to attack.

Not really
A better way to put this is not "nationalism" but communitarianism. Those who live in a nation are part of a community. That community is defined at least by its borders. The reason is that without physical borders it is hard to know who the members of the community are. With the concept of community comes justice. Within the community certain burdens and benefits have been allocated in a way that the community deems fair. When there are new entrants into the community the balance is upset. If enough come into the community, the community may be destroyed or permanently altered.

Nationalism is Not a Four Letter Word
What would it actually mean to you and me should this nation ever desolve and the people of the former United States of America be governed by some form of "Universalist" world government?

First, it would mean we would trash our Constitution - the greatest document ever penned by the hand of man - for some truncated set of "rights" that the rest of the world would allow us to enjoy.

Along with the Constitution would go our Bill of Rights -- unless the rest of the world is willing to grant all their citizens these unique and hard-won rights. I wouldn't hold my breath on that ever happening.

Then we would have to forego our standard of living based, as it is, on capitalism. The rest of the world would demand that we lower our standards in order to raise their's. It wouldn't be "fair" otherwise.

These are but a few of the real costs of "Universalism" that we would certainly have to pay should we ever lose our sense of who and what we are.

If this is "Nationalism" -- or "Tribalism" -- or just plain "Americanism", then so be it. Are you willing to give up what so many of our forebears fought for and died for? Before anyone attempts to take these rights from me, they'd better come packing heat.

Concept Forgotten
Within all of this talk of universalism, compassion for the "poor" workers of the south, etc., what seems to be missing from the discussion is the concept of justice. What we have here is compassion without justice. This attitude excuses those who enter the country illegally, cries out against the death penalty for criminals, and excuses those who attached this country as misunderstood.

Its time to put the concept of justice back into the forum. Universalism simply put an expansive notion of freedom but without any thought to justice.

It's not that universalism and nationalism compete with each other. It is that there is an underlying justice associated with community that is the undercurrent of what Jim calls nationalism. That is what competes with "universalism."

I agree. I do not like the use of this word as some competing ideal to "universalism." As I wrote an a later post, what is at issue here is the concept of justice relating to a community of people who happen to live within a certain border, a border that helps define the community.

People react to the idea of persons breaking into the community without having been asked. As I have written, this upsets the balance of burdens and benefits which the community has sought to establish. Over time and according to the rules that a community sets up, people can enter the community. But a wholesale invasion of the community does not qualify.

Good post - one addition
You wrote "Unfortunately "tribes" become convinced their way is best and decide to force their way on others."

Also unfortunate is the tendency of "deep thinkers" to decide that tribes no longer matter. Then you get Lebanon and Yugoslavia.

One reason we need a slowdown of immigration is that we need to digest the newcomers who are already here. After the most recent waves of immigrants have a chance to integrate into the American tribe we can open the floodgates again.

movements of people and ideas can also cause bloody conflicts
Nationalism is everybody's favorite whipping boy for the conflicts of the 20th century, but there were other causes as well.

For one thing the scattering of unassimilated ethnic groups across Europe was at least a goad toward the second big conflict there. And you can easily find Japanese sources which present the big misunderstanding in the Pacific in terms very understandable to a corporate mergers and acquisitions specialist.

Open borders can foster greater productivity, and they can foster unassimilated ethnic and religious enclaves such as one now sees in France. Perhaps the residents of those enclaves will assimilate, and perhaps there will eventually be a bloody reckoning.

I don't purport to know the answer; but I would not advise someone to live on the border between neighborhoods of French and non-French, let alone between neighborhoods of Germans and non-Germans.

Who was referring to trade?
It wasn't trade that was referenced, it was those illegals who by virtue of their desperation are willing to accept slave wages and thus diminish the value of indigenous labor.And History is rife with examples of desperate peoples moving onto fertile and productive lands and rashly tearing them to shreds either out of hopelessness or a desire to just plain plunder.

There are hundreds of ranchers on our southern border who struggle daily to hold their livlihood above water due to the mindless destruction done to their properties by illegals who show no decency; they rip up fences, pollute and loot gardens, burgle homes, and barns and undo the private infrastructure needed for a farm or ranch's survival. I won't bother with a litany of the damage to desert and park ecology in New Mexico and Arizona.

In the Late Roman Empire such ruinous rampages were termed barbarian invasions.

Responsibility is the Key
This was an an excellent analysis.

One point I'd like to add is that membership in a community, at every level, requires responsibility for that community. The nation-state is a fundamental unit of organization because it can take responsiblity for a certain patch of territory and defend its claims thereto. If it screws up and weakens itself, more than likely a neighbor will take over.

In the US, we've developed a system that has allowed unprecendented prosperity and a clean environment. Mexico has not performed as well yet we are to share the fruits of our labors (and those of our ancestors) with people who have not contributed and who do not share the cultural intellectual property that Americans have?

Mexicans have responsiblity for Mexico. If they don't like it there, fix it. That's the responsible course of action.

Well stated. I agree that responsibility is an important concept here. It stems from the justice that has been established in a well-functioning community. Without responsibility, no one is held to account for their infractions against justice.

As one Supreme Court justice put it - it is not liberty per se but "ordered liberty" that is the hallmark of this society (i.e., community).

Swmpland for sale!
One has to ask is removing one in ten Mexicans from Mexico and causing them to break the law constitutes a wonderful gift. Does anyone truly believe that there are 1`2 million Mexicans out there picking apples?

Swampland for sale. Swampland for sale.

Wall Street Journal?
How about the Council on Foreign Relations rather than one of the media outlets. The WSJ is just a mouthpiece for the bigger guys.

Nationalism a false idol

All forms of unjust discrimination are defended as inevitable and an inescapable part of human nature until they are suddenly seen to be absurd and a perversion of human relations. Slavery, racial discrimination and the inferior legal status of women, to give just three examples, were all defended as part of the natural way of the world right up until the moment people realized they were unjust forms of discrimination.

It is the same with patriotism and nationalism. Nations are imagined identities created over historical time. France, Germany, the USA, etc. are not natural divisions of humanity but the outcome of centuries of ideological debate and creation of imaginary identities. They will fade away just as surely as the Roman Empire, Sparta, Scythia and worship of the great God Marduk faded away. There is no genetic marker for nationality or citizenship, it is just the latest fantasy we use as an excuse to kill and exploit each other. There is empirical evidence to support the primacy of our human identity, not of our imaginary national identity. When we kill each other because of differing nationality as in national wars we are killing each other for our arbitrary subjective beliefs, rather than any real and empirically demonstrable cause, just as if we kill each other in a war of religions.

During the age of religious conflict in the west (catholic battles protestant and vice versa) people advocating secularism were a tiny minority dismissed as out of touch with reality. Yet they saw the truth that the religious warriors were blind to. It is exactly the same today as we live through the high tide of the age of nationalism in the west. It will give way to a, hopefully, less fantasy based sense of identity and the people who pint this out are scoffed at by those whose minds cannot liberate themselves form the ideological prejudices of the day, i.e. the essential nature of nationalism. This has been a long comment but someone needs to put the case for human politics as against national politics. For a book
length argument on this see

Sovereign Individuals
Nation states grew out of tribes and kingdoms with most nation states now being governed by the citizens, not a sovereign head of state.
People have a right to create a nation upon culture, ideals, language or territory.
I would argue the next stage must not be a one world government, but an expanded united states (small letters on purpose) where individuals are sovereign and nation states are reduced the equivalent of county governements.
I would recommend the book Sovereign Individuals.

Any bets this guy doesn't carry a UN passport?
What a crock. I'll bet you have your "nationalist" passport safetly tucked away and we won't see you traveling under a UN passport.

Whenever you hear people like this be sure to put your hand on your wallet.

Liberate your mind
Excellent post Humanunionist. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Pinkerton may be correct in saying that Americans in general don't want internationalism, especially since 9/11, and the reason is because people are stupid. Thank you to ThomasJackson for illustrating that fact. We're not ready for internationalism yet, but you can be assured we are moving in that direction, even despite the momentary pause caused by the shock of 9/11. Like liberalism, its natural, I don't think we can stop our natural desire to move in that direction. Republican control of the government and the hard right turn America has taken in the last 6 years is a temporary pause.

As usual, the people brainwashed to only feel comfort in nationalism seek to misrepresent the international position. It really comes down to one question: Are you human or American(insert said national identity) first? Will you willingly screw other people to make an advantage for your country? Or do you think in a way that is good for all people first, so your priority is to fellow humans first, your country second? When you are born there is no question you are human. Whether you are Mexican or Chinese is based only on geographic location. Nationality is an imagined identity. Perhaps necesary for a time for humans to cope with life and identity, but there is no doubt we're slowly moving away from it. National borders are not really a bad thing. Its good to preserve historical national culture and identity, but wars between nations must end, we must stop being afraid of things that are different from ourselves. We're all human.

The UN has performed very poorly lately. Corruption will destroy the most noble of endeavors. But the UN is the right idea, the right direction.

Bob. Here's how I see this post:
Americans don't want...are stupid...not ready...

Natural desire...brainwashed...comfort...willingly screw...

only imagined...being afraid of things...

You're using the language of feeling. So typically liberal.

Without nationalism, there would be no prosperity. In order for technology and business to progress, one needs security and stability. Nation-states provide these things. Those areas of the world where the nation is week tends toward tribalism and instability. Just look at Africa and the Middle East. Also, look at Chine about a hundred years ago, and Japan some time before that.

Not until the nation forms does prosperity follow. This is such a universal truth, I am amazed that anybody can deny it. Nations can enforce laws, which allow the security and stability necessary for real progress.

PB, show us just one example where universalism has provided any real progress. Just one, please??


The Benefits of Nations and the Scythe of War
I remember reading in the Bible about how God scattered the nations at the tower of Babel and wondering why God would do such a terrible thing as to introduce war to the earth by creating nations. My conclusions may be apropos even if that is not your world-view. There are some significant advantages to humanity in the creation of nation-states.
1. The persecuted have someplace to flee--if the entire world was Nazi Germany, where would the Jews have fled? Where would the Mexicans go if the entire world were under Mexican law?
2. How else would new ideas be tested and tried? Hong Kong (prior to being turned over to the Communists) was a sterling example of what was POSSIBLE if people were allowed to form businesses and work for a profit...and it worked in a CHINESE culture.
3. American politics is built on the philosophy of a war of ideas. It is a highly pragmatic doctrine that says the best ideas will eventually win. If we choose to squander our resources my rewarding bad behavior (aka welfare) and our economy eventually collapses and we lose our country, someone else will be the winner of the war of ideas...if we let the states design their own welfare systems--their competition will keep the whole healthy... we have endangered ourselves by federalizing welfare. And the whole world would be endangered by this one idea if we were all one.
I'm not putting my ideas together well today (or maybe not having time to formualate multiple drafts and crafting this into a whole) but the point is that the competition among the nations insures the continued development of ideas. It insures that all of the world is not put into the hands of one or a small group of men and women. It means that if America becomes unbearable, we can go to Australia--or Brazil. And for the other peoples of this world...if Haiti or Cuba or Mexico becomes unbearable they can flee to the U.S.
War is a system that will destroy the weak. Weak ideas...weak systems...weak economies...weak governmental systems...weak peoples...these are all eventually culled by the scythe of war.
Universalists long for good government world-wide--the return of Christ or the belief that we can somehow create a humanist utopia. But our world is not that way...plant five acorns in a mound and only one oak will survive...the strong eventually drives out the weak.
We are currently the strongest nation on the earth as Rome was was Britain...and Spain...and Babylon.
In the very long view...certainly beyond our lifetimes I would hope...someone may come up with a better system or stronger people or greater ideas and if we do not change, we will pass away as a great power...hopefully we will be replaced by a better idea or system and not simply disintegrate because we let a few bad ideas bankrupt our treasuries, our creativeness, and our souls. If that happens, we leave the world a far poorer place.

Nationalism (or Americanism) is nothing like tribalism. Tribalism is about chaos and anarchy (see Afghanistan, although a bit less so today), where relatively small groups vie for power and control, often at great suffering of the average person. These groups tend to drift in and out of power, tend to wander, and tend to fight all the time. Nationalism stifles tribalism, and replaces blood-loyality with national loyality, and thus nationalism is a stablizing influence, whereas tribalism is typically unstablizing.


Merit Must Be Rewarded
Some time ago I remember a discussin on the Dennis Prager radio show, in which they discussed an important principle:

It is a great thing when excellence is allowed to thrive. It takes the support and appreciation of many, many people. To appreciate merit we need to have a sense of perspective and proportion which there is in educated minds.

To have an understanding of what is good, it takes proper measurement and definition of terms. Not everything is of equal worth. You shouldn't have to include everyone and everything in everything else. You'll never get anywhere with that. You decide what's worthwhile, and then pursue it. Some things must fall away.

I think this applies to national boundaries as well. Just as people have individualities, so do nations and governments. Let's work with what we've got. We're doing a half-assed job of it right now. is the pot calling the kettle black.
Bob Jones:

Since America's virtues and American values apparently mean so little to you, I wonder that you deign to live in the middle of the great unwashed masses of Americans. Why not try some other place where the people are not "stupid, brain-washed, afraid of new things...etc." Maybe one of the garden spots of Africa might be more to your liking, or one of the economic giants of South America. Perhaps such bastions of freedom as Cuba or North Korea where you would fit in so nicely. Of course there's always Europe. You could go to dinner parties at the nicest places and bad-mouth America all night long. You could not only freeload off their refreshments, but they would actually applaud your hatred for your native land.

great post
It could be that we need to downsize some things. Our national ego, our fuel consumption, our consumerism.

If we were to evolve into some borderless union of CanaMeriCo, it had better be on a win-win basis where everyone can see it's a good idea. But I think socialist countries do not seek excellence, but rather comfort and safety for all.

I forgot to include clueless
You must've missed the part where I called it beautiful. I was serious. I love America, thats why I can make an honest assessment. Its not love if all you do is kiss its ass and spread rosy misperceptions about it. George Bush has a spot in his cabinet for you if thats all you see.

The negative American values I referred to are the only values that mean little to me. Actually, they must have meaning to me that I would point them out and be critical of them. What makes you so afraid of criticism?

And I'll concede I might be wrong in calling Americans in general stupid. It might be more accurate to say people in general are stupid, but I live in America, so I know this place better. I don't know the rest of the world that well.

Nations are based on ideological similarities and shared geographical, and ideological, identities. Although borders do change over time, most nations share a number of values that lead to a common identity.

For example, American ideals include individualism, hard work, private enterprise, respect for the law, strong private property rights, liberty tempored by obligation, strong Judeo-Christiam faith and morality, and frontierism. These shared beliefs naturally lead to a national identity. The same can be said for many (if not mmost) other nations.

Even the artificial nation state of the Soviet Union shared certain ideals in common.

When the shared ideals collapse, so does the nation (e.g., the Soviet Union, which degenerated into nations that still did share ideals). Those nations that do not share ideals, but instead are forced together merely via military might, tend to eventually break up (see the former Yugoslavia, and perhaps Iraq).

Thus, nations provide a convenient way to organize a people into a somewhat uniform and cohesive structure. This then leads to the stability and security necessary for prosperity to grow.

Of course, destroy the shared common ideals, and the nation will eventually collapse (not because the nation is artificial, but because it is fluid in ideals and values, and they change over time, leading to new national bounderies being formed).

Of course, ideals can form boundaries smaller (and larger) than the nation-state. Families, and social (or professional) organizations, provide convenient groupings. However, these groupings are too small to provide the security and stability necessary for true prosperity. It just so happens that the nation-state appears to be about right, combinining a manageable size, not too big for shared value, but big enough to provide collective security at not too high an individual cost.

Thus, the nation-state is useful, and may well be one of the major drivers of modern progress. At the cost of some disputes between nations, to be sure. All organizations have some competing interests. But the solution is NOT to form some world-wide body with overall control, which will NEVER work, because ideals and values diverge far too much across the globe to ever make such an organization successful (the many failures of the UN--and the previous League of Nations, are a testament to this fact).


seeing us as stupid
I made that same assessment at one time: Americans R Stoopid. I thought people in other countries were smarter. I don't doubt they have a more comprehensive education in maths and history, and many you'll meet in colleges here are quite articulate. But that is only evidence of intelligence--it's not intelligence itself. You'll find that Americans are just as intelligent and wise as human beings everywhere.

risks and competition are necessary
The American ego may be big, but it's at least partially justified.
America saved Europe from two world wars and one cold war, not to mention S. Korea (compare to N Korea).
The vast majority of scientific and medical advances have came from America, and this shows no sign of stopping.
America has a large fuel consumption, but our productivity more than makes up for it.
Its not the fuel you use, but how efficient you use it.
Consumerism is a reflection of individual rights and capitalism and has its good points, however anything can be taken too far.
Without competition we would still be living in caves.
However I would rather have competition between companies than between nations and consumerism is that competition, but centered on individual needs not national goals.

Idle chatter from idle minds
Thanks Bob for demonstrating the kind of thinking that passes for enlightened in Amherst.

My experiences always showed that people such as yourself were the first to inform others of their priviledges as Americans while overseas and could be found lurking outside the local US embassy to have their hands held since their IQs wasn't sufficient to cross a street without the okay of a crossing guard.

By the way you can protest this by writting an angry letter to the UN.

Confession is usual for the soul
We'll Bob its clear to the readers here that you are an expert about people with IQs that rival broccoli, and I do not mean to insult that harmless and tasty vegetable but you do strike most as less than the full shilling.

Please spare us your commentary on the world. Somehow I doubt you've ever been farther than ten miles from Amherst.

yes and how quickly people forget. Me included.
This has to continue. In my book, these things you point out are true. I think it's evidence of self-loathing, the way people want to drag this country down, either by blind criticism or selling out from within.

Its not blind criticism, its honest
LisaAA, I agree with your comment to me earlier that Americans are as intelligent and wise as other people in the world. We might not be #1 in that category, but we're up there.

However, its comments like from tpbhome as shown below that indicate to me that some Americans aren't willing to see reality, they are more interested in justifying our negative traits versus identifying and overcoming them. Tpbhome gets credit though, he/she can look at the big picture of society and consider where we are where we're heading, even if its sometimes incorrect. That ability to think beyond one's self and consider the bigger picture is rare in America, thats a big reason I think Americans are stupid. Not everyone, but in general. The herd.

"The American ego may be big, but it's at least partially justified.
America saved Europe from two world wars and one cold war, not to mention S. Korea (compare to N Korea)."

There is no justification for a big ego. Its a bad thing, period. Our military victories, as presented, can be understood to be a source of a big ego, but that doesn't justify it. I can see that a person would be arrogant for these reasons, but that doesn't make it right. If you have a big ego, and you try to justify it instead of overcoming it, you might be a stupid American. You are a stupid American if you have a big ego and don't even recognize it. Besides, those war events are what, 30, 40, 50 years ago, what have we done lately?

"The vast majority of scientific and medical advances have came from America, and this shows no sign of stopping."

American advancement shows no sign of stopping, but our dominance in advancement is eroding.

"America has a large fuel consumption, but our productivity more than makes up for it.
Its not the fuel you use, but how efficient you use it."

That first sentence doesn't make sense, because yes, how efficient we use fuel matters most, and Americans are notoriously inefficient in our fuel use. Hello, SUV's? The person commuting to work, driving alone in a Suburban is a model of stupid American.

"Consumerism is a reflection of individual rights and capitalism and has its good points, however anything can be taken too far."
"Without competition we would still be living in caves.
However I would rather have competition between companies than between nations and consumerism is that competition, but centered on individual needs not national goals."

Agreed. And no doubt Americans take consumerism to new highs. Unhealthy highs. This gets at something I had a realization about just last night. Consider all the ways we are bombarded every single day, all forms of media, billboards, clothing, marketing, advertising, etc., and its the same message coming from all these things: buy stuff. We really need to develop the skill to shut out these messages when we want to. Even from childhood the skill to resist the constant drumbeat to buy stuff is a skill we need to master. Its a side-effect of our society, our economy. I'm not advocating that we go back to living in caves, or destroy our society because of this. I'm saying we should recognize it, we should think critically, and we should work to overcome, even if that just means developing individual skills to overcome. We can't progress if we can't acknowledge where we are.

Consumerism is not centered on national goals OR individual needs. Its centered on making money. Good or bad, lets at least be honest about it.

No Subject
Agreed. And no doubt Americans take consumerism to new highs. Unhealthy highs. This gets at something I had a realization about just last night. Consider all the ways we are bombarded every single day, all forms of media, billboards, clothing, marketing, advertising, etc., and its the same message coming from all these things: buy stuff. We really need to develop the skill to shut out these messages when we want to. Even from childhood the skill to resist the constant drumbeat to buy stuff is a skill we need to master. Its a side-effect of our society, our economy. I'm not advocating that we go back to living in caves, or destroy our society because of this. I'm saying we should recognize it, we should think critically, and we should work to overcome, even if that just means developing individual skills to overcome. We can't progress if we can't acknowledge where we are.

Consumerism is not centered on national goals OR individual needs. Its centered on making money. Good or bad, lets at least be honest about it.

That is one point I'm willing to look at. The whole media seems like it's all about just a few themes: Buy this, Look at celebrity so-and-so, and what's the latest threat to humanity today. I don't see what's going to stop that unless we all simply get smarter.

And yet let me look at something about this tendency, assuming you agree with me on that one point I just made: Self-criticism could be considered something that feeds into the very thing you've written about right there. If we're not sure we're okay without the hope of a certain underarm deodorant or cell phone, and we need to look at celebrities to know who's interesting, and we need to be told we're about to all die, look to the latest experts... then we are pretty insecure and all that ego stuff is overcompensation for a weak self-identity.

A much better way to look at ourselves is: What are we doing now? Are we doing things that we know to be right? I mean besides arguing about opinions. I think this country, more than any other, can take a look at now and straighten out the knots. We have the energy, the political flexibility, and the skills if we will use them.

I think I contradict myself sometimes in supporting other people's posts but yet I see the points behind differing opinions.

The main principle, to me, seems to be that we need to simply know the numbers and facts. That which can be measured properly can be improved upon. We're so busy with our senses focused on our little screens, anyone can say anything and we will believe it. So I'm with you there about being able to shut off messages.

Gosh. Think of the things we could do if we'd use our hands instead of our words.

fuel use
If having pride in our accomplishments is having a big ego, then guilty as charged.

I wasn't talking about cars, I was talking about indusrial output versus energy consumption.
Our GDP is a larger percentage of the worlds, than our energy use is.

Consumerism is not centered on national goals OR individual needs. Its centered on making money. Good or bad, lets at least be honest about it.

I can't agree, consumerism is about making money by supplying individuals with what they need and want.
There is nothing wrong with making money!!!
Now if your talking about advertising, well, sometimes there is bad with the good.

The future
Here's what i'm supposing will happen.

Iran and other pro-terror nations will start trading for oil with the Euro, destabilizing the dollar and weakening the US. Other countries will fall into line, forgetting the contributions the US has made and remembering only our "big ego."

Bush will foster a North-American alliance between Canada, US and Mexico. There will be a new currency, the Amero. Because wealth is "not fair," we will incrementally move into socialism. Marx will be proven right.

What about explaing thigs witout using "-isms"
What about finding facts and using knowledge to make sense out of them? I have tried, check it out:


Henryk A. Kowalczyk

from Tod Tamberg, Archdiocese of Los Angeles
I normally don’t get involved in answering this kind of stuff, but the writer is so off-base I felt the need to put down a few quick sentences.

“Catholic” in the modern understanding of the term, refers to a set of beliefs and practices that are embraced by a faith community that spans all countries and cultures. While the Catholic Church believes that Christ’s presence is universal, this does not translate into marching orders for the faithful to go out and to convert members of other religions to Catholicism. Pinkerton’s proof-texting of Scripture and wrongheaded definition of “Catholic” are as out-of-date as the Ye Olde English Bible translation from which he quotes. Read the Second Vatican Council’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.” It states that the Catholic Church recognizes the existence of varying degrees of catholicity in other denominations and faiths outside of the Catholic Church. The document is more than 40 years old, however. It is hardly “news.” For more recent examples, examine any of Pope John Paul II’s writings on Judaism.

Employing a mangled definition of “Catholic,” Pinkerton asserts that the Catholic Church is (quite literally) religiously committed to “open borders.” Huh? The Church is committed to the principle that economic development serves the human person, not the other way round. Justice and equity as they relate to human dignity are important factors in this equation. Where they are present, the Church teaches that the individual has the right and duty to contribute to the progress of his or her own community. See the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” no. 65. Where justice and equity are lacking, the Church obliges economically advantaged nations to help create economic opportunities in the poorer nations such that conditions allow the local people to remain in their home communities. Migration is justified when economic inequalities result in the exploitation of people for economic gain such that human dignity and perhaps even life itself are threatened.

Cardinal Mahony did not say he would order priests to “disobey any restrictive new laws that might emerge from Congress…” What he said was that he would not abide by the provision in the proposed law, HR 4437, that assigns criminal penalties to anyone who would provide humanitarian assistance to a person without first determining that person’s legal status. As one bishop recently asked a member of the House, “Do you really want to throw us in prison for helping others?” The provision in the law is so preposterously in violation of religious freedom, that even HR 4437’s authors have sheepishly tried to back away from it, with little success.

Mahony's sentiments
Does anyone believe the Mahony's sentiments are driven by the fact that he along with other members of the clergy feel they answer to a higher authority than the government? Its unfortunate that Mahony has forgotten that Jesus said to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's."

When such behavior occurs there can be little wonder that the Catholic Church suffers, witnesses what has happened to it in places like Mexico. But then there were probably clerics like Mahony who believed their authority was greater than the wishes of the populace in the affairs of state. I saw many clewrgy who subscribed to liberation theology in Latin America. One wonders how the Catholic church will benefit from the mistaken bahavior of this man.

Forced Faith
"The Church is committed to the principle that economic development serves the human person, not the other way round. Justice and equity as they relate to human dignity are important factors in this equation. Where they are present, the Church teaches that the individual has the right and duty to contribute to the progress of his or her own community."

Most churches have by now realized that faith cannot be forced. And I would suggest that God does not want followers who have been coerced.
Why do so many churches in America advocate, or at least support force when it comes to community? Have they been bought off by the tax breaks to keep them silent from the pulpit?
How does the church regard coerced taxation for income redistribution? Is this not robbing Peter to pay Paul?

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