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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Should Borders Mater? / A Defence of Nationalism

BBC Radio 4 - The Public Philosopher, The Global Philosopher: Should Borders Matter?

"[On allowing in asylum seekers but not economic migrants] 'What's the difference between dying from bombs or dying from starvation?'...

[From an Indian] 'We've always been told that the world is a global village and the earth is our planet but the truth of the matter is that the reason why some countries become popular destinations for living is because they do some things right. Today if people choose to live in countries like Switzerland, like Germany, like US and UK, it's because they do some things much better than other countries... that unique selling proposition of that country is no longer valid when you flood that country with a million or 10 million people. Germany will lose its proposition as the chosen geography if suddenly it found itself besieged with 20 million people...

'Let's take international law point of view, that international law says if I'm a refugee I have the right not to be killed. So I can flee from bombs, from shootings, from whatever, but I don't have the right to actually choose which country I want to live. Even international law doesn't say that a refugee can choose between countries'...

In Italy... people living in North of Italy are culturally more close to German people than the people living in the South of Italy. A very famous statement from a politician in Italy when Italy has been built. He say: now we have done Italy. We have to do Italians...

Alister from South Africa is puzzled by the difference between inequality between countries and inequality within a country. He asks: if you allow free immigration where do you draw the line? Living in a very unequal society like South Africa would he Alister have to allow someone from a nearby township to move into his house?...

And then there's the question of patriotism, which underlies much of this debate.

Is patriotism a virtue? Or is it a kind of prejudice? A prejudice for our own kind. Ideally to be overcome.

Back in the 18th century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote powerfully in defence of patriotism and particularity. And this was the argument he offered. He said: it seems that the sentiment of humanity evaporates and weakens in being extended over the entire world and that we cannot be affected by the calamities in Tartary or in Japan the way we are by those of a European people. This is Rousseau. Interest and commiseration, he wrote, must somehow be limited and restrained to be active. Do we want people to be virtuous? Rousseau wrote. Then let us begin by making them love their country. But how can they love it if their country means nothing more to them than it does to foreigners, allotting to them only what it cannot refuse to anyone"


Is Nationalism Good for You? | Foreign Policy

"The bad rap on nationalism relies almost exclusively on cherry-picked exceptions. These conclusions were drawn without considering the far-more-common cases in which nationalism was not the root of some evil. Moreover, many previous studies on the causes of war lacked one key component: an adequate measure of nationalism. Absent this measure, it is impossible to tell if the brand of nationalism of, say, the Axis powers was more intense than others in the years leading up to 1939. Yet, scholars are quick to blame nationalism for a host of ills.

Why this haste? Part of the reason lies in the scholarly reverence to homo economicus, the cool-headed and self-interested person thought to make optimal decisions at all times. This assumed rational egoist stands in direct opposition to the stereotypical nationalist. After all, the nationalist is often anything but coolheaded. And, being willing to die for his compatriots if need be, he isn’t selfish either. Thus, many scholars conclude, if nationalism does exist, it would only disturb the God-given rationality of humanity, and that meant trouble in politics and economics.

But the deeper roots of antinationalism seem to lie in the value system of scholars. Success in academia is often gauged by how coldly logical one can be. Intense emotional content is frowned upon. So your run-of-the-mill academic, devoted to library stays, will naturally view nationalism as unintelligent and primal. And being so, nationalism could not possibly produce better countries. Or could it?

Modern political science generally holds that nationalism predisposes a nation’s members to see outsiders as potentially inferior and evil. This perception is supposed to make it easier for nationalists to, say, curtail trade with others and even wage war. But there is a problem with this logic. If nothing else, nationalism is a sense of collective unity that turns large groups into extended families. In itself, this says nothing about how one nation should treat another. In everyday life, we usually love and identify with our own family. That certainly does not make us believe that neighboring families pose a threat. The same goes for nationalism. It does not manufacture hatred for others, just concern for one’s fellow citizens. By believing that everyone is in a national endeavor together, citizens value each other’s welfare as well as their own. In other words, nationalism makes people less selfish. Granted, the altruism that nationalism provides is not the cosmopolitan sort that philosophers dream about. Members of a nation may not care about all the people in the world, but they do exhibit a selective altruism in caring about their fellow compatriots. And this selective altruism, when shared by all citizens, makes for a better country than one populated by purely selfish individuals...

Across the board, countries with a higher average level of nationalism were consistently wealthier. This evidence flies in the face of the antinationalism harbored by many economists. In truth, though, the problem with many poorer countries is that their citizens are not nationalistic enough. Consider Eastern European states such as Latvia and Slovenia, which many fear contain the seeds of hypernationalism. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, these countries are actually among the least nationalistic of the group. And rich Western countries, such as Australia, Canada, and the United States, score as the most nationalistic. It’s a fair bet your economist never taught you that.

The virtues of nationalism also transcend citizens’ bank accounts. If nationalism fosters altruism, its effects should be visible in political and social life as well. Consider corruption. Research in this area is still relatively scant, but it is apparent that there is a broad relationship between nationalism and the ability to keep corruption in check. Using corruption estimates from the World Bank and the same survey data on nationalism, another positive effect of nationalism emerges: Corruption is consistently lower in countries with higher levels of nationalism...

The countries endowed with a higher level of nationalism tend to have a stronger rule of law. For all nationalism’s supposed faults, it is incredibly — and consistently — associated with things we value in economics, politics, and society...

Nationalist aberrations are possible only when other forces are at play. One such factor is military power. When technological advances and military tactics allow for the easy conquest of other countries, nationalism might be tempted to expand...

Nationalism can also be dangerous whenever a single territory is contested by many nations, especially when there is a history of violence among them. When these conditions exist, as in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, civil war is a real possibility. Young democracies are also at a higher risk of virulent nationalism. In these democratizing states, ambitious leaders might pursue risky strategies — such as invading a neighbor — to boost the immature nationalism of their people for their own motives. And nationalism can turn ugly if it mixes with a belief that one’s nation is beyond any standard of morality. That was possibly the case of Nazi Germany, because the German people’s love for their nation was not counterbalanced by a moral doctrine that valued self-control and compassion.

However, the important thing about these unsavory forms of nationalism is how rare and sporadic they really are."
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