Free Speech and Big Tech – The Problem

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post is more relevant, timely, and important than I knew as I was writing it. As I was working to get the article uploaded to my blog today, Project Veritas posted THIS VIDEO, which is a video of a Google employee whistleblower explaining how Google is manipulating search results to achieve the political objectives of the top brass at Google. The damage that Google and other Big Tech players is doing to America’s democratic republic is tremendous and horrifying.

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The invention and adoption of “The Enlightenment” ideas by people in the “Western World” enabled them to vastly outpace the rest of the world with respect to freedom, inventiveness, prosperity, and human flourishing. In so doing, they produced manifold blessings for themselves and the rest of humankind. Sadly, they inflicted many miseries along the way on others and subsets of their own people. Happily, however, as those countries implemented The Enlightenment ideas more broadly and effectively over a few hundred years, they accelerated the improvement in humans’ standards of living by many millennia compared to what would have been achieved using pre-enlightenment ideas.

Here is a great visual representation of what The Enlightenment bestowed on humankind:

World GDP 1-2008 BCE

This graph adds and zooms in on more recent data:

World GDP 1970-2006 BCE

The AEI article from which I grabbed the first chart above said, “… the chart above could perhaps qualify as the “chart of the century” because it illustrates one of the most remarkable achievements in human history: the 80% reduction in world poverty in only 36 years, from 26.8% of the world’s population living on $1 or less (in 1987 dollars) in 1970 to only 5.4% in 2006.”[i] Abject poverty has continued to fall significantly since 2006—as more and more countries embraced and implemented The Enlightenment ideas.[ii] (Though most countries, even ones that have adopted some Enlightenment ideas, remain plagued with too many unenlightened ideas and too many once enlightened countries are abandoning The Enlightenment ideas.[iii])

So, what was so special about those ideas? The Enlightenment thinker, Immanuel Kant, described The Enlightenment as “humankind’s release from its self-incurred immaturity; ‘immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another.’”[iv]  The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy had this to say about The Enlightenment:

“The Enlightenment is most identified with its political accomplishments. The era is marked by three political revolutions, which together lay the basis for modern, republican, constitutional democracies: The English Revolution (1688), the American Revolution (1775–83), and the French Revolution (1789–99). The success at explaining and understanding the natural world encourages the Enlightenment project of re-making the social/political world, in accord with the models we allegedly find in our reason. Enlightenment philosophers find that the existing social and political orders [e.g., the divine right of kings] do not withstand critical scrutiny.”[v]

The Enlightenment enabled and encouraged everyone, not just the monarchs, lords, and their advisers, to think, explore, experiment, invent, and have a go at finding better ideas and making things better—with a heavy emphasis on thinking. Thinking in a vacuum is much better than not thinking, but bouncing ideas off of others to test whether one’s ideas are sound is an exponentially better process of thinking and to find the truth. Consequently, as a means to extract the maximum value from the power of thinking and discovering what is true, The Enlightenment extolled the virtues of robust and uninfringed free speech.

In short, free speech is essential to making things better because it is what humans use to explore nature and to test the validity and merit of ideas through vigorous debate. Good science and good governance depend on understanding the nature of things and giving due consideration of both the positive and negative aspects and consequences of an idea or a proposed policy. An idea that has survived the gauntlet of honest and vigorous debate is far more likely to make things better (do more good than harm) than an idea that sails through on the wings of blinkering emotions that have been unenlightened by a vigorous challenge. As Jordan Peterson put it, free speech “is bedrock and it is not something that is arbitrary, it’s not a mere game that we’re playing in the West—none of that—it’s the most fundamental truth that the human race has ever discovered, and we lose it at our absolute peril.”[vi]

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution it spawned are, perhaps, the crowning achievement of The Enlightenment. They spawned the most successful and powerful, while (given its capacity to be otherwise) exceptionally non-hegemonic. The essentiality of free speech to an effective democratic-republican government was made clear by its priority in the Bill of Rights. The first two limitations on government in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights deal with free speech. The first item listed was a prohibition of government established/imposed religion, which, by using blasphemy laws, has historically been humankind’s fiercest opponent of free speech and independent thinking. The second item listed was a direct prohibition of any law that infringes on free speech. Many other countries have embraced the virtues of free speech in their governing documents, but few, if any, come close to the reverence for the idea that Americans have—at least historically. (That Americans’ reverence for free speech is waning is the motivation for this post.)

Consequently, if Americans were taught American history as it should be taught, Americans would understand that infringing on speech by government action, by companies with control over our modern means of communications (the power to shadow ban, shadow ban, or demonetize certain speakers while promoting other speakers), or by individuals or groups shouting down speakers, giving low grades on papers that express ideas unsympathetic to the teacher’s beliefs, or mob violence impedes human progress and flourishing. Sadly, Americans are, to a significant, if not a great degree, being taught the opposite.

An ever-growing percentage of Americans is calling for infringement of free speech by both individuals and our institutions.[vii] That children and young adults have been and are being taught to be intolerant of speech they don’t like was starkly evidenced by the University of Chicago feeling compelled to warn incoming freshmen that intellectual inquiry via free speech will be permitted and promoted at UofC. Not only have very few colleges followed suit, many are doubling down on shielding students from ideas that stray even slightly from leftist orthodoxy,[viii] encouraging professors not to debate non-leftists (as if they need encouragement), and are complicit by insufficient suppression of students and professors who do what they can to prevent non-leftists from speaking on or near campus. Many universities are so dedicated to the proposition that people’s freedom to speak of ideas that are incompatible with the leftists’ ideology that they have set up, usually small and avoidable “free speech zones” to keep non-leftist speech as infringed as possible.[ix] In short, higher education has been for a long time and remains filled with crusaders against the ideas (first and foremost, free speech) that are responsible for the hockey sticks of human flourishing depicted above in favor of ideologies that return excessive power to cloistered monks in ivory towers and rulers on thrones of prodigious power.

Let’s pause to note a mental inconsistency by university professors and administrators who suppress speech that runs counter to their dogmas. Universities are, among other things, society’s centers of science. They profess to be society’s primary practitioners, defenders, and champions of the scientific method. A lament often emanating from universities and their acolytes is that much of the general public “deny science” (intending to shame those who deny truths that have been derived from the scientific method). Yet, in large part, the scientific method discovers truths by challenging and disproving prior scientific claims. Scientists and the public continue to refer to Copernicus (born 1473) because he challenged the prevailing groupthink about the solar system. So, while they extol the virtues of challenging orthodoxy in order to discover scientific truths, they blithely promote or tolerate interfering with the use of the scientific method to discover truths concerning ideologies and public policies.

Rarely in human history have rulers not used every power grabbed by or yielded to them to silence opposition to what they do, including the aggregation of ever more power. Though far from perfect, Americans have been exceptionally tolerant of the public criticizing leaders. Not only was such criticism tolerated, Americans believe they have an unalienable the right to do so. That essential attitude toward free speech has been significantly eroded since Big Tech has become the primary means by which humans communicate with each other and, because our societal safeguards were not designed to deal with private entities having greater power to infringe on free speech than the government could ever hope to have, we are in serious jeopardy of losing it all.

For over 200 years the First Amendment has been a somewhat effective shield against being silenced. In 1789, the means by which humans exercised free speech to affect rulers and their policies were face-to-face conversations, speeches/debates in the public square, and the press. All of those primary forms of communication were constitutionally protected against infringement by the two entities that had enough power to stifle a person’s inalienable right to speak freely, government and a government-established church. The founders reasonably believed that the First Amendment’s “wall between church and state” and the prohibition against infringing on a citizen’s inalienable right to speak was sufficient to prevent people in power from stifling free speech. As grounded in reality and blessed with brilliance as they were, the founders could not have imagined that someday a completely new and vastly different group of non-governmental “sheriffs” would come to town packing the power to silence blasphemers, however, the sheriffs self-servingly choose to defined blasphemy. Big Tech has invented and deployed those sheriffs. America, we have a problem.

The new sheriffs, primarily Google/YouTube, Facebook/ Instagram, and Twitter (“Big Tech”), now control people’s primary modes of communication and they are not constrained by the Constitution, or much of anything other than their own conscious and the whims of the mob—the very thing that the Constitution’s checks and balances was designed to prevent. Their power to stifle speech rivals and to promote the speech of their allies exceeds the power of the popes of the Holy Roman Empire or Mohamed and is vastly greater than the constitutionally limited U.S. federal government. It would not be so bad if there were competition among the Big Tech companies as to what speech should be heard, but they all have similar political and moral ideologies.

Of course, Big Tech denies that it is stifling the speech of some and promoting the speech of others.[x] Perhaps they believe their denials. Those denials, however, ring plausible only to those who have been proselytized into the faith of leftist orthodoxy.

That Big Tech has its ideas as to what is good and bad and will use its power to cause what it believes to be the good word and suppress what they believe to be the bad word (and demonize the speakers of bad words) is disputable only with newspeak.  Conservatives have long complained that Google,[xi] Facebook,[xii] Twitter,[xiii] and Instagram (“Big Tech”) stifle their speech. The same is true of Libertarians.[xiv] Prager University has sued in an attempt to stop the abuse of power of Big Tech./[xv] Despite Big Tech’s pious but phony denials, that the new sheriffs have suppressed commentary out of line with leftist orthodoxy cannot be seriously disputed. (If you doubt this, see all the endnote to this post, especially this one.xvi Compelling evidence of the legitimacy of those complaints is the recent Project Veritas reports[xvii] and the fact that Google is attempting to cover its tracks.[xviii]

This reality threatens the single most important bedrock idea that produced the most successful society in human history, the inalienable right to free speech.

In my apocalyptic estimation, the future of America as a good place to live and as the last best hope that freedom[xix] can exist in the world depends on reinstituting Enlightenment ideas in America. It is possible that when snuffed out here those ideas can be rekindled elsewhere, e.g., New Zealand or Croatia, but I doubt it. The only candidate with a reasonable shot at saving The Enlightenment ideas is America. Figuring out how to undo the damage and reverse the course described above will be extremely difficult. I do not have the answer. Let’s hope that not all intellectuals are Intellectual Yet Idiots.

Sadly, like most important societal problems, there are no solutions[xx] to the problem Big Tech has created. There are negative consequences to any course of action. All of the proposed “cures” for the problem of which I am aware might, on balance, make things worse. Those issues are well worth sorting out. Let’s do that in a future post.


[i] See “Chart of the greatest and most remarkable achievement in human history, and one you probably never heard about.” Why we “never hear about” this achievement is, to a large degree, because it puts the “Western Ideals,” which is another name for “The Enlightenment Ideals,” in a good light.

[ii] See “The Hong Kong Experiment,” “Singapore: A remarkable free-market success story,” “Singapore: A remarkable free-market success story,” “China’s The Most Viciously Free Market Economy On The Planet Right Now,” “India’s Great Free-Market Economist,”Miracle of Chile,” “The Estonian Economic Miracle” (to cite but a few).

[iii] See “The Left Is Dismantling Western Values” and “We Should Not Be Reluctant to Assert the Superiority of Western Values.”

[iv] See “Enlightenment.”

[v] Id. At 2.1

[vi] See “On the Vital Necessity of Free Speech (are you listening, Saudis)?

[vii] See “Deniers of the war on free speech on college campuses are dead wrong,” and “Colleges Have No Right to Limit Students’ Free Speech,” and “The 10 worst colleges for free speech: 2018.”

[viii] See “Politics on the American Campus.”

[ix] See “How Campus Policies Limit Free Speech” and “Study: Liberal Bias Among Campus Administrators ‘Astonishing,’ Worse Than Professors.”

[x]Ted Cruz Makes Google Exec Squirm Over Conservative Censorship,” “Senator Hawley Questions Twitter and Facebook Execs on Transparency,” and “Senator Hawley Grills Google Exec During Judiciary Committee Hearing.”

[xi] See “Google Blocks Conservative Websites” and “YouTube vs. Conservative Speech.”

[xii] See “Former Facebook Insider: We Buried Conservative News,” and “Fired by Google, a Republican Engineer Hits Back: ‘There’s Been a Lot of Bullying’

[xiii] See “HIDDEN CAMERA: Twitter Engineers To “Ban a Way of Talking” Through “Shadow Banning,” “How Facebook, Twitter silence conservative voices online” and “Free speech activist Lindsay Shepherd on her Twitter ban: ‘Your instincts should not be to celebrate’.

[xiv] See “GOOGLE CENSORS CONSERVATIVES ON THE INTERNET AND FIRES THOSE WHO WORK FOR THEM.”

[xv] See “PragerU Takes Legal Action Against Google and YouTube for Discrimination.

[xvi] See “Sen. Ted Cruz questions Google about recent Project Veritas report.” As if this were not enough evidence, see THIS screenshot of a YouTube warning I got when I clicked on the Ted Cruz video.

[xvii] See “Insider Blows Whistle & Exec Reveals Google Plan to Prevent “Trump situation” in 2020 on Hidden Cam.” Note that Snopes did not bother to report on its fact check of the Project Veritas report. See “Snopes Search.”

[xviii] See “Google Employees Sure Are Covering Their Tracks Now That Their Censorship Scheme Has Been Exposed” and “Google “Machine Learning Fairness” Whistleblower Goes Public, says: “burden lifted off of my soul”” The skillful prevarication on display in “Sen. Cruz Questions Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube on Censorship of Conservatives” is telling.

[xix] See “The last speech of Ronald Reagan as president was on immigration.”

[xx] See “Solutions.”

Choosing Diversity over Competence

On July 29, 2019, six senior staff members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee resigned[i] because of outrage within the party that the party’s leadership was comprised of an insufficient percentage of “oppressed people” (they call it “lack of diversity”). Half of the resigning leaders of the party were women holding the positions of DCCC Executive Director, Political Director, and Top Communications Aide. It is reasonable to assume that those people held those positions because of their competence, although the possibility cannot be ruled out that the women nosed out some equally or more capable white men because they were women.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a similar approach when constructing his cabinet which gave “Canada first cabinet with equal number of men and women.”[ii] The group was also ethnically diverse also. “It’s important to be here before you today to present to Canada a cabinet that looks like Canada,” Trudeau, 43, told reporters…” [The Guardian, November 5, 2015.] The result was that he purposefully prioritized diversity over competence.

It is not that women or non-white men are, in general, less competent than white men. It’s that the larger the pool of potential candidates a position, the greater the likelihood the best candidate for any particular job will be in the pool. For example, let’s assume that men and women are, in general, equally capable. While the percentage of working-age women and men in America is approximately equal, about half of women work outside the home while about 75% of men do.[iii] So, the pool of women from whom to choose is only 2/3rds the size of the men’s pool. If one assumes that men and women are equally competent and employers do not discriminate in favor of women or men when seeking to fill high profile, high status government jobs (Trudeau’s example and the general push to get women in high profile jobs for public relations and “social justice” purposes are reasons to doubt the second, possibly generous, assumption), then there should be approximately 50% more eligible men in the labor pool than women, i.e., the probability of the most competent person being a man is larger. Similar, if not even starker, statistics apply to other groupings of people.

With the above in mind, please watch this video to see the disaster Trudeau’s decision has wrought on Canada.

 

 

You might also find THIS VIDEO and THIS VIDEO to be interesting and entertaining.


[i] See “Liberal outrage leads to ‘Monday Night Massacre’ of resignations from senior Democratic staff.”

[ii] See “Trudeau gives Canada first cabinet with equal number of men and women.”

[iii] See “In U.S., Half of Women Prefer a Job Outside the Home.”

Nationalism PART V, Nationalism or One World Government?

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Author’s Note: As readers may have surmised, the overarching point of this series is to sort out whether Nationalism or a One World Government is the better approach to governance. My plan for this morning was to finish this post. To my surprise this morning, a link to THIS SERENDIPITOUS VIDEO (which bears directly on that subject) appeared in my inbox. I encourage you to watch it after you have read this post. It provides a very optimistic spin on how the ideas of this series are gaining currency.

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As discussed previously, nationalistic, capitalistic, democratic republics have produced more successful and moral results for a higher percentage of their populations than any other forms of governance (and their research and inventions have been spread widely across the Earth). Sadly, however, they also create many problems, e.g., high levels of income inequality and other unequal outcomes, and imperialistic nationalistic nations have a history of starting wars.[i] With the advent of weapons of mass destruction, humans now have the capacity to render huge swaths of the world uninhabitable, and conceivably do great damage globally. What is humanity to do?

An oft-touted alternative to nationalism that has not been fully tried is a “One World Government.”[ii] Some intellectuals claim that a One World Government is the only way to avoid a nuclear holocaust.[iii] If a One World Government could, (1) eliminate the possibility of a nuclear holocaust,[iv] (2) not stifle human flourishing, and (3) be sustainable, the case for a One World Government would be compelling. Sadly, a One World Government could not achieve any of those objectives. Not only would a One World Government fail to achieve objectives that might justify it, but it would also make matters worse. Let’s sort out why that is true.

The primary purpose of a government is to establish and enforce rules that enable humans to fare better than if they were to live in chaos. The fundamental problem with governments, however, is that they are run by humans, i.e., a government allows some humans to set the rules under which all humans within the government’s jurisdiction to live. Granting people some power to rule over others enables them to obtain even more power than was granted. A ruler can simply use the power granted to withhold favors or inflict harm on those who are subject to their rules unless the ruled cede more power to a ruler. When it comes to expanding one’s power, the primary difference between a protection racket[v] (e.g., The Mafia or Mexican cartels) and government action is that the government officials need not worry about an external law enforcement agency bringing the hammer down on their racket.

Consequently, because they are not angles,[vi] unless rulers are restrained, they will eventually (and often quickly) amass enough power to do as they please. The more power they garner the less power “the people” have to stop them. One might suppose that rulers would be fearful of becoming so tyrannical that the people will find a way to forcibly dethrone the ruler. However, that so many rulers have been beheaded or dethroned throughout history reveals how much risk of going too far rulers will take to satisfy their lust for power. Gaining ever more power is in the best interest of the powerful and is, most definitely, not in the best interest of the vast majority of people living under the rule of the powerful. Rulers having too much power results in tyranny and misery for all but the most powerful. Yet, unless some power is not granted to rulers, there is chaos. What is humanity to do?

The most ingenious approach to addressing the problem of both granting power to rulers and restraining them from abusing it was devised by the American founders. The key was to set up the system so that rulers could not get anything done unless many antithetical interests, a.k.a, “factions”[vii] agreed that a problem was sufficiently pressing and a proposed solution would be sufficiently effective that the proposed solution should be implemented. To further prevent unnecessary government action, they also added a Bill of Rights that, hopefully, would prevent the adoption of laws that infringed on certain inalienable rights. In this system, “the people” had the ultimate authority to “throw the bastards out” if government officials amassed too much power.

The founders, however, knew that the system was not foolproof. By responding to a lady who asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government the Constitutional Convention would propose, he expressed his doubts about the sustainability of the proposed government when he responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”[viii] As ingenious as it was, the idea that factions could be kept at bay came into doubt immediately after the founding. In his “Farewell Address,”[ix] Washington signaled out factions as a primary threat to the republic. Interestingly, Washington urged nationalism as the solution:

“…you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”

As if the original constitutional structure was not weak enough in its defenses against tyranny, from the beginning, progressives have both whittled away at its protections and diminished the citizens’ fealty to the constitutional system. Consequently, we have only been able to keep some shreds of the checks and balances envisioned by the Constitution. Benjamin Franklin, in addition to his many other fine qualities, was prescient.

Today it is hard, if not impossible, to get American’s to rally around America’s relatively good set of principles. This is despite the country being mostly populated by people who, for the most part, embrace Judeo-Christian values and have a shared faith in the ideas of The Enlightenment[x] (whether or not they acknowledge that source of their values and ideas). Although America is a relatively diverse country, its diverse citizenry is fairly homogeneous concerning values, ideas, and mores. The idea that all people of the world with profoundly different histories, values, and ideas could be motivated to adhere to principles, values, and mores dictated by a One World Government is preposterous. There is simply no way tribalistic humans can tribalize around one set of ideas, much less ideas dictated by faraway people with whom they have essentially nothing in common. In the 20th Century not even three variations (U.S.S.R, Nazi Germany, and Maoist China) of one set of values and ideas, socialism, could co-exist with each other. None of them could even co-exist with their own citizens, collectively killing more than 100 million of their citizens who wouldn’t or couldn’t get in line with the state’s programs.

If ultimate control of all nuclear weapons were placed in the hands of a small group of people, those people would have as close to ultimate power as has ever existed on Earth. Absolute power will produce absolute tyranny. The notion that humans would thrive in such a world is untenable.

Consider the problems confronting the European Union which is a conglomeration of comparatively homogeneous fellow Europeans. The Brexit vote and the discontent in Germany of Greece holding Germans hostage are just the most visible of the EU’s problems.[xi] In addition to being financially dysfunctional, the relatively globalist ideas that have taken root in Europe create other insolvable problems. Among them are too much welfare, low birthrates, and a necessity to take in more immigrants than can reasonably be assimilated. The confluence of these problems and ideas has created stagnation.

“The EU’s biggest problem is that its economic model has aged alongside its population. Europe has plenty of world-class companies but, unlike the US, none of them were set up in the past 25 years. In Europe’s golden age, Volkswagen was a rival to Ford, and Siemens could go toe to toe with General Electric. But there is no European Google, Facebook or Amazon and in the emerging technologies of the fourth Industrial Revolution, such as artificial intelligence, Europe is nowhere.”[xii]

With a one-world tyranny, there would be no way out and no reason for the tyrants to ease their tyranny. Contrast that to a world in which nations with relative freedom exist. In such a world, tyrants are exposed to the possibility and reality that humans will flee to relative freedom. Non-enterprising, non-productive, and cowardly people will remain in the already dysfunctional society. (A common saying in the U.S.S.R. was, “we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”[xiii]) As we saw in Berlin before the wall fell, enterprising, productive and courageous people who prefer to actually work and actually get paid will risk their lives to get out. As a result, the tyrannical country becomes poorer whether the person escapes or gets killed. Conversely, if the escapees make it out alive, the freer, receiving country is benefits.

By this process, the freer a country is, the more sustainable and prosperous it will be. The more prosperous a country is, the greater a magnet it is to those who are yearning to be free and to have opportunities to become productive and prosperous. Historically, people who have little initiative or courage tend to stay put and hope that the government will take care of them. (Today there are countervailing forces.[xiv]) This reality is a motivation for countries to be freer.

The motivations described above (punishment of tyranny and rewarding freedom) are not merely theoretical. Demonstrations of the effectiveness of those motivations are played out daily in America today. When a U.S. state becomes too tyrannical (e.g., the state considers the wealth of its citizens to be communal, and, therefore, extract exceptionally high taxes on their wealthy citizens and subsidize those who do not work whether or not they are capable of working) migration happens. Wealthy people tend to leave[xv] (with the occasional exception of people who are so wealthy that they need not sweat the loss of extra hundreds of millions in taxes—although even they often move their company’s operations to lower tax states) and less or non-productive people who are spared the high taxes tend to stay and non-productive people from elsewhere move to the state. The next thing you know, they have massive homeless problems.[xvi]

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Please remember to watch THIS SERENDIPITOUS VIDEO.


[i] See “ See “Income Inequality Is More Than It’s Cracked Up To Be.”

[ii] See “ See “World government.” The United Nations is an international body but has so few powers that calling it a government would be an error.

[iii] See “ See “The case for a World State to wipe out war and nuclear weapons and bring global peace and prosperity” and “Pope Francis Calls For ‘One World Government’ To ‘Save Humanity’.”

[iv] See “ “…widespread destruction and radioactive fallout causing the collapse of civilization, through the use of nuclear weapons.”

[v] See “ See “Protection Racket.”

[vi] See “ See “Milton Friedman on Greed, Virtue, and Angels.”

[vii] See “ Originally the structural factions were “the people” (House of Representatives), states (Senate and the Electoral College), and the Courts. There were sub-factions within the House, Senate, and the Courts. To become and remain a law required surviving quite a gauntlet. It was institutional gridlock for all but the most compelling measures that did not violate citizens’ inalienable rights.

[viii] See “ See “A Republic, if You Can Keep It.

[ix] See Washington’s “Farewell Address.”

[x] See “ See “Ideas of the Enlightenment.”

“The Age of Enlightenment refers to a period in which reason was advocated as the primary basis of thought and authority. Logic and rationality were used to explain the ways in which the world worked as opposed to old traditions and superstitions. Free speech, individualism, and tolerance for other ways of life also became important ideas during this time. This period also coincided with the rise of nationalism and introduced great thinkers who later influenced developing democratic governments including the government of the United States.”

[xi] See “ See “The European Union has bigger problems to deal with than Brexit.”

[xii] See “ Id.

[xiii] See “ See “ See “The Economist” Aug 26, 1999.

[xiv] See “  See “The weaponization of Milton Friedman.” This article rightly points out how Friedman’s quote was misused. The article does not, however, prove that Milton Friedman’s statement (below) about immigrants coming illegally to America to have Americans provide for them was incorrect. The most they could say was, “not necessarily.” But the article simply describes some possible offsets to the costs of providing welfare to “illegal immigrants.” The article does not even attempt to put any numbers to determine the net flow of values. Here is what Friedman said:

“It is one thing to have free immigration to jobs, it is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. … [I]f you come under circumstances where each person is entitled to a prorated share of a pot … then the effect of that situation is that free immigration would mean a reduction for everybody.”

[xv] See “ See “The Great Tax Migration,” and “Wealthy Americans flee high-tax states, take billions with them: ‘Tax the rich. The rich leave’

[xvi] See “As California’s homelessness grows, the crisis emerges as a major issue in state’s gubernatorial race.”

Nationalism PART IV, Nix Nationalism?

While nationalism produces many negative consequences, the fact that independent states—all of which are nationalistic to some degree—have survived the evolutionary test of time suggests, if not proves, that nation-states are, on balance, better for humans than chaos and the other approaches to governance that have been tried. At best, however, even the most successful nationalistic states create human conditions that are tragically short of idyllic. The human response to non-idyllic situations is to try to conceive changes to make things better. Such conceiving is noble and necessary if progress is to be made but, sadly, the vast majority of those conceptions when implemented do more harm than good. Even more sadly, no amount of conceiving will produce a set of policies that would create a paradise on Earth.

On the other hand, the fact that a vastly higher percentage of the people alive today are faring better than their ancestors shows that humans over the long haul and with much testing and many setbacks and failures can improve their conditions over time. Such progress can occur, however, only if the preponderance of changes that concern values and policies have been wise. The collapse of The Roman Empire, to name but one of many examples, demonstrates that humans are perfectly capable of choosing changes unwisely and/or failing to do what is necessary to protect and defend their wise decisions. Part of the mission of this blog is to help defer the day that the ideas, ways, and means that have enabled humans to reach the extant pinnacle of human achievement are not unwisely jettisoned in favor of unattainable perfection.[i] [More on that point in future posts.]

With millennia of trials and much error and failures, natural evolution has deemed nationalism to be the winning approach to governance. That does not mean that nationalism is not destined to become extinct when a more successful approach is discovered. It does mean, however, that the odds of any proposed “fundamental transformation” of the evolved state of affairs will work better than the current one are low.

This is not a claim that things are satisfactory here and now. Far from it. Injustice, ill will, rightful righteous indignation (righteous indignation based on wrong analysis is unhelpful noise), unfairness, danger, tragedy, illness, outrageous fortune, and sadness abound. Because, however, (1) anything near creating a perfect form of governance is beyond human grasp, and (2) human’s infinite capacity to imagine how things could be better regardless of their absolute level of general wellbeing, injustice, etc. will always be a permanent part of the human condition—no matter how comparatively great conditions happen to be. For example, all but a tiny fraction of humans who currently live in America, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, and several other places have standards of living that rank in the top 1% of all the humans that have ever lived, yet all of the awful things listed above exist everywhere in the world. Jesus’s comment, “The poor will always be with you,” is an eternal truth that no fundamental transformation of policies will change.[ii]

Nevertheless, things can be improved and wanting to improve things is virtuous. The problem is discerning which policies will produce more good than harm. Large human systems are astoundingly complicated and any significant policy change to such systems will produce both positive and negative consequences.[iii] This problem is intractable because the smartest people in the world are not infinitely smart and most the knowledgeable people can obtain only a fraction of the information needed to assess whether a major policy change will, on balance, be positive or negative—although many people claim otherwise.[iv] Making matters worse, in many circumstances the smartest and most knowledgeable people cannot know whether the fraction of the information they possess is a sufficiently high fraction of the information needed to justify the drawing of a conclusion. Examples of this reality were when some really smart, knowledgeable, and well-meaning people decided to remove wolves from Yellowstone National Park[v] (which helped the elk and a few other animals and made the smart/knowledgeable people appear, for a while, to be smarter/more knowledgeable than they were, but destroyed the habitat of many species) and the revolutionaries thinking it was a good idea to replace the terrible czarist Russian government with a communist one[vi] (which worked out well only for the U.S.S.R.’s General Secretaries and a few of their cronies). Contrary to what the instigators believed to be sound ideas, the Yellowstone idea was an example of the government not taking fully into account how nature works concerning wildlife, and the Soviet idea was an example of the government taking fully into account neither human nature nor economics (also a natural phenomenon). Natural, inevitable forces caused those ideas to fail—despite the science, logic, beautiful rhetoric, and good intentions of the ideas’ the “Intellectual Yet Idiot”[vii] conceived.

Consequently, the most reasonable and reliable test of whether a system is worthy of preservation is whether it has persevered and produced above average results for an above average percentage of its citizenry over a long time. This is particularly troublesome because pretty good is not great. Humans can always imagine things being better than pretty good. They often want, ask for, or demand at least extraordinary, if not great, and sometimes demand near perfection if the status quo does not suit their fancy. (It doesn’t help when “experts” are paid to promote ideas whether or not they are good ideas and social merit badges are dispensed to vainglorious people who excel at demeaning the status quo.[viii])

Though dreadfully short of great, a country that produces above average results for an above average percentage of its people over an extended period is a miracle.[/ix] [In my estimation, the video in this endnote is a “must see.”] As nationalist America has demonstrated, pretty good can produce many miracles. Because there is a baby in that bathwater, significant policy change proposals should be met with great skepticism and the grander the proposal, the greater the skepticism should be. Doing otherwise risks not only a baby going down the drain.

Of course, nationalism has also produced many horrors and has failed to solve horrendous problems. On the other hand, things were never fine for everyone or even most people in the Roman Empire. On the contrary, by the standards of modern societies, things were always awful for everyone in the Roman Empire. More important, however, things were worse for most people both before the rise and after the fall of the Roman Empire. That history will repeat itself if the ideas of the Enlightenment, which enabled the West to achieve what it has for humanity, are not preserved and defended.

Hopefully, someday our bumbling trials and errors will produce an approach to governance that is far superior to nationalism. As the 20th Century taught us, however, taking great leaps forward on a large scale tend to produce much worse outcomes.[x]


[i] See “Perfect is the enemy of good.”

[ii] See “Equal Rights or Equal Outcomes?

[iii] See “Unintended Consequences.”

[iv] See “The Pretence of Knowledge.” “To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm. In the physical sciences there may be little objection to trying to do the impossible; one might even feel that one ought not to discourage the over-confident because their experiments may after all produce some new insights. But in the social field the erroneous belief that the exercise of some power would have beneficial consequences is likely to lead to a new power to coerce other men being conferred on some authority.”

See also, “It’s a Wonderful Loaf.”

[v] See “How Wolves Change Rivers.”

[vi] See “Russian Revolution.”

[vii] See “The Intellectual Yet Idiot.”

[viii] See “The awful rise of ‘virtue signalling’.”

[ix] See “Jordan Peterson- His Finest Moment.”

[x] See “Mao Zedong- Great Leap Forward.”

Nationalism PART IV, Nationalism and Tribalism

Nationalism is often criticized because nationalism promotes tribalism.[i] That nationalism promotes tribalism is true. The implication of the criticism, that tribalism creates serious negative consequences, is also true. Given, however, that every approach to governance creates serious negative consequences, simply alleging that nationalism promotes tribalism, which creates negative consequences, is not a serious charge. Serious charges along this line would be: (1) Nations can thrive without tribalism, which creates serious negative consequences, yet nationalism promotes tribalism anyway, and (2) Nationalism, which promotes tribalism, generates more negative consequences than alternative approaches to governance. Let’s sort out why those serious charges are not credible.

According to Merriam-Webster, a tribe is:

1            a: a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations together                     with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangers

b: a political division of the Roman people originally representing one of the three original tribes of ancient Rome

c: PHYLE

2            : a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest… [Emphasis added.]

According to Merriam-Webster, tribalism is:

1            : tribal consciousness and loyalty

                especially: exaltation of the tribe above other groups

2            : strong in-group loyalty

Given what tribalism is, to criticize nationalism because it promotes tribalism implies that there could be viable alternative forms of governance that do not promote allegiance to the ideas, ways, and goals of a nation and loyalty to the perceived virtues of the nation. That is an untenable implication.

Humans are tribal animals. Evidence of that is everywhere. Being proud of (embarrassed by) or promoting or defending one’s family, club, community, city, class, group, movement, political party, school, sports team, society, state, or nation are just some of the ways humans exhibit their tribal nature. An ironic example of tribalism is the large and growing tribe in America that rails against tribalism. They seem to be especially proud of their affiliation with their tribe, consider themselves virtuous for being members of that tribe, praise fellow tribe members, self-approvingly deride, defame, and/or demonize those who oppose or are nonplussed by their tribe (nothing short of admiration will do), and feel so confident of the superiority of their tribe’s values and perceptions of reality that they favor imposing their tribe’s views on everyone else in society—all to the jubilation of their fellow tribe members. Moreover, people who work well within tribes tend to fare better than those who do not, and people who do not fit into tribes tend to live shorter, lonelier, and less flourishing lives[ii].

Consequently, criticizing or railing against tribalism is baying at the moon. No amount of baying will cause humans to shed their tribalism. To be viable, any proposed form of governance must accept and accommodate that human feature/bug.

Nationalism is viable in large part because it works with human nature instead of against it, i.e., it uses human tribalism for the benefit of the tribe (which need not be detrimental to other tribes (nations) and is usually beneficial to other nations[iii]). Note also that even people who condemn tribalism also use tribalism to support their isms. For example, socialists who condemn tribalism in others use the rallying cry, “workers of the world unite” to motivate and increase the size of their tribe. Witness all the flag waving, military marches, and larger than life posters of Nazi Germany, U.S.S.R, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela. Rallying a group of people to a cause can be essential to motivating people to get involved and work for the success of cause—and it is an overt fostering of tribalism. Fight songs and flag bearers are on the battlefields a reason, i.e., they increase the chances of success. Doing that which helps their group succeed is part of the nature of humans.

Sebastian Junger explained how the point made above (tribalism is not dispensable) applies to society extremely well:

“… every society has to, first and foremost, take care of two things. It has to physically defend itself from enemies if there are any; and it has to keep itself together. It has to remain cohesive. If it doesn’t remain cohesive, there’s nothing to defend. And if there’s no defense, no amount of cohesion in the world will save you from an enemy. So, you have to do both things. And if you don’t, nothing else is really worth doing.

Baying against tribalism is also baying at that which enables tribes (e.g., a nation), and their denizens, to flourish. Humans seek community and meaning in their lives. Tribalism is a means by which people can find community and meaning. People who find a sufficient amount of both tend to flourish. As noted above, people who don’t find enough tend not to fare well.

On a national scale, the more citizens work together as a tribe, all other things being equal,[iv] the more flourishing there will be in their nation over the long run. A nation can and should[v] tolerate a manageable (that is to say, “low”) levels of disagreements among tribe members and, though corrosive and destructive if taken to an extreme, even some number of dissidents fighting to fundamentally transform the tribe’s belief systems is not only survivable, it may be necessary to properly re-examine and improve (or reassert) the tribe’s values and ways. If, however, the manageable quantum of dissidence is exceeded, the social fabric becomes tattered, human flourishing diminishes, and, ultimately, can instigate a civil war. (Winning a civil war is usually almost as disastrous for the winner as it is for the loser.)

So, what is wrong with the critic’s charge, “Nations can thrive without tribalism, which creates serious negative consequences, but nationalism promotes tribalism anyway?” Its premise is incorrect, i.e., nations can neither thrive nor long endure without a sufficient amount of tribalism. In fact, tribalism is a big part of what enables a nation (or any other group) to thrive.

So, what is wrong with the charge, “Nationalism, which promotes tribalism, generates more negative consequences than alternative approaches to governance?” The problem is that there is no counter-factual with which to test the validity of the charge. Because there is no nation that has thrived without tribalism, there is no way to assess the kind and magnitude of negative consequences such a nation would generate. Because, based on the facts available to be studied, tribalism is essential to flourishing, it is fair to assume there will never be a test of the theory that a non-tribalistic would generate fewer negative consequences. However, we should all be open to the possibility that the charge is valid if such a unicorn ever appears.

There are, of course, untested theories to support the idea that a one world government (the ultimate imperialism) would be better. We’ll sort out some things about those theories in future posts.


[i] See “Bill Clinton slams tribalism, nationalism.”

[ii] See “The Lethality of Loneliness.”

[iii] For example, in 2018, customers in the U.S. bought $2.4 trillion of goods and services from foreign companies and individuals, i.e., U.S. imports were $2.4 trillion. Being able to sell to U.S. customers benefited those foreign sellers tremendously. U.S. consumers benefited by being able to obtain their wants and needs at a lower cost than would have been the case if the products had been produced in the U.S. See “US Imports by Year for Top Five Countries.”

[iv] Natural and human-inflicted disasters can prevent flourishing despite the benefits of tribalism.

[v] In order for a nation to improve over time, the ideas and institutions of a nation must be constantly examined to identify and examine the nature of societal/institutional problems, possible solutions to those problems must be proposed, and extensive civil debate must occur to determine what, if any, suspected problem or potential solution would be propitious. This is, at least in part, due to the fact that humans have a prodigious capacity to dream up what they believe to be improvements on the status quo, and will lose faith in a tribe that has little prospect for improvement over time.

Nationalism PART III, Imperialism

As described in the previous two parts of this series,[i] nationalism and imperialism are separable, nationalism is conducive of societal cohesion (which is a good thing), and nationalism does not necessarily lead to imperialism (contrary to popular belief, and, as we shall see, what imperialists want the public to believe). That they are different, however, does not mean that they cannot go hand in hand. Let’s sort out how the two can be connected by focusing on imperialism.

Imperialism is the “state policy, practice, or advocacy of extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas... Imperialism results from a complex of causes in which in varying degrees economic pressures, human aggressiveness, and greed, search for security, drive for power and prestige, nationalist emotions, humanitarianism, and many other factors are effective.”[ii] Encyclopedia Britannica.

As the Encyclopedia Britannica reveals, imperialism is caused by many and varied factors (too many to be listed by the Britannica, much less to be sorted out in this blog). “Nationalist emotions” is included near the end of the list of causal factors. Accurately, the Britannica does not suggest that nationalism is an essential precondition for imperialism to blossom, and because imperialism takes a complex of factors to bloom, there is no suggestion that nationalism in the absence of a complex of other factors is sufficient to cause imperialism. Nationalistic citizenries can and sometimes do rally around tyrants who want to force a nation’s ideals on other nations, but nationalism is not the cause of tyrants wanting to impose their wills on others. It is their belief in imperialism that does that.

To further sort out the differences between imperialism and nationalism, let’s focus on imperialism and nationalism as political philosophies. That is to say, let’s sort out the difference between nationalistic and imperialistic as approaches to governance.

The ultimate imperialistic approach to governance would be a one-world government that sets and enforces the rules for all humans.[iii] The ideal nationalistic approach to governance would be many nations whose values, ways, means, and other cultural characteristics (“ideals”) are self-determined and self-enforced by individual nations. Each has strengths and weaknesses. On balance, however, one is better than the other.

To achieve and maintain an ideal imperialistic government, national, cultural, ethnic, tribal, and clan identity, ideals, patriotism, and pride must be suppressed. Inculcating and promoting national ideals and patriotism is essential to a successful independent nation. Realistic nationalism does not promise perpetual peace, prosperity, dignity, and justice to everyone all the time, far from it. Idealistic imperialism does. My contention (and I am not alone)[iv] is that imperialism delivers even less peace, prosperity, dignity, and justice than does nationalism—despite the imperialists claims to the contrary.

Imperialist philosophers (mostly members of the intelligencia)[v] assert that the existence of independent nations that are free to determine their ideals inevitably results in nations adopting ideals that are antithetical to the ideals of other states. (They are, of course, right about that.) They also believe that the most successful nations (powerful enough to impose their will on others) will inculcate their citizens with respect for what is good about their cultures, i.e., do what they can to cause their citizens to be patriotic about the nation’s chosen ideals. (They are, of course, right about that.) Nations that revere ideals that are antithetical to the ideals of other nations all too often go to war. (Right again.) All of those things, however, are considered by imperialists to be minor compared to the offensive fact that nations left to their own devices do not uniformly adopt and inculcate the ideals that imperialists believe are best. (Right yet again!)

The fact that independent nations have these shortfalls from perfection, however, does not mean that a better option is available. Nevertheless, in the fertile minds of the intelligencia, such shortfalls from perfection (barbarity) call for a “solution”[vi] (whether or not one exists). Not surprisingly, the intelligencia just happens to have a “solution” to the tribal squabbling of nations.[vii] That “solution” is to put the intelligencia in charge of a one-world government that can impose its supposedly superior ideals on everyone in the world.[viii] The end of this fairy tale is that all humans will then become “citizens of the world” with no (or, at least, vastly less) squabbling, i.e., everyone in the world will become cosmopolitan. The more apocalyptic among the intelligencia claim that a one-world government is the only way to prevent an Earth-ending nuclear conflagration.[ix]

History is replete with examples of nationalism and imperialism. Neither has ever been fully implemented. The current state of affairs concerning world governance is, for the most part, nationalist, though attacks on nationalism and advocacy of international organization with enforcement power appear to be growing.

In the 20th century, the U.S.S.R., Nazi Germany, and Hirohito’s Japan were outcroppings of imperialist aspirations and endeavors. Beginning in the 15th century, the Spanish were high on imperialism. In later centuries, the Dutch, Brits Germany, and France got in on the act. Long before any of that, other notable empires included the Chinese, Mongols, Romans (the Roman Catholic Church, with its Holy Roman Empire, and the Byzantines picked up the imperialistic baton from the Romans). From the inception of Islam, most Muslims have believed the best thing for the world would be an Islamic Caliphate imposing Sharia law universally.[x] These are just a few of the many examples of imperialism that demonstrate that imperialism actually solves very little and creates many negative consequences. Imperialism has a vast and deep history of failure. (Interestingly, the Jews have traditionally been loath to imperialism.)

Imperialism, it is argued, is justified, necessary, and moral because independent, self-determining, patriotic nations will often engage in wars, and the only hope for world peace is to have a world government (a.k.a, “One-World Government”) with sufficient power to impose a perpetual peace under a single set of laws (or as close to that as is possible). Wilson’s “League of Nations,” FDR’s “United Nations,” and the European Union are examples of peaceable attempts to achieve governmental organizations to pursue the imperialist approach to world peace. Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Lenin’s, Stalin’s, and Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (collectivists all) were examples of forcible infliction of one nation’s ideas on other nations and fellow citizens. What was wrong with these empires was not their nationalism, it was their imperialism, which is often coupled with totalitarianism, which is also terrible.

Note that none of these empires produced permanent peace or prosperity. On the contrary, each was mostly tyrannical and produced some good and many horrors. Non-imperialistic nationalism has a similar track record. Consequently, being a non-nationalist is not “the” moral option, and nationalist countries can be extraordinarily moral. (Yet, globalists in general and leftist globalists, in particular, typically demonize anyone who does not believe the opposite. We’ll sort out why that is and why they are wrong in future posts.)

By contrast, after its “Manifest Destiny” phase, America has, for the most part, supported and advanced the idea of national self-determination and nationalism. A good case can be made that no country in world history has had as large a military and economic superiority over all other nations than that obtained by America.

Consequently, no nation has ever had more capability to impose its laws and customs on others and taking over or subjugating their governments. Since its conquest and subjugation of Native Americans, however, America has been extraordinarily non-imperialistic given its capabilities (though, of course, members of the intelligencia whose raison d’etre is to demonize America pass their time focusing exclusively on the exceptions to this general rule[xi]). As a result, America has become the most successful nation (on many dimensions) that the world has ever produced, and has been more instrumental in improving the standards of living of the poor in the world than any other nation ever.

In short, imperialism has been oversold, and nationalism has gotten a bum rap.


[i] See “Nationalism—PART I” and “Nationalism—PART II, False Premise.”

[ii] See “Imperialism.”

[iii] For a glimpse of a nascent effort toward this end, see “Ron Paul explains the Council on Foreign Relations and the New World Order,” “The UN Wants to be Our World Government By 2030” and “One World Governance and the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘We Shall have World Government… by Conquest or Consent.’

[iv] See “Jordan Peterson: Why Globalism Fails and Nationalism is Relatable,” “The Virtue of Nationalism” by Yoram Hazony, and “Yoram Hazony on the Virtue of Nationalism

[v] Not a good thing. Nassim Taleb, who dubbed them “Intellectual Yet Idiots,” described them thus: “So we end up populating what we call the intelligentsia with people who are delusional, literally mentally deranged, simply because they never have to pay for the consequences of their actions, repeating modernist slogans stripped of all depth.” Elsewhere he said, “But the problem is the one-eyed following the blind: these self-described members of the “intelligentsia” can’t find a coconut in Coconut Island, meaning they aren’t intelligent enough to define intelligence hence fall into circularities — but their main skill is capacity to pass exams written by people like them.

[vi] See “Solutions.”

[vii] See “Opening remarks at the World Government Summit.” “We live today in a world that is no longer bipolar, no longer unipolar but it is not yet multipolar. [When was the world really bipolar or unipolar?]… there is a deep mistrust between countries and groups of countries that, of course, facilitates the multiplication of conflicts and the difficulty to solve them. We need a surge of diplomacy for peace. We need to be able to have honest brokers trying to bring together those countries that are essential for the solution of those conflicts we face in different parts of the world…. But we need to able to address the root causes of conflict and to have the international community organized to address the root causes of conflict.” [Emphasis added.]

[viii] See “WORLD GOVERNMENT – Bob Brown wants a ‘Global Parliament’” and “”According to the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haas, ‘states must be prepared to cede some sovereignty to world bodies id the international system is to function.'” [Note: THIS ARTICLE contains a link to the page of Haass’s essay that was originally published on the CFR website. As you can see here, that essay has been removed from the CFR website.]

[ix] See “One World Government and the War of Tomorrow,” and “The case for a World State to wipe out war and nuclear weapons and bring global peace and prosperity.”

[x] See “Imperialism.”

[xi] See “The imperialist lie that won’t die: America is making the planet safer.” Note how the article infused with myriad slanders (e.g., being imperialistic is expensive and counterproductive—which has nothing to do with whether America is imperialistic).

Nationalism—PART II, False Premise

Recently, Trump said at a rally, “Really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, O.K.? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist! Use that word! Use that word!” The leftist media leaped into hysteria mode. We’ll sort out why they became hysterical in a later post. In this post, let’s sort out why the leftist media are basing their reaction on a false premise.

Let’s first revisit the definition of Nationalism. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defined “Nationalism” thus:

1: loyalty and devotion to a nation, especially: a sense of national consciousness (see CONSCIOUSNESS sense 1c) exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups

(Then, Meriam-Webster disgustingly[i] added erroneous political commentary: “//Intense nationalism was one of the causes of the war.” Such is life in a leftist world.[ii])

In a post about the difference between patriotism and nationalism, Merriam-Webster said, “’Nationalism,’ general love of one’s country.”

Aside from God (who is, by definition, perfect), nothing humans love is perfect—often far from it.[iii] The definitions of “loyalty,” “devotion,” and “love” do not include an implication that a lover/loyalist/devotee believes the objects of her love/loyalty/devotion are even close to perfect. For example, humans love family members despite members’ flaws. Human’s love of their teams, clans, tribes, and nations are similar in this respect.[iv] When humans love their nation, they are neither endorsing any, much less every, negative aspect of their nation nor asserting that their nation is not in need of significant improvement. They are simply doing what most humans typically do, loving the group of which they are members.

Freemon Dyson summed up why humans cohere with their families, clans, tribes, and nations:

To understand human behavior, I look at human evolution. About a hundred thousand years ago, our species invented a new kind of evolution…, we began a cultural evolution based on social and intellectual changes…

Cultural evolution was enabled by spoken languages and tribal loyalties. Tribe competed with tribe and culture with culture. The cultures that prevailed were those that promoted tribal cohesion… It was more important for a group of humans to be united than to be right….

So, to insist that humans can and should abandon nationalism (as anti-nationalists’ “citizens of the world” types do) conflicts with evolved human nature. Ideologies that depend on humans changing their natures are the deadliest of all ideologies.[v] Also, Human evolution has revealed that barbarous and nationless people are relatively less successful than those in acculturated nations. Regardless, pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth, however, have not been and will not be stamped out of the human heart. Consequently, humans could easily devolve into greater barbarism if they adopt ideologies that fan the flames of the “seven deadly sins,” e.g., socialism.[vi])

Note also that the definition of nationalism does not include or imply that nationalist want their nation to impose its ways, means, or will on other peoples. Politically astute nationalists urge the opposite. For example, Oklahoma Sooners fans do not want the Sooners to be the only football team in the world. Quite the contrary, they want there to be other good teams with which to play, i.e., the whole enterprise would not work if there were only one team in the world. Not only do multiple teams enable the enterprise to exist, wholesome play and vigorous competition cause teams to improve themselves. That same is true of nations. Astute nationalists do not want their nation to dominate the world. They understand that getting a nation’s members to cohere to (rally around) the nation’s fundamental values, ways, and means, which is essential to prosperity, is made easier when the nation is competing with other nations. The greater the diversity of values, in both kind and extent, among a people, the more difficult it is to maintain internal peace and prosperity. Conquering and ruling people who revere values, etc. that are antithetical to the conquering nation’s values, etc. reduce a nation’s chances of being peaceful and prosperous.

Internal Peace and Cooperation: Humans fare better when they are members of a constructive culture. “Culture” is “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes [a group of people, e.g. a nation].” As cohesion to a nation’s values, etc. lessens, the ability of a nation’s citizens to enjoy the benefits of a culture shrink—and too little cohesion will tear a country asunder. Much of the hate that develops in a nation is caused by some groups cherishing values, etc. that are different from other groups. When the vast majority of citizens no longer adhere to a single set of the fundamental cultural values, toleration and cooperation become less frequent, trouble brews, and, eventually, the center will not hold. In short, if a people do not sufficiently assimilate and adhere to a single set of core values, the sundry groups are no longer “a people.” They become warring factions. Nationalism has proven to be an antidote to this problem, i.e., nationalism increases cooperation, prosperity, and internal peace.

Nationalism and Self-Determination. Different peoples do have different values, ways, and means. Humans have a tendency to cherish the values that they determine are worthy of reverence. For that reason, nationalist believe that, rather than fight those human tendencies, countries should have the right of self-determination of their values, etc., to govern themselves as they see fit, and create a culture of mutual protection from enemies, foreign and domestic. The political philosophy that facilitates and encourages those rights of self-determination is called “nationalism.”

There is, however, a competing philosophy, “imperialism.” In “The Virtue of Nationalism,” Yorum Hazony states the distinction between nationalism and imperialism as follows:

Nationalism “is a principled standpoint that regards the world as governed best when nations are able to chart their own independent course, cultivating their own traditions and pursuing their own interests without interference. This is opposed to imperialism, which seeks to bring peace and prosperity to the world by uniting mankind, as much as possible, under a single political regime.”[vii]

To summarize the above, the benefits of nationalism/self-determination include: 1) with multiple nations pursuing various combinations of values, etc., humankind gains the benefit of multiple experiments around the world to discover the values, etc. that work best, [viii] and 2) internal peace can best be achieved when a society’s members cohere a single set of values, etc. and language. Societal prosperity can be achieved only when there is sufficient peace within society. The more the citizens are proud of the values, ways, and means of their nation (while working on its flaws), the more peaceable and prosperous they will be.

Most, if not all, of this serendipity evaporates, however, if a country—no matter how nationalistic—becomes imperialistic. Fortunately, an intensely nationalistic country need not become imperialistic.

Imperialism. There are basically two political theories as to how the world’s peoples should be governed, nationalism and imperialism. The big difference between the two is: Astute imperialists believe that their values, way, means, and/or other cultural characteristics are so superior to all the values, etc. of others that it should be imposed on everyone in the world, while astute nationalists believe that peoples should have self-determination.

Consequently, there is nothing immoral about being an un-imperialistic nationalist, and nationalist nations can be extraordinarily moral (though, like all nations, never near perfection). Yet, falsely presuming that nationalism is imperialistic, globalists in general and leftist globalists, in particular, demonize nationalists. We’ll sort out why that is and why they are wrong to demonize nationalists in future posts.

A footnote: In the past, there was a general belief that nationalism would not work well with multiple races, ethnicities, etc. Fortunately, however, since the end of the Civil War until recently, America has demonstrated that a nation can be “One people,” regardless of the number of races, skin colors, ethnicities, or national origins comprise its members. So long as a suitably high percentage of a society’s members sufficiently assimilate, adhere, and revere the nation’s values, etc. a nationalist society has not only been proven workable, a multi-racial, etc. society has proven to be the most successful society ever. Sadly, however, with the recent rejections of many of America’s core values[ix] and the adoption by many of values antithetical to America’s core values,[x] how much longer a nation so conceived and dedicated can endure has been brought into question. Were it not for this trend, there is are good reasons to believe America’s success story could continue for at least another 250 years.


[i] The gratuitous comment epitomizes the false premise the media used to excoriate Trump for promoting nationalism. Note, however, the gratuitous political comment is not definitional, it was commentary. The comment is a claim that the thing defined (nationalism) caused something different from the thing defined (war). Intensely nationalist countries do not always start wars, and, even when they do, it is not necessarily the nationalism that causes them to start a war. Such gratuitous commentary when supposedly defining things is obscuring rather than “making something definite, distinct, or clear.” In addition, it is incorrect. Nationalism, intense or otherwise, was not a cause of the war—assuming (as one must given Webster’s lack of specification) the comment was a reference to the Nazis.

[ii] ESPN is a great example of politicizing something that need not be politicized. They appear to prefer going down in flames than foregoing politicizing everything they touch. See “ESPN tells talent to stick to sports, it’s ‘not a political organization’.” Politicizing everything is not good. Watch “Politics and Sports: Keep Your Hands Off My Football.”

[iii] This is largely due to human’s amazing ability to identify how a thing could be better. Couple that with a tendency to take for granted the positive aspects of things are usually perceived to be much farther from perfection than they by any objective standard.

[iv] For example, most Oklahoma Sooners fans love their football team despite its porous defense this year. They also regularly forgive the Sooners not scoring touchdowns on every offensive possession.

[v] See “Socialism: An Ideology of Death and Destruction.” For example, a political philosophy that depends on dogs not sniffing is not likely to work in practice.

[vi] See “Gulag Archipelago,” “Socialism Is An Immoral System,” and “Socialism’s true legacy is immorality.”

[vii]  See “Hazony, Yoram. The Virtue of Nationalism (Kindle Locations 94-97). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.”

[viii] Evidence of how effective this process is all the nations that have vastly improved their standards of living by eschewing socialism in favor of more capitalistic ways of running an economy. See “Capitalism, Global Trade, and the Reduction in Poverty and Inequality.”

[ix] Examples include: Equal protection of the law, i.e., equal opportunity (as opposed to equal outcomes), individualism (as opposed to collectivism), people should be judged by the content of their character (as opposed to the color of their skin or other immutable characteristics), the presumption of innocence (as opposed to the accusations of victim must be believed, or, at least, accorded far more credence than the denial of the accused), and the importance of reverence for the things for which the flag stands.

[x] Examples: Multiculturalism and Intersectionality. Also see endnote next above.

Nationalism—PART I

Last Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron added to the general confusion about the word “Nationalism” by saying:

“Patriotism” is the exact opposite of nationalism: Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By putting our interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive: its moral values.”

Perhaps the French have different meanings for the words “Patriotism” and “Nationalism,” but Macron’s statement makes no sense using the English meanings of the words. Yet English speaking people speak the same kind of nonsense. The meaning of “nationalism” and the importance of the concept to the maintenance of a good society needs to be sorted out.[i]

Merriam-Webster explains:

“…from the end of the 18th century onward for a number of decades, nationalism appears to have been largely interchangeable with patriotism, with both words primarily being used to refer to a general love of one’s country

In U.S. usage nationalism is now perhaps most frequently associated with white[ii] nationalism, and has considerably negative connotations.” [Emphasis added.]

People “loving”[iii] the groups of which they are a part is a near-universal human characteristic.[iv] To suggest that loving one’s family, clan, tribe, or nation is immoral is tantamount to saying humans are immoral. While humans may be immoral, they are less immoral when they must cohere to the ideas and ways of an effective group than when left to their own ideas and ways. In light of this, it is fair to say that, in English, Macron’s statement is foolish.[v]

Something not foolish about Macron’s words is that they presumed (accurately) that “Patriotism,” “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty,” is good. Why might that be?

While all forms of life are miraculous, the most miraculous life form known to man is man. In addition to being conscious, inventive, creative, productive, interested, interesting, caring, loving, etc., unsocialized humans are also covetous, cunning, and cliquish, and are often brutal and cruel in satisfying their avarice (to mention but a few of their shortcomings). To enjoy that which is miraculously good about humans, the characteristics of unsocialized humans must be socialized, i.e., they must be made to behave in a way that is acceptable to their society. To work effectively, the socialization of humans must occur at all levels of societies, families, clans, tribes, and nations.

Socialization, however, goes for naught if the society is not capable of defending itself and its members against enemies. Because there is “safety in numbers,” humans, like many animals, form groups for mutual defense. Families join clans, clans join tribes, and tribes form and/or join nations in order to achieve for its members a greater probability they will be protected against those who do not share the common moral and practical beliefs, cultural norms, institutions, traditions, etc. of the clan, tribe, or nation. For the clan, tribe, or nation to avoid being torn asunder, the vast majority of members need to subscribe and conform to the group’s beliefs, norms, institutions, traditions, etc., i.e., the beliefs of the vast majority must cohere.

Humans can flourish most in societies that are reasonably safe and the actions of others are predictable. The feeling of safety comes from a reasonable belief that the other members of the family, clan, tribe, and nation will join in a common defense from an attack by enemies foreign or domestic. That state of predictable affairs can be achieved only when the vast majority of the society’s members sufficiently cohere to a common set of values, and non-conformists are kept in reasonable check.

The above is the reason why it is said that “a house divided cannot stand.”[vi] This is also why tribalism is such a threat to a nation.

To be an effective fighting force against an enemy, the troops must rally around the idea that they are fighting for something so good that it is worth the risk and cost in blood and treasure to fight for it. Evidence that being excited about the cause is part of a winning strategy can be seen every fall Saturday as football players come charging out of their tunnels onto the football field. In a fight for nation’s survival, patriotism, the belief by the vast majority of a society’s members that the nation is so good that its preservation is worth fighting for, is essential.[vii]

So, contrary, to Macron’s flourishes, the essence of nationalism is essentially indistinguishable from patriotism.

So why all the fuss about “nationalism?” That will be the subject of “Nationalism—PART II” and “Nationalism—PART III.”


[i] Many of the comments about nationalism made in this series of posts are based on the insights and analysis in an extraordinary new book, “The Virtue of Nationalism” by Yoram Hazony. “Yoram Hazony on the Virtue of Nationalism” is a great interview of Hazony about the book by Russ Roberts.

[ii] Dealing with the mention of “white nationalism” in the context of nationalism is beyond the scope of this series of posts. Suffice it to say, nationalism has a bad rap in the U.S. now with or without the “white” modifier.

[iii] “Love” is largely ambiguous due to its many gradations and nuances. I’m using the word “love” to describe a feeling that the country is worthy of respect, merits care, support and encouragement, and protecting it from enemies foreign or domestic is in the best interests of its inhabitants.

[iv] Jonathon Haidt says humans are “groupish.” See “The Groupish Gene – Jonathan Haidt” or, better yet, take the time to get the whole story with “The Groupish Gene: Hive psychology and the Origins of Morality and Religion.”

[v]  Although I do not subscribe to everything Megan McArdle said about nationalism in this article, she does make some good points about nationalism in, “Nationalism and Patriotism Don’t Have to Be Opposites.” She is particularly right in saying, “If we are to fight our way back from this soft civil war, we will need a muscular patriotism that focuses us on our commonalities instead of our differences.”

[vi]  See Lincoln’s “House Divided Speech,” or Matthew 12:25, Mark 3:25

[vii] In “The Ascent of Man,” Charles Darwin put it this way: “Obedience… is of the highest value, for any form of government is better than none. Selfish and contentious people will not cohere, and without coherence nothing can be effected. A tribe rich in the above qualities would spread and be victorious over other tribes: but in the course of time it would, judging from all past history, be in its turn overcome by some other tribe still more highly endowed.”

Welfare Wreckage

Poverty in the U.S. Was Plummeting—Until Lyndon Johnson Declared War On It

Yet again, government intervention hurts those it is intended to help.
johnson
Click on the headline above to see the article.

This excellent article from Fee.org fairly describes the quagmire that LBJ’s War On Poverty got America into. The quagmire is the result of America’s welfare system ensnaring poor people into an economic trap that hurts both the trapped and the trappers. This truth is well worth understanding. The article, however, sheds insufficient light on the human toll our welfare system imposes on the poor.

[Note: While the article’s headline is true, it captures only a relatively minor factoid out of the article’s outstanding content. The tagline, “Yet again, government intervention hurts those it is intended to help,” is also true, but it too is just factoid.]

While many Americans support much more welfare, Americans of every significant persuasion believe that, to some degree, the government should provide financial support to poor people with mental or physical disabilities that prevent them from providing for themselves. So, the question for Americans is not whether there should be welfare, but how much and how. More specifically, the political debate is largely about the dividing lines between 1) who should and shouldn’t be helped, 2) how much help should be provided, and 3) how to help. Except for talk about the decline of two-parent families among welfare recipients, far too little public debate is focused on the negative consequences of financially helping poor people. The destruction of two-parent poor black families is worthy of much attention, but it is only one of many significant problems the welfare system inflicts on its recipients.

The most depressing aspect of the article is that it makes clear that humans have not figured out how to help poor people who are able to provide for themselves without trapping them and much of their progeny in 1) neighborhoods with poor education, stifling subcultures that foster mediocrity and grievances, and are dangerous, and 2) an economic system that incentivizes its denizen not to thrive[i] and is likely to damage the denizen’s general well-being.[ii] The article also shows that over time the system has increased the number of people so trapped—the exact opposite of the war’s stated mission. (It has, however, created a large, growing, and solid block of reliable Democrat voters—which may have been one of LBJ’s objectives.)

As sad as all of that it is, even sadder is that people who are aggrieved are typically much less happy than people who are thankful. Even if the grievance is justified, aggrieved people are handicapped by their grievances. Because humans gravitate toward validations of their beliefs, aggrieved people not only gravitate toward facts and narratives that validate the ideas that hold them back, they are motivated not to do anything that would disprove their reasons for believing their grievances are justified. As President Obama might have put it, it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to their dysfunctional culture or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them as a way to explain their frustrations.[iii]

Our welfare policies are yet another example of well-intended (at least on the part of empathetic voters—not so much on the part of politicians whose reelections are dependent on dependent voters) policies making matters worse for the poorest people among us, i.e., the people who are supposed to be helped by the policy.


[i] For a more detailed description of these problems and others, see “The War on Poverty Wasn’t A Failure — It Was A Catastrophe.”

[ii]  See “is work good for your health and well-being?

[iii] President Obama said, “It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Not So Fast On Fingering Flake

I just read a Facebook post that said this about Senator Flake:
“What did the leftists promise the traitor Flake to hold up this vote. Doesn’t he understand this will just give more time to the leftists to bring more bogus allegations and diminish this nominee even more? Of course, he does. Again, I can’t imagine why this man is allowed to represent himself as a conservative. Shameful.”
Flake is certainly not my favorite Republican but I suspect this author’s take is precisely the opposite of what just happened. 
 
The Democrats had a plan to stop the Judge Kavanaugh nomination after the hearings were completed. Call for another FBI investigation to delay the vote on Kavanaugh (giving the Democrats more time to denigrate Kavanaugh and creating time for a miracle to happen) and put the Republicans in a bad light, the Democrats said the Republicans were rushing the process and blocking an FBI investigation.
So, naturally, the Republican base wanted the Republicans to rush and have no further investigation. The Republicans surely knew that after so many FBI investigations of Kavanaugh, (1) a limited scope FBI investigation would not turn up anything negative on Kavanaugh, (2) Trump would limit the scope, and (3) not rushing and permitting the investigation would the sting out of the Democrats’ complaints (except for the crazies that would not vote for a Republican in any event) and make the Republicans appear to be more reasonable as the Democrats would continue their hysterics.
That being the case, the Republicans wanted another investigation but knew that their base would be opposed. No Republican, especially the ones who wanted to keep their Senate seats, wanted to be the one to call for an investigation. In a tough situation like this, who ya gonna call? Flake!

For more on the approval of the Kavanaugh nomination, see this Facebook post in which there were many comments dealing with the applicability of “innocence until proven guilty” to accusations against Kavanaugh.