Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Food for thought

In this post, I link to two articles that address the concept of "nationalism"; that is, the idea of the "nation state".  America is a nation state, so is Germany, and the UK, etc.  Although the vast majority of people are unaware, the concept of nationalism is, by historical standards, not that old.  And as esteemed economists Don Boudreaux and Robert Higgs suggest, blind acceptance of its desirability is, at a minimum, misplaced.  Here's a portion of Higgs's blog post last week at The Independent Institute:
More and more people answered the question, “What are you?” by saying “I am a Frenchmen,” or a German, or an American, or whatever. State rulers, of course, actively strove to encourage such mass identification because it rendered the masses easier to exploit, plunder, and command. The culmination came in the world wars, when scores of millions submitted to kill and to die in the service of nationalism.
Higgs's article is pretty short, but very blunt and direct.  You may not agree with what he has to say, but it will definitley make you think.  In this excerpt from a post at his blog, Cafe Hayek, Boudreaux comes at the topic from a different angle.  He's responding to a new book that apparently argues against migration (and, thus, immigration) because of its,  according to the author, negative impact on the host nation.  It's the deification of the concept "nation" that Boudreaux is attacking when he says:
It is a perfect testament to the evil fueled by nationalism – to the evil powered by anthropomorphizing collectives – to the evil born of the mental practice of aggregating thousands or millions of individuals into one lump, calling the imaginary lump a “nation,” and then cavalierly assuming that that lump has moral standing on par with – nay, superior to – that of flesh-and-blood men and women and children.
I have tremendous respect for both of these scholars and to read their comments on this topic has definitely prompted me to think more deeply about it.  Read both for yourself and see if you agree.