Saturday, 22 September 2018

QotD: “Hold fast to the spirit of youth: 'To hold an unchanging youth is to reach, at the end, the vision with which one started'.”


"A widespread cultural attitude treats idealism as a youthful phase and cynicism as a sign of maturity. Adolescents and teenagers might get away with hero-worship and a keen desire for clear answers to life’s big questions. But mature adults are expected to accept that the real world won’t accommodate such foolish dreams — that their heroes have serious flaws, that certainty is an illusion, and that moral compromise is the key to getting along in a world full of corruption and cowardice... 
    "[Ayn] Rand identified the 'spirit of youth' as 'a sense of enormous expectation, the sense that one’s life is important, that great achievements are within one’s capacity, and that great things lie ahead.' Most people can recall such feelings, but relatively few retain them through adulthood or identify their source in conceptual terms... 
    "Rand’s concept of the spirit of youth, Bayer observes, has three hallmarks: idealism, independence, and goodwill ... For Rand, the essence of idealism is 'taking ideas seriously.” This means a conviction that ideas matter, which means that 'knowledge matters, that truth matters, that one’s mind matters ... [that] youthful ideals do not need to be abandoned, that man’s youthful state is his natural and proper state... 
    “To hold an unchanging youth is to reach, at the end, the vision with which one started.” 
        ~ Ben Bayer, from his post 'Hold Fast to the Spirit of Youth'
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Friday, 21 September 2018

Bonus QotD: "Taxes are weapons used by the authorities and all authority comes from the barrel of a gun"


"One of the most heinous things about taxes is that they support the very 'organs of government' (to quote a Soviet-era term) that crush the people even further. The taxes are weapons used by the authorities, and all authority comes from the barrel of a gun (to paraphrase Mao). The taxes are used to corral in the masses and keep them upon a continuous treadmill that sustains the system ... the very system that exploits and enslaves the citizens." 
        ~ Jeremiah Johnson from his post 'Taxing & Tracking the Independent Media'
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QotD: "No one has a claim on your life. The moment someone waves his pain or need or failures or misfortune around, proclaiming that these entitle him to your values, he removes himself from any moral consideration."


"To win your moral independence, you must uphold every individual’s moral right to exist—beginning with your own. You have the right to exist, a moral right to your own life and to trying to achieve happiness within its days and years.
    "No one has a moral right to demand that you gain his permission to exist by slavishly ministering to his needs and protecting him from his own shortcomings. 

        ~ Onkar Ghate, from his post 'America Needs a Second Revolution to Save Its First'.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

QotD: "This, in a nutshell, is the precise formulation of the New Parasitism, which his followers and allies are now trying to impose by force on Western civilisation. Marx sought to appeal to the proletariat by proclaiming 'Who does not toil shall not eat.' Marcuse seeks to appeal to the Lumpenproletariat, to the bums, to those who eat without toiling."


"Without any knowledge of or concern for its sources, basis or validity, many people have accepted [Herbert] Marcuse's notion of guaranteeing everyone's 'basic needs.' This notion is shared today by most 'liberals' and by many 'conservatives.' It motivates the proposals for a guaranteed annual income and for a 'negative income tax.'  
  "What is Marcuse's ethical justification of that notion? It is expressed completely in one terse statement in [his book] 'One Dimensional Man': 'The only needs that have an unqualified claim for satisfaction are the vital ones -- nourishment, clothing, lodging at the attainable level of culture.'    "This, in a nutshell and in Marcuse's own words, is the precise formulation of the New Parasitism. This is the base of his political philosophy , which his followers and allies are now trying to impose by force on Western civilisation. [Marx sought to appeal to the proletariat by proclaiming 'Who does not toil shall not eat.' Marcuse seeks to appeal to the Lumpenproletariat, (whom Marx despised) to the bums, to those who eat without toiling.] 
    "Notice first that Marcuse says that man's vital needs have an unqualified claim to satisfaction. This means that there is some corresponding obligation on someone to satisfy them and that there can be no questioning or limitation of either the claim or the obligation. To whom could such a bill be presented? Obviously not to nature, because Marcuse acknowledges that nature does not automatically satisfy man's needs. The answer therefore is: to 'society.' But society consists only of individuals. And what Marcuse does not acknowledge is the fact that there are two kinds of individuals: those who are able and willing to provide for their own vital needs, and those who are not. Obviously the first kind is not going to present any 'unqualified claims' to 'society.' It is only the second kind who will -- and to say that they will present them to 'society' means only that they will present them to the first kind of individuals. 
    "Marcuse's principle means that those who are able and willing to provide for their own vital needs are morally obligated to provide for those who are not." 
        ~ philosopher George Walsh, from his 1970 article 'Herbert Marcuse, Philosopher of the New Left'


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Wednesday, 19 September 2018

QotD: "Any alleged 'right' of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right. No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as 'the right to enslave'.”


"If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor. Any alleged 'right' of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right. No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as 'the right to enslave'.”
        ~ Ayn Rand, from her essay on 'Man's Rights'
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Tuesday, 18 September 2018

QotD: "If what you advocate for is something other than the sovereignty of the individual then what you advocate for inevitably becomes the sovereignty of some individuals over others. You cannot escape this fact."


"If what you advocate for [in politics] is something other than the sovereignty of the individual then what you advocate for inevitably becomes the sovereignty of some individuals over others. You cannot escape this fact."
    ~ Michael Wharton
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Monday, 17 September 2018

QotD: "Calling a product or service a human right doesn't magically render it immune to scarcity."



"Calling a product or service a human right doesn't magically render it immune to scarcity." 
           ~ Twitter meme, hat tip Sally Mayweather

RELATED READING:


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Friday, 14 September 2018

QotD: "Psychologising consists in condemning or excusing specific individuals on the grounds of their psychological problems, real or invented, in the absence of or contrary to factual evidence."


"Psychologising consists in condemning or excusing specific individuals on the grounds of their psychological problems, real or invented, in the absence of or contrary to factual evidence. 
    "Armed with a smattering, not of knowledge, but of undigested slogans, they rush, unsolicited, to diagnose the problems of their friends and acquaintances. Pretentiousness and presumptuousness are the psychologiser’s invariable characteristics: he not merely invades the privacy of his victims’ minds, he claims to understand their minds better than they do, to know more than they do about their own motives. With reckless irresponsibility, which an old-fashioned mystic oracle would hesitate to match, he ascribes to his victims any motivation that suits his purpose, ignoring their denials. Since he is dealing with the great 'unknowable'—which used to be life after death or extrasensory perception, but is now man’s subconscious—all rules of evidence, logic and proof are suspended, and anything goes (which is what attracts him to his racket)."    
        ~ Ayn Rand, from her essay ‘The Psychology of ‘Psychologising''

[Hat tip Kuo's Gulch]

Thursday, 13 September 2018

QotD: "To preserve one’s mind intact through a modern uni education is a test of courage and endurance, but the battle is worth it and the stakes are the highest possible to man: the survival of reason. The time is not wasted, if one knows how to use it wisely"


 "To preserve one’s mind intact through a modern [university] education is a test of courage and endurance, but the battle is worth it and the stakes are the highest possible to man: the survival of reason. The time spent in [university] is not wasted, if one knows how to use the comprachicos against themselves: one learns in reverse—by subjecting their theories to the most rigorously critical examination and discovering what is false and why, what is true, what are the answers...  
      "If, in the chaos of your motives, some element is a genuine desire to crusade in a righteous cause and take part in a heroic battle, direct it against the proper enemy. Yes, the world is in a terrible state—but what caused it’? Capitalism? Where do you see it, except for some battered remnants that still manage to keep us all alive? Yes, today’s 'Establishment' is a rotted structure of mindless, hypocrisy but who and what is the 'Establishment'? Who directs it? Not the big businessmen, who mouth the same collectivist slogans as your professors and pour out millions of dollars to support them. Not the so-called 'conservatives,' who compete with your professors in attacking reason and in spreading the same collectivist-altruist-mystic notions. Not the politicians, who are the eager dummies of your professorial ventriloquists. Not the communications media, who publicise your cause, praise your ideals and preach your professors’ doctrines.  
        "It is ideas that determine the actions of all those people, and it is the Educational Establishment that determines the ideas of a nation. It is your professors’ ideas that have ruled the world for the past fifty years or longer, with a growing spread of devastation, not improvement—and today, in default of opposition, these ideas are destroying the world, as they destroyed your mind and self-esteem.  
        "You are miserably helpless and want to rebel? Then rebel against the ideas of your teachers. You will never find a harder, nobler or more heroic form of rebellion. You have nothing to lose but your anxiety. You have your mind to win." 
    ~ Ayn Rand, from her searing evisceration of modern mis-education: 'The Comprachicos'
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Wednesday, 12 September 2018

QotD: "When you take the free will out of education, then you call it schooling..."


"When you take the free will out of education, then you call it schooling...
    "By preventing a free market in education, a handful of social engineers - backed by the industries that profit from compulsory schooling: teacher colleges, textbook publishers, materials suppliers, et al. - have ensured that most of our children will not have an education, even though they may be thoroughly schooled."

    ~ John Taylor Gatto, (retired) award-winning teacher and author of Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, from his article on 'The 7-Lesson Schoolteacher'.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

QotD: "The fifth lesson I teach is intellectual dependency: only I, the teacher, can determine what you must study, or rather, only the people who pay me can make those decisions which I then enforce, punishing deviants who resist what I have been told to tell them to think."


"The fifth lesson I teach is intellectual dependency: Good [students] wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. It is the most important lesson [I teach]: that we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. The expert makes all the important choices; only I, the teacher, can determine what you must study, or rather, only the people who pay me can make those decisions which I then enforce ... punishing deviants who resist what I have been told to tell them to think. This power to control what children will think lets me separate successful students from failures very easily... 
    "Of the millions of things of value to study, I decide what few we have time for, or actually it is decided by my faceless employers. The choices are theirs, why should I argue? Curiosity has no important place in my work, only conformity.... Fortunately there are procedures to break the will of those who resist; it is more difficult, naturally, if the kid has respectable parents who come to his aid, but that happens less and less in spite of the bad reputation of schools. No middle-class parents I have ever met actually believe that their kid's school is one of the bad ones. Not one single parent in twenty-six years of teaching. That's amazing and probably the best testimony to what happens to families when mother and father have been well-schooled themselves, learning these seven lessons... 
    "We've built a way of life that depends on people doing what they are told because they don't know how to tell themselves what to do. It's one of the biggest lessons I teach." 
    ~ John Taylor Gatto, (retired) award-winning teacher and author of Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, from his article on 'The 7-Lesson Schoolteacher'.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Bonus QotD: “It is not enough for the teacher to love the child. She must first love and understand the universe. She must prepare herself, and truly work at it.”


“It is not enough for the teacher to love the child. She must first love and understand the universe. She must prepare herself, and truly work at it.” 
          ~ Dr Maria Montessori, from her 1949 book The Absorbent Mind 
[Hat tip the Maria Montessori Education Foundation (NZ)]
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QotD: Keeping your capital: not as easy as falling off a log


"The idea that capital is a permanent asset, which provides its lucky owners with a continuing stream of effortless benefits – like apples falling off a tree – is also mistaken. In fact, capital takes time, money and effort to preserve. It must be maintained and protected. And to keep its value in a changing and competitive world, it must be applied with constant diligence and focus." 
        ~ Eamonn Butler, from his excellent new book Capitalism: An Introduction
[Hat tip Cafe Hayek]
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Friday, 7 September 2018

QotD: "All of these companies provide tons of free services. I’ve never paid a dime to Google, Facebook, or Twitter. Even Amazon hands out tons of freebies. Given all this, you might expect these giants of the internet age to be popular, admired, even loved. Instead, they’re drowning in resentment."


"[These] IT giants are household names. They haven’t just transformed their own industries; they’ve transformed life itself. When I crave knowledge, I Google. When I seek consumer products, I Amazon. When I socialise, I Facebook. When I market my ideas, I Twitter. Hundreds of millions of customers around the world can say the same. If you’d described my future back in 1993, I would have laughed at your optimism… and I’m a confirmed optimist! 
    "What would have seemed most absurd to me back in 1993, however, is that all of these companies provide tons of free services. I’ve never paid a dime to Google, Facebook, or Twitter. Even Amazon hands out tons of freebies...    "Given all this, you might expect these giants of the internet age to be popular, admired, even loved. Instead, they’re drowning in resentment. How often does a pundit or politician give a speech thanking them for their astounding work? Virtually never. Instead, we live in a world where pundits bemoan the marketleadersalleged failures – and politicians casually threaten to regulate them – or even treat them like public utilities.  
  "You could remind me that, 'Actions speak louder than words.' People who contently use Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon far outnumber the complainers. This is a fine observation – if you want expose the pettiness and myopia of the critics. 'If company X is so bad, why do they have hundreds of millions of repeat customers?' is not a decisive response to complaints, but it is a mighty response nonetheless.    "So who cares what the naysayers say? Sadly, every satisfied customer of these great companies should care, because in politics, words speak louder than actions. Pundits and politicians seek fame and power by saying and doing what sounds good, even when the consequences are awful." 
~ Bryan Caplan, from his post 'A World of Ingratitude'
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Wednesday, 5 September 2018

QotD: "The concept that one could trust a gentleman in business to act in accordance with his unsubstantiated word now seems impressively historic, quant and pitifully naive."


"The spirit of [this] early period I have characterised as 'realistic idealism between gentlemen in business' [the relationship resting upon trust, and the capacity to be trusted] ...     "The concept that one could trust a gentleman in business to act in accordance with his unsubstantiated word now seems impressively historic, quant and pitifully naive. A parallel collapse in the confident assumption that one can trust a chartered accountant to protect their clients' interests and money, or a solicitor to recommend that a client behave in accordance with common decency and natural justice, leads me to a profound unease when considering the future of our social polity." 
    ~ musician Robert Fripp, in the liner notes to his band's 1997 Epitaph.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

QotD: "Few contemporary theorists grasp that people oppose censorship not because they respect the words of the speaker but because they fear the power of the censor."


"Few contemporary theorists grasp that people oppose censorship not because they respect the words of the speaker but because they fear the power of the censor. It is astonishing that professed liberals, of all people, could have torn up the old limits, when they couldn’t answer the obvious next question: who decides what is offensive?"
~ Nick Cohen, from his article 'Political Correctness is Devouring Itself
[Hat tip Stephen Hicks]
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Monday, 3 September 2018

QotD: "Congratulating Marx on being right boggles the mind. Marx could be right only if one’s standard of right was human misery and death."


Today's long quote comes from George Reisman's new short book on the presently fashionable support for the murderous doctrine of socialism -- and why, unless supporters' aim is misery and death, they are so grievously mistaken in that support:
"On April 30 of this year [2018], The New York Times ran an op-ed piece titled “Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!” In view of the fact that the implementation of Marx’s philosophy in the Soviet Union and in Communist China resulted in general economic chaos, including shortages, rationing, interminable waiting lines (14 hours a week just to buy food), and multiple families having to live in the same apartment, plus forced labour, concentration camps, show trials and periodic purges to shift the blame for it all, a reign of terror, famines, and as many as 62 million murders in the Soviet Union and 76 million in Communist China (including those killed by the government-caused famines)—in view of all this, congratulating Marx on being right boggles the mind. Marx could be right only if one’s standard of right was human misery and death. Only someone utterly depraved could make such a statement. Only an utterly depraved, despicable newspaper could endorse such a statement, and the feather-weight rationalisations offered in support of it, by printing the piece. 
    "In every essential respect, the philosophy of Marxism/Socialism is a philosophy designed for sociopaths—for people who attempt to appear merely as seeking to do good, by posturing as friends of the poor and of humanity at large, but who have no respect for the individual rights of others, who have no awareness that others have independent minds and think and plan on their own initiative, who denounce such thinking and planning as 'anarchy' (an 'anarchy of production') and try to squelch it, who regard others as mere objects to be willingly or unwillingly manipulated in the achievement of the Marxists’/Socialists’ grand plans for the human race, and whose response to the suffering and deaths of millions is along the lines of 'to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.' 
    "Marxism/Socialism is a philosophy for the depraved, for those of a warped intellectual and moral capacity and thus capable of appearing now as morons and now as murderers. It is a philosophy designed for a special breed of such vermin: for those who, despite often thinking at the level of morons, nevertheless believe that they are more intelligent than other people, so much more intelligent in fact, that they know better how to run other people’s lives than those other people themselves do and are entitled to use force to impose their will on them. Marxism/Socialism is the philosophy of a breed of mental cases whose ignorance is exceeded only by its arrogance and viciousness...

    "Marxism/Socialism is a philosophy conceived in gross error and ignorance about the nature of capitalism, above all about the nature of the relationship between capitalists, profits, and wages. Socialism is little more than a violent rejection of capitalism, based on this combination of errors and ignorance, and which, once having managed to destroy capitalism, results in economic chaos, enslavement, terror, and mass murder. Socialism and its consequences can be likened to the assault of a barbarian tribe become enraged at the relative prosperity of a civilised land. After destroying the fields, the livestock, the roads, and the aqueducts of the civilised land, it finds itself with nothing but a few remaining scraps over which its members kill one another. That is the essential situation of today’s socialist barbarians, inspired by Marx to hate capitalists and the civilisation that they have built...

    "What the socialist barbarians destroy is private ownership of the means of production, the profit motive, private saving and capital accumulation, competition, and the price system. In destroying them, these barbarians have no idea that in doing so they are destroying the foundations of material civilisation, in which they have shared and could continue to share."
~ George Reisman, from his new short book Marxism/Socialism, A Sociopathic Philosophy Conceived in Gross Error and Ignorance, Culminating in Economic Chaos, Enslavement, Terror, And Mass Murder: A Contribution to Its Death
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Sunday, 2 September 2018

QotD: "If people define political correctness as being civil and being polite, then I’m on that side. But I don’t really think that’s what political correctness is. I think political correctness is the restraint on inquiry."


"I agree with civility. If people define political correctness as being civil and being polite, then I’m on that side. I’m on the side of not being aggressively provocative and overly polemical with one’s perceived political opponents. But I don’t really think that’s what political correctness is. I think political correctness is the restraint on inquiry...
    "The norms where expressing a racial epithet and using race to insult someone—there should be a taboo against that. But I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about political correctness. We’re talking about the tool that’s used to stop people from having independent thought..."
~ founder and editor of Quillette, Claire Lehmann, in conversation with Tyler Cowen [read transcript or listen the the conversation here]
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Saturday, 1 September 2018

QotD: “If passions are things found fully formed, and your job is to look around the world for your passion—it’s a crazy thought."


“If passions are things found fully formed, and your job is to look around the world for your passion—it’s a crazy thought,” says Greg Walton of Stanford University. “It doesn’t reflect the way I or my students experience school, where you go to a class and have a lecture or a conversation, and you think, That’s interesting. It’s through a process of investment and development that you develop an abiding passion in a field.”
~ from Olga Khazan's article 'Find Your Passion’ Is Awful Advice'
[Hat tip Maria Montessori Education Foundation]

Friday, 31 August 2018

QotD: "Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalisation."



"Asked to explain Yugoslavia’s spectacular breakup, Vasić quipped: 'You must imagine a United States with every little TV station everywhere taking exactly the same editorial line — a line dictated by David Duke. You too would have war in five years.' ....    "For their part, refugees have tried to sound the alarm for some time. Along with [Bosnian-American novelist Aleksandar] Hemon, Masha Gessen implored Americans to 'Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalisation'.”
~ Jasmin Mujanović, from his excellent article 'The Refugee as Cassandra in the Shining City'
[Hat tip Lucia Maria]
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Thursday, 30 August 2018

QotD: "Even a single taboo can have an all-round crippling effect upon the mind, because there is always the danger that any thought which is freely followed up may lead to the forbidden thought."


"Even a single taboo can have an all-round crippling effect upon the mind, because there is always the danger that any thought which is freely followed up may lead to the forbidden thought. It follows that the atmosphere of totalitarianism [when fears, hatreds and loyalties of a directly political kind are always near to the surface of everyone's consciousness] is deadly to any kind of prose writer." 
~ George Orwell
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Wednesday, 29 August 2018

QotD: "The welfare state is the greatest confidence racket of all time. The government takes your money in taxes and then turns around and spends some of it to give you things. For this, you feel dependent on them, when in fact they are dependent on you."


"The welfare state is the greatest confidence racket of all time. The government takes your money in taxes and then turns around and spends some of it to give you things. For this, you feel dependent on them, when in fact they are dependent on you." 
~ Thomas Sowell
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Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Is Nationalism the Friend or Foe of Liberty?





The question is, is Nationalism the friend or foe of liberty? In this guest post, Jeffrey Tucker argues that a nationalism that presents itself as a friend of liberty is one that must wilfully ignore the most bitter lessons of the last century, while eschewing the greatest lesson of all: that the only true guarantor of liberty is liberty itself.



Is Nationalism the Friend or Foe of Liberty?
Guest post by Jeffrey Tucker

Israeli scholar Yoram Hazony is hitting the opinion pages (excerpts from his new book) with a provocative thesis: that nationalism is not a threat to liberty but rather a guarantor of it. His argument is about stability under democracy. It requires mutual trust, fellow feeling, cultural cohesion, a sense that the other could be you because you share similar values, he argues. “Nationalism was the engine that established modern political liberty,” he claims, and now we need nationalism to maintain the kind of political stability that undergirds freedom itself.

This is near impossible in what he calls “multinational states,” by which he means a geographic territory too mixed up in terms of language, religious allegiance, and culture. He cites unsustainable states like Iraq, Syria, and Yugoslavia. Such mixing has worked, more or less, in the US because “the original American states shared the English language, Protestant religion and British legal traditions, and they had fought together in wartime.” New additions to the mix (Catholics, Jews, and former slaves) were acculturated only due to pre-existing cultural dominance.

He further argues that the national consensus in the US no longer exists, due to high rates of immigration. This has shattered mutual loyalty, he maintains, so as regards America as an experiment in multinational diversity: “It’s not clear that the U.S. is succeeding at this task.”

Good and Bad Nationalism?

You might be thinking you have heard this line before. You have seen the memes from the far right, read the tweets, bumped into the fanatics at rallies. Such sentiments have been credited with getting the current president elected.

But Hazony is careful to distance himself from such movements.
Every nationalist movement contains haters and bigots (though not necessarily more of them than are found in universalist political and religious movements). But nationalism’s vices are outweighed by its considerable virtues. A world in which independent nations are permitted to compete freely with one another is a world in which diverse ways of life can flourish, each an experiment in how human beings should live. We have good reason to believe that such a world holds out the best prospects for freedom, for innovation and advancement, and for tolerance.
If you had never read an argument for nationalism that is calm, reasoned, and rooted in history, you might find his point persuasive. Many liberals (and pre-libertarians) a century ago certainly did so. [But they didn't yet have the evidence before them of a century of bloody nationalism as evidence against the thesis - Ed.]

Back then, the pressing issue, on which the fate of civilisation rested, was the following: what should be the standard for the drawing of borders after the chaos of Great War? It was a war for democracy, they said but it was the death knell for the old multinational monarchies of Europe.

Political loyalty in the old world was based on dynasty, intermarriage of rulers, deal making, and religious control. In the new world, there is no question that democracy would be the watchword. The nobility would no longer rule; the people would be in charge. A unity global democracy is impossible. There must be states and there must be borders, so what constitutes the basis for nationhood?

Liberalism had a number of answers to the problem and most came down to precisely the terms that Hazony presents here. States should be organized along the lines of fellow feeling, mutual trust, and citizen identity in whatever form.

Liberal Nationalism?

Ludwig von Mises, writing in 1919, was at that immediate post-war stage highly sympathetic to the nationalist project. What’s a nation? Mises rejected the then-fashionable trope of carving up the human population by race on grounds that the supposed science of the project was “a thicket of error, fantasy, and mysticism.” Instead, he wanted to define a nation specifically according to one overriding standard: language. Polyglot nations are unsustainable. Experience in educational institutions alone shows this. Attempting to fund and run schools with multiple language groups feeds resentment and hate. It’s true for all public institutions. The only real answer is separation, that is, universal secession by smaller groups against larger groups. If national feeling feeds this, it is a friend of liberty.

What is the liberal attitude toward nationalism, in Mises’s view? The true liberal rejects dynastic control of lands because it “rejects the princes’ greed for lands and chaffering in lands.” Further, it embraces the right of a people to determine their own fate: self-determination, in the phrase of the time. However, Mises clarified that there is nothing inconsistent between love of nation and love of universal well being. Liberal nationalism is always directed against the tyrant. It always seeks peace between peoples: “The desire for national unity, too, is above all thoroughly peaceful.”

Now, keep in mind the year he was writing. It was 1919, before the rise of fascist ideology in Europe. The idea of forming states on the "national principle" alone was entirely new, and Mises saw it as the only real path to preventing a new world war from being borne out of allied imperialism and postwar German resentment. His vision was to let bygones be bygones, let people alone, permit any group or any part of a group to form its own nation (even down to the individual level, if that were possible), and move toward a world of free trade, free migration, and universal limits on power.

Mises’s Mind Changed

The Misesian path was not the one followed, obviously. Mises’s 1927 book on liberalism drops the endorsement of nationalism but retains the longing for self-determination. After the Second World War, following his migration to the US as a refugee, having spent six years being sheltered in Geneva, he was given the chance to revisit the question of nationalism. His new outlook appeared in 1944, in his book Omnipotent Government. Having witnessed at first hand the results of the nationalist experiment, Mises had completely changed his mind.

This book goes to great lengths to walk back his theory from 1919. In a world of statism, he recognises, nationalism is a philosophy of aggression. Whether based in religion, racism, or territorial expansionism, nationalism is a threat to liberty itself and the project of human cooperation. It leads to migration barriers, trade protectionism, violence against non-nationals, and finally war. He no longer believed that nationalism could be a friend of liberty. The reverse is true: “nationalism within our world of international division of labour is the inevitable outcome of etatism.”

What had made the difference? Life experience, for one. He watched his beloved Vienna be invaded by German armies. He saw the universities purged of intellectuals, particular those deemed Jewish and liberal. He saw Europe enveloped in despotism, war, and mass death, in the name of territorial expansion and domination by the master race. He watched with horror as the nationalist principle, the one he imagined might be a source of peace, become the basis of the bloodiest nightmare.

What mistake had he made? As he put it, his nationalist idea was rooted in an underlying philosophical presumption of liberalism, that is, models of public administration that do not interfere in people’s lives and property, do not seek war, do not restrict trade and migration, do not attempt to control racial and language demographics, and do not manipulate people’s desire for belongingness to shore up the power and status of a “great” leader. In other words, the real answer is liberty; nationalism not only contributes nothing to the cause but is easily weaponised by any state that expands beyond its proper role.

Renan’s Deconstruction

Having witnessed the horrors of what nationalism wrought in his home and throughout Europe, Mises sought out some theoretical basis for his new realisation. He found it in a 1882 writing by the French historian Ernst Renan: What Is a Nation? Mises was right: if another essay has done as good a job in dealing with the issue, I’m unaware of it. Renan wrote it while the age of monarchy was coming to a close, as the rise of democracy was occurring everywhere, but still before the Great War unleashed such territorial confusion. Ideologies like socialism, imperialism, and “scientific” racism were vying to replace old-world understandings of political community.

Renan observes that people frequently throw around the word nationalism without unpacking what precisely it means. He delineates five conventional theories of nationhood from history and practice:

1. Dynasty. This view believes that ruling-class lineage forms the foundation of nationhood. It’s about a history of initial conquest by one family or tribe over one people, its struggle to gain and maintain power and legitimacy, its marriages, wars, treaties, and alliances, along with a heroic legend. This is a solid description of European experience in feudal times, but it is not necessary for nationhood.
    The dynastic sense of what nationhood is has largely evaporated in the 20th century, and yet nationhood is still with us. Renan saw that the dynastic view of the nation is not a permanent feature of the concept but only incidental to a time and place, and wholly replaceable. “A nation can exist without a dynastic principle,” writes Renan, “and even those nations which have been formed by dynasties can be separated from them without therefore ceasing to exist.”
2. Religion. The belief that a nation needs to practice a single faith has been the basis of wars and killings since the beginning of recorded history. It seemed like nationhood couldn’t exist without it, which is why the Schism of the 11th century and the Reformation of the 16th century led to such conflict.
Then emerged a beautiful idea: let people believe what they want to believe, so long as they are not hurting anyone. The idea was tried and it worked, and thus was born the idea of religious liberty that finally severed the idea of national belongingness from religious identity. Even as late as the 19th century, American political interests claimed that the US could not be a nation while accepting Catholic, Jewish, and Buddhist immigration. Today we see these claims for what they are, politically illicit longings for conquest over the right of conscience.
In addition, what might appear at first to be a single religion actually has radically different expressions. Pennsylvania Amish and Texas Baptists share the same religious designation but have vastly different praxis, and the same is true of Irish vs. Vietnamese vs. Guatemalan versions of Catholicism. This is also true of every other religious faith, including Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism. 
3. Race. In the second half of the 19th century, there arose the new science of race, which purported to explain the evolution of all human societies through a deterministic reduction to biological characteristics. It was concluded that only race is firm and fixed and the basis of belongingness. Renan grants that in the most primitive societies, race is a large factor. But then comes other more developed aspects of the human experience: language, religion, art, music, and commercial engagement that break down racial divisions and create a new basis for community. Focussing on race alone is a revanchist longing in any civilised society.
    There is also a scientific problem too complex for simple resolution: no political community on earth can claim to be defined solely by racial identity because there is no pure race (Mises says exactly the same thing). This is why politics can never be reduced to ethnographic identity as a first principle. Racial ideology also trends toward the politics of violence: “No one has the right to go through the world fingering people's skulls, and taking them by the throat saying: 'You are of our blood; you belong to us!'” 
4. Language. As with the other claims of what constitutes nationality, the claim of language unity has a superficial plausibility. Polyglot communities living under a unity state face constant struggles over schooling, official business, and other issues of speech. They have the feeling of being two or several nations, thus tempting people to believe that language itself is the basis of nationhood. But this actually makes little sense: the US, New Zealand, and the UK are not a single nation because they hold the same language in common. Latin America and Spain, Portugal and Brazil, share the same language but not the same nation.
    There is also the issue that not even a single language is actually unified: infinite varieties of expression and dialect can cause ongoing confusion. How much, really, does the language of an urban native of New Jersey have to do with expressions used in rural Mississippi? “Language invites people to unite,” writes Renan, “but it does not force them to do so.” There is nothing mystically unifying about speaking the same language; language facilitates communication but does not forge a nation. Mises too embraces this view, thus reversing his position from 1919. 
5. Geography. Natural boundaries are another case of nation-making in the past which, as with all these other principles, actually has little to do with permanent features of what really makes a nation. Rivers and mountains can be convenient ways to draw borders but they do not permanently shape political communities. Geography can be easily overcome. It is malleable, as American history shows. The existence of geographically non-contiguous nations further refutes the notion.
    Americans speak of “sea to shining sea,” but how does that make sense of Alaska and Hawaii? Also in the US, enclaves of past national loyalty are a feature of city life: little Brazil, Chinatown, little Havana, and so on. Even further, to try to force unity based on geography alone is very dangerous. “I know of no doctrine which is more arbitrary or more fatal,” writes Renan, “for it allows one to justify any or every violence.”
All the above have some plausible claim to explaining national attachment, but none hold up under close scrutiny. In Renan’s view, nationhood is a spiritual principle, a reflection of the affections we feel toward some kind of political community – its ideals, its past, its achievements, and its future. Where your heart is, there is your nation, as Albert Jay Nock said. This is why so many of us, even outside the U.S. can still feel genuine feelings of joy and even belongingness during July 4th celebrations. We are celebrating something in common: a feeling we have that we share with others, regardless of religion, race, language, geography, and even ideology.

Renan: “Man is a slave neither of his race nor his language, nor of his religion, nor of the course of rivers nor of the direction taken by mountain chains. A large aggregate of men, healthy in mind and warm of heart, creates the kind of moral conscience which we call a nation.”

Mises was clearly taken with this view, and hence his change of heart and mind.

Orwell on Nationalism

Around the same time, the always-remarkable George Orwell presented his own Notes on Nationalism in 1945. It’s not as careful an essay as Renan’s but consider the context: fury and disgust at the rise of Nazism, nationalism, communism in Russia, and a ghastly war that wrecked so much of the world. Orwell had had it up to here with collectivism of all sorts.

His essay is in three parts. He first defines it: “the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad.’” Secondly, “the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests.”

Notice that Orwell’s definition is not rooted in the territorial issue. His nationalism is more ideological. It’s the habitual and uncritical celebration of some group-based cause that one believes is specially blessed to solve all the world’s problems. In this sense, the typical Communist is a nationalist, looking the world over for revolutionary movements to cheer on, such as the political pilgrims who look at a place like Cuba and Venezuela and find not tyranny but emancipation. He even finds nationalism in the works of G.K. Chesterton who celebrated a “little England” but found virtue in expanding imperialism so long as it took on the Catholic brand (Orwell was especially disgusted at Chesterton’s defence of Mussolini).

Second, Orwell identified three nationalistic habits of mind:
First, obsession: “No nationalist ever thinks, talks, or writes about anything except the superiority of his own power unit. It is difficult if not impossible for any nationalist to conceal his allegiance. The smallest slur upon his own unit, or any implied praise of a rival organisation, fills him with uneasiness which he can relieve only by making some sharp retort.”
Second, instability. “The intensity with which they are held does not prevent nationalist loyalties from being transferable.” It’s a tribalist mindset and it can easily migrate. Thus were so many fascists recruited from the ranks of communists, and so many champions of the Pan-Germanism that bred Nazism came from the upper-class ranks of British society. In his view, nationalism is inherently unprincipled in this way.
Third, indifference to reality. “All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts…. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.”
He elaborates this prescient point that pervades the left and right today.

Although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge, the nationalist is often somewhat uninterested in what happens in the real world. What he wants is to feel that his own unit is getting the better of some other unit, and he can more easily do this by scoring off an adversary than by examining the facts to see whether they support him. All nationalist controversy is at the debating-society level. It is always entirely inconclusive, since each contestant invariably believes himself to have won the victory. Some nationalists are not far from schizophrenia, living quite happily amid dreams of power and conquest which have no connection with the physical world.

Orwell discusses other manifestations of this mentality, such as forms of identity politics. All salvation comes from the white rice; all virtue is in the non-white races. All glory or evil resides in the Jewish people. Greatness/evil extends from one country. And we could go on with every list in the Identitarianism of our time: misogyny/feminism, disabled/abled, Christian/Islam, rich/poor, and so on.

The nationalist is forever counterposing diverse societies with homogenous ones, as if the latter thing even exists. The word homogeneity should not even apply in any literal sense to any two members of the human family. No two people are the same; even twins have minds of their own. The chase for a homogenous population will always and everywhere result in forcing people into a group not of their choosing.

Orwell writes: “The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality."

What’s most interesting about Orwell’s essay is that he takes a broadened view of the nationality question, to the point that it is no longer about territorial politics alone and instead touches on the psychological impact of political rule itself. (Sigmund Freud has long ago identified this as a pathology in his overlooked Group Psychology book.)

In this case, his analysis of nationalism applies not only to Nazism, not only to Communism, not only to Catholicism or any other religious or Identitarian movement you can name. It could, conceivably apply, for example to libertarianism itself. No one, no movement, is immune from the virus. Reflect on that point to perhaps explain a lot that has happened to the “liberty movement” over the last ten years.

Back to Hazony

Our Israeli professor friend Yoram Hazony is not unaware of Orwell’s writings, and addresses them directly. Still, he comes out on the other side, still arguing that nationalism is a friend of liberty. But what does he mean by liberty? He means democracy, stability, and high trust among society’s members such they that have warm affections for the national state and see it as an essential source for social order.

“The national state leverages these bonds of mutual loyalty,” he writes, “to get individuals to obey the laws, serve in the military and pay taxes, even when their own party or tribe is out of power and the government’s policies are not to their liking.”

This might be right – nationalism is certainly useful in manipulating people to intensify loyalties to the state – but is this necessarily the highest goal of society? Liberalism argued that the answer is no. The highest goal of society is realised not through loyalty to the state, but through freedom that leaves people alone in their person and property to find their own path to happiness.

A century ago, Hazony’s views might have been plausible. No more. Ludwig von Mises learned this lesson between his earliest and later writings. He lived through the experiment in controlled nationalism, and discovered the truth that it cannot be controlled. In fact, it can unleash literal hell as a propaganda device to disguise gross injustice and evil.

A nationalism that presents itself as a friend of liberty is one that must wilfully ignore that most bitter lessons of the last century, while eschewing the greatest lesson of all: that the only true guarantor of liberty is liberty itself.

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Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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