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Notes and Comments on "The Virtue of Nationalism"

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1 hour ago, Grames said:

That the two ideas 'capitalism' and 'world government' should not go together will be covered in later chapters.  Please stay tuned. 

I don't think that "world government" is in any way, shape, or form a good idea. Diplomacy and foreign policy yes, but a global government establishment absolutely not. Just a bunch of unaccountable sociopaths wreaking havoc on other people's lives.

Also as far as Empire Building goes the only thing it's good for is to make a few people in power feel good about themselves by serving what they perceive to be their higher moral calling. The lives, wealth, and resources destroyed in this process are just the cost of doing business for these individuals.

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1 hour ago, Azrael Rand said:

I don't think that "world government" is in any way, shape, or form a good idea. Diplomacy and foreign policy yes, but a global government establishment absolutely not. Just a bunch of unaccountable sociopaths wreaking havoc on other people's lives.

What would "a bunch of 'unaccountable sociopaths'" have to do with a fully capitalist government? If and when a capitalist government starts to exist for the first time in human history in, say, the United States, why would it be a bad thing for it to spread throughout the whole world? This would be, far and away, the greatest achievement in the history of mankind.

Edited by EC

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1 hour ago, EC said:

What would "a bunch of 'unaccountable sociopaths'" have to do with a fully capitalist government? If and when a capitalist government starts to exist for the first time in human history in, say, the United States, why would it be a bad thing for it to spread throughout the whole world? This would be, far and away, the greatest achievement in the history of mankind.

If country A adopts a superior economic system to country B's system, then country B is free to adopt country A's system assuming that country B is a moderately free society to begin with. There is no need for the governments to merge in order to offer the citizens in country B a better system. The further government moves away from the people that it's supposed to serve the more unaccountable it tends to become. A good example is the EU & UN that is actively encouraging the destruction of Europe as we speak.

America's founding fathers understood this lesson: http://www.ohiohouse.gov/john-becker/press/the-founding-fathers-understood-the-importance-of-states-rights

Edited by Azrael Rand

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On 11/11/2018 at 7:05 PM, Grames said:

Nationalism is the principle that the world is governed best when nations are free to cultivate their own traditions and pursue their own interests without outside interference.  Opposed to that is the principle of Imperialism which holds that the world would be peaceful and prosperous if united under a single political structure.  Pros and cons of each will be considered in turn but note here these principles are contradictory.  One must choose to be one or the other. 

Why must one choose to be one or the other?

A political structure is fundamentally a structure of individuals choosing to apply their forces collectively.  If an unaffiliated individual must choose to be a nationalist or a globalist, then it appears to follow that all individuals are powerless to avoid being the member of whatever group applies the most force.

What does it mean to be a free nation of powerless individuals?

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6 hours ago, Devil's Advocate said:

Why must one choose to be one or the other?

A political structure is fundamentally a structure of individuals choosing to apply their forces collectively.  If an unaffiliated individual must choose to be a nationalist or a globalist, then it appears to follow that all individuals are powerless to avoid being the member of whatever group applies the most force.

What does it mean to be a free nation of powerless individuals?

As normative principles, nationalism and imperialism are contradictories.  However they are not jointly exhaustive of the possibilities as there is still anarchism.   An individual may not have chosen yet, but those are the only choices.  Either there are nations, or there are no nations because none have been formed, or there are no nations because they have been conquered.  Put in explicitly normative language:  Either there should be nations; or there should be no nations because none should be formed; or there should be no nations because all persons should be subsumed under the One True Government.

Also, I have to object to this part:  "A political structure is fundamentally a structure of individuals choosing to apply their forces collectively."   I don't hold that the entirety of politics is about force. i.e. philosophy of government.  In the philosophical hierarchy of metaphysics-epistemology-ethics-politics, politics ends up in the catch-all spot on the end.  Economics is technically a specialty of politics in this scheme.  (Aesthetics branches off at epistemology as its own collection of methods but can draw from anywhere for subject matter.)

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37 minutes ago, Grames said:

As normative principles, nationalism and imperialism are contradictories.  However they are not jointly exhaustive of the possibilities as there is still anarchism. 

Yeah, that's all we have... if we don't like nationalism or imperialism we're stuck with anarchism. If only some Russian woman would put her brain to thinking about other alternatives, lol!

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1 minute ago, softwareNerd said:

Yeah, that's all we have... if we don't like nationalism or imperialism we're stuck with anarchism. If only some Russian woman would put her brain to thinking about other alternatives, lol!

What alternative?  Name it please.

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1 hour ago, Grames said:

As normative principles, nationalism and imperialism are contradictories.  However they are not jointly exhaustive of the possibilities as there is still anarchism.   An individual may not have chosen yet, but those are the only choices.  Either there are nations, or there are no nations because none have been formed, or there are no nations because they have been conquered.  Put in explicitly normative language:  Either there should be nations; or there should be no nations because none should be formed; or there should be no nations because all persons should be subsumed under the One True Government.

Also, I have to object to this part:  "A political structure is fundamentally a structure of individuals choosing to apply their forces collectively."   I don't hold that the entirety of politics is about force. i.e. philosophy of government.  In the philosophical hierarchy of metaphysics-epistemology-ethics-politics, politics ends up in the catch-all spot on the end.  Economics is technically a specialty of politics in this scheme.  (Aesthetics branches off at epistemology as its own collection of methods but can draw from anywhere for subject matter.)

I've made an error in composing this because I'm still learning this new conceptual framework.  It is a fact that nations exist, that is not up to anyone to decide.  What is to be decided is whether or not governments should be organized around nations or at some other scale.

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52 minutes ago, Grames said:

What alternative?  Name it please.

A cosmopolitan state based on universal legal structure and shared values, and not on family, tribe, and clan? Does your taxonomy define that one out of existence? Or would you call this imperialist domination, no doubt? 

A problem with this analysis, not only in that it seems to package deal tribalism and decentralization on one hand and world-government and cosmopolitanism on the other hand, is that it seems to sap the meaning to the terms. Nationalism no longer means "my nation is the awesomest, and we should conquer those other ones with military force" because that would be an imperialist nationalism, which can't exist according to you. So that ("my nation is the awesomest...") would be a form of non-nationalism now, a the-exact-opposite-of-nationalism. Imperialism, which used to mean a country seeking military domination over another, now means a peaceful and liberal country extending its scope of commercial trade and free migration with another liberal country would be imperialistic centralization.

At what point does redefining already-existing terms into unrelated new terms become unhelpful? If the question is "should we have one world government or a multiplicity of different countries"? that seems one valid question, but to give those two positions the names "nationalism" and "imperialism" seems to package deal some already-existing meanings.

There are many nationalisms and imperialisms and they don't all fit nicely into your little boxes.  Perhaps I may suggest use the terms "multi-nationalism" and "supra-statism"? Or "global poly-governmentalism (GPG)" versus "global mono-governmentalism (EMG)"? We should seek to deconstruct package deals, not construct them, should we not? The same applies to things like "globalism" and and the immigration debate today, that help obscure rather than elucidate.

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Chapter III  The Protestant Construction of the West

The new political order constructed by the independent national states of England, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark was organized around two principles, both derived from the Old Testament.  

I The Moral Minimum Required for a Legitimate Government

Before a nation-state could be treated as a peer by other states and expect to have its sovereignty respected  it had moral constraints on the treatment of its citizens to meet.  At the time this moral minimum was: protection of the life liberty and property of the people, to provide justice in the courts, maintenance of observation of the sabbath, public recognition of the One God.  This particular moral minimum was essentially the Ten Precepts [Ten Commandments] which was common to all of the Catholic and Protestant factions at play.  

II The Right of National Self-Determination

Nations that were cohesive and strong enough to secure their political independence had the right to govern themselves under their own national constitutions and churches without interference from foreign powers. Within bounds set by the first principle it was not expected that all nations would become as one in their thoughts, laws, or way of life.

III The Two Principles in Harmony and Tension 

The principles were not new even at the time.  Catholic political theorists had long since derived the principle of the Moral Minimum from the Israelite kingdoms described the books of Samuel and Kings.  The second principle is lifted from Deuteronomy.  John Selden writes of them in On Natural Law and National Law (1640) that the principles work together.  The cohesiveness and strength needed for the second principle are created by the first principle.  A foreign power exerting rule would be less concerned with observing the moral minimum than the natives would be.

Thus some nation-states can be monarchies and others republics.  England had the Magna Carta implementing a separation of powers principle while France and Germany kept the law in the hands of the king.    The Dutch Republic offered a great degree of personal freedom of expression and became a haven for publishing, science and trade.  The differences between nation-states did not derive from some apriori doctrine enumerating a list of “universal rights” but up from the "ancient customs and privileges" of the English and Dutch nations.

The tension is that the Moral Minimum means that government cannot rightly dictate what it pleases.  The principle of National Freedom means that unique institutions, traditions, laws should not be oppressed for the sake of the unity of an empire or universal church.

IV The Result

A storm of dormant energies were released among the nations of Europe.  The contest between rival national perspectives went far beyond theological and political differences.  English empiricism was fueled by outrage over French Cartesian rationalism.  German idealism was to rescue thought from the catastrophe of English empiricism. In finance, industry, medicine, philosophy, music, science and art rival points of view, recognized at the time as being distinctly national in character, were proposed.

[ Immense progress in every field was thus made possible by the destruction of any central political or moral authority.]

The period was not a utopia.  The nation-states of Europe seemed to be constantly at war over territories and trade.  And while content to observe national independence and self-determination within Europe they went on imperialistic conquering sprees around the globe.  Nevertheless the new system contained within itself the strength to remediate its deficiency and the colonies obtained their independence.  

[ Hazony does not make the observation (but I will) that the Europeans were justified (in their own terms at least) in their colonial ambitions because of the first principle. In Africa, Mideast, India, China, North and South America, none of these places met the moral minimum. ]

 

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3 hours ago, Grames said:

Put in explicitly normative language:  Either there should be nations; or there should be no nations because none should be formed; or there should be no nations because all persons should be subsumed under the One True Government. 

There are groups in any case, e.g., nationalists, globalists, isolationists, imperialists, colonialists, collectivists, statistics, socialists, capitalists, etc, along with subsets of their opposition groups, e.g., anarchists, independents, dissidents, etc.  And the binding force, or benefit of membership, is the common belief that there is greater strength (force) in unity than going it alone.  Force, specifically participation in the governance of force, is what primarily motivates individuals within any group to make choices that have some effect their group policy.  Marginalize or remove that individual's choice and whatever benefit (or virtue) of group membership remains becomes as contradictory as a free nation of enslaved individuals.


So the nation vs no-nation argument is really just a question of access to (or protection from) the governance of force, at least to the degree that individual self-governance is insufficient to maintaining freedoms within the context of social participation.  However I'm not prepared to dismiss the argument for self-governance.

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1 hour ago, Grames said:

 Hazony does not make the observation (but I will) that the Europeans were justified (in their own terms at least) in their colonial ambitions because of the first principle. In Africa, Mideast, India, China, North and South America, none of these places met the moral minimum. 

I agree, and Mishra's work in "Age of Anger" points to this as well.  It is worth noting however, that a moral minimum which allows for plundering those who don't meet it is highly suspect in terms of justifying the use of moral force that follows.  Beyond the measure of the Ten Precepts (Commandments) is a more fundamental application of the Golden Rule understood in more practicable terms as, "He who has the gold, makes the rules", the gold in this case being force.

The inhabitants of those places falling under colonial rule may not have understood the Ten Precepts as moral absolutes, but they certainly understood the use of force being applied towards them to comply, and eventually responded in kind.

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1 hour ago, 2046 said:

A cosmopolitan state based on universal legal structure and shared values, and not on family, tribe, and clan? Does your taxonomy define that one out of existence? Or would you call this imperialist domination, no doubt? 

But people have finite and fallible consciousness, varied but limited interests, and their own free volition and conscience which ought to be respected.  You will never ever get them all to even speak the same language let alone submit to a universal legal structure and universal shared values. 

3 hours ago, 2046 said:

Nationalism no longer means "my nation is the awesomest, and we should conquer those other ones with military force"

It never meant that.  You have internalized and automated a lie.  A lie foisted upon you by apologists for imperialism.

1 hour ago, 2046 said:

Imperialism, which used to mean a country seeking military domination over another, now means a peaceful and liberal country extending its scope of commercial trade and free migration with another liberal country would be imperialistic centralization.

You mean like the EU?  Where Macron recently floated the trial balloon of an EU army?  Macron posited that the EU army could be used against other great powers such as the US and Russia, but sure as the sun rises that army would first be used against Poland and Hungary to enforce uniform immigration law, and against Greece, Italy and Spain to enforce certain financial arrangements as well as immigration law.  The four corners of Europe will be brought to obedience.  The EU is imperialist in nature, it is a "Fourth Reich". It should be no surprise to anyone that the idea of the EU has moral and intellectual continuity with Europe's imperial German past.

I'm only up to the third chapter, please stick around until at least chapters nine and ten.  

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34 minutes ago, Grames said:

I'm only up to the third chapter, please stick around until at least chapters nine and ten.  

Do you agree or disagree with this book's contents. You seem to be, on the one had, just offering summation of it's content, but then on the other hand, defending it's points and definitions when challenged. It's confusing, to say the least, given the context of this being an Objectivist forum while the summary given so far seems to completely ignore the possibility of a capitalist society's possible existence. 

Fast forward 500 years to where huge amounts of the human population live throughout the solar system, why can't the entire earth then be defined as an entire "culture" that exists as a single whole political unit instead of arbitrarily broken up as it is now? Why would there only be these two options of Imperialism or Nationalism in this extremely likely future scenario? I'm just confused what the purpose here is, and why it's so focused on the past (which is mostly irrelevant) instead of the future?

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2 minutes ago, EC said:

Do you agree or disagree with this book's contents. You seem to be, on the one had, just offering summation of it's content, but then on the other hand, defending it's points and definitions when challenged. It's confusing, to say the least, given the context of this being an Objectivist forum while the summary given so far seems to completely ignore the possibility of a capitalist society's possible existence. 

Fast forward 500 years to where huge amounts of the human population live throughout the solar system, why can't the entire earth then be defined as an entire "culture" that exists as a single whole political unit instead of arbitrarily broken up as it is now? Why would there only be these two options of Imperialism or Nationalism in this extremely likely future scenario? I'm just confused what the purpose here is, and why it's so focused on the past (which is mostly irrelevant) instead of the future?

I find great value in it which is why I offer a summation of it.  I do not agree with all of it because I am not religious. 

I am not concerned with conflicts with Objectivism because Ayn Rand did not offer much of a political philosophy.  Rand defined and validated the concept of individual rights which is effectively the entry point for her from ethics into politics.  But having arrived into the realm of politics, all that can be done with individual rights is to rule out certain possibilities in government (such as Communism, or Socialism in general). She had no formal opinion on whether a government ought to be a monarchy or a parliament or a gang of eight.  She was unconvinced of the necessity of the American second amendment to the constitution, the one about the right to keep and bear arms.  She seemed to have a positive evaluation of the American system of government but not enough confidence (or interest) in her own understanding of political theory to author her own system.   

Where I see nationalism qua political theory fitting in with Objectivism is that Rand's capitalism is the new Moral Minimum.

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57 minutes ago, Grames said:

But people have finite and fallible consciousness, varied but limited interests, and their own free volition and conscience which ought to be respected.  You will never ever get them all to even speak the same language let alone submit to a universal legal structure and universal shared values. 

It never meant that.  You have internalized and automated a lie.  A lie foisted upon you by apologists for imperialism.

You mean like the EU?  Where Macron recently floated the trial balloon of an EU army?  Macron posited that the EU army could be used against other great powers such as the US and Russia, but sure as the sun rises that army would first be used against Poland and Hungary to enforce uniform immigration law, and against Greece, Italy and Spain to enforce certain financial arrangements as well as immigration law.  The four corners of Europe will be brought to obedience.  The EU is imperialist in nature, it is a "Fourth Reich". It should be no surprise to anyone that the idea of the EU has moral and intellectual continuity with Europe's imperial German past.

I'm only up to the third chapter, please stick around until at least chapters nine and ten.  

On the first paragraph, none of that is necessary for a liberal political order. I could just as well turn the tables on you, yes people's values and interests are limited, yet varied and diverse, that is precisely why a cosmopolitan liberal order is an answer to the problem of human community that is designed precisely to respect this diversive, yet limited aspect of human interests by not organizing the political/legal structure around one specific language or tribal affiliation. Language use, as Mises points out, provides a natural bases for shared value, and so while certainly shared language can help start a political order, it doesn't end there, and a lingua franca develops spontaneously on the market to solve problems of connectivity and shared values without needing to force anyone to submit to it. Likewise, uniform legal structures develop spontaneously due to repeating interactions on the basis of limited, yet diversive shared valuws without having to have a philosopher-king design a static universal law and force people to submit to it. 

On your conceptual framework around the definition of "nationalism," whether I am internalizing imperialist lies and oppression is an emotionalist non-argument. Let us say we have two meanings here:

nationalism¹ "my nation is the awesomest and should conquer the other ones in some way"

nationalism² "there should be different nations and not one world government"

Note that these are not mutually exclusive or incompatible claims necessarily. If we do that same for imperialism, too, then we have a real set of packaged deals here. Moreover nationalism² is both coherent and compatible (as Mises points out) with a cosmopolitan liberal order. Is this new conceptual framework a help to understanding, or a hindrance? Is it making packaged deals?

 

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12 minutes ago, 2046 said:

On your conceptual framework around the definition of "nationalism," whether I am internalizing imperialist lies and oppression is an emotionalist non-argument. Let us say we have two meanings here:

nationalism¹ "my nation is the awesomest and should conquer the other ones in some way"

nationalism² "there should be different nations and not one world government"

No, there is one concept and one anti-concept.  The first nationalism¹ is the anti-concept because it glues together the bare fact that a nation exists with an impulse for world domination as if those somehow go together automatically.  The second nationalism2 is the concept because it has a genus (political theory), units (nations), and differentia (nations are the basis of states, which should continue to exist rather than wither away).

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20 minutes ago, Grames said:

No, there is one concept and one anti-concept.  The first nationalism¹ is the anti-concept because it glues together the bare fact that a nation exists with an impulse for world domination as if those somehow go together automatically.  The second nationalism2 is the concept because it has a genus (political theory), units (nations), and differentia (nations are the basis of states, which should continue to exist rather than wither away).

Okay, but then you have to ask what work is nationalism² really doing here? What problem is it solving? Since people do, in fact, hold nationalism¹ and it has historically been what we refer to by the word "nationalism," what is to be gained by adopting nationalism² as the new "nationalism"? 

Just like the Sophists of old played word games and used the power of equivocation to advance their views, we have to be careful with what the answer to the above is.

Take the following claims:

1. There should be national states, viz., there should be no single one world government.

2. Such national states as do exist should be formed on the basis of X.

Whatever X is said to be here, it cannot be that simply holding to (1) provides a reason for it.

So asserting nationalism² here, cannot provide a basis, any basis, for any principle on which to structure any particular social and political institutions. It isn't really a normative political principle at all, except for opposing world government. It doesn't say anything about what those national states should be. Nationalism²/(1) maybe be one organizing principle, compatible with a great many of other principles, both those such as hate-mongering and chauvinism, protectionism and immigration barriers, as well as a cosmopolitan liberal capitalism. Seems like with enough packaging, the "virtue" this nationalism² is servicing, could really be any political order short of a one world government.

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14 hours ago, Devil's Advocate said:

Why must one choose to be one or the other?

A political structure is fundamentally a structure of individuals choosing to apply their forces collectively.  If an unaffiliated individual must choose to be a nationalist or a globalist, then it appears to follow that all individuals are powerless to avoid being the member of whatever group applies the most force.

What does it mean to be a free nation of powerless individuals?

You have to chose because humans are both selfish and groupish by nature. The concept of an unaffiliated individual is the product of a world view that only acknowledges our selfish nature but not our groupish nature and therefore is not accurately aligned with objective reality.

5 hours ago, 2046 said:

A cosmopolitan state based on universal legal structure and shared values, and not on family, tribe, and clan? Does your taxonomy define that one out of existence? Or would you call this imperialist domination, no doubt? 

A problem with this analysis, not only in that it seems to package deal tribalism and decentralization on one hand and world-government and cosmopolitanism on the other hand, is that it seems to sap the meaning to the terms.

Looking at r vs K selection / epigenetics, one can conclude that we need a balance between tribalism and cosmopolitanism. The "r" seeks out diverse experiences whereas the "K" values the security of the tribe. Human nature includes both of these subsets and an objective society needs to account for both in order to survive and thrive.

As far as grouping tribalism and decentralization as well as world-government and cosmopolitanism, there is some logic behind it as the "r" value diversity and include "outsiders" as part of their personally defined tribe whereas the "K" does not and sticks to and values the tribe they were born into. Extrapolating this difference to the national level will result in the referenced pairings.

1 hour ago, EC said:

Fast forward 500 years to where huge amounts of the human population live throughout the solar system, why can't the entire earth then be defined as an entire "culture" that exists as a single whole political unit instead of arbitrarily broken up as it is now? Why would there only be these two options of Imperialism or Nationalism in this extremely likely future scenario? I'm just confused what the purpose here is, and why it's so focused on the past (which is mostly irrelevant) instead of the future?

You may view these as arbitrary divisions but others do not. As discussed above, this is likely a result of epigenetics and not a matter of one person being more enlightened than the other.

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14 minutes ago, Azrael Rand said:

Looking at r vs K selection / epigenetics, one can conclude that we need a balance between tribalism and cosmopolitanism. The "r" seeks out diverse experiences whereas the "K" values the security of the tribe. Human nature includes both of these subsets and an objective society needs to account for both in order to survive and thrive.

As far as grouping tribalism and decentralization as well as world-government and cosmopolitanism, there is some logic behind it as the "r" value diversity and include "outsiders" as part of their personally defined tribe whereas the "K" does not and sticks to and values the tribe they were born into. Extrapolating this difference to the national level will result in the referenced pairings.

This is all nice and everything, but it cannot be simply assumed that the basis for a political/legal structure is "we should extrapolate from epigenetics", nor did you explain how this can suffice as a principle. As stated in the other thread, to which we are now simply repeating, since human flourishing is both individual, social, and diversive, a principle is needed that encompasses an open-ended and cosmopolitan range of social connectivity that is not static and limited, nor pre-set and pre-determined. Saying "well according to epigenetics, we seek a variety of relationships" is just restating the problem in different words.

 

Edited by 2046

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10 minutes ago, Azrael Rand said:

You may view these as arbitrary divisions but others do not. As discussed above, this is likely a result of epigenetics and not a matter of one person being more enlightened than the other.

You would be correct that I'm not a racist. Even more than that, I don't even care if all the people are human, let alone from a particular race, or cultural group. I.e., they could be rational machines or rational aliens. The only thing that matters to me is that whatever these rational beings are, they respect the individual rights of all other rational beings. 

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1 hour ago, EC said:

You would be correct that I'm not a racist. Even more than that, I don't even care if all the people are human, let alone from a particular race, or cultural group. I.e., they could be rational machines or rational aliens. The only thing that matters to me is that whatever these rational beings are, they respect the individual rights of all other rational beings. 

You do realize that the philosophy you advocate for was created by a person that rationalized the slaughtering and displacement of native American populations. Were those not rational human beings?

2 hours ago, 2046 said:

This is all nice and everything, but it cannot be simply assumed that the basis for a political/legal structure is "we should extrapolate from epigenetics", nor did you explain how this can suffice as a principle. As stated in the other thread, to which we are now simply repeating, since human flourishing is both individual, social, and diversive, a principle is needed that encompasses an open-ended and cosmopolitan range of social connectivity that is not static and limited, nor pre-set and pre-determined. Saying "well according to epigenetics, we seek a variety of relationships" is just restating the problem in different words.

Your statement presupposes that what objective reality has to offer us can be conveniently molded into a mental container called a principle. How do you know this to be true?

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2 minutes ago, Azrael Rand said:

You do realize that the philosophy you advocate for was created by a person that rationalized the slaughtering and displacement of native American populations. Were those not rational human beings?

Your statement presupposes that what objective reality has to offer us can be conveniently molded into a mental container called a principle. How do you know this to be true?

You are way off topic here.  If this is a continuation of a disagreement originating in another thread then please take it back there.

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40 minutes ago, Azrael Rand said:

You do realize that the philosophy you advocate for was created by a person that rationalized the slaughtering and displacement of native American populations. Were those not rational human beings?

This is absolutely false, and I won't be responding to your nonsense from here on out, and others should do the same. 

Also, I have quite a lot of Indian dna in me, and that in no way changes the fact that Indians had no concept of property rights, and in no way owned the land they were supposedly "displaced" from. 

But again, this statement from you shows that you are likely irreconcilably an evil person at your core, so this ends our exchange. 

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Chapter IV John Locke and the Liberal Construction

I  The Protestant Construction Is No Longer Preeminent

As late as August 1941, when Churchill and Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter, the Protestant construction remained the basis for the political order in the West.  As of September 2018 (publication month of this book) that is no longer the case.  There is a progressive abandonment of both the Moral Minimum and the Independence principles.  Family, the sabbath, and public recognition of God are on the decline, and care for the political independence of nation-states is on the decline as the EU and Team America World Police take over.  The former Protestant construction is being displaced by a new agenda, call it the Liberal Construction.

II The Liberal Construction

"Individual freedom is the base of legitimate political order" is the single principle of the Liberal Construction.  It comes from John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government (1689).  In it Locke opens with the assertion that all human individuals are born in “perfect freedom” and “perfect equality,” and goes on to describe them as pursuing life, liberty, and property in a world of transactions based on consent. From this basis, Locke builds his model of political life and theory of government.  The sequels and follow-ups range from Rousseau’s On the Social Contract (1762) and Kant’s Perpetual Peace (1795) to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (1957) and John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1972). A theory or program that is committed to this rationalist framework is what I (Hazony) will call a liberal theory or program.

[ Although at first I objected to the inclusion of Rand on that list because Atlas does not offer a political program (Galt's Gulch fails to qualify as a utopia because of selective entry), what it does offer tends to support the liberal theory and its omissions are curiously similar to Locke's so I'll allow it. ]

III Locke Criticized

Quote

... Locke downplayed or entirely omitted essential aspects of human nature and motivation without which no political philosophy can make sense. Every theory involves a reduction or simplification of its material, of course. But a well-framed theory will capture the most consequential features of the domain being studied, while a poorly framed one will let crucial elements slip away unnoticed. And so it is with the Second Treatise, which offers a rationalist view of human political life that has abstracted away every bond that ties human beings to one another other than consent.

From endnote 36: Locke has a reputation as an empiricist because of Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1789) which was influential.  Second Treatise however, is rationalist in its method throughout.  Locke's rationalist theory of knowledge of moral principles (Book IV of his Essay ) is identified as his downfall.

In empirical politics we find non-monetized and non-consensual mutual loyalties bind human beings into families, clans, tribes, and nations; each of us receives a linguistic, cultural or religious inheritance as a consequence of being born into such collectives.  Locke neglects responsibilities that are intrinsic to both inherited and adopted membership in collectives of this kind, establishing demands on individuals that do not arise as a result of consent and do not disappear if consent is withheld.  

Locke's theory of consent, that the individual becomes a member of a human collective only because he has agreed to it, and has obligations toward such collectives only if he has accepted them, has nothing to say about family [beyond marriage].  

IV Concerning Locke’s Theory of the State.

Individuals feel that their life and property are insufficiently secure, so they choose to form a pact to defend those interests. But in real life, nations are communities bound together by bonds of mutual loyalty, carrying forward particular traditions from one generation to the next. They possess common historical memories, language and texts, rites and boundaries, imparting to their members a powerful identification with their forefathers and a concern for what will be the fate of future generations.

V Borders Between Nation-States

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It is worth paying particular attention to the inability of liberal political theories to account for the existence of borders between nations. Protestant political theory followed Hebrew Scripture in considering national boundaries to be no less important for the peace and well-being of mankind than property boundaries. Locke’s attempt to derive the existence of the state from the consent of an arbitrary group of property owners, however, eliminates this understanding of the nation as an intrinsically bounded entity living in a more or less determinate territory. In the Second Treatise, there is no in-principle limit to the size of state or the number of people whose property it can propose to protect, and the state is in fact eerily without boundaries or borders of any kind. According to the law of nature, Locke writes, “mankind are one community.” The existence of political boundaries among men is, as far as he is concerned, nothing but a product of human “corruption and viciousness.”  Since the law of nature is for Locke identical with universal reason, this means that men guided by reason, and therefore neither corrupt nor vicious, will have no need for national boundaries at all.

VI Progress?

So long as the Protestant Construction held sway and people were familiar with the Bible the nation was an uncontroversial and widely understood concept. The failure of the liberal theory to account for the nation-state had no consequence until recently, when it has crowded out the prior theory and made the political world as it is unintelligible.  All men are equally in need of having their lives and property protected, so for the liberal the persistence of independent national states will be, at best, a matter of indifference.  If there may be any cost to preserving a nation's independence or cohesiveness that indifference shifts to willingness to dispense with it.

Ludwig von Mises advocates “a world super-state really deserving of the name… that would be capable of assuring the nations the peace they require.” Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism in the Classical Tradition, trans. Ralph Raico (San Francisco: Cobden Press, 1985 [1927]), 150.

According to Hayek, “The abrogation of national sovereignties and the creation of an effective international order of law is a necessary complement and the logical consummation of the liberal program.… The idea of interstate federation [is] the consistent development of the liberal point of view.” Friedrich Hayek, “The Economic Conditions of Interstate Federalism.”

University-educated political and intellectual elites the world over of various party affiliations only debate within the Lockean framework.  They don't merely disagree with the Protestant Construction, they don't even know it exists.  Thus a vast array of liberal projects goes on undebated and unconstrained by any sense of a limit: European unification, free immigration of populations, unfettered free trade, multinational corporations,  international law, international courts, international self-appointed non-governing organizations, homogenization of the world’s universities by way of a system of international standards and peer review.

Closing quote:

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Those factors in human political and social life that have no place in the liberal paradigm have not been eliminated, as I will argue at greater length in Part Two of this book. They have only been denied and suppressed. And like Marxists before them, liberals will discover that while denial is easy, suppression comes at an escalating cost.

endnotes 34 - 48

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