In part 1 I referred to two books I recently bought. I just finished one of them.
“The Case for Nationalism” by Rich Lowry.
While it is not my intention to write a book review here, I must say I recommend this book. Lowry is an excellent writer, the book is easy to read, well researched, and engaging. Lowry makes a convincing case that nationalism is not inherently bad and that nationalism has been employed over the centuries in furtherance of good and noble causes.
Lowry also spends a good deal of time arguing that America does have a distinct culture. Americans share a common culture, form of government, social norms, and a common understanding of the rule of law. He rejects the anti-nationalist notion that because America is a “melting pot” we have no shared culture.
My only disappointment with Lowry’s book is that it lacks specific policy proposals concerning a National Conservatism movement. What is presented is rather vague, so what follows here is my attempt at reading between the lines.
Empires always fail, eventually.
Nationalism, the loyalty to your country, a country based on a shared culture and history, provides a strength that the force of empire can not overcome.
What became of the British Empire? What became of all those French colonies? What became of the Soviet Union? What became of the Mongol Empire, the Greek Empire, and the Roman Empire? All disintegrated. Why?
These were empires of conquest. They were not based on loyalty. The individual countries they conquered maintained an internal loyalty to themselves – and for the most part, in the end, that loyalty prevailed.
Many of us are rightly outraged by the fact that our government left Americans stranded in Afghanistan. Do any of us know or care if those Americans are Republicans or Democrats? Do we care what color their skin is or what religion they follow? No. We are enraged because they are Americans.
It is this mutual loyalty to one another as Americans that gives us our strength.
Now a few specific policy ideas. Lowry specifically stated a few of these but not all and none of what follows is a direct quote. Most of this is my read based in part on the book contents.
The United States needs secure borders and an enforced immigration policy. People wishing to come to this country must also wish to become Americans – to assimilate. The goal should be that they share our language and culture and that they are loyal to America. We need finite limits on the number of immigrants we admit.
The writings of Howard Zinn (“A People’s History of the United States”) and other such fiction as “The 1619 Project” have no place in the teaching of history in public schools. This is not to suggest that our children should not learn historical facts about such things as slavery. These publications contain inaccuracies (to put it as generously as I can). Zinn’s book would be an excellent resource for a class on socialist and communist propaganda, but not history. Public schools should be required to disclose to the public all teaching materials in use.
Our education system must return to teaching civics. We should be teaching our kids about those aspects of American culture and history that we can all be proud of, not just those that we should be ashamed of. Propaganda should remain in the hands of CNN and The Washington Post, not in our schools. Americans have much to be proud of, I see no reason our schools should not teach this fact to our children.
A good American citizen not only has rights but also responsibilities. We are obliged to obey the law, pay our taxes, respect our neighbor’s property, and see to the needs of our families. We also have an obligation to defend ourselves and our nation.
If we are to treat corporations as citizens under the law (which we largely do), do these corporations also have obligations as good citizens? Should they?
Years ago, in exchange for the government granting a broadcaster a monopoly on a frequency, that broadcaster was obliged to “serve the public interest.” This meant (in part) that the broadcaster was obliged to air public service announcements, give equal time to opposing political candidates, and abide by “The Fairness Doctrine.” The Fairness Doctrine was abolished in 1987. The point here is that in granting a broadcast license, there was not only an expectation but a legal obligation for the broadcaster to serve the public good.
I admit that the above is a special case because it involves a monopoly. Special regulations have frequently attached (and still do) to government-supported monopolies whether they are broadcast frequencies or power grids, for obvious reasons.
What is the national loyalty of the CEO of a multi-national corporation? This person flies from London to New York, to Chicago, and then on to Paris. Is this person loyal to the UK, the US, or to France? Is this person obliged to defend the United States any more than Russia or any other country?
I am very much a capitalist and I object to government overreach and excessive regulation. But that does not mean I reject my obligations as a citizen and it in no way changes my loyalty to my country.
Is it reasonable for us as a nation to expect certain obligations from a corporation in exchange for allowing that corporation to do business in the United States? Corporate officers have an obligation to do what is good for the business, should they have an obligation to do what is good for our country as well? Corporate managers, in addition to having a fiduciary responsibility to the company, are also bound by morals, ethics, and the law.
Any such expectation (if it is to be enforced) would, unfortunately, require government regulation. While that does not sit well with me, in the age of mergers and acquisitions and globalization, some companies have grown so large and powerful that they are capable of serious harm to our country. We have a right to know where their loyalties are.
Nowhere would this have a greater impact than the media. It does not seem unreasonable to ask what public good was served by the media coverage of the “Covington kids?” Should CNN be allowed to do business in this country after hyping the fake Steele Dossier for years? Why? What good are they doing any of us? Are Democrats happy with how these stories turned out? Are they happy with the damage done to their credibility and their narrative? These stories (and many others) did not in the end help either side of the political divide and arguably damaged the nation. But they were sure great for ratings. The media has dispensed with any moral or ethical obligation to the truth (let alone to the country) in favor of clicks.
In his book “The Virtue of Nationalism” by Yoram Hazony, the author makes the case that nationalism is superior to such institutions as the UN. In essence, nationalism recognizes the sovereignty and the right to self-rule of all nations. International organizations such as the UN presume to pass “resolutions” binding on nations which is an infringement on sovereignty.
A nationalist approach to foreign policy would quite simply be “our interests come first.” This would not make agreements with foreign countries impossible, but it would inform the content of such agreements. Much like an agreement between two businesses, if there are no mutual advantages, why agree? The next time the United States contemplates a “nation-building” project, we might ask “what’s in it for us?”
This brings up a side note. Many of the world’s trouble spots are places that have little or no national identity, shared culture, or common history.
In conclusion, Rich Lowry has convinced me that nationalism is undeserving of the bad name it has acquired. Nationalism can be a positive good and a certain degree of nationalism is not only good but is vital to our country. My readers may not be satisfied with some of the vagueries in my ideas on policy. Honestly, many of these are extremely complex topics, but maybe I’ve provided some food for thought. I intend to continue to study what a National Conservatism movement might look like and I almost certainly will return to this topic in the future.