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Nationalism and Socialism Are Very Bad Ideas

But liberalism is a good one.

Adam SmithBetween the Great Lisbon Earthquake and the revolutionary year of 1848 the European chattering classes had three big ideas. One was very, very good. The other two were very, very bad. We're still paying.

The good one, flowing from the pens of such members of the clerisy as Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and above all the Blessed Adam Smith, is what Smith described in 1776 as the shocking idea of "allowing every man [or woman, dear] to pursue his own interest in his own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice."

Admittedly, true liberalism took a long time. "All men are created equal" was penned by a man who kept in slavery most of his own children by Sally Hemings, not to mention Sally herself. Even his co-author Ben Franklin once owned slaves. In 1775, the English literary man Samuel Johnson had ample reason to launch a sneer from London, "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"

But those liberal yelps re-echoed, and had force, amplified by the repeated embarrassment over two centuries of denying slaves, apprentices, women, immigrants, anarchists, socialists, communists, Okies, Nisei, blacks, Chicanos, gays, Vietnam protesters, criminal suspects, handicapped people, gender crossers, ex-cons, drug users, smokers, and citizens of the District of Columbia their own equality, liberty, and justice.

The fruits of the new liberalism, when it could make its way against the two bad ideas (wait for it), were stunning. Liberalism, uniquely in history, made masses of ordinary people bold, bold to try out their ideas for how to improve the world by testing them in the marketplace. Look around at the hundreds of betterments that resulted: from stock markets to ball bearings, from penicillin to plate glass.

The boldness of commoners pursuing their own interests resulted in a Great Enrichment—a rise in Europe and the Anglosphere of real, inflation-corrected incomes per head, from 1800 to the present, by a factor, conservatively measured, of about 30. That is, class, about 3,000 percent. The glory of Greece and the grandeur of Rome, Song China, and the Mughal Empire might have managed a 100 percent increase over a century or so, to something like $6 a day—but eventually they all fell back to the $3 a day typical since our species lived in caves.

And now, despite the best efforts of governments and international agencies to bungle the job, liberalism is spreading to the world, from Hong Kong to Botswana.

It's astonishingly good for the poor. Add up the fruits of illiberal government action—redistribution, licensing, tariffs, zoning, building permits, farm subsidies, restrictions on immigration, foreign aid, industrial policy, a third to half of income seized as taxes by the state—and all together, they might, if you suspend your economic disbelief, raise the income of the poorest folk by, say, 30 percent, one time only. Not the 3,000 percent attributable to liberalism, which continues to grow with no end in sight.

The two bad ideas of 1755–1848 were nationalism and socialism. If you like them, perhaps you will enjoy their combination, introduced in 1922 and still for sale in Europe and implied by Donald Trump's popularity: national socialism.

Nationalism, when first theorized in the early 19th century, was entwined with the Romantic movement, though of course in England it was already hundreds of years old. It inspired reactive nationalisms in France, Scotland, and eventually Ireland. In Italy, in the form of campanilismo, or pride in your city, it was older still. (Italians will reply when asked where they are from, even if speaking to foreigners, "Florence" or "Rome" or at the most "Sicily." Never "Italy.")

What is bad about nationalism, aside from its intrinsic collective coercion, is that it inspires conflict. The 800 U.S. military bases around the world keep the peace by waging endless war, bombing civilians to protect Americans from non-threats on the other side of the world. In July 2016, we of the Anglosphere "celebrated," if that is quite the word, the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, a fruit of nationalism, which by its conclusion three and a half months later had cost the Allies and the Central Powers combined over a million casualties, most of them dismembered by artillery. Thank you for your service.

The other bad idea of the era was socialism, which can also be linked to Romanticism, and to a secularized Christianity, with its Sermon-on-the-Mount charity and an apocalyptic view of history. It's all of a piece—from central planning in Venezuela to building permits in Chicago. A communist is a socialist in a hurry and a socialist is a regulator in a hurry and a regulator is a corrupt politician in a hurry.

What's bad about socialism, aside from its own intrinsic collective coercion, is that it leads to poverty. Even in its purest forms—within the confines of a sweet family, say—it kills initiative and encourages free riding. St. Paul, not famous for being a liberal, scolded the Thessalonians: "We gave this order: 'If anyone doesn't want to work, he shouldn't eat.' We hear that some of you are living in idleness. You are not busy working—you are busy interfering in other people's lives!" Good for St. Paul.

The not-so-sweet forms of socialism, especially those paired with nationalism, are a lot worse. Thus North Korea, Cuba, and other workers' paradises. As the joke goes, "Under capitalism man exploits man; under socialism it's the other way around."

What to do? Revive liberalism, as the astonishing successes of China and India have. Take back the word from our friends on the American left. They can keep progressive, if they don't mind being associated with the Progressive movement of the early 20th century, and its eugenic enthusiasms for forced sterilization and for using the minimum wage to drive immigrants, blacks, and women out of the labor force. And we should persuade our friends on the right to stop using the l word to attack people who do not belong to the country club.

Read Adam Smith, slowly—not just the prudential Wealth of Nations, but its temperate sister The Theory of Moral Sentiments. And return in spirit to the dawn of 1776, when the radical idea was not nationalism or socialism or national socialism, but "the obvious and simple system of natural liberty" that allows all men and women to pursue their interests in their own ways.

It was a strange but very, very good idea. Still is.

Deirdre McCloskey is emerita professor of economics, history, English, and communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the author most recently of Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World

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  • Libertarian||

    This is a misuse of the term "chattering" classes. The term wasn't even coined until the 20th cent. From Wikipedia:

    "The chattering classes is a generally derogatory[1] term first coined by Auberon Waugh[2] often used by pundits and political commentators to refer to a politically active, socially concerned and highly educated section of the "metropolitan middle class",[1] especially those with political, media, and academic connections."

  • Libertarian||

    Specifically, most of us who use the term would argue that the chattering classes don't even *have* big ideas, but rather parrot the thoughts of real thinkers (whether right or wrong). See Hollywood and New Yorker subscribers, for examples.

  • Lee Genes||

    A more generalized version of radical chic

  • Libertarian||

    Perhaps. But when language gets sloppy, ideas get sloppy. Thinking gets muddied when you put Adam Smith and Cher in the same category. Look at what's happened to the word "libertarian." It's so watered down that it is occasionally used as a synonym for "far right" and therefore hurt true libertarian progress.

  • Microaggressor||

    But when language gets sloppy, ideas get sloppy.

    +1 "Sweden a successful example of socialism"

  • Entelechy||

    Wrong by three centuries-

    McCloskey's attempt to turn Trump into an avatar of classical Liberalism fails on the strength of Doctor Johnson's admonition to the bien pensant chatterers of the Augustan age:

    "Don't cant in defense of savages! "

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Where the dickens did she try to "turn Trump into an avatar of classical Liberalism"?

    Methinks you should RTFA, not your fucking inner voices.

  • Robert||

    So water wasn't H2O before it was known to have that composition?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    They can keep progressive, if they don't mind being associated with the Progressive movement of the early 20th century, and its eugenic enthusiasms for forced sterilization and for using the minimum wage to drive immigrants, blacks, and women out of the labor force.

    Many don't. Keeping people from self-sufficiency means they're victims needing a strong state presence in their lives to keep them safe and nourished, and progressives are more than happy to provide the illusion of that in return for votes into power. And that's my daily dig at the left.

    Besides going so far as calling Trump a Nazi, I enjoyed this article.

  • ||

    Deidre did manage to get halfway through before Godwining the article. That's where I stopped reading.

    The left did a great disservice by trying to hard to disassociate itself from the Nazis. They blurred the definition so much that the word has lost meaning. Very few people know what the words 'Nazi' or 'Fascism' mean. More than a few times I have gotten shocked looks of realization and speechlessness when I explained to people that the Nazis were a left wing philosophy, that it is short for National Socialism.

    Me - "Socialism...get it?"

    Them - *Blank stare followed by sudden realization and jaw dropping*

    "So why does everyone call them right wing?"

    Me - "Everyone doesnt, and why do you think the left tries to disassociate themselves from the Nazis?"

  • mtrueman||

    " considering the left owns Hollywood"

    Nonsense. Jews own Hollywood. Got a problem with that?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I get the same jaw drops.
    Those Damned Nazis

    Sometimes I just add in some Goebbels quotes too. That jabroni loved to talk about socialism and the Nazi type was better than Russian socialism.

  • Trigger Hippie||

    During the primaries somebody here dreamed up the game of Who Said It, Goebbles or Sanders?

    It was really fucking hard to tell the difference.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Some people give lefties the benefit of the doubt on genocide but I don't. Socialists exterminate people.

    We did it here in the USA too. 'Ol Hickory was fairly socialist and killed him some injuns.

    Luckily, that is century old history and not current policy. Not true for some more recent socialists.

  • ArbutusJoe||

    I just finished JF Revel's "Last Exit to Utopia" where this dialog is detailed in exhaustive (and often humorous) detail.

  • mtrueman||

    "the Nazis were a left wing philosophy"

    What are you an idiot? Never heard of the Bolsheviks, like Stalin for example? They were a left wing movement. The Nazi's drew their support from the Right.

    "Me - "Socialism...get it?"

    You mean National Socialism. That's why it's of the right. Because of the national. Leftists to this day celebrate International Socialism.

  • Acosmist||

    Yes, that is a good impersonation of a person who doesn't get it. Well done.

  • mtrueman||

    I don't get that Hitler was a leftist. Karl Marx was a leftist. His rallying cry was "Workers of the world, unite!" Hitler wouldn't be caught dead saying anything like that because he was not a leftist. He didn't believe, like Marx, in class struggle but instead in the organic unity of all German people.

  • marshaul||

    mtrueman's arguments are as compelling as Suthenboy (what happened to you lately, anyway? I used to respect you, now every time I see your name it's attached to a bunch of BS identity politics and thinly-disguised TEAM cheerleading).

    From this I conclude that the "left-right" paradigm is forced and meaningless. "Left" and "right" are not labels which meaningfully help us understand Nazis, or Bolsheviks, or fascists.

  • JeremyR||

    You realize that the full name of his party was the National Socialist Workers Party?

  • mtrueman||

    Ergo Hitler was a leftist.

  • mtrueman||

    Ok, Hitler was not a leftist.

  • DarrenM||

    "Rightists" did ally with Nazis against socialists/communists. This was mainly choosing the lesser of two evils.

  • thrakkorzog||

    But Pangloss assured me that we are living in the best of all possible worlds.

  • Libertarian||

    I'm reminded of my favorite John Adams quote:

    "The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain."

  • Cloudbuster||

    Poor sap. He didn't realize "Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain." was followed by "Their children ought to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain in order to give their children a right to study intersectional feminism, African-American studies, queer studies and critical race theory."

  • Libertarian||

    "And now, despite the best efforts of governments and international agencies to bungle the job, liberalism is spreading to the world, from Hong Kong to Botswana.

    It's astonishingly good for the poor. Add up the fruits of illiberal government action—redistribution, licensing, tariffs, zoning, building permits, farm subsidies, restrictions on immigration, foreign aid, industrial policy, a third to half of income seized as taxes by the state—and all together, they might, if you suspend your economic disbelief, raise the income of the poorest folk by, say, 30 percent, one time only. Not the 3,000 percent attributable to liberalism, which continues to grow with no end in sight."

    It makes one weep to imagine how many people *literally* die because true liberalism is hobbled by government action. The devastation is invisible -- and even deniable to "liberals" because of their simplistic, emotional economic beliefs -- because we're talking about things that have not happened. Think of the wealth and progress that we have lost out on; the drugs, the technology, the efficiencies, etc. Not to mention I'd have a few jet packs in the garage by now.

  • Microaggressor||

    The devastation is invisible

    I realize you're talking about the 21st century, but... the 20th century says hello.

  • Rebel Scum||

    They can keep progressive

    I have started calling them what they really are: REgressive.

  • Lee Genes||

    Somebody else posted this here a while ago, but it bears repeating.

    If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.
    - Calvin Coolidge
  • LibertarianJRT||

    Simple Cal FTW!

  • DarrenM||

    I tend to use the term "Proglodyte", "Progs" for short. No offense to real Troglodytes intended.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I would still call it classic liberalism. The dumb-dumbs on the left might mistake your intentions for Liberty as being one of them because of the name that they stole to hide progressive policies.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Dee. Dee. Da. Da. Da. Dah. Dah. Dah. Dah. Dah. Dee. Dah. Dah.

    Always Sunny...

  • Lurk Diggler||

    What is bad about nationalism, aside from its intrinsic collective coercion

    Nationalism isn't coercive, let alone intrinsically. I've noticed the word intrinsic added to a lot of shit lately where it makes no sense. It's like the go to word for adding intellectual spice to mundane or obviously wrong observations.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    How do you get nationalism without coercion?

    Voluntary association isn't nationalism.

    Nationalism requires a government to enforce it.

  • Lurk Diggler||

    Definition of nationalism- "patriotic feeling, principles, or efforts."

    There's nothing requiring coercion to feel patriotic. How do you figure the government has to enforce that?

  • John Titor||

    "Hey look, if I just use the dictionary definition I get to handwave the actual 19th century philosophical concept of nationalism!"

  • DarrenM||

    Have you looked at a calendar lately?

  • chemjeff||

    What is the patriot's "patriotic feeling" towards?

    Answer: A collective identity.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    An *enforced* collective identity. Not voluntary.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Does nationalism allow dissent? Do nationalists go around protesting the government when it enforces their idea of nationalism, do they tell the government to eff off and leave the dissenters alone?

    Why is it called nationalism instead of something that doesn't imply a national government with national policies?

    Is there even a word for nationalism which doesn't imply government backing?

    What a bizarre concept!

  • marshaul||

    Nationalism without government backing is patriotism. Nationalism is patriotism enforced by the state.

  • Swiss Servator||

    FLUELLEN
    Captain Macmorris, I think, look you, under your
    correction, there is not many of your nation--

    MACMORRIS
    Of my nation! What ish my nation? Ish a villain,
    and a bastard, and a knave, and a rascal. What ish
    my nation? Who talks of my nation?

    FLUELLEN
    Look you, if you take the matter otherwise than is
    meant, Captain Macmorris, peradventure I shall think
    you do not use me with that affability as in
    discretion you ought to use me, look you: being as
    good a man as yourself, both in the disciplines of
    war, and in the derivation of my birth, and in
    other particularities.

    MACMORRIS
    I do not know you so good a man as myself: so
    Chrish save me, I will cut off your head.

  • Lee Genes||

    Jingoism is the proper term for apologetic version of nationalism.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Suppose so --- jingoism is wannabe nationalism. I don't think I've ever heard of a jingoist who didn't want Top.Men. turning it into nationalism.

  • Drake||

    How did we get a resurgence of nationalism this year? Where Trump voters coerced?

    What we are seeing now is a grassroots type of nationalism. "It turns out that Italians like being Italian and will not abandon their culture without a fight." Same goes for Americans in the middle of the U.S. http://thezman.com/wordpress/?p=9151

    The type of nationalism emerging right now is a reaction against globalists trying to destroy national identities and replace them with multi-cultural socialism. It will only lead to war if the globalists decide to fight.

  • Dan S.||

    What about replacing them with multi-cultural free enterprise? The fact is, all socialism is actually national, since it is a national state that owns and controls the economic assets ("means of production"). "International socialism" is a catch phrase that doesn't refer to anything that could ever actually exist. And thinking that "globalism" (if that term actually means anything) is socialist is the same kind of self-contradiction.

  • WillMG||

    Which is arguably what those treating nationalism as a dirty word are using to define as patriotism. Bottom up, voluntary support for your nation.

  • Robert||

    How do you get vegetarianism, or Judaism, or alcoholism w/o coercion? You get it w/o coercion w/o coercion, that's how.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Nationalism requires a government to enforce it.

    Is this a libertarian site or an anarchist one? Libertarianism presupposes the existence of a government. Within the limited sphere of power allocated to that government are powers that can be and should be weilded solely for the benefit of that nation -- Nationalism.

  • Lurk Diggler||

    Nationalism, when first theorized in the early 19th century

    Nationalism wasn't invented 200 years ago it's just tribalism that has existed in all cultures for all times.

  • Lord Rollingpin||

    No, nationalism may have some similarity to tribalism but it's a very different creature. There are still countries where tribalism is dominant and they are dysfunctional shitholes because people can't rise above the tribal identity.

  • John Titor||

    Read some Durkheim or Weber and get back to me.

    Nationalism is a product of the modern nation-state and grants it a fundamental authority that tribalism lacks.

  • marshaul||

    All nationalism is tribalist, but not all tribalism is nationalist.

  • Longtobefree||

    Cite your source, please.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Similarly, Trumpkins are mostly closet homos and guys who can't get dates with their own race.

    My days of not taking you seriously are definitely coming to a middle.

  • Lord Rollingpin||

    'What is bad about nationalism, aside from its intrinsic collective coercion, is that it inspires conflict.'
    I'm not sure about that, there was plenty of conflict before nationalism appeared. I think it's more the 'manifest destiny' aspect which inspired conflict. Especially from Germany.

  • marshaul||

    Because nationalism is tribalism, it inspires conflict.

    Other forms of tribalism have also inspired conflict.

  • Just Say'n||

    "(Italians will reply when asked where they are from, even if speaking to foreigners, "Florence" or "Rome" or at the most "Sicily." Never "Italy.")"

    Not to quibble, but that statement isn't true (though there is no one to quantify its truthfulness beyond anecdotes). There is deep sectionalism in Italy and deep divisions (primarily due to historical divisions in the country), but they do refer to themselves as Italian. True each region despises or dismisses the other, but no more than a Texan despising or dismissing the people of California (to be fair, though, no one likes California) or Massachusetts. The probably in Italy is that they have a centralized government, rather than a federal system, like the German's developed after unification (which occurred concurrently with Italian unification).

    One thing that I have noticed about Italians, though, is that despite their dislike for other regions, they all seem to like Rome (only for historical reasons, naturally, as no one likes the government). I will say, though, that the US has a much stronger national identity and patriotic devotion to the country than most European countries have. I've had multiple Europeans tell me that they are amazed at how common it is for Americans to hang the flag regularly, rather than just for state holidays.

    (insert U-S-A chant)

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Europe has very old beefs and some peoples just cannot get past those divisions.

    The USA is just so very different. It is interesting to see first generation Americans from other countries and how they try to be American but still have that old World about them. Then their kids tend to be American as apple pie. Its a do-over for some people.

    My family has very old traceable roots and most were patriots who fought for freedom. Most of my relatives still are suspicious of anything but small powerless government. Europe is just not like that.

  • KB Check Release||

    "Then their kids tend to be American as apple pie. Its a do-over for some people."

    Citation freaking needed. Especially with kids and grandkids that emigrated from 3rd world hellholes

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its opinion, so no citation.

    I can think of about 100 or so first and then second generation folks from all over the World including some real shit holes where the kids are American in actions and they fit into society here. The 1st generation parents have varying degrees of assimilation.

  • marshaul||

    Agreed. I have friends whose parents were refugees from Ho Chi Minh. The parents never did assimilate fully, and to this day work jobs below their educational backgrounds (or would be, were those backgrounds not in the Vietnamese language). Their kids? Instant Americans, culturally, linguistically, ethically. This pattern repeats itself for every ethnicity I can think of.

    Cuba is a third-world hellhole, and Cuban immigrants are widely appreciated for their assimilatory nature.

    You can thank _our_ culture for that, btw. American culture dominates.

  • Metalib||

    Italy like Germany were fairly recently formed "Nations". Therefore the tribal (City, city-state or region) identity is still strong. Quebecois in Canada are a similar identity based "tribal" region, it's a human condition.

    I was confused that China or India were put forth as examples of liberal success, maybe liberalizing...but neither is tolerant, both have high levels of oppressive regulatory governments and one is "you can play in my sandbox as long as you genuflect to my power"...guess that's why they are buying up real estate in Vancouver...

  • Azathoth!!||

    I think the author--and many who are tainted with a leftism they refuse to see--include(d) a leftist concept of nationalism to attach to and corrupt Trump with in order to make the godwin leap.

    Nationalism, done correctly, is wholly voluntary. When you add coercion, you lose 'nation'. People forced to associate are not a people.

    In fact, for future reference, one coercion is needed, you've screwed up whatever you were attempting.

  • marshaul||

    You're not wrong about coercion screwing shit up, but basically every nationalist in history would disagree with you.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Notice how everyone says that nationalism is screwed up?

    Wonder why?

    Yeah.

  • Robert||

    So it took Don's becoming Deirdre, + several years, for us to learn the N in D.N. McCloskey was for Nansen.

  • Robert||

    is there surgery for middle names? ;-)

  • ace_m82||

    St. Paul, not famous for being a liberal, scolded the Thessalonians: "We gave this order: 'If anyone doesn't want to work, he shouldn't eat.' We hear that some of you are living in idleness. You are not busy working—you are busy interfering in other people's lives!" Good for St. Paul.

    Due to rampant Biblical illiteracy, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the claim that Paul was "not famous for being a liberal". He wrote about half of the New Testament, where he never says that Christians (the only group he ever wrote to) were to use government to make people "good" or even to use government to do anything. He wrote only on what a Christian should do/believe.

    In fact, Paul was better at being libertarian than most libertarians I know.

  • phenryinohio||

    " a man who kept in slavery most of his own children by Sally Hemings"

    For the record the DNA evidence says only that a relative of Thomas Jefferson father sired Sally Hemmings children. Not that he did. DNA is often less conclusive than TV shows would like us to believe.

    This kinda stuff is what makes a good article less believable. The reality that he and many founders kept slave makes our founding complicated enough. Especially after reading their thoughts on the issue.

  • JeremyR||

    Nationalism is the one thing that erases tribal, religious, ethnic, and other boundaries. It unites people.

    When you starting thinking of yourself and your neighbors as citizens of a country (American), not as X,Y,Z, you are less likely to hate your neighbor.

    Does it lead to conflicts with other countries? That's debatable. Wars tend to have more concrete reasons

    OTOH, it probably reduces chances of a civil war.

  • LifeStrategies||

    One of the first National Socialist parties was, in fact, Germany's Nazi party. The Nazi party's full name is NAtional soZIalistische deutsche arbeiter partei - which literally translates from German as the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

    Socialists hate the fact that the Nazi party was a National Socialist party with the same strong gun control agenda, same strong social programs, same government control of education, and the same emphasis on government jobs and worker's rights as modern socialists.

    There's even the same brownshirt violence against those who refuse to follow their left-wing agenda (history calls it brownshirt violence because they dressed in brownshirts to easily identify attackers from their victims, today they're masked and dressed in black). So Socialists frequently attempt to hoodwink, misinform, lie by referring to Nazi as right-wing whereas in truth Nazi is actually left-wing and socialist.

  • Choadintheroad||

    They don't think about it anymore than the GOP rank and file (or elite) care about being portrayed as 'Red,' which was formerly a term for communist.

  • rxc||

    Nationalism is just identity politics, or communitarianism, at a larger scale. People decide that they have something (a culture or a political system or a belief system) in common that they want to share with other people. It goes wrong when these people decide that other nationalities should join them, against their will. Bad things happens in neighborhoods, in familes, in church groups, when some people decide that they are the only ones who know how to run the group, and they insist that others follow. Socialism and communism are varieties of the general form.

  • mtrueman||

    "and they insist that others follow."

    Sometimes these nationalists insist that others NOT follow, especially if they don't fulfill some ridiculous and arbitrary criteria such as skin colour or ethnicity.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Nationalism and Socialism Are Very Bad Ideas

    No they are not.
    Living in terror, oppression and war only made their citizens more grateful to live in a tyrannical society.
    Don't believe me?
    Just ask Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Castro sometime.
    They wouldn't lie.

  • Teddy Ballgame||

    Nationalism is the only way people can align their own interests with that of the political elite. Forming nation states and then allowing those nation states to compete creates a global competitive "marketplace" where in the only way a leader can maintain or grow his power is by (a) having a nation state in which people choose to live and (b) creating enough wealth and technological advancement so that he is not overriden by other nation states. This competition (rather than cooperation) between nation states is the only way a citizen can really trust that his leaders and military will work (at least somewhat) on his behalf.

  • Teddy Ballgame||

    Nationalism is the only way people can align their own interests with that of the political elite. Forming nation states and then allowing those nation states to compete creates a global competitive "marketplace" where in the only way a leader can maintain or grow his power is by (a) having a nation state in which people choose to live and (b) creating enough wealth and technological advancement so that he is not overriden by other nation states. This competition (rather than cooperation) between nation states is the only way a citizen can really trust that his leaders and military will work (at least somewhat) on his behalf.

  • Jimbo||

    Oops. Darn squirrels

  • LifeStrategies||

    You say "The two bad ideas of 1755–1848 were nationalism and socialism. If you like them, perhaps you will enjoy their combination, introduced in 1922 and still for sale in Europe and implied by Donald Trump's popularity: national socialism."

    But are you believing the common socialist lie that extreme right-wing is Nazi - National Socialism? Nazi is, of course, simply the German abbreviation for National Socialism - extreme left-wing!

    The Germany Nazi party's full name is NAtional soZIalistische deutsche arbeiter partei - which literally translates from German as the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

    Socialists hate the fact that the Nazi party was a National Socialist party with the same strong gun control agenda, the same strong social programs, the same government control of education, the same government control of the economy, and the same emphasis on government jobs and worker's rights as modern socialists.

    There's also the same brownshirt violence against those who refuse to follow their left-wing agenda (history calls it brownshirt violence because they dressed in brownshirts to easily identify attackers from their victims, today they're masked and dressed in black). So Socialists frequently fabricate untruths - lie - by referring to Nazi as right-wing whereas in truth Nazi is actually radical left-wing and socialist.

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