Why You Should Be a Nationalist

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Dec 17, 2018

It’s undeniable: Around the world, nationalism is on the march, and the media and reigning political elites would have you believe this is a dangerous disaster in the making. So, why is Yoram Hazony, author of The Virtue of Nationalism, unafraid? Watch to understand.

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A nationalist believes that the world is governed best when nations are free to chart their own independent course.

  • The process of a nation developing its national identity and choosing what is right for its people is called self-determination.View Source
  • Nationalism is the opposite of imperialism, transnationalism or globalism. Nationalism does not attempt to unite all of mankind under a single political authority.View Source
  • Contrary to some critics’ claims, nationalism isn’t about racism or isolationism. All nations are internally diverse and nations have varying policies on trade and diplomacy. Instead, nationalism focuses on protecting and promoting a national identity and a nation’s interests.View Source
  • WATCH: “The Virtue of Nationalism” – Yoram HazonyView Source

Many great political figures of the past have recognized the virtue of nationalism, including Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan.

  • Teddy Roosevelt was a staunch American nationalist and even coined the phrase “New Nationalism” in a speech from 1910.View Source
  • Woodrow Wilson promoted national self-determination in Europe after World War I.View Source
  • In August 1941, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the “Atlantic Charter,” which reaffirmed the “the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.”View Source
  • Ronald Reagan promoted American exceptionalism and what he called “informed patriotism.”View Source
  • Margaret Thatcher fought against European Union policies that could “suppress nationhood.”View Source

Nationalism opposes imperialism and globalism, which try to impose a single political authority on the world.

  • Globalism attempts to give a single answer to all human problems. But it’s human nature to want to defend the traditions that one’s own society has been built upon.View Source
  • Our strongest loyalties are to those who are closest to us: Our family. The key to human freedom is to build political structure out of this natural loyalty.View Source
  • By putting decision-making in the hands of the family, the community, and the independent nation, it’s possible to get people to willingly cooperate with one another, join in the common defense and obey laws – instead of doing so by coercion, which globalism often requires.View Source
  • Related reading: “The Virtue of Nationalism” – Yoram HazonyView Source

In the 20th century, Communism and Nazism both sought to eliminate the independent nations of the world.

  • Both the Communists and the Nazis were imperialists: They wanted to eliminate the independent nations of the world.View Source
  • According to Herzl Institute president Yoram Hazony, promoters of globalism are really promoting, “a return to the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Hapsburgs, a state which was viable just so long as it remained a despotism, and which, the moment it began to leave off being a despotism, instantly ceased to be viable.”View Source
  • WATCH: "Nationalism and the Future of Western Freedom"View Source

Nationalism holds that borders are crucial: The border is where each nation’s ambitions should stop.

  • The idea that a nation should not violate other nations’ borders first appears in the Bible, where God warns the Israelites not to bother their neighbors.View Source
  • When Henry VIII declared that England would no longer obey dictates from Rome, he became Europe’s first true nationalist.View Source
  • Soon after, additional nations declared their independence. After the Eighty Years’ War, the Dutch gained independence from Spain.View Source
  • Related reading: “Nationalism and the Future of Western Freedom” – Yoram HazonyView Source

Many European elites have blamed nationalism for WWII, but Hitler was an imperialist who wanted to rule the globe, not a nationalist.

  • After the catastrophic conflicts of WWI and WWII, a simplistic narrative that nationalism caused two world wars and the Holocaust took root.View Source
  • Adolph Hitler was no nationalist, however; he was an imperialist. His ambitions were not limited to ruling Germans; rather, he wanted to rule the world.View Source
  • In “Mein Kampf,” Hitler “vowed to destroy the national states of Europe so Germany could become ‘mistress of the globe’ and ‘lord of the earth,’” notes Herzl Institute president Yoram Hazony. “Nazism was an imperialist enterprise from its inception.”View Source
  • European elites learned the wrong lesson from the wars, believing that independent nations are inherently dangerous.View Source

A misplaced fear of independent nations led to the creation of the European Union. 

  • In 1992, the vision of a united Europe developed into the European Union.View Source
  • British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher hated the idea, saying “Europe will be stronger precisely because it has France as France, Spain as Spain, Britain as Britain, each with its own customs, traditions and identity.”View Source
  • She didn’t want bureaucrats in Brussels making detached decisions for any Europeans. But in the utopian 1990s, Britain thought it was better to dump Thatcher and welcomed participation in the European Union.View Source
  • WATCH: Margaret Thatcher on Europe: “No! No! No!”View Source

Why is nationalism growing in popularity across the globe? Many have begun to see that globalism diminishes freedom.

  • Britain reasserted its independence by voting to exit the European Union in June 2016.View Source
  • In the U.S., Donald Trump also harnessed the spirit of nationalism during his successful presidential bid.View Source
  • The appeal to nationalism is succeeding in large part because it is human nature to push back against tyranny and to defend the traditions that one’s own society has been built upon.View Source
  • WATCH: Laura Ingraham interviews Yoram Hazony on nationalismView Source

Britain votes to leave the European Union. The United States elects a president who says he’ll put “America First.”

Around the world, nationalism is winning elections. Many see this nationalist revival as the great danger of our time, fearing that nationalism will take us back to a more primitive and racist past.

But it wasn’t long ago that great political figures such as Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt, David Ben-Gurion and Mahatma Gandhi, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher recognized what I call the virtue of nationalism.

So, what is this virtue?

A nationalist believes that the world is governed best when nations are free to chart their own independent course, cultivating their traditions and pursuing their interests without interference. Nationalism is not about racism. All nations are internally diverse. And it isn’t about isolationism.

Of course, nations can a pursue a variety of different policies in diplomacy and trade. Nationalism is the opposite of imperialism—or globalism or transnationalism—which are all names for the attempt to bring peace and prosperity to the world by uniting mankind under a single political authority.

The debate between nationalists and globalists, then, is over whether we should aspire to a world of many independent nations—or to be one unified super-state, like the enlightened “Federation” of the Star Trek movies. A case can be made for both sides of the argument. But for the last 30 years—really, since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the Soviet Union—the “one world“ side has been dominant.

Today, this is changing. Maybe not among elites, but among ordinary citizens—or, as they are known in America, “the deplorables.” It turns out that a lot of people still think good borders make good neighbors.

It’s hardly surprising that people want to preserve the way of life they and their ancestors built up over centuries, the way of life they believe is best. It’s human nature. Our strongest loyalties are to those who are closest to us: to our family; then the larger community or “tribe”, and finally, to the nation.

Long ago, it was discovered that the key to human freedom is to build political life out of this natural loyalty. By putting decision-making in the hands of the family, the community, and the independent nation, you could get people to cooperate with one another, join in the common defense and willingly obey laws. The only alternative to this kind of community and nation-based politics is to use force—to coerce obedience. In the 20th century, communism and Nazism both sought to impose a universal vision at gunpoint. Both the communists and the Nazis were imperialists: They wanted to eliminate the independent nations of the world.

Nationalism holds that borders are crucial: The border is where each nation’s ambitions should stop. This idea first appears in the Bible, where Moses gives borders to Israel and tells the Jews they’ll be punished if they trouble their neighbors.

True to its biblical roots, the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century made the independent nation-state the political cornerstone of the modern world. When Henry VIII declared that England would no longer obey dictates from Rome, he became Europe’s first true nationalist.

Soon, additional nations declared their independence: the Dutch from Spain, and America from Britain, to cite just two examples. The competition among these newly independent peoples led to an explosion of innovation, bringing unprecedented progress in science, industry and government.

For nearly four hundred years, the principle of national independence served as the foundation for a better, freer world. But World War I and World War II changed everything. Traumatized by these catastrophic conflicts, many now seek comfort in a simplistic narrative, ceaselessly repeated: that “nationalism caused two world wars and the Holocaust.” But this is one of the great untruths of our time. Adolph Hitler was no nationalist. He was an imperialist. If his ambitions had been limited to ruling Germans, it would have been terrible for Germany, but the French, the British, the Russians, and everyone else would have been spared a world war.

Sadly, European elites learned the wrong lesson, believing that independent nations are inherently dangerous. Better, they reasoned, that all countries should live under one government.

In 1992, this vision gave birth to the European Union. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher hated the idea. She didn’t want the bureaucrats in Brussels making decisions for Brits in Birmingham. But in the utopian 1990s, Britain thought it was better to dump Thatcher and go with Brussels. It’s the spirit of Margaret Thatcher and, indeed, of Henry VIII, that reasserted itself in Britain’s vote for independence from Europe in June 2016. Donald Trump tapped into the same spirit of nationalism five months later, in November 2016.

Nationalism is making a comeback. If you care about freedom, you should hope it succeeds. 

I’m Yoram Hazony, author of The Virtue of Nationalism, for Prager University.

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