Skip to comments.Notes on Nationalism
Posted on 10/29/2001 6:27:39 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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You quoted me out of context. I was talking about the idea that colonialism is more virtuous if we don't gain from it. Rand wasn't big on altruism, as I recall. On either the thread you linked to or one like it, she was quoted as saying that a free country has the right to attack an unfree one, and so the only consideration that matters is whether it's in the free country's interest. That consideration still matters. Their need for a decent government doesn't constitute on obligation on our part to provide them with one.
If someone who had never heard of Rudyard Kipling stumbled onto this poem, he could easily take it as a criticism, and a pretty harsh one at that, of imperialism. Reading it, I want say the same thing anti-war protestors in the 60s said, "Hell no! I won't go!" I'd rather stay here in Illinois and post messages on Free Republic. (As an aside, if we do colonize the third world, I hope the people in charge don't read Plato, or that remark could come back and bite me.)
Indeed. This is the classic British post-Reformation Establishment description of the English Catholic, and has been used to smear every convert since Newman(if not Campion) with charges of divided loyalty and intellectual dishonesty. I am understandably wary of any article that repeats such a tired trope.
I take it, you agree with Rand that it's the national interest, not altruism, that is determinative for the just invasion. In the case of the third world, we might have a national security interest in some of these places; we, for example, would benefit from getting a say in how most Arab countries are run, as well as, of course, Afghanistan.
Would the Muslim nations benefit from American colonization? If we respect their culture (and we'd be foolish not to), they might; almost any civil structure out there would be an improvement over the sheiks, the Taliban, or the ayatollahs. (Which is the opposite side of Rand's "green light to invade an unfree nation" coin). The thing with objectivism is that it always meshes in nicely with conventional ethics. In the case on hand, an invasion of a Muslim land, which would oppress the legitimate Muslim aspirations, is not only unethical, but is not in our national interest.
But it looked like I was commenting on her position in intervention rather than her position on altruism.
I take it, you agree with Rand that it's the national interest, not altruism, that is determinative for the just invasion.
Not quite. It's determinative for the prudent invasion. If it were in our national interest to kill everyone in England, for example, it would still be unjust. It would also be unjust if it were our interest to kill everyone in Arabia.
I don't share Rand's view of altruism, since I'm a Christian, but I do agree with her that's it's a bad, and even immoral, basis for public policy. I don't hold the view on altruism many objectivists attribute to Christians, either. It's meritorious, but not obligatory. It is not meritorious, however, if the costs aren't born exclusively by the person or persons being altruistic, which is why the government shouldn't act altruistically.
Exactly. An invasion is just if the country being invaded has a government that usurps power. It is always a war on the government and not on the population. Once we know that the invasion is just, the question becomes, is it prudent? The national interest (of the country contemplating invasion) is determinative for that.
Although I don't subscribe to objecticist ethics either, I wholly agree with Rand's condemnation of "altruist" foreign policy. That is because a foreign policy is executed by the government on behalf of the entire nation. If the policy disregards national interest, then the government executing it abuses its mandate. Whether the reason to disregard the national interest is altruism doesn't exhonerate it, because the government then would act on behalf of foreigners at the expense of the citizens. Of course, in many cases altruist policy is also in the national interest (such as, many would agree, was the Marshall Plan), and then Rand should have no objection to it.
To reduce it to individuals, as a Christian I find myself motivated by an altruistic urge to do charity; however, if I convert my charitable impulse into an act of coercing others to do charitable acts, there is no charity in it for anyone. Thus Randian objection to altruism doesn't contradict Christian ethics.
The only thing I find annoying is the use of the very word "nationalism" which Orwell then goes to great lengths to re-define so that its new meaning has little or no resemblence to its accepted meaning. Because his interpretation is so much at odds with conventional usage, it would have been better if he appropriated some other term. In fact, he has one from his own pen : groupthink.
What you refer to is not "jingoism". And the person with sensitivities slighted and taking it as such is in error. Professing a love for your country is not "fanatical".
I have had in-laws that have spent 20 minutes ranting on how much better their country is than America, morally as well as simplicity in life-style, and would just rant louder when I pointed out FACTS to the contrary. THAT is jingoism, isn't it? A sort of "ultranationalism"?
After listening to these rants I walk to the phone, calmly asking what day of departure they prefer when I make their flight reservations BACK to the "land of plenty" they so desperately couldn't wait to leave some odd years back. The room becomes strangely quiet...
And, as usual, it is followed by fascinating discussion.
agrandis....ping! (I think you'll find it worth the time. Any thoughts?) :-)
You're right. If I'm not mistaken, Orwell coined groupthink after he wrote the essay, so maybe it reflects his own search for a better term.