A Case for Liberal Nationalism
On the 23rd of June the British people will have a historic referendum before them. They will be voting on if they shall remain in the European Union or begin the process of withdrawing.
On the ‘Remain’ side sit prominent figures like Prime Minister David Cameron, who, during the 2015 parliamentary campaign promised to have the referendum in order to shore up Conservative votes. Advocates lining up behind Cameron in the “Stay Camp” cite the possibility of economic uncertainty that could be created by their exit from the European Union manifested though possible new trade barriers and a stock market that would then be primed for collapse. Also they cite political isolation as part of the fearful outcome of a departure of Britain because of the possibility of handing over all influence in Europe to the remaining large states of the Union, Germany and France. These nations, they fear, may be bitter at the pullout of one of the Union’s major cornerstone nations.
Yet the fears, if not completely unfounded, are severely overstated. Yes, in the short run economic destabilization may occur and bitter Europe may think about seeking revenge with trade barriers. But Britain is the second largest economy in Europe only behind Germany. So punishing Britain financially would also mean bringing more damage upon an already wavering economy on the continent. So when the time came to put threats into action I strongly believe that the politicians of Europe, if for no other reason than self-interest, would back down from their fiery rhetoric. The same overstatements go for economic destabilization in general. Currently, under guidance from the EU, most member states have unemployment in the double digits, a currency crisis for every member state in the Euro Zone, and a EU GDP growth rate of only 1.8% in the first quarter of 2016. The EU is already overseeing a decayed and hollowed out economy, it is not as if Britain leaving is something that would unleash a plague on a currently shining economy operating at full health.
However, the reasons to support Brexit are not simply limited to the ways that the pro-stay camp is wrong, but it is more importantly about how what the pro-leave camp is saying is right.
- It is the fiscally responsible thing to do. In 2015 the British people, via their government, transferred 13 billion Pounds to the European Union for its “Membership Fee” that goes straight to Brussels to fund another super-national layer of bureaucracy that sits on top of European nations, that for the most part are arguably already over-regulated.
- It will help secure the nation. British Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has come out in favor of Brexit because he believes by the reestablishment of border controls, the threat of terrorists reaching Britain from the continent would be decreased. Also, while some generals are saying that intelligence sharing would be compromised by Britain leaving the Union, the voice of reason, Colonel Richard Kemp, said in The Times:
“The ‘critical bilateral relationships’ would persist regardless of membership, and that it is ‘absurd’ to suggest that the EU would put its own citizens, or the UK’s, at greater risk by reducing cooperation in the event of Brexit.”
- It revives the sense of Nationhood. By breaking away from the chains of the multi-national European Union, full sovereignty of the British Isles would be returned to the British people. This is a point of importance that cannot be stressed enough. Anti-EU sentiment has been driven in many aspects by a resurgence of nationalism that many Europeans have suppressed since the World Wars. It is understandable. Nationalism, when hijacked by militarists of any political persuasion, can be made into a potent weapon that does nothing but destroy. So, of course, some in the liberty movement have distaste for nationalism and at first glance this is also understandable. Yet upon further examination you will see that should not be the case. Honestly, it is only for the worse if libertarians do not embrace nationalism because when cultivated properly as liberal nationalism it can be just as much a force for good.
What is liberal nationalism? It is a kind of nationalism without a foundation in race but instead with a foundation in a common national culture that value freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights. It is fitting due to the circumstances that have brought this article to fruition that none other than a British citizen should explain for us the importance of this philosophy, that citizen is John Stuart Mill, who, in his book Representative Government in Chapter 16: Of Nationality, as connected with Representative Government states:
“But, when a people are ripe for free institutions, there is a still more vital consideration. Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences which form opinions and decide political acts are different in the different sections of the country. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. The same books, newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, do not reach them. One section does not know what opinions, or what instigations, are circulating in another. The same incidents, the same acts, the same system of government, affect them in different ways; and each fears more injury to itself from the other nationalities than from the common arbiter, the state.”
By exiting the European Union, an institution that was designed to slowly delude the national identities of Europe, Britain can begin to cultivate its own national identity once again. Then, if the EU falls, France, Germany, and all the other nations of Europe may begin to cultivate it once again too. Recent generations have been brainwashed into believing a borderless world and the embrace of multiculturalism will make society better off and more free. Instead what have they gotten? As national borders disappeared so has national power, to only be regrouped and emboldened in a giant super-state. What has the embrace of multiculturalism given them? Terrorist attacks, dangerous ghettos of parallel societies, and dead citizens. German Chancellor Angela Merkel once said:
“Der Ansatz für Multikulti ist gescheitert, absolut gescheitert!”
Which, if I remember my German correctly, translates to “The way of multiculturalism has absolutely failed!” That, it has. Yet, sadly, she turned her back on this truth and now Germany is the center of a migrant crisis which it has almost no idea how to deal with.
Instead of this borderless world of multi-national government and multi-cultural society, Brexit gives Britain, and possibly the rest of Europe a chance to reclaim its sanity. Nations may then begin to put in new immigration restrictions that stem the flow of newcomers to a manageable number that is small and allows for cultural integration and assimilation of immigrants. This will also lead to more economic and social stability that will end much of the citizens’ unrest. The nations of Europe could also receive a chance to learn from their disasters of a centralized European government and again proudly teach their children about the Magna Carta in Britain, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in France, and in Germany the liberal Revolution of 1848 and the fall of Metternich, all of which were triumphs of liberal values of free speech, free press, and/or property rights. Instead of how it is today, where big government-loving social justice warriors force westerners into shame of their pasts.
A national common identity around liberty ensures that a system that supports such a culture of freedom may be maintained. But if those who want liberty to expand its reach do not accept the importance of liberal nationalism, the lone philosophy that supports such a culture, it is at their own peril. Ignorance of this blaring reality could make Brexit, instead of an opportunity for revival, nothing more than a marginally modified status quo, which right now, for Europe, would be a road that simply leads to ruin.
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