Libertarian Patriotism Reviewed


In the aftermath of the Kaepernick debacle, I’ve seen the argument made that libertarians cannot, and should not, be patriotic, as it somehow pays blind allegiance to the state. I’m going to dedicate the time in this article to lay out why I think that’s not true.

I recently wrote a paper for my political theory class on the topic of patriotism — which was one of the main inspirations for this article.

The crux of the argument that I tried to make in this essay is that you can be patriotic without love of government. Libertarians, I often notice, mostly argue the contrary. Here’s an excerpt from my paper, on the reason why I think that is nonsense:

“Patriotism, in actuality, only relies on a love of country, even devoid of an agreement about its current values. A love of country can exist in tandem with a feeling of disappointment toward the leadership and direction of your country, and a dissent of the current government. For example, people in the United States can love their country, but hate the amount of government regulation, the government’s hand in the market and currency, or that the government taxes its citizens. On the flipside, they could hate that government allows the right to bear arms, or isn’t affording its citizens the perceived benefits of socialism and equality of outcome. Patriotism, though now a politically divisive issue, was never meant to be a political issue, and it never should have been. Though people over time have spun patriotism to be a love of government and nation, since both are “unalterably intertwined” as they argue, as well as a blind allegiance to government’s actions, what it is really about is loving the specific region you preside in. Testing this theory is simple: think about a country with no governing body or State — a country based on some form of anarchism (anarcho-capitalism, for example). Can you still love your country, your region? The answer to that would be yes. You don’t need a government in place to love your country, your homeland. You can love your homeland, while not loving your government.”

Government doesn’t need to have any part in patriotism. Let’s look at some definitions from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, just to lay things out simply.

Patriotism is simply defined as “love for, or devotion to, one’s country,” while the term country is defined as “an area or region that has a particular quality or feature or is known for a particular activity.” Some definitions of country do include that it possesses its own governing body, but many don’t, so it is safe to say that a country doesn’t need a government.

Why some libertarians argue that you can’t be patriotic without loving government always confuses me. Sure, there are plenty of people that love their government — either blindly or knowingly.

So, let’s look finally at this as if this argument were true: that you do have to love your government to be patriotic. Most libertarians believe in some form of government; they believe in a minarchist state that has little to no power. There is a state, however, and that state does have limited powers. If this state did exist, I imagine libertarians would love the state of society with a government like that, and also would love that government — a non-coercive or minimally coercive government that left us all alone.

You can love your country, and simultaneously want to make it better. You can love your country, a country that has no government.

Let’s erode the notion that libertarians can’t be patriotic once and for all. Unity can be good, and helping your fellow man is an amazing thing. Let’s stop fighting the unnecessary fight.

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Nicholas Amato

Nicholas Amato is the News Editor at Being Libertarian. He’s an undergraduate student at San Jose State University, majoring in political science and minoring in journalism.