Growing up in Canada I was taught that Americans were violent, boisterous, and arrogant. When I finally took a trip to Boston and I couldn’t help but notice most of them seemed like ordinary decent people who talked funny. I believe they felt the same as me, and they thought it was equally funny listening to me pronounce the word about.
I recently sat down to watch an old rerun of the American show Shark Tank, where a hopeful entrepreneur made his pitch to savvy business investors. They found a flaw in his cost of production but he was braggadocious on the point – his suppliers are all American. The rebuttal didn’t seem to influence Kevin O’Leary or Robert Herjavec, a Canadian and a Croatian-Canadian. The hopeful entrepreneur left hopeless and without an investment.
Being Libertarian had an interesting post a few months ago where we asked our readers to state their most anti-libertarian position and nationalism won the popular vote by a landslide.
In a sense, I can understand this. I’m a libertarian precisely because I want better lives for those around me, which entails a better country. I really do want what’s best for Canada. But I still can’t escape the conclusion that nationalism is an odd position for a libertarian to take.
There are very few causes of war superior to that of nationalism. There are very few excuses for state-abuses that prop up more than nationalism. Trade barriers are spiked by nationalism. The immorality of taxation is overlooked by most on the grounds of patriotic duty.
The reason why the left appears bereft of ethics is that of nationalism. Libertarians are puzzled as to why war mongers like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could be so celebrated by the anti-war left. The answer is that American bodies were shipped home under George W. Bush, fueling the left’s righteous indignation, while Obama and Clinton only killed people from the Middle East, strangely prompting the left’s silence.
Pascal in his brilliant work Pensées asserted the futility of justice if it could be reduced to geography. The concept of killing an individual can be barbaric or heroic depending on whether the unfortunate individual was born on a particular side of a river.
Morality approaching this level of relativity ceases to become meaningful. I’m told that I’m supposed to mourn the death of a countryman killed in a drone strike, but overlook shocking civilian death toll in the same strike as a necessary measure. The death of an American ambassador in Libya will enrage the Republican base, and the death of thousands of Libyans is irrelevant to them.
This isn’t ethics, it’s antiquated tribalism. We wouldn’t have survived as a species without it but this is no longer our reality. Like many of our animalistic instincts, it doesn’t always help the tribe.
Consider the phenomenon of what I’ve heard Steve Bannon refer to as economic nationalism. The economically illiterate propose that it’s better for a country if we buy products produced within the country. There are very few political issues that unite economists from across the political spectrum like free trade – they all are of the opinion that it’s good for the country.
Free trade is the concept that if A has an ample supply of toothpaste, and B has an ample supply of dental floss, they can work out a mutually beneficial arrangement to prepare for their dates that evening.
Canadians opposing NAFTA do so on the grounds that Prince Edward Island potato farmers might suffer if someone from Vancouver can buy an Ohio potato. Americans object on the grounds that a Texan oil refinery might suffer if the same job can be done in Alberta at half the cost. The truth is that Americans will get cheaper oil, and Canadians will get a cheaper grocery bill.
This has two impacts. It lowers the cost of living, which is a massive reduction in poverty. Secondly, the surplus savings the respective citizens have in each country are spent on other products, which increases employment even further – another reduction in poverty.
Protectionism is plunging new depths of human irrationality. It’s a misguided force that doesn’t even accomplish its own goals. Nationalism is reversing human evolution. Its advocates are on the same level of economic acumen as minimum wage advocates. I’m not better than someone, or more deserving of life, on the grounds that I’m Canadian rather than American or Iranian. Nationalism is a cancer that literally kills members of our species. We can do better.
This post was written by Brandon Kirby.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.
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