Site-note: The rise of Based Stickman and the propaganda art created mere days after his arrest is a textbook case of what I described in my essay the American Troubles.
Lately, I’ve seen people posting a 1944 article written by Ludwig Von Mises titled “Liberty Opposes Nationalism.” The essay itself is very good, and I highly recommend you read it. However, like so many works of literature, it was a product of its time and must be applied within that context in order to understand it and its relevant to our modern political issues.
First, I want differentiate two forms of nationalism and clarify which one Mises is referring to. One type of nationalism places primary emphasis on promotion of a specific culture and interests.There is nothing about this that contradicts or opposes libertarianism.
The other definition is that of a general political concept that provides the foundation for the nation-state.
This is the definition Mises uses in his critique.
The principle of nationality does not represent the liberal solution of the international problem. The liberals urged self-determination. The principle of nationality is an outcome of the interpretation which people in Central and Eastern Europe, who never fully grasped the meaning of liberal ideas, gave to the principle of self-determination. It is a distortion, not a perfection, of liberal thought.
I have no qualms with what he goes on to write in the rest of the article. My problem is that people posting it are using it as anti-nationalist literature within our current political scene, when the alternative is even worse for self-determination.
We have to keep in mind that Mises wrote this at a time when the political debate was one of nationalism versus local autonomy. Nationalism was a movement toward bigger, more powerful states.
World War 2 represented the height of nationalist thought, a movement which had started during the 19th Century. Lincoln had waged war to preserve the American Union. Nationalists in Italy and Germany had also undermined the various regional governments and centralized political authority.Otto Von Bismark was the father of the welfare state.
Mises rightfully said this type of government was antithetical to the concept of individual liberty, because it forced association based on nationality, and should be opposed.
No one is arguing against this. Even nationalists such as Vox Day concede that as a system it is a “necessary evil.” But that isn’t the existential question before us currently. The fight has changed. It is between globalism and nationalism. You may not like either side, but that is the conflict at hand. Ignoring this makes libertarians irrelevant to the discussion.
So the question is, which ideology is more likely to eventually lead to liberty later on, if that ideology triumphs? Under which government would libertarianism be most likely to survive and possible gain the ear of its leader?
This is where right and left libertarians part ways, even though the answer should be obvious to all with the intellectual honest to admit it.
Simply put, nationalism is a decentralized, small government ideology compared to globalism. Nationalists want a nation-state. Globalists want a one-world government. The latter creates a larger state than the other. This is as self-evident as anything could ever be.
Since libertarians are opposed to the state, logically we should prefer smaller governments over larger ones and view it as a progressive step towards an even smaller state.
For the life of me, I cannot even begin to understand how some libertarians such as Jeffrey Tucker condemn nationalism, yet think a global, unelected bureaucratic shadow government in the form of the Deep State is preferable to a constitutionally-elected nationalist who can still be held accountable for his actions and impeached and removed. One might as well have sided with the British Empire during the Irish War of Independence, because the Irish rebels desired to create an all-island state.
Within the context of the early 21st Century geopolitical fight, if nationalism is defeated it will be no victory for liberty. It will only be a triumph for those who think nation-states are too small of governments and offer insufficient power for its leaders. I cannot think of a more unlibertarian outcome.
Libertarians do not have to endorse nationalism is order to perceive globalism as the greater threat to our beliefs and the latter defeats the former. What will leave me forever confounded are those who think nationalism is the greater evil of the two.
Those who sympathize with nationalists do not need to explain why they do so. Those who have seethe with contempt for an ideology opposed to a larger, more authoritarian state need to explain why they think larger government is less of an evil than smaller one.
To be frank, I think has everything to do with the underlying premise of those governments. Nationalism is based on the concept of national identity. Globalism is founded on the notion that everyone is the same and thus should be ruled by the same state. If you are an egalitarian libertarian involved in a revolt against nature and believe the globalist lie, you will at the very least sympathize heavily with its intent and loathe the raison d’être of the nation-state, even though it is a smaller government.
They simply hate the idea of national consciousness – a concept which would be preserved under nationalism but conveniently destroyed under globalism.