If there is one thing that has always aggravated me it is watching people claim to support things they don’t actually understand. For example, people who claim to support free markets, yet remain in favor of taxation, government owned monopolies such as the one they hold on force, or even forms of “common sense” restriction. When I encounter opposition that doesn’t understand exactly what they’re arguing against I can give them slightly more credit or, at least, show more patience with them. If you’re claiming to support something, however, you should make it a point to become educated on the matter.
I’ll use an example I encountered regarding nationalism to explain. For clarity, I am no nationalist, yet if I am to debate against a nationalist I would prefer if they understood what nationalism actually is.
There are many (frankly too many) that support President Trump that also call themselves nationalists. Now there are, indeed, many nationalists that support the current U.S. government, but in the case of the bulk who claim to support nationalism they fail to understand what it actually means.
First off, these supporters can rarely explain what kind of nationalist they are. There isn’t a singular form of nationalism, but rather it can be expressed through racial, cultural, civic, religious, or even simple ideological lines. The inability to express the type of nationalism they support is the first sign that they don’t truly understand the words coming out of their mouths.
A common rebuttal to that question is that “nationalism is just about putting America first!” Ok, let’s use that and look over to Trump then. How, exactly, do tariffs put America first? It is a statistical fact that economies flourish when trade is free between nations (and in general). Sure, the case could be made that domestic companies could suffer from the cheaper competition, but if we’re really looking to improve things for Americans and putting them first then, as Americans, they should have the right to purchase whatever goods they wish at the best, unmolested price they can get it at. Cheap imports means less money spent on goods and services by the consumers. How is it “putting America first” to make citizens poorer through artificially increased prices?
How does heavy taxation against your fellow Americans to pay for continuous wars overseas play into this worldview either? One key issue with this limited view of nationalism is the doubled-edged sword many arguments become. Like so much of what has led to the ever increasing government presence we have, putting the concept of the entire nation above all else leads to accepting more and more invasions into the privacy and rights of the citizens. Look how easily these “nationalists” folded over the bump-stock issue. Upholding the rights of the citizens is how you make a nation great.
Nationalism isn’t simply putting your country above all else, but rather is generally a modifier to other ideologies. Even if we accept such a hollow definition of what nationalism actually is, the “America first” argument fails to support many of the actions of Trump, or his supporters. Before joining a tribe and throwing ideological titles around we ought to learn the pros and cons, history and meanings, and most importantly some actual depth to the things we claim to support. Failure to do so leaves us little more than puppets to the loudest voice.
Read more from Killian at Think Liberty here.