Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Two-Part Quiz on Libertarianism and Patriotism

Here's an appropriate post for today. Having just watched a debate between Will Wilkinson and Jonah Goldberg on the topic of patriotism, it got me thinking about whether advocates of limited government can love (or at least have warm and fuzzy thoughts about) their country. I think it is correct to say that libertarians are understandably suspicious of patriotism if it means nationalism (my nation is good, so your nation must be bad). But some libertarians, including Will, think any patriotism is undesirable because it can be harnessed to statism. That's a danger, to be sure, but I've always interpreted patriotism as support for the ideals of a nation rather than its government. That's why the sentiments in this image match my definition of patriotism.

That being said, I'll be the first to admit that patriotism in not a particularly rational sentiment. One could live in Switzerland, Hong Kong, or the Cayman Islands and be part of a culture that is based on ideals that are at least somewhat similar to what we have in America. So why feel any special warmth for the United States? In large part, it is an accident of birth. Many of us feel affection to America because that's where we were raised - in the same way we may feel loyalty to sports teams based on our hometowns (Go Yankees!) or where we went to school (Go Dawgs!).

Here's my two-part quiz. One question deals with a trivial topic, and the other one revolves around something more profound. In both cases, though, I'd be interested in feedback on whether affirmative answers put one on a slippery slope to statism.

1. Do you want athletes representing the United States to win international contests such as the World Cup, Olympics, Ryder Cup, and Davis Cup - even if you don't follow the sport?

2. Even if you disagree with nation building and want the US out of Iraq and/or Afghanistan, do you want America to prevail in military battles? On a related note, would you rather have 100 (or 1,000) Taliban or Al Qaeda fighters die or one US soldier die?

The first question (at least I assume) is easy. Wanting your nation to win a contest presumably does not imply that you want to persecute other countries, invade other countries, or even have negative thoughts about another nation or its people. I also don't see how it could imply anything bad on the domestic front. Wanting the US to do well in the Olympics, for example, does not have any implications for big government or small government (am I missing something?). Heck, if I understand correctly, the United States (to its credit) does not even finance national teams with tax monies.

The second question is a lot harder. For all intents and purposes, an affirmative response means you value an American life over a foreign life. I'm not an expert on foreign policy, so I don't pretend to know exactly what the United States should have done in the aftermath of 9-11. But I know I'm not a fan of nation building, so I don't want endless occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan in the futile hope of transforming them into democracies. Nonetheless, I instinctively want nothing but good results for the soldiers and others who are stationed there. And if shooting happens, I want all the casualties on the other side. I don't think these views make me a bad libertarian, but I welcome your thoughts.

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