I was struck by a tweet from libertarian Republican congressman Justin Amash, who has become the “new Ron Paul” now that the three-time presidential candidate and libertarian icon has taken a well-deserved rest from politics. The other day he tweeted:
“Patriotism & nationalism are profoundly different. Patriotism is love of country. FA Hayek called nationalism ‘a twin brother of socialism.’”
Amash, who has vowed to never support GOP frontrunner and likely presidential nominee Donald Trump, undoubtedly had the New York real estate mogul in mind, but no matter what one thinks of The Donald, Amash is quite wrong about the nature of American nationalism and the meaning of “patriotism.”
To begin with, Hayek was clearly talking about European nationalism, not the American variety. I’ll get to the difference between them, but I want first to point out the irony of Amash’s citation of this particular Hayek quote, because the great libertarian theorist was here talking about the problem of centralization: that is, the growing tendency of smaller political units to be subordinated to and swallowed up by bigger entities.
If we place Hayek’s discussion in the present context, then it becomes clear that nationalism is not the enemy but a (potential) friend of liberty. For the modern trend is toward supra-national entities, like the European Union, the UN, and the North American “Free Trade” Agreement, which are engaged in erecting precisely that “society which is consciously organized from the top” so abhorred by Hayek. When nationalism is arrayed against globalism, i.e. against the concept of a regional super-state, or even a World State, libertarians must clearly take sides with the former.
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