A Twitter thread by Erik Torenberg.
Some quick thoughts on the tensions between liberalism and nationalism👇
Liberalism and nationalism are built on a very different assumption about human nature:
Liberalism is predicated on the assumption that we're all initially individuals & we then unite & form social groups
We form social contracts, but we're fundamentally individuals, logic goes
Nationalism, on the other hand, assumes that we are first and foremost social animals.
As we grow, we carve out room for individualism, but it's often subordinate to our tribalism. We belong to groups, tribes, nations, etc.
Liberalism is predicated on the assumption that we have powerful abilities to reason, but we cannot reach universal agreement on the big Q's about life. We go to war over these disagreements
So, liberalism privileges individual rights as to help us collaborate when no one agrees
Liberalism has evolved over time.
Initially the emphasis was mainly on "negative rights" (free speech, due process).
Then it evolved to "positive rights" (e.g. equality)
Negative rights are positive sum, positive rights not so much.
Tenets of nationalism:
- You're born into a social group called a nation.
- Each nation should have its own state.
- Each state should have its own sovereignty & self-determination.
Nationalism is more powerful than civilizations.
There used to be broader empires, but no more.
Many Americans misunderstand the pull of nationalism, and might dismiss the description of it as inherent in people.
Since we're a liberal state and the liberal ideology is so deeply baked into our DNA, we gravitate to thinking about liberalism above all else.
Tension between liberalism & nationalism:
(Progressive) Liberalism is about universalism. Everyone has the same rights. That value system is the only thing that's not diverse about liberalism's aims.
Nationalism is about sovereignty. This is our people, our land, our rules, etc
This leads liberalism to want to spread universally, as that is the best way to operate.
This ruffles nationalists who want sovereignty & self-determination.
Liberalism praise rights and universalism above all. Nationalists praise sovereignty & particularism above all.