Are You a Patriot?

The Misused Claim of Moral Obligation

In my role with The Stateless Man, name-calling against me seems to be par for the course. Recently, for example, someone emailed and called me a “Capital Communist.” “Cultural Marxist” is also a regular favorite with my detractors.

As you can gauge, given that I advocate against collectivism, any connection with reality is beside the point when it comes to these character attacks. All I can say is good luck to those people, since any fruitful engagement appears out of the question.

There is one criticism, however, that is more widespread and merits a response. It is that I and other people who do not give allegiance to nationality are “unpatriotic” (or selfish). We do not appreciate the support that people in government in our native countries have given to us and are disloyal.

Going by that use of the term, I am guilty as charged. I do not appreciate what government officials have done to me, and I’m not loyal to them. Far from having provided support, they have stolen from me and have sought to control my life in countless ways. Now they have the audacity to claim they have done me a favor and expect my allegiance. Please, pull the other one.

As Harry Browne said:

“Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, ‘See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk.’”

A particularly sore point is the many wasted and unpleasant years in government schooling, which only got in the way of my education. As noted in my article, “Books That Have Changed My Life,” not a single book from my elementary and high school years was of sufficient interest to make my top ten list. In fact, after fourteen years of schooling in New Zealand, including one year at university, my writing was so poor that assessors at Boston University thought I must have been a non-native speaker.

Higgs On the Social Contract“Uh, we speak English in New Zealand,” I told them.

Not only do the social contract and fair play arguments for political obedience and allegiance not hold water, acceptance of them has led to immensely destructive outcomes. A recent article from Jacob Hornberger, “Who Were the Patriots and Traitors in Nazi Germany?” tells the sad tale.

The German people had the same warped and distorted concept of patriotism that American statists have today…

The overwhelming majority of German citizens believed that it was their moral duty to come to the unconditional support of their government… The good citizen didn’t question whether his government was right or wrong… [He placed] his trust in the judgment and decisions of his government officials, especially during crisis and war…

The good citizen — the one who deferred to authority — was considered the patriot.

There is, however, a completely different understanding of patriotism. It is one that I subscribe to and promoted in my Fiscal Insight newsletter, “What You, The Patriot, Can Do.” In that newsletter, I drew from Lawrence Reed and his pamphlet, “The True Meaning of Patriotism.”

Reed asserts that patriotism is not a feeling or a blind trust in government officials, and it is not necessarily a love of country. Rather, it is “Freedom — understanding it, living it, and teaching it. That… is what patriotism should mean to each of us today.”

In the case of the United States, the founding document, the Declaration of Independence, does coincide with this idea.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In so far as patriotism means support for and a life consistent with this ideal, then I will gladly endorse it. Let us not forget, however, that this American ideal is not the sole property of a geographical region, which has changed markedly since then anyway. Additionally, its existence on paper does not guarantee existence in reality, and freedom is in a sorry state in the United States.

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Fergus Hodgson About Fergus Hodgson

Host and founder of the Stateless Man radio show and blog. Follow @FergHodgson.