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Can a case be made for the nation?


Roger Scruton's slim volume can be purchased from Civitas.

English philosopher Roger Scruton points out that, . . .the case against the nation state has not been properly made, and the case for the transnational alternative has not been made at all.

Nevertheless, annihilation is the plan for the nation

. . .the process has been set in motion that would expropriate the remaining sovereignty of our parliaments and courts, that would annihilate the boundaries between our jurisdictions, that would dissolve the nationalities of Europe in a historically meaningless collectivity, united neither by language, nor by religion, nor by customs, nor by inherited sovereignty and law.

Love and murder

The initiators of the European experiment – both the self-declared prophets and the behind-the-doors conspirators – shared a conviction that the nation state had caused the two world wars. A united states of Europe seemed to them to be the only recipe for lasting peace. This view is for two reasons entirely unpersuasive. First, it is purely negative: it rejects nation states for their belligerence, without giving any positive reason to believe that transnational states will be any better.

Secondly, it identifies the normality of the nation state through its pathological versions. As Chesterton has argued about patriotism generally, to condemn patriotism because people go to war for patriotic reasons is like condemning love because some loves lead to murder.

Where have freedom and representative government taken root?

We recall the tyranny and belligerence of the transnational state of the Soviet Union. We observe that the nation state has been the one place where freedom, just law, and representative government have taken root and flourished – in Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, the Czech Republic, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway. . .

“Wherever the experience of nationality is weak or non-existent,” Scruton writes, “democracy has failed to take root.”

A natural love

Scruton shows that "the patriotism defended by Machiavelli, Montesquieu and Mill is a form of national loyalty: not a pathological form like nationalism, but a natural love of country, countrymen and the culture that unites them."

My country 'tis of thee,
sweet land of liberty,
of thee I sing.