The Brexit leave vote and the Trump election win were supposedly as a result of rising levels of nationalism or populism in the UK and US. As a result we’ve seen a lot of the mainstream media looking at the downsides of populism. While praising the idea of globalism, explaining it as a flattening of the world, which will lead to more “understanding and harmony”. It doesn’t seem to have worked so well of late.
The interview or rather discussion below looks at what globalism really is, what nationalism is and why the world may in fact be trending toward the elimination of the “nation state”. Thought provoking stuff…
Nick Giambruno: The inevitable breakdown of the European Union and the massive financial crisis it could trigger is an important theme for us right now.
I’ve just spent weeks with my boots on the ground in Italy. The country has enormous public debt levels, and its banking system is on the verge of collapse.
Italy could trigger the collapse of the entire EU, which could start an irreversible trend. It’s a sign that globalism—the secular religion of the Deep State—is a failed ideology.
By globalism, I simply mean the centralization of power into global institutions: the EU, the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, NAFTA, GATCA, NATO, and so forth. Globalism is really just a polite way of describing world government, or what George H.W. Bush termed the New World Order.
I’m skeptical of government on any level, especially global government.
Most people never bother to consider what “globalism” actually means. The mass media simply asserts the idea of globalism as though it were a permanent fixture in the universe, beyond discussion.
Nonetheless, I think the breakdown of the EU represents a failure of globalism. It also appears to be planting the seeds of increased nationalism.
Now, my question is: Is nationalism a lesser evil than globalism?
Doug Casey: First, that’s a great definition of globalism that you just gave.
But before I answer the question, we have to also define nationalism.
Nationalism is, most importantly, a psychological attitude. It amounts to making your nation-state a major element in your life, where you view yourself not so much as a human being, or an individual, but as an Italian or an American or a Congolese or Chinese or what have you. Nationalism makes you see yourself, and others, as part of a collective.
Of course there are different flavors and degrees of nationalism. “Patriotism,” for instance is automatically considered a good thing, wherein you reflexively support what your nation-state does. But it’s really just a euphemism for nationalism. It’s nationalism made righteous, with overtones of hearth and home, as opposed to politics. Then you get “jingoism” when patriots get overenthusiastic. The connotation of words is often just as important as their formal definition. Think: “I’m a freedom fighter, you’re a rebel. He’s a terrorist.”
I think it’s a mistake to automatically give your loyalty to any large group that you belong to just through an accident of birth. For instance, should you have been a Soviet patriot just because you were born in the USSR? Should you have been a German patriot while the Nazis were in power?
Nationalism amounts to saying “my nation-state is the best in the world because I happen to have been born there.” It’s really a very stupid psychological aberration, because it places an accident of birth above much more important things like your ethics, desires, and attitudes. I don’t, by the way, necessarily favor or disfavor people because of their nationality, but only because of their character, beliefs, and actions. Although sometimes in today’s world, their nationality can give you a clue as to their character, beliefs, and actions…
Nationalism, no matter what flavor, can be a very dangerous thing. It brings people down to the lowest common denominator. It encourages groupthink. Unfortunately, it’s probably a condition with genetic roots, so it’s hard to cure. At best, you can probably just minimize the size of the groups it affects.
So, ideally the world would have about seven billion little nations. Then everyone could, quite rationally, be as nationalistic or patriotic as they want. But nationalism is not nearly as dangerous as globalism.
That’s because globalism is the idea that all the power in the world should be centralized. You don’t even get a choice of what kind of nationalism you might prefer. It means power is further concentrated into the hands of the kind of people that constitute the Deep State.
Nick Giambruno: I agree.
The situation is very different than it was just 25 years ago. Back then, globalists thought they had the whole thing wrapped up.
Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man, illustrates this well. The book proposed the ridiculous and now discredited notion that we were approaching the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government.
Doug Casey: Fukuyama is a professional neoconservative intellectual. His book impressed me in two ways. Neither good.
First, its central thesis—that today’s version of so-called “liberal democracy” is the final evolution of politics and economics—is at once naïve, dangerous, and stupid. It’s amazing that someone who’s supposed to be a historian actually believes that conflicts between major nation-states have come to an end, because everybody now shares the same worldview. Which is also untrue.
The other thing that impressed me was how Fukuyama’s notions have become so popular among television’s talking-head intellectuals and the kind of people who read The New York Review of Books and The Atlantic magazine. Ironically, I include myself among their readers. Although I read them mainly to find out what the enemy is up to.
The fact that his view—essentially that the U.S. had triumphed—became so widely accepted, was the bell ringing at the top of the market, just after the USSR collapsed. People only become so arrogant at the peak, just before they head downhill. The Romans felt that way in the second century, the Spanish in the 16th century, the French before Napoleon invaded Russia, the British in 1914, the Germans in 1940. The Russians in 1980. It’s typical, and predictable.
Fukuyama is representative of a whole class of what might be called “court intellectuals.” He now collects fat speaking fees from think tanks and NGOs, of which there are hundreds in the U.S. alone, most located within the Washington Beltway. It’s a whole ecosystem, populated by people who see themselves as “the best and brightest.” They pretty well dominate the media, academia, and government. They all promote each other and feather each other’s nests. Since they’re the “elite,” the average person feels safe parroting their thoughts. But they’re really just propaganda outlets, funded by foundations, whose donors want to give an intellectual patina to their views. He’s a mouthpiece for globalist views.
People like him are mostly what I call Running Dogs, acting as a support system for the Top Dogs in the Deep State. Their product is “public policy recommendations.” Which have a huge influence on how much tax you have to pay, what new regulations you have to obey, and what foreign adventures the U.S. Government gets involved in.
They’re no friends of the common man. Or the concept of individual liberty.
Nick Giambruno: Yes, indeed. Most think tanks do nothing but advocate for more welfare, warfare, money printing, and regulations. They nurture the psychological soil of big government.
I’m sure you recall the pivotal role certain think tanks played in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War. In reality, think tanks are nothing more than lobbying organizations. Albeit ones with a thin academic facade, which they use to get a special tax-exempt status.
As for the failure of globalism, the jury is still out on whether it will strengthen nationalism and the nation-state or if power will decentralize further into smaller political entities.
For example, Scotland might try to break away from the UK again; Catalonia could secede from Spain. These are just a few of the increasing number of secessionist movements around the world.
I think the long-term trend is that both globalism and the nation-state are on their way out. In the meantime, do you think a resurgence of nationalism will give the nation-state a second wind?
Doug Casey: I think the trend is not towards a few big nation-states, as George Orwell posited in his book 1984, but in the opposite direction. He was right in so many ways, but I’m glad he was wrong about that. The globalists would, however, agree with what Orwell foresaw.
The globalists essentially want to see a world government. And they’re working towards that through formal organizations such as the UN, the EU, the IMF, and the OECD. And informally, through groups such as the CFR, the Trilateral Commission, and the World Economic Forum.
My argument, however, is that the breakup of the Soviet Union was only the first straw in the wind. Most of the world’s big nation-states—and even the little ones—are going to disintegrate over the next few generations. Besides the USSR, we’ve seen Yugoslavia break up. And Czechoslovakia. And Sudan. Brexit is another indicator.
There are now dozens of little or large secessionist movements all over Europe. Africa is made up of 50-some nation-states. All of them, with the exception of Egypt, Ethiopia, and a couple of others, are completely artificial constructs put together in the boardrooms of Europe in the 19th century. The continent will eventually break up along tribal lines, into hundreds of entities. So will the Middle East and Central Asia. In fact this is true of almost the whole world. I question how long either the U.S. or Canada will stay together for that matter. All political entities have half-lives.
Al Stewart got it right in “On the Border”—which is, incidentally, a fantastic song: “On my wall the colours of the maps are running.”
Mankind has gone through three main stages of political organization since Day One, say 200,000 years ago, when anatomically modern men appeared. We can call them Tribes, Kingdoms, and Nation-States.
In prehistoric times, the largest political/economic group was the tribe. Since men are social creatures, it was natural enough to be loyal to the tribe. It made sense. Almost everyone in the tribe was genetically related, and the group was essential for mutual survival in the wilderness. The local group was all that counted. “Others” from alien tribes, were not only in competition for scarce resources, but they might want to kill you for good measure. Tribalism is probably genetic—it’s a survival mechanism. Patriotism for your tribe also served a survival purpose, because you were always fighting with the neighboring tribes. You wanted your co-tribalists to be loyal and patriotic…
In the Kingdom phase, from around 3,000 B.C. to roughly the mid-1600s, the world’s cultures were organized under strong men, ranging from petty lords to kings and emperors. With kingdoms, loyalties weren’t so much to the “country”—a nebulous and arbitrary concept—but to the ruler. You were the subject of a king, first and foremost. Your linguistic, ethnic, religious, and other affiliations were secondary. Tribal leaders who were good warriors conquered neighboring tribes and set themselves up as kings.
Then came the nation-state, one of mankind’s worst inventions.
It seems that most people naturally want, and maybe even need, a leader. It must be some kind of innate atavism, probably dating back to before humans branched out from the chimpanzees about three million years ago. Most people, it seems, like being led, and giving their loyalty to something bigger than themselves. Maybe that helps give their lives meaning… In any event, over the last few hundred years it’s become fashionable to pledge allegiance not to a ruler or a king, but to something called the “State.”
Today’s prevailing norm is the nation-state, a group of people who tend to share language, religion, and ethnicity. Like a gigantic tribe. The idea of the nation-state is especially effective when it’s organized as a “democracy,” where the average person is given the illusion he has some measure of control over where the leviathan is headed.
I think, however, that the nation-state is approaching its end game. What will replace it? I think Neal Stephenson was right in his superb novel The Diamond Age, where he put forward the idea of “phyles.” It no longer makes sense to be loyal to a group just because they have the same government ID that you do, or because they were born in the same bailiwick. I don’t feel any particular loyalty to the people living down the road in the trailer park, or in the barrio, or the ghetto, or the next town. As a matter of fact, they’re likely adversaries and liabilities. We’ve got little in common.
I feel more loyalty to people with whom I share values—and they could as easily be in France, or Burma, or the Congo as the U.S. Now, with the internet, modern telecommunications, and jet travel, we can find each other. Birds of a feather will wind up forming phyles, obviating the nation-state.
Nick Giambruno: Most people simply accept the nation-state as a normal part of life—like gravity or the sun setting in the west. They don’t realize it’s a man-made beast that’s only been around for a couple hundred years, tracing its origins to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.
This is an incredible moment in history. We could live to see the dissolution of the Westphalian world order.
I agree with you. Good riddance to the nation-state.
I was recently in San Marino, a mountainous microstate enclave surrounded by Italy. It’s a relic of the Kingdom phase you mentioned.
San Marino is the oldest sovereign political entity in the world. It gained its independence from the Roman Empire in the year 301 and has kept it ever since… surviving Napoleon, the unification of Italy, WWI, and WWII. It has wisely avoided being absorbed into the EU.
It was remarkable to see a “country” that predated the nation-state by over 1,300 years. It felt like the local people actually cared about the place. It was clean. There were no riff-raff, migrants, or freeloaders that I could see. You got the feeling you were a guest on someone’s private property. Tourists and locals alike were respectful.
It was a sharp contrast to being in a public space in any other nation-state. Some, like the New York City subway, seem like giant, filthy public toilets at times.
Anyway, you often hear the media and the government use the term “failed state.” I find it curious. How would you define a “failed state”?
Doug Casey: It must be a government that doesn’t control its bailiwick, that doesn’t do the things that a government is “supposed” to do. But, in my view, there are very few things a government should do. That’s because the essence of government is force. And, in a civilized society, force should be kept to a minimum. So the only legitimate function of government is to protect you from force. Which implies an army to protect you from violence from outside of its borders, police to protect you inside of its borders, and a court system to allow you to adjudicate disputes without violence.
But those three functions are actually far too important to be left to the state or the kind of people that inevitably go to work for it. So the only three things that it can legitimately do are the very three things that are too important to trust it with. It’s almost a contradiction of terms. In point of fact, there’s nothing the State does that shouldn’t be left to entrepreneurs and a voluntary market.
Nick Giambruno: I think you hit the nail on the head.
As you’ve noted before, the essence of government is coercion. The state is simply a group of people who have the monopoly on force in a certain geographic area.
Therefore, a “failed state” is one in which that monopoly is broken.
And that’s pretty much the situation in countries the media and U.S. government call failed states… Libya, Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and so forth. None of those countries’ central governments have a monopoly on force within their geographic borders.
Libya is the perfect example. It’s a completely arbitrary political entity that Gaddafi held together strictly through brute force. It was entirely predictable that Libya would unravel after NATO toppled Gaddafi. No other entity could maintain a monopoly on coercion once the central government lost it. Thus, Libya became a “failed state.”
That’s why I think it’s a revealing term. It’s an implicit recognition that the nature of government is force and coercion and not benevolence.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the term “failed state.” It implies that every square inch of the world should be organized into nation-states.
The media often uses another problematic term, “rogue state,” as an ill-defined pejorative. It might be more accurate to call a “rogue state” a “disobedient state,” akin to the United States in 1776.
What’s your take on all of this and how it relates to the sustainability of the European Union?
Doug Casey: Good points. And almost all states in the world are on the point of failure, because almost all of them are bankrupt. They’ve issued far more debt than they can ever repay. They all compel their subjects to use fiat currencies, but all of those currencies are in the process of being destroyed, since governments, through their central banks, are issuing them by the trillions now.
Governments the world over provide less and less in the way of services that people actually want and need—and most of those they’ve usurped, as they always have, from the market. Since they’re mostly bankrupt they’ll be increasingly unable to provide useful services. So I expect we’ll see more internal turmoil around the world in the years to come. And more wars, as governments blame each other for various problems. You’ll find more states going rogue for that reason.
This is all bad news. But the good news is that—possibly—we’re at the cusp of seeing the concept of the state itself debunked. And the state replaced by a more rational form of social organization. Continuing advances in technology will enable the individual, as they always have, to decrease his need to rely on the State.
So there’s real cause for optimism.
Nick Giambruno: Any final thoughts?
Doug Casey: Unfortunately, it’s likely to be a bumpy road getting from here to there.
Nick Giambruno: I agree. Most people have no idea how bad things can get when a government goes out of control, let alone how to prepare…
The coming economic and political collapse is going to be much worse, much longer, and very different than what we’ve seen in the past.
That’s exactly why Doug and I just released an urgent video. Click here to watch it now.