I recently read an article titled What Is Nationalism and What Does it Mean for Liberty by Alex Nowrasteh on libertarianism.org.
It was an interesting article in that it was the first time I’ve seen anyone other than me admit that, given the vagueness of the term, they really don’t know what sort of value to place on it. But it was also interesting that in the very first sentence, Donald Trump’s name is mentioned as an example of the ‘growing global nationalist threat’ when at least one of the definitions provided later describe the progressive movement with some degree of precision while I experienced difficulty placing Trump in any of these buckets with reasonable certainty.
Liberal Nationalism: This style of nationalism is midway between the Jacobin and Traditional varieties. It emphasizes the absolute sovereignty of the national state but, in seeming contradiction, also seeks to limit the power of the government to interfere with individual liberty by proclaiming the goal of the state to be to protect individual liberty and provide public goods. If you have ever taken an economics class, the ideal of liberal nationalism comes closest to what economists think of as the proper role of the state. If you also see the tensions between absolute sovereignty and the protection of individual liberties, then the next phase of nationalism should be unsurprising.
Integral Nationalism: This stage of nationalism centers the nation and its state in the life of all citizens. Instead of a state being committed to supplying public goods to citizens, this form of nationalism emphasizes individual sacrifice for the benefit of the nation and its government. It also frequently embraces blood-worship (the Latin root of nationalism is natio, meaning tribe, ethnic group, or division by birth) and seeks to expand the state to include all co-ethnics living in other territories. Hayes summarized this form of nationalism as intensely “anti-individualistic and anti-democratic”, where all other loyalties are absorbed into loyalty to the national state and a right-makes-right ideology.
(Left-leaning libertarians were just thrown under the nationalist bus too.)
This isn’t to say that I don’t think Trump has issues, personal or otherwise that need to be worked out. But if you want to be President and need to take over a major political party to do it, you will need all the help you can get, even if it is from sources one might not otherwise select when winning isn’t everything.
Nor is it to say that Trump has not made extracurricular use of Presidential power. He started out close to doing a great job in that area. Especially of late, however, he appears to have found the straightjacket of the rule of law too constraining to his goals and has decided to overreach in a number of areas, border provisions, for one, baiting the Iranians for another, to aggravated abuse of delegated tariff authority and the resulting bailout of farmers and banning of technology deals with Huawei.
And yes, those Trump tweets about what he will to with all the tariff (tax on foreign produced goods) money filling government coffers daily put me in a state of agitation. Tariff incidents nearly always fall on consumers, damage that he can’t undo by buying goods from farmers who are victims of reciprocity and donating them to poor African countries. He really needs to open his own wallet rather than forcing it on others. His use of tariffs and associated government gain isn’t leadership, it’s unbridled tyranny.
But to stick a label on someone, and then not be able to clearly articulate what it is about that person that fits your own definitions of what the label means is somewhat of a problem. I understand it’s trendy to run with the nationalist when criticizing Trump, using one’s own form of demagoguery. But in the case of this article, it appears to be more about a cognitive problem on the part of the author than it is about Trump when there is so much real red meat on Trump’s table to choose from. Nobody does themselves a favor in criticizing the boogeyman; and Trump is far from magical, malicious or otherwise.
In other news, Scott Sumner’s latest post on The MoneyIllusion proclaims that monetary policy is becoming too tight. To me, given that in the recent past Sumner has advocated tighter policy that I would prefer, it is something to be noticed rather than ignored; and couldn’t agree more his point that on the way to the ZLB isn’t the time or place for the Fed to be “behind the curve.” After all, that trip must start somewhere, and the slower the Fed is to recognize it, the worse off we all are.
PS: WordPress’ new post editor is really cumbersome and awful.