I’m here today at one of those moments where I feel I see an insight, but an insight which I suspect that many others already knew, and have long been trying to explain to me. If you are one of those, I apologize for my thickness.
It seems weird to write this post and not acknowledge that one of the most important political experiments in the world - the EU - is focused on precisely this issue. Europeans noticed that they go to war against each other a lot, and decided, very consciously and explicitly, to create a new level of political institution and political allegiance, at a level different to the state (above the state, in this case), so that there wouldn't be any more war there.So far, it seems to have succeeded.
Does it even work, as "making the nation/social unit stronger"?This fine map shows very low will to "fight for my country" in Germany, Italy and some other very "Vater Staat" (big daddy gov.) states. Ukraine is an interesting data point (3 years after 2014). https://preview.redd.it/nk1...
I think much the same data about allegiances could also be explained via politics - instead of via nationalism and patriotism. E.g. people support particular government projects because their political "team" supports them. Of course, people do have allegiances to their country and government - but they are often more engaged by their political allegiances - which are adapted to press their "trabalism" buttons more effectively.
Alas, expecting people in aggregate to behave as self-interested bastards is a way more reliable predictor of behavior than expecting them to be noble saints.
"in the last century we have assigned many social functions to national governments in order to induce deeper attachments to them, even when they are less effective at such functions than would be other units."
I think this is mistaking a symptom for the disease. It is almost certainly an effect of the government taking over things inducing a deeper attachment to the government. I don't think we (as citizens) do or allow that for the purpose of attachment.
The relentless government creep has a lot of factors, including (but not limited to);
EgoPerception that government = safeLow voter awarenessMission creepPolitical ambition
It is also likely true that some political groups may push for government control over something to induce a sense of dependence or gratitude towards that political group. However, that is primarily to further that group's political power.
For the latter half, I'm not quite sure what the question is. You talk about substituting, but what's being substituted? The provided ones (except for immigration) are all common war-related policies that countries pursue, if they have the capacity. Are you suggesting that the reason for government expansion is to promote allegiance to the government for the purposes of war? If so, I really don't think that's the case. That is awfully altruistic. I think the reasons stem much more from individual selfishness than that.
The U.S. OTOH employs the fasces as a symbol in a number of places (including the reverse of the Mercury dime), not as symbol of military force but rather as one of unity.
Robin, perhaps I'm jumping to conclusions but it almost seems that your tacit assumptions include that war is the primary purpose of nations, and that war is not overwhelmingly something to be avoided. If you believe either of these things, I'd be interested in your reasons.
Conservatism? He's describing big government making itself bigger by nationalizing private industry, in a bid to increase fervent nationalism for a war footing. That's classic Italian fascism.
In case you didn't know, the symbol of the fasces used by the Italian fascists is a bundle of sticks tied together to form the shaft of an axe. The sticks represent the different elements of the Italian state (the people, the corporations, the police, the military) being bound together on a national level to project military force (the axe).
Robin Hanson discovers conservatism by sheer inductive logic.
"We have assigned many social functions to national governments in order to induce deeper attachments to them." Maybe so, but who is "we" - who is acting to assign these social functions?
What's plausible to me is that national politicians would assign social functions to national governments in order to increase the power held by national politicians. This may also induce deeper attachments to the national politicians. Getting re-elected and increasing the power of the office is what most politicians work towards.
That doesn't have a lot to do with war, at least not directly or intentionally, unless the politician wants to campaign on a war platform. And if they do, then they would be directly supporting policies about war in a way obvious to the voters. There's no value to the politician in indirectly supporting war by promoting national allegiance by promoting unrelated national institutions; the voters won't understand or respond to such a strategy by voting for the politician. So, even if such a practice did indirectly support war, why would the politician bother?
We can't treat nations as abstract decision-making entities that act in their own interest, e.g. increasing war capacity in subtle and indirect ways. Nations act in the interest of the politicians in charge of the nations.
All true observations.
Yet lately I have been wondering if nationalism can also be a force for good, by increasing the sense of social fabric, pride in surroundings, a sense of a shared history, culture and language.
The topic of immigration always becomes ensnarled with that of xenophobia and also labor bashing. Interestingly, many of the developed nations encountered labor shortages when immigration was lessened due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Of course, your labor shortages can be my pathway to higher living standards and wages.
If the world went back to a system of city-states, I suspect immigration rules would be far stricter.