The Nation-State: Our Best Guarantor of Democracy

by Lorna Salzman (July 2017)

by Lucas Simoes

In his book The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt discusses the tendency of humans to form into groups as dictated by evolution. The widespread existence of human groups testifies to its power and resilience in both primitive and technologically advanced countries. It may be taking different forms today.
Here is a speculation: the “new” populism in Europe is a manifestation of the human tendency to create and belong to groups. It is nationalist because the nation-state has (at least in the West) mostly replaced the older groupings. Political parties are “populism” writ small, as are sports teams and the new groups based on gender or race. The nation-state is shared by everyone which should facilitate its character as a unifying Group.
Other attempts to form new groups that are not nationalistic are the internet, twitter, social networks, all of which replace the older technologies as well replacing actual interpersonal contact. In ethnic communities, there are still shared social groups: churches, of course, and ethnic group identification. We all once shared these to some degree, including schools—but now, in most large cities, there are no truly “neighborhood” schools due to busing, integration, and private schools. Big mistake.
The forces trying to sideline or minimize tradition and culture in Europe are, sadly, the liberals. The Right is taking advantage of this of course, by beating the nationalist drum. But there are plenty of people who still believe that the nation-state is the best protector of civil society and equal justice for all. The decentralists who dream of small-town-based direct democracy (of which I dream too but I am no longer obsessed by it) ignore the fact that minorities in these places often lack protection and legal recourse from discrimination. This is what the nation-state is good at: protection.
But world government is good at nothing except entrenching more globalist elites. On this the Right and Left converge ideologically. That’s why the proposed European constitution was defeated…by the Left mostly. LePen was deservedly whipped, but will Macron and the bureaucrats acknowledge their mistakes and make the required changes? Not least of which to acknowledge the failure of open borders and the blatantly insane concept of unrestricted immigration?
A new movement in Europe, March for Europe, consisting of intellectuals and academics on the Left, is pushing not only for the survival of the EU but for a united European state to replace individual nation-states. The stimulus for this is most likely their fear of the resurgence of Right-wing nationalism in Hungary and Poland. But, as is typical of the Left, it ignores the fact that this would duplicate, in form and reach, the very same remote, unaccountable arbitrary governance of the present EU council and commission . . . the ones responsible for the faltering condition of Europe today. From the frying pan into the fire, the liberals remain in denial about the roots of the EU’s problems.
As Haidt and evolutionary biologists stress, evolution has endowed us with compassion and altruism toward those closest to us—family, tribe, community. Those who welcome masses of alien strangers as Merkel has done are inviting cultural suicide (among other things). A “moral” compunction to help those in need when it means personal and cultural sacrifice without benefit or reciprocity is not moral.
Altruism has a powerful evolutionary base: enhancing in-group survival and therefore reproduction. Sacrificing one's property, culture and life for strangers without any prospect of reciprocal altruism is evolutionary suicide. On the other hand, if one has a starving Syrian family next door, there is little doubt that he will help them. It is telling to hear European technocrats and economists defending unlimited immigration on the grounds that immigrants are needed to support economic growth . . . even though it is economic growth that is destroying the earth (not to mention imposing cruel unjust policies that create unemployment and destroy local economies).
If you see photos of millions of single Muslim men trampling down European borders, you cringe. That’s normal behavior, and nothing to feel guilty about. There’s nothing you can do to change the conditions from which those men are fleeing. Each country must deal with its own, and each citizen must deal with his own situation and country. Letting in millions of refugees won’t change the conditions that produced their flight from their home countries.
Ecological collapse due to overpopulation happens whether people breed too much or allow in too many immigrants. Europe is in the course of destroying itself socially, culturally and politically. Rather than celebrating its low birth rate and the resultant high standard of living, it is being led by Germany over the social and ecological precipice. The fears of the Right are well-founded; this is a sad fact made true by liberals.
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Lorna Salzman's career as an environmental activist and writer began when the late David Brower hired her to be the regional representative of Friends of the Earth in NYC. Later she worked as an editor on National Audubon's American Birds magazine and as director of Food & Water, an early opponent of food irradiation, and then spent three years as a natural resource specialist in the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection. She co-founded the New York Green Party in 1984 and in 2004 she sought the U.S. Green Party's presidential nomination. She is the author of Politics as if Evolution Mattered, which addresses the intersection of evolution with socio-political policy. 
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