Why is it the folks who are most suspicious of nationalism want to nationalise everything?
Comments off the left seem to regard nationalism as Fascism Lite, or at best, an unstable attitude that could descend into vengeful war at any time. Whenever my uncle sends me one of those checklists that purport to show how the Tea Party/George Bush/conservatives/yahoo-of-the-month are causing America to descend into Nazism, nationalism is always prominent. Yet we have just partly nationalised our health insurance/care and auto industry, and have numerous czars for all manner of bypassing usual channels (red tape, if you hate it; legislation, if you like it) to get things done.
I don’t mean to simply be playing with words or pointing out ironies here. When there are questions of policy and direction, I try and create an analogous situation from a different era, to see if that illuminates anything. When others do this, they tend to choose either the time of the founding fathers or the time of their own childhood as a comparison, nearly always unfavorably to the present era. Both of those have too many other associations for us to clearly isolate a single factor, so I try and choose other places and times in American history.
We are currently in an all-in-this-together mode in terms of federal social legislation. That may be the best place to be, but it certainly isn’t common in our history. Consider the late 19th C, say 1880. We are looking at 1) midwestern farmers from northern Europe, 2) recent immigrants to NYC from Eastern Europe, perhaps Jews, 3) recently freed slaves farming 40 acres in Mississippi, and 4) a ship’s crew based out of Boston. If any of them hear that one of theother groups has widespread illness, even deathly illness, do any of them believe it is their job to do anything about that? Perhaps if the need is especially dire and affects many people, their houses of worship might collect money to send. But government collectors showing up and insisting that money be handed over to fix such problems would be greeted with blank stares. What is that to us? I feel bad for them but why is it my problem? We take care of our family, our neighbors, maybe people in the next town in an emergency. Our own.
I am not here debating whether that is a superior attitude or whether our current system is better. Well, okay, I am debating it a little. We have drawn the circle for which we are responsible ever wider throughout our history. Family, town, county, state, country. The people who insist that each widening is obviously more moral are coincidentally the ones who personally benefit from the widening, because they get to be in charge of more stuff. Funny thing, that. And they do it even over the objections of the smaller governmental divisions. Ultimately, because they have the power, I guess.
Got distracted. Sorry. My point is to ask, if nationalism is such a danger, who is it that is being more nationalistic, claiming that all issues must be addressed at a national level?