Every form of government derives its legitimacy in the eyes of the people it governs from somewhere. And the source of legitimacy is always different.
Take feudalism, for example. The feudal baron protects the serfs from endless conquests by neighboring barons. The source of his legitimacy is his army.
In absolutism, the monarch is invested with power by God. The source of his legitimacy is divine in nature. Once the people he rules stop believing this, they’ll snip the monarch’s head off or shoot him and his family in a bloody chamber in Yekaterinburg. (True story).
The nation-state derives legitimacy from providing the people with the best standard of living it can. That’s why “nation-state” equals welfare in the broad sense.
So here’s an important question. Where does the post-nation-state get its legitimacy? It doesn’t pretend to be God-given. It aggressively brings down our standard of living. What’s its source of legitimacy?
The post-nation-state saves us. It’s similar to the feudal system in that way. But while feudal barons saved their serfs from external threats, the post-nation-state saves us from ourselves.
The post-nation-state tells us that we are deeply flawed. So flawed that if we aren’t constantly, painstakingly, excruciatingly monitored and managed, we’ll destroy ourselves.
And what are our tragic flaws?
- We are dirty, unclean and diseased (the pandemic threat).
- We are racist, sexist, and multi-phobic, always on the verge of genociding each other (the fascist threat).
- We are voracious, too needy, and our very existence is incompatible with life (the climate threat).
Nasty, deplorable creatures like that don’t deserve any particular conveniences. We should be grateful we are kept alive at all by our kindly and long-suffering protectors.
The beauty of the scheme is that if the threat resides inside of us, its existence is impossible to prove or disprove. The feudal baron had to go into actual battle against real enemies. The serfs could see the enemies approach the village. They could see the overlord fight or even get wounded.
But our viruses, our phobias, and our vices aren’t visible to the naked eye. We find out whether they exist and how dangerous they are from our overlords. They derive their legitimacy from their power to diagnose us as virtuous or evil, clean or unclean.
For some reason people only read the posts that are published at 3 am but this one is important and I hope people see it.
12 thoughts on “Post-national Legitimacy”
Speaking of climate change, I highly recommend “Unsettled” by Steve Koonin. I plan on doing more reading up, but this really helped me understand the issue as a reasonably intelligent non-scientist. This is going to be the next COVID, and in turn we need our next Alex Berenson(s.)
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“The nation-state derives legitimacy from providing the people with the best standard of living it can. That’s why “nation-state” equals welfare in the broad sense.”
The nation-state derives its legitimacy from the claim that it embodies the will and interests of a particular people. Can you plausibly imagine your grandchildren identifying themselves as Ukrainian here in the United States with Russia succeeds in conquering Ukraine and wiping out all traces of Ukrainian culture within its borders? Hence the Ukrainian government has an undeniable argument that if you want to consider yourself Ukrainian, you better care a whole bunch about the survival of Ukraine in ways that you do not care about Uganda.
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Of course, there’s no standard of living if there’s no life in the first place. But in times of peace, citizens expect to live well. A government that doesn’t try to make that happen has no chance of staying in place.
The ANC had legitimacy because they opposed apartheid. Of course, you can’t campaign on the basis of history forever.
The problem is that the US is not a nation-state by any stretch of the imagination.
The US is the very first in history and the most successful nation-state. It’s a model on which every nation-state in existence built itself.
The US is a very strange nation-state because the foundation of American nationalism is not some ethnic identity but its democratic ideology. Unlike the French Revolution, the American Revolution never really struggled with what to do with 1000 years of monarchial history. This has made it easier for Americans to absorb immigrants, certainly if they were white. If I learned French, moved to France, and sang the Marsailles with a passion that would still not make me truly French.
I’m not truly American either, so let’s not exaggerate how easily absorbed immigrants are.
French nationalism was actually much more of a melting pot than the American ever was. And it was never ethnic. It rolled over the French Basques, for instance, like a crazy steamroller. I don’t know why people associate nationalism with ethnic uniformity when no successful nationalism anywhere has even tried to be ethnically uniform.
Ethnic nationalism is a bugbear invented to make us hate the idea of nationalism.
“US is not a nation-state”
there are different definitions, the one used by most people here is not about ethnic homogeneity but a specific model of governance, a particular relationship between the government and the citizenry.
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“The nation-state derives legitimacy from providing the people with the best standard of living it can …”
[laughs in debased fiat currency]
Being of a more political kind of animal, my position is that the notional “nation-state” derives legitimacy as a kind of respect in the mode of being the better bully in a situation ruled by bullies.
And of course in the “global ‘hood” this means that flags, military insignia, police uniforms, and so on are merely gang signs.
But the one problem that the anti-State people have yet to solve is that their non-aggression principles and other inheritances from Rothbard, Hoppe, and others do nothing to slow the acceleration of the terrorism of an emergent State, much less being able to stop a State from forming and then terrorising the people who don’t want it.
And since debasing people’s accumulation and development of capital amounts to economic terrorism that changes the uniform of the bully from that of a military man to that of a banker?
It’s the same picture. [inserts meme here]
This is also the issue with Ukraine: some people actually want that state, but are being bullied by another state, so how do you solve this outside of perpetual bullying that pretends to support peaceful intermissions?
And so in the mode of being that more political kind of animal, I want to be a better bully, certainly a much more powerful bully, and so I am in favour of nuclear proliferation because when one bully acts up, all of the others pound on that bully with nukes until people are so tired of nuclear skirmishes that they actually make the effort to develop something more realistic than a non-aggression principle.
To the extent that I’m not bullying, that’s because all of the other bullies have decided That Crackpot Is Crazy and that He Might Just Do it, so they’re being extra careful.
You may decide for yourself whether I’m being entirely serious, entirely not serious, or what you may consider a very worrying combination of the two.
But that’s my Modest Proposal here for 2022, BTW: Give Nuke Scented Cooperation A Chance. 🙂