For many reasons, I feel fortunate to have been born in the United States, but I don’t love my country. It has no love for any of us. A cold, manipulative, object of affection, the state fans patriotism, then asks those who love it deeply to prove their love by dying or sacrificing their limbs for it.
It will not happen in my lifetime, but I look forward to the day when states are no more.
From the conservative point of view this makes little sense. For us, nations are distinct peoples, so that a love of country means a love of one's people, and the land, culture and tradition associated with it.
However, liberals have rejected this connection between nation and people. So it's not surprising that Tamanaha should view nation or country as a particular political entity - as a state - instead.
Tamanaha, then, thinks of the nation as the state, finds that the state is hostile to the people, and therefore rejects the idea of love of nation.
Enter Roger Alford, another American law professor. Alford accepts Tamanaha's idea that the nation is the state, but differs by asserting that the state, rather than being hostile, is protective of the people, being concerned for their welfare. He writes:
The fundamental purpose of a democratic country like the United States is to serve you and your fellow citizens. Representative democracy means that our elected officials are trying (albeit imperfectly) to look out for your interests, your benefits, your needs, and your wants. Your country seeks to protect your safety, your economic well-being, your property, and your freedoms.
The state is the nation and it works on your behalf and therefore it is reasonable to love your nation and to be loyal to it:
So in response to Brian Tamanaha, I say that for many reasons I feel fortunate to have been born in the United States, and I do love my country. It is far from perfect. It is often demanding of its citizens. But it offers so much in return. For that, I am deeply grateful and I feel a strong sense of loyalty and allegiance.
Alford's position does, at least, defend the idea of patriotism. But can it hold the line? Is it an effective way to support the existence of nations?
I don't think so. Alford thinks of the nation as the state, and the state as the Constitution, and the Constitution as a set of values. Therefore, what really defines the nation are "values":
When a government official takes an oath of allegiance, the only oath he or she makes is to support and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. He doesn't swear allegiance to an abstract entity called the United States. He swears allegiance to the values embodied in the Constitution.
You can't defend an existing nation on this basis, for two basic reasons. First, if a nation is simply a set of values, then anyone can potentially be a member of the nation. It is no longer important that migrants can assimilate to the distinct character of a people, they merely need to be willing to sign on, as citizens, to a set of civic values. Therefore, there is no longer a principled reason to restrict immigration, and large scale population transfers are likely to transform the existing character of a country.
Second, if a nation is simply a set of values, then there is little, in principle, to restrict the merging of nations into larger, regional states such as the EU. If it is thought to be of economic advantage to do so, then why not merge the USA and Canada into a single entity, if all that matters is a compatibility of political values?
It's difficult to form deep attachments to an entity which is repeatedly subject to radical transformation. So I doubt if patriotism would survive in anything but a superficial form if Alford's view of the nation were to dominate in the long-term.
I'd like to finish by quoting a fellow traditionalist conservative, whose take on the Tamanaha and Alford debate is worth preserving:
... prior to the mid-20th century, Alford's answer to Tamanaha would have struck most Americans (certainly most non-intellectuals) as odd and a little alien. Prior to 1900, it would have struck almost everyone as such.
Because the universal commonsensical conception of loving one's country came from the simple fact that a country was a real thing with real, concrete attributes for one to love: the land, the people and the culture. And these things were not loved because they were held to be some kind of universal or Platonic "best way" for all humanity (the popular neocon conception of American or Western style liberty); they were loved because they were the norms, customs and mores of you, your family, and the attenuated, widely extended "family" of your ethny.
The love was, at least in large part, an ineffable and not rationally derived thing, again similar to the innate attachment that family ties exert. As you could look into the eyes of a brother and see elements of yourself staring back at you, one's countryman would reflect, in a lesser way, the same recognition of heritage, culture and values ...
This is what the creation of the modern "diverse," universalist nation has cost us. We are left, like Alford, to grasp for sad second-place straws about democracy as an abstract concept that somehow exhibits a sort of hollow, disembodied concern for us as protectees.
(by Russell W, who has temporarily closed his site whilst serving in the US military.)