From The VG Bookshelf: The Virtue of Nationalism

From The VG Bookshelf: The Virtue of Nationalism

From The VG Bookshelf: The Virtue of Nationalism

Nationalism has become a dirty word in world politics in general and in the United States in particular. Former aide to Benjamin Netanyahu, Yoram Hazony has written a new book, “The Virtue of Nationalism”.

Yoram Hazony, in addition to his work with Netanyahu, is a political theorist, Biblical scholar and an Israeli philosopher. He is also President of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem, and Director of the John Templeton Foundation‘s project in Jewish Philosophical Theology. “The Virtue of Nationalism” was selected as Conservative Book of the Year for 2019. His credentials are impeccable and impressive. Hazony has stated that he wanted the book to be accessible and, therein lies the problem. I found it unreadable.

Oh, I had high hopes. The Introduction section of Virtue had me jazzed. Hazony wrote of globalist ideals of the educated and elite. He wrote of how nationalism had become conflated with racism, authoritarianism and fascism. Mr. Hazony wrote about Margaret Thatcher being deposed as Prime Minister of Great Britain for questioning her country’s entrance into the European Union. On page six, the author states the purpose of the book:

I have written this book so that we have a statement of the reasons for being a nationalist. In the interest of contributing to a discussion that is clear and comprehensible as possible, I will understand “globalism” for what it obviously is–a version of the old imperialism. And in the same way, I will not waste time trying to make nationalism prettier by calling it “patriotism” as many do today in circles where nationalism is considered something unseemly. Normally, patriotism refers to the love or loyalty of an individual for his or her own independent nation. The term nationalism can be used in much this way as well, when we speak of Mazzine as an Italian nationalism or Gandhi as an Indian nationalist. But nationalism can also be something more than this. There is, as I have said a long tradition of using this term to refer to a theory of the best political order–that is, to an anti-imperialist theory that seeks to establish a world of free and independent nations. That is how I will be using it in this book.

I knew that any book of political philosophy would be a challenging read. I gave myself three weeks to read it. I was unsuccessful. I am being honest here. I kept falling asleep. I made it through all of the Introduction and most of Part One. The book is written in three parts. Part I is a turgid history of the tension between imperialism and nationalism. Part Two is the argument for the nation state. Part Three describes the virtue of nationalism.

I was able to digest the history of the nation-state from the Greeks to the Holy Roman Empire. I understand Hozany’s point about why the revered John Locke’s argument for individual freedom and consent would make nation-states irrelevant. Hozany’s take on John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, which was published in 1689:

In speaking of “consent”, Locke means the individual becomes a member of a human collective only because he has agreed to it, and has obligations toward such collectives only if he has accepted them. This is flattering to the individual, since it makes it seem as though the important choices are always his to decide. However, it is painfully lacking as a description of the empirical political world, in which mutual loyalties bind human beings into families, tribes, and nations, and each of us receives a certain religious and cultural inheritance as a consequence of being born into such collectives.

And, Mr. Hazony goes on for pages about John Locke and his Second, bloody-freaking, Treatise of Government. Don’t even get me started on Ludwig von Mises and Ayn Rand.

If only Yoram Hazony could have been as succinct in the book as he was with Stuart Varney on Fox Business Network:

I am very sorry, Victory Girls readers. I did not finish “The Virtue of Nationalism” and I let you down. The book was so over-filled with superfluous flotsam that it was, for me, unreadable. However, if you are an insomniac, try three or four pages and you will be gone.

I still believe nationalism can be a good thing. Shared values and a belief in the founding documents of our great country should not be seen as a negative.

Photo Composite Credit: Darleen Click for Victory Girls

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