Considering the American nation

James Piereson writes for the New Criterion about the future of an American nation.

I begin with a conclusion: the United States of America is nearing a point at which it can no longer be described as a nation-state, in the sense that term is generally used, and is evolving into a different kind of enterprise—one lacking the underpinnings of a common culture, language, religion, or nationality that we commonly associate with modern nation-states.

This is due to several intersecting causes: destructive ideas (identity politics); significant and apparently irresistible developments in the world (globalism and large-scale migration); benign conditions that erode national loyalties (peace and prosperity); and the unique character of the American nation (a nation-state built upon universal principles). These have brought into being new lines of conflict in the United States. …

… Many say that nationalism is a bad thing—that it is a cause of wars, group hatreds, irrational conflicts, and the like—and that we will live better without it. There is some truth to this. But if nationalism is bad, then so are nations and nation-states. Can we have nations without nationalism? Can we have an American nation absent some sense of American nationalism? Obviously not. While nationalism is sometimes taken too far, it is easy to recognize the vices of nationalism without appreciating its virtues. The United States, with its diversity of geography, conditions, and peoples, would have fallen apart long ago without the idea of a nation to hold it together. As a matter of history, nationalism was held up as the antidote to the tendency of the American union to split up and break apart. As the idea of an American nation retreats, the possibilities for break-up will advance at a similar rate.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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