Why Is Patriotism Thought To Be Blind Loyalty To The Government Rather Than To The Principles Of Liberty?


{Editor’s Note: This is the 20th installment of a series of articles attempting to address the 32 questions posed by Ron Paul in his recent farewell speech given in front of Congress. Check out the previous installment, “Why Is There Apathy Towards Executive Orders Allowing For Secret ‘Kill Lists’?” }

A common fallacy people make in political debate is the association of a collective “we” with all government action, whether good or bad. “We” bailed out the banks, “we” invaded Vietnam, “we” killed Osama bin Laden, etc. This phrasing is no accident; it is instilled in us from our earliest years as we recite pledges worshiping a Flag and stand up at baseball games to sing songs in worship of the State. Everywhere we go we are reminded that we are the government, and the government is us.

The result of this conditioning is that many people become very defensive when it comes to others criticizing the government, particularly foreign policy, as they have come to associate the government with themselves. This is how Democracy is sold to the public – all State actions are considered legitimate since “the people” voted in those making the decisions. For those that buy into this theory, a Patriotic American is one who stands up for their government no matter what, because gosh darn it, it’s their government!

In his essential essay Anatomy of the State, Murray Rothbard points out how the State uses this concept to create the patriotic fervor in the populace need to support foreign wars:

Especially has the State been successful in recent centuries in instilling fear of other State rulers. Since the land area of the globe has been parceled out among particular States, one of the basic doctrines of the State was to identify itself with the territory it governed. Since most men tend to love their homeland, the identification of that land and its people with the State was a means of making natural patriotism work to the State’s advantage. If “Ruritania” was being attacked by “Walldavia,” the first task of the State and its intellectuals was to convince the people of Ruritania that the attack was really upon them and not simply upon the ruling caste. In this way, a war between rulers was converted into a war between peoples, with each people coming to the defense of its rulers in the erroneous belief that the rulers were defending them. This device of “nationalism” has only been successful, in Western civilization, in recent centuries; it was not too long ago that the mass of subjects regarded wars as irrelevant battles between various sets of nobles.

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