After we posted last week’s quotes from Cato Institute President Ed Crane, we received many letters regarding his comments. It is always great to hear from subscribers and thank you to everyone who wrote in.
Garth wrote in saying, “Ed Crane carries his libertarianism a bit too far……He is wrong in my opinion. We need nationalism as well as exceptionalism…Why doesn’t he just check with the founding fathers. I agree we do not want to meddle in other countries affairs but we will defend our country.”This gives us an opportunity to examine what nationalism means, and how Ed Crane was using the word.
Nationalism, as defined by Merriam Webster : loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially: a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups
Ed Crane Quote: “I’m a great believer in American exceptionalism, which needs to be distinguished from nationalism. Too many conservatives conflate the two. American exceptionalism is not based on our superior military capability (as the neocons would have us believe) or our material abundance (as too many conservatives focus on). Rather, it is based on the idea that we are a nation created to have a government for the purpose of allowing us to live our lives as we damn well please. Look at world history and tell me that isn’t exceptional. It is incredibly exceptional. Now we are clearly losing all the things that make American exceptionalism exceptional.”
Our take: What Garth and Ed Crane are saying are perhaps more similar than Garth suspects. Garth says he doesn’t want us to meddle, but wants to be strong. Ed implies America should be great, but shouldn’t base its power on the projection of superior military capabilities. These two points of view are fundamentally the same.
The Merriam-Webster version of Nationalism seems a bit watered down compared to the common understanding of the word today, and that which Ed is probably using. Today the word nationalism connotes, in Americans’ minds, the idea of national dominance, presumably via militarism. We believe that is how Ed is using the word, and how the majority of Americans would interpret such a reference. Garth is hewing closer to the dictionary definition of the word. In any case, it seems that conservatives or libertarians are loath to meddle in the affairs of other nations without a justifiable reason of national defense (not offense). Thanks to Garth for the opportunity to examine nationalism and to all our subscribers for writing in to discuss.