Liberty, Nationalism and Patriotism

I listened with interest to the first two videos[1][2] in the recent series “Chris Tame from Beyond the Grave,” in which Chris discusses immigration. David McDonagh’s dissenting view[3] I also found most interesting.

Unfortunately, there are no transcripts of the videos. So, for the first one, I’ll copy the notes I made on it. “Chris likens immigration to an invasion. The invaders are not acclimatized to, or may even be hostile to, liberal (American readers: libertarian) values and liberal civilization. They might – or might not – assimilate quickly if this was a free market society; but it isn’t. He concludes by describing this immigration as an act of ‘national murder.’” For the second video, I hope David won’t mind me quoting his summary: “Chris says the national state has been justified and he says mass immigration will lead to totalitarianism, to a low wage economy, that mass immigration is not free anyway as we have the welfare state, that it is more like an invasion than mere immigration, as the newcomers are hostile to British culture, that the ruling class has organised this to cow the native workers on low wages and that despotism will be the result.”

I confess I didn’t know until now that Chris near the end of his life had taken such a strong nationalist and anti-immigration stance. At the time he made the video (late 2005) there had indeed, in the previous year or so, been the start of a huge influx of immigrants into the UK. But a high proportion of immigrants at that time were Polish. Maybe some of these Poles, having only recently been freed from communism, were in a sense not acclimatized to liberal values. But at least going by the Polish people I know both here and in Poland, I don’t think the accusation that they are hostile to liberal civilization stands up to scrutiny.

As to Muslims, Chris may perhaps have been on somewhat firmer ground, with the terrorist attacks of July 2005 still fresh in people’s memories at the time. (Since I started writing this, further atrocities have happened in Brussels, which also may well prove to have been the work of Muslims). But I still think it’s wrong to cast aspersions on all Muslims just because some Muslims behave badly. Granted, Islam isn’t a very nice religion. But then, as anyone who has ever read the bible cover to cover will know, Christianity isn’t very nice either.

Chris describes the immigration as an “invasion.” But any invasion must be planned. And that means someone must have planned it. Actually, I think Chris was right on this one. It was planned. And he even knew who did it; for he talks of an enemy class, seeking to destroy our liberal values and our civilization.

My own reading of the entrails is that, sometime around 2000, Blair and co realized that without major change, their welfare state was going to come totally unstuck; and soon enough that they would still be around to face the fall-out. Like any Ponzi scheme, the welfare state requires a constant supply of new useful idiots to survive. With an aging population and a falling birth rate, there were not going to be enough young working people domestically to take up the strain. So, they decided to import the useful idiots they needed from outside. They made coming to work in the UK attractive to potential immigrants. Get enough of them in, they probably thought, and the welfare state might last another generation or so. Long enough, very likely, for them to be safely in their graves by the time shit hits fan. And damn the consequences to the social fabric, or to anything or anyone else; that’s just “collateral damage” from a politician’s point of view.

And more recently, Cameron and co, despite promises to the contrary, have not merely maintained the nett inflow of immigrants, but actually increased it significantly. That’s rather suggestive, no?

Be all that as it may; for me, the most important point in the discussion was made by David McDonagh. That was, “Nationalism and what is now called libertarianism clash.” Or, to put it another way, liberal values are incompatible with nationalism, with the nation state and with its politics. I think David is spot-on correct here.

David simply states this as a fact. I’ll try to add two arguments to support it. One, a society based on liberal values will be a bottom-up society, always upholding the rights of individuals. Such a society will be for the benefit of the individuals who comprise it, not the individuals for the benefit of the society. But nationalism is a top-down ideal. Under nationalism, the nation is everything and the individual, ultimately, is nothing. And democracy – as I’ve explained elsewhere[4] – only makes things worse. Eventually, any state based on nationalism will degenerate into the kind of mess we suffer today, in which a criminal ruling class and their hangers-on claim a “divine” right to do anything they think they can get away with.

The second argument is historical. From the 1820s onwards, in Britain at least, liberal values were in the ascendant. This lasted until about the 1870s, when the rot began to set in; for example, with the state getting its mitts on education, and the introduction of strict liability in criminal law. It was around the same time that nationalism on the Continent really got going, for example in Italy and Germany. The gradual but inexorable decline of individual freedom has been contemporaneous with the period in which the nation state has become the primary political structure worldwide. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

If we agree that liberal values and nationalism are incompatible, and if we want to live in a society based on liberal values, then we are driven to a conclusion which some will find highly unpalatable. That is, that we must reject nationalism and the nation state.

And further; those that are hostile to our liberal values are our enemies. And that is so whether they are native born, foreigners or immigrants. Blair is our enemy. Cameron and May are our enemies. Islamist terrorists are our enemies too, of course. But we must never, ever, compromise ourselves by allowing one set of enemies to play us off against another. And we must never, ever give our support to any state policy or action designed to harm innocent people; nor to any increase in state power that can enable it to increase the harm it does to innocent people.

I myself have indeed come to these conclusions. And so for me “Britain,” when used in a political rather than a geographical sense, is a dirty word (as is “America”); and I want nothing of it. This is perhaps the biggest single issue which divides me from Sean Gabb and most of the other denizens at the Libertarian Alliance. I’m disappointed to find that Chris Tame also seems late in life to have moved over to the dark side on this issue. I can only presume that the ideas he presents in these videos were ones he was still mulling over and had not yet fully thought through; in that case, he would have been able to correct his mistake had he lived longer.

And yet, and yet… Where did those liberal values, by which we set such great store and which were so much in the ascendant for half of the 19th century, come from? The short answer is, they came from the Enlightenment. And where did the Enlightenment come from? The very short (and over-simple) answer is; it came from England and Scotland.

Recently, I wrote a humorous “Brief History of England” in verses of the common metre. One side effect I felt from the process was a strengthening of my feeling of Englishness. Make no mistake; English history, like all political history, is violent, bloody and full of dishonesty and injustice. But I felt myself almost shouting for the very few (relatively) good guys. For King Alfred and Good Queen Bess, for example. For Charles II, who tried hard in an impossible situation; and William III, who was a good guy as long as you were a Protestant. Lack of time prevented me from even mentioning my favourite monarch of them all, William IV. (I think it no coincidence that several pubs in my area are named after him!)

How can it be, I mused, that I, who reject the nation state called Britain, can yet feel a strong sense of connection with England (and Scotland too), and with their culture and their history? The answer I found was this: although I reject nationalism, I do not reject the idea of patriotism.

Nationalism and patriotism are often used as synonyms for each other; I suspect that the confusion is often deliberate. But in reality, they’re quite different things. Nationalism is a feeling of love or respect for a political community; whereas patriotism is a feeling of respect or love for a land or country, a culture and a heritage. It’s no contradiction to reject the first, while accepting, even eagerly accepting, the second.

Consider: When Welsh people sing “Land of my Fathers,” they aren’t talking about some bunch of politicians in Cardiff. They are singing of the hills and the valleys, the sheep pastures and the coal fields (not to mention the rugby fields), and the people who live, and have lived, in the country called Wales. Even more obvious is the difference between nationalism and patriotism for Jews. Before 1914, many European Jews were fervent nationalists for whichever country they happened to live in. Yet for a Jew, the homeland is and always has been the Holy Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. That is why, when Israel was created, it was sited there.

Back to immigration. The way I look at the issue, a state cannot have any right to set borders to keep people out (or in), because the only valid borders are those set by property owners to exclude unwanted people from all or part of their property. So there cannot reasonably be any barriers to individual migration. However, the deliberate planning and fanning of mass migration is an entirely different matter.

Apart from a very few scoundrels, it isn’t the immigrants themselves who are the problem. At worst, they will merely remain useful idiots, or eventually they may leave. At best, many of them will learn to embrace our liberal values, and can become potential allies for the future. The real problem lies with the politicians and cronies that, for their own selfish reasons, ordered (and Chris was right to use the word) an invasion of migrants. They are “people traffickers.” They are the ones that should be rejected by all right thinking people, and punished for what they did.

Let me suggest – tongue only half in cheek – a solution to the immigration problem. All economic migrants who wish to come to the UK, whether from Iraq, or Syria, or Libya, or Poland, or anywhere else – should be accepted, unless they have criminal convictions or are reasonably suspected of involvement with terrorism. But for every immigrant who arrives, we should deport a politician or a bureaucrat to wherever the immigrant came from. Blair should be the first to go – to Iraq, for the same treatment as Saddam Hussein got – and Cameron the second, to Syria to experience the bomb-the-hell-out-of-them policy at first hand.

To sum up: Liberal values are incompatible with nationalism. But liberal values are perfectly compatible with patriotism. Indeed, these liberal values are themselves part of the culture and heritage of the people of England and Scotland; and likewise, of the cultures which are derived from them. So, seeking a society based on liberal values requires rejecting the nation state and the current political order; but it doesn’t require rejecting your sense of country, culture or heritage. You can be a good patriot without having to be a nationalist. And that, I think, has some relevance and application to the matters at hand.



  1. The “Ponzi-welfare” rationale for migrant import doesn’t cover the islamics for example. 50% unemployment amongst males and 75% amongst females. Their grandfathers may have had to hack subsistence agriculture on the “root hog or die” basis but the influx of 18-30 yobs are no grafters. Many are illiterate in their own language never mind ours. These people will sit around and add costs thro welfare and crime and medical bills for their cousin marriages etc. They aren’t going to be wiping aged white peoples backsides.

    The idea of economic re-vitalisation by import is a pack of lies. Bliar prob wanted to leave the white working classes a time-bomb to go off after his death.

    As for the motivations of the scum who calls himself the “Heir” who can say as to the mental processes –if any–of that buffoon and his gang. I suspect they see that the welfare wonderland will soon collapse and gathering police state powers is their pathetic attempt at survival. But that doesn’t account for their inaction in the face of hordes of migrants who can only make matters worse. Perhaps they are too far gone to care.

  2. White supremacy strikes again! To suggest that other peoples do not have much of a taste for liberal values, or that they lack the capacity to maintain liberal society is the ultimate insult. How dare one suggest that Filipinos and yes, even Africans, can not one day emulate the English and Scottish! Even the useless brown people of the world are secretly English on the inside, and to suggest otherwise is wicked and racist.

    This is the real reason why white nationalists/white separatists are referred to as “white supremacists” – to withdraw white assistance from the lesser, coloured peoples of the world (those who have an “ethnicity”) is unconscionable. To pretend that England and Scotland don’t belong to 7 billion theoretically liberal citizens of the World is akin to cruelty to animals, which we seem to hate. In such a scenario, whites would reign supreme in their homelands and have very little to tolerate. Where’s the fun in that?

    To imply that savages are savage and not liberal Englishmen is the ultimate heresy.

    Everyone is the same, celebrate diversity.

  3. Answer to Neil Lock on liberalism and nationalism

    I fear the damaging mass immigration into the UK that resulted in a somewhat broken Britain began in the 1950s, Neil. This did upset many nationalists that naturally looked to the nation state to protect them from this most unwelcome influx of newcomers but they eventually got the very opposite of what they looked for viz. Politically Correct [PC] protection for the newcomers against them not only as ordinary British subjects but as a de facto, if not de jure too, privileged special group thereby lowering the British to an under-privileged pestered group that needed to defer to the newcomers.

    PC protectionism did all that in the name of equality but privilege and under-privilege simply must be institutionalised inequality. So not only is statist PC against liberty but it is even against equality too. But even PC can shed statism and thus cease to be illiberal. It is only the state that makes for illiberalism and destroys liberty for sure.

    As snobbery is natural vanity but inverted-snobbery is quite perverse so this PC privileging of the newcomers was also quite perverse.

    I do not think that Chris had the Poles in mind when thinking the nation was in danger, Neil. I have friends in Birmingham who are freely and cheerfully learning Polish and it is not the Poles who they see as alienating them in their homeland for their phenotype might well be British.

    Yes, terrorism is best threated as a crime and only the criminals who do the criminal deeds should be blamed.

    You are right that Islam is similar to Christianity, Neil. Both spring from the tradition of Judaism. I agree that many of the pristine ideas of all three religions are quite illiberal but modern society have made Judaism and Christianity almost completely apolitical whilst Islam is still full of Muslims that are feeling this normalisation from the dominant political live religion to the modern bourgeois, superannuated, and almost dead, religion very hard to come to terms with. Terrorism and other forms of protest, that protest against Rushdie a decade or so back will be more normal, is its long drawn out swan song of ebbing Islam.

    Yes, it is mere hyperbole to say that mass immigration is an invasion of any sort but note that to say that parts of the UK have been colonised is not any exaggeration at all but clearly quite true and it is plain for all to see. It seems to me that Chris got things very badly wrong on the rather confused Romantic meme of class. When sociologists write on class they usually need the rather more solid idea of caste to make sense of what they want to say; but as class, rather than caste, is the case in the UK then what they have to say is usually fairly clearly simply quite false.

    Oddly, this class analysis in libertarianism, or pristine liberalism, is like the PC phenomenon on Marxism, or like Rushdie’s mocking books were for Islam, as it is toxic. The active Muslims saw the danger but the PC Marxism Today magazine messed up the Communist Party of Great Britain as well as PC in general messed up many Trotskyite and other Marxist groups and class analysis might do the same for what earlier looked like a slowly reviving liberalism after the 1870s crowding out in the Liberal Party by the statists if it had better propagandists pushing it. Ignorance is the only enemy, not other classes. Pristine liberalism is in the interests of one and all. Liberalism is an Enlightenment paradigm and is hostile only to the rather silly Romantic reaction to the Enlightenment to be found in such authors as J.J. Rousseau and Edmund Burke and their many epigones from 1800 onwards, including daft Ayn Rand.

    Less taxation and hence less politics is the liberal aim; eventually no state whatsoever. Political activity is wastefully negative sum that taxes free trade that serves all in a positive sum way.

    Both nationalism and patriotism has often been statist but it need not be any more than religion needs to be. The chief adherents might see the state as vital today, but all three can be free. My objection to the barren class analysis is mainly that it is largely taking our eye off the ball that it is the state itself that is, and remains, the main illiberal organisation that badly needs to be rolled back today.

    It is a mistake to think that pristine liberalism has any enemies. The Enlightenment paradigm is the proper outlook for liberalism, not the sheer Romance of discovering enemies or attempting to take offence; those who do that often thereby earn it. Pristine liberalism has the aim of liberty for all. That is in the interests of all.

    The colonialisation of parts of UK occurred in the 1950s. I think liberalism is to blame, as free immigration is an integral part of the pristine liberal outlook but what we now call Political Correctness is certainly not, though like nationalism, that can be propagated freely too and it too is only illiberal when it goes statist. But note that democracy itself is intrinsically statist and intrinsically totalitarian too as the urge for statist PC to get all those in authority elected, as well as to see complete equality everywhere, and all must agree that this is good or otherwise ironically be called a bigot for opposing this clear sheer PC bigotry and intolerance.

    There were some schemes amongst the Labourites after 1997 to rub diversity into the supporters of the Tories in the hope that it might foster a permanent Labourite majority but that was decades after broken Britain. Parts of Britain were colonialised in the 1950s. Many patriots/nationalists were upset.

    I think it is the nationalist/patriot habit of wanting a state that makes their ideal clash with liberalism just as it is the indifference of liberalism to the nation that makes nationalists dislike it. Finally, liberalism is almost a one issue creed; we want the state to stop opposing liberty. But to do that it needs to be rolled back; and eventually got rid of. That means tax cuts, and it is mainly tax cuts all the way. Ideas like class threaten to confuse the main actual issue that pristine liberals need to face up to. That is why I think they are silly ideas for liberals to play around with; but then I am all for free speech and for free debate too.

    I do not think any society has been above the individual and against personal values, or worth, but many states have and most states pretend they are social such that most people even agree with them on that today; though almost any pristine liberal knows way better than that.

    Statism needs to be top down but it is not clear that nationalism needs to be. Democracy, however, is politics; it is the attempt to bully other people. A vote is a vote against other people. But when there are a majority of liberals then we might use voting to roll back the state by tax cuts with. It will be voting to negate the negation that is the state, if I may say that with apologies to Engels.

    Yes Neil, from about 1820 to 1870 liberalism was even more dominant than it is today and despite all the ebbing and the rise of statism it remains the top value today. It just that most people see no need to vie it against the state, the main thing they overlook as anti-liberal is democracy. So most people simply do not see politics as anti-liberal but their own liberty is still what they want most of all. So liberty remains the actual top value. So the LA has a problem with preaching to the converted.

    The rise of statism was not best called a rot, Neil, for it was an enthusiastic rise of state power. It held that it had a case against laissez faire.

    Limited liability is not illiberal in any way, is it?

    It is the state side of nation state that is illiberal not the nation side as such. The statist liberals, Joseph Chamberlain and nearly all the younger MPs he left behind in the Liberal Party in 1886, as well as most of those he took with him into the Unionist Party, were more illiberal than the nationalists.

    We must get rid of the state, in the long run, but the nation qua nation is not particularly anti-liberal.

    No, those hostile to liberalism are not our enemies. They are usually merely ignorant. Blair is very ignorant. So is Cameron and May.

    Terrorists are criminals. They are the enemies of most people, as are other criminals.

    All state action tends to harm innocent people, Neil. But you only need one dirty word: politics.

    Yes, the Enlightenment is the liberal paradigm. Romance has attacked it as naïve and today’s common sense is that we need not choose but can live with both and certainly the legacy of sheer Romance is not all bad but even mainly quite good However its attack on the Enlightenment needs to be freely answered. I would never say that the enemy is Ayn Rand but I would say that she was fairly silly.

    The Enlightenment came from England and Scotland, yes Neil, but also from the Athens of 2500 years ago, if not from Miletus earlier.

    But I would not think even of King Alfred or Queen Bess so much as Chaucer, Shakespeare, John Locke, Isaac Newton, Joseph Priestley, Matthew Boulton and the many others who served the public freely and well in the past.

    There are a lot of synonyms in English as there have been different words for the same things around the country. I went to a school in Birmingham that took about a quarter of the pupils from Smethwick who brought many synonyms that they hung on to and they seemed to take the saying “she is the cat’s mother” to heart as they just would not use the word but substituted “hers” instead.

    We can reject statism as such and that need not reject the nation.

    You can try to get the distinction labelled as you wish, Neil, but statism is clear enough. It is the main illiberal institution.

    • Dear David,

      Many thanks for your detailed reply. There’s a lot we agree on, but a number of differences, some of which may be down to terminology more than anything else.

      First, the nation. I’m aware of three definitions of the word. One, the original from the Latin root, is a group of people who share a common racial origin. The second is a group of people subject to the same jurisdiction. The third is a group of people subjected to the same political state.

      Your definition, David, seems to be different from any of these three. For when talking of British people, the first would imply that immigrants cannot become part of the nation; and nor can their descendants, unless one parent is already a native. So no amount of immigration could possibly result in the “broken Britain” you speak of. The second is equally easily rejected, since England and Scotland are different jurisdictions, even having different legal systems. The third means that a nation can’t exist without a state, so if one rejects the state, one must also reject the nation; which you don’t. I’d be really interested if you could say precisely what you mean by “nation.”

      Myself, I regard definition one of “nation” as not useful any more, and definition two as invalid; which leaves me agreeing with definition three. And that means that because I, like you, reject the state, I reject the nation too.

      And more generally, I reject any form of political community. Politics may have worked in the days of city states, when the safety of one really was the safety of all. But no longer. For me, politics – all politics, left, right or centre – is way past its sell by date.

      Now, something we agree on. You correctly identify that democracy is statist and totalitarian. Among 19 people, 10 – simply by virtue of being a majority – can acquire state “authority” to tell the other 9 what to do, at gunpoint if necessary. And when the political class are sufficiently colluding, and there’s little or no difference between the parties, then no matter what any human being does or thinks, the rulers can claim a “mandate” to do exactly what they want.

      But you do, I think, understate your case when you say: “A vote is a vote against other people.” For me, a vote for a political party is an aggression against all those who are harmed by that party’s policies. If you wonder why so many “libertarians” want to restrict their so called “non aggression principle” to merely physical aggressions, I think it may be because they can’t come to terms with this idea. Anyone who genuinely wishes not to commit aggression must reject voting for any politician.

      On a different subject, again I think you understate your case when you say: “privilege and under-privilege simply must be institutionalised inequality.” In that sentence, I would replace the word “inequality” either by “injustice,” or by “political inequality.” It seems to be a hallmark of the left (and I understand that you, David, were there once) that they don’t appreciate the difference between inequality and injustice.

      On Islam, I think we’re in agreement. As I’ve said before, Christians and Jews (and agnostics and atheists, too) have been through the Enlightenment; but Muslims haven’t yet. What an opportunity to have so many of them among us.

      As to class analysis, I don’t divide people into classes. I always try to treat individuals according to what they do, not who they are. So I think we are in agreement there too, although we use very different words.

      When you say “less taxation and less politics is the liberal aim,” again I think you’ve understated your case. For me, the aim should be no politics, and therefore no taxation. (That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t find an honest, non-politicized government useful. Nor that I would refuse to pay for such a thing, if it existed and if it delivered the benefits to me that it promised. That’s why I’m a minarchist, not an anarchist.)

      As to enemies, I must disagree with you. For me, enemies of liberal values are enemies of humanity, and so they are my enemies. Superficial similarities, like being born in the same island as me, make no difference to that.

      Lastly, as to King Alfred and Queen Bess, I only named in the essay those I had also named in the poem. I’d agree with you about Chaucer, Shakespeare and Locke. Newton was a genius, but a nasty bastard. Priestley I don’t know enough about, and Boulton I know nothing of.

      Again, thank you David for your well thought out comment.

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