By D. J. Webb
Something interesting is afoot. We appear to be witnessing the re-emergence of the nation-state. Although it is true that the Western powers have for decades followed anti-national policies, ones that have unpicked much of the cultural fabric of a historic nation-state, geopolitical realities are gradually forcing change.
An example of this can be seen in Angela Merkel’s policies. She may personally be the product of earlier decades that laid stress on geopolitical co-operation, the co-ordination of policy internationally, multi-culturalism and similar globalizing causes. This suggests that she would prefer the uncomplicated spirit of international co-operation of earlier decades. However, she operates against a background of US relative decline and the failure of the euro project. Germany has been pushed to the fore, willy-nilly, to manage the Greek debt crisis, the Syrian migrant problem and relations with Russia and the Ukraine.
The US election campaign has also highlighted issues of globalism vs. nativism. However insistent the media are that Donald J. Trump is a buffoon with no real policies, he has raised meaty issues that have seriously wounded the pro-globalist Establishment of the two main parties in the US. Whether to allow unrestricted Mexican immigration and the immigration of Muslims, whether to continue with the extreme promotion of political correctness, whether to maintain large US bases abroad and bomb countries to achieve objectives that have no connection with US or even wider Western interests have all been raised in the campaign. Few electoral campaigns in major Western societies see the airing of substantive issues in the way that has been facilitated by the Trump candidacy.
It is important to point out that these are not truly policy issues as such—if they were, the political establishments of most Western countries would ensure they weren’t properly aired and discussed—but rather questions of a shift in the fundamental interests and capabilities of the major Western powers. If there were no underlying shift, policy inertia would remain the order of the day. However, the relative decline of the US, the fact that the EU is a larger economy than the US, although one reluctant to pay for its own defence, the relative rise of China and Russia, the way in which the great global financial crisis exposed the inability of the US to bankroll its current obligations—all these mean that policy stasis is not a feasible option. Sooner or later, a range of options will be considered and will enter the mainstream of political debate in all Western countries.
Consequently, it makes no difference what you think of Donald Trump. The issues he has raised will be addressed by American politics one way or another. Similarly, the desire of EU nations to maintain the euro, or the desire of the British establishment to remain in the EU will not determine the eventual course of events. It may be that some of these nativist challenges will be batted back at this point—maybe they have been raised slightly too early to gain the requisite degree of acceptance—but to defeat any nativist challenge at this point amounts to a backward-looking cultural perspective, a desire to keep things as they were during the easier years of US hegemony.
It is striking that nativists are accused of looking back to pre-multi-cultural days when the nation-states of the West were in better health. This is, in the end, merely a rhetorical denunciation. The shift in the underlying global realities means that globalizing policies must fail, and the nation-state will re-emerge in the new domestic and international politics. Similarly, the bigoted insistence of liberals that they are right on all issues and that no other views should ever be enunciated falls foul of the decline of Pax Americana. The strategy of “invade the world, invite the world” makes no sense without overarching US hegemony, one that takes responsibility for the domestic political arrangements of all nations and that seeks to remake all nations in the image of the US. Globalizing domestic cultural policies are the obverse counterpart of a globalizing foreign policy, which will no longer work to the same degree as before.
It is often forgotten that the EU was a US creation. The European countries were reluctant to co-operate with each other after World War II. Yet co-operation was a condition of Marshall Aid, a reflection of the US need for its European allies to line up behind the US against the challenge of the Soviet Union. Thus, not only NATO, but the EU too is a Cold War institution. This is another way of saying that European unity depends on US hegemony. US hegemony provided the basis for Germany to take a back seat and rely on a US military shield. Unless the US is prepared to substantially step up its military expenditure and defend European members of NATO against a renewed confrontation with Russia, the European countries will have to start looking to themselves. Some will be more bellicose. Others, like Slovakia, Hungary and Greece, will be more amenable to influence from Russia. For these reasons, Barack Obama’s call for Britain to remain in the EU fell flat in terms of the public reaction it achieved. The Cold War is over, and the presumption of the US that it can continue to dictate such matters is now absurd. If the EU does survive, it will emerge as a clearer vehicle for German power, against both Russia and America. This once again is not a matter of policy, but of the logic of events.
The issue of globalism vs. nativism is a confusing one for many libertarians. Libertarians have stressed the free economy, and generally called for free international trade as part of this. I am not sure this is so essential to libertarian theory; surely the main thing is freedom from our own state, and if tariff barriers provided an income stream that reduced or even obviated (together with a land value tax) the need for income and business taxation, we should take the chance to prioritize domestic economic liberty from the state over the globalizing impulse to institute international free trade. The globalizing libertarians can be compared to the Trotskyists who called for world revolution, instead of socialism in one country. Those who like to discuss the politics and economics of Somalia and other countries—something that is not our business—are playing into the hands of the “global 1%”, adopting the political perspective of a transnational elite that has sought to hollow out national democracy, justified by the need for global co-operation.
A difficult issue to determine, and one that will be fascination to see play out, is how the re-emergence of nation-states copes with the fact that multi-culturalism has given inappropriate expectations to the minority populations we play host to. They are likely to continue to grow in numbers, via higher birth rates and family reunification migration, even if labour migration from the non-European world is restricted. They may have come to believe—because we told them so—that there is no need for them to culturally assimilate into their host societies. A greater level of conflict and confrontation is likely.
The worst outcome could be a dissolution of the West, with no one country, not even the US, large enough in terms of population and economic output, to dominate the whole of the West to a sufficient extent to assure the same level of “bandwaggoning” with the hegemon seen in the post-war period. This would then cede the international scene to the likes of China and India, over the longer term at any rate. A more positive outcome—one that I would support—would reconfigure the Western alliance as a joint determined enterprise to defend the interests of all European societies on the world stage.
A pan-European rejection of globalism, a pan-European adoption of nativism, could allow all European-descended societies to decide to defend their original cultures and native population groups. By uniting North America, Europe and Australasia with Russia and the Ukraine in a single enterprise, the European countries could remain, permanently, a key player on the international stage. It should be recognized that such a pan-civilizational NATO would not need to interfere in the internal affairs of other civilizations. All we need is to prevent migration flows from other civilizations, maintain market access to commodities and ensure we have the combined weight to negotiate fair trade deals. We do not need fully free trade if that would only boost the economic prospects of and challenge from the non-European powers whose economic development we have assiduously fostered. Freedom of labour throughout the Greater Europe and free trade and investment flows could aim to promote the prosperity of all Europeans, as a means of promoting our interests in a larger non-European-dominated world.
It is likely, however, that the vested interests involved in promoting globalism will slow the progress towards the re-emergence of the nation-state, and all this will happen at a time when the key European states have little time in which to reverse policy to be sure that European populations and civilization will survive over the longer term. All that we can be sure of is that popular support for globalism is weakening. As the globalizers grow every more insistent that their near-total victory not be unpicked, it is the duty of libertarians to support those who speak out against the state and its cultural campaigns. Only this way can a proper free debate be established to clarify the way forward for policy in all Western countries. Putin, Merkel, Trump—these all point in the same direction, that of a watershed in geopolitics. Politics is getting interesting again.