Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Is patriotism a good thing?

Jonah Goldberg and Will Wilkinson have a refreshingly nuanced and civil debate about this question (with Goldberg arguing "yes" and Wilkinson arguing "no"). You can watch it below or download it as a podcast.

They also debate whether America's Revolutionary and Civil Wars were good wars.

A few of Wilkinson's main points:

• Patriotism makes it easier for us to violate civil liberties and go to war without a good reason.

• The idea of a "country" is too abstract and diffuse to be the basis of a passionate personal commitment.

Some of Goldberg's:

• It's inherent in human nature that we disproportionately care about those who are close to us. Prioritizing the interests of our fellow Americans is like prioritizing the interests of our family members. This is basically admirable and useful even if it's also somewhat selfish and irrational.

• We can glorify America for its principles without being blind to the ways it's tragically fallen short of those principles.

• Americans revere their country and its political process, which prevents them from trying to violently overthrow the government even when they disagree with the results of that process (for instance, a Supreme Court decision or presidential election).

• "All poisons are dependent on the dosage."

That last point is a double-edged sword.


reader_iam said...

I happened to listen to that diavlog while on a long car trip with my son. At the end of it, he said, "So this means patriotism is something you should think about as well as feel?" I thought that was pretty cool. Also, it reminded me that just because he's tapping away at his DS, it doesn't mean he's tuning everything else out. Reassuring, for the most part.

John Althouse Cohen said...

That's a great response!