A Nation Or An Idea?

     I don’t always get to every article every Gentle Reader cites while it’s still fresh in people’s minds. Sometimes I must admit to being embarrassed at having missed something tremendously significant. That’s the case today.

     The impetus is this Dennis Prager article from a few weeks back. If you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so at once. Please try to keep a tight rein on your emotions; I promise, they will be tested.

     The part that fired my engines is this:

     America has never been just a country. Nor is America an ethnic group or race. America is an idea: the greatest nation-making idea in world history. America was set up to be a “bright shining light,” and has always seen itself — correctly, I believe — as exceptional. The America Firsters who believe in America Only do not see America as a moral force for good in the world. It should not “even comment” on good and evil outside of its borders.

     As for the argument — offered by every America Only advocate — that America must first deal with its own problems before helping any other people on Earth, this simply means that America will never help any other people on Earth. There never was and never will be a time when America is free of domestic problems.

     The falsehoods in those two paragraphs are stunning. Prager must have known better. Yet he is generally respected as a rational conservative voice. How could a rational man not see the connections and implications in the statements above?

  • The U.S.A. is not an idea. It is a geographically delimited country with a specific jurisdiction, Constitution, and laws. If it were otherwise, anyone worldwide who subscribes to the “idea” would have a valid claim on American citizenship.
  • The U.S.A. was not “set up to be a ‘bright shining light.’” It was forged from a violent revolution among colonists – overwhelmingly of English origin or descent – who wanted to be left alone by a specific tyrant.
  • There is no connection between an America-Only stance and whether or not one sees America as “a moral force for good.” America-Only merely insists that American problems must be the first priority of American governments, especially the American federal government. Private citizens are always free to do international charity.

     Prager’s stance is a rationale for the sort of federal open-handedness toward other nations that’s drawn us into several foreign wars, is dragging us into two others, and is close to bankrupting us. It is indefensible:

  • Legally: a nation-state’s obligations are delimited by its jurisdiction and its citizenry.
  • Morally: a nation-state that taxes its people for the benefit of other nations is committing grand theft.
  • Practically: once a nation-state accepts responsibility for other nation-states or their citizens, there is no limiting principle that applies to bound its exertions (See our current military and financial mess).

     Let him who thinks himself equal to the challenge attempt to refute me. For additional thoughts, please see this Baseline Essay.

1 comment

    • Steve on December 18, 2023 at 10:02 PM

    I’m sick of hearing this from those who are looking for “loopholes” I’ll call them, in our founding, claiming this “idea” crap as a way to glom on to our history and either twist. Or wrote themselves and their group into it.

    America was founded as it was because of a specific group if people (English, Germanic, with a sprinkling of others at the nations birth) and they and their reasons for doing so, were the result of two thousand years of trial and error by White, Christian, European people and no one else.

    Those who claim this notion of an “idea” do so because should any of them publicly admit what I just wrote above. Then they would ha e to acknowledge that this country is unique among nations because it was founded by a unique people. They would not then be able to – like a tick – burrow themselves into our history and claim that it belongs to everyone.

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