The discussion so far has focused on processes (national moral dialogues) and social formations (local and national communities, social movements) rather than on the content of the core values of a patriotic movement. This focus was called for because I hold that the new core of shared values will have to arise from intensive moral dialogues. However, one can discern a fair number of issues that are ready for a new shared understanding. Some concern areas in which there can be a policy consensus even among people and communities who subscribe to rather different values. This chapter covers three such areas: trade, immigration, and the balance between individual rights and communal obligations.
Many political commentators have characterized the 2016 US presidential election as a contest between enlightened, rational, cosmopolitan globalists and prejudiced, parochial, know-nothing nationalists. (The same perspective has been applied to Brexit.) Globalists articulate three main reasons why we ought to see nationalism as xenophobia: nationalists oppose global free trade in order to protect their own country’s economy; they oppose immigration—especially immigration from cultures with different values—to safeguard their sense of national identity; and they oppose universal human rights in the name of national exceptionalism and sovereignty.
The self-congratulatory tone of many globalists is illustrated by an August 2016 New Yorker article by Pankaj Mishra, which appeared under the title “How Rousseau Predicted Trump.” Mishra sees in Trump’s America—and in Europe, India, and Russia—whole countries that “seethe with demagogic assertions of ethnic, religious, and national identity.” These movements threaten “the great eighteenth-century venture of a universal civilization harmonized by rational self-interest, commerce, luxury, arts, and science.” Nationalists reject the wisdom of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment, Mishra writes, and instead follow in the wake of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whom Isaiah Berlin once called “the greatest militant lowbrow in history.”1
During the campaign, much less attention was paid to the communitarian views that Hillary Clinton extolled in her 1996 book It Takes a Village, which pointed out that to raise children well (and to do well in the moral sense), all community members must bear responsibility for one another’s well-being. The thesis that every citizen has not only rights but also responsibilities is a communitarian keystone. True, her vision of community is hardly one that nationalists hanker for; still, it is a good starting point for a better understanding of what globalists miss.
As I see it, the rise of right-wing populism in the US and Europe can be attributed to no small extent to the profound misunderstanding globalists have of community and communitarian values. Globalists tend to view society as composed of freestanding individuals, each of whom has his or her own individual rights and is keen to pursue his or her own self-interest. As a result, globalists assume that, given the proper information, their fellow citizens will see that their aging societies are refreshed by immigration, that free trade raises the standard of living for everyone, and that individual rights outweigh tribalism.
The trouble with this view of society is less in what it claims and more in what it leaves out: namely, that people are social creatures whose flourishing and psychological well-being depend on strong, lasting, meaningful relationships with others and on the sharing of moral and social values. These relationships and values are found in national and subnational communities (including families, which are microcommunities). By definition, communities are circumscribed rather than all-inclusive and are inevitably parochial rather than global.
If a major goal of the patriotic movement is to reduce right-wing populism, violence, prejudice, and xenophobia, then communities must be nurtured, a goal that cannot be advanced by denigrating parochialism. Rather, globalists must understand that parochialism—an attribute of all communities—can be reconfigured in terms of its content but cannot, and should not, be eliminated.
The miscomprehensions of today’s globalists are reminiscent of how Enlightenment thinkers such as David Hume viewed religion, and how quite a few rationalists still do.2 In the eighteenth century, some thinkers placed religion in the same category as witchcraft and black magic, reducing it to a set of traditional values that made people act irrationally and held back the progress of humanity. David Hume wrote in The Natural History of Religion in 1757 that “the primary religion of mankind arises chiefly from an anxious fear of future events; and what ideas will naturally be entertained of invisible, unknown powers, while men lie under dismal apprehensions of any kind, may easily be conceived.”3 Most of us have learned that people have a profound need to grant meaning to parts of life that science—and more broadly, reason alone—cannot address: What is the purpose of life? Why are we born to die? What is it that we owe one another? Religion provides an answer to these questions. Enlightenment thinking does not and is not about to replace religion.4
On the contrary, religion is thriving around the world, even in places like Russia and China. After decades of suppression by the former Soviet government, the church is resurgent in Russia. In 2014, 72 percent of Russians identified as Orthodox Christian, up from 31 percent when the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991.5 In China, the number of Protestants alone has grown by 10 percent per year since 1979, and China may well soon have a larger Christian population than any other country in the world.6 In Latin America and Africa, the Catholic and Anglican churches are being challenged not so much by secularism as by the rise of evangelical and Pentecostal churches.7 Polling indicates that a majority of Muslims in many countries would like to see Islam—and, specifically, Islamic law—play a still greater role in their lives.8 And religion continues to hold a significant place in the lives of scores of millions of Americans and Europeans.
The Communal Costs of Free Trade
Free trade, according to Robert Bartley, is a panacea. He claims that “economic interdependence will not only avoid major wars but forge a new world civilization based on political democracy and open markets, a world of political and economic freedom.”9 Prominent publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the Economist extol globalist economic principles, favoring what they deem an inevitable push to a “flat” global economy through ever-reducing barriers to trade. Public support appears to be in their favor, as a global Pew survey found 81 percent of respondents in favor of trade.10
When globalists champion free trade, they tend to ignore the “externalities.” The fact is that many developing nations can produce cheap goods because they pay little attention to the welfare of their workers or to the environmental consequences of mass production. Trade agreements are supposed to curb these social costs and help workers in countries that pay higher wages to compete with workers in countries that do not, but such curbs have only limited effect. True, free trade lowers the costs of consumer products at Walmart and Target, but how does that help people whose jobs are outsourced? Promises to retrain them and find them other jobs—for instance, to make computer programmers out of coal miners—are often unrealistic. (Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times, Robert J. Samuelson of the Washington Post, and writers in the Economist all argue that job losses are more attributable to technological developments than to free trade. But this is like saying you should not mind being kicked in the stomach because you hurt more when being hit over the head.)
Above all, globalists ignore the effects of free trade on people’s essential communitarian needs. Economists often fail to understand people who are reluctant to move from, say, West Virginia to Montana when the coal industry is declining but the gas industry is growing. These globalists do not sufficiently consider that people lose their communal bonds when they make such moves. People leave behind the friends they can call on when they are sick or grieving or would like to share new joys—and the places where their elders are buried. Their children miss their friends, and everyone in the family feels ripped away from the centers of their social lives: school, church, social club, union hall, or American Legion post. And when these people finally bring their families along and form new communities, changes in free trade often force them to move again. Thus, after a boom in Montana, prices of oil and gas have fallen, and so many of the workers who moved there now need to relocate again. A reliable evaluation of the benefits of free trade should take into account the destructive effects that churning the labor force can have on communities. The patriotic movement should at least show that it feels the pain of the casualties of free trade and offer realistic means to deal with it rather than denigrate the victims of free trade and view them as redneck boors who just do not get it.
Paying mind to the social costs of increased transnational trade does not mean that nations should stop trading with one another; rather, it means that those who worried about the social effects of new trade treaties are not know-nothing, parochial nationalists but, rather, are people with valid concerns. It means that making trade deals fairer to workers in developed nations is a reasonable demand and that one has to invest much more in finding out what can be done for those who lost jobs due to trade and technology and cannot find new jobs or can find only jobs that pay poorly and provide few benefits, if any—for instance by securing a basic income or providing work in a publicly financed conservation or infrastructure corps.
The Communal Effects of Immigration
Globalists favor the free movement of people across national borders. Scholars such as Alex Tabarrok have made the economic and moral case for borders to be eradicated completely.11 They strongly support the Schengen Agreement, which removed border controls among many members of the European Union. They cheered Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, for welcoming millions of immigrants to Germany. And they view Trump’s call for building a wall on the Mexican border and restriction on immigration from Muslim countries as typical right-wing, xenophobic, reactionary policies.
In contrast, the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt views mass immigration as the trigger that set off the authoritarian impulses of many people in many nations. He concludes that it is possible to have moderate levels of immigration from “morally different ethnic groups”—so long as immigrants are capable of assimilation into the host culture—but that high levels of diverse immigration groups without adequate assimilation are likely to cause an authoritarian backlash. Haidt suggests that immigration policies ought to take into account three factors: the percentage of foreign-born residents at any given time; the degree of moral difference between the incoming group and the members of the host society; and the extent to which assimilation is being achieved by each group’s children. Globalists do not approve of this approach.12
American patriots may well favor a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. However, they should also pay better attention to the further acculturation of this large group than many globalists do. Adding a sizable number of people to a society, especially if many are culturally distinct from current members, is very likely to engender social tensions. The answer is not to draw up the bridges or build walls but to adopt realistic sociological strategies for absorbing immigrants into their new, host communities.
One such strategy I call “Diversity within Unity,” which can help lower social tensions in countries that accept relatively large numbers of immigrants by welcoming diversity without requiring full assimilation. (This strategy is explored in chapter 8.) The US has in effect followed this policy, with surprising success, compared with the more assimilationist European nations, as well as Japan and South Korea.
Assimilation, in its strongest form, requires that immigrants abandon their distinct cultures, values, habits, and connections to their country of origin in order to integrate fully into their new country. France stands out as an archetype of this approach. In contrast, Diversity within Unity is a combination of partial assimilation and a high level of tolerance for differences. It presumes that all members of a given society will respect and adhere to certain core values and institutions that form the basic shared framework of the society (this is the unity component). At the same time, every group in society, including the majority, is free to maintain its distinct subculture—those policies, habits, and institutions that do not conflict with the shared core (this is the diversity component). Respect for the whole and respect for all are essential to this approach; when these two come into conflict, then respect for the national community (which itself may change over time) is to take precedence.
Among the core values are adherence to the law, acceptance of democratic processes to resolve differences and create public policy, and belief in civility in dealing with others. Religion, a core value for many European societies, need not be a tenet of unity. However, a measure of patriotism should be expected, especially when loyalty to the new, host nation clashes with commitments to the nation of origin. (Thus, if the US were to go to war with another country, our immigrants from that country would be required to support our effort.) Under Diversity within Unity, all immigrants are expected to learn the national language but are welcome to keep their own and speak it with their children as a secondary language. Immigrants can celebrate their own holidays (Chinese New Year, say) but are expected to participate in the national ones, such as the Fourth of July.
Nobody can decide exactly where to draw the line between the elements of unity and those of diversity, and the line shifts as historical conditions change. However, the main sociological design remains: allowing immigrants and minorities to keep intact their immediate communities—often ethnic ones—in places like Chinatown, Spanish Harlem, Little Havana, and numerous American suburbs—while maintaining their membership in the national community.
Even a global community, if one can be forged, would have to be constructed on top of local, regional, and national communities, rather than replacing them and forming a single community to encompass more than seven billion individuals, each with individual rights but with no particularistic social bonds and set of values. Thus, universalism and parochialism can be combined, but attempts to maximize either position are sure to lead to deeply troubling, socially disturbing consequences.
Reconciling Rights and Community
The greatest social and philosophical challenges for members of the patriotic movement arise from situations in which their passion for human and individual rights clashes with their understanding of communitarian values. However, there are ways to reduce the tensions between these two core elements of a good society.
Globalists hold that all human beings are created equal, that people living in Kansas City and in Kandahar are essentially the same, and that they are all entitled to the full measure of individual rights as spelled out in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Some globalists favor using force to prevent large-scale violations of human rights, under a United Nations precept called the Responsibility to Protect, and to establish liberal democratic regimes in those nations that do not rush to the light—a strategy referred to as regime change. These globalists view local communities (in particular, gated ones) as discriminatory if not racist. And they hold that people who have a hard time accepting gay marriage and the march toward equal rights for women and minorities are longing for a Norman Rockwell vision of America that never existed or was hopelessly prejudiced.
One would do well to avoid the trap of dichotomies, of either/or, and see the merits of synthesizing universalist elements—first and foremost the respect for rights—with respect for communal bonds and a shared moral culture. This synthesis is the cornerstone of tolerant, liberal-minded communities.
One way to illustrate how such communities can be fostered is to look at the gated communities in which many millions of people live. Scorned and criticized by globalists, these places offer their members social bonding, solace, and comfort. Once again, a two-layered approach is called for: gated communities should not be allowed to discriminate, ban books, suppress speech, infringe upon the freedom of religious expression, or violate anyone’s rights. However, in other matters, these communities should be welcome to form their own norms and policies, to create rules for the appearance of their communities (homes, lawns), restrict certain types of behavior in its members (e.g., loud music after midnight), and address numerous other matters, in accordance with the distinct cultures of these communities.
To illustrate: When some localities resisted allowing transgender students to use bathrooms of a gender other than the one indicated on their birth certificate, the federal government threatened to withhold billions of dollars in federal funds, putting at risk the education of hundreds of thousands of their citizens, especially poor and minority children. A less zealous approach to the rights of transgender people would have found policies that could satisfy both sides, for example, by adding gender-neutral bathrooms.
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to marry applied to same-sex couples. A few clerks refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because they felt that such acts violated their faith and that God’s law takes precedence over human law. In some states they were reassigned to other duties, but no gay couple was refused the license due them. Several globalists held that these clerks should be fired. Instead, globalists might have shown empathy for the strong beliefs of such people, without accepting this or any other violation of individual rights. (Much more about this topic in chapter 9.)
Communitarian sociologists have been pointing out that, for two centuries, the rise of modernity has threatened the communal bonds and shared moral cultures that are essential for a person’s sense of identity, emotional stability, and moral order. Studies of the rise of Nazism show that communities serve as the best antidote to the mass appeal of demagogues. The kind of reasoned, self-governing, tolerant, civil person whom globalists favor is much less likely to be found among individuals outside the bonds of community than among people with stable social bonds, imbued with a proper moral culture. Hence, globalists have strong reasons to shore up communities.
The patriotic movement must take into account that nobody can bond with seven billion people, and almost everyone feels more responsibility toward those closest to them. People have profound needs for lasting social relations and shared moral beliefs. And the patriotic movement must recognize that several globalist values can be combined with national, parochial ones. For instance, demanding that communities not violate individual rights while allowing them to foster bonds and values for their members in numerous other matters.
Local communities need to be nurtured rather than denounced, not only because they satisfy profound human needs but also because they anchor people to each other and thus help to dilute appeals to their worst instincts. Championing fair trade, fostering diversity within a framework of unity and shared values, and accepting many kinds of communities as long as they respect rights—all are positions that will help shore up the national bonds that are the foundation for stable and effective democracy, which is the agenda of the patriotic movement.