Knee-jerk Nationalism: The new black
The wave of Nationalism sweeping across the globe may sing a new song, but its chorus is a tale as old as time.
This article was originally published in The Big Smoke (Australia) on April 8th, 2017. The content and opinions of this article may not reflect the views of the Young World Federalists.
There has been a rampant upswell of nationalism lately. It’s come in the guise of the alt-right, but what it represents is a line of thought and impulse that has existed for a long time.
People like Donald Trump, Marie Le Pen, Geert Wilders and Pauline Hanson, to varying degrees, have benefitted from what is a kind of shared situation across the Western world. All of them are the figureheads of what you would call “populist” movements that push for the closing of borders and the regimentation of the nation to oppose or at least separate from the outside. There are people clamouring to draw the old nationalist lines, in bold marker across the map, in what is a desperate attempt to recreate certainty.
Now, I’m not going to say that these people are wrong, because the Nation State system itself creates these scenarios. The way that it works, in an Economic sense more than anything, means these situations are virtually unavoidable. As long as we inhabit a National system we’ll have these recurring themes, as the same market and political factors push us back into conflict over and over again.
The biggest fundamental problem is free market capitalism itself. Not that I’m not a proponent for command economies, but it’s the absolute freedom of neoliberalism that creates these problems more often than anything else. See, as a country becomes wealthy from trade and market supremacy its wages and standard of living increase along with inflation. Eventually, the cost of living in that country reaches a point where funding materials and employment in that country become very expensive for businesses. Everything becomes incredibly expensive. These businesses are constantly under pressure to provide demonstrable growth every year to shareholders. As always seems to occur, in most companies with large employment costs, the easiest way to shave off massive costs and demonstrate that growth is to move offshore. Because while your country has been becoming incredibly expensive over the decades, as happened in the United States but also to the Ford plants here in Australia, other countries have been remaining much cheaper. China is the quintessential “cheaper” option the world over, of the country which is both tremendously cheaper and just as technically qualified. Production moves from the Western world to the developing countries across the globe in a natural reaction by business.
The truth is most of the battle is out of anyone’s control. In a Nation State system with a global economy, money will continuously flow from one country to the next as circumstances change.
See, business is transnational, it does not exist within any one country. It can exist almost anywhere, and sell almost anywhere; the names of the countries it’s doing business in are superfluous aside from the costs associated with them. So, a country will enjoy a heyday of prosperity for a while, as the USA did after World War II, when it amazingly produced 50% of the world’s materials, but inevitably that prosperity will always make it prohibitively expensive. You simply can’t have one without the other. Some companies will choose to accept that expense because of their image or because of a particular skill set requirement, but many do not, and the pressure is always there. Huge numbers of people who used to have work are now unemployed, particularly in manufacturing, and yearn for the return of employment. However the only way that will occur is if the country either becomes a bargain basement again due to economic collapse, or the country arbitrarily shuts its borders to contain the wealth inside of it. This is where the conservative movements arise. The simple impulse once this situation has occurred, where you have an expensive population but not the employment to sustain it, is to close the borders to foreign workers and force your own businesses to hire locally. This was part of the drive to cancel the TPP. Though Trump in his ever living hypocrisy still enjoys Chinese manufacturing tremendously.
The reason a country reaches such a level of prosperity is usually because it existed in the short “in-between” period where money was pouring into the economy and growth was adequate already. It’s when growth slows that companies need to start looking elsewhere, and inevitably unless you are a colonial empire continually holding down other states to maintain yourself then you cannot maintain this status quo. But it was the trade that drove the economy to such extravagant heights. It was the goods and manufacturing that outside countries purchased that drove income into the economy.
So, you end up with a situation where as your prosperity rises so do your costs, so in order to grow, companies move elsewhere to reduce costs. That country then either has to reconcile to a lower standard of living to compete, or it must wage war and become colonial to exploit another country’s workforce and resources for its own gain.
Countries reach these perfect zenith intersections with this ebb and flow, and believe that it’s somehow sustainable. We become infatuated with a certain government and a certain decade when everything came together, as though they had the magic formula. But the truth is most of the battle is out of anyone’s control. In a Nation State system with a global economy, money will continuously flow from one country to the next as circumstances change. Nationalistic protectionism will certainly bring home jobs, but companies may decide to simply relocate to another country altogether. It simply creates a more hostile environment for job creators and makes leaving the economy entirely all the more tempting. So we can demand that they remove free trade to bring home manufacturing, but it will simply mean the company will move overseas entirely. We can demand that we no longer purchase imports, but that just creates a Soviet-style consumer environment with state-mandated purchasing and shoddy standards.
Nationalistic protectionism will certainly bring home jobs, but companies may decide to simply relocate to another country altogether. It simply creates a more hostile environment for job creators and makes leaving the economy entirely all the more tempting.
Within a nation state system these competing pressures will be eternal in a globalised world. In a totally connected world there is no going back to older and more isolated models. The only valid alternative is to actually go the opposite way and absolutely connect. Though it’s a radical solution it is the only permanently economically viable answer, and that is the absolute dissolution of economic and legislative barriers on Earth.
By creating a single unified economy and legal entity you create one minimum wage, one standard of living, one set of labour laws, one tax structure and one set of inevitable loopholes. It’s only by unifying the human states into one zone that is uniformly governed that we will ever see a day when we won’t have to be worried about us or our children being caught in a system which is continuously destroying itself. If you turn to the Nationalist route you are literally condemning your children to a future of either a) a standard of living akin to the developing world, far worse than you have lived, or b) a total lack of employment and thus poverty as you see in the manufacturing states of the USA.
It is a scary choice, and at a time when hating and fearing the government has never been so popular, you have to realise the only entity that can give you the future you want is the government. It’s not by reducing it either, but amalgamating it into a single state. The only future we have is disassociating ourselves from the endless suicidal Nation State model and doing what’s right for the human beings that will come after us, and after them, and so on forever more. That is through stability and unity.
It’s a terrifying decision, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. We’ve all seen the kinds of regressive imperial utopianism that’s arisen in the West. Don’t snatch at the simple, easy choice. Grasp something real.