Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori

In my conversation with Dr. David Friedman, the main point I have been stressing is that part of what allows government to function is that it is perceived as having inherent authority. I can choose on a casual whim to be a consumer of Nike or Reebok sneakers. I do not sit around thinking whether or not I feel like submitting to the authority of the United States government. In this spirit I thought it worthwhile to share with you a quote from Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.

Dying for one's country, which usually one does not choose, assumes a moral grandeur which dying for the Labour Party, the American Medical Association, or perhaps even Amnesty International cannot rival, for these are all bodies one can join or leave at easy will. Dying for the revolution also draws its grandeur from the degree to which it is felt to be something pure. (If people imagined the proletariat merely as a group in hot pursuit of refrigerators, holidays, or power, how far would they, including members of the proletariat, be willing to die for it?) Ironically enough, it may be that to the extent that Marxist interpretations of history are felt (rather than intellected) as representations of ineluctable necessity, they also acquire an aura of purity and disinterestedness. (Pg. 144.)


Mikewind Dale said...

I don't see how the government can possibly be an inherent authority. Nemo dat quod non habet: No one can give that which he does not possess. Governments have no inherent authority (unless you stick to a strict and simple reading of Romans 13, which even John Calvin's successors did not, even though Calvin himself did), and they can only have power because the people have delegated it some of their power. But if so, they can take their power back again.

And it's worth noting that the American Revolution was not fought in the name of country. The war was fought for liberty, both civil and religious. Samuel Adams, after the war, commented that America's victory had restored G-d to His throne. For the Americans, G-d was the Author of all civil and religious rights, and Americans fought not for some parochial nationalism (I've got Rabbi S. R. Hirsch's stinging criticism of nationalism in mind), but rather for their G-d-given liberties.

Mikewind Dale said...

I'd add that America's Revolutionary War (or the "Presbyterian Rebellion" as the British termed it) was actually more of a civil war. It could not have been fought in the name of nationalism, because the United States was still just a part of Britain, and it was not yet a separate nation to have its own nationalism. Americans were rebelling against their local, sovereign, native country.

Izgad said...

I am not here claiming that government authority is absolute in any ultimate sense. The origins of government authority are another for another time. The point that I am trying to make here is that government authority needs to be something beyond the authority of shoe companies to have me continue to buy their sneakers. Dr. Friedman is an anarcho-capitalist who would have even the police and courts run as services to be purchased on an open market, something even you do not support.