Democracy and egoism
A couple of days ago I encountered an article about "new national egoism" by Rob den Bos in a Dutch newspaper. He is a former Euro-parlementarian. As his arguments are common for many for his collegues I will discuss them here.
The first thing that strikes me is that he is yet another Euro-parlementarian who is defending Europe. I have the impression that most Euro-parlementarians spend more time defending Europe in their homeland than defending the interests of their country in Europe - what they are chosen and paid to do.
The second thing that strikes is the cosmopolitan outlook. The basic argument is standard: we have a world economy and Europe's nationstates are much too small to deal with that. That is combined with some oblique references to Europes bloody past. The problem with these arguments is that they could just as well be used to defend a world government - they have nothing in them that is specific for Europe.
If you look a little further you see that these people actually hate the nation-states. They look down on them and see them as a source of conflicts and "national egoism". Cosmopolitan people like Rob den Bos have outgrown their homeland and now look down upon those people who are still focussed on their national affairs.
The problem with their loathing of "national egoism" is that it is in essence anti-democratic. Democracy is about giving all the interests of a country a say: it is institutionalized egoism. But the beauty is that it gives all those egoims an equal say.
And that is the problem with those cosmopolitan globalists: they don't want to give everyone an equal say. They believe that the elite knows better. They feel perfectly at home in Brussel with all those smart people who have passed those difficult exams. In other times they might plea against universal suffrage or for a "benevolent dictatorship". In our time they have takes refuge in the international organisations.
If you look closer smaller countries are not so egoistic at all:
- Smaller democracies tend to spend more on development aid than larger countries. This is because they are better capable of building a national consensus about such non-egoistic issues.
- Smaller democracies are less likely to start wars. And that is not just because they might loose. They don't get obsessed about appearing strong like the large countries do. Look at the US where every president has at least one war to "defend the national interests".
Economically small countries tend to do well. This despite the fact that their diplomats have less possibilities to pressure other countries to buy their products and to accept unfavorable treaties.
People are more generous when they deal with people with whom they feel related. This is the basis of the nation state. Except for a part of the elite the minorities are usually the biggest enemies of the nation state.
The formation of nation states can be painful. But the biggest problem are usually those international politicians who with empty talk about "historical", "natural" and "unchangeable" borders create borders that are not supported by the local population. In the Balkan this has already created a lot of trouble.
The banana republic problem
The biggest problem for smaller countries is interference from other countries. In that case their elite may connect with the interferer and ignore the local population. This is the banana republic problem in Latin America. Another possibility is that the interferer connects with a separatist province. Recently we have seen that happen in Yugoslavia.
Brussel is is the newest threat to the national democracies. It is a paradise for elites who want to rule without popular interference.