Patriotism and knee-jerk reactions

Yesterday was a day of knee-jerk reactions, misunderstandings and jumping to false conclusions on my part. Some might know to what I allude, and the faster it is forgotten, the better. However, it seems that others may be guilty of perpetrating a similar crime against me. Maybe "crime" is a bit strong, okay, a lot too strong, but you know what I mean.

First, let me say that while I will not be pulling a Rob Schneider in this article, I do wish to respond to a certain critic. My response begins with agreement on certain points. I agree with the Indolence Log, when it says that I could have gone further with my definition of Patriotism. As a reminder, I said that patriotism could be defined as the love of one’s country, region or culture. In the Indolence Log, Anthony says:

Personally, I’d go further, and say that it’s also the love of one’s family, one’s friends and one’s neighbours. It’s also an expression of happiness and acceptance of the environment you find yourself in – that you think the rivers, and the climate and the mountains and the sights are wonderful and don’t want to change them or lose them; that you’re grateful for the homes and businesses and society your parents and their parents have created and built up.

I would have to totally agree. To me the word "culture" encapsulates some of this. After all, particular cultures, and I would argue most cultures, are tightly bound to the environment in which they have evolved. On this point, I think Anthony and I are in complete agreement, and any disagreement can be put down to semantics.

However, I think I have been misrepresented in Anthony’s piece where he assumes that my article was written in an anti-capitalist spirit. This could not be further from the truth. The article embraces capitalism, and suggests a regulatory mechanism that is not government imposed. That is, it proposes a type of market that is even freer than the one we are used to today. My position on capitalism and free markets is, by and large, very much toward the right. I suspect that some of the articles in The Thin Line have led its readers to believe that I must be a proponent of protectionism and collectivism because I am opposed to John Howard and George W. Bush. A careful perusal of The Thin Line should reveal that my disputes with those leaders relate to their views on issues such as Iraq and refugees. I am also convinced, maybe incorrectly, but convinced nevertheless, that those leaders knowingly misled us on the issue of WMDs in Iraq. Given this, I find it my duty to oppose them. In general, I do not oppose their economic policies. It might come as a shock to some that I have been known to vote Liberal, though in which election(s) I will not say.

I have, in the past, agitated against large corporations, but this is not the same as agitating against the market economy per se. I still see large corporations as a threat to creativity and diversity (so do many others, which is one of the reasons we have antitrust laws).

Going back to the heart of the issue, the reason I propose patriotism as a method to regulate corporations is not because I disagree with free markets. It is quite the opposite. I think, in a truly free market, there still needs to be a factor that resists the unfettered growth of corporations. Instead of government regulation and intervention, I proposed patriotism, because it seems likely to create smaller companies that serve smaller markets and to protect the particular cultural diversities catered to by those markets. Thus, it could help to minimise antitrust cases where the government is forced to step in. But why oppose the unfettered growth of corporations? I oppose any institution, be it a government, a corporation or an entire economy, in which there is a disproportionately large concentration of power. In the case of corporations and economies, and under the premise of free trade and therefore globalisation, such power can steam-roller the cultures of countries with less powerful corporations and weaker economies. The idea is to have culture, and thus the services and products with which the culture is identified, firmly entwined in the market. We live in a capitalist world, so our cultures need to gain a strong foothold in that world so that they can survive. I believe patriotism can help with that.

Finally, Anthony makes the assertion that America, possibly because of capitalism, is a far more diverse place than Australia. I’m not sure whether I agree with this or not; I may well do, but it doesn’t matter because it is completely orthogonal to the debate. Capitalism, with or without the aid of patriotism, may well help to create more diversity. But of primary concern, I believe, is the protection of those things that make Australia (or any other country or culture) different from other countries. I don’t want to see the cultures of the world disappear, and that includes the American culture. Furthermore, in this discussion there is an inherent difference between product diversity provided by the market and cultural diversity. Without a critical mass of love for a country or culture, that culture is doomed to die in a free market society. The reason for this is simple economics. Without some retarding factor such as patriotism, the bigger fish will win because it can create better economies of scale, thereby producing products more efficiently and cheaply than the smaller fish. Patriotism helps to ensure the presence of discerning consumers who form and preserve niche markets, and make it economically viable to produce goods that might otherwise have been squeezed out of the wider market.

This is not about being anti-capitalist or isolationist; rather it is about being pro-diversity where at least some of that diversity is tied to existing cultures.