The United States of America is not a nation of bloodlines, the common refrain goes. Brave patriots founded it on an idea — the idea of individual liberty, of shaping your own destiny, of leaving behind the dead weight of the past for a bright future. Modern American patriots say that most nations, whether in Europe, Asia, or Africa, place too much importance on bloodline and thus stifle their peoples through collectivism. According to them, a nation’s true spirit is in its values and ideas, so anyone can adopt any idea. Much of this is taken to be the highest expression of American exceptionalism.
But there’s a huge problem: For a proposition nation to work, most people have to think the same thing. And this requires greatly denying liberty, the very thing America runs on.
The proposition nation has a self-evident allure. Unlike a “bloodline nation,” proposition nations can be far more racially inclusive. While a bloodline nation would freeze you out no matter how strongly you believed in its ethos, a proposition nation would let you in so long as you believed in its values. For a racially divided country like the United States, the ideal of the “melting pot” had great appeal in the 1910s. That appeal only grew stronger in the 1960s since it allowed Americans to stay patriotic while redressing past racial discrimination and admitting immigrants from beyond Europe. That way, America could fight off leftist accusations that its libertarian ideals were hateful.
However, for a proposition nation to work, most people must believe in the proposition, and this belief must be enforced to maintain unity.
If ideals and not bloodline make a nation, then the nation must indoctrinate everyone into those ideals. Any deviation from them cannot be allowed. To disagree with the proposition is to be a traitor, and traitors would need to be incarcerated and re-educated. The idea is the heart and soul of the nation, and without it, we are nothing.
Does the above sound like liberty to you? Didn’t think so.
For the proposition nation to work, the nation must admit only those who fanatically believe in the nation’s ideals and punish those who do not; otherwise, the proposition withers away. This flies in the face of America’s liberal ethos. As a result, America does not check immigrants’ ideology. While private employers do fire dissenters, it isn’t 100% effective and only breeds resentment. In other words, it doesn’t resolve the paradox at all.
The other proposition nation — the Soviet Union, founded on international Communism, and every bit as diverse as the United States — had no such paradox. That regime used everything from firings to imprisonment and executions to ensure compliance with Communist doctrine. Everyone had to believe in Marx and Lenin’s proposition if they wanted a comfortable life.
And despite all of that, the Soviet Union collapsed anyway.
If a ruthless Communist regime couldn’t make the proposition nation work, what chance does a vaguely libertarian democratic republic have? How can this nation founded on great ideals handle it if not everyone, whether black or white, immigrant or native, even believes the ideals of liberty are worth defending?
It seems that bloodline nations are the only stable ones, but even they have civil wars occasionally. At least in a bloodline nation, everyone doesn’t have to hold the same ideas to be part of the national community. Still, if enough people don’t, you get the civil wars mentioned earlier.
Perhaps the “proposition nation” works after all — you have a cultural “proposition” believed by a blood-defined “nation.”
Do it right, you get Japan. Do it wrong, you get North Korea.
Neither of which has any workable solutions for America.
We’re in for a hell of a ride.
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