22 Responses to Culture, Religion & The Nation-State

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thought provoking. How do you roll with the now all but disintegrated notion via Jefferson and Madison as not one sovereign republic but a collection of small republics?

  2. Pinky says:

    Very interesting article. I’d love to see more about the reasons for the compatability between Catholicism and America’s founding principles. That’s a subject I feel like I should know more about.

    I want to go on one tangent although it’s not important to your thesis. The divide in American culture is more urban vs. rural than region vs. region. A city-dwelling New Yorker, Georgian, and Minnesotan are going to have more in common than any of them would with rural residents of their own states.

  3. A thoughtful post, Joe. Thank you.

    Question that you might be a good person to answer, with your political science background: When people talk about a “nation-state” do they mean something other than just “an independant unit of governance consisting of some defined area of land, the residents of that land, and some form of governing institution over that land and those people”?

    I’ve at times heard people claim that “the nation-state” is a new invention, springing into existance 200-300 years ago. I’ve also heard it claimed that the nation-state is somehow in tension with Catholicism.

    Generally, I would think that “nation state” could refer to the Roman Republic, to ancient Athens or to medieval Florence about as well as it refers to modern nations such as France, India of the US. The one exception I can think of is if one places emphases on the phrase “nation” and takes it that a country should be built specifically around an enthnic and cultural grouping — as is the cast with 19th and 20th century nationalistic movements. In this, I could perhaps see some problems, but in that case I have trouble seeing that the US is itself a “nation-state” in that sense.

    Any guidance there?

  4. Joe Hargrave says:


    I will support candidates who support the Constitution, like Ron Paul. Some people think the political duopoly will last until the second coming, until the end of the earth, or at least the end of the American republic. I think its lease on life is rather shorter, and that a true constitutional party can emerge. Especially at the state level, and especially if nullification and state sovereignty are asserted. Many states are interested in these matters in a way they have not been for some time.


    The urban-rural divide is how it looks today, but it has grown out of regional differences that I believe are still in effect.

    Your point is true, but only to a limited extent. As a matter of fact, us West Coasters don’t really have THAT much in common with East Coasters in spite of voting Democrat. I’ve lived in Phoenix and Orange County CA all my life – when I went to NYC, I felt like a rat in a cage.

    It is true that urban areas are more dark purple than rural areas on average. I think regional differences in this country have been suppressed by the increased efficiency of the two party system. So they don’t matter as much right now – but I think they could again, in the event of a 10th amendment revolt.

  5. Joe Hargrave says:


    When leftists talk about the nation-state, they are also including all of the instruments of “class rule”, especially the military, the courts, the police, and the prisons. In leftist, Marxist, socialist theory, the nation-state is the creation of the national bourgeoisie for the defense of capitalist property forms. It was progressive in the struggle against feudalism and colonialism, but is now reactionary as it oppresses the workers.

    The difference between Marxists and left-anarchists? Marxists believe in a dictatorship of the proletariat. Anarchists believe in a dictatorship of the proletariat that’s called something else because, in my best impression of Mr. Mackey from South Park, “dictatorships are bad, m-kay?”

    Kidding aside, they’re somewhat right, but not entirely or mostly right. Nation-states might be said to have begun with the Treaty of Westphalia at the end of the 30 years war in 1648. The Pope at the time condemned that treaty, not because of the nation-state as such, but because it established the right of princes to choose their own religion – Catholic, Lutheran, or Calvinist were the flavors at the time.

    Nations have certainly existed since antiquity, but the smallest unit of governance was the city-state or the principality – these are the two kinds of government that Machiavelli recognized, for instance. But Machiavelli was also making an appeal for Italian national unity – some say, one of the first explicitly nationalist arguments, in Chapter 25 of the Prince. So everyone sees him as a pivotal and transformative figure.

    And, of course, Machiavelli blamed the Church for Italy’s domination by foreigners. And when Rousseau picked up many of his themes, he too blamed the Church for a weak state. So there has been a tension between radical republicans and Catholics. I think Jefferson’s writing and the experience of Catholics in the American republic up until the 1960s shows that the tensions are not necessarily irreconcilable differences.

    The Popes never thought so – but one can hardly blame Machiavelli, who lived during a time when Popes were directly involved in statecraft, in political scheming and corruption on the Italian peninsula.

    By the time of America’s founding and in the 19th century, the Papacy was under siege and was reacting to all different kinds of extremism and radicalism, in comparison to which the American republic must have seemed a blessing.

    All of this, though, is beside the point that Michael Iafrate’s temper-tantrums try to establish, which is simply that supporting the troops = fascism. It’s ridiculous. If one is unconditionally supporting an imperialist foreign policy and insisting that American boys and girls should die for it, that is one thing; I don’t think anyone here does that. People who agree with our foreign policy here really think it is a good one, for various reason – and I strongly disagree with them.

    But I do strongly believe in supporting the troops regardless of their mission, because they don’t write the foreign policy, and especially when they return with injuries and problems that the government won’t adequately address. Too many soldiers are thrown out like garbage. If you’re going to support a war and a foreign policy, you have a moral obligation to support the expansion of veteran services as well. That’s why the troops love Ron Paul – no one has fought harder for veterans while also opposing the mad foreign policies that get them injured and killed in the first place.

  6. “Supporting the troops” does not equal fascism. I’ve never said anything remotely like that. In fact I would argue that I support the troops more than the average american because I oppose what the military does to them as human persons. (See Nate’s various writings for more concrete info on this fact.) The problem that I have with the views of, say, Donald McClarey have absolutely nothing to do with the extent to which he “supports the troops.”

  7. Jennifer says:

    So you think the “collection of Republics” is a good idea, and one we should support, through states rights? Do I understand you correctly?

  8. Joe Hargrave says:


    I think it may be inevitable.

    What I think is “good” is for states to assert their 10th amendment rights and to invoke nullification if they must. AZ, for instance, really had no choice but to pass a law preventing Obamacare from going into effect – if it did, it would completely bankrupt the state and shatter the economy. Nullification isn’t simply this matter of principle, it is a matter of state survival.

    And it has nothing to do with slavery either. Abolitionists invoked nullification too against fugitive slave laws – the hate-filled liars at MSNBC never talk about that when seeking to smear nullification arguments with racism.

    Whether or not this will lead to the downfall of the union, I can’t say. If the feds are smart, they’ll simply not interfere as states do what is entirely lawful within the bounds of the Constitution. If they’re arrogant and thuggish – which they usually are – then they may spark a desperate economic and political rebellion. But I am not for “unity at all costs”, because the costs obviously include an abandonment of the basic right and instinct of self-preservation, to which no reasonable human being, or group of human beings, can submit.

  9. Zach says:

    Clear thinking here Joe.

    I like how you mention the tradition of Catholic political philosophy. It’s often ignored!

  10. RuariJM says:

    “The Franco dictatorship was, of course, practically a democratic utopia…”

    You may posibly have overlooked the hundreds of thousands who died, who were imprisoned without trial and were denied the means and opportunity of earning a living.

    Falangist Spain was poor, backward and existed on terror. As it was founded on the overthrow of the elected government, I guess one could expect no less.

    Comparisons with regimes that may have been even worse does not mean it was any good. It wasn’t.

  11. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Actually by the end of Franco’s regime Spain was more prosperous than at any time in its history, and the entire population enjoyed rising standards of living. The repression by the Nationalists after the Civil War was brutal, but minor league compared to the socialist utopias of Stalin’s Soviet Union or Mao’s People’s Republic of China. The repression also moderated a great deal after the first decade of the Franco regime. As for the Republic that the Nationalists overthrew, outside of the Basque regions it existed solely as a result of repression and terror, including the murder of 6,832 Catholic priests, nuns, brothers and sisters. Outside of the Basque regions Catholics were forbidden to practice their religion in the Republic. Churches were converted into warehouses by the Republic, and the contents stolen. Statutes of saints and crucifixes were used for target practice. The Franco regime was in many ways a squalid dictatorship, but it destroyed a far worse regime.

  12. Joe Hargrave says:

    “Comparisons with regimes that may have been even worse does not mean it was any good. It wasn’t.”

    To whatever extent it wasn’t, we can thank the enemies of civilization. Franco was the only thing standing between a far greater number of Catholics and the firing squad.

    And while the Civil War may have made Spain poor and backward for a time, under Franco she underwent an economic miracle that saw her position rise to, I believe, 9th in the world economy. So there were prosperous years under Franco’s rule.

    And as I mentioned elsewhere, during this time the world’s largest and most successful worker’s cooperative, the Mondragon, came into existence. So frankly I don’t think it was all bad. Bad if you were a communist, sure. But they spent enough time making the world miserable for everyone else.

  13. Joe Hargrave says:

    Ah, nice to see we are in agreement on this one Don.

  14. Donald R. McClarey says:

    I’d even say Joe that Franco wasn’t an anti-semite! 🙂

    Seriously, the Franco regime never returned any Jewish refugees to Nazi Germany, and Franco extended diplomatic protection to Sephardic Jews during the war who lived abroad.

    A good recent article on this aspect of the Franco regime.


  15. I get it. Whenever I post a comment revealing how full of it you guys are, it is either deleted (Tito, McClarey) or ignored (Joe).

  16. Joe Hargrave says:


    I approved your post as soon as I saw it.

    I didn’t see it, deliberately ignore it, and then only decide hours later to allow it. I don’t check the “pending” box every hour.

    I approve all comments that meet our posting guidelines.

  17. I’m not referring to the speed with which you approved it. I’m referring to the fact that I have corrected you and yet you still repeat the statement that I think Donald is a fascist merely because he claims to “support the troops.”

  18. Joe Hargrave says:

    I didn’t see your correction before I said it the last time.

    Now you’ve clarified yourself. Thank you.

  19. Bull. You’ve never been particularly clear about why you consider some of us fascist. The last time you went off it was over quoting a historic civil war song, for goodness sake. If that’s clarity, I’d hate to see obtuseness.

  20. Joe Hargrave says:

    Well, I only meant that he now says its not just for supporting the troops – though you’re right, what he does actually mean is entirely unclear.

    As if what this guy thinks really matters anyway.

  21. Donald R. McClarey says:


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