Friday, August 18, 2017

Jeffrey Tucker for National Review

Your reaction to the title is telling….I will get to this shortly.

I am going on a bit of a Jeffrey Tucker run.  I came across his article on the event in Charlottesville (which I covered here), which then led me to some other recent work of his.

Tucker asks: Do You Know What a Nation Is?   Of course, being a reasonably subjective concept, I think there will never be a precise answer.  Tucker still goes looking for one.  He wrote this on the occasion of the recent July 4 anniversary.  This reason I mention this will be apparent shortly.

Tucker outlines five theories of “nation,” taken from an 1882 essay by “the great French historian Ernst Renan”:

·        Dynasty: begins with family and tribe, kin – becoming king.  Marriages, wars, treaties and alliances. 
·        Religion: a common faith.
·        Race: biological characteristics.
·        Language
·        Geography

Tucker dismisses them all.  I am not kidding.  While the idea of nation is certainly subjective, we at least know some of the variables that define it.  Each of the five listed above, to varying degrees, can – and has and still does – play a role.

Can we identify any single factor to account for people’s sense of attachment to a political community?

This is a question designed to dismiss all of the ways by which “nation” is to be found.  Of course the answer is “no.”  Only a simpleton would think in this manner.  Tucker is no simpleton; therefore it seems he believes his audience is made up of simpletons. 

Tucker holds each of these five to an impossible standard.  He is looking for one single characteristic that will explain this most complex social relationship.  Can’t be done.

But he does!

In Renan’s view, nationhood is a spiritual principle, a reflection of the affections we feel toward some kind of political community – its ideals, its past, its achievements, and its future. Where your heart is, there is your nation.

But somehow, family, religion, race, language and geography can play no role? 

So, what does Tucker describe as the ideal “nation” scenario?

This is why so many of us can feel genuine feelings of joy and even belongingness during July 4th celebrations.

One of the most war-mongering, state-worshipping holidays (yes, a holy day); this is Tucker’s ideal.

It is all about affections of the heart, which appear without compulsion and exist prior to and far beyond any loyalties to a particular dynasty, regime, or anything else.

This could have been written at the National Review.

I have seen these affections of the heart – at every sports event, every holiday celebration.  There is nothing of peace or freedom to be found in these.  The most massive, coercive government ever known in the west that has indoctrinated its citizens from youth through adulthood; this group of people has come to this feeling “without compulsion”?


You cannot replace something with nothing.  Tucker finds nation in something other than family, religion, race, language or geography; in other words, something outside of a common culture.  This is the work of Antonio Gramsci and of the Frankfurt School of Cultural Marxists that followed him.

What will replace this common culture?  Tucker believes this will be replaced by “feelings of joy” and “affections of the heart.”

Folly.  Destroy a culture and you get tyranny.  If the 20th century didn’t teach Tucker this, let’s just say that the non-compulsive compulsive state education and propaganda machine did its work well on him.

You cannot replace something with nothing.  All Tucker is left with is state worship. 

He says so himself.  On the fourth of July.


Ernst Renan gave a lecture in 1882: What is a Nation?  Some interesting quotes:

Nature has made a race of workers, the Chinese race, who have wonderful manual dexterity and almost no sense of honor... A race of tillers of the soil, the Negro; treat him with kindness and humanity, and all will be as it should; a race of masters and soldiers, the European race.

Interesting, for someone who, according to Tucker, believes race plays no role in nation.

Some other quotes:

Communism is in conflict with human nature.

Tell that to the left.

All history is incomprehensible without Christ.

While Renan’s views on Christ differ from mine, nonetheless I agree fully with this statement.

But…religion has nothing to do with nation.


  1. "feelings of joy and even belongingness"

    The problem comes when the nation's people do not see Tucker as belonging and reject Tucker.

    Good to see Tucker having feelings for the collective.

    1. There are many minorities both in the past and today who would suggest that you try living as one for a while before you hope for it to come true for you.

    2. Jaime

      In reading my comment, to clarify: I didn't mean "you" as in YOU! I meant it toward those who find such things as "nation" to be irrelevant and unimportant - even negative.

    3. Understood. Feeling s bit gun shy since the kerfukle?

      BTW, I took your invite as statement of good will towards me.

  2. The colonists had a sweet deal in 1775. Great Britain was the second freest nation on earth. Switzerland was probably the most free nation, but I would be hard-pressed to identify any other nation in 1775 that was ahead of Great Britain. And in Great Britain’s Empire, the colonists were by far the freest.

  3. The “nation” cannot be precisely defined; it is a complex and varying constellation of different forms of communities, languages, ethnic groups, or religions. Some nations or nationalities, such as the Slovenes, are both a separate ethnic group and a language; others, such as the warring groups in Bosnia, are the same ethnic group whose language is the same but who differ in the form of alphabet, and who clash fiercely on religion (the Eastern Orthodox Serbs, the Catholic Croats, and the Bosnian Muslims, who, to make matters more complicated, were originally champions of the Manichaean Bogomil heresy).

    The question of nationality is made more complex by the interplay of objectively existing reality and subjective perceptions. In some cases, such as Eastern European nationalities under the Habsburgs or the Irish under the British, nationalisms, including submerged and sometimes dying languages, had to be consciously preserved, generated, and expanded. In the nineteenth century this was done by a determined intellectual elite, struggling to revive peripheries living under, and partially absorbed by, the imperial center.

    1. "The “nation” cannot be precisely defined"

      Precisely. By Tucker framing the issue in a way that it must be precisely defined else it does not exist in any manner other than "feelings" he has defined the concept of "nation" out of existence.

  4. It took about 300 to 600 years, IIRC, for the Englishman to arise from the Celts, Welsh, Cornish, Danes, Swedes and Vikings.
    At what point, did the Franks and Gauls, become the Frenchmen?
    At what point, the people groups that moved into an area and settled become a People, a nations, worthy of closing the initial period of open enrollment?
    We are there in these uSA. Really, past it, since 1950s, and we are seeing what happens when the enrollment is not closed, or at least, curbed almost totally.

    Diversity + proximity = war

    There will be war, sad to say.

    1. The Frank's became French when the king in one province got the upper hand in the infrastructure of force.

  5. These are deep waters, for sure.

    A nation, as I think we are using the term here, cannot be defined objectively (nor precisely); have we all agreed on that already? Insofar as the concept of nation has any practical meaning at all, apart from those who wish to rule, it seems at best to be a kind of ‘subjective understanding’.

    Each of the BIG FIVE candidates for ‘properties that define a nation’ are both insufficient and unnecessary. Look at the world and see that there are peoples who consider themselves to be nations (the very definition!) that are heterogeneous with regard to these properties.

    I also agree that these FIVE, especially in combination, tend to contribute much to this positive ‘subjective understanding’ in the individuals who hold themselves to be a nation.

    [I’m also irked by Tucker’s lovie-dovie joyous bleeding-heart language about ‘our great nation’ on this holiday.]

    However, if “feeling” is a short-hand for “subjective understanding” (of a positive nature!), then… well… fair enough. (Maybe?)

    The news has me thinking about the brief rise of the ‘Confederate States of America’ — at least temporarily a separate nation? The BIG FIVE were working together mostly, and yet something *else* caused a new idea of a nation to sprout. A strongly held difference of opinion on matters other than these. (?)

    Just adding my thoughts to the mix, as I am no debater. Esp. not with bionicmosquito. Especially not in public. :) Anyway, thanks for allowing me to contribute, even if only to confuse.

    If a nation *is* a subjective understanding — and only *individuals* can hold subjective understandings (see Mises) — then you shall likely get different answers from different people at the same and different times.

    1. "I also agree that these FIVE, especially in combination, [DO] tend to contribute much to this positive ‘subjective understanding’ [WHEN THEY ARE PRESENT], in the individuals who hold themselves to be a nation."

      gpond - edited for clarity.

      PS. ...or maybe I'm hopelessly confused...! (Good topic!)

    2. Gpond

      These are good comments, and only further demonstrate my confusion in making sense from a libertarian perspective about Tucker’s comments.

      One portion of the comment I was going to write has already been handled by “The Question August 18, 2017 at 10:46 AM,” below. I could not say this better so I will try not to do so (although the rest of my response might bleed into this…)!

      Two other thoughts:

      “If a nation *is* a subjective understanding — and only *individuals* can hold subjective understandings (see Mises) — then you shall likely get different answers from different people at the same and different times.”

      I agree fully, yet I wonder why dismissing these five characteristics – which, to varying degrees play a role – is so important. What happens when each of these is considered irrelevant? As if some nice guy will step in to fill the void? I suggest all that is left is world government with equal rights for all. And we know what that means.

      I will paint a picture…I think about five lines all emanating from a central dot – each of the five representing one of these characteristics. Place a point on each line measuring the homogeneity of the characteristic – 0% at the center, 100% at the extreme end of the line. Certainly, none will be at 100%; further, for each “nation,” the shapes formed by the lines connecting the five dots will be different shapes – and in some cases, the homogeneity will be low, in others high.

      But throw these five out and what are you left with? Tucker could try moving to Saudi Arabia or the mountains of Afghanistan and see how he feels about the five characteristics.

      Of course, you are right: the “special feeling” might be grounded in these five…but then why dismiss them? Why not just say: “special feeling” is shorthand for the five characteristics?

      “[I’m also irked by Tucker’s lovie-dovie joyous bleeding-heart language about ‘our great nation’ on this holiday.]”

      When you dismiss the five characteristics (and there may be others, I haven’t thought about it), what is left? What happens on the 4th of July isn’t “nation-worship,” it is “state-worship.” Sit down during the national anthem at a ball game and what will you be asked: “What? You don’t love the government?” They won’t ask about your hatred of any of the five characteristics.

      In such a void, it is the state that will then bind the people. And I do mean “bind.”

    3. Thank-you for taking my comments as they were intended, and responding accordingly. [Whew!]

      Since your readers may not know me as well as you do, allow me to clarify whether I am a left-libertarian and/or with a strong distaste for nation: Uh… NO!!

      I was making a very small point, as I am wont to do, and I think you got that exactly. I understand your points as well.

      Regards as always,

    4. gpond, between the two of us, you never have to worry about my misunderstanding your intent - your meaning, maybe, but not your intent.

      If I ever find myself not sure of your meaning, I will not assume, I will ask.

      We go back, what, 7 - 8 years? That has to count for something!


    5. I suspect the bionic's "why" has to do precisely with a Gramsci strategy for similar goals: bringing the West under the control of the same clique that finances the other so called "leftist" fronts.

      I will dare to even point at the icon of left libertarians, Ayn Rand. Pretending to be radically individualist libertarian (sort of, rejecting the label), she lifted the mind above all else, said her religion was ego worship, etc. etc.. And copyright "protection" is a monarchies hole big enough to drive a BIG truck through marked "Bill of Rights Terminator".

  6. It is interesting to see how left-libertarians argue that you cannot define a nation, but for something so vague and indefinite, they seem to have a strong distaste for the very notion - at least when it comes to the West.

    They can't define "nation," but they know it when they see it. And they don't like it.

    1. Very good. Then we are left to ask "why?" "Why do they do this?"

      And the answers are not very savory!

    2. The libertarian nation consist of whatever organization you choose to join and will accept you, without regards of land or boundaries (yes, kind of tricky).

  7. I thought the point of libertarianism was that (except for the NAP and the ethic of “no lying with contracts”) there may not be that much of a consensus about many things. That’s why most people will probably want to live with people who think like they do. In a private property society, who cares what people miles away think about anything, much less their “tribal” affiliations? Go hang out with some white “deplorables” in North Carolina who are obsessed with college basketball games between black players playing for left wing Duke and UNC. There are even video games where they these guys can continue to engage in the continuous Duke-UNC conflict during the off-season. Try getting those guys to change their tribal loyalties. And then obsess about your failure.

    Think small. The main purpose of libertarianism is to prevent people from doing what comes naturally: Hacking each other to death.

    1. >The main purpose of libertarianism is to prevent people from doing what comes naturally: Hacking each other to death.

      Then libertarianism is a failure.

    2. I must admit, I am confused regarding your statement highlighted by UC. Maybe you want to clarify?

      "That’s why most people will probably want to live with people who think like they do."

      That's the rub, isn't it. The place where culture and the NAP might very well bump heads. When the neighbor has an orgy on the front lawn....of course, the two neighbors probably hold to different religions...but this isn't a problem for Tucker.

    3. Bob never responds to me.

      Bob never addresses the elephant in the room. He claims "libertarianism" will solve problems but never explains how to implement his political (or anti political) order. The only reason I even know what he is talking about is because I have read the literature. Expecting to defeat the most tyrannical and powerful empire the world has known with 1000 page door stops on economic theory is a non starter.

      At this point libertarianism (of the "purist" Rothbard school) basically exists only in the minds of handful of rogue academics and hobbyist intellectuals. Libertarianism is the product of liberalism and civilization. We are entering a barbarian phase. This is a struggle for survival. It's not white tribalists like myself who are responsible for this situation, but we are the only ones confronting the reality.

      "Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live." - Adolf Hitler

      Sorry had to be said.

    4. A Texas LibertarianAugust 22, 2017 at 8:12 AM

      Mr Unhappy.

      Rothbard's philosophy is a far off ideal that probably won't be realized in any of our lifetimes. His strategy, however, is immediately realizable. Secession is the key. Break up the large nations into constituent nation groups. This break up and balkanization will further approximate self government.

      This way you can have your white tribalist nation, and we Texans can have our conservative nation, and so and so forth, all the while the military domination of the world by the US government will be diminished and extinguished.

    5. Texas,

      Secession is the answer. The question remains: peaceful?

      Only the former Soviet Union really pulled that off. We know what happened in the United States about 7 score and 16 years ago when this was previously attempted.

    6. Peaceful is certainly the preferred option. I don't believe it would 'come to blows' this time. There's no moral excuse good enough.

      It may take a national debt crisis or an economic collapse to trigger enough support though. Texas secession is still a ways off. Maybe another 'Great Leap Forward' by a Democratic executive administration will provide the necessary fuel.

    7. Texas Libertarian,

      I don't disagree that secession is the path forward. That is probably my biggest area of agreement with libertarians but I tend to take it more seriously than they do. For most it's a rhetorical tool to explain their thinking/principles generally. There are no libertarian/conservative secession movements with any potential. Rothbard himself saw the most potent secessionist movement to be the Southern Nationalists and that's why he, along with Tom Woods, was involved with the League of the South, a racialist organization.

      The question of secession in America is one of where and who. The main class of people who do not benefit from the system is whites. Fighting for the future of your people (and for your past) is a much stronger motivator than fighting for a new abstract political arrangement with no basis in blood.

      As for Texas, immigration is about to turn it blue friend, good luck with that one.

      Personally I favor the creation of a white ethnostate in the Pacific Northwest. You are welcome to join (if you don't bring your Mexicans).

    8. I think a conservative Texas, rooted in blood and soil, has a better shot, or just as a good a shot, as a white ethno-state in the Pacific Northwest. I do wish you luck in your endeavor; I certainly don't cringe at the idea of white nationalism.

      As for Texas you may be right. I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley as an extreme minority as a white person. It is 85 to 95 percent Mexican American and every election it is a sea of Democrat Blue (how did the commies appropriate the color blue?). I'm not an open border libertarian. I've gotten a taste of what it feels like to be subsumed by a culture that is not your own.

      Having said that, its not so much Mexicans that are the problem, it is the current Mexican socialist culture that is the problem. Mexicans fought and died for Texas independence from Mexico alongside whites. Those Mexicans were probably much preferable to many white people in our country today (SJWs).

      Sadly those Mexicans seem to be in short supply. Every once in a while I meet one though.

      If you succeed I'd love to visit one day, but I think Texas is my home for good, come what may.

  8. Anybody thinks Estados Unidos De Mexico as not being a nation? The ever conspicuous Israel? England, Switzerland, etc?

  9. Nations require a people and a land.

  10. Do you think Tucker is just writing about himself in this article?

    I mean in that the 5 points don't apply to him in his life so in his mind why should it apply to any one else and therefore apply to a nation. Ie he does not belong to any groups (or feel like he belongs) on these bases.

    Many left Libertarians (open borders) keep going on about the individual and not judging people (which end up being groups) on any ground not their race, religion or sex. That is great in some cases such as in the court room but policy can not be written on the basic of the individual. I suspect that many on the Left have an emptiness that they have trouble fulling and join groups on the bases of Utopian ideas over their group identity.

    1. This is possible. But it takes a simple mind or a narcissist to not realize that what is true for oneself might not be true for others. I do not believe Tucker has a simple mind.

      This leaves two possibilities: Tucker is a narcissist, or Tucker is not sincere in his public persona.

      These characteristics ARE true for many people; to ignore this when discussing any political theory means one has a useless opinion...or devious intent.

    2. He might be a narcissist. I had a bad experience with him back in 2014 during ProcFest. Before ProcFest I was a fan of him and even donate to his website (a bit of money I must say). When I meet him he treated me like I was beneath him. It rub me the wrong but I let it go, thinking it must of been something I say or did.

      I would like to know if you had any experience with him?

      Anyway as the years have gone by I started read or hearing articles or other things by Jeffery and grew not to like him anymore. Things like Articles on Trump is a fascist (even before he got elected and also notice very little articles on Hillary), Rothbard Misogyny, Articles on Open Borders, Libertarian brutalism, and what happen at the International Students for Liberty Conference. Ganging up on Richard Spender (by the way I don't agree with spender) and making a speech at him “Fascists are not welcome at an anti-fascist conference!” and getting him kick out. Honestly you have to watch the video yourself to see what I mean.

      Anyway I wrote a comment on Anonymous Conservative site on this with more detail on both what Tucker said to me back and did at ProcFest 2014 and more on the r/K from his Libertarian Brutalism

    3. I had an experience with Tucker which also turned me off from him.

      I submitted an article to on the topic of whether health insurance was the problem or the solution. I follow health matters closely and had not seen anything like it (nor have I since). Tucker turned it down, saying that it had already been covered.

      This was one of my most original pieces and one that I thought would be very valuable to Mises' readers. In any event, I ended up submitting it to LRC and Lew published it there.

  11. Let's estimate the 5 "nation" factors today, in 2017, for the USA:
    Dynasty: 60%. Only remnants of the British monarchy. Around 35 million descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims. Some millions more for descendants of Jamestown, Spanish settlers in Texas, etc. Yet Founding Fathers still revered, as we see in the hesitation to tear down the statues of slavemasters Jefferson and Washington.
    Religion: 70% Christian (90% in 1965)
    Race: 73% European (90% in 1965)
    Language: 98% English at least. Except for maybe 10% of Hispanics, everyone speaks English, or wants to.
    Geography: 99%. Settled since grabbing Hawaii in 1898. Secession movements are jokes. Not many countries in history have enjoyed stable borders for 119 years.

    Unweighted "nation" average: 80% a nation. Quite high.

  12. A Texas LibertarianAugust 22, 2017 at 8:43 AM

    "One of the most war-mongering, state-worshipping holidays (yes, a holy day); this is Tucker’s ideal."

    Though I strongly agree with your analysis of Tucker, I think there is nothing wrong with celebrating the 4th of July, as long as you do it for the right reasons.

    A confederacy of burgeoning American nations casting off the increasingly heavy chains of Imperial Britain is something to celebrate. It was a true conservative revolution which wished to preserve the governance structure that had sprung up during the period of England's 'salutary neglect' of the colonies in America.

    The Declaration of Independence, though not perfect, was certainly a wonderful expression of natural law self-determination and certainly much better than the Constitution or any of the Federalist papers.

    The orgy of state and military worship the 4th of July has turned into today is puke worthy, considering how far we've strayed as a nation from the principles of the Declaration. But I won't let the statist cretins of today ruin my celebration of the real men and women who fought and won their independence from the British Crown.

  13. I'm Chinese. I don't like Renan's foundationalism assessment of my peoples obviously, but it is useful for me to see how and why such an assessment could be made. For whatever reason, the warrior archetype came to lose its power in my culture. The usefulness of being aware of "face" became the cover for being cowardly. People and cultures can and should grow from any critique that hits home.