This series of articles purely represents the author’s personal opinions and in no way represents the opinions of UKIP Daily (we have no opinion, other than “free speech is good”) or the UK Independence Party. UKIP’s policies are described in this document and this article by Peter Whittle, UKIP’s Culture Spokesman, more accurately describes UKIP’s official opinions in this area.
Part 2 of 3
The democratic value of nations
Politically, nations are immensely valuable because the nation state is the largest political unit which allows any meaningful democratic control. Indeed, it is arguable that representative government at the national level is the only real opportunity for serious democratic control, because representative bodies below the national level are always subject to the national government or a supra-national authority, while a supra-national authority signals the end of democratic control. More of that later.
Only in a country where there is a sense of shared history, culture and communal interest can representative government function, even in principle, as a conduit for the interests of the entire population. In a country which is riven by ethnic and racial difference representative democracy invariably deteriorates into a mass of competing groups all struggling for their own advantage. Policy making and its execution becomes fragmentary and it is impossible to construct a coherent approach to promoting the common good. In a nation state with a large degree of homogeneity the political process is concentrated instead upon policies which affect all, or at least the overwhelming majority, of the people. For example, before post-war mass immigration fractured Britain the great political questions were ones related to class. Policies were put forward which either were intended to better the situation of the working class or to resist change. Either way, the policy was designed to service the entire population not merely a part of it.
Once a country’s sovereignty is breached through treaties which commit countries to bow to the will of supra-national bodies , as has happened with the constituent countries of the EU, democratic control withers on the vine because mainstream politicians of all stamps begin to formulate their policies within the context of what the supra-national body allows not in the interests of the country. Eventually, a situation is reached, as has been reached in the case of the EU, where all parties with an opportunity for power sing from the same policy hymn sheet. At that point representative government becomes a shell and democratic control is gone because there is no opportunity to vote for any party which will change matters. That is so because the grip of the existing elite is so tight on all the levers of power, most importantly the mass media, that no new party can even get a serious hearing.
Where the form of government is parliamentary, the difficulty is enhanced by the fact that very large numbers of candidates must stand to both be taken seriously and have any chance of forming a majority. This imposes an immense organisational and economic burden on the new party, not least because the party will lack experienced politicians as candidates and party bureaucrats. Add in things such as first-past-the-post voting in individual constituencies and the deposit of £500 for each candidate which is at risk of being lost if the vote does not reach 5% of the total, and the British system is just about the best armoured against new parties gaining a foothold in government as any in the world.
Democratic control is vitally important to maintaining the integrity of the nation. There is only one general political question of importance in any society, namely, how far can the masses control the abusive tendencies of the elite? Elites as a class are naturally abusive because it is in the nature of human beings to be selfish and to look for their own advantage and that of those closest to them. That does not mean that no member of an elite will break ranks and go against their class interest. What it does mean is that an elite as a whole will not change its spots, not least because the sociological shackles are too strong for most of those members of the elite who might be tempted to go against their class interest will be dissuaded from doing so because of the group pressures within the elite, for the elite will develop a “tribal” sense of their own, with those outside the elite seen as a separate social entity.
The less democratic control there is over the elite, the more the elite will engage in behaviours which are detrimental to the coherence of the “tribe” as a whole because the elite will seek their own advantage rather than that of the nation. Before the rise of the nation state, the abuse was generally much in evidence because elites commonly took the form of monarchs and subordinate rulers in the forms of territorially based aristocracies presiding over territories which contained various national/ethnic groups, the members of which were seen as subjects not part of a national whole. The common and deliberate policy of such elites was to “divide and rule”. Territories were also frequently subject to changes of ruler through conquest, a change of royal favour (in the case of subordinate rulers), and inheritance or marriage contracts. In such circumstances there was little opportunity for the masses to exercise any form of control over their rulers because there was no unity of feeling or sense of commonality amongst the peoples they ruled and the sense of “tribe“was localised. . It is noteworthy that arguably the most dramatic popular rising in Europe during the mediaeval period took place in England (the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381), the one large kingdom in Europe at that time with a broadly homogenous population and a territory which enjoyed meaningful central Royal control.
With the creation of the nation state there arose the possibility of democratic control. The creation of a sense of nation within a single territory responsible to a single ruler in itself provides the circumstances whereby dissent can be focused and power and influence removed from the monarch and diffused to an ever larger part of the population. That is precisely what happened in England, with first the gradual accretion of powers by Parliament, especially over taxation, then with the development of Parliamentary government after 1689 and finally with the extension of the franchise from 1832 onwards. By the beginning of the 20th century a large degree of democratic control had been established because the elite were working within the nation state, were dependent on a mass electorate and were having to produce policies within a national context. That control lasted until the early 1970s when the elite found another way of breaking it by moving politics from the national state to a supra-national power, the EU. Once that was done, the abusive tendencies of the elite could re-assert themselves, as they have done in spades.
What the individual owes to the nation
Membership of a nation places a natural duty on the individual to support the nation. Patriotism should be viewed as a matter of utility, an absolutely necessity for the maintenance and coherence of a society. The idea that a society can survive which is merely a collection of deracinated individuals has no basis in history or observed human behaviour today.
It is a very great privilege to be unambiguously part of a nation, for it is the place where you automatically belong. Just as a family is the place where most people can find automatic support so is the nation. In fact, the nation is even more reliable than a family because no one can remove the nationality which has been imprinted into a person while a family can reject a member. In an advanced country such as Britain membership of the nation state is valuable indeed, for materially at least it is still (just) a fully-fledged life support system.
That which is valuable needs to be defended, because what is valuable is always envied by others and will be stolen if possible and destroyed if not. The state recognises this by expecting its nationals to fight to protect the national territory against an overt invader. The principle can be extended to other things such as opposing mass immigration (a surreptitious form of conquest) and defending the nation’s vital industries.
Being patriotic by my definition does not mean constantly and stridently asserting a nation’s achievements and superiority to other nations. It merely means looking after the national interest in the same way that an individual looks to their own interest.
Part 1 appeared yesterday, part 3 tomorrow.