Intro. [Recording date: August 23, 2018.]
Russ Roberts: Before introducing today's guest, if all goes as planned, the first episode of the book club for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's book In the First Circle will be next Monday, September 10, 2018. My guest in that episode is Kevin McKenna, Professor of Russian language, literature, and culture at the University of Vermont. And in that first episode, which we've already recorded, he gives an overview of Solzhenitsyn's life, the Soviet literary scene, and Solzhenitsyn's conflict with Soviet leaders from Stalin to nearly the present. It's a fascinating conversation that I hope will be of interest even if you are not planning to read the book. Subsequent episodes--and I don't know how many there will be--will go deeply into the book itself. They will be released as bonus episodes and not on Mondays. Those will not air until at least late September, so you still have time to read the book if you'd like to follow along in real time. And we also hope to have an opportunity on Reddit for you to interact with each other about the book.
Russ Roberts: Now for today's guest, philosopher, historian, and author Yoram Hazony.... His latest book is The Virtue of Nationalism, which is the subject of today's episode.... Now, this book was a tough sell for me. Like many, especially those who are vaguely libertarian, classical liberal, I've become disenchanted with nationalism. But I have to say your book brought me back a long way. Take it seriously is a good idea. So, it's an incredibly provocative read. It covers a wide array of history, philosophy, and even some current events. I want to start with the dichotomy you present at the beginning of the book, which really runs through the whole book, which is the choice between national states and an imperial order. Explain what you mean by each of those.
Yoram Hazony: This is a distinction that actually we find going all the way back to the Bible. If you ask what is it that politically of great interest to the Israelite prophets, well, we're all familiar with it. They are living in a world of contending world empires; each of them claims that it should rule the world. Babylonia claims that it should rule the world; Assyria claims that it should rule the world. And this is the ancient conception of what the gods want: they want a ruler who is going to bring peace and prosperity, as we find over and over again in the ancient texts was going to bring peace and plenty to the world. He's going to end wars by conquering everything, and he's going to cultivate, create cultivation and agriculture on a vast scale so millions can be fed. And, in the Bible, we see this very strange dissent that goes almost the entire way through Hebrew scripture, where the Jewish intellectual leadership--the Israelite spiritual leadership--think that these world-conquering empires are evil. They have a different proposal that they want to put on the table. They think that Israel should be an independent state ruled by a king that is from the Jewish people, with borders that the God of Israel tells the Israelites that they're not allowed to cross. And moreover, this vision isn't just for Jews, because we find over and over again that other small national states, other independent nations, are supposed to keep their independence as well. And ultimately the vision of a peaceful world is a world where nations will no longer be enslaved to these world empires. And nobody seems to believe that a small, independent Israel or Moav or Edom or any of these other small countries, that they are going to be necessarily that they are going to bring peace and plenty to the whole world the way that those world empires claimed that they were going to, but they claim to offer something else. They claim to offer freedom for these different peoples to live each under their own vine and their own fig tree and to understand God in their own way. Now, that's a long time ago that those texts were written. But, as it happens, Western civilization plays out, almost the entire length of it, as a kind of a tension, a dialog between what eventually becomes the Roman Empire's vision of universal empire, and Israel's vision of independent nations that leave each other alone, in freedom.
Russ Roberts: Let me bring us forward then in time to 1648 and the Treaty of Westphalia, which is one of my favorite trivia dates--with 1066. I have to confess, I didn't know much about the Treaty of Westphalia; I'd forgotten, if I ever knew anything about it. But, you make the case that that was an important break point in the evolution of the nation state and the world order and how it was organized. So, describe how we transition out of the Roman Empire into what you call a Protestant vision of competing nation states.
Yoram Hazony: There had always been nations in Europe that saw themselves, defined themselves in terms of this kind of Old Testament vision. But the Protestants, and especially Calvinists and the Anglicans, took this especially seriously. In 1534 we get effectively England's first declaration of independence: Henry VIII doesn't just decide that he wants to make decisions about marriage. He decides that his kingdom is no longer under the authority of this vision of universal Monarchy and Church which had been the medieval vision.
Russ Roberts: Which was the first Brexit.
Yoram Hazony: It's the first Brexit. In 1581, we get a declaration of independence by the Dutch Protestants, which, by the way, reads an awful lot like the American Declaration of Independence. It's just 200 years earlier. And then in 1648, as you say, after the 30 Years' War, this English and Dutch model of declared independence from the Holy Roman Empire and from the Catholic Church, that model of declared independence is then adopted formally by additional nations--by the French, who are Catholics; by the Swiss; and by others. So, 1648 is kind of a moment in which the reality that had been developing for a century and which nations declared themselves to be self-determining--that's a word that's invented later, obviously--but, no longer requiring any kind of approval, formal or theoretical, from the Holy Roman Emperor or the Pope, that gets ratified in three treaties, which create for the first time a formally pluralistic order in Europe, where some states are going to be Catholic, others Lutheran, others Calvinist; some are going to be monarchies and some republics. Some are going to have freedoms that we would recognize: freedom of speech, limited government. Others are not going to have anything like that. And, this diversity is accepted as being the basis for the civilizational order.
Russ Roberts: So, let me interrupt here. Because, you say some beautiful things about that; and the economist in me and the Hayekian in me finds it very appealing. We have all these different countries; they are each trying different things; they are each allowed to go their own way. They can learn from each other. They can learn from the mistakes of others. You could argue it has some of the characteristics--this is obviously not accurate literally, but some of the characteristics of federalism in the United States: each state has a certain level of autonomy to try different things; and good things can be copied and bad things can be set aside. So, that's the positive vision of these independent nation-states choosing their own religious traditions, their own cultural traditions, their own political traditions--some good, some bad. It's obviously a very mixed bag. On the downside, which you are very aware of and write about extensively, it launches a 300-year period--from 1648 you could say to 1948--of incredible warfare between all these independent nation-states, so that peace and prosperity--there's some prosperity, but the peace that was given up by moving away from a single empire, a top-down sovereign, that's gone. We get an immense amount of colonialism and imperialism that's not so attractive--quite ugly, in fact--as these nations vie for influence outside their immediate borders. So, why is this a model that we would imaginably want to embrace? And, in fact, as you point out: By 1948, after the horrors of World War II, the Holocaust--which were blamed on the nation-state, perhaps incorrectly in your view, but many people view that--we now are in an era where nation-states are kind of embarrassing. That, people--many people--want to move toward a more global and unified system of governance. What's your response to that 300-year history on the downside of it?
Yoram Hazony: Well, all sorts of people have written about this, long before me. And it's an old argument. Henry Kissinger's works are largely devoted to trying to demonstrate that the great conflagrations, the vast destructive works during that period, that would be, I think, the Napoleonic Wars--Hitler's Wars, World War I--these wars, they are not something new. They are actually very much like the 30-Years' War. And, which was ended by the Peace of Westphalia. And, the way in which these huge wars--we can call them World Wars--these universal wars are different from wars between nation states--is that universal wars are devoted to some kind of an ideology of world domination. I the case of the 30-Years' War, it was the theory of the universal Catholic order. In the case of the Nepolonic Wars, the theory of the new universal French liberalism. And, in the two World Wars, an attempt by two German emperors in effect to try to, uh, make Germany Lord of the Earth. And if your system consists of players who are devoted to some kind of universal vision, and they are willing to mobilize--not just one nation, but all nations, into kind of a universal army to go out an create that world order, those seem to create wars of inconceivable destruction. And the question is: What does that have to do with the Westphalian system? Since, Napoleon sets out to overturn and eliminate the Westphalian system? And the Kaiser, by trying to destroy France and to knock out France and Germany, and to break the back of British Imperial power--his goal is just to destroy the Westphalian system. And likewise with Hitler. So, the first thing I would say is that, the discussion about nationalism, I think in order to it be an intelligent discussion, has to begin with the possibility that there are states in the world that have political traditions which--uh--which involve borders. Which sanctify borders. Which--in which the states, as--we're only interested in governing a single people. We're not interested in conquering the whole world. And, the whole argument about the desirability or non-desirability of nationalism--I think it needs to be conducted around this question: If you are, let's say, today, living in India, or Israel, or South Korea. Or England. Or Italy. Or Poland. As far as I can tell, you don't have aspirations for universal conquest. And, the move--the globalizers wish to make--is, they say 'Well, it's true that these national states aren't now interested in universal conquest. But, let's, um, change this to where, to a universalist software. To, where, instead of living within borders, nations are going to eliminate borders and try once again to reach this kind of universal order under a single law.
Russ Roberts: 'Someone's singin' my lord, Kumbayah.' So, we can make fun of it. It's a slightly--there's a certain naivete about it. But, you don't paint it that way. You paint it as a frightening prospect. I think, partly, you call it very cleverly, you call it an imperial vision, which gives it a very negative sound to start with. And you obviously do that deliberately, and I think not just for marketing purposes but also because I think you think that this global impulse is related to the global imperialism of the past--these global visions of domination, not just--I think what the people who advocate for that global order, today, are arguing is, 'It's not--Well, we are just going to lay down our swords.' And, We're just going to have a lot more ploughshares.' Right? 'We are just going to have a lot fewer guns and a lot more butter.' I mean, is the European Union, an example you talk about it a lot, I mean, you say, after the Cold War, 'The minds of Western Leaders became preoccupied with two great Imperialist projects. The European Union, which is progressively relieved universal powers usually associated with political independence, in the project of establishing an American world order in which nations that do not abide by international law might be coerced into doing so, principally by means of American military might.' Let's put aside the American one for a minute; I think that is complicated. But, let's the European one. What's scary about the European Union? It's so nice. You can travel all over Europe with one passport. It's fantastic. What's scary about it?
Yoram Hazony: I'm not inherently against traveling over Europe with one passport. I don't think that's the main issue. I think that--look,, making it Kumbayah is making it too simplistic. The post-1989, New-World order, which all American administrations have, you know, other than the present one, I guess, have to one extent or another believed in, is not a world in which people actually laid down their swords.
Russ Roberts: Hmm.
Yoram Hazony: I mean: If the Bushes, and Bill Clinton, and Obama, were all about laying down their swords, then we'd have an interesting discussion about whether human nature has changed and political options before us have changed. And then we could talk about whether utopia is actually, uh, something we could create on earth. But, none of that happened. What actually has happened is that the United States, and the Europeans, have moved from, from a traditional defense--and I admit when I say 'traditional,' I don't mean consistent on the part of everybody for the last 400 years. But, let's say that there's been a very strong tradition of independent national states for the last 400 years--certainly in the English-speaking world. And, instead of defending that, American and European leaders have moved to a rhetoric of--not just a rhetoric, but a policy of independence isn't really important anymore. Because, economically and in terms of security, we need international institutions. We need international decision-making. And these national-states are slowly but surely going to be overcome and eliminated. That is, I think, the dominant rhetoric. It's obviously much stronger among intellectuals. Like, let's say, American or European, are very largely committed to this. But then the surprise is that even if you move into what used to be in the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, they are internationalists. And then you move over into the sort of more libertarian wing of the Republican Party--I know it's a mixed bag but there are an awful lot of people there who also talk in terms of world order. And they speak with confidence not about how we are going to lay down or swords, but also how American might is going to become the enforcer: The policemen--that's going to turn to create a very rules-based international order--if I'm getting the buzz-phrase right. A rules-based into order is going to be enforced. And who is going to enforce it? Well, it's going to be American might, with a little bit of help from the Europeans. And, we've had examples of it. Right? So, the overthrowing of regimes by invasion or by aerial bombardment in Serbia, in Libya, in Iraq, in diplomatic coercion; in Egypt, and other places--this is kind of a systematic policy of: We're going to make the world better using our values and our muscle. Okay. So, that's not laying down swords and plowshares. That's a, a version of imperial theory. And, I'll just add that, I don't think people make a very big secret about this. When you read the literature by think-tankers and intellectuals and academics who are, sort of the brain trust for this way of approaching the world, they are constantly referring to precedents from the Roman Empire, from the British Empire, from the Austria-Hungarian Empire. It's like a comparative imperiology. Well, that's the big new idea. I don't think this is a good idea.
Russ Roberts: So, in between that vision--short of that vision of America as policemen--which I'm also not also enthusiastic about. For a lot of reasons. We could spend another half hour on that. Let's not. But there's something short of this. This would be what I would call the libertarian vision. And you invoke it when you talk about what you call a 'neutral state.' Can't we just have nations that--let people thrive according to their own desires? We will link with other nations through trade and possibly immigration; and we'll all get richer through the division of labor and the Smithian trade that will take place? It's a fantastic world that we've seen an enormous improvement in standard of living for the poorest people in the world over the last 30 or 40 years; been extraordinary. And that's great. You are worried about that?
Yoram Hazony: Well, I'm actually kind of a fan of that. I mean, I was sold on the free market when I was in college--which is, I'm embarrassed to say how many--a long time ago. So, as far as the general economic approach--Hayek and Milton Friedman were my heroes; and they still are; and I haven't really moved from that. But, what I don't buy--and I never did, even in college, is the idea that what the economic libertarians are describing is a formula for how to order the world in general. Or even for how to order societies. Because, just because you can show--and I certainly believe this--just because you can show that giving maximum freedom in the sphere of free enterprise, which allows, encourages private initiative: private initiative brings on innovation and originality that no planner could ever have come up with--just because that works in economics doesn't mean that you have now described what is necessary for a nation to survive through time. And there are important political theorists--and, by the way, I would include the Scottish School as well as the English common lawyers from Fortescue to Burke and onward. These are theorists who are trying empirically to understand what it is that allows a state to be stable--what allows it to be stable, to endure, to be just, to be, to maintain freedom--not only domestic freedom, freedom of individuals and limited government, but also freedom internationally. That is, freedom from being coerced by foreign powers that might not want you to live your life the way you want to live your life. That's a complex of issues, many of which are not dealt with by the libertarian thinkers at all. Or, almost at all. You can't derive a general theory of what's needed for the long term persistence of a free nation such as you find in Burke or even in John Stuart Mill. You cannot derive these things from the principles of liberal individualism.
Russ Roberts: Let me take that in a different direction. I've been talking recently about my dissatisfaction with economics in its most sterile form--as seeking satisfaction through material wellbeing. And I think material wellbeing is really important; I'm a big fan of it. But, it's only a small part of what makes us flourish as human beings, gives us ultimate satisfaction. And, that part reminds me of your critique of John Locke, which I'd like you to expound on. Give me Locke's vision of humanity and political order and what's missing from it. And, you may want to tie that in to what you just talked about.
Yoram Hazony: Sure. I try in the book to isolate a tradition which, I'm calling it the liberal tradition. If you want to give it another name, we can do that. We don't need to argue about the semantics. But I'm calling it the liberal tradition. This is a tradition that approaches the political life of peoples--not empirically, not by trying to say, 'All right let's look at the history and experience of nations and see what works and what doesn't work,' but rather from a perspective that is later called rationalist. Rationalist means you begin with principles that look self-evident and you deduce from there. And, Locke is part of this rationalist position, which includes Hobbes and goes on to Rousseau and Kant. It is a tradition which sees political theory as being something very much like mathematics. You begin with axioms that look self-evident; and then you can get to universal truths just like they thought Euclid's geometry works. You can get to universal truths that then apply--that they are true and good for all political times and places; for human beings in every single time and place in all of human history and around the globe. So, I have a problem with that entire non-empirical approach to begin with. But, in particular, if we take a look at what did they do with it, Locke begins the Second Treatise of Government with a number of assertions--they are really axioms, like in a mathematical system. First, that human beings can access universal eternal truths for all times and places through individual reason alone, which he says 'teaches all mankind who will but consult it.' Second, that all human beings are intrinsically perfectly free and perfectly equal, he says. And third, that it's only by the consent of the individual that they become members of any political society and thereby incur moral obligations. Now, these three axioms are the basis for--I think for most of what today is referred to as liberalism, both for Progressive Liberalism and what today is called Classical Liberalism. And I think that the problem is that these three axioms are, arguably, not true. They certainly seem to apply to be very useful and to reflect some kind of important truth, when you use them as the basis for a model of the market. And, in fact, all of economic theory later is constructed around these axioms, one way or another. But, they don't describe any existing nation or state in the world. They do describe certain existing economies: obviously it's a simplification. So, it gives you an abstracted description. But it's a pretty good description of a market. What it doesn't give you is a description of other political institutions. It can't describe the family. And it can't describe the clans or tribes. And it can't describe nations. And it can't describe imperial order. It can't do any of the things that you need in order for a political theory to be able to be intelligent. And this is an objection to Lockeanism that--it's just appeared over and over again. Appeared already even before Locke was born--and no, seriously, because this is an old idea. So, a great political theorist and common lawyer John Selden was already attacking this in the 1640s. And then, if you look at Hume and Smith and Adam Ferguson, and Burke--and all of them reject this. They all say: This can't be the basis for our understanding of politics. It's just simply a fiction. Now, some of the people--some of my friends who read my book, they reasonably object, and they say, 'Well, you're on that--that's true that the whole Lockean framework is based on questionable axioms of limited worth, and it really can't possibly support liberalism.' And that's why great thinkers like Mill, and Hayek later--they throw out the Lockean basis for liberalism and they try to come up with an empirical basis for it. The problem is, first of all, that Mill and Hayek didn't succeed in offering an alternative theory of how politics works. They didn't come and say, 'Look: This Lockean picture is completely or largely false. Let me tell you what's true and then build up from there.' Instead, they work backwards, and they say, 'All right. Well, look: the liberal economics works. So, what is it that we can say about how politics has to be on the basis of the fact that liberal economics works?' I don't think anybody has done what I think is a minimally reasonable thing to do, which is to say: The Lockean axioms are false. Even the greatest liberal thinkers understand that they are not adequate to describe political reality. So, what is a description that is adequate to describe political reality? That's what I try to do in my book, The Virtue of Nationalism, is I attempt to rely on the empirical, the empirical tradition of political theory; and somewhat on anthropology and sociology, where you see actual attempts to describe human beings in political life. And the first thing you discover when you read empirical writers on political things rather than these Lockean rationalists who dominate political theory discourse, the first thing you discover is that they reject the claim that human beings are capable of attaining, reliably attaining, universal political truths simply by applying individual reason. That's completely rejected. It's ridiculed, in fact. And instead they look for human beings who have historical experience, in, of nations, that are successful. That flourish. Likewise, the claim that political obligation arises exclusively through choice--well, there's no evidence for that.
Russ Roberts: I would like it to be so--
Yoram Hazony: Okay. But that's already a different question. If you have a good empirical theory of how do human beings, what is it that brings human beings to take on obligation and to cohere--that is John Stuart Mill's word--to create cohesive families, tribes, and nations--what is it that causes that? How do you encourage that? What's good about it? What's bad about it? Once you have a good theory of that, then you are perfectly free to come along and say, 'Well, look, I think that a cohesive society would be better off if people were treated as though they were perfectly free and perfectly equal. But that's a completely different argument already. But that's not the argument that the Lockean tradition is making. People today--and I am talking about the average college student, whether, you know, left or right or center--and this is one of my blaming college students--their professors are no better, and neither are the journalists nor the politicians--in general, what we hear is: 'I have a right to do x. I have a right to free speech.' And I am a fan of free speech. I love free speech. I think what the moves, the increasing calls to restriction of free speech and the imposition of a universal standards of what you should be allowed to say--I think this is incredibly frightening and terrible. But, the assertion, 'I have a right to free speech,' all you are doing is you are repeating, like, something that is deduced from these Lockean axioms: Human beings are born perfectly free and perfectly equal. That's just not true. In order to create a nation--you know, this is just like--it's like, you need at least a minimum government in terms of make the free market work. I think most people understand that. The same thing is true for every other freedom. Freedoms only exist because there are traditions that have been developed over centuries in places like England and the Netherlands and the United States. These are the places where these traditions were born. And if you want to understand what causes them to come into existence? What do you need to do to maintain them? What are the things threaten them? You can't just be asserting: I have a right to this or I have a right to that. You have to actually know how this happened. And this entire empirical discussion of how does, what circumstances make it possible for a right of this kind to actually be able to persist through time: I have a doctorate in political theory. I can tell you from experience. It doesn't--it almost doesn't arise. In the training of people who are thinking about these subjects. That's very, very strange for a civilization that prides itself on its science and its empiricism. In the field of political theory, we are almost entirely non-empirical. We are not interested in how these things come to be and what we would actually have to do in order to maintain them. All we want to do is assert that we have a right to these things, because, it's like self-evident to us. And then enforce. And that's not going to end well.
Russ Roberts: Let's talk about cohesiveness for a minute. Obviously, when a nation is threatened, cohesiveness very important. People are often faced with a threat: nation needs sacrifices to preserve the sovereignty of the country and prevent death, enslavement. When I look at the United States today, I see an incredible lack of cohesiveness. And, the obvious--I think the obvious example of that is our lack of respect for one another on different sides of the political divide, an issue we've talked about recently on the program. I want to pick something a little different. We're tied in to some of the issues that you raise in the book. So, I'm going to just pick a handful of things that have changed in the last 50 years. I don't know if children still say the Pledge of Allegiance as school kids. We did. We had to memorize it. I have a feeling that's either gone or changed--just to say "One nation, under God" would seem to be troubling to many people in America today. July 4th--that's a picnic day. It's not a time to celebrate our independence or the sacrifices others have made, in the present. Memorial Day is a big sale day: You go to the mall; a little more picnicking. You're in Israel: the contrast between Israel's Memorial Day and America's is shocking. It's stark. Partly because so many people died in Israel defending the country, and almost everyone there knows of a close relative or a friend who has died. But here, it's like, we pay lip service to it; we have a fly-over at an NFL [National Football League] football game, honor the military that way, maybe. We'll talk about "the sacrifices others have made." But we don't really--it's not part of our national dialogue any more, our national vision. The flag--you know, it's not doing so well. And, again, a lot of people find the whole patriotism thing--which is a piece of nationalism, not the same thing but a piece of it--find it offensive: the 'Rah, rah, America,' the whole idea of 'making America great again,' whether you think it needs to be made great, or it wasn't, it's not great now or whether you think the person in the White House can make it great. But the whole idea, the jingoism of it offends a lot of people. We're a remarkably uncohesive country, at least right now. Does that matter? Is it important? My dad is 88; it really bothers him that people don't always stand for the flag. And I'm thinking, 'Is that the biggest problem in America right now?' It's not. I'm pretty sure about that. But is it a problem at all? What's important about all these devotions and loyalties and things that you talk about in the book.
Yoram Hazony: Well, it's not important at all if you don't care whether America is going to continue existing. You know--if your view, and if you honestly believe this--if your view is, 'Look, I don't owe future generations anything, but all this Burkean stuff which we see in the Preamble to the American Constitution, "ourselves and our Posterity"--if you don't think that you have an obligation to hand down the country, the nation that you inherited, in an improved condition to your posterity, then none of those things matter at all. Then, you can be a Lockean Adam and say, 'I never agreed. I didn't consent to any obligations having to do with the future generations. I didn't consent to pass down the traditions of my forefathers. I apply reason. And I think that the flag salute is the dumbest thing,' I mean, I don't, but I'm saying one could say that, 'I apply my reason, my individual reason to it. I think these traditions are worthless. Or worse than worthless. I think they are terrible.' Okay. So--
Russ Roberts: They lead to self-righteousness and hatred of others who aren't like us, and disdain for them--
Yoram Hazony: We're more tolerant. Today, you start having a conversation like this, and they'll--because their political spectrum is so impoverished, their ignorance, they'll immediately go to Fascism--
Russ Roberts: Yup. I hear you--
Yoram Hazony: They hold that the Fascists--what's a flag other than a rag on a stick. That's Fascism.
Russ Roberts: Yep.
Yoram Hazony: And I say, if you don't care about the question empirically, historically, realistically, what needs to be done in order to hand a nation down to future generations in good order with its traditions intact, both the ones that you love, like freedoms and limited government, and the ones that you don't like as much, like the flag--if you don't care about that question, then political theory as a subject is just not of interest to you. Is, you know, how I personally can get the most out of life.
Russ Roberts: Yeah, 'What's in it for me?'
Yoram Hazony: So, that's not the subject of political theory. And, if people want to live like that--you know what? There's always been people like that in history and there always will be; and I don't have any particular big resentment against them--
Russ Roberts: Is it at risk? I mean, would you argue--wouldn't you agree that the American ethos today, 2018, not 1776--the American ethos today is, 'What's in it for me? Don't tread on me.' Right? A sort of parody of libertarianism without any hope, without any sidenotes of civil society--which is my version, my vision of classical liberal idealism--
Yoram Hazony: Well, look. Look. Notice that you brought it up. There is a relationship between the Lockean worldview, which is what we teach--I mean, when I was in high school, the school rounded up all the sort of bright kind of students, bright honor students, and put up in a class called Politics. And they taught us about politics. And--this was in 11th grade. And, what do they teach us? They taught us that politics is a big dispute between Hobbes and Locke and Rousseau. They picked three thinkers, all three of which wrote these mathematical books that accept these same, more or less the same exact Lockean axioms as the starting point for politics. And made is though there was like a big argument among them. Okay? Now, when you do that--and I'm not saying anybody did this on purpose, right? It's not like the high school teacher--
Russ Roberts: it's not sinister. Yeah--
Yoram Hazony: knew better. It's not sinister. But the fact that it's not sinister doesn't mean it's not stupid. What happens when you do that--I mean, this is as effective a tool for indoctrination as any that have been devised. You give a student three different thinkers. You tell the student: What are the differences among them? What are the distinctions? And you completely ignore the shared premises so that the students never question them. Ever.
Russ Roberts: So, when I was in college, it was Rawls and Nozick. That was the--
Yoram Hazony: Right. It's the same thing. Rawls and Nozick.
Russ Roberts: So, what are we missing from those two examples of--
Yoram Hazony: They are both Lockeans. What are we missing? We are missing--well, in my book I make a very, very specific argument. I argue that human beings are, by nature, capable--and when I say 'by nature' I mean that this is something that appears in every human society, at every scale just about that I am aware of: Human beings are capable of what I call mutual, developing mutual loyalty. Mutual loyalty is another way of saying cohesion. And this mutual loyalty, I argue, that is developed by children towards their family members and their parents and their brothers and sisters at a very small age. And this is not, by the way, something prevents them from being able to be individuals, because if you look at small children, they spend half their time fighting with one another and bickering for, you know, position and place within their little hierarchies. But the way mutual loyalty works is whenever they are, feel some kind of external threat, they immediately shift to seeing each other as a single unit. And then when the threat passes, they go back to bickering and fighting. This is not something that--you don't have to be kin in order to do this. It's not because of biological proximity. A husband and wife, their relationship is adoptive. It's not--you know, they could be from the other side of the world. But, once they've adopted one another, the same exact thing happens. They develop a relationship of mutual loyalty where they can bicker and fuss and fight terribly, up until they have deal with any kind of challenge. And as soon as they deal with some kind of challenge, then they start to treat each other as a single unit. This characteristic of mutual loyalty is a completely different phenomenon from consent. Because, the relationship that a brother has to his brother or his sister to his sister, her sister, is a--and this works just as well whether it's a biological sister or an adopted sister--that relationship of mutual loyalty is not something that has anything to do with consent. It continues to operate even if, even though nobody ever asked me if I want to be loyal to my brother. I mean, I didn't choose my brother. I didn't choose that relationship. And still it exists. Now, that mutualosity [sic], that is the foundation of--that is the strongest force in all political, all of political reality. I'm not saying there are no other forces. There is such a thing as individual sympathy and there is such a thing as consent and choice. All these things exist. But, by far, the most powerful force, always, is mutual loyalty. And, where you have a nation in which those mutual loyalties exist--and let me emphasize: that doesn't mean that people don't compete and fight and even hate one another--it only means that there are, that when there is a perceived common thread, each one will be willing to sacrifice and give his or her life for the others. Okay. So, where we have that, we have the capacity to do all sorts of things. Like, passing down traditions, some of which are extremely odd and extremely strange. Like, the English developing a tradition that the King is going to be, is not going have the right to enter the home of even a peasant because it's a private home. Okay: that kind of tradition or strong property traditions. Strong marriage traditions. Like, you stay away from somebody else's wife or husband. Those kinds of traditions, they are not natural. It's not natural to stay away from somebody else's property when you want something. It's not natural to stay away from somebody else's wife. Those things are completely artificial. But, because they are handed down as traditions within a society marked by mutual loyalty, people say, 'Oh, well, I really want to take that guy's motor scooter.' Or, 'that woman's husband.' 'I want to take 'em.' But out of loyalty to the society that you live in, you refrain. I'm not saying every single person obviously refrains all the time. But, in general what happens is that you don't need coercion to enforce these traditional rules. You don't need despotism to do it. The way that people obey the laws, pay their taxes, volunteer to serve in the military even if it means death--the way that happens is because their loyalty to their society is stronger than their desire for individual self-preservation or property or individual consent or choice. So, obviously you can do terrible things with that. You can create all these nightmare fascist societies that people are always talking about, that have really existed. But, the thing is that a free society can only be built on mutual loyalties as well. So, the America that we are looking at right now that I completely agree with you has--in which the mutual loyalties, to put it nicely, they are [?]--the truth is that they are on the ropes in a serious way. The disintegration of mutual loyalties means the disintegration of the basis on which our freedoms are built.
Russ Roberts: Yeah, I'm--it's a set of issues and concerns I haven't thought about much. And they've come to the fore in the last few years, and I think a thoughtful person has to think about them. There is a presumption that things will always continue on the way they always have. This is--not true. And there is a desire to live in a world that is consent-only rather than some feelings of obligation. Obligation is no fun. So, we all understand the natural human impulse to evade it and only take the benefits without providing any of the contributions. And so, I think these are deep issues. I'm just going to read something you wrote which I think is very provocative, related to this question of consent. You say,
And the project of raising children ever continues to throw up ever new surprises over the decades, including hardship and pain that were scarcely imagined when first they entered into it. Yet this original decision cannot be revisited--giving the parents a chance to renew their consent based on an updated assessment that weighs the benefits of each child brings against the suffering endured. Just the opposite. The parents' consent or lack thereof is irrelevant to their continuing responsibilities, and it is nothing like consent that motivates them as they persist in their efforts to raise their children to health and inheritance.
And, of course, this is true. It doesn't change the fact that we often want to escape that consent--that we want to evade our responsibilities. And I think that the challenge--I'll say it in a funny way--I think in America, going back to the political issues that you raised, we've just gotten out of the habit. You know, we're just not in the habit of making sacrifices. I think when we talk about the greatest generation of people who died in World War II, who sacrificed either at home or on the front, it's partly a recognition that we're a long way away from that. Those days are over. They could come back; it would probably take a tragedy of enormous proportions to bring it back. But, I think we're in the middle of a great experiment right now, where the things that created, as you say, the norms of freedom and other things are on the ropes--not being discussed. So, we'll see how that plays out.
Russ Roberts: I'd like you say a little bit more, though, about what's scary about the imperial order, because I think, in the book, I have to confess, I've been a little bit naive about the implications of, say, the European Union [EU] or the World Trade Organization [WTO]. And, the people who were worried about national sovereignty when we joined the WTO, I thought that was kind of silly. But you raise a number of really important points. And, I guess the part that really scares me is the potential for a global system of governance to impose tyranny more widely. I think that's the biggest fear I have, say, about climate change: if there were some global solution that had to be enforced. I'm open to the possibility that climate change is a scary thing. I'm agnostic or slightly skeptical of it based on my reading of the data. And I know listeners out there that may have some view that makes them upset. I apologize for that. I know there are really smart people who disagree with me. There unfortunately are not really smart people who agree with me. But, we're putting that to the side. The really of it--a lot of people want us to do something, to impose a global solution to what is indeed a global problem. And, that concentration of power makes me nervous. Very nervous. And so when I look at the global urge, which I see among all of my left-leaning friends--and I love them; I respect them; as you say, many of them, most of them are very well-intentioned, good-intentioned. People who have good intentions. I don't always remember that there will be a sword imposed by a central authority somewhere down the road. So, talk a little bit about why these global--and I want to come back to the EU, because I think a lot of people think Brexit is, 'Was just so obviously a bad decision.' And, I thought your point that the fact that people thought that was obviously a bad decision is obviously scary. Because, maybe national sovereignty is important, and maybe there are risks of European union that people are just going to ignore in this urge for this global utopia. So, talk about why that's more than just, 'Oh, it won't work so well,' but actually scary.
Yoram Hazony: Well, I think Margaret Thatcher was already quite clear about this in the late 1980s and then she want on to write a book called Statecraft, I think, 2003, which was almost universally reviled. But, if you go back and read it, I think you'll see that it's in many ways prescient. I think many people were lovers of freedom, economic freedom especially. I think that they can trust that Thatcher is no--Thatcher is no fool on these subjects. And, the description, her description of the naivete of the British government going into the European Union, are genuinely frightening. Because, they for some reason didn't--they didn't seem to understand that Britain, with a tradition of limited government and property rights and citizens' rights going back 800 years, was given control of it's--of the regime governing it. The legal and administrative regime governing Britain, was handing it over to other nations that don't have those traditions. And the assurances that the British had received, that the purpose of this kind of merging of ultimate legal and administrative authority, the purpose of it was to merely coordination--you know, to make sure that goods--
Russ Roberts: Like, we're all going to use the metric system. 'That's a good thing.'
Yoram Hazony: Like we're all going to use the metric system. Fine. And she says, that this was simply naive. That, in fact, the moment that you give the Germans and the French the authority to make the decisions for the British, then you get decisions that are the kinds of decisions that Germans or Frenchmen would make. And the claim that you can just sit and reason with them is completely false. They come from a different culture; they have different ideas. And, in fact what you've done is to take the most venerable and most respected, free nation--the mother of all free nations--and hand it over to institutions that don't believe in that freedom. Now, the reason people didn't at the time simply jump to embrace Thatcher's view of this--I mean, it was reviled and attacked already then--was because of the pervasiveness of economic models, which convinced everyone that everybody is going to be richer if you go through these mergers of national states. These are arguments that, as I write in the book, that you find already with Mises and Hayek. It's kind of a utopian vision that says, 'Let's imagine that all of Europe or the whole world could be like one big economic model. And let's pretend that there aren't any other factors driving human politics. That there are no massive distinctions between German traditions and English traditions. Or, that there are no group loyalties in play, or urges to conquer or to exploit, going on.' You're just going to pretend that all of those things don't exist; all of empirical human reality doesn't exist. And then you have this utopian picture of everybody sitting and reasoning together. The problem is this simply never exists. Anywhere. And, as the institution that you founded gains in prestige and power, then the people who run it simply use their decision-making capacity as the final decision maker to continue to expropriate more and more areas of authority. So, of course the European Union isn't some monstrous tyranny right now. The question is: What force is actually going to stop it? I mean, nothing. What force is going to turn the European Union into a British-style or American-style democracy which actually cares about protecting the kinds of freedoms that you and I care about? There's nothing on earth that could make that happen. But what will happen, and you see this everywhere, and you see this in every institution: You put a group of people in charge, you allow them to be committed to a certain ideology; and that ideology drives them to become ever more extreme. If you don't want that to happen--and we don't want that to happen--well, there's an answer in political theory to how you prevent that from happening. But you're not going to like it. The answer, we read in Vattel, is that multiple centers of power in the international system are the only way to prevent any one nation from being able to dictate the law to all the other nations when it gains enough strength. The competition among centers of power, just like in checks-and-balances theory in domestic politics--the same thing in international politics. Only by having very strong competing international powers do you have the possibility of maintaining freedom in the system. So, you notice Vattel does not claim that the purpose of multipolarity is stability or peace. He claims that the purpose is freedom. If you want to have freedom in the world, then you have to maintain multiple centers of power that can prevent one elite from taking whatever its ideas are and imposing them on the rest of the world.
Russ Roberts: Yeah. It's not a very good time for freedom. And I say that not in the normal way it would normally be interpreted. What I mean is, that ethos, that idea that freedom is a value in and of itself, is also on the ropes. And, in America, of all places--where I think it is most strongly felt. We're losing that battle. Which reminds me, though: Who else should you have read in that Hume/Rousseau--
Yoram Hazony: They didn't read Hume. Hume was a spec[?]--
Russ Roberts: Oh, sorry. Who is it--Locke, Rousseau, and Mill were the three? Or no?
Yoram Hazony: No. They were Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.
Russ Roberts: Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. And I read Rawls and Nozick. Who should have been added? I don't know who Vattel is, even. How do you spell it? Who is he?
Yoram Hazony: Emer de Vattel. He--'V-a-t-t-e-l'--he was a Swiss, 18th century political theorist who is one of the founders of what, the international law tradition. The American Founders knew him very, very well. And who else should they have read? I've mentioned the common lawyers, Coke and Seldon and Hale, John Fortescue is, in Praise of the Laws of England, is a pro-freedom, pro-England, pro-common law, pro-Bible manifesto of political theory from the late 1400s. Which you can read today. It's clear as a bell. It's beautiful. You don't have to struggle at all. It's like reading the ideas that are going to create the United States 300 years later. But nobody knows it. Nobody reads it. We only read these rationalists who think politics is mathematics.
Russ Roberts: So, let's close on a--I want to close on a Kantian note. I've recently been reading some John Gray, the British philosopher, who blames Christianity, and the Enlightenment, and Kant for creating this image of perpetual progress: That, through the application of reason we get the Scientific Revolution, and that we get the creation of Democracies; we get a rising standard of living. Obviously Steven Pinker is an exponent of this vision as well. It's just we're on this great path of--and John Gray would call it a Messianic path--of future, soon-to-be redemption and a utopian, Edenic[?] delight. I suspect you are not in that group. So, comment on that Kantian vision--which you do talk about in the book quite a book, actually, this optimism. And, talk about your own feelings of optimism or pessimism given what we've talked about today.
Yoram Hazony: Look, I definitely believe that improvement is possible. I think that the Anglo-American tradition, based on a kind of, a development of Old Testament Biblicism in a Christian key, obviously, became a force for great improvement in the world on many fronts. What's wrong with the Enlightenment reading is that that improvement is not the result of Enlightenment thought. The thinkers that we're talking about--these sort of quasi-mathemetician rationalists like Locke and Kant--their contribution to the freedoms, the science, the toleration, that we see developing in the Dutch and Anglo-American traditions which later was imitated and spread to the whole world--those thinkers contributed extremely little to that. And, the way we get to this pretending that--let's take the American Founding, I think is an excellent example. It's constantly said--I mean I can't tell you how often I hear this--that a miracle took place in the American Founding, because for the first time in history reason was applied rather than traditionalism. That's a wonderfully self-serving way of crediting this fantastic achievement that was the American Founding to Liberal Rationalism. But as I said before: If you pick up Fortescue from 300 years earlier, he's already saying that the separation of powers and checks and balances and due process of law and the jury trial and the bicameral legislature--he's already describing that 300 years before America. And he's saying that this is already, from time immemorial in Britain. The American Constitution was immensely successful for centuries because it was a adaptation--and adaptation and a continuation--of the British Constitution. And the American Founders knew this. I mean, just pick up John Adams. He wrote three entire volumes to defend the claim that the British Constitution, in 1787, that the British Constitution--he published this in 1787--three entire volumes to defend the claim that the British Constitution is as close to perfection as any that's ever been on the face of the earth. And the strength of the American Constitution is that it continues these British traditions on most of the key points. Now, who teaches that? Who understands that? So, I say, your question about my optimisim, my answer is this: I can see in history that things can improve. But what I can't see is that people are capable of crediting the improvements to the very long tradition--traditional processes--based on the Bible, and based on religion, and based on all these things that impose obligations they don't want to hear about. People do not want to credit the improvement to the actual processes that brought about the improvement. They don't want to read the books about it. They don't want to know about it. They want to believe that if you and I sit together, we could just think hard enough--we could just kind of invent the American Constitution ourselves. Because we have reason. And we have reason, and we have consent, and we have freedom. And that's all we need. And, to get--so, with regard to your worry which you expressed before, which I'm very, very sympathetic--your worry that the belief in freedom is being lost: I see what you're talking about, and I'm worried about just that thing. But, I want to put a--to approach it from a slightly different angle. The American Founders, like the British common lawyers that thought about the tradition before them, understood that freedom is an artificial thing that grows out of a particular religious and national tradition. And, if you throw out the religious and national tradition, then you lose the freedom, too. Americans had a reasonably solid understanding of this up until WWII: That, freedom was not the opposite of the Christian and American nationalist tradition. Freedom was a consequence of the Christian and American nationalist tradition. When you falsely say, 'Well, I want just the freedom. I think it can survive on its own,' then you create a new political system that not only never existed in history, but the evidence seems to be that it doesn't work. And then anybody who sees that it's not working--for example, that 40% of children are born out of wedlock--that's a massive disfunction. And they blame freedom for it. Or, that the birthrate in the United States has plummeted to, the fertility rate, to 1.76, and will continue to drop, apparently, until it reaches European levels. That's a massive dysfunction within the United States. And, it's too easy for people to say, 'Look, that's because of freedom.' But it's not really because of freedom. It's because freedom took the place that had been reserved in the American political system for Christianity and American nationalism. And freedom--which was wonderful as one part of that--was then turned into the only one of the appropriate values. As soon as you do that, then you turn freedom into the enemy of the very things that give rise to the freedom to begin with.
Russ Roberts: Well, I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. It strikes me as not a good thing. But, either way, we're in the middle of an incredible experiment, social change, in a very short period of time. And, it's a very interesting time to be alive.