German Chancellor Merkel took a brave step forward for Europe today when she declared, “Whoever seeks refuge with Germany must respect our laws and traditions and learn our language. Multiculturalism leads to parallel societies and therefore remains a living lie.” These are wise words, and we agree with them. But multiculturalism is more than just a living lie. It is an acid eating away at the foundation of Western civilization. It is the rot in the roots of our heartwood.
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Since the Paris atrocities last month, the Right has been urgently warning that open borders are an invitation to terrorists. We are warned that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of the refugees crossing from nation-state to nation-state are not refugees at all, but warriors of the Jihad, ready to bring terror to the infidel.
This is almost certainly true, despite the strident denialism of the Left. Even so, the cautionary voices of the Right are still understating the problem; or rather, they are confusing the effects of a corrosive acid with the acid itself. The acid is multiculturalism; terrorism is merely one of its results, alongside ethnic violence, civil unrest, and more.
Before we proceed, some definitions are in order. The words country, nation, and state are bandied about in uninformed usage as if they were synonyms, but they are not. A country is a geographic region. While states are frequently countries, countries need not be states, being potentially either larger or smaller. One may properly speak of the West Country of England, the Pays de Bray of France, or the Coal Country of the United States.
A nation is a cultural community of people, of which there are two types. The first is the ethnic nation, which refers to collective of people associated by their common ancestry, language, history, and traditions. The German nation of the early 20th century and the Japanese, Chinese, and South Korean nations of today are examples of ethnic nations. The second is the civic nation, which refers to a collective of people associated by their common commitment to a particular expression of citizenship and individual rights. The French and American nations are the preeminent civic nations of the world.
A state is an organized political community under a single system of government. There are many types of states, typically named for their system of government, such as republics, commonwealths, and monarchies. States are often, though not always, founded by or for nations.
Thus a nation-state is an organized political community (a state) composed of an ethnic or civic community (a nation) within a geographical area (a country).
Similarly, a multistate nation is one in which a single nation exists across several states. For instance, the Kurdish people are currently divided between the states of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, and lack a state (Kurdistan) of their own. Multistate nations often attempt to found nation-states.
Conversely, a multinational state is one in which multiple nations exist within one state. These can exist in varying combinations, most of limited historical duration. At best, a multinational state might consist of multiple ethnic nations ostensibly united by a civic nation, but without patriotism sufficient to maintain cohesion. A classic example is the U.S.S.R, which consisted of various ethnic nations (Russian, Ukrainian, Latvian, Estonian, etc.) ostensibly united by Communism. When the common commitment to communism eroded, the state collapsed.
Even less stable is a multinational state consisting of multiple ethnic nations without a civic nation at all. The mid-20th century Yugoslavian state incorporated many Slavic ethnic nations (Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, etc.). The 19th century Austro-Hungarian Empire state incorporated the entirety of the Hungarian ethnic nation and part of the German ethnic nation. All such states are maintained essentially by force, from above.
Rarely, a multinational state might even consist of a single ethnic nation but multiple civic nations. The Antebellum United States serves as an example here, as slavery divided the European-Americans of the time into two distinct civic nations that remained (for a time) united in one state.
Finally, there can be multinational states consisting of multiple ethnic and civic nations. This is the least stable of all configurations. The Holy Roman Empire is one example of such a state; the contemporary United Kingdom, riven with separatist movements, might be approaching this as well.
Historically, the nation-state has been the most stable configuration, while multinational states have been less stable. Why might this be? A decade long study by Harvard professor of political science Robert D. Putnam has conclusively demonstrated that the more ethnically diverse a community is, the lower its social capital.1 James Coleman and Putnam have shown that low social capital leads to less trust, less charity, more hate, more crime, and more corruption.2 Worse, it leads to more war. As Marta Reynal-Querol explains, “Faith and family, blood and beliefs are the aspects with which people identify themselves, the characteristics for which they fight and die.”3
In the short-term, the injuries inflicted by diversity are unavoidable. In the long term, the wounds can be healed, but it requires the integration of the disparate nations by means of “shared values”4 – which is to say, the creation of a civic nation to unite the ethnic nations.
It makes sense, then, that most stable states have historically been founded by and on ethnic nations. It also makes sense that when a multiethnic state has flourished, it is because the state has had strong civic nationalism (patriotism). A civic nation-state can be sustained when – and only so long as – its peoples’ unitary civic nationalism takes precedence over their diverse ethnic nationalisms. The preeminent example is the United States, which has one civic nation (the American nation) but many ethnic nations (Mexican-American, African-American, European-American, and so on).5 A much older example is the Roman Empire, a state which began with one ethnic nation (Roman) but eventually incorporated many ethnic nations (Arab, Berber, Gaul, Greek, German, Italian, Thracian) guided by one civic nation (Roman).6
But of course Rome fell, and so too might America, and if it does happen, the blame will almost surely lie on the altar of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is formally defined as the “acceptance or promotion of multiple cultural traditions within a single jurisdiction.”7 In practice, multiculturalism presents itself as a harmless commitment to tolerance that all well-intentioned people should share.
But in fact multiculturalism is an acid that dissolves nation-states. This is its purpose. Multiculturalism arose in the aftermath of the Second World War, a war launched by two ultranationalist states (National Socialist Germany and Imperial Japan) and characterized by the genocide of whole nations. The politicians and intellectuals of the post war era swore to never allow this to happen again, and multiculturalism was their solution. By promoting multiculturalism they hoped to destroy that which gave rise to total war. To save Western civilization, it was necessary to destroy it. Or so they believed.
How does multiculturalism destroy ethnic nation-state? We have already shown that an ethnic nation-state relies on its people’s common ancestry, language, and traditions – its unity – to provide social cohesion to its state. Multiculturalism erodes all three, by diversifying the ancestry, languages, and traditions. Where once stood a people united now stands a people divided. With the loss of unity go the social stability and social capital that unit brought and diversity destroys.
A civic nation relies on a particular expression of citizenship and individual rights, and as such seems like it would be protected from the acidic effects of multiculturalism. But from what source does a civic nation derive its particular expression of citizenship and rights? There are only two: from its religion or from its political philosophy. But both of these are deeply rooted in a people’s culture, language and tradition. Consider the difference between American and Chinese views on good governance. The former is rooted in Locke, Montesquieu, Jefferson, Madison and the theory of social contract. The latter is rooted in Confucius, Han Fei, Mozi, and the theory of Heaven’s Mandate. The former idealizes republican democracy; the latter idealizes benevolent monarchy. Multiculturalism insists that a Chinese immigrant can maintain the cultural traditions of Chinese Legalism while still being an American; but Chinese Legalism is incompatible with republican democracy. If being an American does not mean sharing the values upon which America was founded – what does it mean? A state can, for a time, survive a diversity of values. But a civic nation cannot.
This, then, is the state of things. Ethnic nation-states are unified and therefore enjoy high social capital and stability. Multiethnic states are diverse and their diversity destroys social capital. Shared values in the form of civic nationalism can in time restore social capital and stability by creating a civic nationalism that trumps ethnicity. But multiculturalism is ruinous of both, adding more ethnic diversity and weakening civic unity.
Many will argue that ethnic diversity is inevitable in today’s global society and therefore that multiculturalism is necessary. This is a lie. It is worse than a lie: It is offering up poison when medicine is at hand. The right way to overcome ethnic diversity already exists. Civic nationalism, characterized by the American melting pot, has proven effective for centuries, as had the Roman melting pot of antiquity. The genius of civic nationalism is that it replaces the genetic with the memetic. In this way, a Gaul became a Roman, and a Swede became an American, because Roman-ness and American-ness were divorced from ethnicity. But civic nationalism must be allowed to replicate. Memes can die, just like genes. To replicate, civic nationalism must be instilled in each new generation by those who are its stewards. If a nation’s own citizens do not love their shared civic values enough to demand that immigrants adopt them, it is a surety that the immigrants will look at that nation with contempt.
How long would Rome have lasted had it allowed its Greek, Gaulish, German, or Thracian members to say “we denounce Rome for displacing the indigenous populations of the lands it occupies, we do not accept Roman traditions, we refuse to learn Latin, we believe the entire corpus of Roman law is corrupt, and we refuse to serve in the imperial legion. We nevertheless expect all the rights of Roman citizens, with bread and circuses at your expense, and if you do not give us these things, we will riot.”
Yet is this not the America and Europe of today? In too many places, it is.
Today Chancellor Merkel has taken a brave step towards creating a German civic nationalism that can replace its failed experiment with multiculturalism. Let us pray that the rest of the West follows suit.
1 Putnam, Robert D., “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century — The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize,” Scandinavian Political Studies 30 (2), June 2007
2 Coleman, James. (1988). “Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital”. American Journal of Sociology Supplement 94: S95-S120. Putnam, Robert. (2000), “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” (Simon and Schuster).
3 Reynal-Querol, Marta. “Ethnicity, Political Systems and Wars.” Journal of Conflict Studies 2002, p. 31.
5 Technically the United States is a multi-state union made up of numerous independent states, collectively informed by civic American nationalism, with numerous ethnic nations spread across the states.
6 Technically the Roman Empire was a multi-state empire with numerous ethnic nations united by one civic nation. Unlike American civic nationalism, which arose simultaneously with the United States, the rise of civic Roman nationalism occurred slowly through the process of Romanization and the gradual spread of citizenship to the Empire’s subjects.