Archive for February, 2012

Patriotism is artificial

February 5, 2012

One of the arguments I often hear in discussions about immigration and war is that we have special obligations to our countrymen over foreigners. This idea is mysterious to me, since it seems pretty obvious that the distinction between countryman and foreigner is artificial and could not have any moral significance.

To see how it’s artificial, consider the American Civil War. Suppose I live in the state of Georgia. In 1860, I have special obligations to people in the Union. In 1861, the state I live in breaks off from the union and considers itself part of a new country called the Confederate States of America. I assume that my obligations now extend only to those people in the Confederate States, since that is my new country.

Here we see that my obligations to other people depend on choices made by politicians. According to this theory, rights come not from God (as often claimed) but from select men who have the ability to lower the moral status of a person through the stroke of a pen.