Just a thought, observation on a new, probably cynical definition of nations and government

This is all subject to check and the thought can probably change within minutes, hours, days, but a thought nonetheless.  Anyway, here goes.

What do mean by “nation?”  People hear the word and the first thought is about soft stuff like culture, music, values, creed, etc.  In America the conversation includes family, hard work, freedom.  We talk about free markets, buying homes, and other stuff.  The American Dream.  We talk about the melting pot, people of various races, nationalities, ethnic backgrounds with an interest in all the characteristics I mentioned above; the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

At least that’s what we see on a television commercial or a “Cosby Show” rerun.  We may like to think that is what we see at work or on a football or baseball field, or in our military as we see people from all walks of life come together under an umbrella of work or play.

Yes, I hear that, but I don’t see that, no matter how many times a local, state, or federal elected official says it on the hope of selling me on the idea.  I don’t see it at all.  That static view fails to take into account the history of how the inhabitants of the nation came to be here and how it impacts our now.

I won’t get into specific histories here, not now anyway.  Eventually I will.  I don’t believe we should harp on the past too long anyway because the past is someone else’s story.  Heck, I’m not Solomon Northrup.  I didn’t live “12 Years a Slave.”  (Okay movie, but “Gravity” should have won best picture).

A nation is defined as a stable community of people with a territory, culture, and language held in common.  Is that all though?  I mean how much do Americans really have in common except baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet?

On the other hand, is that definition too large or even correct?  Is it really something more basic?  Is a nation merely a group of people held together by laws, rules, and mores imposed upon us by an administrative state and religious bodies working in concert under the name, government? And the government is captured by a minority that either controls the factors of the nation’s economy and its capital or are agents of those who do? If we strip away all the fluff about mom, apple pie, and lethargic recitations of “We Shall Overcome”, isn’t that what we are left with?

I started thinking about this model during Russia’s takeover of Crimea.  The business channels, like the other news broadcasts were all abuzz with the audacity of Putin’s move into Ukraine, but the business news seemed to provide the real substance of the story. While the politicians gave us the usual fluff, i.e., “We must defend Ukraine’s right to exist.”  “Vladimir Putin is a thug.” “Blah, blah, blah”, etc., equity analysts, portfolio managers, and other people well versed or rehearsed in finance provided more concrete connections between Putin’s actions and how they could impact the global economy, the rich guy’s portfolio, and what little I had in my wallet.

Is that all we are as a nation?  Just a place for an investor to send capital and the majority of the inhabitants only purpose to buy Chevrolets and apple pies?

About Alton Drew

Alton Drew brings a straight forward and insightful brand of political market intelligence. Alton Drew graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can also follow Alton Drew on Twitter @altondrew.
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2 Responses to Just a thought, observation on a new, probably cynical definition of nations and government

  1. kenski2013 says:


    Good question.

    In physics, we have been told that how we observe (actually, measure) an electron affects what we get for a result for velocity or location (the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle).

    In your essay you have provided different viewpoints that give different results (definitions), any of which can be at least partly descriptive of a “nation”.

    Let’s look at another term for comparison/contrast. I once heard that a “mythology” is a body of beliefs by which a group of people order and make sense of their daily lives. In a similar way, the concept of a “nation” gives some kind of political order and sense to the existence of a specific group of people, so in that sense it is kind of a “mythology” as well.

    Obviously, there are economies that are created when nations are created, and these economies have their own “mythologies”—capitalism, socialism, communism, whatever.

    As the Existentialist philosophers pointed out, man defines himself in action. I would add that he also creates meaning when he acts. We collectively create the meaning of our particular “nation” every day by what we believe and how we act on those beliefs.

    So a nation is more than “…Just a place for an investor to send capital and the majority of the inhabitants only purpose to buy Chevrolets and apple pies…” because human beings are more than that and do more than that. This last description of yours is a form of “economic reductionism” that doesn’t fully encompass the broader nature of human existence. Of course, if you listen to all the economic “babble” on the web and on the cable financial channels, it’s easy to look only at the money, like CEOs of most large corporations do, blithely ignoring man’s humanity and potential to be something greater than just a provider and/or a consumer.

    • Alton Drew says:

      Are nations formed out of the need to optimize humanity? Or are they the result of forcing a bunch of tribes, societies, etc., together in order for a few to take economic and political advantage of a mass populace? I don’t think man’s humanity has anything to do with nationhood nor does nationhood have anything to do with man’s humanity. The construct of the nation-state is too artificial for me to give it any other credit beyond it was constructed for the benefit of a minority. It’s the ultimate in property development.

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