Media Information: embargo 00.01am Friday 6 February 2004
The nation state is the best guarantor of democracy, freedom and human rights
says independent expert
In The Need for Nations, published by the independent think-tank Civitas, Roger Scruton argues that the nation state is the best guarantee we have of peace, prosperity and respect for human rights. Recent attempts to transcend the nation state by creating some kind of transnational political order have ended up either as totalitarian dictatorships like the former Soviet Union, or as unaccountable bureaucracies, like the European Union. In spite of this, the idea of the nation is under attack—either despised as an atavistic form of social unity, or even condemned as a cause of war and conflict, to be broken down and replaced by more enlightened and more universal forms of jurisdiction (p.1).
Without nation states:
- the sense of belonging on which democracy rests would be undermined.
- individual freedom would be much diminished.
- fundamental protections would be undermined.
The study challenges the idea that there should be an international rule of law. All law must be enforced by an agency of some kind and, far from offering better protection against the abuse of state power, a single world government could threaten individual freedom. The more remote the government, the more difficult it is to subject it to constitutional checks and balances and the harder it is to ‘throw the rascals out'.
Nations subject to liberal-democratic constitutions are the best solution so far devised to the problem of how to control the leaders. Enthusiasts for world government have yet to explain how they will check the abuse of power by international bodies. Human rights enthusiasts who wish to eradicate nations have a utopian view of human nature. Given human nature as it really is, nations under liberal-democratic constitutions offer the best solution so far devised to the problem of how to avoid the abuse of political power.
Human rights and accountability
Roger Scruton argues that rights are not secured by declaring them, but by having procedures to protect them. Only nation states have a record of such procedures, which he describes as 'accountability to strangers'. By undermining nation states, therefore, the supra-nationalists are undermining human rights themselves (pp.24,27).
Like all Scruton's books, The Need for Nations is beautifully written and, in places, amusing. He coins the term 'oikophobe' to describe intellectuals who hate nations or regard them as outdated. These 'oiks', whose 'hatred of home' leads them to demand international or Europe-wide rule, have failed to see the dangers in eliminating nations based on constitutional liberalism (pp.33-38).
Those who want to break down the nation state are under an obligation to explain how peace, prosperity and human rights can be secured under other arrangements, but the only authority cited is Immanuel Kant's Perpetual Peace, which called for a League of Nations to settle disputes by legal means rather than the use of force. However, Kant recognised that such a League could only function effectively if it were composed of independent nations operating under a territorial law, and he warned that laws would lose their force as they became further and further detached from the people bound by them. Despotism would be followed by anarchy. Roger Scruton argues that this Kantian nightmare is exactly what we are heading for under cover of international declarations of ‘rights' and a European Constitution:
.......We have reached the stage where our national jurisdiction is bombarded by laws from outside ... even though many of them originate in despotic or criminal governments, and even though hardly any of them are concerned with the maintenance of peace. Even so we, the citizens, are powerless to reject these laws, and they, the legislators, are entirely unanswerable to us, who must obey them... The despotism is coming slowly: the anarchy will happen quickly in its wake, when law is finally detached from the experience of membership, becomes 'theirs' but not 'ours' and so loses all authority in the hearts of those whom it presumes to discipline (p.30)
.......The opportunity remains to recuperate the legislative powers and the executive procedures that formed the nation states of Europe. At the same time, the process has been set in motion that would expropriate the remaining sovereignty of our parliaments and courts, that would annihilate the boundaries between our jurisdictions, that would dissolve the nationalities of Europe in a historically meaningless collectivity, united neither by language, nor by religion, nor by customs, nor by inherited sovereignty and law. We have to choose whether to go forward to that new condition, or back to the tried and familiar sovereignty of the territorial nation state (p.2).
England needs to renew its self-confidence
England and the English have been singled out for attack by this lobby. Roger Scruton attributes their success to:
... the Celtic bias of the Labour Party, and a European élite intent on extinguishing the memory of the Second World War. Consciously or unconsciously, recent political decisions have had the undoing of England as their real or apparent objective. The English... are ruled from Westminster by a government composed largely of Scots, and by parliamentarians who do not hesitate to vote on English issues even when they represent Welsh or Scottish constituencies (p.34).
The destruction or remodelling of ancient constitutional safeguards like the House of Lords and the office of Lord Chancellor have been carried through by this Celtic lobby.
For more information contact:
Robert Whelan 020 7401 5470
The Need for Nations by Roger Scruton is published by Civitas, The Mezzanine, 39 York Road, London SE1 7NQ, tel : 020 7401 5470, www.civitas.org.uk @ £9.45 inc. pp.
Click here for purchasing information
For more information e-mail CIVITAS on:
firstname.lastname@example.org or call on (020) 7401 5470.
Return to the Top