Proposition nation: Anyone can be an American, as long as they fill out the right paperwork down at the right government office

Proposition nation: Anyone can be an American, as long as they fill out the right paperwork down at the right government office. By the Z Man.

Here’s an example of someone called Dave Rubin making the claim that America is a proposition nation. Anyone can be an American, as long as they fill out the right paperwork down at the right government office. He is echoing an assertion popular with a certain sort of conservative pundit. Unlike a country like Israel, to use a totally random example, America is not a nation that occupies a territory it sees as a homeland, but a land that contains people, who more or less agree not to murder one another.

As a practical matter, Rubin is correct. America is a propositional nation, in that citizenship is now entirely meaningless to the native born. It has value to the millions pouring over the border every year, but to the people who hold US citizenship, it is a stock certificate for a company that no longer exists. …

Now, the people who reflexively push back on the proposition nation stuff certainly wish this was not the case. They are correct that American citizenship should count for something and not just be handed out like candy at Halloween. In other words, they are right about the theory, but wrong about practical reality. More important, the people in charge are not going to change their policies and make citizenship count again. That means citizenship, as a practical matter, is now completely worthless. …

It also means any sense of duty or obligation to the country is not only meaningless, it is foolish. Citizenship either arises from a social contract, to which all members are bound for mutual benefit or it arises from a shared identity of the citizens. If anyone can become a citizen, without the consent of the citizenry, then there can be no mutual benefit, no social contract. Similarly, if anyone can join the group, then it has no fixed identity and the members therefore gain no identity from it. …

The country is just an ad hoc collection of people interacting with one another as economic units. … In this weird, post-national country created for us by our ruling class, all relationships are transactional.

If relationships are only transactional, a nation is not like a family, but just a bunch of people who live in the same house:

Of course, this is why the ruling class has abandoned so much of what is considered the duties of a ruling class. They have no duties. They enforce the laws as they want, when they want, solely for their own benefit. Where there is no benefit, they have simply abandoned those duties. … In a world solely governed by material relations, sacrifice becomes just another relic of the past.

In a way, post-nationalism is just a reversion to a more primitive organizational model, one that arose in the late Roman Empire and the early middle ages. Under the Visigoths and Ostrogoths, for example, groups formed up around ethnic, religious and regional affiliations to negotiate with the rulers collectively. The rulers did not feel a natural duty to the people over whom they ruled. They just wanted their taxes and an orderly administration of their lands. That’s the propositional nation. …

Nationalism may make a comeback:

Once you come to terms with the fact that there is no convincing the people in charge to respect your citizenship, you realize there is no going back to the civic nationalist model. Instead, the way forward is through the oldest form of nationhood. That’s where a nation is defined by a people with a common heritage, a common set of ancestors. The way forward is to go back to the most basic form of human organization, the nation.

True of all the white, English-speaking countries. Even, increasingly due to high levels of immigration, the UK.