Nation-states, Nationalism, and the Common Good

Glen T. Martin

February 2022

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth includes within the World Parliament a House of Nations. But the Constitution never defines the concept of “nation.”  It merely says that each national government shall appoint or elect delegates to the House of Nations according to its own procedures. This presupposes that a nation has a “government,” at least to the extent of some legitimate authority who can appoint or elect delegates to represent the nation in the House of Nations.

But the number and composition of nations that may have existed when those words were approved at the Second Constituent Assembly in 1977 is different today, and there is no reason why it might not be different in the future.  Are there cultural or religious groupings that might want to become nations for the purpose of representation in the House of Nations?  Of course there are.  The Earth Constitution creates a world of solidarity and friendship for both nations and peoples, and for this reason its spirit is inclusive. Its basic idea is to include and empower the wonderful diversity of humanity within a framework dedicated to the common good of all.

Our common humanity, living on our shared planet Earth, is composed of innumerable cultures, races, ethnicities, languages, ideologies, and individual persons. The Earth Constitution embraces and protects this diversity precisely because it binds all in a solidarity that no longer opposes these differences to one another within the false pretense that they are somehow incommensurable with one another.  There exist a multiplicity of nations and groupings all different from one another.  Each unique nation can and should contribute something special to the symphony of humanity. This is where nationalism and patriotism should lie.

Just as in individual life the enemy of moral action that contributes to the common good of humanity is egoism, so the enemy of the solidarity of humankind is national egoism. Historically most nations have acted out of what they think of as “national interests.”  These interests often take the form of a predatory and exploitative relation to other nations. National interests are promoted at the expense of others. They have resulted, can continue to result, in slavery, colonialism, imperialism, economic exploitation, and endless murder. These “national interests” operate in direct conflict to the common good of humanity and the common progress of our divinely and cosmically inspired human project.

True nationalism, true patriotism, means the non-egoistic promotion of one’s nation’s unique contributions to the common good of humanity.  Just as personal egoism destroys morality and our genuine duties to compassionately serve one another, so national egoism destroys the same thing with regards to humanity. A nation’s moral duty is to make its own unique contributions to the good of our common human project.

What has the USA contributed to humanity in recent decades? Is it the invasion and destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq or is it the struggle of equality and civil liberties from the time of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the present?   Is it the economic blockades of Cuba and Venezuela causing hunger and misery for the peoples of those nations or the elaboration of the internet making possible global instantaneous communications worldwide?  What has Russia contributed to humanity in recent decades? Is it the enslavement of peripheral nations on its borders to Stalinist totalitarianism or is it the cultural revitalization of its wonderful universalist traditions coming from Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Berdyaev, Solovyov, or Vernadsky?  What has India contributed?  Is it the development of nuclear weapons pointed at Pakistan or is it the promotion of Gandhian nonviolence and universalism and India’s aid in giving birth to a new democratic nation called Bangladesh?

Just as in individual life egoism is always the central principle of evil (usually through striving for wealth and power) so in the community of nation-states national egoism is the central principle of evil (also usually striving for wealth and power).  But all nations are rich in culture, ideas, and principles that can contribute to the common good of humanity. This is where nationalism and patriotism must lie. How can we as a nation contribute to the common good and solidarity of humanity as a whole?  Not how can we promote our “national interests” (i.e. egoism) at the expense of others?

This is exactly what the Constitution for the Federation of Earth makes possible. The World Parliament enfranchises the people of Earth through the House of Peoples (for the first time in human history). Hence it binds all people as individual voting citizens in democratic solidarity—they participate in governing the whole through innumerable individual contributions. So also, the Earth Constitution makes possible the nations acting truly morally for the first time—for they also participate as unique individual nations in governing the whole.

The secret here is in part purely structural. The present structure of absolutely “sovereign” nations fragments humanity in among incommensurable militarized boundaries and encourages national dog eat dog competition and rivalry.  The Earth Constitution creates an institutional solidarity for humankind that encourages just the opposite.  Like the third house of the World Parliament, the House of Counselors, who are explicitly designated to represent the common good of the whole, so the institutions of the House of Peoples and the House of Nations also encourage these representatives to act morally, that is, on behalf of the common good of the whole.  It does not end nationalism and patriotism but encourages them to act morally.

Our divine, cosmically inspired human project is to actualize a compassionate moral civilization on our planet in which all are cared for, respected, and empowered, and none excluded. All persons must be freely and democratically empowered while at the same time they must be inspired to care for and empower not only their neighbors but also nature and the biospheric health of the whole planet. It is the same with nations. They must be empowered to escape their present self-destructive fragmentation and participate all-together in the common good of the whole.

The Earth Constitution is the next step in this process of self-actualization of our human project. It does not abolish the nations but creates a structure that allows nationalism and patriotism to express themselves intelligently, compassionately, and morally.  This is why we must act now to ratify this precious Earth Constitution.