What is Patriotism?

March 16, 2021
Many liberty-lovers would consider themselves patriots, but is patriotism compatible with individualism?

It is not farfetched to assume that the majority of liberty-minded individuals across the world, and especially in the United States, would describe themselves as patriots. Patriotism has seemingly become synonymous with liberty and individualism in its modern uses, but one must ponder how compatible this term is with the Liberty Movement itself. It is an absolute certainty that most liberty-minded individuals would consider the American Revolution as a war for liberty fought by patriots. They therefore conclude that patriotism must not only be compatible with liberty itself, but are almost interchangeable terms.

The word “patriot” has its etymological roots in Ancient Greek, stemming from the word patrís (πατρίς). This word is an evolution of the Greek word patḗr (πατήρ), meaning “father,” but with the -ís (-ίς) suffix used to assign a feminine gender to a word. This “feminine father” was understood by the Ancient Greeks as what modern English understands as “fatherland.” Further evolution saw the creation of the word patriṓtēs (πατριώτης). The suffix -ṓtēs (-ώτης) is “used to form various kinds of nouns, including demonyms and other nouns referring to types of persons.” This word, patriṓtēs, fits the modern English definition of “a patriot,” and would break itself down into the literal translation of “one from the same fatherland.” When used, it was understood that it was different than that of a mere citizen in that patriṓtēs had great pride in, and love for their country.

Herein lies the problem. Patriotism, in both the Ancient Greek and modern English definitions, requires loyalty to the state. This does not mean that it has to be the current state, and this is proven in the fact that most who would label themselves as patriots do so in opposition to the current policies of the state. That said, patriotism is statist by its very definition.

Many patriots have a love and reverence for America’s founding documents at the foundation of their tenets; a belief that is not without merit. It is unquestionable that the United States Constitution (specifically the Bill of Rights) is the greatest governing document ever conceived by men. The Declaration of Independence, and the principles outlined therein, is undoubtedly pro-liberty, and of right ought to be at the heart of the Liberty Movement itself. Men like Jefferson and Madison were absolutely genius in their creation of the United States government that their accolades should be revered by anyone who even pretends to have the flame of liberty burning in their soul. Despite this, however, they were all statists; some more than others (Hamilton).

An individual arguing against the notion that patriotism is statist on social media made a proclamation about patriotism which cannot be challenged (emphasis added).

“[Patriotism is] definitely not statist. There’s a serious distinction to be made between the state (government) and the country. The country stands for ideals and a collective identity, the state exists to enforce rules. You can have a respect to the country and the ideals it has historically stood for while simultaneously despising the government, or even government in general.

He is absolutely correct on this point, however, this does not help his argument. Patriotism is a love for one’s country, which does stand for ideals and a collective identity, but this in no way admonishes patriotism of being statist. A group of individuals who unite to achieve a common goal is still a group of individuals. They will support the group insofar as they do not unwillingly sacrifice for the group’s benefit. In this group, the individual is sovereign to himself, and while he may be asked for contribution to the group, there exists no compulsion for him to do so. As a result, there is no property common to the group itself.

A collective, conversely, requires the individual to surrender his sovereignty for the benefit of the collective as a whole. It may be severely limited in scope (as was the case in 1791), but unless an individual has total sovereignty over his life, his body, his property, and the fruits of his labor, his sovereignty, and therefore his liberty, has been taken from him. For the patriotic collective identity to be formed, it requires something to define the collective itself; namely, a border. In a group of individuals, the only borders that exist are those of private property lines. In the collective, however, a defined region outlining the boundaries of the group is required. This collective boundary (i.e. national border) requires an enforcement mechanism, which requires taxation (be that by property or by labor), which requires the usurpation of individual rights, which requires the existence of a central entity with a monopoly on violence and coercion to ensure that enforcement mechanism has the means to carry out its primary function. This entity is called the state.

The vast majority of people, including many in the Liberty Movement, are not quite sold on the idea of anarcho-capitalism. This blog, as well as our podcast, is hoping to help change that, but it is a process, and will take time. Suffice it to say for the time being that despite the conclusions presented here, we will gladly join the fight for liberty among fellow AnCaps and patriots alike. As stated earlier, the United States of 1791, though far from Ancapistan, is far more desirable than the status quo. Uniting to achieve a common goal of less tyranny despite our individual philosophical differences is necessary if we are to have any chance at succeeding. Let us worry about crossing the bridge of semantics when we get there. Until then, we raise our glasses, and we toast…. For liberty!


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