Václav Klaus on Nation-States: They’re Better than a Global State

By: Ryan McMaken

Gregoire Canlorbe, who interviews Mark Thornton here, has posted a new an interesting interview with former Czech President Václav Klaus. 

Klaus describes himself as a defender of the “Nation-State,” but in an interesting way. 

For Klaus, the Nation-State acts as a bulwark against further centralization at the continental or the — god forbid — global level. 

In other words, it’s a decentralist view:

I would return the issue to the defense of the Nation-State. I truly believe in the Nation-State, therefore I am so critical of the continental ambitions of many European officials. I do not believe in the European Union or the European integration. This is for me the starting point.

For me, the Nation-State is the only possible way to have democracy. Democracy simply cannot exist at a higher level, as in continents, let alone global democracy in the world. So, my starting point is the Nation-State, the defense of the Nation-State, and the fighting continental integration.

Klaus’s position reminds me of Jeff Deist’s article “Brexit: Individualism > Nationalism > Globalism,” which notes that real individual sovereignty is always preferable to false state “sovereignty.” Nevertheless, in principle a local state is preferable to a remote global state:

Ludwig von Mises understood that self-determination is the fundamental goal of liberty, of real liberalism. It’s true that libertarians ought not to concern themselves with “national sovereignty” in the political sense, because governments are not sovereign kings and should never be treated as worthy of determining the course of our lives. But it is also true that the more attenuated the link between an individual and the body purporting to govern him, the less control — self-determination — that individual has.

To quote Mises, from his 1927 classic (in German) Liberalismus:

If it were in any way possible to grant this right of self-determination to every individual person, it would have to be done.

Ultimately, Brexit is not a referendum on trade, immigration, or the technical rules promulgated by the (awful) European Parliament. It is a referendum on nationhood, which is a step away from globalism and closer to individual self-determination. Libertarians should view the decentralization and devolution of state power as ever and always a good thing, regardless of the motivations behind such movements. Reducing the size and scope of any single (or multinational) state’s dominion is decidedly healthy for liberty.

Critics of this notion will no doubt say that “a state is a state.” If this were true, however, then why not have just one giant state? The disaster that would be for human liberty is fairly obvious, which is why even the “state is a state” crowd don’t often support the creation of mega-states. 

[RELATED: “We Need More Borders and More States“]

Moreover, it may very well be that Klaus is imagining a world of fairly small states — a situation that would allow for far greater choice for the citizens themselves. 

After all, just how big one of these Nation-States needs to be to gain the benefits Klaus imagines remains unclear. Klaus comes from a Nation-State of 10.6 million people — 1/30th the size of the United States. 

[RELATED: “Why a Small State Is More “Voluntary” than a Big One“]

Devolving each large nation state to something this size would certainly be a step in the right direction. 

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