culture economics

Nations are not "virtuous"

A friend’s facebook status asked if there were any virtuous countries. He’s still smarting from his visa issue and I believe that the state department has shattered his image of the US.

One obvious way to get around his disappointment is to point out that the consulate in Ghana is not the US government. We could take that another step and say that the government is not the nation. I’m going to go ever further and point out that there’s no such thing as a nation.

No, this is not some sort of metaphysical investigation… When I say there’s no such “thing,” I mean exactly that. A nation is an idea, not a breathing, thinking thing. Only people can be virtuous, not ideas. The nation is made up of hundreds of millions of people. What you see as a nation “doing” is in reality a person, or maybe a group of people doing something.

We should always think whenever we ascribe human attributes to ideas like nations, religions, and any other group. Those things are only ideas. We all know this, but all of us (including myself) act as if those ideas are capable of thinking and capable of rational action. Blame people, not ideas for the world’s shortcomings.

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