The Consequences of States Defining Nations

When States define nations and collect statistics about people within them, they are only creating more tools to divide those who are equal.


By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

Throughout history, human interaction has led to various cultures, states, and nations. These have brought with them both enrichment and destruction, bonding and division. Sometimes disputes arise over property rights. Other times it is by misunderstanding, negation of contract, or simple vanity of one’s culture or nationality which all can lead to total blindness and self-centeredness. Defining nationalities can benefit in the study of individuals within groups, help to better communication and understanding of others, but it can also have negative consequences of control and limitation. This is especially true when a State defines a nation.

It is imperative to first clarify commonly misused terminology. Many people, including myself, often mistakenly interchange the words ‘State,’ ‘state,’ and ‘nation’. A ‘State’ with an uppercase ‘S’ “is an independent, sovereign government exercising control over a certain spatially defined and bounded area, whose borders are usually clearly defined and internationally recognized by other states.” This includes State sponsored bureaucracy and the monopoly of the use of legitimate force and coercion with laws, regulations, and taxes, etc. One can interchange ‘State’ with ‘government’.

On the other hand, a ‘state’ with a lowercase ‘s’ is simply a part of a country, such as a state within the United States of America. A ‘nation’ is a group of people who have a shared culture, history, religion, language, etc. A ‘nation’ is not a ‘State,’ although there are some nations that have a State of their own. There are also some nations without a State, and still more that occupy part of a state or multiple states. Nations are fluid and socially constructed, and are thus not bound by borders. A ‘Nation-State’ is a State that has only one main nationality. Very few of these exist in the world.

Once people have come to define their State or nation, they tend towards doing whatever benefits it, rather than thinking logically through actions and consequences. They beget an air of superiority with their attachment to their fellow State-people and those of their particular nation. This is natural. As we humans tend towards empathy and sociability from our very nature, it is easier to survive and thrive within groups, and we find personal values that we put on hierarchical scales. If a person finds their State attacked they may be less concerned than if their nation is attacked, if they find stronger attachments to their nation, and of course vice versa.

Many States try to find a commonality within their citizenry in order to propagate a nationality. As a result, their government becomes stronger and more effective in carrying out their particular agendas. They may attempt to do so in many ways, including wording, such as adding a State religion. We see this within the U.S., which put “In God We Trust” on currency in 1956, or adding “One nation, under God,” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.

States will use their arbitrary borders to determine who to support and oppose, as seen in war and immigration policies, rather than basing it off of the individuals within these borders. On the other hand, nations will collectively determine who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ based on their nationalistic customs and norms. Similarly to both nations and States, going to a team sporting event, one can easily witness the collectivist competitiveness of people solely based on their team’s geographic location, wanting only the best for theirs and condemning those that oppose them. This can sometimes lead to brawls and destruction, although on a much smaller scale than when actual States and nations go to war.

When colonialism was most prevalent in the world, many people found conflicts with the imposing State establishing and enforcing Western European nationalism of liberal and democratic ideals through creating or infiltrating markets. As seen in China, where various States were trading with the Chinese and others, it was expected that the Chinese people would not only trade but also partake in the national identity of the Europeans. “While bi-culturalism was essential at least on the part of the elite, the colonial system discouraged ambivalence and boundary crossing. Chinese should remain Chinese.” This is to say that only certain people could cross boundaries, but not the Chinese, which is evidence of control through nationalism.

Yet, equally, some believe people are incapable of reaching the same truths as they possess, such as the idea that “the assertion of difference by [his] predecessors put colonialism at odds with a society incapable of capitalism and modern government thus necessitating colonial intervention and education.” In the first quote, it is shown that providing the benefits of colonialism had exclusive extra rights for particular people, whereas the second quote is attempting to assert pompous superiority in determining who is capable and who is not. The second quote is thus evidence of a State imposing nationalistic ideals on another group.

When States are attempting to determine who is of what nationality, we need to ask ourselves what the purpose of such questioning would be. It is typical to hear government statistics which point to the numbers of certain groups of people, genders, sexes, ages, ethnicities, races, cultural norms, etc.

Most people have grown numb to this idea and think it is prudent to collect information on people as seen in this quote: “Ultimately, if we cannot identify any further properties that are unique to ethnic identity, we would be better off substituting the concept of ethnic identity in our theories with concepts such as descent-based identities or identities based on sticky or visible attributes… The negative claim, that ethnicity does not matter, is a discovery of great magnitude. It should have far-reaching consequences for research and data collection, suggesting that we should abandon the large number of theories and data-sets on ethnicity and start again on an entirely different foundation.”

This evidence suggests States use statistics of nations, markets, and the States themselves in order to control rather than simply study. This is to say that State statistics are typically a control mechanism, and States often choose to control nations via any means necessary. Equally so, “If it is true that governments make decisions based on how they believe ethnic groups will respond, then it must also be true that ethnic groups are equally strategic in their behavior toward their governments.” Many nations have also used the coercive force of the State to push out competitive nationalities and hold their particular nation as the highest among the State, even going as far as establishing a newly reformed State under the control of the nation.

Economist and political theorist, Dr. Murray Rothbard, stated, “Not only do statistics gathering and producing go beyond the governmental function of defense of persons and property; not only are economic resources wasted and misallocated, and the taxpayers, industry, small business, and the consumer burdened. But, furthermore, statistics are, in a crucial sense, critical to all interventionist and socialist activities of government (i.e. the State).” He went on to say, “…In order to get ‘into’ the situation that they are trying to plan and reform, they must obtain knowledge that is not personal, day-to-day experience; the only form that such knowledge can take is statistics. Statistics are the eyes and ears of the bureaucrat, the politician, the socialistic reformer. Only by statistics can they know, or at least have any idea about, what is going on…”

Indeed, as specified by one author in regards to the Indonesian State discouraging statistic control of nationalities within their borders, “Independence removed the status gap, and the colonial habit of classifying by race. Officially the new Indonesian Nation-State adopted a policy of assimilation, discouraging, and after 1966 prohibiting, public expressions of Chinese language or culture. The Indonesian censuses dropped colonial-style questions about ethnicity, and officially all citizens became equal.” On one hand, this shows a State using complete terrifying control of a nation by not allowing Chinese and other individuals of self-expression through Chinese language or culture. However, they simultaneously stopped inquiring into the statistics of individuals, thus making people more equal in a strange way.

It is not right or beneficial to everyone to prohibit such a thing as national norms that do not harm anyone else. However, States should not be inquiring about the nationality, ethnicity, gender, sex, race, etc. of people in order to gain statistics of control. These State-run statistics are often used to justify why certain groups or nations of people are not and should not be equal to that of another, such as who is smarter, wealthier, commits less crimes, who is more educated, etc.

The purpose of the U.S. government was supposed to be to protect Life, Liberty, and Property, not to find out how many people live, what they do with their own lives, and how much stuff they own. It is my position that the U.S. State should cease questioning and gathering of statistics of race, gender, sex, ethnicity, and nationalism in order to work towards making people actually more equal under the law. Statistics sway the perceptions and judgments of judges, juries, politicians, and others, rather than analyzing individuals on a case-by-case basis. We should be concerned more with the individual and not about the various nations collectively under the State. Justice is to be blind, and so should the State.

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