Monday, December 15, 2008

Quote of the Day: Niebuhr Week

"Patriotism transmutes individual unselfishness into national egoism."
Reinhold Niebuhr in Moral Man and Immoral Society

More from Niebuhr during the course of the week. The way he tried to reconcile politics and Christian ethical thinking is, to me at least, quite fascinating. Here the notion of original sin is entirely appropriate. 

The passage above continues..."The paradox is that patriotism transmutes individual unselfishness into national egoism. Loyalty to the nation is a high form of altruism when compared with lesser loyalties and more parochial interests. It therefore becomes the vehicle of all the altruistic impulses and expresses itself, on occasion, with such fervor that the critical attitude of the individual toward the nation and its enterprises is almost completely destroyed. The unqualified nature of this devotion is the very basis of the nation’s power and of the freedom to use the power without moral restraint. Thus the unselfishness of individuals makes for the selfishness of nations."

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