Given the virulent opposition Trump seems to attract, particularly with respect to policies that embrace the principle of America First, it would be helpful to try to explain some of its moral foundations. The crucial moral argument in favor of nationalism is that America cannot be a force for good in the world unless it is internally cohesive and economically strong. Therefore protecting the American way of life is a prerequisite to America helping the rest of the world achieve that way of life. America needs to restrict immigration primarily to individuals who are highly skilled in professions where there are shortages of American workers. The moral argument against this, of course, is that America should rescue the impoverished refugees and offer them safe haven.
America Cannot Possibly Accommodate the World’s Poor.America currently has a population of 330 million people. According to the latest projections from the United Nations, not including China, the 50 nations in the world with the greatest projected increases to their population include only two developed nations: America and Great Britain. America is projected to add 55 million people to its population in the next 20 years. These arguments miss the point, which is that even if America admitted millions of economic refugees, there would still be billions of people who will continue to live in desperate poverty in the nations those relative few who escape leave behind. The Moral PathIf America is economically strong, with skilled, capable immigrants who have left behind a diverse assortment of poverty-stricken nations, foreign aid isn’t the only way to help those nations.
Embracing compassionate nationalism is the moral path towards making America great again. If America truly recovered the energy and vision of the nation it was a century ago, Americans would invest in mega-projects in developing nations.
Corporate Compassion. NOW
This week NOW talks to both Jonathan Schwartz, the charismatic chief executive officer and president of Sun Microsystems, and billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, about their efforts to invest and grow programs that help the world be a better place. Khosla describes a radical proposal to move all U.S. automobile fuel consumption from gasoline to ethanol, the most widely-used biofuel, according to the latest government figures. Jonathan Schwartz is chief executive officer and president of Sun Microsystems, and a member of Sun’s board of directors. Schwartz was promoted to president and COO in 2004, and managed all operational functions at Sun.
Prior to his position as CEO, Schwartz served as Sun’s executive vice president for software, its chief strategy officer, and held a variety of leadership positions across product and corporate development. He joined Sun in 1996 after the company acquired Lighthouse Design, where he was CEO and co-founder. Prior to that, Schwartz was with McKinsey & Co. An inveterate blogger, Schwartz received degrees in economics and mathematics from Wesleyan University. Vinod Khosla is the head of Khosla Ventures, a company that offers venture assistance, strategic advice, and capital to entrepreneurs.
The company focuses on traditional technologies, such as computing and mobile, as well as innovative technologies that offer environmental benefits. Khosla is one of the co-founders of the technology firm Sun Microsystems as well as Daisy Systems, a computer aided design system for electrical engineers. Khosla is a charter member of TiE, a not-for-profit global network of entrepreneurs and professionals founded in 1992. Khosla graduated with a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.
Compassion and the Humanities
That this is a reasonable, indeed an essential, way of thinking and feeling is intrinsic to the idea of the humanities, the study of what is human. It is within this moral frame that Terence’s line, clichéd though it has become over the centuries, becomes so vital: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto – I am human, and nothing human is alien to me. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies-all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves.
From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes. In certain cases communication between universes is incomplete or even nonexistent. The greater the suffering of that neighbor, the more rigorous must our attention be if we are to reach some understanding. For the last 25 years or more what used to be the humanistic disciplines have ignored the vital Terentian claim that nothing fully alienates one human from another. Not by acknowledging the power and shaping force of race and gender and sexual orientation and culture, but by treating them as a series of hermetically sealed boxes, they have made it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for their students to see themselves as sharing common experiences and common pursuits.
If you cannot see your fellow students, or colleagues, as engaged in a common and intrinsically human search for knowledge – maybe even wisdom – then you will have no incentive to cross the boundaries of race, gender, or culture. If our young people are going to see that there are less confrontational alternatives, something other than zero-sum games, they’ll need instruction in the humanities.