There is an interesting op-ed in the WSJ:
The irony is that many aspects of today’s globalism—or at least its promotion of market economies, capital mobility, and mostly free trade—aren’t in conflict with nationalism. In one sense of the word, the greatest “globalist” age in history was the period before World War I. Trade among western European countries increased to 10% of the region’s GDP in 1900 from 1% in 1830. Supply chains extended across the globe, and capital and labor flowed freely across borders.
The “long” 19th century—the period spanning the French revolution through Sarajevo—witnessed considerable economic, political and social upheaval, and yet was also a time of industrialization, enormous poverty reduction, wealth creation and global economic integration. This unabashed age of nation-states wasn’t all roses, but it was one of free markets, free trade and unrestricted capital flows. No two eras are exactly alike—and one wouldn’t want to live in 1910 instead of 2020—but this period demonstrates that globalism need not be unaccountable nor collectivist.
The difference is that today’s world is increasingly complex and its centralizing tendencies place a premium on technical expertise. That encourages a managed ordering of things “too important” to be left to voters and the democratic process. While international institutions can be useful for collective action—NATO, for example—and in adjudicating disputes across borders, such organizations shouldn’t impinge on national sovereignty. Sovereign nations consenting to play by an agreed set of rules, or banding together in service of a common objective, differs radically from unaccountable transnational elites engineering outcomes, often without scrutiny.
Citizens and their representative governments ceding sovereignty to unaccountable supranational bodies is the geopolitical equivalent of corporations cashiering the shareholder model in favor of stakeholder capitalism. Beyond suppressing the popular will—be it that of citizens or shareholders—such moves violate an axiomatic feature of all successful democratic and productive endeavors, which is that institutional responsiveness and accountability works best when located closest to those served.
Nationalism as a response to a collectivist and unaccountable globalism—whether in dealing with a “climate crisis,” “inequality,” or something else—need not be nativist or protectionist. Our own recent economic history demonstrates this. While nationalism may be a dirty word among elites in Switzerland, the nation-state remains the most successful vehicle for advancing liberty, economic advancement and individual achievement in the history of the world.