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Alejandro Chafuen in Forbes: National Conservatism

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Alejandro Chafuen, Acton’s Managing Director, International, attended last month’s inaugural National Conservatism conference in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Edmund Burke Foundation. Today in Forbes he offers a few reflections on the event. The conference tackled more than just economics, of course, but in this article Chafuen focuses on the economic realm.

It would be hard for me to become a nationalist. I have learned, however, to respect love for one’s nation as a valid motivation in social and political life. “Next to the love of parents for their children, the strongest instinct both natural and moral that exists in man is the love of his country,” wrote Edmund Burke. For many, this is true.

It is more difficult for me as I was born in a country where the term “nationalism” is usually associated with a tyrant, Juan Manuel de Rosas (1793-1877), and a democratic dictator, Juan Domingo Perón (1895-1974). Many regarded Perón’s government as the “second Argentine tyranny.” Moreover, the late Jorge Luís Borges (1899-1986), the most famous Argentine writer, regarded nationalism almost as a sin of humanity. My hesitation regarding nationalist ideologies is thus understandable.

I have another reason for finding it hard to fit into most nationalist molds: my DNA. Last year, for example, I left for Europe as an Italian, and when I came back I was mostly German. No joke: some time ago I took a DNA test and discovered that I have genes from at least 20 countries, mostly from Europe but also including 5% Native American ancestry. The algorithms of these tests change as new data surfaces and more people take the tests. When I departed, my predominant ancestry was Italian; when I came back, it was German, despite the fact that I have to go back to my great-grandmothers to find a direct German and Austrian connection.

There were various types of nationalism in my native country. During the Argentine military government, the more libertarian side came out with a bumper sticker: “To Reduce the State is To Expand The Nation”; the original in Spanish read “Achicar el Estado es Agrandar la Nación.” I displayed it on my sports car. Unfortunately, the more statist side won. The day the minister of the economy was going to release a privatization plan – April 2, 1982 – the military launched an effort to recover the Falkland Islands. And the rest is history. For most of the following decades Argentina has returned to its populist and statist nationalism – a rut in which it is still stuck.

Through my work in the think tank world, I had heard of Hazony and his leadership at the Shalem Center. They published translations of two of F.A. Hayek’s works. Hayek, the classical liberal Nobel laureate, respected the notion of nation, but was not a “nationalist” in the way this is usually understood.

I then learned that Hazony was hosting the National Conservatism Conference and, given my affiliations and interests, I was delighted to attend.

Read the full article here.

Homepage Photo: (from left to right) John Burtka, John Carney, Salena Zito, and Julius Krein participate in a panel on economics. Photo by Alejandro Chafuen.

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Joshua Gregor Joshua Gregor is International Relations Assistant at the Acton Institute. Before coming to Acton he received a BA in philosophy from the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome and an MA in linguistics from Indiana University.

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