Quote of the Week: Patriotism

Sorry for being quite obscenely late, as well as for coming up with something that might not really fit the description here. My quote isn’t so much

“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country”
–John F. Kennedy

but rather, Milton Friedman’s response:

It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic “what your country can do for you” implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man’s belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, “what you can do for your country” implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a granter of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshiped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive.

I have never come across a passage that so succinctly summed up everything I have to say on the concept of patriotism. Via Greg Mankiw’s disapproving post on Obama possibly requiring compulsory community service in high schools and colleges.


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