National identity eases cross-cultural trust problems

Amanda Lea Robinson has a new paper “Nationalism and Ethnic-Based Trust: Evidence from an African Border Region,” here is her main result:

In diverse societies, individuals tend to trust coethnics more than non-coethnics. I argue that identification with a territorially-defined nation, common to all ethnic groups, reduces the degree to which trust is ethnically bounded. I conduct a “lab-in-the-field” experiment at the intersection of national and ethnic boundaries in Malawi, which measures strength of national identification, experimentally manipulates national identity salience, and measures trust behaviorally. I find that shared nationality is a robust predictor of trust, equal in magnitude to the impact of shared ethnicity. Furthermore, national identification moderates the degree to which trust is limited to coethnics: while weak national identifiers trust coethnics more than non-coethnics, strong national identifiers are blind to ethnicity. Experimentally increasing national identity salience also eliminates the co-ethnic trust advantage among weak nationalists. These results offer micro-level evidence that a strong and salient national identity can diminish ethnic barriers to trust in diverse societies.

Hat tip goes to Ben Southwood.


Singapore comes to mind as well.

Yes, an excellent example of using nationalism to replace tribalism. You'll note that his policies were very HBD aware to keep it all together.

I don't see that in this:

You rarely see the reality of the country in its propoganda. See Singapore's immigration policies, they favor the Chinese majority.(Wish we could learn something from them.)


If Singapore wanted to really tip the scales, it could simply require fluency in Mandarin in order to get PR or citizenship. It hasn't done so and, in fact, there seems to be a growing backlash against mainland Chinese immigrants.

China as well.

What does this say about Brussels? The combination of de-nationalization and Muslim immigration into Europe seems even worse in light of this paper. Meanwhile, Britians internal Christian/ Muslim relations may improve after Brexit.

How to create that "identification with a territorially-defined nation, common to all ethnic groups" is the big question. Nation building is hard, especially if there is resistance...e.g., Vietnam and Iraq.

What are you talking about? The Vietnamese have been outstanding at nation building over the last few thousand years.

Mike W is confused between state-building and nation-building. It is because Americans are really sloppy in the distinctions between state, nation, and governnment.

What are differences between 'state' and 'nation' again?

Nation is from the Latin 'natus,' or 'born,' and refers to ancestry, like the nation of Israel or the First Nations. The state is the entity which maintains a governing monopoly over a territory. Armenia is an example of a nation-state. The US consists of several nations ruled by a single state.

No, Americans aren't "sloppy" so much as holding a contemporary view of these concepts, where the three concepts are consolidated [1]. The biggest exception is in times of war and rebellion, but that's where groups vie to re-consolidate the categories. The distinction of state versus nation was, historically, more useful under European aristocratic structures, monarchy, medieval vassalization, and empires where the different components all had more than ceremonial roles. The nation/state distinction is also not often useful in non-European areas. Finally, the labels don't specify whether each role operates in a de jure versus a de facto capacity [2]. This is also an issue with ceremonial heads of state (like Queen Elizabeth II) who are marginalized in modern politics.

Essentially, you're calling anyone "sloppy" who doesn't model nations, power, and politics in a way that puts European history at center-stage, despite the fact that the terms aren't that useful for understanding the 21st century world. Everything still exists as powers, borders, and identities, but those don't always line up to nations, states, and governments.

What I do think is sloppy is shoving everything into those Eurocentric categories, which totally fails to account for things like American federalism. When the categories get misused, you end up with weird claims like, "Americans get no maternity leave" when states like California -- which have major legislative independence and populations rivaling many nations -- do. In many ways, American federalism functions like a really strong EU (or, alternatively, the EU functions as weak federalism).


Well duh.

Thread winner.

Nearly all MR posts can be summed up with either those 2 words or "Virtually every fact cited in this post is misleading or wrong." (see iPhone post)

People of different ethnicities and nationalities can share many other things in common, such as a common religion or a common language or a common purpose or goal. The spread of Christianity has been credited with the spread of trade: the common religion engendered the trust necessary for trade. Robert Wright, The Evolution of God. At a time when differences are being emphasized in America, what people have in common is being emphasized in China, a vast country with many ethnicities and languages. While the list of languages and dialects spoken in China is very long, China has one official language, "Standard Chinese", a form of Mandarin, that is also known as "Han language". It's what Donald Trump, if he were president of China, would call a "beautiful" language. As readers of this blog know, the future belongs to artificial intelligence and robots, which have a single language, ethnicity, religion, and purpose: America and China are one, or will be one day soon:

But don't all Americans have one thing in common, the American Dream? Unfortunately, even the American Dream, once capturing what we have in common, has taken on an entirely new meaning, one which emphasizes our differences.

Is the American Dream alive when the President of the US goes on about 'how you didn't build that' .. even when you obviously did?

Different people are different and want different things. The hope is there's sufficient commonality and consensus on a core set of values for national cohesion. This is why multiculturalism is problematic, and requires an overwhelmingly strong centralized government to administer.

In fairness to all Americans, left and right, I should point out that the left and the right in America have one thing in common: both emphasize our differences.

That is what happens in ethnically diverse countries. People vote not for policies or ideology but for their group. Obama as the first black president got votes only because of the color of his skin. The Trump election has been described as whites voting as a bloc. The divisions get attention and have power.

And what gets very perverse is when the ethnicity or some group identity gets defines as an ideology. The Quebec separatist movement was a socialist vision, using the idea of oneness as a basis for socialist control of the economy. For years the election was between those who stood for the Quebecois and those who didn't, meaning that there weren't any competing policy agendas.

The nationalist movement did have trade and economic benefits as described above; the confidence from an internally cohesive group was branded and sold with a measure of success, but the unchallenged internal economic assumptions eventually led to stagnation; socialism doesn't work no matter how ethnically cohesive or well branded it is.

So the conclusion is that the US should defend its borders against illegal immigration, be judicious in its choice of legal immigrants, and indulge in lots of nationalist propaganda. Zat right?

A cynic might say "teaching values" is the same as "propaganda," and admittedly some of the difference might be in the eye of the beholder. But when you are confident that the values are good, that you aren't lying, misdirecting, ..

"that you aren’t lying, misdirecting, ..": but classically American schools did just that, didn't they? For entirely understandable reasons, of course.

I have heard that when American entered WWII, the British overhead US soldiers or sailors talking to their officers in downtime, and using their first names. At the time, the British could not deal. They still carried an "officer class" worldview, whereas to the Americans it was a rank, for the duration.

So tell me again about lies and schools, Brit.

The conclusion is that we should get everyone to believe that they are in the nation of planet Earth. Then we can all truest each other...

I hear the complaint often that they should learn our language and assimilate. I agree. However if the community is increasingly unwelcoming to immigrants, how does this affect their assimilation? They are barred from building places of worship. Shunned for their dress. Treated with disdain. We have to give them a reason to join in our national ideal. Promises from 250 years ago are hollow if we fail to share innate freedoms with newcomers.

I would think a community that is "unwelcoming" to immigrants encourages assimilation because it raises the costs of maintaining strong ethnic identity. Canada is perhaps more welcoming to immigrants than the US. Are immigrants more or less assimilated in Canada than in the US? I'd argue less.

As someone who has lived in the US for 30 years and Canada for 10, and who has read much of the literature on assimilation of immigrants in the two countries, I can assure you that immigrants to Canada are MUCH quicker to assimilate. The reasons are as Evans-KY stated: Canada's commitment to multiculturalism reduces the defensiveness of immigrants populations and makes them feel like they have a stake in Canadian society. This phenomenon also flies in the face of the common sense intuitions about trade offs between ethnic and national identity that this paper reinforces. I'd say that the papers findings are probably locally true for the countries studied, but untrue in the case of countries with a weak national identity but a stable civil society that affirmatively embraces multiculturalism.

I've lived in both for slightly longer times and I entirely disagree with your observations.

immigrants to Canada are MUCH quicker to assimilate. The reasons are as Evans-KY stated: Canada’s commitment to multiculturalism

Let go of everyone's leg.

Selection bias.
Canada's immigrants are chosen by a points system that selects for immigrants with skills for which the Canadian economy compensates monetarily. A stake in society- that's the feeling sensible people have when the existing state of afairs works well for them.

I always thought this propaganda from my childhood was ok.

There is an irony to Evans statement, in the context of propaganda...

Not that I'm recommending hostility, but I would expect it to accelerate assimilation. German communities in the U.S. had German language newspapers and church services for a long time, but WWI pretty much put an end to that:

"When the U.S. joined in World War I, an anti-German hysteria quickly spread in American society. German-Americans, especially immigrants, were blamed for military acts of the German Empire, and even speaking German was seen as unpatriotic. Many German-American families anglicized their names (e.g. from Schmidt to Smith, Schneider to Taylor, Müller to Miller), and German nearly disappeared in public. Many states forbade the use of German in public and the teaching of German in schools."

"An extensive campaign forbade all things German, such as performing the music of German composers at symphony concerts. Language was the focus of legislation at state and local levels. It took many forms, from requiring associations to have charters written in English to banning speaking German within city limits. Some states banned the teaching of all foreign languages, though most only banned German. A bill was introduced in October 1918 to create a national Department of Education, intended to restrict federal funds to states that enforced English-only education. The Lutheran Church was divided by an internal battle over conducting services and religious instruction in German.[12]"

The name of the city of Berlin, Ontario was changed to Kitchener in 1916.

I always wondered why Berlin Raceway was located in Marne, MI. I guess by 1950, when the race track opened, the German stigma had lessened since 1919, when the town of Berlin, MI changed its name to "Marne."

Like others on this thread have commented, a little bit of "hostility" might actually accelerate assimilation, not inhibit it. But there are other factors at play besides the host society's attitude. One is the size of the immigrant group relative to the host population. If the former is large, they have the "luxury" of retreating into a cocoon (or ghetto) when faced with hostility. If immigrants are few, they don't have that choice, and must either assimilate or return to their home country (or suffer in depression.)

Looking at it from another perspective, the nature of the host society's hostility also impacts assimilation. If the hostility is inspired by newcomers not speaking the local language, or engaging in practices the hosts find strange or abhorrent, or even dress weirdly, such things can be rectified in fairly short order, the responsibility entirely lying with the newcomers. On the other hand, if hostility is inspired by people looking different or having a different skin color, there isn't much the newcomers can do about it. In that situation, both sides have a problem.

In the US, people with strong national identity are more likely to vote Republican, so the Democratic party has an interest in discouraging national identity by keeping immigration levels high in order to keep subcultural identities strong. Instead they promote cohesion of their favored voting groups through oppressor-oppressed narratives.

I think what you really see, all over the world, are political parties choosing a set of values, and then denying competing values.

"Real Americans" was an actual claim by the American right.

Some history:

Well, it seems quite consistent with Optimal Distinctiveness Theory, a theory of social psychology which was quoted by Samuel Huntington in Clash of Civilizations...

This post is exactly the reason why countries need national identities, and why universalism doesn't work.

Ethnicity is a component of a system that we may call "collective identity" which has many more. A short list of others components :
- places & territories,
- shared memories (history),
- cultural codes (in which we may find things like cooking, politeness, ways of dressing, and many other things)
- language,
- ethnicity,
- and the project, what we want to do with the country : the political system, the way of seeing future.
Nationality is a mix of these various components, so it seems quite obvious that sharing the same nationality is stronger than the ethnic link.That's why we should keep it before it's too late.

We need to find those national distinctiveness genes and edit them out of the germ line with CRISPR Cas-9.


These are just growing pains on the path to nirvana. Nationalism, ethnic and cultural conflict, etc will be solved by genetic engineering. Once they remove the genes for pride, loyalty, status seeking, then all will be well. All the cracks about socialism/whateverism does not work with humans, the obvious answer to me was always "design a better human."

New Man indeed.

I'm reminded of Colin Woodard's work on the 11 Nations of the United States:

We so strongly believe we are all Americans that we don't even realize our nation has deeper cultural divides than those cultural divides in Europe which cause the French to demonize Polish Plumbers.

And it's why the United States works, despite those deep divides.

It's as if all the tacky flag waving had a deeper, and more useful meaning even if the proponents couldn;t really elucidate why.

It's a simple concept. And an obvious one. The explanation has always been explained, it's just that some deny it.


Noah Smith was a bit ahead of the group in identifying postwar (WWII) integration efforts as the nation building, and values education, we need.

A generation missed it. They picked up with those accomplishments without understanding the choices they represent. They don't remember the horrors they opposed.

The KKK killed voting rights activists in my lifetime. YMMV.

You're a bore.

Novelty is often set in competition with truth. There is an intellectual frisson to any radical claim. Of course, that must be guarded against, especially when truths are ancient. The thrill of rebellion may in the end only aid the deceiver, and may only justify cruelty.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

So boring.

Radical claim? It is repeated ad nauseum by leftists and has been for the last 40 years.

I find it a great indication of the ignorance of those who use the argument and consider it radical. Reality obviously hasn't filtered through whatever fog you are in.

Not sure what page you are on.

You're old. A young person will be your age and say "Congressmen were attacked by Bernie Sanders supporters in my lifetime."

That future old person should look for some scale to human tragedy. Three deaths were no 9/11 but they were committed American upon American to deny the basic rights of citizens.

This sounds like Steve Sailer's idea of "citizenism", which can seem prima facie more arbitrary than ethnic nationalism or universalism, and thus gets discussed less than either.

Yay my favorite topic these days: community, identity, and contemporary states


10 Utopian Principles to Guide Collective Action for a Better World

1) Allow the size of the polity to be small enough to promote a natural socialism of the community. Iceland, Swiss Canton, sometimes smaller and bigger but that sorta scale.

2) Let the group's trade with other groups possess all of the metallic characteristics (durable, malleable, ductile) that will support thriving mutualisms.

3) Let a majority of the groups be organized by watershed (widely-conceived).

4) Let a robust majority of the global population belong to such politically diverse groups (ethnically diverse is, of course, a given).

5). Let there be a choosing between 40-50 cities to be cosmo-lib "international common cities", forming a network to perform...

6) one world government that will adjudicate disputes, produce and maintain the ecological infrastructure of each "canton", produce and maintain the physical "metallic" international infrastructure (see "2"), produce and promote education and research, and promote political diversity among the "cantons" as a global common good.

7) Let modern national states be conceived of as "middle managers" of the system. They represent larger regional endeavors formed by the "cantons".

8) Let each of the states described in "7)" contain a bureaucracy that is significantly smaller than the sum of all local bureaucracies under its purview.

& now for the magic show...

9) Let there be a prosperous end to this era of fossil fuels

10) Let a plurality of the cantons successfully perform economic democracy (lack of status hierarchy within the institution, equitable assignments of responsibilities and priveleges)

That's nice. The trouble is that bonds of loyalty which run up and down the social scale in one country are alien to the self-understanding of much of the professional-managerial class in this country, so this isn't happening. Or it is happening, but not before it gets ugly and these people are stripped of their influence in society. Have a nice day.

"Like many African states on the eve of independence, Malawian elites attempted to consolidate this diverse population into a coherent national citizenry..." What is it with the elites and their intolerance for ethnic identities? You've got Merkel and the EU attempting to erase all of the old national identifies by inundating the continent with migrants, you've got the the US federal government using affirmative action and "anti-discrimination" law to erase all ethnic identities and force everyone into arbitrary, made up racial categories. And you've got Tyler faithfully carrying water for the Chinese and their antisplittism laws which have landed so many in prison. Most likely fear and insecurity about how ethnic dynamism might discomfort the comfortable drives this deep inner hatred of substantive diversity that they attempt to whitewash with spectacles of indulgence in foreign cuisines.

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