Notwithstanding our initial portending of an abysmal debate season, hope glimmers on the horizon for NCFCA’s 2017-2018 LD resolution. For some, the probability of insuperable prejudice, rampant definition clashes, and skewed applications renders the debate landscape bleak and uninviting. Yet, in the tension between nationalism and globalism inheres striking philosophical, political, and historical depth, offering you the opportunity both to formulate and to fortify your perspectives on this momentous conflict.

In this post, we hope to pique your interest with a foretaste of our forthcoming sourcebook, predicted to debut around September or October! Keep in mind that this post has been altered to align with this medium — rather than analyzing feasible standards for your cases, detailing various applications, or enumerating salient cards of evidence, this post seeks to probe the background of the resolution. Ultimately, this primer on nationalism and globalism ought to catalyze and inspire your own argumentation, serving as framework through which to filter your ideas as the terrain shifts and the metagame advances.


Preface on Polarization

From Donald Trump decrying “the false song of globalism” as detrimental to the working class and embracing explicitly nationalist economic policy to Hillary Clinton flaunting images of Trump-brand attire manufactured overseas and associating Trump with alt-right nationalistic movement, candidates and pundits alike infused the words with pejorative overtones and launched them as epithets at their political opponents. If The National Interest is accurate in equating the “Trump vs. Clinton” conflict to the “nationalism vs. globalism” debate, then the way your judge approaches your position has already been conditioned by the media bombardment.

Consequently, you don’t quite know if your judge believes you represent a warmongering neo-Nazi Reddit community or a one-world government superintended by the antichrist. You’ll have to depend on:

  • Lampshading (diffusing bias by acknowledging the negative connotations of your position; for example, “while many associate nationalism with Donald Trump, we find that the concept’s meaning transcends the 2016 presidential election cycle”)
  • Persuasive inoculation (countering your opponent’s arguments by predicting and preempting their responses)
  • Commonalities (emphasizing similarities between nationalism and globalism instead of construing them as diametrically opposed)
  • Universal values (focusing the round through hearkening to concepts upon which most everyone agrees, no matter their political affiliation)
  • Academic evidence (as in NO tabloids, mainstream media, or any source with definite political connotations)
  • Clear and simple logic\points\theses (because multiplying points and adding complexity confuses judges, which renders them more likely to revert to bias to make decisions)

The issue of polarization sparks two fundamental questions. First, are definitions unbiased? Furthermore, is all politically charged evidence illegitimate?

Deconstructing Definitions

The populace venerates dictionaries as unadulterated sources of truth, archetypal authorities on word meanings. However, it’s imperative to recognize that all definitions–whether located in mainstream dictionaries or academic sources–don’t descend from a transcendent realm inhabited by linguistic divinities. Quite the contrary, fallible humans compile dictionaries, mere people influenced by their preferred suppositions about reality. Noah Webster’s Christian worldview underpins his 1828 Dictionary of the English Language. His lexical heir, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is notorious for entering the contemporary political fray. Ideological lenses inform not only your judge’s, but also your dictionary’s, perspective.

As Ludwig Wittgenstein taught us, our words, our phraseology, our personal “language games” are shaped by our individual presuppositions and cultural perceptions. Jacques Derrida encouraged us to “deconstruct” texts according to the authorial motivations. This isn’t a wholesale endorsement of postmodernism, but an injunction to apply these principles to understand how your favorite dictionary contrived its interpretation of “nationalism” or “globalism,” instead of assuming any dictionary to be de facto authoritative.

As a result, avoid definitions that contain any inkling of ideology, be they derived from a dictionary or an expert. Instead, opt for succinct, simple, balanced interpretations of the terms that you feel comfortable using as affirmative and negative. Always be cognizant of your dictionary’s (or academic journal’s) worldview, so you can ensure it comports with your and your judge’s language game.

Employing Evidence

As Isaiah states in his excellent webinar on research, preferring peer-reviewed journal articles to clickbait news or blogs ensures academic rigor and depth for your cases. Per this standard, using overtly biased sources is automatically disqualified. However, while quoting Breitbart News, The American Conservative, or even The Economist (an unabashedly pro-globalist publication) in a debate round might not maintain your professional aura, that’s not to say that these publications contain nothing salvageable. Always keep in mind the purpose of your evidence. Referencing Joseph Nye’s “Globalism vs. Globalization” article to substantiate your position is probably ineffective (as any an article published in The Globalist may or may not have a slight slant…), yet with the intent of illuminating the context of globalism, employing this piece becomes very advantageous. Moreover, an article in a biased publication may construct a cogent, meaningful argument, so instead of outright dismissing it based on the source, customize the argument by exporting the logical links and modifying based on your case’s theme and personal convictions.


Facets of Nationalism

“Resolved: Nationalism ought to be valued above globalism.” Unlike many previous NCFCA resolutions, this year’s topic is minimalist, unencumbered by contextualization and unnecessary verbiage. However, many this year have found themselves inexplicably devoid of case ideas, paralyzed by the prospect of arguing something they fail to grasp. That’s unsurprising, as nationalism and globalism are both sprawling, amorphous, abstract terms that mean everything… ergo, they mean nothing.

A survey of multiple dictionaries reveals six key facets of nationalism. Sometimes, nationalism will incorporate all of these elements (for example,’s summary), whereas other times it will only manifest a select few. Although the question of nationalism’s precise constitution is subject to debate (consider nationalism’s interpretive controversy in Wikipedia’s article and in the Nationalism Project’s database), communal identity, loyalty, and prioritization of national interests are more integral than the other three facets.

1) Communal Identity

Merriam-Webster: “Loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially a sense of national consciousness.” “Spirit or aspirations common to the whole of a nation.”

American Heritage Dictionary: “The belief that a particular cultural or ethnic group constitutes a distinct people deserving of political self-determination.”

Here, nationalism refers to collective identity a community derives from various unifying factors, such as ethnicity, culture, tradition, shared heritage, language, ideology, or a combination of the aforementioned elements. Following the invariable dictates of human nature, people coalesce around commonalities, developing their notion of personal identity in conjunction with their community.

2) Loyalty

Merriam-Webster: “Loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially a sense of national consciousness.” “Devotion and loyalty to one’s own country; patriotism.” “Love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it.”

It’s natural–even expected–that people who forge bonds due to unifying similarities cultivate a sense of loyalty for and devotion to one another. Collective identity prompts collective loyalty, and this frequently engenders pride and patriotism for one’s country.

3) Self-Determination “The desire for national advancement or political independence.” “The aspiration for national independence felt by people under foreign domination.”

Oxford Dictionaries: “Advocacy of political independence for a particular country.”

Macmillian Dictionary: “The wish for political independence of a group of people with the same language, culture, history, etc.”

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries: “The desire by a group of people who share the same race, culture, language, etc. to form an independent country.”

American Heritage Dictionary: “The belief that a particular cultural or ethnic group constitutes a distinct people deserving of political self-determination.”

If the collective is subservient to an oppressive or subjugating governance, the shared will for sovereignty accompanies the sentiments of identity and devotion. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes,

“A group of people of a sufficient size has a prima facie right to govern itself and decide its future membership, if the members of the group so wish. It is fundamentally the democratic will of the members themselves that grounds the right to an ethno-national state and to ethno-centric cultural institutions and practices. This argument presents the justification of (ethno-)national claims as deriving from the will of the members of the nation. It is therefore highly suitable for liberal nationalism but not appealing to a deep communitarian who sees the demands of the nation as independent from, and prior to, the choices of particular individuals.”

4) Superiority “The doctrine that your national culture and interests are superior to any other.”

Oxford Dictionaries: “An extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.”

Macmillian Dictionary: “The belief that your nation is better than other nations.”

In other instances, the formation of identity and loyalty instills not the will for sovereignty but the sense of superiority. Don’t conflate national pride with national superiority. Pride entails satisfaction and self-assurance with collective heritage, traditions, and other unifying factors, but superiority establishes a hierarchy and situates your nation at the apex.

5) Separation\Isolation “The policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one’s own nation viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.”

American Heritage Dictionary: “The doctrine that nations should act independently (rather than collectively) to attain their goals.”

Attitudes of superiority can escalate into withdrawal from the affairs of others, as national pride and superiority breed self-sufficiency and isolation. After all, if a nation is preeminent, it certainly doesn’t need the assistance of others and your fellow nations aren’t worthy of its support.

6) Prioritization of National Interests

Merriam-Webster: “Exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.”

Encyclopedia Britannica: “Ideology based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests.”

This sixth and final facet articulates nationalism’s crux — the ideology consists of prioritization, a process by which the citizens of a nation dictate a hierarchy of interests and the subsequent implications of that decision.


Facets of Globalism

As a concept, globalism remains more elusive than its counterpart, occurring in far fewer dictionaries and failing to attain recognition in works such as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Oftentimes, dictionaries define the associated term “globalization,” (which Nye informs us is the political actualization of globalism) while leaving its motivating ideology unaddressed. Despite these obstacles, three elements of globalism arise from surveying various dictionaries.

1) Nation’s Sphere of Influence Transcends Borders

Merriam-Webster: “A national policy of treating the whole world as a proper sphere for political influence.”

American Heritage: “A national geopolitical policy in which the entire world is regarded as the appropriate sphere for a state’s influence; the development of social, cultural, technological, or economic networks that transcend national boundaries; globalization.”

Oxford Dictionaries: “The operation or planning of economic and foreign policy on a global basis.”

In this light, globalism implies a broader scope than nationalism. While a nationalist would contend that national boundaries delineate a nation’s sphere of influence, the globalist considers the world to be his or her oyster. By extension, politics transforms into geopolitics.

2) No Separation

Cambridge Dictionary: “The idea that events in one country cannot be separated from those in another and that economic and foreign policy should be planned in an international way.”

Oxford Dictionaries: “The operation or planning of economic and foreign policy on a global basis.”

For many (such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg), the interconnectivity resulting from technological development renders globalization inexorable. The fates of nations are now inseparably intertwined, and thus nations should account for the inevitable reality in their policy deliberations.

3) Prioritization of World’s Interests “The attitude or policy of placing the interests of the entire world above those of individual nations.”

This corresponds to the final facet of nationalism, where a nation’s self-designation as a nationalist or globalist is contingent upon where the relative worth it assigns to its and the world’s interests.


Conflict Areas

This is by no means an exhaustive compilation, of course, but a short list to inspire your research and case development.


  • Transcendence: Does one side of the resolution better establish moral absolutes? Can universal norms even exist within a nationalist paradigm, or does only globalism with its emphasis on trans-national divisions accommodate absolutism? Have some nationalist movements, such as the American Revolution, been successfully predicated on transcendent principles? Are arguments from transcendence nonunique because nationalism and globalism both involve orientations toward human constructions?
  • Proximity: Peter Singer argues in his famous essay “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” that neglecting the needs of those across the world is proximity-based discrimination. At the same time, the classic philosophical “trolley problem” thought experiment suggests otherwise. Do we have a higher moral obligation to those within closer proximity, or is that mere discrimination?
  • Cultural Relativism: Does nationalism exalt cultural differences over normative ethics? Is the nationalist compelled to affirm cultural relativism, and does globalism offer a recourse from this?


  • Culture: Is it wrong to derive meaning and significance from longstanding cultural traditions and output? Is it appropriate to be proud of our mythologies, our artwork, our literature, our heroes, our victories? Must nationalism be monocultural, or can nationalism embrace diversity? Does globalism engage in cultural imposition through the eradication of diversity and establishment of a global culture?
  • American Exceptionalism: Is America truly exceptional? Ought we to glory in our identity as Americans, or bemoan the harms perpetrated via our national identity (slavery, cultural imperialism, foreign intervention, etc.)?
  • Social Contract: John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Hobbes would have us believe that discrete, unified collectives possess the right to self-determination. Is social contract theory legitimate? Can a social contract be global? (And the question of the era… Do LDers have yet another opportunity to apply homeschool debate’s pet sociopolitical theory… Every. Single. Round…?)
  • Athletics: The world gets to reexperience the Olympics frenzy February 2018. Are we justified in cheering for our own country’s success? Are the Olympic Games a paean to nationalism?


  • Free Trade: Has free trade improved the global standard of living? Can we credit globalism for galvanizing economic development? Or is globalism sapping American jobs? How do globalism and nationalism intersect with horrendous working conditions in underdeveloped nations and skyrocketing US debt to foreign creditors?
  • Currency: Ought countries to preserve individual currencies or should the international market adopt a universal mode of transaction?
  • Engage, Don’t Isolate? Thomas Frieden’s McDonald’s Theory of War has been much maligned, but isn’t it true that economic engagement with other nations prevents conflict?


  • Environment\Agriculture: Is climate change a political chimera, or a pressing problem? Ought it to be regulated by each individual nation, or is it in the jurisdiction of international institutions? How do we allocate agricultural resources throughout the world?
  • Technology: How should nations respond to ever-advancing technological progress? Does this abolish national identity? Or is it beneficial to all societies?

Foreign Policy

  • Foreign Aid: Should we administer aid to other nations? What are the proper roles and responsibilities of governments and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to each other and respective countries?
  • Immigration: Should immigration be seamless and unrestricted? Or should governments impose rigorous screening and regulation? What should our relationship and posture be to the masses of refugees streaming from Syria?
  • National Borders: Are national borders really necessary? Does the Schengen area model an ideal situation? Are borders integral to our self-understanding? Pragmatically, do we need borders for survival?
  • Military Intervention: Are botched military operations a problem with nationalism or globalism? Were the Iraq and Afghanistan wars globalist efforts because they were spearheaded by international coalitions? Did World War I and World War II erupt due to nationalistic fervor? Or were they globalist efforts to extinguish existential threats to the world?
  • Governmental Agencies: Every homeschooler: “Do we EVEN NEED the UN??!!”


Don’t be stymied by abstract isms, pressing polarization, or topic breadth. Despite some of the resolution’s pitfalls, the debate between nationalism and globalism promises a season packed with captivating content. Continue to examine the philosophical backdrop of the resolution with an eye to the pragmatic implications, and tackle this timely tension between two dominating geopolitical standpoints!


Joel Erickson coaches LD and Speech for Ethos. A sophomore at Wheaton College, he is double majoring in Philosophy and English with the intent of attending law school or pursuing apologetics ministry.
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