An Exploration of the Ethics of Patriotism

The patriotism is considered one’s deep and true love for his/her nation. In most instances, patriots are always ready to die for their countries for the sake of securing it and its future generations. Overall, patriotism always presupposes devoted love, selfless support, and active defense of one’s country in case of any external aggression. However, the ethics of patriotism continues to be questioned by different individuals around the world. The debate relating to the ethical issues surrounding patriotism does not seem to come to an end soon as more questions continue to be raised on the ethics of patriotism. There exist several arguments that prove patriotism to be one of the most unethical practices, in which a person can engage. For instance, it is argued that the patriotism is unethical because it encourages atrocities. It leads to the division of individuals on racial and ethnic backgrounds. It encourages war between countries, and it tends to justify the commission of offenses among individuals. The debate on the ethics of patriotism persists, as those who encourage it to reiterate that it is only a demonstration of pride and love for one’s country. It is crucial to understand the ethics of patriotism as it plays an instrumental role in discouraging individuals from being extremist patriots of their countries.

It is always believed that everyone should love his/her country and be ready to fight any battles on behalf of the country. On most occasions, the patriotism is a selfless act that is motivated by one’s own desire and will. A country only encourages its citizens to be patriots, but it does not force them to do so. John Stuart Mill explains the choice of patriotism from the utilitarianism perspective that affirms that individuals are always happy once given the opportunity to choose what they like. Nevertheless, some citizens tend to be extremists hence causing more questions about the ethical nature of patriotism. Citizens who subscribe to patriotism feel that it is out of choice, and it is a demonstration of devotion and commitment to the development of their countries. However, their extreme attitudes and overzealous approach to patriotism come with many questionable acts. It is not just about the happiness they derive from choosing to be true citizens, but the effects of their patriotism on other people and countries around the world.


Patriotism has always been blamed for propagating racial and ethnic divisions in most countries worldwide. It is common in countries where the dominant race or ethnic group aims at taking full charge of the country as its own. This issue is one of the most significant questions relating to the ethics of patriotism. In the light of the philosophical views, patriotic feelings tend to generate hatred between different races and ethnic groupings in the country. It is not desirable because it leads to the discrimination of the minority groups in the country. Instead of securing oneness in the country, patriotism tends to promote divisions in the country. This strategy leads to injustices against the minority groups because of the belief that their contribution to the wellbeing is minimal and not worth appreciation. This aspect of patriotism does not meet the ethical standards affirmed by Rawls in respect to any given society. Rawls suggests the idea that fairness in any given society can exist only if rights and duties are distributed equally among all members of the society. However, patriotism raises doubts on its ethical nature with the manner it divides individuals within the country. It would have been considered more ethical if it had been a unifying factor. Nevertheless, it alienates the minority groups in the society hence perpetuating a series of discrimination actions against such groups in the country. It would have been viewed as ethical if it had been accommodative of all groups in the country without any sense of exclusion and dominance by selected racial and ethnic groups. Therefore, racial and ethnic divisions brought about by patriotism continue to raise questions about its ethical approach to the unification of the country and the assurance of justice for all individuals and groups in the country.

Additionally, patriotism has been responsible for the promotion of atrocities in different parts of the globe. The ethical nature of patriotism is still under question for its instigation of atrocities in different parts of the globe. Some extremists-patriots tend to take advantage of their patriotic acts to indulge in atrocities with the aim of demonstrating their loyalty to the country. This issue leads to preventable deaths within most countries. It is evidenced by some of the atrocities that have happened in some countries such as Rwanda and Cambodia. Most of these killings were believed to be attached to the proclamation of patriotism and the need to protect the country from enemies. Atrocities such as the genocide emanating from the depiction of patriotism among individuals are unethical acts that the philosophy questions. They do not meet the minimum standards of ethics and protection of human rights around the world. In addition, it does not comply with the principles of moral virtue proposed in normative ethics. Aristotle stated that individuals would be judged as being just only if they performed just acts. The participation in atrocities with the pretense of exercising patriotism violates the rules of normative ethics that look forward to protecting everyone in society by ensuring global justice. The suffering inflicted on people through patriotism raises more questions than answers relating to its ethical nature in the society. It would have been seen to adhere to ethical standards if all individuals had been protected effectively. Under no circumstances, patriotism should subject people to suffering in their own countries. Therefore, any philosopher of normative ethics questions the ethical virtue of patriotism even as it continues subjecting individuals to suffering in their own countries.

Moreover, patriotism raises ethical questions as it encourages war between different countries around the world. Different countries around the world find it difficult to reach amicable solutions to their problems because of the feeling that they need to protect their sovereignty. In the light of this statement, the extremist patriots would be seen promoting the need for war against enemies hence disrupting the global peace. Soldiers would be required to exhibit their patriotism by engaging other countries in war. This issue raises the question of whether an event that disrupts peace can be categorized as ethical or not. High levels of patriotism have been considered a potential cause of war among countries looking forward to securing their borders and preventing the encroachment of the enemies into the country. Nevertheless, military confrontations are not the ethical way of solving the disputes. There could be more appropriate approach to this problem instead of using patriotism as the justification for the attacks on other countries. Patriotism tends to eliminate the chance of the countries to negotiate in case of any disagreements. The war between different countries leads to the unnecessary persecution of people in both. The emergence of wars would obviously deny people liberty in their own country because of the brutal acts of soldiers of the attacking country. This fact contradicts Nozick’s belief in the significance of liberty for all individuals. The citizens’ entitlement to such liberty and justice is usually denied by the actions of soldiers based on their high level of patriotism and the need to protect their lands.

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Patriotism would also be questioned in terms of its adherence to ethical standards because of its outright justification of the rights violation within the country. It is worth noting that patriotism tends to justify the rights violations by the so-called patriots. People are not able to be arrested even after committing a violation of rights and law within the country. The law would cover them on the basis that they are patriots and loyalists to the country. It means that patriots who commit the war crimes can escape punishment because of the protection they enjoy by the virtue of being patriots. This idea is unethical because it breeds a country where some people are put above the law at the expense of those who do not have a voice. The justification of crimes because of patriotism undermines the main role of the ideology that is aimed at achieving the best for the country. This reasoning does not adhere to the ethical principles emphasized by Kant in his reference to the significance of goodwill in the society. The promotion of injustices by patriotism does not reflect the adherence to goodwill and the need to balance everyone in the society. Patriotism would always come to the defense of individuals who are supposed to face the law simply because they are committed to the country. Therefore, the role of patriotism in making the violation of rights acceptable makes it unethical in nature. An ethical system is supposed to ensure that any violation of rights is eliminated in the society, and all individuals found violating the rights of other citizens are brought to book in line with the law.

The ethics of patriotism continue to be questioned because of its overtaxing nature on the citizens of a country. On most occasions, the country would want to inform its citizens on the significance of patriotism in their lives. The taxpayers would be required to bear all the costs associated with these campaigns hence raising an ethical concern at how individuals would be called upon to pay for something that is supposed to be out of the individual choice. The high taxes paid by citizens for the promotion of patriotism would be an indication of the government’s intention to buy individuals and force them to subscribe to patriotism. Apart from the high taxes charged for the promotion of patriotism, citizens would also be required to pay for the costs associated with the military activities in other countries. They are forced to bear the high costs of the military expenditure that might not help the common citizen at the grass root level. High costs are always incurred to support the military activities in light of patriotism as poor citizens continue to languish in poverty. This situation also intensifies the debate on the ethical nature of patriotism. It would have been ethical only if it had been able to recognize the value of the poor in the society and provide for their needs instead of spending heavily on the military expeditions aimed at demonstrating love to the country.


In conclusion, the debate on the ethics of patriotism has never seemed to end as individuals support varying positions. Those in support of patriotism affirm that the patriotism is the best thing that could happen to any country because it demonstrates the love that citizens have for their country. It gives individuals the opportunity to defend their country at any given time because of their love and commitment. Moreover, they believe that the patriotism is not forced as individuals have free will to decide whether to love their country and defend it when required to do so or not. Nevertheless, the ethics of patriotism has been questioned because of its approach to several issues. The patriotism is deemed unethical because it promotes divisions in the country. This division occurs when the members of the majority racial or ethnic group believe that they play a bigger role in the defense of the country as compared to the minority groups. This situation leads to the discrimination of minorities in deviation of the provisions of ethics. What is more, it tends to promote the war between countries as soldiers fight to demonstrate the love they have for their country. These facts eliminate the ability to reach an amicable solution in any case involving countries. Extreme loyalty would take the law as the only solution, and this would lead to an infringement on the rights of individuals in the attacked country. The patriotism is always questioned for its justification of the law violations within the country. Most patriotic individuals violate the law with impunity as they are protected by the tag of being patriots. This issue breeds an imbalanced society that does not treat all individuals equally in respect to the law. Overall, the questions continue to be raised about the adherence of patriotism to the required ethical standards.

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