Trevor Brookins

*Too often people think of nation building as an either or proposition.

Societies either attempt to be strong economically or strong socially. Being strong on social issues implies a country would rather get an issue correct than get it incorrect and profit.

When a country focuses too much on their social issues they become a great place to live but contribute very little to human existence. There’s a reason technological advances are made in the United States and not Finland.

Of course being strong economically means having a strong  military to protect financial interests. This implies an aggressive military stance.

When a country focuses too heavily on economics usually a large profit is turned by a fraction of the population but a host of other problems arise. The wealth produced is created by a very large group A but possessed and enjoyed by a relatively small group B. This leads to resentment among group A, crime perpetrated by group A and oppressive measures by group B to keep group A in line.

This is the story of the racism that produced slavery and the current xenophobia.

Societies generally have erred on the side of being overly focused on economic strength. And those countries that fail at being economic behemoths then have the luxury of being able to attempt social equality.

But emphasizing equality shouldn’t be a secondary goal. Nation building doesn’t have to be a zero sum game. The late 1800s demonstrated that a society can be strong economically while minimizing social injustice.

Forming the best society possible requires balance. There should be an infrastructure in place so that innovative thinkers can flourish and entrepreneurs can prosper. At the same time safeguards should be in place to ensure that the dominant and ruling group doesn’t become an aristocracy closed to the masses.

Some might call such a society a utopia that cannot be achieved.

Maybe.

But trying to achieve such a society is certainly a possibility.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  You can reach him at [email protected]