Our Anticompetitive Patriotism

62 Pages Posted: 16 May 2006

See all articles by Todd E. Pettys

Todd E. Pettys

University of Iowa - College of Law


This article examines the profound regulatory implications of Americans' deep, quasi-religious devotion to their nation. I argue that Americans' powerful identification with their country poses a significant threat to the system of intergovernmental competition that the Framers envisioned. The Framers believed that the state and federal governments would compete with one another for citizens' loyalty and for the regulatory power which that loyalty often yields, and that this competition would give both sovereigns strong incentives to remain finely attuned to the needs and desires of the citizenry. I contend that the nation's seemingly exclusive claim to citizens' patriotism significantly shields the federal government from the competitive forces that the Framers believed would restrain its ability to govern in objectionable ways. I conclude by advancing a two-part argument. First, to ensure that the federal government does not wield monopolistic power in a vast array of domains, we should give increased consideration to treaties and other regulatory alternatives that require America's leaders to negotiate with their counterparts in other countries. Second, in the years ahead, Americans may very well develop the supra-national patriotic sentiments necessary to sustain such models of international governance.

Keywords: patriotism, nation, intergovernmental competition

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K40

Suggested Citation

Pettys, Todd E., Our Anticompetitive Patriotism. UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 4, p. 1353, 2006, U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-50, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=901304

Todd E. Pettys (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States
319-335-6814 (Phone)
319-335-9098 (Fax)

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