To see nationalism and statism in action, look no further than the scandal of yesterday’s Olympics skating competition. Pushed in the Olympics and probably doped by her government’s agents, fifteen-year-old Kamila Valieva broke down, physically and psychologically, while failing to be the Russian flag carrier she was supposed to be (Sara Germano and Thomas Hale, “Olympics chief slams coach’s ‘chilling’ treatment of Russia’s Kamila Valieva,” Financial Times, February 18, 2022).

National Olympic teams, typically financed by their national governments, do the latter’s nationalist bidding by competing ruthlessly through nationalized athletes. Such competitions are of course, from the subjects’ or citizens’ viewpoints, much preferable to war and, for the national states, might be a substitute (albeit imperfect) for, rather than a complement to, armed conflict. So there are arguments for Olympic games.

In this context, a few related hypotheses would be worth some public-choice investigations. One is that the most authoritarian states are, the worst child abusers. Since there is no place in the world where political power is strictly and effectively limited, child abuse by the state is a matter of degree. Another hypothesis is that child-abusing state rulers have political incentives to look like child protectors.

Here is a tangential idea: raise the Olympic competing age to the age where the athletes are permitted to buy tobacco or vape pens. For nationalist and statist reasons (which are converging reasons), the state, in its most cartoonish versions (say, the Russian state), has no qualm about drugging children, provided it does it itself for reasons of international prestige and internal indoctrination.

The most cartoonish versions of the state reveal phenomena that are milder and better hidden under other states.