In Europe, people opposed to specific policies of the European Union, expansion of the European Union, or transfer of powers from member states to the European Union, are often described by the media as eurosceptics. For example, consider BBC News reporting on the Dutch rejection of the EU-Ukraine Association Treaty:

It is certainly symbolic that one of the founding fathers of the EU now appears to be a hotbed of Euroscepticism.

(I find this remark puzzling. I think the EU is great, and that this association treaty is bad for the EU, therefore I oppose it, yet I do not consider myself eurosceptic at all)

Is there a counterpart in the USA? For example, would people supporting the states' rights movement be described as sceptical of the USA and be less likely to support symbols such as waving US flags at home or at public places, participate in support our troops rallies, have proud to be American bumper stickers, etc., compared to people who support more federal powers?

If not, why is it different compared to the EU?

3 Answers 3


"Euro-skepticism" and "states rights" are not equivalent, and therefore we would not expect there to be a similar effect. The closest equivalent in European terms to "states rights" would be "devolution" in the British context.

The United States is, at least since the beginning of the 20th-century, an uncontested country, state and nation. As such, questions surrounding issues of 'states rights' are not about competing sovereignties, but about the constitution of the nation wherein all parties see themselves. While states and the federal government have some tension over sovereign control, individuals participate—or at least can participate—in the selection of both governments. As such, while people may view themselves as Virginians, Texans or Californians their national identity is indubitably American, and that identity has not been in question for at least 100 years. (The Civil War was partly over this issue, but it is not a modern construct.)

Euro-skepticism, however, is about competing sovereignty, and more importantly competing sovereignty with an entity viewed as illegitimate and undemocratic. Euro-skeptics accept that they are geographically European, but believe, rightly, that the EU is not a sovereign state. Consequently, their national identity remains with their local state, of which they are a citizen.

In other words, 'states rights' in the U.S. is group internal competition over the structure of the state of which people already see themselves a part, whereas 'Euro-skepticism' is competition between an in-group—the state of which one is a citizen—and an out-group—Europe. This dynamic explains all other differences.

While states-rights advocates may be more or less pleased with the policy choices or internal structure of the U.S., they consistently see themselves a Americans. Did they not, they would not advocate states rights, but independence of their state or region—and there are separatists in some areas. Consequently, there is little change in imagery, or greater or less willingness to identify as American. Similarly, one could be 'chauvinistic' or not, regardless of ones position on states rights. The overlap between 'devolution' in Britain is helpful, because while the SNP may like devolution, they want independence, and consequently are 'Scottish', in contrast to Tories who favored devolution, but saw themselves as primarily 'British' even when they were in Scotland, England or Wales etc.

In Europe, on the other hand, the fact that Europe and other Europeans are the out-group makes use of European symbols and identification as 'Europeans' in a political sense completely strange. A Euro-skeptic in Britain (or France, or Italy etc.) is barely more a 'European' than she is a Pole, or a Spaniard. Consequently, the European political identification and symbology makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

  • Some good points, but why should the debate on competing sovereignty be related to how I primarily identify? Personally, I identify as European and think institutions like the European Union, the Council of Europe, Schengen area, etc. are great and I have profited from them considerably, but I am in opposition to many EU-proposals. For example, I find it unfair that by opposing the proposed EU-Ukraine association treaty, I am branded a “Eurosceptic” as if I would want my country to leave the EU completely. I don't see why European identification would make no sense. Am I so unusual?
    – gerrit
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 17:51
  • 2
    In your case, I think this is labeling run amok, rather than you being a legitimate Euro-skeptic. It is sometimes politically expedient to broaden labels in the hopes of pushing people off positions: therefore immigration positions become 'racism', opposition to war becomes 'unpatriotic', and opposition to some EU proposals becomes 'euro-skepticism.' People who like the EU generally, but are opposed to some proposals are not truly Eurosceptic in the way that AfD or the BNP are. If Eurosceptics just dislike some policies, then Euroscepticism loses all meaning, and everyone is a Eurosceptic. Commented May 4, 2016 at 18:17
  • @gerrit, ThePompitousOfLove is correct in that this is labeling run amok, your point of view is frankly very American in this matter. For example I'm a "Utahn" (one who lives in the State of Utah) but also firmly identify as an American. I also firmly object to certain policies or practices in Washington D.C., but despite that I'd never have a problem waving an American flag or telling someone I'm American or preferring to refer to my self as American instead of as a "Utahn".
    – Ryan
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 22:53

The difference is that states rights was a common cheer by Southerners in the war of Northern aggression. Since, at 1860, Southerners owned slaves(or for the vast majority, aspired to one day own a slave), while Northerners wanted blacks out of the country altogether, modern progressives have associated the mantra of states rights with slave-holding as opposed to the virtuous non slave holding racism of the north. Because of this interpretation of history, states rights has been associated with conservatives and a strong federal government has been associated with progressives. This is, of course, an oversimplification (and somewhat tongue in cheek). Having a strong central government also helps progressives implement programs and taxes which cannot be escaped from by the rich who don't want them and must pay for them. Meanwhile having small state governments gives people the option to leave their state and move to one where the liberties conservatives are always droning on about are better preserved.

Since states rights are associated with conservatives in American politics, they are also associated with the flag waving, support our troops chauvinism you described. Unless of course you're in the deep south, in which case they still support the troops, but they're often waving confederate flags.

This kind of makes sense in the context of Euroscepticism, though. The kind of people who are sceptical of European central power often flag wave for their home country. I think the difference is that in the United States the home countries (states) have been so reduced in power that the symbol of one's homeland is the American flag, no longer any individual state flag.


Yes, there is a counterpart in the USA, but it wouldn't necessarily the States' Rights supporters. The counterpart that would reject "waving US flags, participating in troop rallies, and having American bumper stickers" would be the Sovereign Citizen Movement and Anarcho-Capitalists and general Anarchists.

I do think Euroskeptics are most closely aligned with States' Right Supporters, as Euroskeptics would probably believe in nationalism and they would probably wave their country's flag. States' Rights Supporters are very nationalistic and patriotic, but they are also very skeptical of the federal government. They believe in a small federal government and strong state powers, but not no federal government.

  • From reading up on the sovereign citizen movement, they don't sound quite the same as what I believe to be the typical eurosceptic.
    – gerrit
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 9:26

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