January 08, 2006

Anglos and Anglosphere

Lawrence Mead's National Interest article, (the same that contains his regrettable mischaracterization of the Anglosphere idea, discusses the issue of why the principal actors in maintaining international peace and order in the past 200 years have been English-speaking -- part of a set he terms "Anglo" nations. He then defines "Anglo nation" as follows:

American primacy is not an accident of this or that administration. It reflects the special capacity of English-speaking countries to lead the world order. These "Anglo nations", or the "Anglos" as I will call them, include Britain and the chief territories that were settled initially from Britain--pre-eminently the United States but also Australia, Canada and New Zealand. What makes a country Anglo is that its original settler population came mainly from Britain. So even though a minority of Americans today have British roots, they inherit a political culture initially formed by the British. Some other countries that Britain ruled, such as India or South Africa, are not Anglo in this sense because British settlers never formed the bulk of their populations. They may be English-speaking, and their public institutions have British roots, but British culture did not form the society as it did in the Anglo countries.

Of course Mead is free to create any categories he chooses to, so his category of "Anglo nations" is tautologically true. And it is a reasonable category -- the best way to transmit memes, historically, has been to bundle them with genes, and the British Isles settler populations have had a very strong founder effect wherever they have been the first movers. But beyond that, the next questions for any taxonomical scheme are "is it useful?" and "is it a good predictor?"

Mead's scheme appears to create at least three taxa: Anglo nations, who have British-descended core settler populations; British-ruled nations, like India and South Africa, who have some British-derived institutions but not British-descended populations (South Africa in fact being a partial exception); and everybody else. Membership in any given taxon is, in this scheme, a useful predictor of a nation's willingness to take an active role in maintaining international peace and order, and in particular to use military force to those ends.

In Mead's schema, membership in the class of Anglo nations should therefore be a good predictor of willingness and ability to take a proactive stance in creation and maintenance of international order. This certainly works well in regard to the US and the UK, and increasingly Australia. It is less obvious in the case of Canada and New Zealand, or for that matter the Republic of Ireland (although the "Anglo-ness" of the Republic is a more complicated case for historical reasons.)

There is another dynamic at work within Mead's class of "Anglo nations", which is regional pairing or the "big brother-little brother" dynamic. The UK and Ireland, the USA and Canada, and Australia and New Zealand each form regional pairings with substantial interconnectedness in the economic and personal movement categories. Each pair is now integrated economically under free trade or customs union schemes. At the same time, there is a considerable temptation for the smaller member of each pair to become a free rider on defense issues. This leads to maintaining smaller forces than would be the case if the larger partner were not around to assist in defense crises, but with a contribution of some sort to some critical events. For example, both Canada and New Zealand contributed small but high-quality forces to the Afghan campaign, and even Ireland contributed landing and refueling rights to military flights in that case. However, their general stance (for example regarding Iraq) certainly demonstrates that being an "Anglo nation" does not in itself make one a leading participant in such matters.

In the same vein, we can see nations that have a relationship to the Anglosphere, but are not "Anglo nations" in Mead's schema, beginning to step forward in international leadership in cooperation with the old core Anglosphere powers. India was a quick and central player in the 2004 tsunami relief effort, its forces interoperating very effectively with US, Australian, and Japanese forces despite no track record of alliance or joint action in the past fifty years -- the fact that its military forces are heirs to Commonwealth structures, practices, and the widespread use of English made it quite easy to pick up cooperation. India is now looking at maintaining a forward presence in the Straits of Malacca, again in cooperation with the US and Australia.

Singapore is another nation that is not "Anglo" but definitely Anglosphere, and it was the fifth (also very effective) partner on the tsunami team in 2004. And it is increasing its regional role, again in cooperation with the US and Australia. So perhaps Anglosphere affiliation is a better predictor of a proactive international role than "Anglo nation" status.

But what exactly is an "Anglosphere affiliation"? Let's look again at the anatomy of the Anglosphere to see where the useful dividing lines can be drawn.

First of all there are the set of nations that Mead describes as Anglo nations, and I define as "Core Anglosphere", or, using the metaphor of a set of concentric spheres, the innnermost sphere of the Anglosphere. I describe these spheres thusly in my book:

Innermost: states with an entirely or predominantly English-speaking population, where English is the primary or sole home language. They develop a legal system based on common law, with trial by jury. There is representative government, and the news and entertainment media are primarily in English, sharing information with the rest of the Anglosphere. This core group includes the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, English-speaking Canada, and the English-speaking Caribbean, along with assorted small islands and territories. Areas with other official languages and/or legal systems, such as Quebec, Puerto Rico, and Wales, are seen as exceptions, as they are geographically discrete subunits.

Middle: English-dominant states. These are states in which English is one of several official languages and is one of the principal languages of government administration and commerce. Significant daily media are presented locally in English, but other languages are important. English is a minority as a home language and is confined primarily to an educated elite and perhaps an urban middle and industrial class. These are placed in a more inward circle when the country is not part of a larger, non- English world civilization; in other words, one where the primary connections to the outside world are in English.

South Africa is on the borderline between the Inner Sphere and the Middle, because of its substantial, but not majority, population of first-language English speakers.

English speakers in South Africa are essentially part of the Anglosphere; Afrikaans speakers are not. Additionally, South Africa’s retention of Roman-Dutch law keeps it outside the inner circle of the Anglosphere in an important dimension. Beyond South Africa and Zimbabwe, the non- Islamic, non-Indian former colonies of England in Africa, the South Pacific, and some parts of Asia are perhaps the primary examples; the Philippines might also be considered borderline.

Outer: English-using states of other civilizations. (Typically, these states have been the core of their own linguistic-cultural sphere; their Anglosphere affiliations are secondary, although often important commercially.) These consist of nations that use English as a governmental or commercial language and have significant local media in English, but use other languages in official communications, business, and media as well and identify themselves with another major world-civilization tradition. India, Pakistan, the Arab states formerly under British control, and the Islamic former colonies of Britain (Malaysia, African states) are all examples of such states. Israel is a special case, because it is the focal point of a wider relationship between the Jewish diaspora and the Anglosphere, but it probably fits better in this category than any other.

Periphery: States that use English as a language of wider communication. These include ones in which knowledge of English is widespread and English is the principal second language of the nation but is not official. These include Northern Europe, East Asia (particularly Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia), and northern Latin America. Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, and southern Latin America are moving in this direction as well, as French, German, and Russian lose their position as the principal second languages of those areas.

There are a number of differences between Mead's category of Anglo nation and my definition of the innermost sphere of the Anglosphere. The Republic of Ireland is one; its history places it in a unique relationship with the Anglosphere, both a destination (very anciently) and a source of Anglosphere immigration. Yet by the criteria set out in my book, it's hard to see how it can be excluded. As for military cooperation, that is a matter of perception of national interest, which changes over time. Yet it's important to note that fifty thousand citizens of southern Ireland volunteered for service with Allied forces in World War Two; perhaps several hundred aided the Axis.

Also important are the Anglo-Caribbean societies. All of these states retain substantial voluntary ties to the UK; all except Guyana have retained the House of Windsor as their head of state. None of these have anything but a small minority derived primarily from British Isles settlers. However, they are English-speaking, use the Common Law system, and share the other core characteristics. During the Falklands War they all firmly supported the United Kingdom diplomatically and in the United Nations. Although they are not Anglo genetically, they are unquestionably Anglosphere memetically.

Of the rest, there is a great deal of flux. As the Philippine commentator Dean Jorge Bococho observed

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of "Anglosphere Studies" is the idea that the Anglosphere is not at all a static thing, but like all scale-free networks like WWW, it is free to grow and evolve and conquer new territories in the broader lingosphere of the world -- as it always has in history.

At the time The Anglosphere Challenge was first drafted, for example, I felt comfortable in describing India as being in the outer sphere of the Anglosphere, primarily because of the strength of its indigenous civilizational tradition. Since then, accelerating events, such as India's movement toward a more assertive regional and international posture, its increasing security ties with America, and the ongoing shift in the sociology of English-language acquisition in India, I would feel comfortable moving it to the middle sphere.

The article referenced in the above link is also interesting in that it implies that India is at the knee of a curve just about to take off, in terms of English-language acquisition on the part of a majority of its population. Typically, when a phenomenon (such as use of a new technology, product, or service) begins to penetrate a population, there is a core of early adopters who form the initial critical mass of users. This often stabilizes for a period of time, with relatively few additional demographic segments joining it. But at some point conditions shift, and many more people find it useful (and eventually necessary) to adopt it. If you are old enough, you can remember the point at which you realized you had to get an email address. When enough people get to that point, that is takeoff.

What is changing in India is that the call-center and information-technology industries have come close to exhausting the supply of qualified English-speakers willing to work at salaries that permit the industries to be competitive internationally. Some of this work is being shifted to other countries with a surplus of qualified English-speakers; some such include Ghana and the Philippines. Another response (specifically, for the IT industry) is to increase the quality of the lower tiers of universities, who have not been able to turn out properly qualified candidates. But the third solution, and one that is inevitable over time, is to encourage the acquisition of English by social classes that until now have largely not had the motive or opportunity to do so. Steep adoption curves usually flatten out at about 80% penetration of the population, with the remainder joining very slowly after that.

Such a phenomenon will have a substantial impact on both India and the Anglosphere. It will shift the bulk of production of English-language media, especially new media, to India, and although much of this will neither be aimed at nor appeal to non-Indian audiences, the fraction that does will inevitably be large in absolute terms. If we see the percentage of English-speakers in India rise to 60-80% within the next generation or two, this will eventually result in a mass of at least 600-800 million English-speakers, which will substantially outnumber the 400-500 million we might see in the old core Anglosphere by that time.

Such a world cannot be described as an "assimilation" of India by the Anglosphere, but rather an Indo-Anglosphere fusion. (It hardly need be said that some long-term Anglosphere values, most particularly transparency and openness, must prevail in the fusion, or it will not take place, because India will fail to meet its potential, and the engine of fusion will falter and grand to a halt.) Added to this will be the inflow of several hundred million increasingly vocal English-speakers from the "Third Anglosphere" -- the Philippines, Anglophone Africa, and other parts of the world. We can already see some precursors of this phenomenon, such as the increasing importance of West and Southern African voices in the worldwide Anglican communion.

This is a different world (bearing in mind that it will unfold in conjunction with a wide variety of other substantial technological, social, and political changes). The current description of the Anglosphere, with its fairly traditional segmentation of spheres, will probably no longer be useful by that point. Exactly how the anatomy of the Anglosphere will be described then is far too problematic to speculate upon, outside of futurist fiction.

However, even for the present day, I believe it is clear that even though the bulk of the economic, political, and military action is centered in the core Anglosphere nations, and will be for some time to come, we must already think of the entire Anglosphere in our surveys and calculations. The core Anglosphere will continue to count for much, but increasingly the new parts will play their part. Although much of the Third Anglosphere lags well behind the core (or most developed nations) in areas like transparency and openness, it's interesting that they still seem to be, as a class, clearly ahead of non-Anglosphere developing nations, which suggests that 1. the Anglosphere advantage is transferable to nations with no "Anglo" settlement past, and 2. that the opportunity for further improvement exists.

I think the case is clear that there is a need for a conceptual and descriptive category of the set of societies sharing various parts and degrees of the structures and attitudes of the core English-speaking nations, and for defining those core nations as exactly that -- the core of a fuzzy but real phenomenon that will likely be a central player in the description of human affairs in this century.

And that phenomenon is the Anglosphere.


Posted by James C. Bennett at January 8, 2006 11:46 PM

Excellent update to the "Anglosphere Challenge"'s discussion of the concentric spheres. Focusing on effective common law administration (e.g., overcoming India's huge backlog of cases) may be a key shorthand for countries seeking to leverage the inherent benefits of the Anglosphere, sooner.

Posted by: james mccormick at January 9, 2006 02:38 PM

The nice thing about blogging is that it makes for good fodder (and material) for future books...

Posted by: Rand Simberg at January 9, 2006 06:31 PM

"Future books" -- hear, hear. Nudge, nudge, Jim.

Posted by: Lex at January 9, 2006 07:18 PM

Here's an even more interesting thing about India and call centres that I read in a Francophone Canadian newsalert:
Indian managers are concerned that they have a shortage of qualified French, German, Spanish and Russian speakers. According the the article, there's a gap of 400 000 speakers and teh Indian managers are scared that they lose out to other countries.
Already India is straining to meet the English language demands; so I find this trend of other languages to be just as interesting


Posted by: xavier at January 9, 2006 08:28 PM

They should be able to subcontract out Spanish work to Latin America, and French work to Francophone Africa. There probably aren't very many French spealers left in Pondicherry.

Maybe you could get low-wage Russian-speakers in the 'stans. But I'm not sure where you find low-wage German speakers. Are there any left in Namibia?

Posted by: Jim Bennett at January 9, 2006 09:22 PM

That's a fascinating article about the relative success of common law countries vs. civil law countries. Perhaps an Anglosphere Investment Fund is in order to leverage the differential? :-)

Posted by: Peter Saint-Andre at January 9, 2006 10:47 PM

The true Anglosphere countries are well-suited for world leadership in large part because they are mostly islands, and not terribly densely populated islands, and thus have had few territorial ambitions that bring them into direct conflict over lebesnraum with other powerful nations. In contrast, Germany has never been suited for international leadership because it sits in the middle of a vast plain with only the vaguest of natural boundaries.

In the 19th Century, the other Great Powers were reasonably content with British leadership because it lacked territorial ambitions on the Continent. Unfortunately, Disraeli's glorification of imperialism led to Great Power territorial rivalries over (as it turned out) almost worthless chunks of Africa, leading to increasing dissastisfaction with British primacy.

Similarly, the Gulf War of 1991 showed that the world was reasonably satisfied with American leadership as long as it appeared to care about the opinions of others, but America has managed to largely dissipate that happy state of affairs by its Mesopotamian Misadventure.

Posted by: Steve Sailer at January 13, 2006 08:01 PM

It may be that the reverse is true. That Mead is qualifying countries for membership of the Anglosphere on the basis of their success & "willingness to take an active role in maintaining international peace". Singapore being a excellent example. Would it qulaify if it was a rich as British Guiana?

We should also remember that the USSR was always willing to take an active role in maintaining international peace & we went to some lengths to dissuade them.

Posted by: Neil Craig at January 14, 2006 12:34 PM

Steve, the satisfaction with American leadership was short-lived, not because of particular changes in American action, but because of the money to be made from Iraq. I think may nations have the impulse to justice common to the Anglosphere, but self-interest gradually overwhelms this.

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