November 29, 2005

Cultural Dimensions

Culture is one of those nebulous terms that are hard to define. We know it when we see it, but we don't know how to describe it. Thankfully, Dutch theorist Geert Hofstede has been thinking about cultures for a long time and has formulated five dimensions along which to measure various cultures. They are as follows (quoting from his helpful website):

  1. Power Distance Index (PDI) focuses on the degree of equality, or inequality, between people in the country's society. A High Power Distance ranking indicates that inequalities of power and wealth have been allowed to grow within the society. These societies are more likely to follow a caste system that does not allow significant upward mobility of its citizens. A Low Power Distance ranking indicates the society de-emphasizes the differences between citizen's power and wealth. In these societies equality and opportunity for everyone is stressed.

  2. Individualism (IDV) focuses on the degree the society reinforces individual or collective achievement and interpersonal relationships. A High Individualism ranking indicates that individuality and individual rights are paramount within the society. Individuals in these societies may tend to form a larger number of looser relationships. A Low Individualism ranking typifies societies of a more collectivist nature with close ties between individuals. These cultures reinforce extended families and collectives where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group.

  3. Masculinity (MAS) focuses on the degree the society reinforces, or does not reinforce, the traditional masculine work role model of male achievement, control, and power. A High Masculinity ranking indicates the country experiences a high degree of gender differentiation. In these cultures, males dominate a significant portion of the society and power structure, with females being controlled by male domination. A Low Masculinity ranking indicates the country has a low level of differentiation and discrimination between genders. In these cultures, females are treated equally to males in all aspects of the society.

  4. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) focuses on the level of tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity within the society - i.e. unstructured situations. A High Uncertainty Avoidance ranking indicates the country has a low tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. This creates a rule-oriented society that institutes laws, rules, regulations, and controls in order to reduce the amount of uncertainty. A Low Uncertainty Avoidance ranking indicates the country has less concern about ambiguity and uncertainty and has more tolerance for a variety of opinions. This is reflected in a society that is less rule-oriented, more readily accepts change, and takes more and greater risks.

  5. Long-Term Orientation (LTO) focuses on the degree the society embraces, or does not embrace, long-term devotion to traditional, forward thinking values. High Long-Term Orientation ranking indicates the country prescribes to the values of long-term commitments and respect for tradition. This is thought to support a strong work ethic where long-term rewards are expected as a result of today's hard work. However, business may take longer to develop in this society, particularly for an "outsider". A Low Long-Term Orientation ranking indicates the country does not reinforce the concept of long-term, traditional orientation. In this culture, change can occur more rapidly as long-term traditions and commitments do not become impediments to change.

Not surprisingly, cultures or nations that we think of as similar in fact are so. For example, the core Anglosphere nations of America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK have extremely similar rankings: relatively low power distance, very high individualism, moderately high masculinity, low uncertainty avoidance, and very low long-term orientation. By contrast, France (and presumably other parts of the Francosphere) has high individualism but also high power distance and even higher uncertainty avoidance. China (and presumably other parts of the Sinosphere) has extremely high long-term orientation and power distance, extremely low individualism, middling masculinity, and lowish uncertainty avoidance. Spain, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and other nations of the Hispanosphere tend to have very high uncertainty avoidance, moderately high power distance, relatively low individualism, and middling masculinity (Portugal and Brazil -- the Lusosphere -- are similar). The other nations of northwestern Europe (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands) share with the Anglosphere high individualism and low power distance but are much lower on masculinity. Places that are sometimes said to have similarities to the core Anglosphere nations may not be as close as some think: India has much higher power distance, much lower individualism, and much higher long-term orientation, the Philippines much higher power distance, much lower individualism, and much lower uncertainty avoidance, whereas Ireland and even South Africa are more similar to the core Anglosphere nations on these dimensions.

(Cross-posted at one small voice.)

Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at 10:08 PM | Comments (22)

A Clarification About Academic Authority for the Anglosphere Model

A few quick points in response to Jim's post.

There is a problem with doing all this on an amateur basis on a blog. Because you must be brief, you must encapsulate large ideas in a brief compass, and use short-hand. This leaves one open to the reasonable response that you are being simplistic. So, from time to time it is necessary to elaborate.

One key example is the frequent invocation of Alan Macfarlane, who is something of a demi-god amongst us. But, taking nothing away from his excellent books, this repeted use of his name is about more than Macfarlane-all-by-himself. Referring to him in this setting is also a marker for an entire body of scholarship which he is helping to revive, about how to look at English legal, political, economic and cultural history. If he were a solo act, I agree this would be flimsy-looking. He is not. He is to a large degree a revivalist, as he says himself, who is restoring to us a body of thinking that is associated with F.W.Maitland, A.V. Dicey, Hallam, Stubbs, Charles McIlwain, Helen Cam, even Hayek (see e.g. Capitalism and the Historians) and many others. Campbell's Anglo-Saxon State is a collection of essays which is taking a similar stance and re-raising ideas about English exceptionalism which went out of style but were never disproved, and which are in fact correct -- so I say.

I'll also add that the arguments of the sort that David Hackett Fischer makes are perhaps controversial in academia. The idea of strongly continuous cultures lasting for centuries and having all kinds of practical implications could never be a P.C. position. However, in the non-academic world where people who fail to show results get fired, his type of analysis is not controversial at all. People who do political consulting know perfectly that the kinds of factors which Fischer talks about are reasonably strong predictors of various behaviors, including voting behavior. People who do product marketing look at similar things. Culture is real, and to some degree, usable and measurable.

Finally, the notion that the Anglo-Saxon world is a sub-civilization within the West should not be that hard to accept. The French, our closest neighbors and oldest enemies, have always believed this. Also, look at Rene David's classic book on comparative law. He is a Frenchman, and he sees the world divided into two models -- Common Law and Roman Law. He nods toward the then-existing Communist bloc, and has a few pages each on Islam and China, but he mainly divides the world up into two European-derived blocs. He correctly sees that the fundamental nature of the regimes established under these two legal systems are very different and, in a feedback loop, shape and are shaped by very different underlying cultures.

It is not really a matter of making an icon out of Prof. Macfarlane or Prof. Fischer and asking people to worship them. It is a matter of assembling and taking a fresh look at a very large body of material which is already out there, some of it very much out of fashion, and seeing how well it explains the world compared to other models which are more current and popular.

Finally, while the history is interesting in itself, the point of it all for this discussion is to better understand the present and to equip ourselves better for the future, not mere antiquarianism.

Posted by Lexington Green at 10:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 28, 2005

SATIRE: Secret Weapon of the Anglosphere, D&D Edition

To its detractors, the Anglosphere concept is the white geek version of political Dungeons and Dragons. Something retro, surreal, and darned dangerous if it weren't so totally loopy. In a spirit of contribution to that perspective, let me humbly submit The Secret Weapon of the Anglosphere, applicable wherever twelve-sided dice are sold.

First, some design constraints:

1. The weapon cannot depend on any specific racial or genetic heritage ... because the Anglosphere now contains a greater genetic and racial variety of men and women than anywhere else on earth.

2. The weapon cannot depend on the inherent goodness of Anglosphereans ... because a major school of historical thought believes that Anglosphere success is dependent on the inherent evil of its occupants.

3. The weapon cannot depend on the inherent evil of Anglosphereans ... because a different school of history thinks that Anglosphere success is based on the morality and generosity of its occupants.

4. The weapon cannot depend on geography or local conditions … because the Anglosphere began on the edge of a large island but now spans the globe.

5. The weapon cannot depend on vast populations … because for much of its history, the Anglosphere didn’t have the large populations of its enemies and competitors.

6. The weapon cannot depend on a rigid social hierarchy – either class or caste system … because social mobility has always had some role in the Anglosphere.

7. The weapon cannot depend on a centralized economic-political-religious government … because conflict between these social elements have been a part of Anglosphere history since post-Roman times.

8. The weapon cannot depend on a hard-achieved literacy linked to the apprenticed interpretation of unchanging texts … because the Anglosphere common law didn’t accommodate such scholarship.

9. The weapon cannot depend on good times and/or bad times ... because yet another school of historians feels the Anglosphere was successful only because it was lucky and/or had good timing and/or got there “fustest with the mostest”, while a European branch of history suggests that only the "rat ranch" quality of Anglo-Saxon culture explains its current prosperity.

10. The weapon cannot depend on long years of expertise. Mastery of the weapon must be easily learned through mimicry and executed in ordinary day-to-day life ... because the Anglosphere encourages immigration, and language skills and elite lifestyle can't be guaranteed for every new immigrant. Practice should bring incremental improvement though.

11. The weapon cannot make sense. It must be counter-intuitive ... so that it cannot be given away by people who live in (but hate) the Anglosphere, and it cannot be stolen by other cultural spheres that are jealous of the Anglosphere.

12. The weapon cannot be effective in the hands of smart people working by themselves ... because the Anglosphere is way behind in the creation of dirigiste society and is wary of elites.

So. User- and location- independence, ease-of-use, luck-indifferent, totally secure, decentralized, and communal/non-elite. A rather narrow foundation for a secret weapon but a clear start nonetheless.

Now for some weapon attributes:

A. The weapon must let you bootstrap ... 'cause when the genie offers three wishes, first ask for more wishes. Exponential increases can be handy.

B. The weapon must offer synergy between guns and butter ... the more prosperity you have, the more prosperity you can forcibly keep. Lots of hit points.

C. The weapon must reward vigilance for objective truth ... tell a lie about the nonhuman world, diminish the value of the weapon.

D. The weapon must reward diverse and individual opinion ... because the Anglosphere has the most cantankerous, fervent, independent, opinionated group of cranks on the planet. Might as well put the bastards to work.

E. The weapon must reward open though imperfect communication, and reflect an instinctive human sense of what's fair ... because it must be easy to learn (see #10), not too fragile (see #9) and communally operated (see #12).

F. The weapon must work well when everyone's confused ... because that pretty much describes the 21st century ... or any century, if you're paying close attention. Operation in Singularities will be considered a bonus.

G. The weapon must work well over time, as opposed perfectly at any predictable time ... because it should never be susceptible to effective but temporary co-option by one person or a small group (see #12) plus it has to stay counter-intuitive (see #11)

H. The weapon should reward habitual practice … (see #10)

I. The weapon should throw Anglosphere enemies into frothing incoherent madness ... not a necessary feature, actually, but a potentially satisfying bug.

Having laid out my constraints and spec list for a Secret Weapon of the Anglosphere, many of you will have already guessed: The Weapon exists. The Weapon has been used relentlessly for centuries. We own the Weapon. And incidentally, “All your base are belong to us.”

In an upcoming post, “The Big Book of the Secret Weapon of the Anglosphere Revealed. Necessary and Sufficient Cause for Total World Domination Identified.”, all will be made clear, and those who didn't help pay for pizza during the last round will be confronted and cast into Outer Darkness.

Posted by jmccormick at 05:00 PM | Comments (6)

WW0@1892 Book Review: G. Parkin’s Imperial Federation

Imperial Federation: The Problem of National Unity
George A. Parkin Biography here
MacMillan & Co.
London/New York 1892 314pp no index


725K MS-Word E-book Download file

"Commercial and Strategic Chart of the British Empire"
817K .JPG map 85% of original size Download file
Full-size 1.3meg .JPG of chart available from me upon request.

Note: This substantial book review is meant to give blog readers a solid sense of the book, for those without the time to download and read the entire e-book.

As the 19th century concluded, it became clear that the United Kingdom would not be in a position to both fully capitalize and protect its various colonies in the face of all antagonists. The larger of the colonies, the dominions, were rapidly reaching a level of development and industrialization where self-governance was expedient. Canada confederated in 1867 and continued to expand westward, forming new provinces into the 20th century. Australia federated in 1901 and South Africa in 1910.

In 1884, a movement began in England to federate the empire, much as Canada had recently confederated. The United States and Canada were concrete examples of how vast territories could be effectively managed while maintaining a central representative authority. Branches of the Imperial Federation League spread throughout the Empire, with a large branch forming in 1887 in Toronto in response to an American initiative for Commercial Union between the US and Canada.

George Parkin was a New Brunswick educator sponsored on an Empire-wide speaking tour in 1889 to promote Imperial Federation. On his return he wrote both about his tour (Round the Empire, 1893) and about the core principles of imperial federation in this book, informed by his experiences in England and each of the major colonies. Shortly thereafter he became headmaster of Canada's most prestigious private school for boys - Upper Canada College. Leaving there in 1902, he became the organizing representative for the Rhodes Scholarship. He was knighted (KCMG) in 1920 and died in London in 1922. His round-the-world trip must certainly place him apart from most geopolitical commentators of the day.

As might be hoped from a headmaster, Parkin's book reads very clearly. It's written in the style of the time, occasionally stilted and overly ornate to modern eyes. Unfortunately it also reflects the internal politics of the Imperial Federation League, at least as far as I can determine. The book has a tendency to ramble off on topics that are interesting but not central to the imperial federation argument. The contrast with Dos Passos (the American corporate lawyer writing in 1903) in The AngloSaxon Century is marked. One wonders if Parkin’s tangents were to avoid goring favoured oxen, or perhaps an attempt to present a balanced discussion of topics that were very much in debate within the League. The book was written ten years before Dos Passos' AngloSaxon Century and twenty years before Kennedy's Pan-Angles. It therefore contains no reference to the Boer War, the Spanish-American War, the Panama Canal, or much in the way of the urgent British security concerns of the early 20th century. There is next to nothing about the "radicalism" that was to be the political watchword of the 20th century.

It is, essentially, the economic case for federating the various colonies of the British Empire, answering the most common arguments against such federation without offering too much detail in the specifics of legislative structure or representation. Such specifics were better left to the concerned parties themselves. And it was seen that the federation (on the horizon) of the larger self-governing colonies would be the logical trigger for discussions of an imperial federation.

The table of contents reveals this geographical focus:

The United Kingdom
French Canada
Mr. Goldwin Smith (biography:
Australia. Tasmania. New Zealand.
South Africa. The West Indies.
An American View
Trade and Fiscal Policy
Plans. Conclusions.
Commercial and Strategic Chart of the British Empire [see hyperlink above]

The two odd-men-out are the chapters on Goldwin Smith and "An American View". Goldwin Smith was a English commentator, living in Canada, who was convinced that the destiny of Canada was in joining the United States. For the latter decades of the 19th century he was a burr under the saddle of both Canadians and Brits who had contrary views. And the focus of the American View chapter is Andrew Carnegie, who had written a very self-serving article in 1891 about Imperial Federation that denigrated the concept with an argument based on rather shaky assertions. These two diversions from Parkin's argument suggest necessary, but rather ad hoc, arguments. At the time that Parkin was writing, the rapprochement between the US and the British Empire was some years in the future so any suggestion that Canada was better off as part of the United States was a serious affront to imperial federation, especially when Canada was the only colony of the time that had a federated system.

The introductory section of Imperial Federation sets the stage for the state of the British Empire in 1892. It is a story of substantial growth and change during the late 19th century, with the success of Canadian confederation in 1867 generally acknowledged. Apart from the revolutionary changes of 1776, the model for the development of the British Empire was evolution, and friendly relations between the nation of the United Kingdom and its far-flung colonies. In this setting, Parkin asks "The nation-building energy of her people remained unimpaired, and though one group of colonies [US] had been lost, others, extending over areas far more extensive, were soon gained. Under new principles of government these were acquired, not to be lost, but retained as they have been up to the present time. Is that retention to be permanent? Is it desirable? Can the colonies be brought, and ought they to be brought, not merely into friendly relations, but into organic harmony with the national system? Has our capacity for political organization reached its utmost limit?"

He continues: "For British people this is the question of questions. In the whole range of possible political variation in the future there is no issue of such far-reaching significance, not merely for our own people but for the world at large, as the question whether the British Empire shall remain a political unit for all national purposes, or, yielding to disintegrating forces, shall allow the stream of the national life to be parted into many separate channels."

In an earlier era, a focus on Free Trade, and setting colonies free dominated elite political thinking. The exemplar was the United States, a rebellious colony but now a prosperous trading and investment partner. By the late 1800s, that "turn 'em loose" attitude no longer held sway amongst the educated class in the British Empire. International tariffs and the rapidly expanding trade between the United Kingdom and its large colonies had altered the economic realities. The mother country was now profoundly dependent on its largest colonies for food and raw materials, and on colonial customers for its manufactured goods. An earlier British model of the 1860s which saw a methodical transition to complete independence for the colonies now seemed to threaten the security of colonies and the economic viability of Great Britain. The British Empire was now profoundly global, and with the advent of the telegraph and the steam ship, direct rule and intervention were increasingly possible. Great Britain was bumping up against its European competitors in every corner of the globe.

Parkin lists the extraordinary changes of the last half of the 19th century which steered leading public thinkers away from setting colonies on their own: "the extension of commercial and industrial relations, the growth of common interests, the increased facility for communication, above all, the retention in the colonies, under their new systems of free government, of a strong national [i.e., British] sentiment, and the absence of the anticipated desire to break the national connection, have thrown new light upon the whole question." We may take the avowed "sentiment" with a modest grain of salt -- since there were parties throughout the Empire with a fervent desire to see the end of British influence. But the growth of economic interests and the sustained cultural ties supported by improved communication were undeniable.

While Parkin notes that representative government has been the hallmark of British political philosophy, it was also clear at the time that he was writing that Great Britain was taking on far more responsibility for its colonies than pure economics and political interest would demand. "It requires little argument to prove that the anomaly of leaving one part of a nation to bear a disproportionate share of the burdens of the whole is as inconsistent with Anglo-Saxon ideas of government as the exclusion of the colonies from a proportionate voice in the conduct of national affairs."

This, then, was the quandary of the Empire at the end of the 19th century. Huge, increasingly prosperous, and with large colonies on the verge of self-government ... how was the empire to more equitably share the benefits of representative government, and the burdens and responsibilities of global trade and security? It's a question not so foreign to our own time.

Parkin then begins his exposition on the increasing strength of the ties between the "mother-land" and the colonies while at the same time commenting on the relentless colonial trend toward national federation. Imperial federation is held out as simply one more level of federation, entirely feasible and achievable within the traditions of Great Britain, once the various colonies have reached their national federative state.

Moving on from his substantial Introduction, Parkin considers the essence of federation: "[the] central internal fact, then, which must soon bring about a decisive change in our system of national organization is the necessity that British people in all parts of the Empire should have, if they are to remain together and so far as circumstances permit, full and equal privileges of self-government and citizenship."

From the perspective of the colonies, this meant better representation in imperial decision-making, including Privy Council legal decisions, and from the perspective of Great Britain, this meant more equitable participation in common security and the consular structure created around the world for British trade. The most dramatic model on offer was the United States ... vast in scale and able to expand methodically, capable of accommodating substantial differences in the size and circumstances of the States, able to provide for common defence, and with safeguards for its smaller members built into its federal structure.

Parkin was confident that the burgeoning improvement in communication ... the appearance of telegraph and steam ship ... were the practical tools by which an imperial federation could be bound, just as America was bound first by roads, then canals and railways. The trend of economy and science was therefore in favour of a global federation. Parkin was not above drawing on concepts such as sentiment and honour to validate self-interest, however he is particularly strong in pointing out where practical financial interests for ordinary colonial citizens lent themselves to an imperial federation. The tension, of course, is between the efficiency of centralized control (e.g. security) and the natural aspirations of the colonies to have a say in how their contributions were deployed. As would be seen in Canada, it was colonial concern not be drawn into imperial ambitions that led to much divisiveness.

For Parkin: "If we really have faith in our own social and Christian progress as a nation; if we believe that our race, on the whole, and in spite of many failures, can be trusted better than others, to use power with moderation, self-restraint, and a deep sense of moral responsibility; if we believe that the wide area of our possessions may be made a solid factor in the world's politics, which will always throw the weight of its influence on the side of righteous peace, then it cannot be inconsistent with devotion to all the highest interests of humanity to wish and strive for a consolidation of British power."

In the imperial federative system, the monarch provided a well-established head-of-state, avoiding the thorny debates on the topic in the early United States. The roadmap to federation seemed to have all the building blocks in place. The fact that colonies were in different stages of economic and political development might be seen as a hindrance to federation but Parkin points out that the Canadian and American federations offered substantial historical examples of neighbouring territories gradually developing until they were ready to join the federation. Why not the same for an Imperial Federation?

For Parkin, federation was a step toward greater opportunity and responsibility, not a surrender of rights: "In the minds of some colonists and more Englishmen I have found a belief, or rather a suspicion, that any closer union than at present exists could only be effected by taking away from the colonies some of the self-governing powers which they now possess." This, he felt, was based on a mistaken assumption about how independent they really were ... how much they contributed to their own security, capitalization and development. The question was whether the broader responsibilities were to be dealt with individually by the colonies or in partnership with other parts of the British Empire. "It has been said that all great movements which affect the condition of peoples are originated and carried forward by the combination of two forces: the force of conviction, which comes from reason, and the force of enthusiasm, which is born of sentiment." For Parkin, the sources of colonial sentiment could only come from the literary and cultural heritage which they drew from Great Britain.

Turning to Defence, Parkin extrapolates from the geopolitical realities already established by Sir Charles Dilke (Problems of Greater Britain, 1890) and J.R. Seeley (Expansion of England, 1883). These authors saw the colonies as the sources of great resources but poorly organized. The fall of Great Britain would place them all in jeopardy. In the famous words of Seeley in 1882, "[w]e seem, as it were, to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind”. Parkin notes that the defence of common interests is the primary bond for federations and sets about illustrating what those interests were. In contrast to the United States, the British Empire was a maritime establishment, placing 1.2 billion pounds value of commerce on the oceans each year, even in the 1890s. Of that, 740 million originated in the UK and 460 in the colonies. For such a system, the isolation of the colonies was no protection from danger. Security would come from sea power, fortified coaling stations, and strong regional presence. As Parkin notes, for Great Britain's competitors, the challenge was to either seize or duplicate the worldwide staging areas for naval power. That Great Britain already controlled the "chokepoints" (evidenced in the map which Parkin attached to his book) was clear ... Cape Town, Suez, the West Indies, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia. British and colonial trade was made effective and safe and inexpensive by its global protection. British annual expenditure on ports, armaments and ships was roughly 14 million pounds, a fraction of the value of the trade which it protected. Nonetheless, Parkin noted that the colonies contributed hardly anything to that cost while reaping millions in trade benefits.

This sticking point on "who pays" was a theme in colonial affairs long after Parkin but the general arguments were clear. The federalists wanted a balance between rights and participation. The colonial governments considered that since they shouldered the burdens of development (e.g. the Canadian transcontinental railway), their contribution to the empire was maximized through internal development of marketable resources, and as needed, local defence. Since British capital flowed overwhelmingly to its English-speaking colonies, any halt in internal development to share in defence expenditures would come at the expense of growth and infrastructure of the colony. Colonial trade to mother country trade was in the ratio of four to seven. At a future date, when the balance was more equal, and the basics of civilization were in place, the colonies could share the burden better. From the British side, half the population and trade being required to bear all security costs was not very appealing. For many reasons, some of which may relate to "absence of mind" the British colonies were never required to bear or ultimately compensate Great Britain for their security. British colonies spent minimally on armaments and military development in comparison to colonies or newly independent nations created by other European nations.

Arguments about the colonies being entangled in British imperial adventures were made often and early by authors such as Goldwin Smith but Parkin countered that the 19th century was notable for how little entanglement there was. From the time of the War of 1812 til that of his publication (1892), the only foreign war of note was in Crimea and in that the colonies such as Canada made money but had virtually no other involvement apart from Canadians who had long before joined the British military.

British commentators such as Lord Thring thought that some basis for independence in colonial armies and navies was possible but that they should be formed to allow merging into the imperial army and navy as occasion should demand. And Sir Charles Dilke was adamant that a military under common direction was critical. As history would show during the Boer War, and the two world wars, finding the balance between colonial and British control of colonial troops was fraught with problems. Ultimately, nations that could field large contingents were able to maintain some professional control over their troops. Political interference, especially in the First World War, was to cost the lives of many Canadian troops in particular.

Parkin noted that the "entanglements" that so bothered colonials were likely a matter for the past rather than the future. In fact, the bulk of British engagements and negotiations in the 19th century were in response to the demands of protecting colonial rights. Irritation with European powers was often triggered by British colonies. At one time or another, the British were engaged in negotiations with the United States, France, Germany and Portugal ... with no direct benefit to themselves. Colonial complaints about the national debt which Great Britain assumed in maintaining its forces ignored the great benefits and gain which Britain received in the growth of the imperial economy. Dilke's 1890 book argued passionately that it was imperial carelessness to not balance defence better.

Having set the general terms of federation and defence, Parkin turns to a geographic review of the economic and social realities of Great Britain and each of the colonies.

His section on Great Britain is an extended review of the scale and scope of the British economy. To an unprecedented degree, Britain was being fed and supplied with raw materials from its overseas colonies. Like a modern-day globalist, Parkin notes the manufacturing centres of the United Kingdom that could not last for more than a few months without regular supplies of wool from Australia, jute from India, and timber, wheat or live beef from Canada. Similarly, the growing colonies provided the demand for manufactured goods that kept British factories busy.

Turning to Canada, the experience of twenty plus years of confederation was very positive. With the completion of the Canadian transcontinental railway (1885) Canada was now a geopolitical lynchpin with Atlantic and Pacific interests. Australasia and the Asian ports were immediately affected. Transiting troops by railway reduced the England to Asia travel time from 40 days to 21 days. As to the appetite for union with the United States, Parkin makes much of the Loyalist origins and appetites of many of its citizens. Because of anti-British sentiment in the United States, Canada could be said to be as close to the US as to Britain in most ways. Parkin also contrasts the nature of US immigration which made it less connected to British origins, and to the very different way in which it dealt with the exploration and settlement of the West. The contrast with Canada was notable and Parkin could hardly imagine that Canadians would want to join the US only to have to fight Britain at some future unfortunate date. Parkin concludes that the US is a continental power and self-sufficient while Britain is a maritime power and dependent on trade with its colonies for prosperity. While Canada-US trade was substantial in some products (timber, fish, coal), in wheat (the great driver of western Canadian development) trade with Great Britain was growing dramatically. On balance then, Parkin felt that Canada was both beneficial, and predisposed, to Britain.

In the case of French Canada, which Parkin treats in a separate chapter, he emphasizes a general tranquility in the region, with no love lost for either the United States or France, quoting Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier's typically vague statements in support. Parkin points out that French rights in religion and law are guaranteed by British and Canadian agreements. Without that support, their culture would likely go the way of Louisiana. Quebec nationalism, then in its infancy, makes only a minor appearance in the book, as a cultural oddity. It is worth remembering that the Montreal cultural and business establishment was still very much dominated by the English at this period.

Turning to Australia, the issue of federation was still an open question for the various Australian colonies. The activities of France and Germany in the southwest Pacific were a security concern, as was the Dutch colony of Indonesia. Australian resistance to any Chinese immigration was a future irritant to relations with mainland Asia. An Australia which opted for full independence would be very much at the mercy of other European naval powers, directly or indirectly. Australian security and trade ties were already well-established to India and the Cape Colony, to Hong Kong and Singapore, to Canada, and within the foreseeable future to a Panama Canal. For a trading nation like Australia, Parkin noted that isolation was no protection, and an effective self-defence would not eliminate economic calamity ... the example of the US during the War of 1812 was a case in point. Australia was tied to the ocean and to trade. Severing its overseas ties was not like a previous break between the US and Great Britain. There were no new great lands to claim and settle. Now disruption in trade would lead to slower growth and immigration. With British control of the oceans, Australian federation and then a broader imperial union would better emphasize the practical and emotional ties between the two. Wool, food and horses were already major trade goods. Massive ore mines in Australia provided even more opportunity for investment and economic growth within the imperial system. Parkin, during his visits to the Australian colonies, found his audiences over-confident through their good fortune. They little knew nor understood the degree to which their country depended on foreign trade and British naval supremacy for that fortune. For neighbouring Tasmania, the appetite for imperial federation was stronger because it was both more remote and less well-defended. It could easily be turned into a Gilbraltar of the South Seas if seized by some other European power.

In New Zealand, Parkin met a greater awareness of the need for better security and of the growing importance of direct trade with Great Britain (70% of exports) and the other large colonies. New Zealanders was concerned that the Australian appetite for independence would lead to New Zealand's separation from the empire. In a sense, New Zealand was a Britain in the South Seas and from a military standpoint, the estrangement of Australia from the British empire would not be irredeemable if New Zealand maintained its ties.

For South Africa, the issue of broad concern was the level of non-British descent in the colony. The strategic importance of South Africa was clear to all. If the Suez should be threatened, then British trade to India and the Pacific (roughly 150 to 200 million pounds in value annually) would depend on safe harbours at the Cape. As it was, 90 million pounds of seaborne trade were passing the Cape each year. South Africans were therefore more open to tariff ties to the empire. Bordered as they were by Portuguese and German dependencies, with the French in Madagascar, with native populations and "Dutch republics" that were only barely on friendly terms, South Africans were aware of their need for more capital, more development, and a stable security situation.

Parkin notes that the West Indies were the hardest-won of the colonies but had been left behind as its economic importance as a source of sugar dwindled. The Panama Canal would affect the role of the West Indian colonies, as would a better network of British-only telegraphy lines but this area was less likely to reach self-governance and national consolidation in the near future.

As for India, Goldwin Smith put the question of imperial federation pointedly "But above all, what is to be done with India?" For Parkin, the answer was twofold ... trade between Great Britain and India was larger than any other trade link other than that of Great Britain and the US (some 100 million pounds annually at the time). In geo-strategic terms, Russian control of India would place Great Britain's Pacific colonies in jeopardy. Nonetheless, Parkin granted the great paradox ... how could the United Kingdom rule over hundreds of millions who were without representation? For him, the paradox was no greater under a federation than under the arrangements of the 1890s. The government in India was both effective for Indians and financially independent of the British Parliament. Its fiscal system was separate and whatever changes that would take place in its Crown colony status could occur without affecting any imperial federal system. That might mean "no change" or it might mean something else. Either way, it was no cause to delay a federal system across the dominions of the Empire.

At this point in the book, Parkin spends a chapter to look at "An American View" ... which turns out mostly to be a critical review of an Andrew Carnegie article on imperial federation. To quote: "Working out on separate and yet parallel lines the great problems of liberty and of civil and religious progress, the United States and the British Empire have the strongest reasons for sympathizing with each other's efforts to consolidate and perfect the national machinery by which their aims are to be accomplished. English people now understand and respect the motives which actuated the resolute and successful struggle of the people of the United States against disruption. That Americans should understand the necessity which exists for maintaining the integrity of the Empire and the principles on which it is sought to maintain it, is most desirable. They are not likely to learn them from Mr. Carnegie."

Carnegie's article from 1891 seems almost devilish in its denigration of imperial federation, using arguments which would be just as applicable to the federal aspirations of a young United States were they not so clearly wrong. Parkin responds rather vehemently to Carnegie's cherry-picking, pointing out that as a global and maritime empire, Britain has different priorities and different tools for economic growth than continental United States. American affronts at British tariffs are seen as a tarred pot calling the slightly scuffed kettle black. And Carnegie didn't endear himself by quoting a Monsieur Mercier on the loyalties of Quebec or Goldwin Smith on the sentiments and capabilities of Canadians. Parkin found it useful to quote Alfred Mahan back at Carnegie regarding the role of sea power in national greatness!

Parkin then turns to chapters on Finance, and Trade and Fiscal policy -- material that is both interesting and suddenly tentative. He makes the case again in summary about the economic importance of trade and its growth in the British Empire. Public loans and debt are matched in equal part by the inexpensive private loans which underpin colonial growth. Then he gets sidelined by a discussion of whether free trade (adopted in 1846 by Britain) or protectionism are more effective in reducing prices and increasing economic activity. Since the British colonial system had no unified monetary or fiscal policy, it was entirely possible for different colonies to institute their own responses to economic conditions. The United States was not above playing off its own markets against Britain's if Canadians would establish preferential rates. While Parkin knew finance policies were obviously central to a imperial federal scheme, economic knowledge of the time was uncertain on a course of action. It's entirely possible that Parkin's tour sponsors were similarly conflicted. For his part, he notes that "Dependence on sources of food supply outside the Empire is still so great that any change of policy would be thought to involve great risk and anxiety. Though a few years of strenuous effort would doubtless make the Empire self-sufficing in the matter of food, still those few years of transition would be a critical period. Clear thinkers outside of the United Kingdom recognize this." In other words, when the British colonies could completely supply British food and raw material needs, the question of free trade or protectionism (especially vis-a-vis the United States) could be thoroughly addressed.

In any event, as Parkin notes: "The wealth created by either [economic approach] must be defended, and with the least possible burden on the individual community. A common system of defence therefore seems of itself a sufficient justification for close political union. This is a permanent condition."

The concluding chapter of Imperial Federation -- Plans. Conclusion. -- finds Parkin spending some time discussing the difficulties of making federative changes. Some critics want more specifics, others rebel at any detail that is suggested. And the experience of both the United States and Canada was that endless debate and ultimate compromise was necessary to make anything happen. In both cases, years of general discussion were necessary before the details were worked out by bodies of representatives and wise statesmen. Why should Imperial Federation be any different, Parkin asks. Australia was right in the middle of such a messy proposition. And the European examples of Italy and Germany provided further example of how challenging the process must be. For Parkin, open discussion followed by negotiation of specifics by those with public mandates was the way forward. He saw two ways forward to union: a "great act of constructive statesmanship" or "a great struggle for national safety or national existence." Yet a third was "a policy of gradual but steady adaptation of existing national machinery to the new work which must be done." Dramatic or routine, George Parkin saw the move toward federation a necessary accommodation to the huge range of decisions which had to be made in the Empire, some local, some literally global. Colonial or Imperial Conferences and tinkering with the composition of the Privy Council were both seen as first acceptable steps that could be made by the gradualists.

Other agendas suggested by Parkin included reducing the cost of telegraphic and postal communications, rationalizing the judicial committee of the Privy Council (then the final court of appeal for the Empire), improved education of the public on the subject, and the involvement of chambers of commerce, workingmen's clubs, the press and schools. The "problem of British unity" was the "business of all."

What to make of the Imperial Federation argument after hundreds of pages? The economic and military arguments were compelling from a British perspective. But the whole argument smacks of the kitchen table discussion over when the adolescent kids should stop getting an allowance and start paying rent. In the absence of external threat, or British assertiveness, there was no momentum to shift the burden of foreign affairs and adequate security to the colonies or dominions. They were growing economic giants, supporting the prosperity of the "mother-land," and as long as money was being made in trade and banking, worried diplomats, generals, and admirals were going to hold little sway.

All the antagonisms which George Parkin met during his round-the-world Empire tour of 1889 were to be wheeled out with a vengeance during the political debates of the succeeding half-century. The increasing threat to the British Empire, culminating in the existential threat of World War II, did finally bring the dominions and Great Britain together ... haphazardly at first and then with greater effect. The effort however did take fifty years, and a crisis and left the Empire, and dreams of Imperial Federation badly broken. The United States emerged from the Spanish-American War just a few years later as *a* dominant power and from the Second World War as *the* dominant power. The U.S. made little effort on behalf of, and had little sympathy for, the British Empire. The collaborative efforts of the United Nations during the 1950s and 1960s, and the formation of the Commonwealth, were to gather many of the federative aspirations of the late 1800s into very different structures.

Political union of the English-speaking peoples is still being imagined (cf. Appendix B of Robert Conquest's latest book -- The Dragons of Expectation) but its heyday, in retrospect, seems to been the last decade of the 19th century ... when a middle-aged George Parkin could travel the British Empire in comfort and give speeches to far-flung peoples who still seemed part of one "nation."

Knowing what we do now about the behind-the-scenes discussions in the British government about managing the defence of the Empire and the relationship with the United States, we can read George Parkin's book with benefit but also with an understanding that Britain had no real answer to the growing dynamism of the United States. Within four years of Imperial Federation's publication, the Spanish-American War was to recast America as a global power. And within a decade, the US had become the de facto hegemon of the Americas, with very quiet imperial government acquiescence.

Posted by jmccormick at 04:33 PM | Comments (1)

The Origins of the Anglosphere Perspective

David Billington remarks in comments to Lex's earlier post:

But the historical argument for the Anglosphere is a frankly sweeping view of the past that draws on only a handful of sources. These appear to be full of interesting insight. But how they are handled matters. Reviewers of Macfarlane who are experts on the Middle Ages have praised and criticized his work. Yet Macfarlane is cited in Anglosphere arguments as an expert witness to make a case. The case may be strong but other historians might view this use of history with caution.

David has brought up an important point. I am quite aware that Alan Macfarlane is not a representative of a mainstream consensus among historians, although he is not the historian's equivalent of a Velikovsky, either. Personally, I see him as the equivalent of the early proponents of plate tectonics in geology -- making a plausible case, but not yet accepted by all or even most of his colleagues. Oh, well, historiography, like science, advances funeral by funeral.

And as with continental drift, even before the experts are done squabbling, you can look at the problem, see the overall patterns, and make some reasonable judgements. You can look at Africa and South America on the globe and say "Damn it, they fit!" Just so, if you have been dealing with the issues of English-speaking exceptionalism, you can look at Macfarlane's work, and now James Campbell's even before it, and say "damn it, it fits!"

If I had derived the Anglosphere perspective from Macfarlane's work, a reliance on a small number of opinions not generally accepted by their colleagues would indeed make me nervous. But the Anglosphere perspective is not a foundationalist approach to understanding the questions it deals with, and it does not rest on the validity of Macfarlane's work. In fact, the first publication manuscript of The Anglosphere Challenge was finished before I had heard of Macfarlane's work. In rereading Claudio Véliz's The Gothic Fox in the New World, I came across a footnote reference to Macfarlane's The Origins of English Individualism, and promptly realized that the roots of Anglosphere exceptionalism might be far deeper than I had been assuming. I also realized, with mixed excitement and dismay, that I would have to rewrite the whole damned manuscript.

The Anglosphere perspective did not come out of a study of history, but rather a gradually growing perception of the current fact of Anglosphere exceptionalism in politics, economics, and culture.

Far from being a triumphalist explanation of Anglosphere success, it began as a search for an explanation for an Anglosphere failure, specifically the remarkably persistent inability of Anglosphere nations to conduct industrial policy successfully. I became interested in this during my heavy involvement in the policy issues at the takeoff of the US private space launch industry, where various industrial-policy approaches were being advocated and debated, and through my involvement on the Board of what is today the Foresight Nanotech Institute. I became interested first in the question of why British industrial policy in the aerospace industry had in general been so disastrous from the postwar period onward, despite the fact that British aerospace design was in many cases brilliant.

I came to the conclusion (to make a long story short, the long story being published here) that socio-cultural considerations had much to do with the relative success of industrial-policy approaches in Continental European and other cultures, and with their failure in Britian and Canada, and that these factors were probably predictors of the failure of industrial-policy approaches if attempted in the United States.

These tentative conclusions came as a surprise to me. I had been a kind of reflexive Turnerian and Correllian, and had expected to see a degenerate, aristocratic Britain somewhere closer to its European neighbors and further from its vigorous, frontier-selected American offspring. However, the similarities seemed to be more significantt than the differences.

Then I ran across David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed (from which the name of this blog is derived, of course) and it was an immediate revelation. Fischer, in my opinion, gutted Turner like a fresh-caught trout, and re-opened the apreciation of the deep underlying connections between British Isles and American cuture that Founding Fathers like Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams had taken for granted. In this regard, Fischer allows us to return to the roots of the American founding, as does Macfarlane's revindication of Montesquieu (and therefore Jefferson) in Riddle of the Modern World.

Interestingly enough, Fischer is as important in bringing to proper attention the differences between different regions of America as he is in reaffirming the continuity between the British Isles and America. This, when followed out to its logical conclusions, returns the proper focus from individual Anglosphere nations to the Anglosphere as a coherent and distinct culture area, and sees both the broader subdivisions within the whole, and the smaller coherent units, the regions and subregions through which the various currents of Anglosphere culture flow. The Anglosphere state-nations are, wthin this, webs of shared narrative binding together various chunks of regions and subregions with the "mystic cords of memory", distinct from and at times tangential to the natural lines of culture and geography. The Anglosphere is a sufficiently large and diverse subset of humankind that only such a schema is sufficient to serve to understand it.

It is not my intent to provide in this post a detailed or complete intellectual history of the Anglosphere perspective. It would require substantial discussion to describe the importance of Fukuyama's Trust, or Downing in discussing the divergences between England and the Continent in the sixteenth century as the bureaucratic military state emerged in the latter but not the former (or the work of N.A.M. Rodger in qualifying the latter statement with the important differences between England's naval bureaucracy and the Continent's military version), or to discuss the importance of the comparative studies -- Véliz's of the "Gothic foxes" of the Anglosphere against the Hispanosphere in the New World, or Macfarlane's of Japan versus the West in Making of the Modern World. A sketcchy outline of this intellectual history is provided in the book's bibliography. The principal point of this post is to clarify the specific role of Macfarlane's assumptions in supporting the Anglosphere perspective.

To summarize the above, then, the core perception of the Anglosphere perspective is not about the past, but about the present -- about the existing fact of Anglosphere exceptionalism. In the earlier drafts of my book, I had not read Macfarlane, and I had assumed, like most people who have thought about such things, that England had undergone the transition from medieval familialism to modern individualism somewhere around tthe sixteenth or sevententh century -- early, but still part of a general European transition to modernity.

Ironically, given that Macfarlane seems to believe that following continental Europe's transition to modernity, English exceptionalism is no longer significant, my initial draft had drawn the exact opposite conclusion from Macfarlane -- I believed that English exceptionalism was recent but significant today, whereas he believed that it was deep-rooted but no longer all that significant. At any rate, I immediately accepted his arguments fo the antiquity of English individualism, partly because they explained the contemporary phenomena I was seeking to understand far better than the more shallow-rooted explanations I had been working with. As a pattern, it fit, and I tend to think primarily through the construction and testing of broad-scale apttterns.

Macfarlane's work was exciting when I discovered it, and seemed to support and deepen my conclusions greatly, but it was not the original source of the perspective. In other words, I liked Macfarlane's conclusions because they were very consistent with a pattern I had already seen, not because I derived the perception of the pattern from his work. If his work were conclusively refuted (unlikely in my opinion, but possible) the Anglosphere perpective would still stand, although its roots would be shallower.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 11:15 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 27, 2005

Thoughts and Questions about Ireland and Ireland’s Economy -- And the Anglosphere

This post says:

The Irish model combines the so-called “active welfare state” of continental Europe with the Anglo-Saxon liberal economy in a balanced fashion. The model is efficient. Ireland surpasses all other EU members in prosperity, job creation, social expenditure and productivity per working hour.

Our colleague Verity has said Ireland’s performance is due to EU subsidies. But others said, yeah, well, why isn’t Greece booming? How much do EU subsidies impact this seemingly rosy performance? Will the current Irish boom continue if Ireland were more oriented toward, say, a North Atlantic NAFTA? Aren’t they about to lose their EU subsidies anyway?

My question for anyone who has done business in Ireland and knows first-hand: How Anglospheric is Ireland? Is it a very well run European country? Or is it an idiosyncratic Anglosphere country in terms of business culture, legal culture, government efficiency, tax policy?

Getting Ireland interested in the Anglosphere is more important than the relatively small size of Ireland itself indicates. America’s Irish population will not be inclined to be supportive of something that seems to benefit Britain, or be some British-inspired initiative. But I think they will be supportive if it is seen to be good for Ireland, too – particularly if it will be seen to bring Ireland and America closer together. Generating political momentum for Anglospheric initiatives inside the USA will be hard enough as it is, so getting this politically active interest group – composed of Democrats, too – interested in some of its elements, like a sojourner treaty, could be very helpful.

Please pardon a post with no facts and a lot of questions. If you can’t think out loud on a blog, where can you do it?

Posted by Lexington Green at 09:13 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day

Now there was a time when we believed that what a human mind could accomplish was determined by genetic factors. Piffle, of course, but it looked convincing for many years, because distinctions between tribes were so evident. Now we understand that it’s all cultural. That, after all, is what a culture is – a group of people who share in common certain acquired traits.

Information technology has freed cultures from the necessity of owning particular bits of land in order to propagate; now we can live anywhere. …

Some cultures are prosperous; some are not. Some value rational discourse and the scientific method; some do not. Some encourage freedom of expression, and some discourage it. The only thing they have in common is that if they do not propagate, they will be swallowed up by others. All they have built will be torn down; all they have accomplished will be forgotten; all they have learned and written will be scattered to the wind. In the old days it was easy to remember this because of the constant necessity of border defense. Nowadays, it is all too easily forgotten.

Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer

Posted by Lexington Green at 12:36 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 25, 2005

A Few Thoughts on World War Zero

James McCormick has blessed us with a remarkable post about World War Zero, the long and quiet struggle by which the USA managed to get its older rival, Britain, out of the way without any direct conflict.

I quoted Max Beloff in an earlier post, who noted that after World War I, some people were predicting a war between Britain and the USA as the next round of conflict, but that Britain had already “lost” a war with the USA without a shot being fired. Beloff cited the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 as the key moment, since it was at that point that Britain formally and forever gave up the idea of maintaining naval supremacy over the next most powerful country -- in this case the USA. But we might better describe that treaty as a "peace treaty" for a World War Zero that stretched back well into the 19th century. Even more apt, it was just one milestone on a downward course for Britain, as it gradually conceded bit by bit its world role to the USA.

World War Zero runs almost as a Cold War from the Revolution until some end point like the Suez Crisis, like a dark subtheme to the brighter and cheerier melodies of Anglo-American amity and cooperation. The USA throughout this entire era, to the despair of American Anglophiles of all ages, was very active in promoting the dissolution of the British Empire. The hinge period seems to have been roughly sometime around 1900-1910, with the British in a weakening position relative to the USA permanently thereafter. For example, the US Navy kept building battleships during World War I, even though there was a need for destroyers. The clear aim was to take advantage of the war to outgun the British at sea, so the USA could twist their arms hard after the war. And the USA did just that, compelling Britain to accept the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922.

Britain’s “defeat” in World War Zero was not perfectly clear in 1918, or even 1922 or even up to 1945. The reason is that Britain did not really suffer any absolute decline. It was a relative decline. Real income, life-expectancy, etc. were increasing throughout the 20th C. Britain weathered the depression better than most countries did, though of course there were pockets of desperation. Britain’s huge overseas empire allowed it to obtain benefits almost equivalent to free trade. The size of the Empire helped to cushion Britain from the protectionist wave of the early 30s. Britain had a stable currency. The British were innovative in technology during this period as well. It didn't look too bad because it wasn't too bad, at home, and in absolute terms. It would have been impossible to perceive Britain’s relative decline by only looking at Britain. A person would have had to know in some detail what was going on elsewhere, and have appreciated the scale of the USA, USSR, etc. This was beyond most people, as was Britain’s absolute reliance on the USA to survive any major war.

But Britain’s actual position was brutally clear by 1945. The Americans made sure Britain was broke, made them pay cash until they had nothing left, and made them give up their hard-won, centuries-old Empire at fire-sale prices. Keynes was involved in the postwar discussions 1945-46 and was shocked at how tough the Americans were being. Keynes somewhere said after World War II that the Americans were treating them like a defeated enemy. Britain was paying the bills for losing World War Zero -- without a shot, and without bloodshed, it is true. But Britain’s world role was being pushed to the margins, consciously, by the USA at every opportunity. Americans were and are hardball players who tell themselves they are #########. No one but the Americans themselves believes that.

If this struggle was real and such hard consequences for Britain, why didn’t it break out into open conflict while Britain was still relatively strong? Orthodox international relations theory would posit armed conflict when an aspiring hegemon tries to supplant the existing hegemon. (“[T]he central proposition of nearly all balance of power theories is that states tend to balance against concentrations of power or hegemonic threats. Indeed, this is one of the most widely held propositions in the international relations field.” (From this.)) The political science models for balancing against hegemonic challenges as the cause of major wars fails to describe the US-UK transition. There are only a very small number of examples in the whole data set -- and here is this huge outlier.

Looked at less schematically, Britain had ruthlessly opposed all challengers for several centuries. (See, e.g. Ludwig Dehio’s The Precarious Balance: Four Centuries of the European Power Struggle, and my earlier post). Yet, the British v. USA rivalry played out differently, and British hegemony shaded over into American hegemony without a shot being fired.

There were both carrots-and-sticks in play. A dense network of Anglo-American contacts related to investment, trade, family ties, the scientific and academic community, etc. raised very high the potential cost of open conflict. On the other hand there was a pervasive American desire to push the British aside and run the world their own way. The US Navy definitely had war plans against Britain before World War I, and up to World War II. But we know that Britain had given up on preparing war plans against the USA around the turn of the century. War with the USA was too awful to contemplate. Ultimately, the other security threats to Britain – Germany, then Japan and Germany, then Soviet Russia – were so severe that alliance with the USA, even at a very steep price, was preferable every time.

I hope I won’t be damned as unsentimental when I suggest that Britain’s security concern was the predominating factor. Ties of history and culture and even economic advantage played roles – but supporting roles only. For example, James notes in his post that the notion of “Anglo-Saxon” unity was not widely popular in the earlier period when it was being proposed. Anglo-American cooperation and friendship had to be constructed, or put on as a mask, in the face of various areas of conflict.

Britain's elite very adeptly orchestrated this complicated and hazardous relationship with the USA. They managed Britain’s relative decline, and loss of its Empire, in such a way that its underlying prosperity and freedom at home emerged in comparatively good shape compared to other declining or defeated powers. “Genteel decline” would have looked like a wonderful option to most citizens of most countries who got to experience direct invasion and tyranny imposed by conquerors or grown domestically. Britain did manage, just barely, to avoid outright defeat, let alone invasion and occupation, by a non-Anglosphere power throughout the very dangerous years of the 20th Century. Rather than decry too loudly Britain's decline, or its submission to the USA when there were no good options, we should express amazement at this feat of statecraft.

World War Zero is a deep topic that needs to be dug up and assembled from disparate sources. I don’t know of any historian who has told the tale as a continuous story, though many have told important parts of it – e.g. William Rogers Louis.

Suggestions for a World War Zero bibliography are hereby solicited from our erudite readers. The idea is to cull out the best books and reconfigure the discussion into the framework of World War Zero. Max Beloff's quote, is an unusual example of someone seeing things this way. Most writers who address the Anglo-American rivalry talk about a war that did not happen. Few talk about a transfer of power that had consequences much like a military defeat, but without actual combat breaking out, which is different way of looking at it.

(Many aspects of the Anglosphere understanding of history have this problem. There is a mountain of material, but none of it is organized into the framework that we want to use to look at it. The boxes are configured wrong -- national histories, mostly. The facts are at hand, lying in a heap, needing to be picked through and rearranged.)

World War Zero and its outcome -- the transfer of hegemony from Britain to the USA without armed conflict -- is one of the fundamental underpinnings of the contemporary world and all of modernity. I look forward eagerly to James’ further posts on this topic.

Some good comments provoke this update/clarification.

I do not mean to say that the proponents of an English-speaking union circa 1900 were sentimentalists. They were astute in seeing how the global winds were blowing. And, indeed, an orderly process of cooperation and even union would have worked better than the expedient, extemporized and haphazard process that ensued. Both sides would have gotten a better deal. These thinkers had very little actual real-world impact because most people were not aware that a "transfer" was going to happen, or the consequences of such a change happening. The perception was that the USA would get stronger, yes, but the structural consequences of this were not widely appreciated. This was especially so in the USA, which tried hard to avoid the global responsibilities that its size and wealth and power indicated it should take on. Few people then or now appreciated the centrality of Britain and London to the world economy, for example, or the turmoil that would ensue when this position dissolved. Americans thought they could keep the world at arms length, and not allow it to corrupt their free institutions. America was a highly protectionist country during this era as well. And Americans had been so used to a powerful Britain as a major actor in world affairs that they had a hard time imagining that major player going away. I recall reading that Franklin Roosevelt himself -- who knew the hard facts better than most people, and who had worked hard to shove the British Empire into the ash heap of history -- was genuinely shocked to realize that the British Empire was bankrupt. On the other side, British people thought of their country and its empire as a major power in the world. Until very late in the day the majority of British people had no idea how badly things had slipped. John Keegan writes of being a child in Britain in World War II, and looking at a map of the world and having no doubt that the British Empire was one of the mightiest powers there was. 1945-1956 was the era of the great disillusionment.

If Britain were not facing the security threats it was, essentially all at once, I think that it would likely have tried to organize a coalition to contain and if necessary defeat the USA. That had been its strategy for centuries against all powers. Working from a position of strength would have allowed it to get a better deal from the Americans, at the minimum. But Britain had such serious threats from all quarters that the American challenge had to be back-burnered until it was too late. Had Russia industrialized earlier and neutralized the German threat, or had Germany had a more reasonable leadership in the post-Bismarck era after 1890, or had Britain made a better and earlier transition to the second industrial revolution (electricity, internal combustion, chemicals) in the late 19th C so it was more wealthy, dynamic and powerful in its own right -- things may have gone differently.

The ties of solidarity were real and strong. But they would not have been strong enough to prevent conflict absent overwhelming security concerns. The British felt strongly toward their fellow Protestants, the Dutch, for example – but they fought them as needed. I also agree that the prospect of living as a subordinate under an American rule-set was more tolerable to contemplate than rule by others would have been. I also think that these factors allowed Britain to make the most of a bad situation, and put a good face on it -- but they were not the cause of its acquiescence to American hegemony and the dismantling of its own position by the Americans.

I close with this Big Think question for you: Can look at the entire disastrous era of 1914-1945 as the spillover effects of the botched hand-off of global economic and political hegemony from Britain and the USA?

Posted by Lexington Green at 10:49 PM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

November 23, 2005

Rediscovering World War Zero

While reading Jim Bennett's Anglosphere Challenge last fall, I was intrigued by his description of an earlier era of enthusiasm for a union of English-speaking countries (roughly a century ago) lumped uncomfortably under the term "Anglo-Saxonism". What did that period share with our own? Are we re-inventing the wheel? Reading the literature, I found that the arguments were far from simple proclamations of cultural or racial superiority. Geopolitics, law, and economics were front and centre. In the spring of 2005, I converted three specific titles from the period into e-books (MS-Word format). Each book offered a different perspective (1892, 1903, 1914), a cross-section or transect, of the "ties that bind" between the nations of what we currently call the Anglosphere.

The recent bicentennial celebrations of the Battle of Trafalgar sparked an e-mail exchange with Lexington Green. What was the actual moment Great Britain gained its international dominance? Two hundred years after the defeat of Napoleon's navy, the English way of trade and technology still dominates the planet. Through the 19th century, Great Britain largely existed in Splendid Isolation but three great challenges were seen off in the 20th century. Things weren't placid between 1805 and 1914, however. The rapid transition from antagonism to co-operation with America from 1895-1910, without the upheaval of either Trafalgar or the Somme, obscured a sombre reality. A great confrontation (a world war of sorts) did take place and we live in a world powerfully altered by the fact that America became an assertive then dominant world power 100 years ago, without fighting a war with Great Britain.

As I reviewed my notes on pre-Anglosphere concepts, it dawned on me that 100 years ago, a world war actually was fought ... undeclared and informally, perhaps ... but global in scope and deadly serious in intent. World War Zero, as I call it, took place without the massing of armies or noteworthy battles. It signaled a great global change. Yet it was a "nullity" by the standard of schoolboy history. It shaped all the subsequent world wars in the 20th century (First, Second, and Cold) and there's little doubt who won the war. The British Empire was doomed to a relentless, sometimes subdued, often painful dismantlement at the hands of America when the smoke cleared from the virtual battlefields of World War Zero. World War Zero began on the Great Lakes and in the Caribbean. It closed on the banks of the Suez Canal in 1956. Traces linger to this day.

Adding World War Zero to our lexicon and our conceptual framework gives us better perspective on the last two hundred years. Suddenly, British hegemony of the oceans after 1805 is placed in more dynamic context. As Great Britain coped in the late 19th century with French-Russian, German, and then Japanese pressure on the high seas, it had hard decisions to make about developing and protecting its far-flung empire, with newly assertive dominions slowly but steadily industrializing and capitalizing. The nation's tremendous industrial and economic lead during the first half of the 19th century was disappearing as other European nations caught up. The American Civil War triggered a tremendous expansion of economic capacity in the United States though little of its military transformation was carried into the rest of the century. The world took note however of how that war was fought and the scale of mobilization that America could sustain in a few short years.

For the worldwide British Empire, as the final quarter of the century appeared, the numbers simply couldn't add up. Great Britain's European entanglements were demanding military expenditure just when Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, India, and a multitude of other colonies were in need of economic investment. How could that money be found if the Royal Navy and British Army were forced to compete militarily with nations newly industrialized (owning few colonies), and able to field armies beyond Britain's capacity? The British colonies on the other hand showed no interest nor appetite in providing troops for the protection of mother-country interests. Indeed, colonial or dominion governments were insistent that Great Britain provide adequate security during their development -- only fair, they claimed, in light of the vast profits British investors captured through trade and colonial investment opportunities. Far from being a military advantage then, the British Empire, circa 1890, was a military vulnerability for Great Britain.

As the final decade of the 19th century opened, Great Britain's defense policy was increasingly under pressure. Too much geography, too few men, too little money. A series of confrontations between the United States and Great Britain (over Venezuela, the Alaska border, Grand Banks fisheries) and two wars (the Spanish-American War, the Boer War) were to provide the context in which British diplomats, generals and admirals first had to envisage confrontation with the US, and then see their way out of such confrontation.

If as JR Seeley suggested in 1892 the British "seem, as it were, to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind," America awoke suddenly in 1896 and took the reins "in a fit of absence of fear." Or as one wag put it ... the British stride the earth as if they own it, the Americans as if they don't care who owns it.

Lex has generously steered me toward some excellent books on the diplomatic and secret details of World War Zero (Bourne's The Balance of Power in North America [1960] has been a great start) but let me offer up the three e-books as useful way to recapture and rediscover the atmosphere of World War Zero ... its opening salvoes and mise-en-scene, its tentative suggestions at truce, and the final round of mythmaking that allowed America to exert itself on the world stage in World War One with a confidence fully explained by its victory in World War Zero.

World War Zero: The Gathering Storm

Let’s return to a time when Great Britain was struggling to cope with the far-flung nature of its empire, of the huge sums required for industrialization over such expanses, and of the rationale for an empire that was just beginning to recognize aspirations for effective self-government, as the Dominion of Canada reached its twenty-fifth birthday (since Confederation in 1867). George Parkin's Imperial Federation (1892) is a well-written, and self-contained argument for both change and development in the British Empire. Parkin was a Canadian academic, a prestigious private school headmaster in Toronto, at a time when Canada was undergoing rapid industrial expansion and had recently completed a transcontinental railway to link Ontario with British Columbia. He was fully aware of the relentless colonial focus on economic development, and how that development was subject to hindrance from both London and Washington. His audience was both Britons and colonials who needed to be convinced that business-as-usual in the running of the Empire could not continue. In that, he had to make the case that the senior colonies were rapidly reaching the age of independence, but that they were also subject to the economic and military vulnerabilities of the age.

For every advantage of steamships and telegraphs, there was a corresponding vulnerability to the awakening giants of Europe, Asia, and America. For every example of rational self-government and the success of federal systems over huge areas (Canada, the US, Australia), a counter-argument could be made that the British Empire was simply too big to run as a single effective unit. Closer association or divestment? Which direction should the Empire take? Unresolved questions of finance, currency, legal structure and appeals processes, economic development and military safety were building up. Co-ordination between political entities, or between the various departments of the Colonial, Foreign, and War Office was insufficient. The pace of development was increasing. The United States was knocking at Canada's door and seeking commercial union. What could Britain offer by way of alternative? Some form of effective decentralization within a broader economic and security framework seemed like the only way out. The actual model for the solution was therefore a higher level of the kind of federation seen to work at a national level -- an imperial federation. Something inspiring but set to resolve very practical economic, legislative and security problems.

Parkin's book was written after he had made a round-the-world tour of the British Empire, giving public speeches and listening to both public and private figures. At the time, Britain still was the dominant power on the oceans and America was seen more as an economic threat – a hypocritical protectionist giant. Parkin minces few words in describing the abhorence of the educated classes in the empire to American appetites. Free trade being impossible with the US, it fell to the Empire to establish its own zone of economic prosperity. In reading his words, we can be struck (maybe even shocked) by how radically the world would change in a single generation, let alone a single century. In Parkin's book, we see literally a last gasp of the "go-it-alone" vision that had carried the British Empire through the 19th century. Perhaps if America were avoided, if a new and vibrant method of government could be established for the Empire, the calculations of economy and military strategy could be resolved.

Avoid continental entanglements then, build trade through an imperial free trade zone, and sort out the bureaucratic inefficiencies propagated from London. And tell the Americans to bugger off. Not a bad plan if you can make it work. Regretably, the Americans weren’t going away. Within a few years of Imperial Federation’s publication, the US Army was casting a shadow across the Pacific, battleships were being built with regularity, the army grew from 25 to 65 thousand regulars, switched from gunpowder to cordite, and the US Navy converted from an "alphabet of floating wash-tubs" to the second largest modern navy in the world (third largest in tonnage). There is something tragic also, when one reads Parkin. He, and his fellow academics, were extrapolating from a Victorian past into a 20th century that was to carry very little across the watershed of the new century. Parkin gives us a window into an Anglosphere without America ... a vision that fervently imagined that there would be no World War Zero. For Parkin, the world was still a place where the British Empire still could set its own economic and security requirements if only it could find the right structures of unity and government. Ten years later, things were very, very different.

World War Zero: Blitzkreig and Phony Peace – The Americans at “Pas De Calais”

The Anglo-Saxon Century and the Unification of the English-Speaking Peoples written in 1903 by American John Randoph Dos Passos (father of the more famous John Roderigo Dos Passos), reflects a private citizen’s assessment of an extraordinary decade. Dos Passos was a corporate lawyer and his book, though reflecting the writing styles of the period, is a lucid and quick read which doesn't get bogged down in historical minutiae. The contrast between American lawyer (Dos Passos) and Canadian schoolmaster (Parkin) is noteworthy.

Expecting some sort of triumphal diatribe on the superiority of the white race, I was both pleased and surprised to instead find a careful summary of why the United States and the British Empire should form a loose union to optimize commercial and cultural ties between the two bodies. This was the "Anglosphere" - 19th century-style. Great Britain had turned a blind eye to American activities in the Spanish-American War. America returned the favour during the Boer War. Noblesse oblige. Here were two great confederations which suddenly faced similar challenges and, potentially, similar challengers. The Hay-Pauncefote Treaty of 1901 had confirmed the American right to dominate and fortify the Panama Canal … instantly turning the Caribbean from UK trade terminus to US critical waterway. Suddenly the US Pacific Fleet could be rapidly deployed to the Atlantic (and vice versa) while all other nations faced an additional 10,000 mile trip round the Cape Horn. Dos Passos can write his book with the calm generosity of a citizen whose country is growing more powerful on the world stage literally by the minute.

Martin Wolf's "Why Globalization Works" (2004) notes that economic liberalism actually peaked at the end of the 19th century. So Dos Passos, writing in the aftermath of the wars which confirmed the new shapes of international commerce in the English-speaking world, focused more on the potential for free trade than "ominous rumblings" from Moscow, Tokyo and Berlin. America felt no threat. There is a parallel, of a kind, with the unifying aspirations of our own time, and with Jim Bennett's focus in the Anglosphere Challenge on civil ties (“network commonwealths”) rather than formal governmental or defence ties. For Dos Passos, World War Zero was all but over. A logical, rational, and wise Great Britain would simply join its newborn partner and profit greatly from it.

Regretably, scandal in Dos Passos' personal life (resulting in his famous son!) seems to have removed his book from the bibliographies of authors writing later in the 20th century. For the purposes of an intellectual history of the Anglosphere idea, however, the Anglo-Saxon Century stands as an early and explicit rationale for real union – union that fully acknowledges America, union that accommodates American values.

Ten years later, the memory of WW0 had faded. Now the situation in Europe is serious enough for Great Britain that American co-operation is an important wild card in geopolitics. The German have known since the Spanish-American War that Britain will use America as a foil at every opportunity but will its neutrality in the First World War hold?

World War Zero: Denouement and Reverse Colonization

The Pan-Angles: A Consideration of the Federation of the Seven English-Speaking Nations, written in early 1914 by American Sinclair Kennedy (for whom I can offer no biographical detail at the moment), is both a more detailed look at history, and a grimmer book geopolitically. The assassination of Duke Ferdinand was still some months in the future but Kennedy is writing at a time when Germany's naval buildup in the Baltic and North Seas was triggering a redeployment of Royal Navy assets, and providing a rude awakening for the self-governing former colonies of Britain across the globe. Some sort of federation of former Imperial holdings was seen as a potential response to impending threat. In this book then, Kennedy is not only reviewing the history of Anglosphere culture -- the deep ties between the English-speaking nations -- but pointing out the various competitors, dangers and threats facing the "seven Pan-Angle nations": UK, US, Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Kennedy's ideas for unification are much more focused on the barriers to and mechanics of a real federation of these countries. And, indeed, a unification of sorts was shortly to be achieved through threat of war. But the tone of discussion, and the recollection of shared history and value in the Pan-Angles, is all the more a rough wooing for its reasonable tone. The gun is now at the head of the British Empire yet America’s experience with the colonies of the Spanish-American War has taken the edge off its naivety. America is a vast economy of its own, manufacturer and resource base mixed as one, industrializing at break-neck pace and heir to the self-confident era of Teddy Roosevelt and the idealism of Woodrow Wilson. Union of English-speaking nations is now a matter of greater urgency for both parties but the earlier mood of Canadian Parkin (“ignore the Americans”), and American Dos Passos (“join us in reason, brother”) is being replaced by an attitude of “it’s Us vs. Them, for goodness' sake let’s get organized” – a theme perhaps for rest of the 20th century.

A few years after Kennedy wrote his book, American doughboys were in France and the shattering effects of World War One were changing British demographics, its politics, and the role of the British dominions forever.

Remembrances of World War Zero: Anachronism and Insight

I found these books remarkable. Not only because I was initially ignorant of the complexities of the period; but also because the themes, arguments and solutions offered by the three authors have substance and vibrancy for today. Much has changed ... and I'll write further about that in a final post after introducing each of the three e-books separately. But much has stayed the same, and as Jim seeks out the roots of Anglosphere exceptionalism back into the era of Anglo-Saxon rule in England, the passage of the century since “World War Zero” is an eye-blink in historical terms. Parkin was struggling with imagining the British Empire in a way that would encourage readers to come up with a dynamic, new and effective means of government. Dos Passos and Kennedy both recognized the unique elements of Anglosphere culture but, post-World War Zero, they cast their recommendations in the new republican terms of alliances and union.

All three authors were constrained by a different vocabulary but if "Anglo-Saxonism" is to be used as a 'term of art' by our modern commentators on the Anglosphere, careful distinction must be made between authors such as these and less interesting and more virulent essayists of the day. The Anglosphere of 1900 was overwhelmingly Caucasian and Protestant but, especially in the case of the US, it was including people from a very wide geographical swathe of Europe and western Asia. In between the occasional anachronistic appeal to shared culture and genetic heritage, Parkin, Dos Passos, and Kennedy provide sophisticated economic, legal, and geopolitical models for co-operation and union. They were smart men, struggling with complicated problems, and have something to offer us in the 21st century.

In three posts to come, I'll introduce and summarize the electronic (i.e., OCR'd) copies of the three books on World War Zero discussed above (in Microsoft Word .doc format, for the moment). In a final fifth post, I'll put forward my view on (1) what the events of the intervening century mean for the arguments of Parkin, Dos Passos and Kennedy, and (2) how these three books should alter how we assess Jim Bennett's formulation of a "network commonwealth."

Technical Note:

The e-book files make full use of "styles": the font formatting for the text can therefore be changed quickly and easily, according to individual reader preference.

Posted by jmccormick at 09:12 PM | Comments (7)

Chief Crazy Camel

It comes as an exciting surprise to hear that when Columbus landed in North America 200 years ago (sic) the Native American intelligentsia were speaking not their tribal languages but … Arabic! No! Seriously! The two Arabic translators Columbus had brought along on the off-chance that the natives would be Arabic speakers had some very productive intellectual exchanges with the New World chattering classes.

From MEMRI comes this interview with guest moonbat Lebanese cleric Abd Al-Karim Fadhlallah, aired on Al-Manar TV on November 20, 2005:

“The Arabic language, 200 years ago, was a universal language. It's interesting to note that when Christopher Columbus went to America, in what language did he speak with the Indians? It is said that the language they spoke with the Indians – and I have indisputable documentation of this at home... The intellectuals among the Indians spoke Arabic. He took two Arabs with him, to serve as interpreters between the Spaniards and the Indians. He took two of them as translators. So you can imagine the historic and cultural value of Arabic. It's undoubtedly very important.”

Well, I can certainly understand how one would leave “indisputable documentation” on a trivial matter such as this lying on the coffee table in the rush to get to the studio for the interview. Doubtless by the time he got home, the dog had run out and buried it in the garden. Oh, hang on a mo’ (if you’ll excuse the term), not the dog. Dogs are bad. It was the cat! The cat had sicked up on it. Yes! That was it!

This news comes to us courtesy of

Posted by Verity at 05:56 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

From the Other Archipelago

Fil-Anglosphere blogger Rizalist follows up his Orphans of the Anglosphere post with a thoughtful post on the Philippines, the war with radical Islamism, and the "metaphor of the single jetliner".

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Read the next post, too, even though the first part of it seems to be primarily about Philippine politics. The most interesting bit to me starts with the parenthetical comment:

"(Note to Bloggers: Most of those big time warbloggers in America have insufficient knowledge of what their grandfathers and great grandfathers were trying to do here, or what exactly happened here. Did it fail or succeed, or something in between and what lessons ought be learned for next step in the ascent of man? You do not know that history either, I would suspect, but you are closer to some of the sources. That history and shared experience contains far more wisdom-- American and Filipino wisdom-- about liberty, democracy and honor -- than even Instapundit. or even the Mr. Spock of the American Blogosphere, Steven den Beste. Because the First Iraq is a real, historical data point. So study your history, and don't just read Blount or Constantino and Sison, or Mark Twain and the US Anti-Imperialist League for crying out loud. Try a little "Gleeck" and spend some time at the American Historical Collection at the Ateneo -- you might find a whole new perspective on our past, and more importantly, our future. You shall meet the Democrats and Republicans again in that history! Our history!)"

Would you like to read the thoughts of an Iraqi about America a hundred years from now? You can't, but there just may be a clue in the thoughts of a Filipino a hundred years after our nasty, prolonged, botched intervention there (following a brilliant, lightning-quick, painless high-tech military victory). A hundred years ago the great-grandparents of some readers of this blog were probably on the ground in the Philippines, sweating in a blue uniform and carrying a heavy Krag-Jorgensen rifle, and singing Underneath the starry flag/civilize them with a Krag/and return us to our home sweet home. They were probably staring at the faces of an utterly incomprehensible people, living a radically different life than that imaginable back in Wisconsin, with, ah, different ideas about what is good and proper to eat. It would have been hard for them to imagine the next century, or that at the end of that century somebody like Rizalist would be writing, in eloquent English, an objective judgement of what the American effort, for all its mistakes, had wrought in his homeland, not to mention that another descendant of these people who seemed so alien would be commanding American troops in yet another alien, far-away land.

We first understood the experiences of empire and colonialism through the propaganda of its adherents, the triumphalist stuff. Then we heard it through the propaganda of its opponents, the victimology stuff. Now it's time to listen to the voices of all those who experience the actual complexities of the situation.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 05:28 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Anglosphere's Business: And Business is Good!

Time for a mini-gloat! The Economist has just released its 2006 Best Business Travel Destinations, article here.

The Anglosphere rules ... and Canada (as hard as it is to admit, living here in Calgary) rules "just a wee bit better", eh.


Posted by jmccormick at 02:02 PM | Comments (4)

November 22, 2005

Anglosphere Historical Narrative, Continued

I liked Carl Hollywood's comment to Lex's Anglosphere Historical Narrative post so much that I am arbitrarily using my editorial privileges to move it up here. So here it is:

There are lots of great reasons to buy the Anglosphere narrative, and Lex stated many of them. Here’s my own partial list. Some of the items overlap his… but we lawyers love our restatements.

1. Expanded possibilities of collaboration. The Anglosphere narrative provides an understanding of how important it is to have shared cultural references. The lack of them isn’t insurmountable, but a shared culture (transmitted along with the English language) makes communication and understanding easier. This, plus the rise of ever-better communication technologies, raises the possibility of collaborating with a much wider group of people, who have more in common than one might have previously suspected.

2. A model for less developed countries to follow, and for us to cherish and maintain. Macfarlane and others explain how the model works. We can analyze the factors and figure out how to make the model work in Iraq and other locations. (In most places, this will probably be the work of generations… but Japan developed rapidly on the Western model thanks to Yukichi Fukuzawa.) (I can’t avoid thinking of the process in Baghdad as “putting the IRAC in Iraq.” Sorry.)

3. An increased appreciation of the subtle revolutionary power of consumer goods and services. Claudio Veliz’s The New World of the Gothic Fox provides a brilliant metaphor for thinking about Western capitalism and the constant production of new items designed to appeal to consumers. In particular, I’m thinking about Ruskin’s Gothic cathedral, to which “workers” (i.e., producers of goods and services) are always adding “rooms”. Consumers can decide to enter these rooms or not, and they provide value to some regardless of how many others dislike them. In the Anglosphere, there is a celebration and use of imperfection. Even the mediocre has value and is appreciated by someone, somewhere.

And so we have 300 kinds of breakfast cereal, and Britney Spears singing “Baby One More Time” while wrapped in a boa constrictor. William Carlos Williams fans may kill me now, but

so much depends

a writhing boa

wrapped around Britney’s

before an admiring

Is Anglospherist pop culture mediocre… or is it beautiful? Regardless of your position on this (me? I love it, but Travis’s version of “Baby One More Time” wipes the floor with Britney’s), any Salafi jihadist will tell you it’s utterly revolutionary.

4. An improved concept of the network (or network commonwealth) as a tool for information processing. The Anglosphere is decentralized as a rule and believes in local knowledge, incremental (not radical) improvement, and flexible adherence to shared values. It gave us the common law, and it can make better use of ideas like the wisdom of crowds and smart mobs than other organizational models can.

5. A new way for lawyers to see themselves. I’ve always liked my day job, but many of my colleagues either started out cynical or got there fast. If they knew how important their work is to the English-speaking peoples, and by extension to everyone else, they might cheer up a little. They might view themselves as trustees of the common law system that’s preserved essential institutions like trial by jury and free transferability of property, for centuries. Like item #2 above, this reverses the widespread “we’re so awful” meme and replaces it with justifiable pride and reality-based optimism.

6. A great set of tools for analysis. Mr. Bennett’s reading list is awesome. Alan Macfarlane’s books pack the heavy intellectual firepower of the justly renowned Cambridge school of anthropology. Fischer and Fukuyama provide a completely new and revelatory way of looking at the Anglopshere and the rest of the world. For example, now I think of Chinese culture as a mixture of Puritan traits (like emphasis on literacy and education in general) and backcountry traits (like sticking to your extended clan and trusting no one else for various historical reasons). As Fukuyama and others have noted, long-term progress for the Chinese may depend on the ability to dissolve tight family bonds and associate more freely with people outside the family circle.

7. A solid background for scenarios, like the ones reviewed here and described here. Mr. Bennett recently posted about alternative histories, which are not only fun to read, but also allow the reader to better visualize how events come about and which actions are likelier to lead to the desired results. Visualizing the future is a wonderful tool for strategic planning. What if the UK pulls out of the EU? What’s the significance to other core Anglosphere countries if the Conservatives take over in Canada next January? What are the possible ways for Anglospherists to meet the challenges presented by the Singularity? (Some are suggested in the books on Arnold Kling’s essential reading list.)

8. The pleasure of knowing where we came from. I mean “we” in the cultural, not the genetic sense. When I first saw the connection between East Anglia and New England, in the way David Hackett Fischer describes it, I felt the same pleasure a schoolboy feels when he first learns about Pangaea and continental drift, after years of staring at a world map and wondering why the coastlines of South America and Africa are so similar.

My two-year-old loves to chant ”Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee”, and I like to think he’ll experience the same joy later on, when we fill in the details of what happened between the first Willie and the second Elizabeth.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 11:18 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack


On Jim's Orphans of The Anglosphere, Lex added a very interesting post, noting a few of the tangible things that make up a small part of the vast mosaic which is the Anglosphere. I added a few myself.

What I noticed in adding my own, and also in an earlier post which glancingly addressed the unnoticed incorporation of Indian words into our everyday vocabularies, is how much we have absorbed of one another's cultures. And, as I’ve mentioned before, we have the biggest choice of slang in the world. Although Ozzie slang ‘ocker’ (meaning oik) never caught on in Britain or the US, Brits do know what it means. We have so much slang, we can’t use it all.

Obviously, British TV, American TV and Kylie Minogue are unavoidable. But many city and town names in Oz are Aboriginal - as are those in the United States. So, in Britain, besides Tallahassee, we also know Roratunga. (The French changed the names of native towns in the US to French.) We thoughtlessly use Indian words every day - pyjamas, bungalow, dinghy, chinz, juggernaut (or jagganath) and - most important - curry, tikka and masala! We have incorporated our colonies and one another - including some of our customs (Auld Lang Syne is Scottish – and syne is pronounced “sine”, by the way, not ‘zyne’’; it means ‘since’) in a way that other former colonial powers have not. Do the Dutch feel a fondness for any Indonesian customs? Well, riystafel, OK - but anything else? What about the French? Do they feel a well of affection for the customs of say, Cote d'Ivoire? The New Zealanders do indeed do a Hakka ceremony before their rugby games, because they have incorporated this into themselves in a way I do not believe non-Anglo settlers do. And now we just accept the Hakka done by mainly white New Zealanders as part of NZ.

Everyone in the Anglosphere, except the ornery Yanks, plays cricket. What did France introduce to W Africa or N Africa that had the side effect of bonding everyone together? Or Holland? Do the people of the Netherlands Antilles feel Dutch? Do the Dutch feel an affinity with them?

I do have French friends who lived in French W Africa and hold it in great affection, but its culture - and its words - have not entered mainstream France the way our Anglosphere cultures have all swished around into one another's consciousness.

We have the biggest, strongest, most flexible, constantly changing free-for-all language, and a system of criminal and civil law that has never been bettered or even equalled.

Posted by Verity at 08:09 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

The Anglosphere and the Economic Historians

The success of Europe, and especially the Anglosphere, in the last few centuries has kept historians busy, pondering just why and when the Europeans made such an impact on the world.

Not surprisingly, the theories of causality often mirror their times. Way back when, European success was seen as religious and cultural vindication. Later, it was seen as a genetic or perhaps geographic predisposition. At the dawn of the 20th century, as non-Europeans and radical philosophers got an opportunity to make suggestions, earlier "gifts" were turned on their heads and proclaimed as intrinsic "evils." Thus Europeans, and by extension, the Anglosphere, were successful specifically because they were monstrous in comparison to other human beings -- more cruel, more greedy, more lacking in humanity (specializing in anarchy, greed, heresy ... to quote one witty reviewer). European destruction was therefore a solemn obligation and no doubt ordained by higher powers, real soon now.

As the wheels of history ground on during the 20th century, and people (both European and non-European) had a chance to ride the hobbyhorses of fascism and communism (and perhaps socialism) into political and economic oblivion, a more intellectually useful historial theory was needed. Europe and the Anglosphere was showing a distressing tendency toward further prosperity. The intellectual solution, particularly with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and orthodox communism in China, was to claim that the entire question of European success was based on a false premise. The truth was ... Europe was never the centre of anything much. And if it was, it was only a relatively recent event that is passing quickly now from the historical stage. Eurocentrism was therefore obscuring both the global achievements of other peoples and cultures and its own transitory significance.

In a nutshell, three views of Europe: (1) Good, (2) Bad, or (3) Indifferent.

This latter school of thought, digging into the details of global economic history of the last 1,000 years proposes that the Europeans were a rather minor blip on the world stage (and not at all superior to other folks on any score at all) til roughly 1800. Now, with the resurgence of mainland China especially, history is merely getting back on track. Europe wasn't unusual nor did it require any unique historical explanations. It was merely lucky, and when it wasn't lucky it simply rode the coat-tails of its betters into prominence.

The initial strength of this school, it seems to me, was its useful corrective to the Europe-only attitude of earlier scholarship and the one-size-fits-all developmental trajectories which have been offered to the world. Economic development is not an intrinsically European pattern. Lots of sophisticated large-scale economic activity was underway outside of Europe before 1800. Brilliance, industriousness, and complexity were not European monopolies. And it's worth knowing the specific details: the things which counted towards the creation of the world economy without Europe's input (the pre-1500 AD demand for silver in China, for example).

Fortunately for people interested in the history of the Anglosphere, enthusiastic efforts to explain why Europeans aren't special (let alone humane) can also reveal many important patterns in world history through which Anglophere values and advantages were ultimately expressed. Thus this third school of world history, compromised though it may occasionally be by the need to denigrate "whitey" or bootlick current Chinese sensitivities in the service of greater academic glory, offers valuable information. Global economic history may be a feeble base for proposing extra-European superiority but it is a fascinating tale all on its own.

In a 2003 paperback epilogue to the Savage Wars of Peace (1997), Alan Macfarlane had a chance to address the limitations of the new chance-and-brief-anomaly theory of European development. I found his brief essay fascinating and it led me on several weeks of a profitable reading detour. We may hope in coming years that he expands his comments into a more substantial work but for the moment some of the titles which he cited in 2003 are definitely worth reading or, as I did, skimming:

David Landes, Wealth and Poverty of Nations (1999) ... a sizeable lap-brick, well written and a very good overview of world history from a European perspective. I can't do it justice in a quick review but fortunately its wide popularity after publication means that there are many good reviews on the Internet: for example here and Jim Bennett's brief comments on Landes
Landes writes from a more traditional historical perspective and thus parses Leftist and Third World historical perspectives with some skepticism. Politically incorrect and often a bit tangential, he is scathing of the view that Europe had not significantly diverged in nature from Asia before 1800. In this, he parallels research by others such as Crosby (Measure of Reality, 1997) and Macfarlane (various titles) who note substantial technological and cultural advantages in Europe reaching back to the medieval period. Landes is particularly scathing on the Joseph Needham initiative to breathe historical significance into earlier Chinese technological discovery. Landes can be profitably read in tandem with Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel (1997) which is strong on pre- and early world history but very weak on the modern era. Landes' more traditional ("Euro-centric") take on world history places him as a central figure in recent "big picture" economic history but controversial with the "Indifferent" school because he won't let go of claiming something unique for European culture.

Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (2001) This book offers an excellent summary of corrective economic history describing dynamic economies outside Europe. Pomeranz makes the case in contrast to Landes. While Macfarlane takes Pomeranz to task because Japan wasn't distinguished from China, nor was England distinguished from different parts of Europe, there is a great deal in the Great Divergence worth knowing. Pomeranz's main hypothesis is that the underindustrialized colonies of Europe (some freehold, some slave) were the practical basis for proto-industrialization in Europe. Convenient location of Britain's coal fields near textile production areas allowed that country to successfully jumpstart its manufacturing and industrial revolution ... still using the captive overseas markets ("periphery") to swap food and raw materials for manufactured goods from the "core". Where British could crush overseas proto-industrialization (textile manufacturing in India), it did so. Where it couldn't sufficiently capitalize trade (e.g., tea from China), it would use all means fair or foul to break the market (opium/gunpowder) to avoid decapitalization. Where it couldn't control the market (e.g., a competing "core" in the US), it either bypassed it (creating peripheries in Australia, NZ, Canada) or participated in foreign industrialization through investment. By accelerating its industrial economy far beyond what its landmass and population would classically support, England leveraged its overseas "invisible acres" and energy sources in ways which other nations around the world could not match, at least in the first 2/3s of the 19th century. Reading Pomeranz, I felt Macfarlane's essay criticisms were generally correct but seemed to display a rather superficial reading of The Great Divergence. I would recommend careful reading of Pomeranz to anyone who wants to get a good handle on global economic patterns for the last half-millenium or so. Economic historians understandably want to find dominant economic reasons for historical process. From time to time, they're actually add quite a bit of insight. Pomeranz keeps an even keel in his writing style and is a very useful first stop, unlike ...

Andre Gunder Frank, ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age (1998) Pomeranz draws much inspiration from AG Frank's substantial body of work which corrected the lopsided Eurocentric view of the world economy of earlier scholars. Frank's book is particularly useful in learning about the global trade in precious metals which has drawn gold and silver relentlessly eastward since the time of the Romans. Frank's politics are worn much more on his sleeve. That may rub some readers the wrong way but again, the practical details of global trade are worth getting a copy of this book. There is much grim history to work through and European infliction of suffering (slavery, disease, monopolies, etc.) are giving a thorough airing but fortunately there is enough economic meat amidst the finger-pointing to justify reading. Endnotes and citations are also worthwhile starting points for interesting economic tangents. Frank is more open also about his enthusiasm for extrapolating from a "corrected" global history to a time when Europe won't matter much; a cheerleader for the time when the Throne of Heaven in Beijing can again ignore and insult the barbarians with impunity. But if the carrot of honorary victimhood is the perk we must offer to scholars such as Frank, so be it. The nuts and bolts of who traded what, where for how much, are still important.

C.A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World (1780-1914) [2004] Part of the new Blackwell History of the World series, this book is another lap-brick in the Landes mould, but focused this time on the "long century" which saw Europe's industrialization and the response of the rest of the world to the changes thus triggered. Bayly is fully aware of the economic historians' globalization of perspective and uses it to good advantage to show how responses or resistance to "modernity" were entirely consistent with the economies and values in place. He also demonstrates how the roots of modern tensions over industrialization and westernization were fully understood by Third World scholars very early in the 19th century. Bayly is honest about the different academic viewpoints about whether "modernity" actually has any intrinsic meaning ... to most of the world, the hybridization of physical and mental objects over the last few centuries is what it is ... Life ... not "modernity." In his introductory material Bayly identifies three challenges in writing his history ... (1) that the search for "prime movers" (especially economic) may be a chimera, (2) that some scholars believe grand narrative itself obscures reality to the detriment of history of the "fragment" and finally (3) the convictions of scholars such as Gellner, Macfarlane, and Landes that there really is "riddle of the modern" is by no means universally accepted. Bayly's book must therefore be read as a large and very erudite tiptoe through the theoretical minefields, focused more on the specifics of the period. I got Bayly out from the local university library on a two-week loan and could only make a modest dent in its 500+ pages. For a globalized general history of the era however, it appears to be a great starting point.

The books listed above all deserve reviews of their own however I feel they are beyond my talents and time to adequately cover. I can recommend all of them with caveats on Frank for those with allergic sensitivities to Leftish sentiment. At a broader level, I was very inspired by a few weeks reading through the global economic history of the last half millenium. Any or all these volumes could be profitably be added to your library (especially bought used) if you anticipate needing to know more about the global economic setting in which the early Anglosphere operated.

Posted by jmccormick at 12:06 AM | Comments (10)

November 21, 2005

Orphans of the Anglosphere?

Mihir Bose, quoted in Helen's post below, made the point that the American model of assimilation should not be held out as an exact model for Britain to follow in regard to its own currently-unassimilated immigrant communities. One of the reasons he gave for this was the fact that most immigrants to the UK were from Britain's former colonies, and already shared a history with Britain that had both good and bad aspects, but in any event was as shared history a point of departure. In contrast, he pointed out, America's immigrant communities had no prior history in common with their hosts.

Well, not quite. The principal exception is the Philippines. This country has a unique and mutually ambivalent history with the United States -- the biggest and most significant possession of the US that was neither retained, like Puerto Rico, nor incorporated into the US proper, like Alaska and Hawaii, but kept from incorporation and then recognized, eventually, as an independent state. There is a sizeable multigenerational Filipino-American population in the US, and substantial continuing ties. However, there is no even notional connection between the two nations on the order of the Commonwealth structure the UK and its former colonies maintain.

Because of the widespread use of English in the Philippines, and the growing information-age ties (principally call-center work) between them and the US, similar to the growing IT ties between India and the rest of the Anglosphere, the Philippines hold a unique position in regard to the Anglosphere. (Of course, no two nations have exactly the same relationship with the Anglosphere -- it's not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon.) As has been pointed out before, the Anglosphere is not a club that a person or nation can join or be excluded from, but a condition or status on a network. It is clear that the Philippines cannot be said to be outside of the Anglosphere. Exactly what the relationship is in an interesting subject for discussion. Philippine Commentary blogger Rizalist has some worthwhile thoughts on the matter. Certainly if he wishes to consider himself part of the Anglosphere nobody could gainsay him.

The Philippines are in the frontlines of the war on radical Islamism, and are in a critical position in regard to any potential conflicts that may arise in East Asia or the Indonesian archipelago. It's worth paying attention to what is going on there.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 12:30 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

November 19, 2005

Why Do We Need An Anglosphere Historical Narrative, Anyway?

What do I mean when I refer to an "Anglosphere historical narrative"? I mean the study and understanding of the history of England, then its daughter polities such as the USA, and its former colonies notably India, and the global, networked Anglophone cultural and economic space which is emerging -- as a unity. I mean looking at the development of these communities not from within the too-small boxes of national history, or the too large boxes of world history or Western Civ. I mean seeing that the legal, political and cultural ideas and institutions which arose in England and spread throughout the world have their own distinct identity, which is becoming more apparent in a world increasingly linked by technology. This may or may not lead in the future to a new institutional form for the dispersed-but-networked Anglosphere, perhaps the "Network Commonwealth" which Jim Bennett has sketched out in his book and in other writings.

This approach to understanding the history and identity of the Anglosphere is relatively new, though it has had precursors and false or partial starts in the past. Developing this history and understanding its implications is a current and ongoing project, with Bennett as a founder of sorts, and others of us participating in it as we can, and with the idea taking on a life of its own in cyberspace and beyond.

Of course, history is not only an academic discipline existing in an "ivory tower". History is self-understanding, which defines the scope of what is accepted as legitimate, which has political consequences. If a particular historical understanding becomes widespread, then this has implications for what types of political and cultural direction a country's people will be willing to go. Orwell was not necessarily overstating the case when he has O'Brien the thought-policeman say "he who controls the present controls the past, and he who controls the past controls the future." In a free society, no one "controls the past". However, certain views can gain a hegemonic position and become the accepted, general view. This occurs through university teaching and then the training of school-teachers, among other means. This hegemonic position in historical studies has the effect, sometimes intentionally, of promoting positions in contemporary politics and cultural life. A community's historical self-understanding will therefore ultimately impact the exercise of political power and the direction its culture will go. Therefore, what is taught is can be extremely important, and what contrary or challenging views gain acceptance is important as well. So, potentially, a lot is at stake if the idea of the Anglosphere take hold, and gains acceptance, and begins to spread.

The question sometimes arises,, from well-intentioned conservatives, usually: Why ask people to buy a new and different "Anglosphere" narrative? Isn't it a distraction from the crucial work of reviving and restoring the traditional American (or British, or Canadian) narrative that we remember from childhood, that was good enough for our parents and grandparents? Isn't the main thing to revive a healthy national patriotism and reawaken awareness of national history in these countries? Why bother with this newfangled way of looking at things?

Let me count the whys. Because restoration of a former narrative is impossible to do, as a practical matter. Because the old narratives appear to have lost acceptance because they did not satisfy the felt needs of the time, not just because of political correctness or corruption in the education establishment, though these malign forces had a lot to do with it. Because contact with the larger world and development of a global economy has shown us more and more clearly what makes us distinct from certain other communities, and what we have in common with certain others. Because it is more and more clear that those continuities which we share, and which shaped us, go back fifteen centuries, at least. Because the British narrative was founded on Protestant triumphalism, and Britain is no longer Protestant and Protestantism is no longer triumphant. Because the British narrative was founded on Imperialism and expansion, and that version can no longer stand. Because the British narrative can be and should be accurately reconfigured into the true story of England as the "homeland of liberty", the birthplace of the common law, and the seedbed of free institutions. Because the British story, told thus, will be both true and globe-spanning in a way which can supplant the old imperialist narrative and restore a justified pride to the British people. Because this more accurate narrative can be a guide and a source of communal feeling for formerly conquered peoples of the Commonwealth. Because such a narrative is shorn of religious and ethnic bigotry it can show the people of former colonies, either living in those countries or emigrated to the metropole, the value of what they have inherited -- and shared in and fought for --without asking them to celebrate their own subjugation. For Americans, an Anglosphere narrative restores to us a huge slice of history as our own. Because American exceptionalism in a radical form is not an "ancient" American narrative, but is a 19th century creation. The older and more accurate American narrative incorporates history back into the mists of the Saxon era. In that sense a more Anglospheric American narrative is a restoration of an earlier understanding of what America is and where it came from.

All that aside, the reason for a new narrative is the best one of all: Because it is clearer than ever, now, that as a matter of historical fact, the Anglosphere narrative is more accurate and more complete than the older narratives. The Anglosphere narrative is simply a more accurate statement of the truth, of the facts. The old narratives have served their time, based on the understandings of their times, and they responded to historical conditions which no longer pertain. What is true and good in them will be incorporated into the larger narrative. The older narratives of national history won't be replaced, they will be clarified, refounded, and enlarged. The Anglosphere narrative is strong because it is much more based on fact than on myth. Better facts mean a more refined and more compelling and more binding narrative for everyone.

This all leaves to one side the question of how this superior understanding of the past and present can be widely disseminated to the point that it reaches general acceptance. That is probably the work not of years or decades, but generations. But I trust I am not being naive in believing that a superior grasp of their historical heritage by the citizens of the Anglosphere will lead to better policy decisions and a more prosperous, free and peaceful world, not only for the Anglosphere but for everyone else as well.

There ya go. The big picture.

Cross-posted on ChicagoBoyz.

Posted by Lexington Green at 10:42 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

November 18, 2005

Freedom of the net is safe - for the time being

The outcome of the Internet Governance summit in Tunis was a compromise. Luckily for all users of the net, it was a compromise that left the management and administration of the Domain Name System in the hands of ICANN. This organization, though non-profit-making, international in its board and staff, and not heavy-handed in its control, seems to have acquired the aspect of the devil incarnate as far as the opposition to “American control of the net” is concerned.

The agreement in Tunisia calls on the UN to establish an Internet Governance Forum next year. One hundred countries have signed up to the agreement and expect the Forum eventually to yield some kind of an international bureaucracy to plague the net users, whether they be big business or individual bloggers.

So far, the forum, according to the agreement,

“would have no oversight function and would not replace existing arrangements, mechanisms, institutions and organizations”.

Furthermore, the new forum

“would have no involvement in day-to-day or technical operations of the Internet”.

The outcome of the Internet Governance summit in Tunis was a compromise. Luckily for all users of the net, it was a compromise that left the management and administration of the Domain Name System in the hands of ICANN. This organization, though non-profit-making, international in its board and staff, and not heavy-handed in its control, seems to have acquired the aspect of the devil incarnate as far as the opposition to “American control of the net” is concerned.

The agreement in Tunis calls on the UN to establish an Internet Governance Forum next year. One hundred countries have signed up to the agreement and expect the Forum eventually to yield some kind of an international bureaucracy to plague the net users, whether they be big business or individual bloggers.

So far, the forum, according to the agreement,

“would have no oversight function and would not replace existing arrangements, mechanisms, institutions and organizations”.

Furthermore, the new forum

“would have no involvement in day-to-day or technical operations of the Internet”.

This, as the Wall Street Journal Europe points out, is a victory for the American negotiators, supported as they were by certain allies, such as Canada and Australia. Britain, alas, as a member of the EU, who negotiated on our behalf, was on the side of the unholy alliance of tranzi regulators and tyrannical dictators, such as the Iranian mullahs, the Chinese party gerontocracy and, among others, President Mugabe. A truly wonderful line-up.

In a sense, it was appropriate that the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) should have taken place in Tunisia, a country with a particularly bad human rights record when it comes to journalists and, indeed, users of the net.

The aim of this Summit and, indeed, of the attempted power grab was supposed to be to overcome the digital divide between rich developed countries and others. But the digital divide, as we know, is between countries where people can use the internet freely and those where the government controls its use and punishes those who try to step outside that control. By a strange coincidence the impetus to move control of the internet from the USA to the UN came from the latter governments and has been, shamefully, supported by the EU, which speaks on Britain’s behalf.

According to the ISN Security Watch:

“The New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused the Tunisian government of detaining critical online writers and blocking websites that publish reports of human rights abuses in the country.

The group stressed that Tunisia had made some progress in increasing access to the internet over the past few years, lifting bans on some websites, but that it continued to flout its national and international legal commitments to free expression, the right to access information, and the right to privacy by censoring the internet. The group said the government was still imprisoning writers for expressing their views online, and imposing undue regulations on its Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and internet cafés.”

Entirely the right country in which the discussion about the digital divide should be taking place.

Interestingly, the Summit was opened by the President of Switzerland, who made the following apposite comments:

“It is, quite frankly, unacceptable for the United Nations to continue to include among its members states which imprison citizens for the sole reason that they have criticized their government on the Internet or in the media.”

How sad. Because, of course, we have to accept that state of affairs and it is that very United Nations that is claiming the right to take over and run the internet (as well as, if not better than the way they ran the oil-for-food programme).

While this was going on, the Tunisian police prevented a meeting of the Tunisian Civil Society summit and its spokesman’s attempt to describe the situation to ISN Security Watch by telephone was interrupted.

And just to demonstrate quite definitively what that digital divide is about

“Tests conducted between 2.30pm and 4.30pm using the 3S Global Net ISP found that the French and Arabic press releases for Human Rights Watch’s latest report on internet freedom in the Middle East were also blocked in Tunis.

Users trying to access these pages received a page disguised to look like a French-language Microsoft Internet Explorer error page that read “Impossible de trouver la page” (“Impossible to find the page”).

The results were consistent with the blocking behaviour exhibited in previous tests documented in a Human Rights Watch’s report.”

These are the people who are demanding that the terrible American “control” of the internet should cease and they are the ones with whom we, in Europe, line ourselves up.

So, what will the new forum be doing, assuming it will get past the inevitable international squabbles and behind-the-scene negotiations?

The WSJE expresses the very sensible opinion:

“As little as possible, one would hope. It would be most useful as a means of co-ordinating efforts to address such cyber crimes as e-mail fraud (also known as “phishing”) and cyber annoyances like spam.”

As the forum will be under UN auspices, it seems unlikely that there will ever be a remotely useful activity along the lines outlined above.

“Beyond that, it’s difficult to see how the forum differs significantly from ICANN’s existing Governmental Advisory Committee other than operating under the UN’s auspices. In this some participants – notably, the European Union – are inclined to see the birth of an entity that will evolve into ICANN’s successor.

Others, led by the US, are confident that a forum envisioned in Tunis as “lightweight and decentralized” will remain so. Businesses and other parties interested in a red-tape-free Internet must be vigilant to prevent the scenario preferred by Europeans from becoming reality.”

Indeed so. According to Deutsche Welle

“The agreement would lead to "further internationalization of Internet governance, and enhanced intergovernmental cooperation to this end," wrote the European Union in a statement.

"In the short term, US oversight is not immediately challenged," an EU source told Reuters. "But in the long term they are under obligation to negotiate with all the states about the future and evolution of Internet governance."”

In other words, they have not given up. Deutsche Welle itself snarls about “United States' single-handed control over the private body known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)”. Curiously, they omit to mention that no less a person than SecGen Kofi Annan, a man usually quoted with reverence by the European media, described the present arrangements as performing “fairly and adequately”.

And what has that to do with anything? What matters is that it should not be in American or more or less American hands. The Hamburger Abendblatt put it fatuously but threateningly:

“A world wide web should also be in the world's control -- not the only world power. The decision of what really happens in the Internet continues to be made by ICANN. It won't be long before the problem is once again on the agenda of a world summit.”

Well, we have all been warned. As abolitionist, orator and journalist Wendell Philips said: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” And that was before the United Nations or the European Union had even been heard of.

Cross-posted from EUReferendum

Posted by Helen Szamuely at 12:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Freedom in a Partly Free World

Peter's previous post raised a very interesting question: how does freedom fare in countries with weaker civil societies or without the long history of continuous constitutional government? In that light, it's worth reading Adriana Cronin's account of her participation in the Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovakia fifteen years ago. One can argue that the participants in that revolution didn't have a sophisticated understanding of exactly what a free society is or how it works. But it's clear they understood that they were living in a profoundly unfree society at the time, and that they wanted something better.

Freedom and unfreedom don't seem to be sharply distinguished states of being, except at the extremes. There is a large zone of gradiation in between in which much of the world's population lives. No Anglosphere nation enjoys perfect freedom today, as the libertarians among us are never slow to elaborate in detail. For all we bitch and moan about Continental Europe on this site, by world standards, and certainly by historical standards, the majority French and German populations live pretty free lives in pretty strong and prosperous civil societies, at least for now. The debate we are having between the Anglosphere and the Eurosphere is about things like the difference between four percent unemployment rather than ten or fifteen, and about the percentage of GDP that can be run through the state without the nation eventually running on the rocks of unfunded obligations, not about whether multiparty elections should be allowed. Events like the French riots show that this debate is not trivial or inconsequential, but we need to maintain a sense of perspective.

You can read the historical record either with pessimism or optimism. The pessimist says that Anglosphere civil society arose through a particular set of historical accidents over a long period of time, and that it is unrealistic to expect others to do as well any time soon. The optimist grants this, but points out that other societies can and have created strong, robust civil societies with constitutional government. Some, like Switzerland or the Scandinavian states, have evolved their own distinct, non-derivative versions of civil society over long periods of time. Others, like Taiwan and South Korea, created it over a few decades from social roots that were very different from ours. True, those nations developed under heavy American influence and pressure, but very few nations have ever developed without external influence and pressure from various sources. It might as well be ours as anyone else's.

Some people see freedom as a rare and fragile flower that blooms only occasionally and under exceptional circumstances. Others see it as a sort of crabgrass, that sprouts everywhere with no need for cultivation. I think it is more realistic to see it as a hardy perennial, that does require care and tending, but that given reasonable amounts of such, can bloom in a wide variety of places.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 11:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 17, 2005

Isolationism or Anglospherism?

According to a new research report from Pew Research, Americans are growing more isolationist, with 42% now saying that the U.S. should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own." In addition, American views about allied nations have changed. Strong pluralities think that Germany and especially France will become less important American allies in the future, while India, China, Britain, and Japan are perceived as probably becoming more important. Other than China, all of these allies are part of what Jim Bennett calls the "cricket and baseball alliance" -- which, for instance, was quite instrumental in providing assistance after the Asian tsunami last year (we must also include the Aussies in that honor roll). The poll results point in a somewhat imprecise fashion to the emergence of a stronger sense of Anglospheric identity, though one would need to ask a different set of questions to get at the heart of the matter. Furthermore, the poll results indicate that Americans are increasingly skeptical about the prospects for transplanting "democracy" to Iraq or other nations in the Middle East. To me, this seems a reasonable extension of the fact that Middle Eastern cultures have very little base of consensual government, civil society, volunteerism, markets, objective law, entrepreneurship, individualism, engineering, or science on which to build. As I've hinted before, I think it would be better to work more intimately with countries and cultures that are closer to these broadly Anglospheric habits, practices, and attitudes (most centrally Britain, Australia, and Canada, but also Ireland, India, South Africa, etc.) than to try transplanting market liberalism into less hospitable soil.

(Cross-posted at one small voice.)

Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at 10:18 PM | Comments (58)

Utopia Is Not An Option

Hi, my name is Peter, and I'm a libertarian. Well, a recovering libertarian, anyway, but "once a libertarian always a libertarian" and all that. Economist Tyler Cowen recently wondered what the future holds for those of a libertarian persuasion, and Lexington Green has offered not-dissimilar reflections on this very blog of late. Realism dictates that we recognize a simple fact: a libertarian world is not in the offing. Indeed, neither is a libertarian country or even a libertarian state. As history powerfully (and sometimes painfully) demonstrates, utopia is not an option. Unfortunately, there is a strong utopian stream among libertarians. Part of the reason is that most prominent libertarian thinkers have been philosophers, economists, and other cerebral types, few of whom have made a close study of history. For better or for worse, libertarianism -- the vision of a purely voluntary society -- is an ideology. Ideologists want to change the world and will not be satisfied until the world matches their vision (joke: "A libertarian is someone who lies awake at night worrying that somehow, somewhere, there are still a few miles of publicly owned sewer pipe").

While the ideology of libertarianism was a product of the deeply ideological twentieth century, that doesn't mean that the need for freedom is an artifact of ideology. Yet, although all human beings need liberty, the practice of liberty is a cultural phenomenon that has flourished only in certain times and places. Those who value freedom would do well to study its history. In particular, the modern concept and practice of a primarily (if not fully) voluntary society emerged in northwestern Europe, most sustainably in England and the places settled by the English (Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, etc.). In other words, the Anglosphere.

It's important to have gadflies in any society, and libertarian ideologists can and do fulfill that role in the Anglosphere. Yet I think they undercut their effectiveness by not recognizing historical realities. A voluntary society is not some unnatural, pie-in-the-sky utopia -- if it ever emerges, it will be an organic extension of existing Anglospheric traditions of individualism, common law, volunteerism, strong civic ties, high trust, pluralism, entrepreneurship, scientific investigation, technological innovation, private property, and intellectual freedom. The key to working for a voluntary society is to actively evolve those traditions rather than attempting to foment some kind of utopian revolution. One aspect of evolving those traditions is strengthening ties between those areas of the world that have built on these predominantly English foundations. Another aspect (well articulated in The Anglosphere Challenge) is clearly understanding that this inheritance is not genetic but mimetic, not a matter of blood relations among people of English descent but a matter of ideas, laws, institutions, principles, and practices. Another aspect is leading by example -- founding schools, starting companies, creating new products, defining new technologies, defending privacy and property, and otherwise strengthening civil society -- rather than attempting always to stand outside of society from a position of criticism rather than a practice of engagement. That does not mean "selling out", compromising one's principles, or giving up on the dream of a fully voluntary society. But it does mean doing the intellectual and practical work necessary to make a difference in this world (not sitting around and complaining from the comfort of one's armchair) while knowing that the progress that can be achieved in one's lifetime is necessarily limited.

(Previously posted in part at one small voice.)

Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at 08:22 PM | Comments (8)

Shangri-La and Dogpatch

The discussion in the comments to the Turtledove on Rails post below led me to thinking, via a roundabout chain of thought, of the issue of geostrategic viewpoints. One of our Anglosphere legacies is that merely because the bulk of the material written on a particular country or area in English comes from a particular source colors our thinking about it far into the future. The combination of Britain's interests in Hong Kong and the historical American missionary involvement in China have led us to see East Asia largely from the Chinese perspective. Thus, we don't have any problem with the idea that Taiwan is fundamentally part of China -- historically, our problem was whether Taiwan belonged to Mao's China or China belonged to Chiang's Republic. We have had a hard time seeing East Asia from the Japanese perspective, in which Taiwan seemed to be a natural southward extension from Kyushu and Okinawa.

However, we view Tibet fundamentally from Indian eyes, a legacy of the fact that our first knowledge of it comes from British Imperial sources, going back to Younghusband's expedition and before. The British saw it as the Indians had, as a mysterious and saintly land of mystics, whose writing and religion were derived from Indian sources, hidden behind the Himalayas, and reachable only through an extraordinarily arduous journey through the world's most impressive mountains.

The Chinese, however, saw it as the even poorer land behind the poorest provinces of Han China proper, reachable through a difficult but not extraordinary journey in which things just got a little poorer, a little dirtier, and a little less properly Chinese day by day. They saw Tibet basically as inhabited by poorer and more ignorant cousins, with bizarre and rather unsavory religious practices, sort of the way we view backcountry snake-handling fundamentalists.

In short, for Indians, and by extension the Anglosphere, Tibet was Shangri-La; to the Chinese, it was Dogpatch. The Chinese tend to view the Western fascination with Tibetan religion and the Daili Lama the way we would view some backwoods snake-handling preacher who inexplicably was heralded as a deeply wise and holy man in some other part of the world. It's so inexplicable to them that the whole business seems like some transparently ridiculous anti-Chinese plot dreamed up by the encircling imperialists.

Bismark famously said that the principal fact of the Twentieth Century was the fact that the USA spoke English. Hitler should have paid more attention to him. So the principal fact of the Twenty-first Century may be the fact that India (or at least an important part of it) speaks English. As in the case of the way we see Tibet, this fact may have a million small and subtle ramifications, any of which may end up being critically important one of these decades.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 06:44 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

National Sovereignty

No Freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any otherwise destroyed; nor will we pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful Judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right. --- Magna Carta

Two recent extradition cases got me to thinking about national sovereignty, and how far that national sovereignty should be undermined to facilitate cooperation between Anglosphere nations.

In the case of the war on terror most people would, I suspect, be in favour of extradition, even if it did cast a doubt over national sovereignty. But what about the 'war' on drugs?

Whilst it is important to underline the laws and customs that we share, is it not equally important for Governments to underline the differences between our nations?

Posted by Gareth at 05:54 PM | Comments (2)

November 16, 2005

Language and Liberty

The most delightful and insightful popular history of the English language I've read is Robert Claiborne's The Life & Times of the English Language: The History of our Marvellous Native Tongue. Several aspects of Claiborne's treatment are especially interesting. First, he is not shy about celebrating the English language as the greatest vehicle for communication in the history of humankind. That's not jingoism: Claiborne points out that English has three times as many words as its nearest "competitor" (French) and continues to borrow and create words at a faster pace than other tongues, thus making possible a range and subtlety of expression that no other language can match. Second, he connects the incredible flexibility of English with the flexibilty of Anglospheric customs and institutions: for Claiborne, language and liberty go hand-in-hand. More than any other major culture, the Anglosphere has been open to emergent orders rather than imposed orders; not for the British or Americans the centralized linguistic planning of the Académie Française. No, folks in the Anglosphere are pretty darn libertarian about language, which is not unconnected with the fact that they tend to be more libertarian about society as well. Not surprisingly, Claiborne comes down closer to the linguistic descriptivists than he does to the linguistic prescriptivists. After all, our language has always been changing -- from Indo-European to proto-Germanic to the Old English of the Angles and Jutes and Saxons to the Middle English of Chaucer to the Modern English we know today. Common sense, good taste, and clear expression are always in style, but prescriptivism is mere muddleheadedness. An English settled and prescribed for all time would not be our free, living, ever-changing English. A free folk need a living language. May we English-speakers always have our language and our liberty.

(Previously posted at one small voice.)

Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at 10:20 PM | Comments (20)

November 15, 2005

Medieval Origins of Anglospheric Freedom

From an American standpoint, what is most relevant about the medieval period is the experience of England, since this was the proximate source of our ideas and institutions. English and continental politics of the Middle Ages had much in common, but differed sharply at the outset of the modern era. On the continent, far from advancing the cause of freedom, the Renaissance ideas of kingship and related institutional changes almost destroyed it. In France and Spain, the chiefly German "Holy Roman Empire" and the city-states of Italy, neopagan concepts of absolute authority came to the forefront, denying the medieval view that there were, or should be, limits on the secular power. In England alone, the struggle would produce the opposite verdict.

We are used to thinking of England as the home of representative government; less familiar is the idea that England enjoyed free institutions at the on-set of the modern era because it had retained them from the preceding era. While Renaissance notions were triumphing on the continent, the English experienced, in Maitland's phrase "a marvelous resuscitation of the medieval law." That they did so was in large measure … the doing of the church, which in Britain produced a remarkable series of statesman/clerics -- from Becket and John of Salisbury in the reign of Henry II to Langton, Grosseteste and Bracton in the century to follow. The doctrine that they imprinted on English constitutional theory was that "the King is under God -- and under the law," and not entitled to rule by personal edict. This was the essence of Christian teaching about the state and it became the guiding precept of England's common lawyers.

M. Stanton Evans, The Theme is Freedom

Cross-posted at ChicagoBoyz.

Posted by Lexington Green at 05:20 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

November 14, 2005

What's An "Anglosphere Blog", Anyway?

Albion's Seedlings considers itself an "Anglosphere Blog", as do others such as Samizdata and Chicago Boyz. Unless you've been following the Anglosphere discussion closely in the blogosphere, (or read The Anglosphere Challenge), you might ask "So, what is an Anglosphere Blog, why should anyone choose that particular subset of humanity to identify themselves with, and why should anyone else care?" All good questions. Particularly now that we have a nice recommended permalink from the Prof I'll make a stab at those questions for the benefit of the Inquiring Reader.

The Anglosphere is the growing world network of English-speaking nations and people increasingly connected by electronic media, fast cheap air travel, and other modern developments. In that sense, it is a subset of globalization, but a globalization that is not happening smoothly, evenly, or at the same pace or degree in all directions at once. There are vectors, and the evidence continues to accumulate that participation in the cultural complex that includes speaking, writing and reading English, and sharing in the institutions, culture and history of the English-speaking world is an important one of those vectors.

At the same time, there is also more and more argument pointing to the conclusion that these paticular institutions and cultural characteristics of the Anglosphere are deep-seated and persistent. This in turn suggests that any set of solutions to the challenges faced in the Anglosphere nations now or in the future need to take into account the particular nature of our culture and institutions, for better and for worse. For this reason being aware of the new scholarship about Anglosphere history and institutions, and of its overall implications is not just a curiosity, it is something of significance to anybody who cares about problems and solutions.

So an Anglosphere blog is not just a blog written and published in English, or one in which people from different parts of the Anglosphere participate, although Seedlings does have that characteristic. It is a blog that has a consciously Anglospherist perspective -- basically, that when one of us writes "we", without further qualification , what is meant is "we peoples of the Anglosphere". When we write "our history", even if the particular writer is an American, it includes, say, events in the England of the ninth century AD, and even if it an English writer, it includes, for example, the events of the American Civil War.

The Anglosphere perspective is one that deliberately seeks links that have been downplayed by particular national narratives. We do not see the writing of the American constitution in Philadelphia as an act of "political creation science", as a sudden bolt out off the blue by the Jupiter-sized brains of the Founders, but rather as a point on an evolutionary continuum that looked back to the English revolution of 1688, to Magna Carta, and, thanks to Jefferson's and other founders' knowledge of Montesquieu, to the continuity of our constitutional tradition to the pre-Norman Conquest English.

At the same time we are interested in expanding the understanding of the Anglosphere beyond the sort of Anglo-Saxon sentimentalism of Cecil Rhodes' day. We are happy to discuss Mihir Bose's point that, for example, the British and the Muslims immigrants from South Asia already have a substantial shared history that is now as much a part of Anglosphere history as any other -- if it would only be taught. The entire relationship between India and the Anglosphere is a whole separate issue, particularly given the growing number of non-elite Indians who have begun to learn and use English spurred on by the opportunties of the information economy. We can talk about small nations assimilating to the Anglosphere, but when the full impact of India's engagement with the Anglosphere is understood, it is more likely that it will not be a question of assimilation, but of transformation of both sides. Exactly what the nature of these transformations will be one of the great questions of the twenty-first century. These are the sorts of questions that arise naturally on Anglosphere blogs, and to date, nowhere else.

Finally, I cannot speak for my co-bloggers here, but for me, it is a matter of picking your garden to tend, and deciding what its limits are to be. I could have decided to concern myself primarily with American events and topics, but the American national perspective has been so worked over that a fresh perspective is more likely to deliver useful insights. I could have tried to develop a global perspective, but in actual fact, the world is such a complex place that it is difficult to say anything about it that is not grossly overgeneralized and simplified. Global commentaries are so often driven to adopt some very simplistic and reductionist formula that the individual national situations become entirely lost as each situation is reduced conceptually to fit the formula.

Anglospherists differe from universalists by saying "we can't really come up with a quick formula that fits Mozambique and Iceland equally and usefully." We can say that stronger civil societies are freer and more prosperous, and we can even say "reducing public goods reduces the corruption of public processes", but we can't instantly come up with a formula that would tell how to rewrite a constitution to implement these insights. Certainly the IMF tried for a decade to tell Latin American and Eastern European nations how to pursue these worthy goals, but with very mixed results. I have some opinions about how they could have done better in, say, Argentina but I have no great confidence that had they taken my advice there they would have done any better. What keeps Anglospherists from trying to remake the entire world is mostly an awareness of how complex the whole thing is, and a corresponding reluctance to propose specific solutions without deep local knowledge. It's hard enough taking into account the real differences between the various Anglosphere nations, as must be done, which is why we tend to be big on seemingly-obscure but actually very relevant things like Canadian military history.

So the Anglosphere is our chosen garden, and I think we are beginning to harvest some fruits from it. Welcome to it.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 06:17 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Canada's Memory Hole

Following up on Helen's post below on the importance of Anglosphere historical narratives, it's worth noting Mark Steyn's article in the Western Standard (requires free registration) on the eradication of history by Trudeavean Canada. Money quote:

"Isn't there something deeply weird about an entire nation that lies about its age? Canada is, pace Mr. Martin, one of the oldest countries in the world--the result of centuries of continuous constitution evolution. Even if one takes the somewhat reductive position that Canada as a sovereign entity dates only from the 1867 British North America Act or the 1931 Statute of Westminster, that would still make us one of the oldest nations in the world. We are, for example, one of the founding members of the United Nations, ahead of three-quarters of the present membership.

As George Orwell wrote in 1984, "He who controls the present controls the past. He who controls the past controls the future." A nation's collective memory is the unseen seven-eighths of the iceberg. When you sever that, what's left just bobs around on the surface, unmoored in every sense. Orwell understood that an assault on history is an assault on memory, and thus a totalitarian act. What, after all, does it really mean when Mme. Robillard and Mr. Martin twitter about how "young" we are? Obviously, it's a way of denigrating the past. Revolutionary regimes routinely act this way: thus, in Libya, the national holiday of Revolution Day explicitly draws a line between the discredited and illegitimate regimes predating December 1st, 1969, and the Gadaffi utopia that's prevailed since. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge literally reset the clock, to "Year Zero."

But it's not a tactic commonly deployed by governments in evolved constitutional democracies, and, to be fair, even Pol Pot did not intend that time should stand still. Two hundred years after Year Zero, Kampuchea would have been in Year 200. Canada in that sense has gone further than the Khmer Rouge: in Trudeaupia, Year Zero is a movable feast. Is it 1965, when we got the new flag? Or 1980, when we got the new anthem? Or 1982, when we got the new constitution? Or 1983, when we got the new national holiday? And, as Dominion Day became Canada Day, a nomenclature unsurpassed by any other nation's holiday in its yawning nullity, so some influential figures now wish to replace Victoria Day with Heritage Day, for only in Canada do we celebrate our heritage by obliterating it."

Read the whole thing.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 10:58 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 13, 2005

Turtledove on Rails, or, Some Thoughts on Alternative Histories

To start with, I must confess that I am a complete sucker for alternative histories, and have been so at least since I read MacKinlay Kantor’s If The South Had Won the Civil War when I was about 12. Like many in the blogosphere, I am currently wading through Harry Turtledove’s own take on that scenario, and have just recently finished his latest volume in that series.

As I have been working through it, I have been having various thoughts on both the subject of alternative history as a practice, and on Turtledove’s scenarios in particular.

Before I go any further, it’s important to remember one thing: alternative history novels are, above and beyond anything else, novels , and not essays on counterfactual history. That is to say, they may set forth a coherent, well-researched, plausible scenario of how things might have gone if only the horse had not lost its shoe, but they must obey the dictates of plot and narrative. I suspect that, if authors made full disclosures on the whys and wherefores of their craft, we would find many a counterfactural outcome done merely to rescue the lead character from an awkward plot corner into which he had been written. Better to change the outcome of a battle than to have to rewrite the whole damned chapter. Be that as it may, we can never assume that a particular turn of events in a novel stems from a deeply-held theory about history rather than a short-term narrative requirement.

Secondly, and perhaps more to the point, when somebody comes along and lays out an argument for why the author’s scenario is less likely (as I am about to do with Turtledove) than the commentator’s, they cannot claim to have proven their point, or disproven the author’s. Uh, none of this actually happened . It’s speculation, all of it, and history has had enough strange turns of events, hanging on strange coincidences and improbabilities, that there’s no way to say for certain that one turn of events is impossible, so long as it doesn’t require a violation of the known laws of physics (as does Turtledove’s Guns of the South ).

With those caveats, here are some thoughts on Turtledove and alternate history. Fist of all, for those who aren’t familiar with the series, he has constructed a multi-volume, multigenerational series of novels in a universe in which the Confederacy gained momentary military superiority over Union forces early on, in 1862, and, holding Washington under their guns, and with the help of British and French pressure, forced the Lincoln government to accept Southern independence. Unresolved issues lead to a second round of fighting in the 1880s, which also brings in British and Canadians forces, and results in another humiliating defeat. This sequence of events triggers off a general militarization of the North American continent, with the US, the CSA, and Canada all arming and fortifying heavily, adopting general peacetime conscription, and creating professional General Staffs on the Prussian model.

The rival North American powers become locked in to the European alliance structures, with the US becoming an ally of Wilhelmine Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the Confederacy allying with Britain, France, and Russia. Thus the Sarajevo assassination of 1914 also becomes the starting bell for a dragged-out knockdown W.W.I land war with heavy casualties in North America, ending with a negotiated victory for Germany and the US in 1917. The Confederacy, having grown complacent from its easy victories in the 19th Century, loses substantial territory to the US, and suffers a catastrophic series of socialist rebellions by the black underclass, legally released from slavery as a condition of British help in 1862, but kept in near-slave conditions of subjugation.

Thus shorn of its territory, shaken in its social assumptions, and easy prey to a myth of being stabbed in the back by its black underclass, the CSA gradually comes under the control of a Hitler-type figure, Jake Featherstone, who uses anti-black sentiment and resentment against the peace terms to . Featherstone and his Freedom Party eventually seize control of the Confederacy, and instigate the Second World War. At the same time they accelerate the use of concentration camps for blacks, and gradually drift into a Holocaust-type “final solution”, deporting and gassing back populations. The current volume of the cycle ends with a Stalingrad-analogue battle set in Pittsburgh. Presumably, future volumes will take the story up at least to the end of the war.

As an alternative historian, Turtledove has a number of virtues, and these place this series well above much of the neo-Confederate nostalgia exercises that abound in American Civil War counterfactuals. His choice of a departure point for his alternative history, in 1862, is in my eyes more probable than the frequent romantic choice of an alternative outcome for the Battle of Gettysburg. By July 1863, too many events had been set in train, particularly the Emancipation Proclamation, which had meant that Confederate independence could only come at a price the Confederates had, as a whole, demonstrated that they were not willing to pay.

The second virtue of Turtledove is his observation that a North America divided between hostile rival powers would be likely to be drawn into the European balance-of-power system. I find this quite probable, especially when Anglo-French intervention was crucial to Confederate independence right from the start, piling up a certain obligation on the CSA. This power system then creates an automatic ratchet effect driving the USA and CSA further apart.

The third virtue of Turtledove is his depiction of the plasticity of the Anglosphere’s state-nations, although he does not use that terminology. The independent states of the Anglosphere, although sovereign nation-states for the purposes of international law, do none of them meet the sociological definitions of nation-states. The Anglosphere is a diverse but related common cultural area, divided by history and happenstance into what are better thought of as state-nations: human communities that see themselves as nations because they are states, as opposed to nations that have gradually acquired state forms. Had the Confederacy won independence, in would have taken its place within this continuum of state-nations.

Few of the inner-Anglosphere demarcation lines make sense on purely economic terms -- North America divides through the middle of its historical industrial heart and lungs, the Great Lakes zone, because it formed a convenient border for the negotiators of the Treaty of Paris. If the British Isles were divided into nations on economic grounds, surely lowland Scotland, Ulster, and northern/midlands England would be one state, and southern England another. Eastern Australia and New Zealand together make a more natural unit than do Eastern and Western Australia, linked across a wide desert only by an economically insignificant railway line. Auckland is as close to Canberra as Kalgoorlie, and substantially closer than Perth or Darwin.

This economic incongruity in sometimes recognized, but it is then argued that cultural commonalties make the lines significant. Yet if the proverbial creature from Mars were to be given the sociological data from an Anglosphere social model in a blind form, and were told to divide this area into several independent entities, it is very unlikely that it would run a border along the 49th parallel, while leaving the Mason-Dixon Line unmarked.

What is left is the stuff of state-nations: those artifacts that emerge from actions of governments. Frenchmen and Germans know what distinguishes their nations: different languages, foods, architectures, values, behaviors, ways of thinking. Each nation has experienced several radically different styles of government and political institutions over the past two centuries, but throughout that time, the underlying national characteristics have remained remarkably similar. Americans, Canadians, Australians, and Britons have the opposite experiences: their political institutions have evolved steadily along parallel lines of continuity, while their material cultures have had substantial (and increasingly converging) commonalties. When asked what distinguishes them from the other Anglosphere nations, usually the answer points to a state institution or politically-sponsored custom: the Crown, the Flag, the Constitution, the US Marines or the RCMP, established Church or First Amendment, the NHS or the public school district. What holds each Anglosphere country together is, ultimately, their willingness to believe that, for example, a Maine-stater has something in common with a Texan that they do not have in common with a Nova Scotian. Because they believe this, they do, and therefore over time the people of Maine have acquired one set of associations, memories, and identities while the people of Nova Scotia have another. Had the Confederacy won its independence, this process would have worked to separate Texans from Maine-staters mentally.

Because German ideologues like Herder and Fichte have been so successful in promoting the meme of the "authentic" organic nation, people are sometimes reluctant to conclude that they belong to a state-nation rather than a nation-state. This only demonstrates the power of imported foreign memes to confuse people as to the nature of their own societies, and the virtues thereof. State-nations are perfectly good ways to organize society, in many ways better and more flexible than nation-states. The natural affection and patriotism citizens of state-nations feel are in no way less valid than the sentiments of citizens of nation-states; perhaps even more so, for they admit the possibility of valid choice of citizenship in a way that organic nation-state theories do not. It is only those who long for a mystical union with a paternal entity from which they can receive the moral substance of their life who would find the state-nation unsatisfying, and it is for this reason that generations of continental European observers have found the state-nations of the Anglosphere disappointing or lacking.

Given these virtues, then, what do I find less convincing about Turtledove’s alternative history? There are two areas of disagreement. One is about how things would have likely turned out, given that I accept Turtledove’s setup for purposes of argument. The other lies in Turtledove’s overall approach. As with most binary divisions there is a zone of overlap in the middle.

Regarding the first area, I think, given Turtledove’s original assumptions, his history is quite plausible from 1862 through the 1880s, including the US-CS-British/Canadian war. However, I find the developments after that event begin to pile up credibility problems. Although it makes sense that the British would want an alliance with one of the North American powers, after that point in history, it makes more and more sense that that one power should be the USA rather than the CSA. Lord Palmerston was the author of the famous quote that Britain had no permanent allies, just permanent interests. And by the 1880s Britain’s interests lay in stretching quite finite peacetime financial and naval manpower resources to cover a wider and wider set of responsibilities, while facing a growing number of rivals.

In our universe, the British had made their fundamental decision not to treat the US as a serious military rival back around the turn of the century. In facing the growing German naval challenge, they had to decide how much of a Navy they could afford -- resources were quite finite. They concluded that the British political system could not support the budgetary burden (either in higher taxation and/or sacrifices in other areas) to create and support a Navy that could fight the US and the Germans both. This meant that they had to remain at peace with one of them, even at the cost of conciliation of disputes. Put that way, it was a no-brainer to pick the US as the party to not fight.

Another major consideration was the existence of Canada as a hostage to US military power -- fortifying Canada and creating a naval force on the Great Lakes (most annoyingly, entirely non-fungible to other potential theaters) would have run the cost of preparing for conflict up enormously. All the money spent on deterring Germany could be put into the main home fleet, completely fungible assets. Also consider that the British investment in the US was huge by that time a war with the US would involve risking that investment to confiscation and/or destruction.

The roots of the Anglosphere were already in existence by 1890. Both the US and Canada had built the heart and lungs of their industrial capabilities in such a way as to require an undefended and undefendable border. US-UK affinities were such that the US was (and remains) the UK's primary financial destination, and the US's primary external financial source. Neither Brits nor Americans have ever liked paying any more taxes than absolutely needed, and preparing for an unneeded US-UK war was just not on the agenda. US and UK politicians made noises about it from time to time, but no serious plans were ever laid for it on either side.

Now, in Turtledove’s universe, every one of these considerations would have driven for a British flip-flop from supporting the CSA to supporting the USA, somewhere between 1880 and 1900. Such a flip-flop was entirely within historical experience, the prime example being Britain’s flip-flop from a pro-German to a pro-French policy in that same period of time. And there was a much longer history of antagonism between Britain and France than between Britain and the US, even in Turtledove’s universe. Whatever assets the CSA could bring to bear could not offset the particular costs of of Britain and Canada fighting a land-naval war with the US.

Turtledove has the Canadians putting up with high taxes, conscription, and maintenance of a huge military-naval establishment. But in fact the Canadian economy of that day would have been very hard-put to pay even a portion of the cost of fortifying itself against an American attack -- the burden would have fallen mostly on an ever-more-stretched UK. James McCormick’s previous posts have detailed how the Canadians in our universe have always disliked even a mild tax burden for peacetime defense, and nothing in Turtledove’s universe would have been sufficient to reverse this.

Similarly, from the US viewpoint, a US-British alliance against the Confederates would have made much more sense than a US-German alliance against the CSA, Britain, and Canada. It would have permitted the luxury of fighting a war on one front, and concentrating all effort against what would psychologically have been the main enemy --the CSA. It would have protected the industrial capacity of the US against interdiction of its critical iron ore supplies in wartime -- almost certain to be severed in a war with Canada. It would have open the gates to full access to British capital, something that Germany was in no position to replace.

Ironically, Turtledove has the Germans teach the US military proper operational analysis and logistical planning as their alliance unfolds -- but the first generation of bright young West Pointers to apply these tools would have seen the obvious solution staring them in the face. (That would have made a good short story right there -- perhaps an old German watching his US protégé gradually coming to that conclusion, and having mixed feelings of professional pride and nationalistic regret.)

Finally, in a USA-CSA rematch in 1914, the Confederates would have had powerful incentives to keep Britain and France neutral against them, as Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the British and French West Indies would have been convenient bases for a blockade of the Confederacy, and probably seaborne raids and incursions into Confederate territory. Cuba (a Confederate state in Turtledove’s universe) would have been cut off and vulnerable to invasion. Altogether, a USA-British alliance against the Confederates would have made so much sense to both Yankees and Brits that it is hard to see Britain clinging to a costly and vulnerable alliance with Richmond.

Of course such an alternative alternative history would not have permitted Turtledove to unfold his story as he would have liked, and therefore the authorial imperative had to prevail. But this leads to the final, and major dissatisfaction that I have with Turtledove’s series -- its implicit theory of fascism.

If one takes the underlying assumptions of the series seriously, and not merely as an authorial convenience, what we have is a theory of fascism that hold that the rise of a fascist movement and state, and an event equal to the Holocaust, could have happened in any modern state that had suffered a traumatic military defeat and had a scapegoatable ethno-racial minority. Turtledove constructs his alternate history from the Confederate defeat in WW1 on an almost-exact parallel to the defeat of the Second Reich and the rise of Hitler. It is such an exact parallel that if the reader knows the basic chronology of those events, he can pretty much predict what’s going to happen in each chapter. It’s like seeing a new production of a Shakespearean play you already know well; you go to see how they’ll do it, not what will happen. This is Turteldove on Rails, an approach that has both strengths and weaknesses. (You can compare Turtledove on Rails to Turtledove in Free Flight, as it were, by reading a book like Ruled Britannia, which has none of these issues. Personally, I think the latter approach makes for more interesting alternative history.)

In reality, there are many reasons to suspect that a world such as Turtledove posits would not have produced the outcome he depicts. A defeated and revanchist CSA might have been (and probably would have been) nasty, but I think it’s quite unlikely it would have been anything like a close parallel of Nazi Germany.

First of all, the theory of organic nationalism from whose roots National Socialism emerged was something quite specific to continental Europe and the romantic cult of the State that flourished there. It is quite significant that neither this cult of nationalism nor the subsequent cults of fascism that flourished in every Continental nation ever took root in any English-speaking country. Even hard-core republican nationalists in Ireland were still more akin to jacobin civic republican nationalists than blood-and-soil fascists. Even in gritty, war-disillusioned depression-era Britain, the Mosleyites, enjoying a charismatic leader and large amounts of secret Italian funding, never gathered more than a pathetic scrap of hangers-on mostly there for the free food. (I have discussed this question at more length in two articles archived here -- scroll down to the title “Where Have All the Fascists Gone?”.)

Furthermore, it is hard to see American Southerners putting up with the discipline and subordination of individual desires that lay at the heart of every fascist movement. The Ku Klux Klan, for all of its racism and violence, never displayed even a scrap of devotion to Fuhrerprinzip, or any desire to create a totalitarian state, nor even much of a welfare state. Like most Southern populist movements, their goal was a racial caste democracy that could hand out occasional spoils to the boys, with the lottery of the civil court system to spread wealth around a bit. Nasty, yes. Violent, yes. But fascist, no, unless we are to strip the term “fascism” of any kind of historical referents whatsoever. Fascism is not just a synonym for nastiness, it is a specific phenomenon with a time, a place, and a history. If we are not to do its victims a final disservice, we must understand this history in order to avoid any further recurrence of anything like it.

Finally, one of the motivations for the Nazi scapegoating of Jews wa the desire to plunder the substantial wealth the European Jewish communities had achieved since emancipation. Looting this wealth created a substantial source of wealth the Nazis could use to reward their followers. The black communities in Turtledove’s universe had even less wealth than blacks had in 1940s America in the baseline universe -- in fact the only way Southern whites could profit from them was to use their labor, of which killing them en masse obviously deprived them. Turteldove does make the point that agricultural automation was reducing the South’s dependence on black labor, but in fact that effect wasn’t really felt much until the 1950s and 1960s. The trouble with a close parallel between the situation of the Jews in Hitler’s Germany and the blacks in Turtledove’s alternate Confederacy is just that the situations of both the majority and minority communities in both bases were quite different.

Finally, I have a few random points in which do not pretend to argue that my version is more or less likely than Turtledove’s -- they are just whims. One is that Turtledove has baseball never taking off as a national sport in either the USA or the CSA, but having football taking its place. I think it would have been more fun (and maybe more likely) to have baseball continue to become a national sport in the North, while perhaps seeing cricket (which had been roughly as popular as baseball in the US until after the Civil War) take off in the South, perhaps as a result of the British-CSA relationship between the 1860s and the 1880s. Some of my friends who follow both cricket and baseball swear that Ty Cobb would have made a great cricket player. Well, maybe.

The other point is that Turtledove has his Confederates and Yankees continue to use the terms “South” and “North” as synonyms for their respective countries, at least occasionally. I would suspect that after a generation or two, “Northerner” in the CSA would have become a description of a Virginian, while “Southerner” in the USA would have become a term for a Marylander, once each side had absorbed the psychological reality of Confederate independence.

All told, I continue to read and enjoy Turtledove’s alt history, whether on rails or in free flight. Maybe I’ll get around to writing some myself one of these days -- I have a few alternative histories outlined in the back drawer. And I’ve just finished both volumes of John Birmingham’s Axis of Time series, which, since it assumes time travel, is in a different category from the works discussed here. I’ve enjoyed it greatly, so I may post a few comments in it in the near future.

And after all, it’s alt history, so who knows -- maybe it would have played out exactly as Turtledove wrote it. Short of paratime transport, we’ll never know.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 05:08 PM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

Useful narratives

During the exchange of comments on a previous posting I suggested that if British and Anglospheric history were taught properly in schools, it would provide a real narrative for Muslim immigrants and their descendants. Tentatively, I should like to enlarge on that, hoping that other people might contribute ideas. It is, after all, a very important problem for us all in the Anglospheric countries (and not only in them, as the riots in France show).

As I write this the Remembrance Service from the Cenotaph is on the radio. The High Commissioners of many Commonwealth countries are laying wreaths as well in memory of their soldiers who had volunteered to fight and died. For there were many Muslim (and Hindu) soldiers in the trenches on the Western Front. There were many more in the Near East. Many fought in the Second World War.

It is not yet known for certain who is responsible for the murderous bombs in India, planted in crowded market places days before important Hindu and Muslim festivals. It is possible that the answer will have something to do with Kashmir or the Punjab and that should remind us all of the problems the Indian sub-continent has faced as a result of the over-hasty and botched British disentanglement in 1947.

If, on the other hand, it will prove to be the work of Al-Qaeda, then we shall be reminded once again of the fact that many Muslims on the Indian sub-continent have abandoned their own culture and history to look to ideas that come out of the Middle East and have little to do with them.

The same problem has been noted among the Muslim population in some parts of Britain. By and large they are from the Indian sub-continent and the young men’s pretence that they are historically linked to ideas and movements that come out of a completely different culture is erroneous. This needs to be countered by their own leaders and teachers and by the teaching of history in the schools.

The idea that Muslims have an honoured place in the narrative of the British Empire and Commonwealth and, therefore, the Anglosphere is not particularly new. It has merely been buried by the well-paid nomenklatura of the multiculture and race-relations industry, who, alas, control a great deal of the education in numerous Anglospheric countries. (Mostly, I am speaking for Britain, the country whose dire educational standards I know best.)

In his recent essay in The New Criterion John O’Sullivan wrote:

Compared to the recent past, both British and American identities today are weak ones. Their appeal is soft and seductive, making few demands, offering not pride and achievement but a pleasant life, available welfare, low standards, and easy self-esteem. In a world without migration, that might not matter. But migration has brought people with a strong and challenging identity into their countries – notably, Muslims who have established resistant faith communities wherever they have lived. British life succeeds in tempting many Muslims into an apostasy – to secularism, alcohol, and sex rather than to Christianity – but that makes those remaining in the faith still more determined to remain orthodox and, at the extremes, to attack the decadent society that is corrupting the faithful. An earlier Britain might have made the four young Muslim bombers from Yorkshire into soldiers of the Queen. Today’s Britain, uncertain and neurotic, allowed them to drift into a culture of religious murder.

Some of the young men involved had deliberately eschewed the life they saw around them: drinking, drugs, aimless hanging around. Instead, they decided to start a network that would lead them to reading and studying what they saw as matters important to their lives. This attitude is not that different from the self-improving instincts of the Victorian and Edwardian working classes, aided and abetted as they were by educated middle class young men and women.

However, there seemed no obvious outlet for the Muslim young men and their network was taken over by the more extreme imams, leading to a desperate tragedy. An earlier Britain might very well have made the lads into soldiers of the Queen but, also, into doctors or teachers or, as their parents and many other immigrants have become, successful businessmen.

An additional point to be made, which needs a completely separate discussion, is that this is more of a problem for the young men. For young women a way out of their communities represents individual freedom and achievement from which they are forcibly held back.

In August there were two articles by Mihir Bose in the Daily Telegraph that discussed the issue of where Britain’s immigrants, particularly the Muslim ones, since they are the ones with the real difficulties, can fit in Britain’s history.

The first one of them, “Britain has a shared history with its immigrants – unlike America” summed up the argument in the title.

Mr. Bose argued, quite rightly, that there was no point in Britain following America’s example in trying to assimilate the new immigrants, as most of them from the various Commonwealth countries already have links of the kind many of the American incomers do not and have to acquire.

There are good aspects to this and bad:

America can impose a coherent historical narrative on immigrants because the countries they come from had no previous involvement with America. Settlers are able and encouraged to discard their native histories and accept the American version.

But the vast majority of non-white immigrants to Britain have come from our former colonies, and bring not only their own cultures but also their own versions of our shared history. So, in trying to construct a single coherent narrative for this island, we are faced with trying to marry two historical streams: the “home” version and the “export” version.

It can, of course, be done with a little effort but not without the teaching of history. Britain’s relationship with the former colonies, the Empire and the Commonwealth is complicated and many-stranded. Australians will always think differently about Britain from the way the various peoples of the Indian sub-continent do and the latter have, in many ways, a warmer attitude.

The British Commonwealth Ex-Servicemen’s League, which works tirelessly to help people across the many former colonies, complains bitterly how little the people of this country know of what has been done for them by the many people of the Empire and the Commonwealth. As Mr. Bose wrote:

Soldiers from the subcontinent have fought for Britain for more than 200 years in many lands. At the splendid fort at Jodhpur recently, I saw a gun won by the Rajputs in putting down the Boxer rebellion in China.

The Second World War saw 2.8 million Inidans fight for the British the largest volunteer army in the war. [my emphasis] India also suffered terrible civilian losses during the war, with 3.5 million Bengalis dying of famine.

The Gurkhas are citizens of a country whose last war fought against the British in 1816. Since then, Nepal has been neutral in all other conflicts, but its citizens have proved to be Britain’s best fighters.

As Sir Ralph Turner, former officer in the Third Gurkha Rifles wrote:

Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you.

These words are carved on Philip Jackson’s splendid memorial to the Gurkhas in Horse Guards Avenue. Disgracefully, that memorial was not put up till 1997, though there are other, smaller memorials and museums round the country.

There are honourable places there for Gurkhas, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims.

The Gurkhas may know their history, but many of the new Britons know their own no better than the British themselves. Mr. Bose again:

As the great Trinidadian CLR James put it, what do the people of Britain know what was done in their name in far-flung places? And, sadly, the history is increasingly unknown to immigrants and their descendants, too. Indians do not want to be reminded that they collaborated in such large numbers with colonial masters.

We might add to James’s question: what do Pakistani and Indian Britons know of what their grandfathers did in the name of Britain?

Just as the American Constitutional model is not really for export, neither is the American model of integration. Britain shares a history with many of its immigrants and that history must be taught. It provides a narrative and a great and honourable place for the grandfathers of the immigrants as well as the “native” population (for who is really native in this country?).

Mihir Bose’s second piece was called “British Muslims forgetting their roots”. It deals with the specific history of the Muslims in the Indian sub-continent. The article summed up the achievements of Syed Ahmed Khan in reconciling the Muslims of India with the British in the aftermath of the 1857 Mutiny. (And while we are on the subject, is not the Mutiny part of the Muslim history as much as that of Britain? The British have an admirable tradition of honouring the courageous enemy, particularly after that enemy has been defeated.)

Lack of historical knowledge has turned young British Muslims, whose families come from the Indian sub-continent, away from their own true traditions to the “Middle Eastern strain of pan-Islamism, which is essentially a political, not a religious idea, with its origins in late 19th century Turkey and Persia.”

The outcome has been tragic, as Mr Bose sums up:

Today it is rich Saudis who assiduously propagate pan-Islamism. The result has been that British Muslims have become alienated from their roots, both Indian/Pakistani and British. They have been encouraged to forget they belong to a very different cultural strain than the Saudis.

They are mostly converts from Hinduism and there is large measure of the gentle Sufi tradition in them. But influenced by imams, themselves financed by Middle Eastern money, many try to prove they are as Muslim as their co-religionists from the Middle East.

Of course, they are not Middle Easterners, as they find out when they go there. They are treated as if they were Hindu infidels.

It is a great pity that Mr. Bose was not asked to develop his ideas and knowledge. It is a great pity that the Daily Telegraph did not see fit to ask other people to write on the subject. It is a great pity that in our rush to forget our history we refuse to see that the narrative we are all looking for, that would somehow give a place and roots to immigrants and their descendants, is already there.

Posted by Helen Szamuely at 08:35 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

November 12, 2005

Comments to the Previous Post

My apologies to anybody who is having trouble posting comments at Albion's Seedlings -- our new Turing filters have less-then-Turing-like commonsense. There are great comments both here and at Chicago Boyz where it is cross-posted, and I will shortly post at Seedlings a discussion of several of them, Malaclypse's and Carl Hollywood's in particular.

Very briefly, the Anglosphere tradition is both inadvertetly emergent and the product of individual innovation. That is to say, its longstanding characteristics of individualism and market orientation have very deep and particular roots in Anglosphere history, but the intellectual awareness of these characteristics and the socio-political institutions that we now enjoy and that are shaped around those characteristics owe much to individual genius at particular points of its history.

The ideal of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is indeed revolutionary. But the revolution from which it emerged was the English revolution of 1688. This was so well known in 1776 that nobody then needed to have it spelled out -- Jefferson was "sampling" Locke, Milton and Sydney in the Declaration copiously. An analysis of British pamphlets written in response to the Declaration of Independence has shown that hardly any of the authors disputed the principles of the Declaration; most just allowed that it was standard Whig boilerplate. They tended to save their disagreement for Jefferson's particulars as to why America could consider its contract with the crown voided.

Neal Stephenson's work is of great interest to Anglospherists, particularly the Baroque Cycle. And the first use of "anglosphere" that I can find was in Stephenson's The Diamond Age, a novel that also contained a character named (coincidentally, I'm sure) "Carl Hollywood".

Posted by James C. Bennett at 11:34 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 11, 2005

Conservatism, Libertarianism and the Anglosphere Perspective.

I recently had a conversation about how both American and British conservatives have gotten mixed up too much with the idea of “tradition”, and have tried to "conserve" the wrong things. It makes a certain amount of sense that this error occurs in England, where there really are castles and grand houses and people called Lord This or Sir That. But it is odd that this stuff got going in the USA.

The American Right tried, after World War II, to come up with an Oakeshottian traditionalist basis for itself. This effort was manifested in the writings of people like Russell Kirk and Richard Weaver. Kirk in particular devoted his life to this project. It failed. It failed because they were trying to find something that looked on the surface like a continuous traditionalist way of life. Kirk's The Conservative Mind ended up with Santayana, a Spanish pessimist and T.S. Eliot, an idiosyncratic expat. Weaver and his successors like Wendell Berry have tried to look to the South as a source of a traditional way of life, etc, but are forced to deal with slavery and the fact that the agrarian South is a waning part of American life. Conservatism was left as a ragbag with its smartest participants being 19th Century liberals reborn. The problem with them is they speak in the generalities derived from their economics background, hence no rootedness or traditionalism works for them -- Reading someone like Douglass North who tries to make simple facts about culture fit an "econ" model shows the futility of building further from this side. The other smart guys were Cold War realists (and often ex-communists) like James Burnham, who represented an atheoretical pragmatism and a rough-and-ready moral stance that was sufficient for waging the Cold War. Burnham sensed the existence of an Anglosphere but did not articulate its roots or meaning. The foot-soldiers of the Conservative coalition were church-goers who bought into various often simplistic narratives of rugged individualism, Catholic Cold Warriors, and the suburbanites whom Walter Russell Mead calls crabgrass Jacksonians. The impresario of all this was William F. Buckley, who managed to purge the lunatics and find common ground in anti-communism, free enterprise and some general notion of traditional American values. Buckley was acutely aware that the movement lacked total coherence, but pressed on anyway, with remarkable political success.

Those conservatives who are seeking a "tradition" have therefore been orphans, since the problem was initially approached the wrong way. Such people can now find a living tradition via Alan MacFarlane and David Hackett Fischer, but especially MacFarlane, who takes the story back many centuries before the American founding. They can see themselves as part of a centuries-long continuity which goes back to the middle ages, and which came over here in various regional forms. This answers a need from that wing. It also shows that the Econ-side was missing a big part of the puzzle. The economic model only works if the cultural, legal and political institutions are in place. So, they need to understand those, both here and abroad, to find out what works. The libertarians need to bite the bullet and find out what, historically, has made people, regions, eras, countries or civilizations more "dynamist" than others. The answer will not please some of them -- Classical civilization, Christianity, Germanic tribal practices, English practices and English insularity and English legal peculiarities, leading to an exceptional type of civic and political order (nothing remotely like statelessness) which in turn allowed economic growth and the "Exit". Those on the “Hayekian” pole of libertarianism will be better able to grasp all this, since Hayek himself said that capitalism draws from sources it did not create and cannot replace.

So, the Conservatives get a tradition, which they have always wanted. Those who come from the “econ” side get a new research project, to understand differing performance in light of historically developed institutions. The libertarians have to choke down that freedom does not equal merely getting rid of the state, but cultivating civil society, something they ought to be good at since so many of them are techies and that is what the new technology should be about.

The critical contribution that Jim Bennett is making is providing a unifying framework to do re-found both conservatism and libertarianism. He is taking Macfarlane's insights and a bunch of other stuff, identifying a genuine tradition which really is ancient, common to us all, at the core of what makes us what we are, that has caused the freedom and prosperity we value. These ideas are not really new, but they needed to be repackaged and re-presented. This means that the question of "what do conservatives want to conserve" can be coherently answered, finally. The question “what liberties do libertarians value” can be answered better, by showing where the liberties they value came from, and how they they got here.

The Anglosphere idea, with its historical narrative, provides a unifying intellectual framework for many seemingly disparate elements on the political right.

Cross-posted at ChicagoBoyz.

Posted by Lexington Green at 08:36 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Boom! Quand notre coeurs disent boom!

It appears that two of the suicide bombers in Aman were a married couple. Maybe the counselling just didn't work out.

Posted by Verity at 07:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

VDH Gets It

Victor Davis Hanson's weekly column in NRO discusses who the US's friends are and aren't in the world. Interesting money quote:

"In contrast, an India, Japan, and Australia are proud and confident nations. They don't indict our citizens and often appreciate an American global role, whether outsourcing jobs or patrolling regional waters. Unlike the U.N., the EU, and South America, they spare us the sanctimonious lectures and look forward rather than nurse wounds of the past."

India, Japan, Australia, and the US -- this is the same "tsunami team" (sometimes called the "baseball-cricket alliance") that put togther an impromptu and highly effective relief team after the December 2004 tsunami -- so effective that the UN immediately had to horn in to cover that fact that they were so ineffective in contrast. Just prior to that event, I had discussed the question of why those four nations, along with a few others, would be central to the politics of the 21st Century, and the Euro-dreamers would not.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 09:19 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 10, 2005

Common Law and Mixed Systems

In several previous posts, we have enjoyed a vigorous discussion on the subject of what countries are in the Anglosphere, to the extent that there can ever be a definitive concluson on that topic. India and the question of language was the focus of that discussion. One of the other criteria is the question of Common Law. Can a nation be a core member of the Anglosphere without being under Common Law?

In the course of other research, I came across this somewhat technical, but useful discussion by Canadian jurist William Tetley of "mixed systems" -- legal systems that have some characteristics of Common Law and some of Roman civil law. Of the principal civil/common mixed systems discused -- Scotland, South Africa, Quebec, and Louisiana -- three are usually thought of as part off the Anglosphere, while the fourth, Quebec, has in fact a substantial English-speaking population. Tetley (a Quebecker, and so intimately familar with the subject matter) further distinguishes betweeen codified and codified civil law; the former (like Quebec and Louisiana) having formal codification of the law, while the latter merely experienced the importation of many civil law principles over time. Generally the latter have acquired more of the characteristics of Common Law over time, although both Louisiana and Quebec had most of the fundamental protections of Common Law applied to the practice of civil law. Louisiana, once under the US Constitution, could hardly avoid jury trials in any event.

Interestingly, Tetley notes that in South Africa, the influence of Common Law was rolled back under the National party government after 1948 in parallel with the imposition of apartheid.

Altogether, this suggests that countries with mixed systems having a substantial element of Common Law shouldn't be excluded from being seen as part of the Anglosphere for that reason alone.

Claudio Véliz, in his delightful book The New World of the Gothic Fox commented that the use of "Spanglish" -- the Spanish-English mixed dialect of the American-Mexican border and urban areas -- is in and of itself a mark of Anglosphereness, since Spanish culture is oriented toward uniformity. Perhaps a parallel to this principle could be made in regard to legal sytems as well.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 03:38 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 09, 2005

Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards & Pyrotechnics

Kelly, Jack, Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards & Pyrotechnics: The History of the Explosive That Changed the World, 2004

Cross-fertilizing with an earlier review of Macfarlane and Martin's Glass: A World History, “Gunpowder” tracks technological change across a wide sweep of historical time and space from the perspective of one material. Most people can quote chapter and verse of conventional wisdom about gunpowder. The short form is "invented in the East, brought to fruition in the West." While generally correct as far as it goes, the actual details of gunpowder’s history in both East and West justify Kelly's detailed effort at a work for the public (without a forest of footnotes). And suitability for the public should be emphasized. At 250 well-written pages, this is a quick and enjoyable read that will whet your appetite without entirely slaking it. It does have the feel of a series of vignettes or magazine articles recast as a book. But fortunately, from the Anglosphere perspective, the content justifies attention.

A quick recap for those who may not recall their high school chemistry. Gunpowder contains sulphur, charcoal, and saltpetre (potassium nitrate). The sulphur provides a low ignition temperature, the charcoal provides carbon for heat, and the saltpetre (through its nitric acid [NO3] constituent) provides a rich internal source of oxygen for combustion. The higher the saltpetre ratio in gunpowder, the more explosive force it has. The history of gunpowder is intimately linked to that of alchemy, military science, metallurgy, international trade, and the beginnings of modern physics and chemistry. Its role in directing the history of the world is substantial (see Pivotal Dates at the end of this review). Gunpowder, circa 1500, was one of the few trade objects (apart from silver) which Europeans could offer to the empires of south and east Asia.

While Kelly makes little effort to identify why various cultures dealt with gunpowder differently, he does a great job of reviewing the role of gunpowder in military history, and in describing the challenges facing "powder men" through the ages as they attempted to create, refine, maintain, transport, and use gunpowder without getting killed or horribly maimed. It wasn't easy! The history of the European military (on and off the oceans) sometimes seems little more than the shifting good fortunes of different nations and peoples in their elaboration and management of gunpowder.

Tellingly, Kelly asks us to set aside a bit of gunpowder mythology from the get-go. Some authors claim that the Chinese discovered gunpowder very early in history (c. 100 BC) however the reality is that Daoist alchemists in China probably discovered the nature of saltpetre in combination with other materials during the Tang dynasty (roughly 9th century AD). By 1044, Chinese records contain two recipes for “fire drug” which included the basic formula for gunpowder. At proportions under 75%, saltpetre in gunpowder will have an incendiary, rather than explosive, effect. Thus early Chinese application of the substance were for fire arrows (1083) and thunderclap devices (1126). By the early 13th century, iron case bombs and incendiary “lances” were in common use by the Jurchen, Sung, and then the Mongols.

Notably, by 1267, Roger Bacon was outlining the formula (though not the proportions) for gunpowder to the Pope of the day. The rapid transmission of information about gunpowder from China to Europe is assumed to have occurred as part of trade and warfare as the Mongols moved into the Middle East. The case for transmission (rather than independent discovery) is strengthened by the timetable of appearance in the West and the fact that early formulas included alchemical adulterants identical to those in China (with no practical benefit for explosive power).

By roughly 1300, the first practical formulas for gunpowder were appearing in Europe under pseudonymous authorship. Cannon were used in Florence and described in England by 1326. London, England had several dozens “gonnes” by 1339 … and guns were used as an impressive “shock and awe” display by Edward at the battle of Crecy in 1346 (as a prelude to the longbowmen slaughtering a large number of French nobility). The sound and smell of the guns was immediately attributed to infernal and demonic forces. Both gunners and sovereigns were initially running the risk of being proclaimed witches.

Edward’s attempt to use the same cannon soon after Crecy during the siege of Calais highlighted an early limitation the technology. The sound and noise were impressive but the impact on castle walls was still limited. This failure was quickly remedied. By century’s end, cannon had rapidly evolved into siege guns, weighing 10 tons and firing 500 pound stone balls. The era of stone castles as the ultimate static defence (and equity investment) had come to an end. Guns were soon seen as the “must-have” item for every respectable European sovereign – from novelty to necessity in under a century. The problem, however, was that such guns were terribly expensive, incredibly difficult to move, and damned dangerous, as one Scottish sovereign (James II) found out to his permanent detriment in the 1450s.

From the very beginning, gunpowder was a logistical and manufacturing nightmare. It was sensitive to moisture. It exploded unexpectedly. The ratio of ingredients was the subject of constant debate. Its explosive power from batch to batch was unpredictable, leading to ruptured cannon or unexploded loads. Saltpetre (typically recovered from manure piles where two strains of bacteria exude nitric acid as a by-product) was always in very short supply. War had suddenly become a lot more expensive, and complicated and unpredictable for kings and nations.

In the late 15th century, the handling and preparation of gunpowder improved by experiment. By adding a small amount of liquid to gunpowder, and grinding it very finely, the resulting crumbly mixture provided substantially more explosive power and a lowered hygroscopic (water-attracting) property. This useful discovery immediately triggered another round of cannon explosions from over-powdering. The history of gunpowder turns out to be the history of dangerous and inadvertent experimentation. Survivors came away with a bit more information and a continued healthy respect for the substance. To handle the improved powder, cannon were now forged as single blocks with thickened breeches (bases), and muzzle-loaded with iron (rather than stone) ammunition. Trunnions (the small metal stubs at the sides of cannon) appeared, allowing the rapid mounting, moving and adjusting of cannon. A further innovation in gunpowder manufacture lead to “corned” powder … packed and rolled into small balls. Counter-intuitively, gunpowder explodes more effectively if there are small spaces between the grains of powder. Large spaces for large cannon and small spaces for smaller guns.

It was the development of corned powder that was to lead to the first wave of handheld gunpowder projectile weapons … the muskets and arquebuses of the early 1500s, matched by innovations like the wheel-lock ignition system. By 1530, 25 pound muskets appeared which could fire a ball that would penetrate all cavalry armour. The dominance of the horse-mounted armoured noble knight on the battlefield was rapidly coming to an end.

During the 16th century, the broader impact of gunpowder was making itself felt in the design of fortifications, the design and arming of ships, the development of fireworks for entertainment and the evolution of gunpowder for mining and industrial purposes. The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was to usher in the 17th century with a vivid demonstration of gunpowder’s ability to influence political change. As the century progressed, gunpowder was to trigger another round of military innovation. Mobile field artillery was to be used in support of columns and rows of carefully trained infantry. The inherent inaccuracy of muskets meant that volleys of weapons were the only way to have significant impact. There was stagnation in the design of both cannon and handheld weapons from the mid-1600s until well in the 19th century. Casualties on the battlefields had reached such horrendous levels that “optimizing” weapons seemed unnecessary. While initial trajectory research can be found as far back as 1531 in Italy, it wasn’t until the mid-1700s that an Englishman began to test cannon and guns under controlled conditions). As it was, the results of his investigations weren’t put immediately into effect.

It was the French, and indirectly the Americans, that were to benefit from the first scientific and industrial focus on gunpowder. After the death of Louise XV, an inventory of French gunpowder holdings identified a critical shortage. Nobleman Lavoisier was placed in charge of the French Gunpowder Administration and proceeded to rationalize the acquisition of ingredients (including always short-stocked saltpetre) and the manufacture and storage of powder. This rapid expansion in quality and quantity of gunpowder was to appear just as the American colonies began their rebellion. The virtual absence of gunpowder mills in the colonies meant that control of British stores, and the acquisition of rebel supplies, were to drive the strategy and military tactics for both sides of the Revolutionary War. French gunpowder was as important to American success as any other contribution of men and material. Careful husbandry of powder by the Americans was constant right through to the war’s end.

Ironically, the French Revolution was to trigger yet more focus on gunpowder supplies and manufacture. In the course of the social turmoil released by that Revolution, the Du Pont family emigrated to the United States in 1800 … taking with them a paterfamilias trained by Lavoisier. Setting up their gunpowder mill in Wilmington, Delaware with the latest factory equipment (provided at good interest rates by the French), the Du Ponts generated their first gunpowder in 1804 (22 tons) and never looked back. The Du Ponts were to bring gunpowder innovation to the Americas and in turn were to benefit for decades from the expansion of the western frontier, the mining industry, and, of course, the American Civil War. At mid-century, much of the world’s supply of mined saltpetre was to be found in English-controlled India. The Du Ponts raced to sign long-term contracts for all they could buy in the opening days of the American Civil War. The Confederacy had similar engineering prodigies at work, creating state-of-the-art gunpowder mills and applying gunpowder in a new, and rather frightening, range of weapons.

American gunpowder rapidly came to match and then excel continental supplies. The Du Ponts were methodical in their efforts to both discover and develop innovations in the manufacture of gunpowder. And during the 1800s, the first stirrings of modern chemistry were to work hand in hand with the efforts of the powder men. Granulation and grinding of gunpowder was no less dangerous than earlier times but the explosive power and dependability of the product was vastly increased. Powder now came in grains ranging in size from granulated sugar to rice kernels, each meant for different-sized guns. The finest gunpowders were primers, replaced more and more in the 19th century by “fulminates” which were to appear in the new percussion cap handheld guns. The 19th century was the era of weapon innovation – the use of rifling, innovation projectile design, cartridges, revolvers, repeating rifles, and machine guns. An amazing array of industrial and scientific effort was focused on the use of gunpowder and the design of weapons. It was the application of “American methods” however – standardized parts and assembly in factory settings – that were to revolutionize weapons far faster than gunpowder itself.

The discovery of nitrocellulose (or guncotton) in 19th century Europe was the first hint at the end for “black powder.” In rapid succession, nitroglycerin, blasting caps, and dynamite were developed and applied to military and industrial processes. The incredible explosive power of these materials were to trigger years of great anxiety. How could these substances be safely transported and used? In the mid-1800s, Europeans discovered how to “plasticize” guncotton and a new wave of “smokeless powders” loaded in brass cartridges with fulminate primers quickly replaced muzzle-loaded black powder weapons. This was now the era of “cordite” (the British variant of plasticized guncotton). Ironically, the final major use of gunpowder in Western war was by the US Army in the Spanish-American War. Within months, however, they’d converted to smokeless powder. Gunpowder held on in the mining industry until the 1950s because of its ability to offer a “soft explosion” needed with some minerals. Du Pont closed their last black powder factory in the 1970s. Today gunpowder’s remaining use is as a source of entertainment – the fireworks beloved by people around the world during celebrations – no more than a fused bag of gunpowder which launches a round aerial shell containing yet more powder and the metal shavings needed to create colour.

Gunpowder’s role in theories about the Anglosphere are rather peripheral. It is a European story, in which Britain had a modest role to play. There was rarely a time when the English-speaking world held any kind of monopoly in the use of gunpowder or development of weapons. The British and Americans showed no great gifts in innovation. Yet once the industrial revolution kicked in, the Anglosphere was able to apply gunpowder in military and industrial settings to great effect. The necessary disciplines of gunpowder in manufacture, storage, and application, were a fine fit with the kind of culture being developed in the Anglosphere. When these countries ranged East in the 19th century, they met an Asian society that was still using the cannons forged by the Portuguese 200 years before. The outcome was inevitable. Like glass, gunpowder was to be the obsession of the elite in Europe, and elite sponsorship was to relentlessly drive development gunpowders and weapons for six centuries.

Pivotal Dates in Gunpowder’s Historical Role

Edward III in France 1346 uses “shock and awe” at Crecy
Charles VII recaptures France from English 1435-50 with superior gunnery
Charles VIII in Italy 1494 takes Naples and northern Italy through gun superiority
Mehmet II takes Constantinople 1451-3 with massive siege guns
Portuguese (Da Gama) dominates in India Ocean (Calcut in 1498), capturing spice trade from Arabs
Americans in Revolutionary War very constrained by the lack of indigenous powder supplies. French play crucial role.

Posted by jmccormick at 05:43 PM | Comments (2)

Swishing chaps in the high chapparel

The destructive lefties are at it again.

Now the heritage of the West and Wyoming is to be shoe-horned into the liberal agenda. Forget Gary Cooper. Forget Shane. Forget John Wayne. Forget, even, the Deadwood stage and Doris Day. Who’d a thunk it, but while the Beatles were taking the world by storm and the world was agog at the miniskirt and Carnaby Street, according to Hollywood, there were two cowboys in 1960s Wyoming who were fighting their secret desire for one another.

They couldn’t set it much later than the 1960s because otherwise, the two cowboys would have been drinking latte and exchanging ironing tips on getting sharp pleats in their chaps.

Needless to say, the folks in Wyoming are not pleased – not because the film deals with homosexuality, but because it is a lie. Wyoming residents say they have never heard of a gay cowboy, there’s no hint of such in the state’s folklore and the cowboys themselves say they’ve never heard tell of one either. The locals are saying, “Don’t trash our heritage,” but it’s tipped to win an Academy award. The New York Daily News’s Jack Matthews opined that the movie may be too much for the red state audiences, but “would give the liberal-leaning academy a great chance to stick its thumb in conservatives’ eyes.”

Precisely. Not honest entertainment, but malice.

According to London’s Telegraph, the film has attracted rave reviews, with some critics praising as brave the "abundant nudity and explicit love scenes".

Sounds like a real snooze-fest.

Posted by Verity at 10:51 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

November 05, 2005

Sources of radicalism

It seems appropriate to discuss sources of radicalism and the question of terrorism that is rooted in religion as well as political dissatisfaction on the anniversary of that earlier attempt to undermine the government of England. 400 years ago yesterday the plot to blow up Parliament was discovered with dire consequences for its perpetrators.

Plus ça change, plus ça reste la même. Once again we are facing an enemy that is outside the country as well as inside it. Europe, though not Britain particularly, has fought Islam before but it was usually in the shape of an external, and highly visible enemy. Now, we are less sure. Most of the Muslims we know are not our enemies. They want out of life much the same sort of things non-Muslims want: a job, a home, a family, good things for the children. But how do we know who are the ones who want something else: destruction and a weird idea of future conquest?

The parallels are not exact. I shall, I expect, be reminded by various readers that the Catholics of Elizabethan and Jacobean England had been here for as long as the Protestants had (though Guy Fawkes himself was not, I believe, of English origin), while the Muslims are relatively recent incomers.

But the real difference is not there but in the reaction. A new, muscular and aggressive Protestantism fought what it perceived to be the enemy. There was more to it than that, as there is in the fight with radical Islam. Catholicism was seen as a political enemy. Even later in the seventeenth century Milton in his Areopagitica explained why he did not consider it advisable to be tolerant of the Catholics – they were then the country’s political enemies.

Political enemies had to be dealt with in a political way as many a hapless Catholic found out under Elizabeth’s reign. Her answer to the Pope’s “fatwa”, if one may put it that way, was to create the most efficient secret service of the day.

Walsingham’s lads dealt efficiently with Catholic plotters; knew exactly on which ships young scions of recusant families were departing to study on the Continent; and, if needs be, kidnapped escaping priests from the Catholic Lowlands.

Protestantism under Elizabeth blended into the concept of England, developed earlier than any other country’s self-definition as a cursory reading of Shakespeare’s history plays as well as other contemporary writings will show.

Modern Europe and modern Britain are, of course, very different. Gradually, we can see certain ideas being formulated about the fight we need to wage but it is taking a long time, the main problem being is that few people can seriously define what it is they are fighting for. (I believe I have pointed out in the past that only Hungarians manage to define Englishness or Britishness to any satisfactory degree.)

Francis Fukuyama, the eminent philosopher, goes further than that. In an article last Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal Europe [subscription only] he posited the theory that the roots of radical jihadist terrorism are not in the Middle East but in Western Europe.

This is not such an extraordinary idea. Let us remember that some of the worst ideologically motivated bloodthirsty dictators such as Pol Pot, Ho-Chi Minh and sundry African rulers, were not radicalized by seeing the poverty or alienation of their people but by studying in Western Europe, notably France.

(Of course, there were the Marxist African rulers who were educated and trained in the Soviet Union and its East European satellites but that was a deliberate plan.)

With the Muslims the problem lies in the non-existent social and cultural networks.

We profoundly misunderstand contemporary Islamist ideology when we see it as an assertion of traditional Muslim values or culture. In a traditional Muslim country, your religious identity is not a matter of choice; you receive it, along with your social status, customs and habits, even your future marriage partner, from you social environment. In such a society there is no confusion as to who you are, since your identity is given to you and sanctioned by all of society’s institutions, from the family to the mosque to the state.

This, I think, underestimates problems many Muslim countries have faced in the modern world where the traditional values do not seem to be as valuable or admirable as they might be expected to be.

Nevertheless, Fukuyama’s theory becomes of great interest when he compares the position of a Muslim in a traditional society to that of a Muslim in a West European country. Professor Bernard Lewis has written that while Islamic legal scholars in the past had discussed the way a religious Muslim should behave towards the “infidel” who had been conquered or who is the conqueror, there is no guidance for behaviour by Muslims who have, for various reasons, chosen or whose families had chosen to live under “infidel” rule. And that is confusing.

Fukuyama says:

The same [certainty of identity] is not true for a Muslim who lives as an immigrant in a suburb of Amsterdam or Paris. All of a sudden, your identity is up for grabs; you have seemingly infinite choices in deciding how far you want to try to integrate into the surrounding, non-Muslim society.


The identity problem is particularly severe for second- and third-generation children of immigrants. They grow up outside of the traditional culture of their parents, but unlike most newcomers to the U.S., few feel truly accepted by the surrounding society.

The problem, as analyzed by the theoreticians of European integration (well not Monnet or Salter but some of the lesser ones and the second-rate ones we are saddled with at the moment) is virulent nationalism. An integrated European Union would miraculously excise all the nasty parts of European history from its identity, to be left, as we are often told, with the “European heritage” of freedom, democracy, human rights, motherhood and apple pie, as long as the crust is not made with lard.

It is, however, this indecisive and far from robust cultural definition that is causing many of the problems, particularly as underneath all the talk, it is clear that national identity and self-definition remains stronger than European ones. But, as they are not supposed to be articulated so they cannot be offered to those on the margins of society.

Fukuyama sees it slightly but not all that much differently:

Contemporary Europeans downplay national identity in favour of an open, tolerant, ‘post-national’ Europeanness. But the Dutch, Germans, French and others all retain a strong sense of their national identity, and to differing degrees it is one that is not accessible to people coming from Turkey, Morocco or Pakistan.

In fact, it might be accessible in some of the countries. What remains inaccessible because it is incomprehensible and to a great extent non-existent, is the official post-nationalist European identity. Since we cannot (and many of us do not want to) define it ourselves, we cannot expect people who come to it from outside to join it.

At the same time, we no longer seem capable of defining that “strong sense of national identity” that undoubtedly still exists, albeit in a muddled way. Not all is lost. National identities are easier to define when they are under attack.

There is another problem for the immigrants and their descendants and this is a direct result of that famous European social structure that we are supposed to be so proud of:

Integration is further inhibited by the fact that rigid European labour laws have made low-skill jobs hard to find for recent immigrants or their children. A significant proportion of immigrants are on welfare, meaning that they do not have the dignity of contributing through their labour to the surrounding society. They and their children understand themselves as outsiders.

This is different from what happened in the past, when immigrants and their offspring made their way into society through various jobs, at first menial, then, perhaps, trading, then educated ones.

The European social model, that we must, according to all and sundry from Commission President Barroso downwards, preserve is little different from the old semi-feudal structure where everybody stays in the same place and advance is made as difficult as possible.

It is in this context that someone like Osama bin Laden appears, offering young converts a universalistic, pure version of Islam that has been stripped of its local saints, customs and traditions. Radical Islamism tells them exactly who they are – respected members of a global Muslim umma to which they can belong despite their lives in lands of unbelief.

Fukuyama then goes on to explain that radical Islamism “is as much a product of modernization and globalization as it is a religious phenomenon; it would not be nearly as intense if Muslims could not travel, surf the web, or become otherwise disconnected with their culture.”

In fact,

Democracy and modernization in the Muslim world are desirable for their own sake, but we will continue to have a big problem with terrorism in Europe regardless of what happens there.

At the end of the article Fukuyama outlines some of the measures being taken by several West European countries, some with more success than others, of ensuring that incomers become aware of the culture they are entering and become part of it.

Certain measures can be taken, though I think he is over-optimistic about the powers the British police has been given “to monitor, detain and expel inflammatory clerics”. I shall believe it when I see it. And, although there is a general recognition that multiculturalism is a failure, there is precious little evidence that it is being abandoned. For one thing, far too many people are doing well out of it.

What is, however, considerably more difficult and harder to define (as witnessed by the risible “test” of Britishness that is being proposed for new immigrants) will be the national identity we want newcomers to participate in, if they want to stay here. Unfortunately, wishy-washy European “ideals” of general kindliness are no substitute for a clear understanding, warts and all, of what a country is, what its people are and where they are going. They are, in fact, a very large part of the problem.

Cross-posted from EUReferendum.

Posted by Helen Szamuely at 06:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Confrontation: Thoughts on the upcoming European Civil War

The Islamic insurrections in France and Denmark raise some interesting questions about how Europe may look 20 years from now, and what its relationship will be to the Anglosphere.

Paris has endured its ninth night of Islamic mayhem, with thousands of unintegrated Muslim youths torching, in one night, over 900 vehicles, attacking two nurseries and one school, a fire station, an emergency vehicle and setting a disabled woman on fire – among the more generalized mindless violence and mayhem. That a country would choose to endure a civil insurrection of this magnitude by unschooled – and unemployed, thus non-contributing – violent immigrants for nine straight nights is astounding.

I think we are seeing the first skirmishes of a civil war on the continent of Europe – with possibly some blowback in Britain if the flaccid socialist apologists are still in office when it happens.

The French, I predict, will continue to be conciliatory and agree to meetings to “address injustices” and the Muslim “spokesmen”, “community leaders”, mullahs, imams, apologists and explicators will come pouring in with their oily taqqya and kitman (a formal Muslim bait ‘n’ switch strategy for leading non-Muslims up the garden path) and the French government will, naturally, give in to demands.

The Danes, on the other hand, are Vikings with million gigabyte memories and that red Viking blood still flows in their veins. Last week, the Danish prime minister refused to meet with 11 accredited ambassadors from Muslim countries to discuss their insulted feelings at the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons of Mohammed. He cited freedom of the press and told them he wouldn’t accord them a meeting because there was nothing to discuss.

The Dutch, who have been pretty vapid about Islamic aggression in their country have now endured Islam-related public murders on the streets of Amsterdam: filmmaker Theo van Gogh was shot off his bicycle, his throat cut and a message pinned to his chest with a knife, and in the last couple of months a public "honor killing". Members of parliament Geert Wilders and Aaryan Hirsi Ali (an apostate) have been under 24-hour police protection for around a year now after credible death threats. Hirsi Ali has stated in public that the government errs in refusing to acknowledge that the problem is not a few errant individuals, but Islam itself. I believe the Dutch may now be turning the corner.

This is a war of civilizations, which we will win. The fighters, and victors, will be the northern Europeans – the Dutch, the Brits and the Scandinavians (with the help of the Poles and other new members who endured Soviet dictatorship and aren’t about to lie down for a re-run).

I foresee, in the long term, the dissolution of the EU. I believe that the southern European countries may hive off and form their own alliance with N Africa. I can see France, Spain, Portugal, Malta and possibly Greece forming a trade area, and possibly a political area, with Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. In other words, Chirac’s famous “les deux rives de la Méditerranée” (the two banks of the Mediterranean). It is possible that French W Africa, as in Ivory Coast and Somalia, might be included in this bloc, as it would, in any case, be largely Francophone.

Britain, being the largest economy, will lead an alliance along the lines of EFTA – the original European Free Trade Association, with the Vikings, Dutch, Poles and some of the newer EU members. Possibly, as most of these have an Atlantic coastline, the whole bunch will sign on with NAFTA, which will change its name to North Atlantic Free Trade Association. These nations will continue to prosper, especially if they dump their socialist governments. The French adventure, as ever, will fail.

For further, well-written, commentary from a conservative/libertarian French point of view, mainly in English, see No Pasaran!.

Posted by Verity at 12:53 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

November 03, 2005

Quote of the Day

Mr. Gladstone has observed, that "as the British Constitution is the most subtle organism which has proceeded from progressive history, so the American Constitution is the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man." His words, though not necessarily carrying such meaning, have been often quoted as expressive of this old-time idea, that the American Constitution is wholly new, - that it is, in fact, an original creation of the convention which met in Philadelphia in 1787. ... [But] the Constitution of the United States, though possessing elements of novelty, is not, after all, the new creation that this idea would imply. It is not, properly speaking, the original composition of one body of men, nor the outcome of one definite epoch, - it is more and better than that. It does not stand in historical isolation, free of antecedents. It rests upon very old principles, - principles laboriously worked out by long ages of constitutional struggle. It looks back to the annals of the colonies and of the mother-land for its sources and its explanation. And it was rendered possible, and made what it is, by the political development of many generations of men. ...

There may still be persons in America who ... look unwillingly to England or other countries for the origin of institutions they have long been accustomed to consider characteristically modern and American. But surely Americanism can never be more truly American, than when it welcomes, not merely such isolated fragments of fact as differentiate the United States from other nationalities, but every fact, whatever it be, that has to do with the nation; and among these, a most important fact is that of progression from the Anglo-Teutonic past. In reality, the light that comes from historical comparison will be found to give new and heightened colour to the national institutions, and to bring out more clearly than anything else could do, their true meaning and value....

Our institutions are essentially Teutonic, and the channels through which the ancient influences have made themselves felt in the Constitution, are conceded to be predominantly colonial and English. The historian of institutions thus held in common by the mother country and our own, can never treat Great Britain as he might properly treat a land of alien peoples. That old land which is the home of our language, and which holds the dust of most of our forefathers, can never be wholly foreign soil. And this is well, - for surely mankind is the better for whatever binds together these two great kindred nations in the love of liberty.
C. Ellis Stevens, Sources of the Constitution of the United States Considered in Relation to Colonial and English History (1894)
Posted by Lexington Green at 02:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Go West!

A brief exchange of emails with Lex on the differences between the Weltanschauungs of Britain and the United States prompted these thoughts.

Americans make new friends easily and, often to the horror of any Brit they are talking to, will give you intimate details about their lives and medical conditions on 10 minutes' acquaintance. Lex thought perhaps the Brits are more reserved because "Britain is a country of clubs, groups, regiments, schools, Inns of Court and other private associations." He thinks this tends to make Britons clannish, but this argument doesn't address the fact that this segment of the population is very small. Most people don't belong to clubs in St James's and don't maintain chambers at the Inns of Court.

I would propose that Americans make friendships quickly because this was necessary for survival when they landed in a new, virgin country which they all had to conquer together. They needed one another. At the same time, those people who had left their homes and families thousands of miles away as they turned their faces toward the sun and went West, would also find the will to leave their new friends and neighbours when new opportunities opened up even further West. They were all in it together and cooperation and friendly social interaction was critical.

The British have lived in their cities and villages for generations – since the Roman occupation. They have no need to open up to strangers because their entire clan is usually close by – on the next street or the next village or the next town. Admittedly, this may demonstrate a lamentable lack of curiosity, but they had little motivation to look beyond their own surroundings. Save an occasional war, which they could handle, life was settled and secure.

But new Americans had left their families and old friends behind. It is two radically different points of view. Even when the British were sent overseas, to the East India Company, let us say, they had the ready-made acquaintance of the "family" of other East India Company employees and their families. New Americans had to work at making new friends wherever they chose to settle.

But there's another difference, just as important, and that is that America is an optimistic nation. This is because so many optimists were confident enough to bet their futures that they could make a better life for themselves in the new country of America, and they steeled themselves to leave their homes and families, knowing they would probably never see them again. As America became a success, based on the efforts of these first pioneers, other optimists in other countries also turned their faces to the sun – the Italians, the Germans, the Poles, the Jews – optimists every one – determined to take their fate into their own hands, confident they could prosper. And, by and large, they did.

That is why America is such an affirmative, optimistic nation. It's where all the optimists went.

Posted by Verity at 11:19 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack