December 31, 2005

Alan Macfarlane’s Empire of Tea (2003)

The Empire of Tea: The Remarkable History of the Plant that took over the World, Alan and Iris Macfarlane, 2003. (also published as Green Gold: The Empire of Tea). 308 pp. in small format.

In past blog posts, I've reviewed several books that help us understand the dynamics of international trade over the last thousand years or so. Our world has been globalized for a very long time and we have examples of how the two ends of Eurasia had very different needs, interests, and capacities. In one such case, the elements of material culture (glass-making and glass-using) were to have profound impact on how Westerners viewed the world in advance of other cultures. Alan Macfarlane's book on Glass was a well-written and stimulating account of the role of glass-making in global technological change.

Macfarlane has followed up with a similar, but rather more personal, book on one item of material culture and trade - the tea leaf. His family were tea planters in Assam (northeast of India) during the mid-20th century, and Empire of Tea is co-written with his mother, who experienced life as memsahib in the 40s and was emotionally traumatized by the plight of the agricultural workers on the Assamese tea plantations. The harsh physical demands on the workers picking the tea leaves continue to this day.

Empire of Tea, per normal for a book by Alan Macfarlane, reflects encyclopedic research with a deft and approachable written style. It's a small book and a relatively quick read, and very well organized, but one comes away with a strong sense of the botany, medicinal effects, history, economic impact, and social import of tea in human history over the last 1500 years. An excellent starting point to the literature, in other words.

Tea has been a valuable currency in its own right, a gateway to successful urbanization, a helpmate during Britain's early industrialization, and a spur to financial, technological, and agricultural innovation. Who knew? And that's perhaps Empire of Tea's great gift-- you come away seeing the world and its history very differently.

The tea plant (Camellia sinensis) evolved in the jungle highlands of the Himalayas under very challenging ecological circumstances. The plant adapted to its many micro- and macroscopic predators with a tough and complex biochemistry. Rich with antibiotic constituents, the tea plant was brought to the monasteries of China by 500 AD and cultivated as a bush. Infusions of the tea plant's leaves were considered an aid to meditation. Tea is a mild stimulant, simultaneously relaxing and able to increase the nutritional properties of other foods. The tea leaves themselves are edible and are often still used as a key ingredient in soups and rice balls in the poorest parts of Asia. The plant does well on poor soils, is hardy, and can handle variable rainfall. New leaf sprouts form throughout the year and a cultivated plant can be harvested every six weeks on plantations.

By 1000 AD, tea had expanded in China to general use by civilians and a cottage industry of growing and harvesting and curing tea leaves was in place. Crops were consolidated into larger shipments for trade to cities and coastal areas.

Europeans were exposed to tea in the mid-1600s by the Dutch. By 1700 in England, tea was able to begin competing with the more expensive coffee as the drink of preference. England of the time was a beer, wine and spirits nation. Drinking water was not preferred and as urbanization became more common, diminishing water quality led to increased waterborne disease in built-up areas. At just this point, tea-drinking took hold as a drink of the common people suitable for all ages and genders. As tea required the boiling of water before consumption, there was an inherent improvement in the safety of hydration of the population. Infants breastfed by mothers who drank tea were absorbing healthful tea chemicals (phenols) directly in the breast milk and then were weaned onto weak tea as a general drink. The health and demographic implications for England’s urban populations were substantial. Macfarlane is not hesitant to speculate aggressively on this and many other implications of the adoption of tea by the Brits in the early 1700s. A massive expansion of the tea trade during 1700s was part of monopoly trade rights of the East Indian company. The huge tea profits of the company in turn enabled its expansion into more and more areas of India, running its own private army and bureaucracy until Great Britain began greater control over its activities (Regulating Act of 1773) and finally dissolved the East India Company in 1858 and took over direct rule.

Demand for the tea in England was large but one pound of tea could create 200-300 cups of tea so even at several pounds sterling per pound, tea was far more affordable to ordinary people than coffee. There is evidence that tea represented a substantial portion of most poor family’s weekly expenditures. Note also that despite the American patriotic claim after 1776 that coffee was its national drink, tea continued to be imported in massive quantities after the Revolution. Increased volume of tea imports (using, ironically, Asian ceramics as needed ship ballast) were still coming exclusively from China and the exchange of silver/cotton in one direction and tea in other was a notable portion of overall British trade of the 18th century. Transportation of the tea from the inland Chinese cultivation areas was very difficult so costs for tea were largely driven by transport costs (rather than growing/harvesting costs) and by extortionate markups of middlemen in Chinese coastal cities. The English were eager to discover more details about tea cultivation and preparation and the Chinese were understandably just as eager to prevent that discovery. As time passed, the Dutch tried plantations of tea in Java but didn’t apply much 19th century method to their agricultural efforts. Sample tea plants and leaves had arrived in England fairly early but the details of cultivation and the labourious hand-processing after picking the leaves was still mysterious.

By early 1800s, England was struggling to keep up with the lopsided trade balance (primarily silver for tea). By the 1820s, American-designed clipper ships were delivering tea to Britain at incredible speed from the Orient but England had no means of reducing the costs of the tea itself in Chinese ports. Increasing efforts to open the Chinese market to find alternate trade goods for the payment of tea lead to the Opium Wars (1839-42) and the establishment of greater European control over Chinese coastal areas. Conflicts over access to interior were very much about bringing costs of tea production down by identifying just where the cost was being added. Yet at the same time, at the other end of the trade chain, England was seeing significant changes in society and workplace that tea (laced with Caribbean sugar) was making possible. This was a unique situation where a population’s addiction actually increased health and happiness rather than degrading it. The monotony and danger of early industrialization in Britain (not experienced by nations such as Germany, France, and America who adopted industrialization later in the 19th century) was eased by the stimulating and nutritional properties of sugared tea. Macfarlane makes a careful and thorough case for the social, medicinal, and nutritional role of tea for working-class people during this period.

Industrialization of life in England also encouraged the development of botanical and geographical science to locate and/or transplant tea plants from China. Ironically, it was the discovery of wild tea plants in Assam (same genus [Camellia] but different species [assamica]) that encouraged aggressive investment in the cultivation of tea outside China. By the 1860s there were significant but shaky attempts at plantation of the Chinese species of Camellia in Assam but the economic breakthrough was the use of machines to automate the controlled drying and curing of the tea leaf. Previously, this was a very labour-intensive and boring task. Now step by step the English were able to remove the hand labour from each step of tea preparation. They could rationalize the planting and management of plantations, could develop machines for each step of processing (except picking) and could eliminate the corruption, transportation bottlenecks, and undercapitalization of the Chinese tea industry. The result was a total collapse of the Chinese export tea market in the last half of the 1800s after 150 years of a global monopoly market. This was catastrophic to the domestic Chinese economy, especially since silver from export markets added liquidity to Chinese economy and added much needed cash to the pockets of the poorest farmers in interior China. Once a tremendous financial boon, such Chinese monopoly conditions, operating under social stagnation, led to great hardship for people who for generations depended on a few tea plants on their property as a cash crop. The economic implications of the tea industry's collapse for Chinese history in the 20th century were substantial.

In England, tea drinking and socialization around tea was associated with new forms of social interaction. In dramatic contrast to the pub or club culture of England, communal tea drinking was very much acceptable for both women and children. This was a public, familial, middle-class activity accepted from the highest to lowest social classes. Pause for a moment and think of how unique in human history such an activity is. In addition, the ability for women to gather informally at all social strata was to have important effects on social programs and standards for society in the 19th century. From the abolition of slavery to the 20th century Prohibition and suffragette movement, it's hard to imagine how any of it could have occured without the tea gardens and afternoon teas of the educated Englishwoman. Migrating the lower classes from gin to tea, and away from alcohol generally, was set in motion by the adoption of tea by England’s educated middle class in the 19th century.

Changes too in English ceramics were initiated, particularly adapted for the English style of tea drinking. This led to a drop in the earlier demand and enthusiasm for Asian ceramics. Wedgewood tea sets were reflecting Classical, Renaissance and Romantic themes, not those of earlier chinoiserie. Strangely enough, England’s tea enthusiasms were not duplicated by the rest of Europe. Only the women of Holland shared the Anglosphere’s tea-drinking mania. Some of this was no doubt driven by the 18th century capture by the Dutch and English of East Asian trade (spice and tea respectively) but one wonders, as did Macfarlane, whether France, Germany, and Italy inadvertently reduced their industrialization in the early 19th century by an inability to maintain healthy city populations. Meanwhile, the colonies of England, including US, were avid tea-drinkers (supporting good health) and tea was a critical lightweight export product from the UK to those colonies during their expansion. Their industrialization paralleled that of the mother country and only slightly lagged the European continent. Tea was to play its part as the stimulant and relaxant of choice for the industrial classes.

Tea made life bearable. Tea made life safer. Tea drove science, industry, naval technology, and trade financing. Tea was a trigger of conflicts. Tea blessed the working class of the Anglosphere while encouraging the exploitation, by both indigenous and foreign powers, of ordinary folk picking the leaves. Macfarlane claims the medical and social impact of tea as one of the largest trade influences in human history. The safe daily rehydration of billions of people in the modern world is still indirectly dependent on the mild addiction of humans to tea-drinking. The tale of trade, warfare, economics, and industrialization surrounding tea cultivation has left a profound imprint on Asian history, and therefore on global history

Assam and India continue, with China, to be major exporters of tea and the Indians themselves have picked up tea drinking in big way since 1850. Though improvements on the Indian tea plantations post-Independence have been slow in coming, humane conditions are becoming more common, even as tea production still requires huge amounts of human labour at the picking stage.

Some of the most productive areas of the planet in times past and present have been Asian and Anglospheric, all under tea's domain. Tea's empire would therefore also seem to be an empire of productivity. Drunk daily, literally in mother’s milk for much of the planet, the story of tea is nontheless tinged with great sadness. Macfarlane's own family history shines through this story, and he invests with passion and compassion in his book.

Empire of Tea is a book that any Anglosphere reader will find important, and any reader at all will find quite fascinating.

Posted by jmccormick at 06:38 PM | Comments (2)

The serving of food

Because it is still the Christmas period (seventh day, with the swans, going to the eighth) and because it is nearly 2006, I intend to write about food. No, not recipes but about the history of the serving of food. There is a great deal to be learnt from the history of food, recipes and cookery books. For instance, it is one of the interesting aspects of English life and agriculture that there was more eating of meat across a wider range of society than in almost any other part of Europe, let alone Asia. But that may be a theme for another posting

There are two references to the eating of food in “Pride and Prejudice” that used to puzzle me. The first occurs when Elizabeth Bennett comes to stay with her ill sister Jane at Netherfield and dines with the family there. Mr Hurst, Mr Bingley’s brother-in-law is a stupid and indolent man, who is interested in nothing except food, drink and cards. His conversation with Elizabeth is limited to finding out that she prefers a plain dish to a ragout.

Now, this is only partly puzzling, as it could have been the sort of dinner conversation Mr Hurst had. But the other reference is odder. Towards the end of the book, when Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley reappear in Longborne, Mrs Bennett immediately starts scheming about the latter finally marrying Jane. When the two gentlemen pay a visit, she almost invites them to stay to dinner (then taken in the late afternoon) but decides not to do so, the reason being, that, although she always kept a good table, nothing short of two courses could be considered to be good enough for a man on whom she had such anxious design and another one, who had £10,000 a year.

Two courses? What kind of a dinner is that I asked myself idly. And if that is special, what was ordinary like?

It was some time before I managed to work out what Austen was writing about. She had no need to explain as her readers knew. The norm for serving dinner until well into the nineteenth century in England was what was later described as á la française. Instead of one well-defined course following another, each one consisted of several dishes, sweet and savoury often mingled, placed on the dining table, with guests helping each other and themselves. This would explain Mr Hurst’s conversation. He, presumably, roused himself enough to help Elizabeth and found out that she preferred the plain dish on the table.

In here recenlty published “Charlemagne’s Tablecloth – a Piquant History of Feasting”, the chef and food writer Nichola Fletcher expands on the theme, quoting from the “Epicure’s Yearbook” of 1868 (a little late for the French service), which says that for the gourmand this was much better because little could be tried of many different dishes.

It was possibly more stressful for the host, who had to carve the inevitable roast, sometimes several in one or more courses. Ms Fletcher also notes that the tablecloth, too, must have been dirtied as the various dishes were passed back and forth. Some pictures show feasts in which the entire table is covered with many different dishes, leaving space only for tiny individual plates. One wonders how the diners managed without slopping all the food onto the table cloth.

On a smaller scale, eighteenth and early nineteenth century cookery books provided suggestions and plans for the various courses and how to arrange them attractively and in a balanced way. Mrs Beeton in her usual thorough fashion provided menus for each month for different numbers of people as well as plain family dinner menus.

Each formal dinner consists of a first course of soup and fish arranged around a vase of flowers, which stays there for the rest of the dinner. Then there is an entrée of lighter meat dishes and possibly some more fish and seafood. Mutton cutlets, fillet of rabbit or curried fowl seemed the sort of thing one had. The second course had the roast and boiled meat with garnish. The third course was a mixture of game, vegetables and sweet dishes. Then came the dessert and ices.

One can quite understand why later food writers saw the appearance of many different dishes, all of which had to be offered to others at the table before one helped oneself (and what if the one you wanted was at the other end?) to be removed and replaced by other dishes as a way of presenting food they were well rid of.

Some time in the 1830s the fashion began to change towards service á la russe, that is a series of courses in what might appear a logical order to us, served directly to the guest by servants with the meat carved on the side. It probably meant that more food was consumed but that did not bother the Victorians much. A more important aspect, noted by Mrs Beeton was the need for many and well-trained servants. It is interesting that that habit came from Russia where the supply of servants, not always well trained, was almost limitless.

The dinner table was now filled with many and large vases of flowers as well as various decorations (such as the silver cow creamer, described so gloriously by P. G. Wodehouse) and dining became effortless and more pleasant. Mostly.

For as Mrs Beeton points out service á la russe is not suited for a small household where the necessary number of servants will not exist and the food is not likely to be presented in an attractive fashion. That was, presumably, the beginning of those terrible dinners described so vividly by generations of English writers of overcooked meat and undercooked potatoes presented in a somewhat haphazard fashion by one harassed maid. Mrs Beeton knew whereof she spoke.

It is surprising how long the idea of food being served by servants even in home surroundings survived in Britain. When it became impractical, various solutions were invented, such as the hostess trolley, wheeled in by the harassed hostess.

Eventually, of course, common sense prevailed in most domestic dinner parties and we have returned to a form of service á la française with the food, still in the proper order as decreed by service á la russe, placed on the table with the guests helping each other and themselves. Of course, it would be difficult to offer the choice of a plain dish or ragout but it might just be possible to find out whether your neighbour prefers mashed or roast potatoes.

Happy new year and happy feasting to all.

Posted by Helen Szamuely at 06:25 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 29, 2005

France vs. America

The Economist, in a fascinating article on French anti-Americanism, argues that France (or, to be precise, the French government and intelligentsia) fights American influence when it can not because France and America are so different but because they are so similar. To be precise, both France and America are cultural imperialists of a sort, seeking to export their ideals throughout the known universe (unlike, the claim is, the British). The French cultural ideal is that of civilization, the American cultural ideal that of freedom. Given the inroads of Americanism even in France and the lack of French cultural inroads in America, one wonders about the long-term viability of French cultural ideals in the face of the ever-expanding influence of the Anglosphere (and especially American) social model.

I'm reminded of a thought-provoking article by French Canadian writer Pierre Lemieux, entitled Of French Caryatids and American Rednecks. Lemiuex, who knows both France and America, notes that there are two basic types of individualism: the rugged American variety (typified by rednecks who carry weapons and show little respect for established authority) and the refined French variety (typified by Epicures who enjoy fine art, fine wine, and intellectual conversation). Are the two varieties mutually exclusive? Is rapprochement possible between rugged individualism and refined individualism, between freedom and civilization? I have my own ideas in the matter, but I ask mainly to evoke an interesting thread in the comments section. ;-)

Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at 10:10 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

December 28, 2005

WW0 Sources – Rapprochement from Three Points of View

The history of relations between the US and Great Britain/Canada during the 19th century is complex and fascinating. It is also the subject of a very large body of historical research. In this post, I'd like to briefly introduce three titles that cover portions of the period in slightly different ways.

Kenneth Bourne's Britain and the Balance of Power in North America, 1815-1908 (1967) will appeal to anyone who has an amateur or professional interest in military affairs. Bourne draws on the work of Canadian historian CP Stacey (Canada and the British Army [1963]) and matches it with confidential memos from the UK Public Record Office in London. The result is a fascinating insight into how politicians, generals and admirals and military staff responded bureaucratically to the changes in North American geopolitics during the 19th century. For much of the 19th century and early 20th century, the British Army saw their role as making the invasion of Canada expensive enough to avoid incidental American aggression and sufficient enough to allow honour to be served before an inevitable diplomatic agreement. American expansion through the middle of the 19th century rapidly confirmed that a Canadian invasion of the United States was unimaginable.

The Royal Navy however, after a bad scare during the Civil War when the US east coast was fully fortified and the size of the US Navy expanded, was content to avoid getting entangled in American activities and to maintain their blue-water superiority. The Royal Navy had far-flung obligations around the world and it was enough that the Atlantic fleet maintain a Great Power status quo. Disdainful indifference was the watchword. Toward the end of the century, especially in the final decade however, the Admiralty prevaricated with its own political masters in responding to requests for strategic plans for dealing with the Americans. By 1890, it was clear to the admirals that the Royal Navy could not sustain anything but a defensive stance against the US Navy in the Atlantic and that the Caribbean was rapidly on its way to becoming an American lake. During the 1896 confrontation with the US over the Venezuelan boundary, a request to the Admiralty for British naval reinforcements in the Caribbean was greeted with the frosty response: "[t]his contingency would produce entirely exceptional conditions for which no provision can be made even approximately beforehand."

By 1900, the rapid expansion of the US battleship fleet made the effective defense of the imperial citadels at Halifax and Bermuda impossible and the Royal Navy was regarding Army plans for the defence of Canada with exasperation. For Bourne, “the significant fact of the decade [1900-1910] was that in it sentiment and realism made a marriage of convenience.” Rapprochement was a clear-eyed power calculation made palatable by the death of an earlier generation of British diplomats and by the post facto rationalizations in public.

Charles Campbell's "From Revolution to Rapprochement: The Unites States and Great Britain: 1783-1900" (1974) captures the diplomatic efforts made during the period from the War of Independence to the Boer War. With emphasis understandable for a historian of diplomacy, he tends to place more credit in the hands of diplomats for the long, uneven, but persistent improvement in relations between America and Great Britain. Campbell would have us focus on the exceptional nature of the relations between Great Britain and the United States when compared with any other two Great Power parties of the 19th century. Not only did the governments manage to come up with workable solutions to their differences but even the conflicts and gunplay between citizens of the two nations did not trigger escalation into war. Campbell emphasizes that the absence of war isn’t enough for amity. There must be other incentives, and he notes common heritage - language, culture, political institutions, tradition of common law – as the basis over the long term for improving relations. This pervasive connection was then buttressed by a massively expanded connection between the US and Great Britain in trade and financial commitments, scaled to a point of real significance for both parties and notable in contrast even with continental and imperial trade.

By century's end, Great Britain was aware of its declining power in relation to Russia, Japan, Germany and France. America’s rapid rise in industrialization and new global interests did not conflict directly with those of Great Britain though they didn’t necessarily complement them either. The widening of the franchise in Great Britain in the late 19th century, and the evident stability and growing maturity of the institutions of government in the United States were the basis for greater feelings of harmony between the two peoples. The first generations of Irish who manned the Fenians and Hunters were now passed on. By 1895, the interaction of the upper classes in Great Britain and the United States was such that significant numbers of the British power structure were wed to American heiresses.

According to Charles Campbell, "[b]y 1890s, Americans of Anglo-Saxon descent stood dominant, quite unchallenged in almost all walks of national life. These Americans and most Britons were extremely race conscious, proud of being Anglo-Saxon." This "accounted for most of the feeling of horror at the prospect of a fratricidal war during the war scare of 1895, and for much of Britain's sympathy for America against Spain in 1898.” There was such a thing as "[p]atriotism of race as well as of country".

A third perspective is offered by A.E. Campbell in his 1960 "Great Britain and the United States: 1895-1903". Campbell looks at the public atmosphere surrounding the dramatic shift in relations between the Spanish-American War and the end of the Boer War. In contrast to other writers, AE Campbell believes that there was a strong element of irrationality or mythmaking in the acquiescence of Britain to American actions during this period. Rather than myth hardening public opinions and leading to conflict, however, in this case it led to less conflict ... a sequence of events which couldn't have been expected a generation earlier and which (post facto) has required much uncomfortable accommodation. Campbell suggests that a temporary enthusiasm for international Darwinism and the concept of an Anglo-Saxon race gave the British commentariat a fig leaf which they could cast over a change in power relations that was fait d'accompli in less than a decade.

At every turn, despite its best interests, or that of Canada, Britain seemed to relent and accept American demands. To a degree unseen in dealing with other Powers, Britain was willing to yield. Campbell sees this response as partly a matter of power politics. Britain pre-1890 had virtually no leverage or means to threaten America without harming itself. At that point, America’s isolation was exactly its strength in dealing with Great Britain. Campbell sees the conceptualization of this political reality in Great Britain as filled with delusion. American naivety was not seen as intrinsically anti-British, though to all practical purposes it was. But having cast Americans as obstreperous but well-meaning dolts, the British saw little purpose to creating catastrophic conflicts over relatively trivial portions of imperial power. As Britain saw itself increasingly besieged by Others (Continental, Slavic, and Oriental powers), it became all to easy to see the withdrawal of British power from North America as an act of shared cultural progress rather than a shift in the global balance of power.

Considering the three books in 2005

From the perspective of 2005, and an amateur reader, each of these titles must be viewed with qualification. No doubt much new information is available about military and strategic planning by Great Britain and the US. Bourne was not able to gain access to many US government documents in the early 60s. C. Campbell's paean to diplomacy will no doubt be overtaken by more recent trends in history which show more enthusiasm for identifying villains and less interest in praising productive diplomacy. And AE Campbell's proposition about racial mythmaking could hardly be applied in modern history without all kinds of finger-pointing and back-filling. The idea that social darwinism could be intellectually respectable in times past, and have politically or morally positive outcomes in the current day would be a bit more than most modern scholars could swallow.

Accepting that these three books would be moderated by modern scholarship, there is still a great deal to learn from them for Anglosphere readers. People interested in the subject need to familiarize themselves with the various crises between the US and GB during the 19th century. Above all, they need to be aware that for most of that time, Great Britain was the only Great Power with which America had any serious conflict. Quite obviously, this was not the case for Great Britain, which after the Napoleonic War was to attempt a Splendid Isolation from Continental entanglements. As the map of the world filled in with the pastel colours of European fiefdoms, it became harder and harder for Great Britain to avoid confronting other nations. Toward the end of the 19th century, then, Russia, France, Germany, and Japan became serious competitors across the globe and Great Britain was no longer able to pick its friends and enemies with dispassion.

Back in North America, from the war of 1812 onward (itself encouraged by British distraction in Europe war), Great Britain and the United States had an ongoing set of boundary disputes ... in Maine (settled by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842), Oregon (settled by treaty in 1846), Alaska, on the Grand Banks over fisheries ... and over American aspirations in Texas, California, and Central America.

By 1840 however many of the more serious boundary disputes had been settled (usually at the expense of Canada). Several other incidents in the 19th century stand out which required substantial diplomatic palavering. The Caroline-McLeod incident (1840) began as a Canadian militia response to unofficial US support of Canadian rebels in 1837. The militia crossed into the US and captured a steam ship used to transport supplies to the Canadian rebels. They turned it loose on the Niagara River, set it on fire and inadvertently killed an American on board - Amos Durfree. The Americans, again unofficially, responded by burning a Canadian boat in an American port (the Sir Robert Peel) in 1838. Some time later, Alexander McLeod, a Canadian, boasted of his apparent exploits in the matter while in New York State and was put on trial for his participation in the death of Durfree. Subsequently it was found that he’d lied about his participation and he was released however the United Kingdom apologized for the actions of its militia and the US Congress created legislation to move all future international incidents to federal courts through writs of habeas corpus.

The Trent incident (Nov 1861) began with Union forces seizing a British ship (the Trent) and capturing two Confederate ambassadors destined for Europe (Slidell and Mason). The event was greeted with great enthusiasm by the North but triggered a mobilization of British naval and army forces which gave both governments cause for concern in early 1862. British army troops were conveyed by winter sleighs across northern New Brunswick (which lacked a connecting railway from Nova Scotia to "Upper Canada”) in what must have been a British Army first of some kind. Threat of invasion kept northeast New England on edge until the US government backed down, released the ambassadors, and paid damages.

Finally after some seven years of arbitration, in 1872, Britain was required to compensate the US (to the tune of $15.5 million) for the depredations of the CSS Alabama, a privateer built in Great Britain and subsequently used to great effect by the Confederacy. The process of coming to terms on this issue and dealing with the usual contradictory demands by the different branches of the US government, was seen as a new model for dealing with GB-US conflicts. The agreement is sometimes known as the Treaty of Washington.

Each of these books offers a slightly different perspective and a slightly different set of explanations of the rapprochement between the US and Great Britain at the end of the 19th century. From a position of continental isolation, subsidized inadvertently by the Royal Navy during 19th century, America had the industrial might to explode onto the world stage in the waning decade of the 1800s and the first of the new century. Great Britain, beset by newly industralizing foes spreading across the planet, needed to make hard choices about who to resist and who to indulge. Painful as it must have been, Britain retreated militarily and diplomatically from North America and ceded security hegemony of the region to the United States. That such a transition could be cast in terms of the maturation of an AngloSaxon community was an opportune but not necessarily forthright explanation that came to be accepted by the public on both sides of the Atlantic.

Illustrative quotes from the three titles [page numbers available on request]:

Bourne (1967):

"The statesman's attitude to relations with America, therefore, was in a sense a negative one. His anxiety was not to make an ally of the United States, but to extricate Great Britain from the path of American advance, to see that at such a dangerous time the United States did not again threaten to become an active enemy.” By 1900, Germans were noting "England will stand far more from America than from any other Power, and even in purely diplomatic issues it is more difficult to make England takes side against America than to make any other Power do so." [per Count Paul Metternich]

"The growth of American power in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, then, was a first by no means welcome to the policy-makers in Britain; rather its existence had to be accepted in a world where the crucial dangers loomed elsewhere. Sentiment rather than interest made that acceptance at least tolerable and ultimately even welcome; but it was a realistic assessment of priorities that dictated it."

"The admiralty, in some ways, may even have been ahead of the statesmen while the War office tended to cling long after 1902 to an increasingly inconvenient and eccentric anti-American line.”

C. Campbell's argument (1974) can be summarized no better than in the words of the book’s Foreword:

"Stressing the mutual intertwining of their economies, as well as the cultural and racial ties between the two peoples, he points out the astonishing series of general treaties, special commissions and arbitration agreements that began with Jay's Treaty in the 1790s and culminated in the Treaty of Washington and the subsequent settlement of all outstanding issues by the 1890s. It was, he argues, a remarkable achievement that two such aggressive nations survived so many crises without resorting to armed force. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Unites States, relatively content with its continental empire, ceased to threaten British interests in Canada, and England gave up the policy of trying to contain America's restless expansion. For the next 50 years, American and British diplomats gradually liquidated the stubborn disputes they had inherited from the past to achieve the basis for the special relationship that emerged in the twentieth century."

"The common heritage, the close economic relations, the absence of clashing vital interests, the rise of British democracy and admiration for American institutions, the dwindling of Irish and free-silver fanaticism, and Anglo-Saxon race patriotism -- these were positive forces moulding the British-American relationship. Diplomacy and arbitration had held off war and mitigated tension; more positive forces had then made themselves felt."

A.E. Campbell (1960):

"During the years 1895 to 1903 there were three important clashes between the United States and Great Britain. In 1895 the United States asserted her right to intervene in a quarrel in which she had no direct concern between the Britain and a South American state. Between 1898 and 1902 the United States wholly altered the balance of power in the Caribbean by gaining complete control over a canal which under an earlier agreement would have been international and neutral. Between 1898 and 1903 the United States forced Britain to accept at the expense of Canada her own interpretation of an earlier Anglo-Russian treaty, and did so in a way peculiarly offensive to British amour-propre. These were not the only matters in dispute between Britain -- often representing Canada -- and the United States. They were the most important, and they were, moreover, the most important disputes in which the United States then engaged with any major Power -- from which rank one may exclude Spain. Yet to none of these aggressions did either British opinion or those responsible for British policy react with any vigour."

"The ready acquiescence of the British public in the American policy of their statesmen is the crux of the question."

"...[I]t was fundamental to politicians and diplomats that good relations with the United States must be preserved. The principle that the United States was the one Power Britain could not afford to cross occasioned no argument. It was an axiom of British policy, and it is a measure of its general acceptance that Anglo-American relations could be handled so economically and caused so little debate. The possibility must at least be considered."

“American foreign policy in the 1890s might be described as Jacksonian. There is the same confidence of power. There is the same enlarged sense of dignity. There is the same sensitivity to anything that might be considered an affront, however unimportant. And there is the same sort of check on all these traits, a distrust of international relations and a reluctance to engage in them."

"American ideas [of the time] were incompatible with the exercise of power, but not with the sense of power. This was hardly understood in Britain. American aggressiveness was ascribed to other causes, and judged by other standards. The judgment was faulty, but it made for good relations."

"It is impossible to imagine the Englishmen of Palmerston's day, for instance, whatever the circumstances, reacting in the same way to the activities of the United States. Palmerston foresaw American expansion, but he did not suppose that it would necessarily benefit Britain, and he thought it should be opposed as far as possible. The prospect he foresaw gave him no pleasure. A generation later his successors thought otherwise. It has been the chief object of this study to argue that they did so irrationally."

"Anglo-American relations in the late nineteenth century, then display the elaboration of an unusually effective myth." "This myth is different in that, so far from justifying a sense of grievance, it minimized it, allowing a larger measure of concession that would have been possible without it."

"The concession of British interests was made in a context which could represent it as the furtherance of Anglo-Saxon interests. The climate of opinion which fostered imperialism, which strained British resources and brought Britain and the United States into conflict, also bred the theories of human progress and the sense of kinship which prevented withdrawal from appearing defeat."

Posted by jmccormick at 06:11 PM | Comments (6)

December 27, 2005

WW0@1850 - On the Great Plains

Five Years A Dragoon: '49 to '54 and other Adventures on the Great Plains. Percival G. Lowe (1905) reprinted 1965 University of Oklahoma Press Norman

One of the great mysteries of World War Zero is the rapid American transition from self-absorbed isolationism to globe-trotting bravado in the last decade of the 19th century. Part of the story is the buildup of muscle and self-confidence which the American public and American military acquired during the development of the West. The vast scale of the American continent, its settlement and policing, was to absorb the energies of America through most of the 19th century. After somber hints to Napoleon Bonaparte from Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 was to add 282,000 square miles to the United States, almost 22% of its ultimate continental extent. Settlement of the Missouri drainage west of the Mississippi was initially quite slow. With the discovery of gold in California in 1849 however, the wagon trails from Saint Louis, Missouri were striking off in greater and greater numbers each year. “Five Years a Dragoon” may seem a strange addition to the WW0 series introduced here, and anchored in 1892, 1897, 1903, and 1914. But it describes the American military experience for an ordinary soldier during a period when Britain could ignore American activities except for the border clashes in Maine and Oregon (settled effectively, if not amicably by treaty). Percival Lowe was an enlisted man and writes in a lucid clear style reminiscent of US Grant’s autobiography. Without a military reputation to enhance, his accounts of the period from 1849 onward in the region from Kansas west to the Rocky Mountains are notable in many ways.

For those with a bit of familiarity with the basic history and geography of the West, Lowe offers an amazing account of his life, filled with considerable danger, exertion and quick-witted action, and offering eye-witness accounts of events which were to affect the native, civilian and military occupants of the Great Plains for generations. How many other sergeants could offer personal anecdotes of sweating with, serving under, and saving the butts of Confederate General JEB Stuart, legendary mountain man Jim Bridger, Crazy Horse’s dad (Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses) and sixty other men who were to go on eventually to become general officers for both sides of the Civil War conflict? Young lieutenants on the Great Plains in the early 1850s learning the ropes with First Sergeant Lowe were brigadier-generals leading thousands at Gettysburg ten years later.

In the passage of almost fifty years’ association with Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley, Kansas, Percival Lowe experienced starving soldiers, cholera epidemics, buffalo stampedes, drought, alkali springs, flash floods, blizzards, and record-breaking logistical treks to New Mexico and Utah. He participated in annual summer campaigns against recalcitrant tribes and sought to avoid sudden death in the bloody Free/Slave Kansas wars of the 1850s. In one episode, he rode single-handed into a huge Sioux village in search of four mules, over-nighted in the tipi of a nonplussed chief, and drove the mules home to his post the next day, 120 miles riding in forty-eight hours. Lowe offers insight into the attitudes of leadership and personal character which were critical for this environment.

“Five Years” came to my attention when it was cited in Robert Kaplan's “Imperial Grunts” (2005) as a model of the military life now being appropriated by US Army and Special Forces in places like Afghanistan, the Philippines and the Horn of Africa. The same frontier-post “Indian Country” mentality preoccupies those soldiers .... a life filled with provision of health and veterinary care to the locals, the construction of infrastructure, safeguarding convoys, small group sporadic warfare, endless negotiation with tribes under social stress, and a personal style of life dominated by physical fitness, courage, fortitude, diverse skills, and deep familiarity with the instant use of weapons. Unexpected death and disease were a constant companion for Lowe. His book, written in 1905, is nonetheless heartfelt in its remembrances of comrades and acquaintances … many cut down in droves, on both sides of the conflict, in the deadly battles of the Civil War. Some drowned in front of him or were fatally injured in nameless streams or coulees scattered across the thousands of empty square miles on the Great Plains. Substantial footnotes in the book supplement Lowe’s straightforward account with the biographies of the people he met, served under and worked with.

Lowe wasn’t content to serve indefinitely in the army. At the end of his five year commitment to the dragoons, he became a civilian employee of the Army and turned his military savvy, leadership, and logistical skills toward supporting Army campaigns across the plains. Now Lowe became responsible for the care and feeding of hundreds of mules, oxen, and horses, the manning and training of their teamsters and wagonmasters, and provision of good food and good horseshoes to a mass of men and animals moving across very hostile environments. In the clever and tightly organized wagon trains of ammunition, equipment, and rations, we see the forebear of the modern hard-nosed logistical experts now embedded with the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the 1850s, split-second decisions could lose a military campaign by starving it or leaving it without medicine or ammunition, hundreds of miles from its billet.

Percival Lowe joined the pre-Civil War US Army as a dragoon (a soldier trained to fight from both horse and the ground), armed as they were at the time with smooth-bore musketoons and percussion-cap pistols. After a relatively brief period of training in Fort Carlisle in Pennsylvania, he was assigned late in the season to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on the Missouri River. There he was part of Leavenworth’s early years and involved in the siting and subsequent construction of Fort Riley, Kansas further west in 1853, home of the US Cavalry, (now a significant divisional headquarters and 100,000-acre training area). Rising quickly to the rank of first sergeant with the First Regiment of the US Dragoons, Lowe was to develop the skills of leadership and frontier campaigning which were to keep him alive for subsequent decades and set him at the pinnacle of responsibility for logistical supply during the Civil War period. From a sociological standpoint, the army privates of the late 1840s were often on the lam for one reason or another but many were well-educated nonetheless. Often their origins were international, with troopers from England and Ireland well-represented. Leavenworth was established in 1827 and soon after the first contacts across the Santa Fe Trail were creating an international trade network with the settlements in the Mexican Territories that were already 220 years old.

Annual summer expeditions were followed by winter encampment in the forts, and the winter foraging of the critical horse herds. The challenges of food and forage supply during early days in Kansas were substantial. The expanding farms near to the forts began to supply foodstuffs and livestock but the Free/Slave state controversies made Kansas very dangerous for civilians in the 1850s. Ambushes were common and Lowe himself was to repeatedly confront several characters on the Plains that he had variously dismissed, threatened, wounded, and shot at, during the course of many expeditions and battles. Desertion from the ranks in search of gold or criminal opportunity was relatively common and Lowe makes particular mention of how the trade in information about the reputations of specific individuals was a matter of critical concern. Informal allies would often work together for many years. And a few carefully chosen words could determine whether a miscreant was hanged or given the benefit of the doubt.

Lowe was an attending soldier during the weeks of negotiation and bartering which preceded the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1851). Each summer, depending on the incidents of the time, the dragoons were in the field, policing the large emigrant trails – heading west to Oregon and Santa Fe. In subsequent years, as a civilian, he was to oversee high speed treks with ox and mule trains to Salt Lake City and Fort Union (northeast NM) during tense relations with the Mormons and unsettled Civil War raiding from Texas. He provided logistical backup for expeditions against the Cheyenne, and during the mid-late 1860s and early 1870s, undertook the supply of the US Army as it adapted to the rapid westward progression of the railways across the Great Plains and to the edge of the Rocky Mountains. Lowe’s accounts of trips between Fort Riley and the newly built Denver, Colorado sound very much like forays into southern Afghanistan. Native tribes competed with Confederate raiders, generic outlaws, and French-Canadian Metis or Mexican freighters for water, grass, employment, and booty. Constant vigilance was necessary.

And yet Lowe also offers a taste of the rhythm of daily life on the Plains -- of humans, animals and gear in an unending routine of early mornings and early evenings, of constant exertion in all weather conditions. Occasional flights of real prose poetry describe the weather and scenery of the open Plains in an era before settlement and railroads, when buffalo herds were so immense that they could disrupt travel for days. In a time when the tribes of the era were still being armed and mounted for the first time, there was real competition over whether Sioux, Crow, Cheyenne, Pawnee, or Apache would rule the region west of Fort Riley. Like the legionaries of old, the dragoons of Fort Riley would corral each evening with a view to protecting themselves from arrows and spears of surprise raiders from any of a half-dozen tribes.

Few episodes however are as hair-raising as Lowe’s description of the 1855 cholera epidemic which swept camp during the first permanent construction at Fort Riley and cast him in the role of civilian commander. In an era before the “germ” theory was well understood, the horrific nature of such disease, wiping out officers, soldiers, construction workers and families in random fashion (often within hours of first symptoms), created immediate social collapse – literal insanity. Acting as civilian manager and leader while maintaining security, sanitation, and order in such a hellish situation, Lowe establishes himself to the reader as an extraordinary person but also sets a standard of what Americans simply expected of life at the time. He recalls these events grimly but with complete modesty.

Apart from being a fascinating if arcane read of a lesser known era of American history, overshadowed by the events of the Civil War, “Five Years a Dragoon” explains why the US was so inward looking. The vast scale of interior United States development and the rapid often violent pace at which it was able to take place set a tone for the personalities of the time. Westward expansion raced through the Plains to the mineral-rich mountains and the rich farmlands of California and the Oregon. Then immigrants filled in the central Plains itself as the railways rapidly provided markets for cattle and wheat.

This tremendous expansion of agriculture, mining, railways, and logistics in policing the Great Plains during conflict (Mormons, Indians, free/slave, Civil War) were the training ground for several generations of American civil and military administrators. In retrospect, the process seems amazingly haphazard. Very junior and inexperienced people were making big decisions about fortifications, strategy and relations with natives and settlers. It is in this ad hoc environment that Robert Kaplan sees the lessons for the 21st century American policing of much of the world’s hinterlands.

This book isn’t for everyone. That fact was brought home to me when it turned out I was the first person to loan the book out of the University of Calgary library since it was purchased forty years ago! Nonetheless, Lowe’s account is a fascinating story of the West in the mid-1800s that had me repeatedly turning to Google and my AAA maps, tracking down obscure personalities, and the forts and geographical features of the era. For an understated insight into a certain kind of American at a certain point of history in conditions of staggering challenge and danger, "Five Years A Dragoon" is hard to beat.

Posted by jmccormick at 05:46 PM | Comments (2)

The cartoons and the iguana on the wall

Just when you think the unelected governors of the EU-SSR couldn’t excel themselves, along comes this piece of imperial impertinence. The comment below is cross-posted from Samizdata

I have just seen this about the publication of cartoons earlier this month, in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten of the Muslims' prophet, Mohammed. The Dhimmiwatch piece details an attack by an unelected EU commissioner on the elected Danish prime minister who declined to get involved in the controversy, citing the freedom of the press. If I were living in the EU, I would gnaw my own leg off to get out.

Writes Dhimmiwatch: "Franco Frattini, the Deputy EU commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security, (oh, pulleeeeeze) denoting the publication of the cartoons as "foolishness and indiscretion" condemned the cartoons which Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rassmussen refused to involve himself in on grounds of freedom of speech and thought.

"Such publications, Frattini emphasized, will serve to radicalism by fomenting hostility against Islam and foreigners. "

This unelected invertebrate has crawled out of his putrid pond to condemn a brave elected leader of a very brave country. He has declared that Mr Rasmussen "used freedom of the press as an excuse". Added this unelected individual, "the media is not free to make a news story out of anything". There is a large iguana who takes the sun on my wall who has more brains in his lizard head than this pre-Ice Age lump of primitive algae and probably has a better developed sense of honour.

Something smells rotten and it certainly isn't in the state of Denmark. If you go to the link, have some tissues handy for wiping the foam off your monitor.

Posted by Verity at 04:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 26, 2005

Kuttner, Lincoln, Bush, and the Anglosphere

Hat tip to Instapundit on this one. Is the Anglosphere Challenge essentially about civil liberties and governmental forebearance, or about resilient habits of social organization that come back from challenges revitalized and repeatedly survive some serious circumstantial pruning in liberty? I'm not sure the 21st century Copperheads are going to give us a practical answer.

kennethandersonlawofwar.blogspot.com blog post

Posted by jmccormick at 07:49 PM | Comments (0)

The equalizer

I have long maintained that the greatest instrument of equality between men and women has been the car. Even in macho societies, like Mexico, male drivers are forced to stop at a stop sign for a vehicle that has the right of way, whether it is driven by a man or a woman. Before, they would have expected a woman to defer to them. In a car, they can't. I think it is almost impossible to overestimate the impact of this. If a woman thinks quickly enough and beats a man out to a parking spot, there's nothing he can do about it. Being occasionally bested by a woman, or being tooted at by the female driver behind them when they're sitting dreaming at a traffic light forced a major shift in attitudes between the sexes.

I make this less than startling observation because we have it on authority from Dhimmiwatch.org that when Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah came to the throne last August, he stated, with the gravity of a visionary, "I believe the day will come when women will drive." Well! You could have knocked Saudi men down with a feather!

And now the deputy premier and minister of defence and aviation has announced that the government is putting plans in place to allow women to drive, if they have the permission of their husbands and brothers.

Well, it's not quite as madcap as it sounds. What Crown Prince Sultan has said is, "When fathers, husbands and brothers ask us for women to drive, we will look into it. But if they ask us for the opposite, we can't force them [to let women drive]".

Be still my beating heart.

Posted by Verity at 11:37 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 25, 2005

Liberty's too expensive

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and that is a price the British no longer seem to be prepared to pay. They have allowed Tony Blair to take a wrecking ball to the British constitution (our constitution is unwritten, but contrary to what many believe, we do have one) and tacked bits on to render it more convenient for himself. A British prime minister wields far greater untrammelled power – especially if he has a supine party and a supine Opposition – than does an American president.

Blair’s “hate speech” bill is rippling through British civil life now.

The excuse is, as it always is in the West now, “racism”, which is actually very rare in Britain. Blair knows that. But his bill is actually to muffle free speech about Islam, which he seems to think is a race, and is designed to curry favour with the Muslim Council. But also tucked away among the clauses is another popular leftist cudgel – the accusation of “homophobia”.

The British didn’t badger their MPs to get this draconian bill thrown out, though.

Somehow, they’ve stopped bothering about politics. Blair’s been in office for almost 10 years, his own MPs vote as they’re told in the hope of preferment, and although sometimes Conservatives get up the will to fight, Blair’s majority, although much reduced in the last election, is still 60. People are tired of Blair. They dislike him intensely, but they despair of ever getting rid of him. Grown weary, they have allowed themselves to be browbeaten by their elected representatives.

Self-censoring in Britain has already begun. People who formerly routinely spoke their minds are simply afraid to say what they think for fear of a visit from the hate police. Sounds too fanciful to be true? Surley not in Britain, the mother of complete freedom of speech?

Earlier this month, a family values campaigner, Lynette Burrows, who is a fairly middle of the road individual, took part in a radio discussion on the new Civil Partnerships Act (to give gay partners the rights of next-of-kin). She wasn’t opposed to the Act. But she did express the view that two homosexual men wishing to adopt should not have a little boy placed with them. Equally, she said that two straight men living in the same household should not have a little girl placed with them. Most of us would think this an unexceptional, fairly down to earth opinion.

To quote journalist Melanie Phillips: “To her astonishment, the following day she was contacted by the police who said a ‘homophobic incident’ had been reported against her. She had committed no crime but, said the police, it was policy to investigate homophobic, racist and domestic incidents because these were ‘priority crimes’. Such action was ‘all about reassuring the community’. A comment made on a radio discussion panel is now a “priority crime”?

Then there is the case of Harry Hammond, an evangelical preacher, which he has every right to be if that is where the spirit leads him. He held up a poster somewhere that said, in effect, “Down with lesbianism and homosexuality and immorality”. He is entitled to his opinion and to express it, but not in Blair’s Britain. He was convicted of a public order offence because he went “beyond legitimate protest”.

Last week, police called on a Mr and Mrs Roberts, a retired couple, and questioned them for 80 minutes. Their suspected crime? Well, it’s not clear, really, but they had asked whether they could place some Christian literature next to some “gay rights” leaflets in their local town hall. Police warned that their action was “close to a hate crime”. Mr Roberts, 73, thought his local council was overly-focusing on “gay rights” and asked if he could place some Christian literature on the same table. He was told no, because it would offend gay people.

Said Mr Roberts, “They warned me that being discriminatory and homophobic is in line with hate crime. The phrase they used was that we were ‘walking on eggshells’.”

Said the Lancashire police, in a prepared statement: “Words of suitable advice were given and we will not be taking any further action.” He added, “The council referred this matter to the police for further investigation with the intention of challenging attitudes and educating and raising awareness of the implications of homophobic behaviour.”

There you have it. Blair’s Britain. And the British let it happen. They weren’t vigilant.

Posted by Verity at 12:03 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas to All

Christmas has already begun in some time zones, so I'd just like to take a moment to wish a very good Christmas to those of our readers who celebrate this time, a happy Hannukah to our Jewish readers and a happy holiday season and prosperous New Year to all. This Christmas is the first for the Seedlings gang as a group blog, so I'd particularly like to thank my co-bloggers, all of whom have made great contributions here, and the many thoughtful frequent commentors, such as Carl Hollywood, David Billington, Rizalist, Xavier Basora, Felicia, and many more (the more I mention, the more I want to mention, but I need to get back to wrapping presents and that kind of stuff, so please don't be offended if you're left out). And to all of the readers, frequent or new drop-ins.

Here's hoping that 2006 will be a great year for the blog and all that we strve for.

Merry Christmas, and Forward the Anglosphere!

Posted by Jim Bennett at 12:10 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Dear Father Christmas

Please, may we in Britain have something for Christmas that we have not had for some years: a real Conservative Party. You know the kind I mean, one that believes in small government, individual freedom and responsibility, low taxes, entrepreneurship, private property and, of course, constitutional democracy. I am sure you could find one of those somewhere in your sack. If you have not got one ready made, perhaps the elves could produce one during the twelve days of Christmas. A lot easier than keeping all those birds happy, not to mention the lords a-leaping and the ladies dancing, I should have thought.

Look at what we have. The members of the party might be happy at getting a fresh-faced Boy-King but what about the rest of us? We should like to be able to vote for a party that believes in all the ideas mentioned above but, in effect, we are disenfranchised in the country that invented many of the political ideas that lie at the root of modern democracy. Now, is that fair?

Look at what the party that calls itself Conservative produced just before Christmas. There is Master Oliver Letwin (hereinafter known as Leftwing) happily wittering about redistribution of wealth. That means taking money in large amounts from those who earn it, to give to someone else, designated by the civil servants, whose number will go up and up and up.

Master Oliver, another old Etonian, has been known in the past as a man of parts but over the years his behaviour and pronouncements have become more and more erratic. As Simon Heffer pointed out in today’s Daily Telegraph, whenever he makes a statement, we have to sit back and wait for the explanations and adjustments.

Already we have had the Boy-King, Master David Cameron, rushing in there to explain that Master Oliver did not mean that the Conservative Party believed in redistribution of wealth but just that it will concentrate on poor people in the future. And, presumably, on the public sector, which is to run those poor people’s lives.

This is quite breathtaking economic and political ignorance. To have the Conservative Party’s policy supremo come out with comments that indicate he thinks of national wealth as one big cake to be cut into various slices as fairly as possible is deeply depressing. Does he not realize that the only way the poor can stop being poor is by being able to participate in a growing economy?

And what of the Boy-King himself? Well, his ideas about Christmas are somewhat pedestrian. True to his touchy-feely-greeny image he has been encouraging people to recycle the Christmas wrapping paper.

Now I don’t know about the Cameron household but in this one Christmas wrapping has always been recycled, as it has in most households I know, not least for reasons of economy. Memo to Compassionate Conservatives: quite a lot of people whom Master Oliver and the Boy-King would describe as poor have developed ways of creating family festivities without spending unaffordable amounts. Yes, they do it all by their little selves, without instructions from above.

What none of us want to hear is tosh like that from the leader of the Conservative Party or his appointed policy co-ordinator. It seems that the party that insists on calling itself Conservative has two modes: smile and say nothing or show signs of political foot and mouth disease.

So you see, Father Christmas, we do rather desperately need a new Conservative Party. A real Conservative Party. Could something be done about that, do you suppose?

Posted by Helen Szamuely at 11:59 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 21, 2005

Toward a Concert of Civilizations

A recent post on the Spectator blog had some useful observations on the attitude among the chattering classes of the UK on international law. The post said in part:

In the last few weeks, there have been three connected events relating to the issues of terrorism, torture, and international law.
 
(1) On 2 November, the Washington Post carried on page one a story based on an extensive leak from senior CIA officers detailing a covert system of prisons including in Europe for the purposes of interrogating high level terrorist suspects. Interrogation included the practise of “waterboarding” in which X is made to think he is being drowned. Supposedly, top Al Qaeda operatives, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the handful of key architects of 9/11, have been subjected to this technique. This story has prompted weeks of media coverage of the issue of how America holds and transports terrorists, including transporting them to and via the EU. (NB. It is notable that despite the large numbers of leaks from and concerning the CIA, it has only pursued the one involving the White House.)
 
(2) On Tuesday, Lord Steyn, a Law Lord, said that members of the British Government are potentially liable for trial as “war criminals” if they were “aware” that flights transporting suspected terrorists to “black sites” for torture were using British airports.
 
(3) Yesterday, the House of Lords published their judgement on the question of the admissibility of evidence against those foreign nationals held under the special anti-terrorism legislation.
 
Because of Britain’s political culture, debate over such issues, entangled with debate over the wisdom if invading Iraq, is dominated by the philosophy that “international law” trumps national sovereignty, that nation states have to be overcome, and that America is a net bad force in the world because it represents (a) free markets and (b) a strong nation state prepared to rejected European notions of “international law”. This philosophy is entrenched by the state broadcaster, the BBC, and by limits on free speech in the Political Parties Elections & Referendums Act (2000) and is so culturally dominant that it has successfully assimilated or neutralised large numbers of supposedly Conservative MPs who are either useful idiots for the BBC or cowed (and sometimes incompetent) dissenters. (The sanctimonious narcissism of the British media was illustrated by how they repeatedly led the news during the invasion of the Iraq with stories of journalists being killed, as if that were the significant event of the day.)
 
Given that the British Right does not exist in any politically significant form outside the Conservative Party, this means there is no institution to oppose the BBC mentality. Although Blair has ironically fallen foul of the Establishment despite strong general agreement, his spotty attempts at resistance have been swamped. In such an environment, sensible discussion of issues such as terrorism is impossible.

This leads to an interesting question. Why should international law be considered superior to the national law of a democratic, constitutonal state with a well-defined concept of human rights and a well-established track record of popular support for the same? In answering this, it's useful to clarify assumptions about why various kinds of states exist, and what is the nature of the rule sets governing relations within them (i.e., the province of national law) and between them (i.e., that of international law). Can the metaphor of law, that is to say national law, even be extended usefully to cover the rules governing behavior between states?

Ronald Coase famous illuminated the nature of the corporation and the role of transaction costs in economic relations by asking the simple question "Why does the firm exist"? If, as generally understood, market mechanisms are efficient means of allocating economic resources, why are they not used to allocate resources within the firm? In actual fact, market-based alternatives to the firm were legally available throughout the period of the firm's rise, yes the firm emerged as the organizational form of choice for almost all business activities. Coase theorized that the firm's role was to act as a zone within the wider matrix of market relations in which the transaction costs imposed by use of market mechanisms (for example, the time and attention required to negotiate or auction use of resources) were avoided by use of other means (rule-based allocation, direct management allocation, or some combination thereof).

Can similar insights and understandings about the nature of the nation and nation-state be obtained through asking "Why does the nation exist?" in a Coasean vein.

Let's examine the possibility that such might be the case. Just as the firm may be viewed as a zone of non-market relations within a wider framework of market relations, in which transaction costs are locally minimized, the nation-state may be viewed as a zone within a wider framework of negotiated relations (i.e., international space) in which transaction costs are sufficiently minimized to permit market relations to flow efficiently. Thus, three scales of endeavor, and their respective regimes, can be thought about: The firm scale, in which relationships are sufficiently localized to permit individual management allocation or rule-based allocation of resources; the national scale, in which relationships are too generalized and decentralized to permit individual allocations or rule-based allocations to act efficiently, but in which the role of the state as generic framework setter and enforcer permits market transactions to flow with tolerable transaction costs; and the international scale, in which interactions are fundamentally anarchic (while mediated by partially effective reciprocal agreements and minimal international standards and practices) and in which nations exist as local zones of lower transaction costs. Because the total number of international zones or actors are quite finite, resources and relations between nations can be managed by negotiation.

The key to this tripartite scheme of relational frameworks is the problem of knowledge as it affects transaction costs, and the effects of scale on the desirability of various types of relations. In small permanent groups of people, where the personalities and histories of the individual actors are well-known to all, negotiation and individual judgement permit a relatively efficient and satisfactory resolution to most disputes. Even rule-based systems (as in corporate bureaucracies) can be tempered and made to work effectively by good judgement, which accounts for the high value placed on managers with good judgement and interpersonal skills. At some size of unit, or velocity of turnover, this system breaks down and the inability of such managers to know people sufficiently well prevents effective management. Particularly in political systems, where the solution of dismissal is not readily available, tools for dealing with the problem of information stochastically begin to offer more effective solutions. Thus, mechanisms such as the unanimous jury trial or the exclusionary rule, which tolerate some imperfection of outcome, are preferred because on average they produce better results than purely rule-based or personality-based systems.

Thus the state as an institution becomes a framework for creating a zone in which transaction costs are higher compared to those in a smaller group, such as a firm, but lower than a global-scale regime in which there are insufficient commonalties of understanding of rules to permit state institutions to effectively lower transaction costs of adjudication and recourse. Understood thus, we can then examine types of states: nations, empires, and multinational confederations, with the objective of determining which type most effectively lowers transaction costs in its internal areas. Because of the substantial transaction costs historically imposed by language and culture, the initial hypothesis is that nations that are relatively homogenous in these regards have historically enjoyed fewer internal transaction costs, and thus have proven more competitive than other state forms. This may form an explanation for the dominance of the nation-state as an institution over the past four centuries. Various types of states typically categorized together as "nation-states" will also be differentiated, such as the organic or "Herderian" concept of the nation as opposed to the looser "Anglo-Saxon" concept of the state, sometimes (inaccurately) known as the "night-watchman" state, but which is more accurately called a state-nation.

Finally, this analytical framework, if validated, has potentially important consequences for international law and the search for peace, order, and prosperity on a global scale. Since at least the Renaissance, two opposed ideas of international order have been contending in Western (and now global) thought. One is the traditional or Westphalian schema of sovereign and independent states (now with an institutional bias toward nation-states) linked by an international law that is fundamentally a set of heuristics or rough rules of thumb for guiding international actions, a sort of mitigated anarchy, and the other is the vision of an enforceable international law with some form of collective sovereign. The latter vision essentially takes the mechanisms used internally within states, and attempts to apply them to enforcing decisions on states, with the ultimate goal of using the transaction-cost reduction mechanisms at national scale to create a uniform and global transaction-cost reduction zone. The questions of scales of actions and transaction costs will be used to evaluate the applicability of both systems. The critical question is whether nations should be treated as actors within each of which different sets of understanding prevail, (and in which case we are thus we are dealing with an international system having perhaps two or three hundred actors) or whether nations become essentially administrative adjuncts whose populations collectively follow a single set of rules and understandings.

Even if the former assumption remains true, an international order is not precluded. However, it would be an international order founded firmly on the idea that nations remain the collective boundaries of transaction-cost reduction areas, and that the scale of international relations, negotiation and individual knowledge (in this instance, of national officials) remain the primary tool for resolution of questions. In particular, the small number of actors suggests that stochastic solutions (such as rules of procedure used in criminal trials) remain inappropriate for international action, because the actors cannot tolerate the costs of such a framework. A city of a million people can tolerate the acquittal of some number of burglars on procedural grounds, but a community of, say, one hundred cannot permit a known thief to remain among them without consequence, and typically, one or another informal solution is found to deal with such a situation. The case of one genocidal aggressor remaining in power in a world of two hundred sovereigns is more akin to the latter case than the former, I would suggest.

What is of interest is the examination of various systems by which transaction costs are broken down across state borders short of a universal solution. In particular, the question of how nations with very similar internal means of transaction-cost lowering can create bilateral or multilateral structures for creating a merged zone of transaction-cost reduction without fully merging the nations in question is of interest, and may hold the key to the basis of an effective international order that resolves problems never adequately addressed by the Westphalian system, but without the very problematic issues raised by the various Kantian systems of universal jurisdiction. We should explore such an order, with the ultimate goal of, rather than a universal government, a "Concert of Civilizations" in which the various national and civilizational means of transaction-cost reduction are gradually bridged by international collaborative and cooperative structures, many of which could have roots in existing institutions such as free-trade areas.

We should not be forced to choose between a universal legal system of personal jurisdiction based, not upon the consensus of a particular society and its history (as there is no such consensus on a glabal basis), or a cynical and amoral international order in which the sacredness of national borders is the only rule. I believe another solution is both possible and desirable. At the moments, the Hegelian proponents of a global order have the upper hand in the perceptions of many, as the Spectator post discloses. There is a need for an active alternative to that concept of order, which is fundamentally anti-democratic and subversive of freedom and self-determination. A Concert of Civilizations is such an alternative.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 06:20 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

December 19, 2005

Secret Weapon of the Anglosphere 3: A Proposal

In earlier posts, here and here, I discussed the subject of Anglosphere causality from the standpoint of its many commentators ... first satirically outlining what the nature of the Anglosphere's uniqueness -- it's "secret weapon" -- must be if we accommodated all the contradictory explanations, and then offering a visual framework or map for thinking about causality in general.

During the past twelve months or more, I've familiarized myself with the literature associated with Jim Bennett's Anglosphere Challenge (especially its Annotated Bibliography) and followed up reading many additional titles suggested by both Jim and Lex during e-mail exchanges and blog posts.

Meanwhile, my other online project (a website on medical decision-making for patients) has languished. While checking out the science and business sections of a local bookstore, I spotted a title that looked useful for that medical project: James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, relating as it does to the decision-making abilities of ordinary people. Surowiecki is the business writer for the New Yorker and his argument can be boiled into simple terms:

“If you put together a big enough and diverse enough group of people and ask them to “make decisions affecting matters of general interest,” that group’s decisions will, over time, be “intellectually [superior] to the isolated individual,” no matter how smart or well-informed he is.”

In most things, the average is mediocrity, but in communal decision-making the average can, under the right circumstances, often be (counter-intuitively) excellence. Hmm. That rings a bell. Through the course of his book, Surowiecki points out how the more diverse the opinions of a group, the more accurate its aggregated decisions. Experts are, on average, outperformed by a diverse group of people with different skill levels, expectations, and abilities. It makes no sense, but it is, apparently, demonstrable fact.

The author then spends several chapters describing the different kinds of problems at which groups (rather than experts) are superior ... problems of cognition (a specific answer or direction is needed), problems of co-ordination (working systematically with others, as in a market), and problems of co-operation (deeper reciprocal and strategic relations that go beyond the exchange of money).

He then follows with chapters that cover how the impact of the "wisdom of crowds" is expressed in science, in business, in culture, and in politics. Not surprisingly, when you get superior decisions in those areas, you get rapid progress. When you pool the evaluations of a very large, very diverse group of people on a million different subjects, you get Google.

Bottom-Up from the Actual Bottom

By the time I'd reached his description of the role of Quakers in establishing the business environment of early America, it dawned on me (far, far too late for complacency) that Surowiecki was actually covering much of the same terrain as Alan Macfarlane but from the perspective of the literature on social and cognitive psychology. Macfarlane was using political, cultural, and legal history to wrap his arms around English individualism and modernity. As far as I could see, Surowiecki was documenting the bottom bottom-up processes which underlie Macfarlane’s bottom-up processes. The two approaches clicked together like Lego blocks.

It's my proposition that combining the scientific insights described by Surowiecki (on how humans can optimize their communal decision-making) with Macfarlane's historical summary of how Teutonic/Saxon culture maintained a focus on separation of powers and individuality, we arrive at a compact and powerful explanation for Anglosphere history and Anglosphere potentiality.

Readers will quickly tie my proposition back to the various odd features described for a "secret weapon" in my original satirical post. It turns out that anti-elitism provides an inherent and fundamental advantage in group decision-making. Assuming that I'm correct, the Anglosphere's central dynamic and key advantage takes place at the point at which communal decisions about particular problems are required. And those problems are better addressed because the Anglosphere supports a culture of opinionated, self-confident individuals. Nothing succeeds like Anglosphere success ... In business, in science, in technology, in politics. John Boyd’s famous OODA loop is an Anglosphere playground.

2005_SecretWeaponCycle.png

Whether in a group of two, twelve or twenty million, Anglosphere decision-making is not perfect, by any means, but just a little bit better (at every turn) than any other system for social or national decision-making. Old Winston was not far off then ... The worst of approaches, granted, except for all others that have been tried from time to time. And this dynamic is scalable from the town hall or parish meeting to the administration of billions of people. Who would have guessed?

Begging the reader’s indulgence (before they have worked carefully through both Surowiecki and Macfarlane themselves), what are the practical implications of my hypothesis for the current Anglosphere?

First of all, I would say that the success of the Anglosphere is very hard to duplicate. It draws on the symbiosis of a common human trait in groups (great for all Anglosphere immigrants) but with a particular social pattern that deeply supports "the wisdom of crowds" (which must be sustained in situations of increasing prosperity and national power). As soon as other cultures fall into one of Macfarlane's four traps (Malthusian, social hierarchy, political centralization, mandarinate gatekeeping), then the quality of that nation's or that people's decisions fall away, bit by bit, from the standard set by the Anglosphere. And the Anglosphere by comparison, bit by bit, and often by the skin of its teeth, prevails. People in the Anglosphere aren’t individually superior to everyone else on the planet but, as a group, they have inherent advantages every time a communal decision of any kind must be made. Whether arranging for snow-plowing in some little town, or co-ordinating the response to a tsunami or SARS, or in responding to guerilla warfare.

The Anglosphere prevails through the cumulative superiority (NOT PERFECTION) of a multitude of decisions, great and small, that it makes. Thus Anglosphere history is replete with chaos, contradiction, peril, and error, and *relative* success in comparison to the rest of the world. It's not that the Anglosphere makes such great decisions, it's that the rest of the world's tyrants and elites make relatively poor ones over time. It is in the amorphous cumulative trend (“non-linear feedback” to cite a 2002 Arnold Kling article on “What Causes Prosperity?”) that we spot the tell-tales of an Anglosphere “secret weapon.”

Strategically, then, in observing the political considerations of the Anglosphere, or even the use of the Anglosphere "meme," the "Crown Jewels" are not the specific details of Anglosphere solutions in the past (our legal or political structure) ... not the justifiable pride with which its descendants reflect on adversity overcome (our work ethic, etc.) ... but in the specific details of Anglosphere culture that seem to protect, reinforce and gain nourishment from the dynamics of successful group decision-making. We accommodate oddballs, and they help us make better decisions.

Diversity and decentralization, lack of "herd" instinct, a familiar trusted method of aggregating opinion … these are the principles which must be highlighted, emphasized, and relentlessly pushed as the foundation of tackling any larger problem that might beset the Anglosphere (political, military, demographic, or epidemiological).

Since publication in 2004, complaints about Surowiecki's book have been both stylistic (“science by summary and anecdote”) and substantial (“does the WoC effect actually exist?”). Nonetheless, references to “wisdom of crowds” has joined the memes of the New Economy, just like “Long Tail” and “Singularity.” This is an idea that just makes sense, after the fact.

We can leave open the issue of whether Surowiecki got it exactly right and turn to the broader question of “is the key, the secret weapon, of the Anglosphere some serendipitous, intimate, yet obscured, link between the way Anglosphereans behave and the optimal way humans make communal decisions?”

So in future, when readers of this blog are considering their favourite aspect of the history or culture of the Anglosphere, I’d ask them to take a moment for a question “Was this the result of some relatively superior group decision-making (trying to solve a cognitive, co-ordinative, or co-operative problem) which worked well in practice but made no sense to the experts and elite of the day?”

My guess is the answer will be “Yes.”

Posted by jmccormick at 08:52 PM | Comments (12)

The Wealth of the Anglosphere

Hat tip: Instapundit for this explanatory article in Reason.

Source: World Bank Report - Where is the Wealth of Nations?

Summary Stats for the "Big Five"

Country/ Population (mil)/ Total Wealth (US$ ,000 per capita)

AU 19 371
CA 30 324
NZ 3.8 242
UK 59 408
US 282 512

Anglosphere 393.8 472*
*weighted average by my calculation
Individual nations with per capita wealth more than $472,000 - Austria, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland. (total pop approx. 240 mil).

Question: Does the average Anglosphere wealth indirectly boost intangible wealth of four of the five biggest members of the Anglosphere through travel, communication/information, and education?

Note: for inclusive, strategic, and comparative purposes:

Country/ Population (mil)/ Total Wealth (US$ ,000 per capita)

India 1015 6.8
Ireland 3.8 330
Singapore 4 252
S. Africa 44 59

Posted by jmccormick at 12:01 PM | Comments (2)

Protestantism and Industrialism

In a recent post about the causes of the industrial revolution, I asked:

Max Weber tried to explain the exit by reference to the Protestant work ethic. But why did the peoples of northwestern Europe (English, Scots, Dutch, Germans, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians) become Protestant in the first place?

In Plough, Sword and Book (pp. 106-107), Ernest Gellner provides the following reflections on Weber's thesis:

A Protestant world is one in which the sacred is absent (hidden) or, if you prefer, in which it is evenly diffused. Hence there are fewer bounds and prescriptions surrounding economic activities. Existing practices, and the combination of elements which they embody, cease to be hallowed. So the way is free to innovation and growth by means of new devices, by new combinations of elements. Instrumental rationality becomes more common and acceptable. The diffusion of moral authority, the stress on the internalized voice within each believer, rather than on the special authority of some, means that Protestant respect for codes of conduct is less dependent on public enforcement, on the anticipation of reciprocation. Hence it becomes more genuinely trustworthy, and thus more conducive to the flourishing of economic activity.

Trust becomes far more widespread, and less dependent on external sanctions. Those governed by inner sanctions will behave in a trustworthy manner without first waiting to make sure that others do so as well. This breaks the vicious circle of distrust, and sets off a kind of moral multiplier effect. If a man's motive for economic activity is the desire to demonstrate his saved status and to fulfil his calling, he is less likely to cheat than if he is activated by the desire for gain. His rectitude is not at the mercy of his anticipation of the rectitude of others. Thus Protestantism has a double (and somewhat contradictory) role: it makes men instrumentally rational in handling things, and non-instrumentally honest in their dealings with each other.

The dominant morality is one of rule-observance rather than of loyalty, whether to kin or patron, and whether political or spiritual. The spiritual egalitarianism leads to the participatory self-administration of the sect. This sets a political precedent, and provides training for participatory and accountable politics. The stress on scripturalism is conducive to a high level of literacy; scripturalism and an individualist theology lead naturally to an individualist theory of knowledge. This suggests the sovereignty of the individual consciousness; the right, and duty, of the individual to judge for himself, and to refrain from passing on responsibility to some external authority. Claims to truth are to submit to the bar of individual and symmetrical judgement: neither claims nor judges can claim special, unequal privilege.

Gellner emphasizes that, historically speaking, these attitudes are quite out of the ordinary. But which came first: the Protestantism or the free inquiry, innovative economic endeavor, diffusion of moral authority, widespread trust, non-instrumental honesty, inner rather than outer sanctions, scripturalism, rule-observance, spiritual egalitarianism, self-government, and sovereignty of the individual consciousness? Did the Germanic peoples already possess some of these attributes (perhaps in attenuated form) before adopting (or, rather, creating) Protestantism?

Consider the following story, related by Paul Johnson in A History of Christianity (pp. 125-126):

On 23 December, in the year 800, a lengthy meeting took place in the Secret Council Chamber of the Lateran Palace in Rome. Among those present were Charlemagne, the Frankish leader, the Pope, Leo III, Frankish, Lombard and Roman ecclesiastics and generals, and two French monks from Tours, Witto and Fridugis, who represented their abbot, the Yorkshireman Alcuin....

Since the disappearance of the last 'western' emperor in 478, the Christian West had acknowledged the emperor in Constantinople as the sole international authority. But his power, if legitimate, was in practice now virtually non-existent west of the Adriatic. Italy, Gaul and Germany, and Rome itself, were in the possession of the Frankish armies. Was it not an axiom of common sense, as well as a proposition endorsed repeatedly by the Scriptures, that a sovereign should rule as well as reign? Was not the great Charles the effective master of the West? ... There was, therefore, a strong case for Charles to be accorded some form of imperial dignity. He was undoubtedly the greatest monarch in the West, perhaps in the entire world. As Abbot Alcuin, who was in effect his chief adviser, had pointed out, the English had evolved a system under which the most powerful and successful of their many kings was given the title of bretwalda, and exacted homage and obedience from the others. This argument, which presented the imperial idea in Germanic terms which Charles could grasp, was again put forward by Alcuin's two delegates at the council. And it appears to have proved conclusive. Charles agreed to become western emperor, and ceremonies of homage seem to have been carried out on that day.

Two days later, in the great basilica of St. Peter's, Charles and his generals celebrated Christmas, and the Pope insisted on performing a Roman ritual under which he placed a crown on Charles's head, and then prostrated himself in an act of emperor-worship, the crowd of Romans present calling out a monotonous series of ritual acclamations. Charles was taken aback by this weird, eastern enactment, which was completely alien to anyone coming from north of the Alps, with a Germanic background. And it seemed suspicious to him that the crown, which he had won by his own achievements, should be presented to him by the Bishop of Rome, as though it were in his gift. Charles said afterwards that, if he had known what was to happen, he would have refused to attend mass in St. Peter's that day.

Here we have a telling difference between the Germanic attitudes of the Franks and the Mediterranean, almost eastern, attitudes of the Romans -- presaging in some ways the future emergence of Protestantism north of the Alps (although before then the Frankish element of French society would be submerged into more Roman ways of thinking and living).

While in part these attitudes of the Germanic tribes probably preceded their exposure to Christianity, in part they may have derived from the fact that most of the Teutons were first converted not to orthodox Christianity but to the Arian "heresy" by the fourth-century missionary Ulfilas (the OED contains a quotation to the effect that "all the other Teutonic kings [other than Chlodwig] were Arians"). As Paul Johnson notes (p. 128), "this fact quickly became the chief differentiation between the 'barbarians' and the Romans, who accepted the Trinitarian doctrine worked out by Augustine." The southern tribes were eventually de-Arianized (although one wonders if the Arian legacy of the Visigoths in southern Gaul partially resurfaced later in the form of the so-called Albigensian heresy propounded by the Cathars), but the Arian beliefs of the more northerly tribes (especially the Goths and Lombards) lingered for some time and may have combined with existing Germanic attitudes to predispose those areas to their later break with Catholicism. Among the Germanic tribes the Franks were unique in converting directly to orthodox (Nicene or Trinitarian) Christianity rather than first to Arianism -- does that difference also presage the later fault line between French Catholicism and the Protestantism of Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, England, and Scotland? Only further research will tell (much of this is purely speculative on my part).

(Cross-posted at one small voice.)

Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at 11:49 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 18, 2005

UK Heart West Wing. What?

While skimming the front page of the BBC News website (International version) I spotted an article on the death of John Spencer, the respected character actor who plays Chief-of-Staff "Leo McGarry" on the American TV series "West Wing."

The UK reader comments at the bottom of the article were surprisingly emotional. That doesn't make sense, I thought. Sure enough though, when I jumped over to amazon.co.uk to check responses to the DVDs of the six seasons of the West Wing, it was all effusive positive comments, "best series ever", blah, blah, blah. Even from the congenitally nasty British TV critics. Am I dreaming?

Friends, Desperate Housewives, The OC, ER? OK. "Gold Mountain" for the Anglo plebs.

The Sopranos? Kinda understandable. Everyone seems to love the American Mafia.

But an ensemble TV show on the arcana of the US governmental system, and the President throwing his weight around once a week? ... with dialog written in the style of a Hepburn-Tracy movie and everyone prancing around office corridors looking grim and speaking in paragraphs. You're kidding, right?

Widely savaged on the west side of the Atlantic as the "Left Wing" -- TV alt-history pr0n for Democrats -- all I can think of is that the West Wing portrays Americans the way the British would *like* to see them, confident but oh so sensitive ... much as Yanks love the American Public Broadcasting System's "Masterpiece Theatre," ... endless British 19th century period pieces with girls in corsets and men in cravats (sort of a Hollywood farm team system for potential UK stars).

As a Canadian who's lived in the US off and on for forty years, I'm pretty familiar with the American federal system, current events, and slang. Even so, some episodes of the West Wing can be hard slugging. So do they teach the separation of powers in UK schools, now, along with "pleading the Fifth"? Or do Brits actually prefer a strong Father? Please explain. My world is in turmoil.

Posted by jmccormick at 02:36 PM | Comments (4)

Intellectual mind games (reprise)

In 2003 two of the leading European “public intellectuals” published a manifesto, in which they rejoiced in the phoenix-like rebirth of the European idea. I wrote this piece on the Bruges Group website at the time. I have now returned to the subject on EUReferendum, cross-posted on Chicagoboyz but I think the original piece worth a dusting down.

We may not have a European demos and, consequently, find it hard to create a European democracy, but we do seem to have something called a European intellectual. Foremost among this is the German, Jürgen Habermas, described as a second-generation Frankfurt School philosopher. The Frankfurt School, founded in Germany in the 1920s was largely Marxist, though its members concentrated not on Marx’s historical and economic theories (which have been at the root of most of the twentieth century’s catastrophes) but on using a Marxist analysis of consciousness to subject social and cultural phenomena to criticism. On the whole, this, too, is an outdated way of thinking and analyzing but Habermas has used his aura of being the heir of such thinkers as Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno to become Germany’s leading “public philosopher”. A modern public philosopher is very different from Socrates, for instance, who said that the wisest man is he who acknowledges that he knows nothing. Jurgen Habermas considers that he knows a great deal. He has spent much of his time in anguished theorizing about the German identity and has now spread his wings to write about the European identity.

In 2003 two of the leading European “public intellectuals” published a manifesto, in which they rejoiced in the phoenix-like rebirth of the European idea. I wrote this piece on the Bruges Group website at the time. I have now returned to the subject on EUReferendum, cross-posted on Chicagoboyz but I think the original piece worth a dusting down.


We may not have a European demos and, consequently, find it hard to create a European democracy, but we do seem to have something called a European intellectual. Foremost among this is the German, Jürgen Habermas, described as a second-generation Frankfurt School philosopher. The Frankfurt School, founded in Germany in the 1920s was largely Marxist, though its members concentrated not on Marx’s historical and economic theories (which have been at the root of most of the twentieth century’s catastrophes) but on using a Marxist analysis of consciousness to subject social and cultural phenomena to criticism. On the whole, this, too, is an outdated way of thinking and analyzing but Habermas has used his aura of being the heir of such thinkers as Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno to become Germany’s leading “public philosopher”. A modern public philosopher is very different from Socrates, for instance, who said that the wisest man is he who acknowledges that he knows nothing. Jurgen Habermas considers that he knows a great deal. He has spent much of his time in anguished theorizing about the German identity and has now spread his wings to write about the European identity.

Habermas has teamed up with the leading French philosopher and deconstructionist (roughly speaking, a thinker who treats all events and developments as texts to be analyzed rather than as moral or political phenomena), Jacques Derrida, to produce a manifesto on the new European identity. This was published simultaneously in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the left-wing French Libération. Other European notables joined in, not so much debating the subject, as musing about it: from Italy Umberto Eco and Gianni Vattimo, from Switzerland (and there we were thinking that that tiny rich country was not in Europe as it refuses to be bullied by the European Union) Adolf Muschg and from Spain Fernando Savater. Jan-Werner Müller, a fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, a founder of the European College of Liberal Arts in Berlin and the editor of a recently published tome, Memory and Power in Post-War Europe: Studies in the Presence of the Past, writing about this intellectual development in the European Voice, commented that “[a]pparently, not a single intellectual could be found in Britain at the time…” Dear me, how sad. Well, let us see if the Bruges Group dares to play with the big boys (there seem to be no girls on the pitch and that must, surely, be rectified).

According to the theoreticians of the new European identity, it was born on February 15 this year in the many-million strong marches across the continent against the war in Iraq. Disregarding the demonstrations outside Europe and the fact that few of the demonstrators had any clear idea of what they were marching for, as opposed to against, Habermas called this the day on which a common European consciousness came into being. Inevitably, this consciousness has taken on the role, unasked but necessary, of being a “civilizing” counterpart to the United States and is particularly suited to that role because of the painful European historical memories. It seems that recent European history, which has included wars, revolutions, counter-revolutions, massacres, concentration camps, totalitarian systems and the Holocaust, has given the Europeans a peculiar capacity for recognizing and accepting differences.

A further aspect of the “civilizing” role of the new European consciousness, according to Habermas and his co-theoreticians is the Europeans’ ability and desire to trust the premier agent of secularization – in itself a welcome aspect of this new consciousness – the state. Americans, on the other hand, they imply, not having gone through all the horrors of the last century, (mostly, one may add inflicted on individuals and peoples by the state in its various forms) do not trust the state and, therefore, presumably, do not accept fully the “civilizing” process of secularization. Moreover, all the various horrors of European history have given the Europeans a stronger sense of threats to personal and bodily integrity. (Undoubtedly, that is why its first manifestation, according to Habermas, was a demonstration to preserve the power of a very bloody tyrant who had rather less than complete respect for other people’s personal and bodily integrity. Though, of course, he thought and, if alive, still thinks very highly of his own, so he may well agree with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida.)

There are many problems with this, as any other, definition of a common European consciousness and, particularly, of a new common European consciousness and Jan-Werner Müller in his article picks up several. In the first place, as he does not mention, a manifesto reeks of the early twentieth century when all sorts of parties, political movements, artistic and literary groups, all produced manifestos, most instantly forgettable, others entertaining, yet others, as it turned out, sinister in intent. One cannot help feeling that to some extent Habermas and Derrida are harking back to that seductive period of intellectual turmoil around the First World War and are trying to impose its structure on the twenty-first century. Müller picks other holes. He points out, as many critics have done that the “new European consciousness” is little more than the old German social-democratic consensus and adds that it would be easier to produce counter-examples to the rather fuzzy vision of the supposed solidarity in existence. Then there is the problem of anti-Americanism, surely a large and unattractive part of this supposed European commonality. It is notoriously more difficult to have a positive vision of identity than a negative one. We always know or think we know who we are not and, even whom we dislike; we do not always understand so clearly who we are and why.

But Müller also adds other criticisms and this is perhaps where there may be a need for a British voice in the debate. Müller notes that the European Union is being endowed with all the conventional aspects of a nation-state, including its power to build a nation where none exists. This, he thinks, is completely out of date. Identity can no longer be decreed from above and, therefore, European intellectuals should stop agonizing about that. In fact, he points out, most of the discussion about the Union and its various aspects has been conducted in nineteenth century terms. Noticeably neither he, nor other European intellectuals mention the most important nineteenth century terms: democracy and liberty. Instead of all this outdated terminology, Müller suggests, “Europe needs … a debate about the special nature of the political and economic instruments it has created – not least its ‘post-national’ modes of political coordination and its recipes for economic integration in the aftermath of a devastating conflict.”

This, too, is questionable and outdated. What was created in the immediate aftermath of a terrible conflict does not necessarily accord with European or any other consciousness half a century later when most of the political and economic structures created at the same time are either under severe pressure or have disappeared. Why must we assume that certain structures created at a certain point of history are the final and ultimate ones? Surely that sort of historicism has been disproved both in theory and in practice many times over?

Then there is the question of those “special … political and economic instruments”. Economic integration is not precisely a new idea and neither is a customs union. The political structures of the European Union are, to some extent different from most of the earlier ones but their future existence and development depends on rather old-fashioned ideas of legitimacy. It is quite clear both from the negotiations that surrounded the Convention for the Future of Europe and from the agonizing intellectual mind games being played out in the various European publications that the new and special structures have no future. To preserve them in any way old-fashioned ideas of cultural identity and legitimacy have to be brought into play. Our political terminology has not changed much in the last two hundred and fifty years. What the European Union has tried to do is abandon the inconvenient political ideas: liberty, constitutionalism, democracy, precisely defined rights and duties and relationship between the state and the individual, as well as more detailed ones like accountability. Instead, it aims to introduce a political structure which is largely managerial – greater efficiency and transparency rather than political accountability and definition of various responsibilities are the much discussed phenomena. The cultural commonality, so dear to the heart of the European philosophers who pronounce on these matters, clarifies nothing and merely surrounds the reality of the new state that is being created with cloudy and vaporous imprecision.

Surely we do need a debate – a very open debate, which will deal not with unargued assumptions about the “special nature” of the new structures and political tools, nor with badly defined European “civilizing missions”. All that is grist to the mill of those bureaucrats who are trying to create what is, indeed, a new state, whose politics will be managerial and whose supposed cultural base will have little real content. The debate must concentrate on political ideas and the need for precision in definition. We must start defining what exactly the European Union is and, only when we have done so, can we start discussing – not assuming but discussing – whether this is precisely the way we want to be going.

Let me throw out the first question: what precisely is the point of what has become a new ideology, European integrationism? Over to you, European intellectuals.

Posted by Helen Szamuely at 04:12 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 17, 2005

Conan Doyle in Russian

In a way, the title ought to have been “Sherlock Holmes in Russian” but some reference to the other works, particularly the Professor Challenger stories, might serve a purpose.

For once, I’d like to start with a personal reminiscence. I had heard of Sherlock Holmes, mentioned as he was in children’s books, but I first read the stories at the age of 11, when on a visit to my Russian grandmother in Moscow.

Let me describe the conditions in which people such as my mother’s family lived in those days. Both my grandparents were eminent doctors, my grandfather, in particular, a leading epidemiologist in Moscow. For all of that, they, together with their two children had lived most of their lives in two small rooms in a communal flat, sharing the kitchen and bathroom with three other households. Because of my grandfather’s work, they had a separate telephone line.

By the time of this visit my grandfather had died but my great-grandmother, who was, alas, suffering from senile dementia had moved in. My mother had clearly left with her husband and child but her brother, having grown up and married, remained in the two rooms with his family. During our visit there were various re-arrangements to give us all some sleeping space, but the place remained somewhat crowded. It was in those circumstances that my grandmother gave me her copy of a selection of Sherlock Holmes stories to read.

I can still recall the very first story in that selection: “The Red-Headed League”. There were several others: “The Blue Carbuncle”, “The Speckled Band”, which terrified me beyond belief, “The Second Stain” and so on. The second part of the volume was taken up by “The Hound of Baskervilles”. I have read and re-read the entire Holmes oeuvre since then but nothing can possibly compare to that first entry into the magical world.

In a way, the title ought to have been “Sherlock Holmes in Russian” but some reference to the other works, particularly the Professor Challenger stories, might serve a purpose.

For once, I’d like to start with a personal reminiscence. I had heard of Sherlock Holmes, mentioned as he was in children’s books, but I first read the stories at the age of 11, when on a visit to my Russian grandmother in Moscow.

Let me describe the conditions in which people such as my mother’s family lived in those days. Both my grandparents were eminent doctors, my grandfather, in particular, a leading epidemiologist in Moscow. For all of that, they, together with their two children had lived most of their lives in two small rooms in a communal flat, sharing the kitchen and bathroom with three other households. Because of my grandfather’s work, they had a separate telephone line.

By the time of this visit my grandfather had died but my great-grandmother, who was, alas, suffering from senile dementia had moved in. My mother had clearly left with her husband and child but her brother, having grown up and married, remained in the two rooms with his family. During our visit there were various re-arrangements to give us all some sleeping space, but the place remained somewhat crowded. It was in those circumstances that my grandmother gave me her copy of a selection of Sherlock Holmes stories to read.

I can still recall the very first story in that selection: “The Red-Headed League”. There were several others: “The Blue Carbuncle”, “The Speckled Band”, which terrified me beyond belief, “The Second Stain” and so on. The second part of the volume was taken up by “The Hound of Baskervilles”. I have read and re-read the entire Holmes oeuvre since then but nothing can possibly compare to that first entry into the magical world.

Like all children brought up within the Russian cultural sphere my childhood reading included an astonishingly large number of English and American books in translation. It was considered to be wholesome fare, unlike French literature (except for Alexandre Dumas and Jules Verne) and the translations were extraordinarily good. The explanation for that is two-fold.

On the one hand, reading western literature in the original or in translation was always considered to be an essential part of being educated in Russia. (As it happens, the same is true for much of Central Europe, but that is a separate story.) In an odd sort of way, translated English and American books were almost considered to be Russian, though clearly they described a very different world.

Secondly, many of the best Russian writers found it prudent or simply unavoidable to retreat into writing children’s books or translating. It was not until I re-read many of the books in English that I realized just how high the standard of those translations was. Just to give one example: coping with Lewis Carroll’s scintillating language in “Alice in Wonderland” is no joke. Yet my copy (with Carroll’s rather than Tenniel’s illustrations) was undeniably a Russian book that, nevertheless, managed to convey the twists and turns of the original astonishingly well.

So we all read Dickens, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Thackeray later on, Fenimore Cooper and Captain Mayne Reid, H.G.Wells, Jules Verne, in many ways an honorary Anglospherist (theme for another posting, perhaps) and various others. But nothing can compare with the overwhelming, immense popularity of Conan Doyle’s books, particularly the Sherlock Holmes stories.

To this day, the best suggestion you can make to almost any Russian visitor (apart from Madame Tussaud, maybe, which usually disappoints) is a glimpse of Sherlock Holmes’s and Dr Watson’s sitting room as reconstructed above the Sherlock Holmes pub near the embankment. Russians will discourse about the stories and will assure you that the TV series made a few years ago was far superior to anything that could have been done in any other country. (Actually, that opinion is based on no knowledge whatsoever. Hardly any of them would have seen the British TV series.)

Some of it can be explained by the constant and half-formulated Russian assumption that, as Dostoyevsky said:

“The Russian spirit alone is all-human, it alone has the future mission of comprehending and unifying all the diverse nationalities and eliminating all their contradictions.”

There is also the fact that the Sherlock Holmes stories and, to a lesser degree, the Professor Challenger ones, have captured the imagination of readers all over the world.

This phenomenon has never been easy to understand. But, let us see, if we can do it, looking at it from the Russian point of view.

In the first place, of course, there is the sheer cosiness of the stories: the astonishingly well created world of London and the English countryside, of the rooms in Baker Street, of the main characters and the relationship between them. Despite the villainy of the life around Homes and Watson, the world is a steady, solid one. People know their place in life, are certain about the present and the future. (The one exception to that is “His Last Bow”, an unsatisfactory tale of espionage and derring-do.)

This has always had a tremendous appeal to a Russian audience to whom the notion of “normal life” has become a kind El Dorado, an unattainable oasis in the desert of its reality.

The detective story in its classical form developed in the Anglo-Saxon or, perhaps one should say, Anglospheric world, first in Britain, then the United States. There are various reasons for this, but the most obvious ones are the basic solidity of the society, the general acceptance of moral standards and the importance of private property. Many of the early detective stories are not about murder but about theft, embezzlement, robbery – crimes against the property rather than the person.

The detective story is based on the assumption that an individual crime, whether of violence or not, matters. Its perpetration tears the social fabric, upsets moral and social assumptions and these are not mended until the perpetrator is brought to some kind of justice. It is not hard to see why this point of view should appeal to people whose own history, especially in the twentieth century, does not provide any of these certainties.

In parenthesis let me note, that I heard recently that dramatizations of Agatha Christie stories were performed in one or two of the Nazi death camps. One can see the yearning for the moral order in those horrific circumstances. Christie’s novels have now been translated into Russian, where they are also very popular.

Then there is the police in Conan Doyle’s stories. Not particularly bright and not at all imaginative (with one or two exceptions), they are nevertheless, honest and well-meaning. Lestrade, Gregson, Athelney Jones and, even Stanley Hopkins, may get the wrong man, but they do so by mistake and, one assumes, release him as soon as Holmes convinces them of their errors. Not for them the famous NKVD saying: “Give us a man and we’ll have a case.” England is a country where the police obey the law, protect individuals and their property and pursue malefactors, while staying within rules. A society of that kind, as described by Conan Doyle, has always had an irresistible fascination for those unlucky enough to be outside it.

All that is true for most Victorian and early twentieth century detective stories. But there is something more to Conan Doyle’s heroes (apart from the author’s superior writing talent). They are within an orderly and morally coherent society but they are also individuals who do not necessarily obey its rules. While Challenger is an eccentric and wilful explorer and scientist, Holmes comes close occasionally to a superman, not just by his extraordinary abilities but because of his assumption that he has the right to make decisions about the criminals he apprehends without necessarily referring back to any higher power. His decisions usually err on the side of mercy. This combination of a well-regulated social structure and individual assumption of responsibility retains an unparalleled attraction for non-English, above all, for Russian readers of the Holmes stories.

Posted by Helen Szamuely at 06:05 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 16, 2005

The Sydney Riots and Appeasing Politicians

Melanie Phillips posts an intreseting discussion of the Sydney riots and the deep denial of the multiculturalists about it. She also links to and quotes from Tim Priest, a retired Australian police official, who critiques politically-driven appeasement of the Lebanese gangs. He says in part:

I don’t remember any charges being laid in conjunction with the gang rapes of south-western Sydney in 2001, where race was clearly an issue and race was used to humiliate the victims. But then, unbelievably, a publicly-funded document produced by the Anti-Discrimination Board called “The Race for Headlines” was circulated, and it sought not only to cover up race as a motive for the rapes, but to criticise any accurate media reporting on this matter as racially biased.

It's all must reading.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 09:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 15, 2005

Stormy Seas for the Boy-King?

Here's some evidence that Helen's pessimistic take on the new British Conservative leader David Cameron may be prophetic. Will this lead to a walkout of the Eurosceptic activists into a new party? Premature speculation at this point, but the possibility can't be ignored.

One thing may prevent the emergence of what could essentially be a more telegenic John Major* is the emergence of a British blogosphere. The activist base now has better tools for self-organization, and this may make a difference from times past. We shall see.

*
Watson: John Major? Who was he?

Holmes: Exactly, Watson. You take my point.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 06:21 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Multi-culti Policy and the Sydney Beach Riots

Keith Windschuttle's op-ed in The Australian discusses the connection between Australian official multiculturalist policies over the past few decades and the failure of assimilation that led to the Sydney beach riots. Interestingly enough, as Windschuttle points out, the Anglosphere assimilation engine has continued to work in many cases in the face of official policy. Money quote:

Outside the ethnic enclaves, instead of racist or ethnocentric attitudes to newcomers, old Australians were working with, marrying and having children with them.

Studies by Monash University's Bob Birrell of the most revealing test of immigrant integration, the marriage rate, showed that by the end of the '90s less than 10 per cent of second-generation marriages of people of European descent were to someone from their parents' country. Much the same was true of immigrants from south and east Asia. Only 6 per cent of Indians married within their ethnic group, as did only 18 per cent of Chinese. In short, most immigrants, whatever their race, married Australians of other nationalities.

However, for the Lebanese, of whom most of marriageable age were Muslims, these figures were reversed. No less than 74 per cent of Lebanese brides and 61 per cent of Lebanese grooms married within their own ethnic group. Moreover, these figures had increased since the early '90s, when they were about six percentage points lower. This pattern may have fulfilled the community-building objective sought by Lebanese political and religious leaders, but it has been a disaster for their constituents' relationship with the rest of Australia.

Put this week's beachside violence into its political and social context, and the conclusion is clear. It is not race that is the problem but culture. Multiracialism has been a success in contemporary Australia but multiculturalism has been an abject failure.

Democracy, immigration, multiculturalism. Pick any two.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 06:06 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day: Mencken in 1923

"The good qualities of this so-called Anglo-Saxon are many, and I am certainly not disposed to question them, but I here pass them over without apology, for he devotes practically the whole of his literature and fully a half of his oral discourse to celebrating them himself, and so there is no danger that they will ever be disregarded."

H.L. Mencken, 16 Jul 1923, editorial "The Anglo-Saxon"

Posted by jmccormick at 12:49 PM | Comments (1)

December 14, 2005

An Ill Wind of Change

Joe Katzman's blog Winds of Change has an important post on the future of the F-35 fighter program and specifically some export-control issues that threaten Britain's participation in it -- the US's only first tier partner. This is an important issue and one that I hope we will have further and more detailed posts on here.

However, what I found curious about Katzman's post is that he did not go more deeply into the major underlying problem, which is the US concern over leak of technology or information to undesirable third parties via the increasing integration of Britain's defense industries into pan-European structures and institutions. To put it a different way, we are being asked to rely on Jacques Chirac's guarantee that key US-developed defense technologies will not be sold to China, or for that matter Iran or North Korea. Even a nation that did not have the technology base to replicate an F-35 could use access to such technology to help design countermeasures against it in some future confrontation.

It's Tony Blair's delusion that he can, by clever footwork, continue to straddle the horses of trans-Atlantic cooperation and European integration. But these horses are running straight at a telephone pole and Tony is in the middle. Tecchnology transfer to third parties is that telephone pole, and Tony will soon have to jump one way or the other.

Joe suggests that the Congressmen who are pushing the technology transfer issue cease thinking in purely national terms, and consider the counterbalancing civilizational interests. I would be the first to second that motion -- the Congresscritters in question are not searching for real, long-term solutions, but merely reaching for a patch on the immediate problem. But it would also require the British authorities to "think the unthinkable" -- to reexamine their long-held assumption that they can finesse the conflict between a European integration that drives toward a pan-European control over the destination of technology, and the profitable and useful industrial cooperation with the USA and the very smooth interoperability that it makes possible. By many metrics, the UK has become the second most capable miitary power in the world (although its reach and scope is being compromised by further cutbacks), and that result is entirely bound up with its interoperability with US forces.

The ultimate solution may well be in what I have proposed in my book, an integrated "defense industry community" agreement between the US, the UK, and other nations willing and able to abide by its strict destination rules on thirrd-party transfer. (This would not be restricted to Anglosphere nations, but it's likely that such would be its core.) Within this community, technology transfer and cooperation would be essentially transparent, and mergers would be possible without many of the burdens that today limit and hedge foreign ownership of defense-sensitive companies in the US. Such a community would be a powerful carrot to the UK's high-tech and defense industries. However, it would almost certainly mean the curtailment of some portion of the UK's participation in pan-European mergers and combinations.

A combination of increasing (and largely valid) US concerns over third-party destination controls (fed by Clinton-era blunders in technology-transfer controls to China), and increasingly aggressive EU plans for defense integration, combined with a strategy of triangulation with the US's strategic rivals, is making the UK's position of choice over the past decades increasingly untenable. Blair, or perhaps Prime Minister Brown (or perhaps even Prime Minister Cameron, who needs to be addressing this issue) will soon have to make a choice. Americans should be thinking over a better offer to Britain than a continuation of the status quo, or the status quo minus further restictions. This is a moment for strategic, long-term thinking and an honest view of the real options. So far the only people doing this are the Europeanists, who already understand the choice and are working hard to ensure that Britain is pushed their way. It would be stupid of the US and the UK to let this happen by default.

Thanks to Rand Simberg for the link.

UPDATE: In a private exchange with Joe Katzman we have clarified some issues. Joe is in fact quite aware of the third-party destination issues the US has (and which are covered in the article linked in his post), and also of the short-term-outlook blindness of several key Congressional players. Discussing solutions, he suggested in the short term a bilateral US-UK agreement covering third-party-destination and other key issues, in return for a more workable situation under ITAR. Joe observed:

"There are options for the US that would let it dispense with ITAR below
a given threshold and begin with bilateral agreements for major joint
weapons programs that set out the limits - eventually expanding and
codifying into a more overarching framework. It worked for the Common
Law...."
.

I say, great! Let's do it!

One commentor remarked that the US would need to offer more than defense cooperation to the UK in order to get them to turn away from the EU. That in itself is debatablee (Britain's subjugation to EU regulations costs substantially more than the difference between free trade with Europe, and what tarriffs would be under GATT/WTO maximums, for a start.) Butt it's also worth noting the the US Senate offered the UK a free trade agreement in 2003, which Blair had to turn down because of conflict with EU treaties. Blair could have had anything he asked for in terms of cooperation with the US at that point, but he frittered away the goodwill he earned by pushing transnational agendas (the ICC, for example) that had no hope of passing in Congress.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 01:19 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

The Derb on the Religion Gap

Commentators frequently bring up the "religion gap" between the US and Britain. John Derbyshire, writing in National Review Online, makes the point that this gap is not nearly as large as generally imaginged. The difference is more of the atttitude toward the institution of the Church, or churches -- England and Scotland having established churches, they do not depend on active participation of the congregaton to the extent American non-established churches do, and thus they do not go to the lengths American churches do to assure attendance. My own observation is that many Brits tend to view their church more as a public utility -- they want it there and fuctioning when they need it, such as for weddings, christenings, and funerals, and not to have to pay too much attention to it at other times.

This is not too different from the attitude that the first-generation Italian-American men had that I grew up around -- church was for Christmas, Easter, and special events. Although it must be remembered, when people had big families and all one's relatives lived close by, just attending weddings, funerals, christenings, first communions, and other such events of extended family and neighbors kept people in churches almost as frequently as weekly attendance.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 11:15 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

December 13, 2005

Disestablishing the BBC

Recently Lex opined that Britain needed a bigger blogosphere. Now the excellent Mid-Atlantic Blog makes the same point.

More disintermediation. Faster, please.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 11:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

China, India and the Anglosphere

Some interesting thoughts on the subject from Anton Traversa. Sample quote:

No one on the world produces as many Nobel Prize winners as the United States. No country has as dynamic or innovative a technology R&D program. China has no Nobel Prize winners. It has matured greatly in recent years, but it doesn’t have the domestic capability to compete on a level field against American or even Western European/Japanese innovation. India, on the other hand, is much closer to this goal – its democratic tradition has allowed innovation to flourish, though it still has some ways to go.

In the end, the United States has nothing to fear from India because she sees India as a country with shared values about democracy, human rights, and protection of private property, free markets, and the like. China may be a capitalist dream, but in the end it can only go so far because, at a certain point, the lack of flexible institutions will either turn on the entire system or simply bottleneck its ability to innovate any further.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 05:46 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

More on the Sydney Beach Riots

This post from Belmont Club has an interesting discussion and analysis of the Sydney beach riots, with a very long and interesting comments section. Some on-the-point quotes:

Like most people in Oz, I have Muslim or Middle Eastern friends and the way I got it figured is if we don't start cracking down on the Osamas and the Zawahiris and the al-Arians because they are draped in this bogus human rights shield, then the Joe Samadis and the Bill Mansours of the world are gonna start catching it.

Multiculturalism may not be dead, but it's certainly taken a hell of a ding.

Read, as they say, the whole thing. It's particularly interesting because Belmont Club is written by a non-white immigrant Australian, so it's hardly a "neo-nazi" viewpoint.

Democracy, immigration, multiculturalism. Pick any two.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 03:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

WW0@1897 - AV Dicey: A Common Citizenship for the English Race

Download 89K MS-Word version of Dicey’s 1897 essay here

In several earlier posts of e-book material, we’ve seen a transect or cross-section of ideas about unity of the English-speaking peoples at the turn of the 20th century. In 1892, relations between Great Britain and the US were cordial but still distant … and George Parkin is offering Imperial Federation as a means by which Great Britain, alone, and its largest colonies could resolve economic, political, and military vulnerability.

Ten years later, by 1903, the United States and Great Britain had undergone a vast change in their relationship as a result of the Venezuela boundary controversy, the Spanish-American War, the Boer War, the impending American construction of the Panama Canal, and America’s staggeringly large increase in its naval power. John Dos Passos is arguing at book length for harmonization and rationalization of relations between the two great powers out of the roots of sentiment, self-interest, and Christian duty.

Finally, by 1914, Sinclair Kennedy’s book on the “Pan-Angles” is sounding a far more urgent call for unity in the face of serious Great Power challenges in Europe and Asia. Kennedy quotes chapter and verse to establish the common set of values on both sides of the Atlantic, and that alliances should naturally follow such shared values. Within months of that book’s publication, the world was cast into a global realignment and the 20th century’s social and political upheavals were underway.

Turning back for a moment to the period before US-GB rapprochement, however, we can spot the first serious but very delicate propositions about unity amongst the English-speaking peoples. A.V. Dicey (British journalist and legal historian of the first rank) may well have claim to being the “James Bennett of the late 19th century” with his publication of an essay on “isopolity” or common citizenship for the former colonies and then-current dominions of Great Britain.

To quote him: “The idea of a common citizenship for the whole English people is novel. My proposal, therefore, must of necessity sound startling. My purpose is to establish, first, that my plan is practicable; secondly, that the immediate effects of common citizenship would be extremely small, but, as far as they went, wholly good; thirdly, that the indirect and moral, and, ultimately, the political results of common citizenship might be great and extremely beneficial; and, lastly, that the time is opportune for aiming at, or at any rate contemplating, the extension of common civil and political rights throughout the whole of the English-speaking people.”

Dicey, writing at a time when WW0 was still in its early phases quite explicitly stated that his proposal was suited to equal parties … to the proper respect of the dignity of both peoples. America was asserting itself petulantly and rather boorishly in the Caribbean but its trajectory of dominance was yet unexpressed (though internal papers of the Royal Navy suggest that they already had calculated the “prevailing breezes.”). So Dicey's writing reflects neither the disdain of Parkin, nor the American strategic enthusiasm of Dos Passos and Kennedy. Could any value be more important, for example, in current proposals for unity in the English-speaking world, than finding the right balance of engagement and restraint? Unifying enough but not too much. Dicey offers one model.

Dicey’s short essay outlines, in retrospect, a modest proposal that might nonetheless have had real positive, lasting effects as the two nations were swept later into World War I. Without such a common citizenship, the English-speaking peoples at the individual and national levels were to go on informally to establish “special relationships” that changed the nature of the 20th century. The practical nature of the ties between these nations is still to be fully acknowledged or formally established. Hidden "isopolity" -- diplomatic, commercial, military, and cultural, has had to suffice.

Running less that twenty pages, Dicey’s essay from the 19th century is thought-provoking in substance and interesting to observe from a rhetorical standpoint. He sought to soothe but also to motivate. Well worth a read for Anglosphere enthusiasts after 108 years.

Posted by jmccormick at 12:40 PM | Comments (1)

WW0@1914 - The Pan-Angles: A Consideration of the Federation of the Seven ...

The Pan-Angles A Consideration of the Federation of the Seven English-Speaking Nations (1914) By Sinclair Kennedy

The Pan-Angles was completed early in 1914 and it shows a dramatic change in view from Dos Passos' book "Anglo-Saxon Century" written a decade earlier, and even more different from Parkin's 1892 "Imperial Federation."

The entente between Great Britain and the United States was fully underway. The various British colonies were rapidly becoming self-governing dominions. Each was absorbing staggering annual percentages of immigrants, many from the British Isles. New and rapidly growing competitors on the world's oceans (Germany, Japan, Russia) and on land (China) were to be taken seriously, and offered direct threat to the farflung British Empire, and American colonial outposts in the Phillipines and south Pacific. Domestically, Asian immigration was seen as both a threat to security and a threat to economic fairness for working people. It was a time when the massing of global interests pushed people to think in terms of power blocs, and the alignment of those blocs with race was hardly surprising.

pa_map_sm.jpg

Download 587K .jpg of above map at 50% of original

Download 528K Microsoft Word e-book file of Pan-Angles

In this context, Kennedy's book appears as a deeply referenced review of the strong similarities between the seven English-Speaking Nations of the book's title (Great Britain, United States, Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa). Much like Dos Passos, but with more rigour and detail, Kennedy establishes the basis for sentimental association between the countries. The ancient establishment of political assemblies and their transportation to the New World is highlighted, as is the distinction between parts of the British Empire between those which were "part of" the British traditions, and those which merely "belonged to" the Empire. He needed a compact way to describe the nations which inherited British values and political traditions in a way which didn't obscure the diverse origins of their citizenry. The neologism "pan-Angle" was his solution.

The ties between the seven countries were to be the basis for a common defense ... "[h]ere will be found no jingoism, if this be defined as a desire to flaunt power for its own sake; no altruism, if this means placing the welfare of others before one's own; and no sentiment except that which leads to self-preservation." The Pan-Angles is therefore not a book of geopolitical strategy or military preparedness. It's an exposition of what the Pan-Angles share, and any differences which might place an obstacle in the way of an effective federation for self-defence and continued prosperity. Of course, within months of the publication of the Pan-Angles, the shape of international conflict was to focus on continental Europe. And the fallout of World War 1 (and the participation of the United States in its latter stages) was to further shape the rest of the 20th century ... Russia, Japan, Germany, and China were indeed to play a large role on the world stage.

Kennedy's first few chapters are a brief methodical review of the history of Great Britain and its impact on the political structure and cultural values of the Pan-Angle Nations. Chapter headings such as "The Civilization", "The People", and "Individualism" give a sense of how Kennedy felt his argument should be presented. We even see the trope of "[i]f an intelligent traveler from Mars were to tour the earth to-day he would jot down in his notebook that New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Newfoundland, Canada, the British Isles, and the United States were all inhabited by the same sort of people." Kennedy notes that amongst these nations we more readily perceive the differences and take the similarities for granted. Kennedy tries to overcome that tendency by reiterating the historical events and habits of life that bond the seven countries together. Moreso perhaps than in our day, in 1913 those countries could reasonably be described as a civilization unto itself. In passages more lyrical than conclusive, Kennedy reviews the pioneering and adventurous tendencies of the Pan-Angles and how that flavours the personal attitudes and appetites of the day.

It is worth noting that Kennedy's footnotes provide a fascinating snapshot of the authors and ideas of the pre-War period who were taking an interest in how the British Empire, or the broader English-speaking world, should adapt to the maturation of the colonies and the appearance of formidable economic and military competitors.

Kennedy follows up his description of the shared values of the Pan-Angles with a review of the populations, square miles, and relative sizes of the Pan-Angle nations. He also discusses the relationship of the former colonies with London ... a relationship in 1914 which included a great deal of British oversight through the Privy Council and which was to be reflected in huge colonial participation in the trenches of Europe in a scant few years.

Then the author turns to the systems of government in the various countries, noting again the many local differences and adaptations but emphasizing the underlying similarities that were shared by parliamentary democracies and the giant republic. The distinctions between written constitutions and unwritten constitutional traditions are important when considering how nations would form a closer association. Of special interest to Kennedy was the role and participation of colonies or dependencies within the structure of government.

Having reviewed the natural ties between the English-speaking peoples and the nature of the ways they govern themselves, Kennedy proceeds to discuss the dangers facing the Pan-Angle civilization. For domestic discord, he feels that each nation must look to its own issues without interference from other nations. Apart from South Africa's turmoil associated with the role of East Indian labourers, and the role of non-whites generally, Kennedy sees little serious civil discord across the Pan-Angle countries. He is less sanguine when it comes to intra-Pan-Angle national friction. This takes the form of both commercial disputes and territorial or governmental differences. The inadequacies of the Privy Council in London being the final appeal court for the Dominions was by this time becoming all too evident. And whether it was British Columbia, California, Australia, or South Africa, the steam ship era had opened up new concerns about immigration from India, Japan, and China. Local responses at the time were rabid, to put it mildly.

As for the dangers to the Pan-Angles from other civilizations or nations, Kennedy lays out the argument that separate political existences for each of the Pan-Angle nations will not guarantee peace, and may in fact open temptation for military confrontation. In concluding, he states that "[t]hree choices lie before the Pan-Angles: the make-shift regime of Downing Street and the gambling uncertainties of arbitration boards, the jarring separation we have known in our past, [or] the noble method of union which our race has evolved, tested, and in four separate nations adopted. By solving our international differences of opinion in a federal government we can husband our strength for self-defence as a united power against other civilizations."

Having stated options, he then proceeds to review in greater detail the relative strengths and appetites of the other major powers of the world at the time. In this, his calculations of populations, geographic size, industrial might, and military appetite are unvarnished. And in light of the news of that day, the overall pessimistic and grim outlook are in line with the book's premise ... and what would come to pass within just a few years.

Turning to a solution, Kennedy notes that the tendency of the Pan-Angle nations have been for "spreading, separating, and converging." It is to the last tendency that he turns his attention in a chapter on common government. "Sentiment is not government," says Kennedy, echoing Dos Passos distinction between the ties of sentiment and those of self-interest. He notes that a functioning union with Westminster has been a dream of various colonies and authors through the 17th and 18th century. Ben Franklin's hope for such union were dashed, and the American republic was proudly apart for almost 150 years thereafter. Kennedy reviews this long history of federal appetites, and the contemporary challenges of Irish Home Rule which were straining goodwill in Britain. The appetite for federation in Canada, United States, South Africa, and Australia stood as examples of what could be, at a larger scale.

Finally, Kennedy turns to the question of self-preservation. In his view, a closer union of the six Britannic nations might afford sufficient protection. And the United States standing alone might protect itself. But a union of the seven nations with a total population of 141 million would indisputably be able to protect itself. To Kennedy, federation was a proven solution in Pan-Angle history and entirely compatible with the national patriotism to be found in Pan-Angle countries. It is only in a proper federation, he believes, that local or provincial concerns can be reconciled with broader needs. Arbitration panels are naturally divisive and only suited for parties who are all motivated to come to some solution. Patriotism cannot be engaged by treaty or alliance. The challenge under urgent consideration by British imperial bureaucrats at the time could be extended as well to relations with the United States. "These pages are intended to set forth the necessity and inevitableness of Pan-Angle federation, by whichever method attained, and as such are in thorough accord with all efforts towards Britannic federation. Either course is possible, if delay does not furnish opportunities for our separate destruction in the meantime by some rival civilization."

So Kennedy views his book as an extrapolation of imperial federal initiatives, in the face of new and growing military rivalry. A federalism to be based on approaches already in place seemed most likely to succeed, for Kennedy (citing Burke) felt that the Pan-Angles were reflexively conservative in their political solutions.

As a method of encouraging a federation, Kennedy saw the many Pan-Angle co-operative ventures of the time, at the governmental level, as furthering stronger ties between peoples and nations. Whether the interest in natural conservation, the harmonization of postal systems, or "grand tours" by politicians, intra-Pan-Angle activity could only emphasize the ties between the nations. Voluntary associations were similarly important as sources of reform. Kennedy saw the process as necessarily reflecting Pan-Angle values: "[i]n this labour of education we must work openly in the presence of each other and under the scrutiny of the nations of the world. ... because it is one of our inestimable privileges to make up our own minds." The development of the Rhodes scholarships was part of a conscious plan by Cecil Rhodes to encourage the Pan-Angles to foster personal experience and appreciation of Great Britain.

In the intervening time before a federation could be created, Kennedy urged each individual country to strengthen itself "to weather the storm of adversity should it burst upon us before co-operation is secured." He closes with a warning not to be discouraged by the slow rate of movement toward a federation. Slow and progressive alteration of constitutional matters is the rule, rather than exception, for the Pan-Angles, he notes. And the federating and confederating atmosphere of the time in the British self-governing colonies was a sign that large scale federation was both familiar and achievable. A Pan-Angle federation was merely the same thing writ large.

Kennedy's book was written "in hopes of helping each of us better to understand each other, and to remind us how much we need each other's help." The circumstances of the First World War, which began scant months after The Pan-Angles was published, placed Kennedy's vision of federation in a very different context. Yet another world war was to follow two decades later which linked the Pan-Angle peoples much more closely in shared sacrifice. We may find ourselves hard pressed to imagine with much detail Kennedy's concerns in 1914, but his plea and rationale for federation is another installment in the long history of visions of unity amongst the English-speaking peoples.

Posted by jmccormick at 01:20 AM | Comments (5)

December 12, 2005

Exit Strategies

Jim Bennett points to an interesting and important article by Arnold Kling that asks: what causes prosperity? I'm currently reading The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David Landes, which seeks to answer the same question. No one really knows. Kling points out that poverty does not have a cause: it has always been the default state of humankind. What requires explanation is wealth. Specifically, why did northwestern Europe (led by England) begin to break out of the endless cycle of poverty around 500 years ago? Ernest Gellner calls this "The Exit". Max Weber tried to explain the exit by reference to the Protestant work ethic. But why did the peoples of northwestern Europe (English, Scots, Dutch, Germans, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians) become Protestant in the first place? Landes puts great weight on the scientific outlook that emerged first in Italy but that passed by southern Europe and passed to northwestern Europe beginning with the burning of Giordano Bruno, the trial of Galileo, and the Inquisition. But why were the English and Dutch much more predisposed to scientific inquiry and open publication of new ideas? Others point to the corruption of the Portuguese and especially Spanish (who originally dominated the Atlantic trading area) because of the influx of gold from the New World and the overwhelming presence of slave labor on the plantations of Brazil and the Caribbean. But why were the Spanish and Portuguese empires more susceptible to these corrupting influences than were the English and Dutch empires? Everywhere you look, causes are not ultimate but can be pursued further back into history, until the evidence becomes less and less substantial although all the more tantalizing. (I suppose that's what makes history so fascinating.)

Yet this exercise is not of merely historical interest. No people on earth want to remain in poverty (even if their government wants to keep them there). Most countries would love to replicate the success of northwestern Europe and north America if they only could. Some countries, such as Japan and Korea, have pretty much succeeded. Other countries, such as China and India, are trying hard to do so. Other countries, such as Argentina and the Philippines, have tried but not succeeded very well. Other countries have not even tried (vast swaths of Asia and Africa). Yet there is no one formula for success. All we know is the Anglosphere social model seems to work extremely well, and that social models that are similar to the Anglosphere model in certain ways (high trust, open minds, mostly open markets, etc.) tend to work well enough to produce significant, sustainable wealth. But there is no magic bullet. As a long-time libertarian I used to think that removing government impediments was the answer, but that approach seems awfully simplistic to me now. Government emerges from culture and social life, which means that unfortunately most places get the government they deserve (corrupt in low-trust cultures, hegemonistic in traditionalist cultures, etc.). Just changing the government from the outside (cf. Iraq) or, for you anarcho-capitalists, removing it altogether (cf. Somalia) will not result in prosperity in the absence of a culture of trust, individualism, high risk-tolerance, entrepreneurialism, respect for work and education, open inquiry, literacy, science, and technological innovation (or at least most of those, and probably more). How many cultures can lay claim to even half of those attributes? Sadly, not nearly enough.

David Landes, too, stresses the importance of culture. The countries of northwestern Europe got a head start on everyone else in the modern industrial world because of their distinctive cultural traits, and Britain got a 100-year head start among those nations because of the Anglosphere social model. Latin America mainlined an Iberian culture of (at the time) militarism, corruption, and Inquisition -- a legacy it has found hard to shake even today. The Islamic world has lacked the traits of open inquiry, commercial trade, and learning from other societies for hundreds of years, and was not helped more recently by the so-called scientific socialism of post-colonial elites. Most African nations are even further down the ladder of civil society, honest dealing, education, and health -- a whole continent plagued by misfortune. Since the end of World War II the only real exceptions to a growing divergence between the West and the Rest have been in East Asia, led by Japan, joined by Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and more recently places like Malaysia and China. Landes ties the East Asian success stories to hard work, serious thrift, clear-thinking honesty (both to recognize one's plight and communicate about how to change it), extreme patience, and tenacious perseverence.

These are not pleasant conclusions to have to draw. We'd all like everyone to be rich and happy. Furthermore, tying wealth and poverty to culture seems to personalize it in ways that are simultaneously triumphalist and demeaning (we're better off because we're better, and you're worse off because you're worse). Easier, then, to avoid hard evidence and difficult conclusions. Yet, no matter how you slice it, culture matters. Thankfully, people have free will and can choose to face reality, understand their problems, work harder, save and invest more, focus on production over consumption, demand better governance, criticize in a constructive way, set higher goals, and work to achieve them. The painful experiences of economic deprivation, military defeat, ecological disaster, and the like can provide means to focus the mind and inspire effort; so can the image of a better life to be had by emulating those who blazed the path to modernity -- not following them, but joining them as equals in moving humankind forward scientifically, economically, technologically, and culturally.

None of this is going to get any easier. We understand more than we ever did about the role of cultural traits in societal success, but that does not necessarily make cultural change a breeze: it is still a tough, confusing slog. And the fact that life gets faster all the time may make it easier to leapfrog into modernity, but also harder for cultures to adapt. Instead of the centuries it took Britain and Europe to create modernity, cultures such as Korea, China, and India have only a few generations to do it. And even though human beings are deeply flexible, it's an open question whether people can change that fast. The coming Singularity revolutions in info-, bio-, and nano-technology will increase the pace of change even more, to levels that right now seem inconceivable. Those changes will challenge all cultures and civilizations, the Anglosphere included.

May you live in interesting times...

(Cross-posted at one small voice.)

Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at 10:29 PM | Comments (11)

Some Thoughts on Assimilation

Democracy, Immigration, Multiculturalism -- Pick Any Two

So now we are seeing beach riots in Sydney between grievance-bearing, unassimiated Muslim youth and other young Australians. It's a story that echoes thoughout the developed world. Like the rule of law, like a public service ethic , like a high radius of trust and all the social benefits that go with it, assimilation is not just something one can pick from a list of "would-be-nice" social characteristics, it is something that must be worked at consistently over time.

One thing I have noticed is that, the further away in time we grow from the 1940s and 1950s, generations who did not experience this era personally have come to form peculiar ideas of what assimilation was like in practice as a ruling paradigm in a society. I have a different take on it, as I grew up in a small industrial town in Western Pennsylvania in the 1950s, a town that was heavily Southern and Eastern Euopean in makeup.

As my mother's parents were born in Italy, while my father's family were of highly mixed British Isles, German, and other ancestry (the "other" is worth a separate post sometime), and all of my uncles and aunts, save one, were living in the town, I grew up already networked into a wide variety of ethnic groups in town. (All three of my mother's brothers, and most of her cousins, married non-Italians; several of my father's siblings married into "ethnic" families, so I grew up around Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Croatian, and other ethnic relatives, as well as many from the old Scots-Irish families who predominated in the surrounding countrysides.) I even had an English war bride for an aunt, to add a truly exotic touch.

School was even more mixed; I recall the Julian dates for Christmas and Easter were de-facto school holidays because so many of the kinds were Eastern Orthodox, and thus absent that the teachers didn't want to give tests or move ahead on the lesson plans. Of course, the other great Pennsylvania holiday, Opening Day, was also a de-facto holiday because all the male teachers took off for deer hunting. (Our teachers were not metrosexuals.) The school was also something like a quarter African-American -- the town was just too small to have de-facto school segregation based on residence. As a band member, I was in "band home room", so all my classes were substantially integrated as well. Strange as it may seem today, this integration, happening just at the start of the civil rights era, was entirely uncontroversial at the time; I can't think of any fights or incidents that were racial in tone. Not that there wasn't racism in the town, or racial problems, and the riots of the 1960s had their echoes in the town. But it wasn't a big thing at school when I was there. One of the problems I had with John Birmingham's Axis of Time series, as much as I liked it in general, was that the racial attitudes of the 1942 characters as he portrayed them didn't ring true, at least for the Northern US characters. (I can't speak for the Southerners one way or the other, just because I didn't grow up around any.) Not that the attitudes were wonderful, but the whole thing was more complex than Birmingham portrayed -- for one thing, class was more important than he showed it, and it affected racial issues. I was growing up around these people, maybe twelve or fifteen years after the year in which Birmingham was portraying them. They weren't like that.

What I do remember was the very heavy public narrative of assimilation and national unity, in which World War Two and military service played a huge part. The war had been a huge watershed, and I sensed (and later by readng confirmed it) that before the war ethnic identification had been a much bigger dividing line, and class as well, but the war had blurred both lines. People would still ask "What kind of a name is that?" when they heard an unidentifiably ethnic name, but the most important question men asked each other in the fifties was "Where did you serve?" And service was a very powerful solvent that made all sorts of previously-unthinkable business partnerships, service organization memberships, and marriages acceptable.

This was all accomplished with a sort off dual narrative that allowed people to be proudly ethnic and completely American in a way that multiculturalism did not. And it was a compromise that picked out the key items on which Americanization was essential -- loyalty to America ahead of ethnic origin, willingness to serve America even against one's country of origin, rejection of ethnic exclusiveness, American family structures -- "old country" attitudes and habits were completely scorned by the second generation, and ven the first generation. Many said "we came here to get away from all that" -- the corruption and familialism of the Old World. At the same time pride in ethnic origins and things like food, music, cultural holidays, and various customs were encouraged. I remember the high school symphonic band concerts that were a big deal then (yes, working-class people went to classical-music concerts willingly, at least when their kids were playing) and only much later realized that the selections had been carefully ethnically balanced to more or less reflect the ethnic makeup of the town. Thus I grew up with a curious imbalance in my classical-music education, think that fairly minor Eastern European composers (Smetana, for example) were as or more important than Bach or Beethoven. (There weren't very many Germans in town.)

Later, anti-assimilationst arguments began to spread the idea that the 1950s were a time of blandness and homogenization, and that everyone was forced into a "white bread" lifestyle. Maybe in some areas, but nowhere that I was exposed to. Assimilation was much more a matter of ethnic Americans using World War Two service in the military and the war industries as a universal solvent to break down anti-assimilation prejudices among earlier-arrrived Americans. It was this transition that began the great wave of inter-ethnic and Anglo-ethnic intermarriage that has more or less wiped out the big immigrant-ethnic ghettoes, and made ethnicity a sort of style rahter than fundamental identity -- and since so many Americans have more than one ethnic identity, they can more or less switch them like hats for the occasion.

This has happened to greater or lesser degrees throughout the Anglosphere. if we are going to be open to immigration from other nations and cultures, as I believe we should, this hgihly succssful, and by no means accidental, engine of assimilation must be allowed to operate as it has in the past. it is one of the world's greatest success stories. Any shortcomings we now have are more likely to be solved through extending the model rather than turning it on its head, as the multiculturalists have done over the past few decades.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 06:23 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Blog Jam -- The Word

The session from today's Pajamas Media Blog Jam can be viewed here.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 03:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Gift of a Common Language

In a speech delivered at Harvard University in 1943, Winston Chuchill observed:

The great Bismarck -- for there were once great men in Germany -- is said to have observed towards the close of his life that the most potent factor in human society at the end of the nineteenth century was the fact that the British and American peoples spoke the same language.

That was a pregnant saying. Certainly it has enabled us to wage war together with an intimacy and harmony never before achieved among allies.

This gift of a common tongue is a priceless inheritance, and it may well some day become the foundation of a common citizenship. I like to think of British and Americans moving about freely over each other's wide estates with hardly a sense of being foreigners to one another. But I do not see why we should not try to spread our common language even more widely throughout the globe and, without seeking selfish advantage over any, possess ourselves of this invaluable amenity and birthright.

(Cross-posted at one small voice.)

Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at 12:10 PM | Comments (1)

Jam Today! (Keynes Was Wrong...)

"Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today", said Keynes, quoting the Red Queen. But he was wrong. I'll be on a Pajamas Media Blog Jam today at 12 pm Pacific, 3 PM Eastern time. Topic will be The Rule of Law and the War on Terror.

Should be interesting.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 10:59 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 11, 2005

Diplomat makes Horrible Blunder

He tells the truth.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 10:44 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 10, 2005

John O'Sullivan Almost Says "Anglosphere"

In the current 50th Anniversary Issue of National Review (subscribers only online), John O’Sullivan has a good piece entitled “The Great 20th Century Handoff: Britain to America”. This is O’Sullivan’s take on a subject that has been heavily discussed on this blog recently, by me (The Trident Passes – Peacefully; also this), and James McCormick’s remarkable series on the “World War Zero” that did not happen as Britain lost its hegemony, and the United States assumed a similar world-role. ( here and here and here -- so far).

O’Sullivan’s analysis is consistent with the views expressed on this blog. He discusses the failed efforts to create a unitary state out of the disparate parts of the British Empire, the failure of the USA to assume Britain’s world-role after World War I, the USA’s lingering anti-British – because anti-imperialist – sentiments. As a result a true US-UK union did not really come about until after World War II, since there was a strong isolationist consensus in the US that was not overcome until the early Cold War. Only during the 1950s did American conservatives in the main finally turn away from isolationism and toward a hard, security-focused internationalism to oppose Soviet communism.

O’Sullivan concludes with a new assignment for National Review, and the larger American political Right in general:

Those [isolationist] trends were powerful on the right (though not confined to there). The rise of a new American conservatism that embraced an anti-Communist internationalism was a vital element in defeating these tendencies and building the stable political coalition that then sustained an internationalist foreign policy. NATIONAL REVIEW built and led that new conservatism. (Not without pangs—NR’s obituary of Churchill, for instance, was somewhat grudging.) It even sacrificed the American Right’s hostility to imperialism at Suez. That strategic re-thinking sustained the Cold War then; it sustains the War on Terror now; and it points the way to a future international coalition, ironically along lines pioneered by Joseph Chamberlain. Building a new coalition of the English speaking peoples—one that includes India as well as the “white dominions” in a post-racist age and that persuades the British themselves not to abandon their own Atlantic option for a narrow Europeanism—is the next task for “the most consequential journal of opinion ever.”

Let us roll around in our mouths again that one phrase: “Building a new coalition of the English speaking peoples—one that includes India as well as the ‘white dominions’ in a post-racist age and that persuades the British themselves not to abandon their own Atlantic option for a narrow Europeanism”. That is a pretty darn good one-sentence summary of the Anglosphere program in the present and immediate future.


Posted by Lexington Green at 10:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 09, 2005

Australia as a World Player

Interesting article by two Australian authors in a defence publication, on Australia's transition from a regional to a world player. Key quote:

In the short space of 4 years, Australia has transformed its ANZUS relationship from one where Washington viewed Canberra primarily as a “Pacific-centric” ally to a security relationship that is now regarded by the Bush administration as one of the signifi cant components of U.S. global strategy. During a recent visit to Australia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage observed that Australia is “increasingly . . . a critical player on the world stage. This is true even if some Australians perhaps are uncomfortable seeing themselves in that particular light.”

The recent evolution of what many observers term an “Anglosphere” global coalition reflects this sentiment.

There's a lot more to the Anglosphere concept than the military coalition of three of the key Anglosphere nations. But it's not an insignificant development.

UPDATE: Here's another take on Australia's emergence as a world player.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 10:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Brain Gain

An article in the Economist takes note of the significant brain drain underway from eastern Europe to Britain. It's important, they say, "to consider why people are leaving. Low pay in the public sector is one reason; rigid or corrupt institutions may be another. Revealingly, many central Europeans say they are especially attracted by the relatively flexible and unbureaucratic British way of life—such as a one-page quarterly tax return for small firms."

I'm reminded of an article from a few months back, entitled America Still Beckons, in which Joel Kotkin described the ongoing if quiet brain drain from Europe to America, also driven by economic opportunity rather than political distress back home.

Anglospheric economic flexibility strikes again.

Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at 08:52 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Roots of a Public Service Ethic

Lex wrote, in the comments to the prior post:

I was particularly struck by this statement by Mr. Kling:

To achieve prosperity, a country must foster three "ethics."

* A work ethic.
* A public service ethic.
* A learning ethic.

It would be interesting to sketch out how the Anglosphere has incultated and cultivated these "ethics" over its history. It is noteworthy that he refers to an "ethic", i.e. a moral and subjective component more than an institutional framework -- i.e. he does not take people as rationally self-interested monads. Also, the idea of a "public service ethic" is massively important, and too often obscured or ignored or even denigrated in libertarian thinking.

I don't think that a view of people as "rationally self-interested monads" neccessarily precludes the emergence of a set of ethics, so long as these self-interested individuals understand the need for a framework of social assumptions and institutions within which individuals can maximize their happiness. "To secure these ends, governments are instituted among men..." and such governments require a public service ethic deeply encoded in society in order to function with any kind of optimality.

For such ethics to be deeply encoded, it helps to have a long history of their evolution as part of a culture. One fascinating glimpse into this evolution is afforded by N.A.M. Rodger's newest volume, Command of the Ocean. This work, universally and justly described as "magisterial", is a study of the institutional evolution of the Royal Navy over time, in the broader context of the role of sea power in the history of the British Isles. Particularly interesting in addressing Arnold's and Lex's questions, is the era in the latter half of the Seventeenth Century, and particularly the role of Samuel Pepys, the key architect of the Royal Navy's institutional structure. Pepys is, of course, also famous as the author of an extremely detailed, candid, and intimate diary which fortunately was eventually discovered and decrypted. Preserved therein, like a fly in amber, are the ethical thoughts and assumptions of a key actor in a time in which the older morals of crude self-enrichment in service of the Crown were giving way to something like the bbeginning of a public service ethic. For example, Pepys regularly, in fact enthusiastically, took customary bribes from people doing business with the Navy. He clearly thought of these payments as his rightful due and carefully totalled up his take in his diary. At the same time he took pains to conceal the actual receipt of the bribes from his wife, which his predecessors might not have seen any need to do.

Much of this transition was concurrent with a gradual increase of productivity and social wealth, and a consequent strengthening of the state's ability to finance its activities. On thing that is striking in Rodger's narrative is the fact that from Drake's day on, it was generally realized that if England could afford to keep a strong squadron permanently based in one of the western ports, like Plymouth, it could, because of the prevailing wind patterns, guarantee control of the English Channel and the Western Approaches, permanently. What prevented the Navy from doing so for almost another century and a half was simply that the English state couldn't afford to do so. Fiscally, it was further from their capabilities than a lunar base would be for us today. It was not until Sir Isaac Newton's reform of English currency at the start of the Eighteenth Century, and the development of a national debt capability at reasonable interest rates, that the Western Squadron was affordable. This promptly gave the Royal Navy the command of the Channel, which it never relinquished thereafter, to the chagrin of Napoleon, Hitler, and other premature Europeanists.

Without the ability to raise adequate wealth, the English state had to rely on makeshift public-private mechanisms that were inherently open to corruption. Royal dockyards were operated by contractors who were expected to front pay and expenses out of their own pockts, often for years at a time, and often without full reimbursement. In return they were expected to use the dockyard for private business. Rodger cites the case of a dockyard contractor who made a ship from navy supplies and with navy employees, and then sailed it to Spain and sold it, pocketing the money. After this was discovered, the Crown found that it could not prosecute him, or even fire him -- the law at that time required the state to prove that particular actions had harmed the national interest, and he maintained that the ship had been built with leftover material and on employees' spare time. He was, however, admonished not to do it again.

All this sounds like a banana republic today. And it's true. The question is not what causes corruption -- it should be, "What causes a public service ethic?" Such an ethic is neither normal in history, nor easy to achieve and keep. It is a great achievement we take for granted.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 06:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 08, 2005

Ticky-tacky

Glenn Reynolds's TCS column discusses urban sprawl and cites the song "Little Boxes", which was made famous by Pete Seeger. The song was actually written by Malvina Reynolds at the time she was a Communist Party USA member.

The political context of the song was interesting. Right after World War Two, the Communist Party USA, seeking to capitalize on its wartime link to "our ally, Uncle Joe Stalin", lanched a big organizing drive around one of the major general complaints of the time, which was the lack of available housing. The CPUSA's drive was centered on demands for a gigantic government housing program to build government-owned "worker's apartments". This drive quickly petered out as the veteran's housing loan progam and rapid suburban development rapidly produced millions of single-family houses, to the delight of returning veterans and wartime workers who had been renting chicken coops and trailers.

"Little Boxes" was written after the collapse of the CPUSA's last major popular campaign, and is a sort of snarky critique of the cause of its irrelevance. It also marks the Left's shift from critiqueing the market economy for producing too little, to critiqueing it for producing too much -- substituting an aesthetic critique for an economic one. This in turn was a symptom of the collapse of any trace of a working-class base for the hard Left, and its replacement by a bohemian-intellectual base.

The specific houses in question were the multi-colored developments on the hills just south of San Francisco. I remember seeing them on my first trip to that area and thinking them charming. Eventually I learned that they were the "ticky-tacky" in question. It's a sort of reverse Marie Antionette --- criticising the peasants for eating cake when they could have had nice Soviet-style high-rise concrete block apartments instead.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 11:36 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Goodness Gracious Me!

Lexington sent me a link on India suggesting I blog it, which I will when I have a moment. But meanwhile, a little anecdote.
I am still fruitlessly trying to move to India, but they do not allow foreigners to buy property, which is a bit of a raw deal, given the tens of millions of Indians worldwide who own property in other people's countries. I called the Indian High Commission in London - I thought, well, this posting is the creme de la creme of postings in the Commonwealth, so they will have their brightest people there.
I asked if I could immigrate to India and he expressed absolute shock. "You mean to settle?"
"Well, yes."
"Foreigners can't settle in India! No, no, no! You can't just settle in another country!"
Me: "Of course, you can. With permission."
"No, you can't."
Reasonably enough, I responded, "Well, what about the 500,000 Indians who are settled in Britain, then?"
To which he responded, "They're illegal."
I was so stunned I was silenced for a minute. "What? They're not illegal!"
"Yes they are." The conversation was beginning to sound like the dead parrot sketch.
Me: "No, they're not! Are you telling me all the Indian surgeons and barristers and millionaire businessmen are in Britain illegally?"
"Yah."
I couldn't believe I was talking to an officer in the Indian diplomatic service - especially one posted to London. "What about all the tens of millions of Indians settled in the United States and Canada, then?"
"Illegal."
"No, they're not!"
"Yes, they are."
I tried to think of something to say, but nothing came to mind, so I hung up.
I don't know why I want to live there. It is absolute torture.

Posted by Verity at 09:28 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

December 07, 2005

Culture, Prosperity, and Youthful Democracies

Arnold Kling tackles the question of what characteristics must a country have to achieve prosperity in two interesting articles. In one, he raises among other things two approaches to the problem; one, the perception that newly-established democracies are more vulnerable to corruption than well-established ones; in the other, he cites my book (thanks, Arnold!) in which I point out that the English-speaking cultures have enjoyed high-radius-of-trust features for a very long time. In fact the two approaches are not entirely contradictory; the English and American revolutions of 1688 and 1776 respectively produced the first two real constitutional representative governments in modern times (neither of which could be called "democracies" until well into the nineteenth century). Both of these constitutional regimes experienced substantial corruption in their initial phases, but managed to function and avoid a downward spiral into a totally corrupt society. (It was common for a government contractor to pocket substantial amounts of government assets, for example, but it was unheard of for a commander to betray a critical position to an enemy in wartime for a bribe -- unlike many of their contemporary cultures. Benedict Arnold was a borderline case -- he acted from hurt vanity and resentment, not primarily greed in what was effectively a civil war.) So in some ways we might say that the English-speaking countries suffered a non-fatal case of these problems in their early years, and upon recovery, had the equivalent of a vaccination effect.

Arnold then expands upon these issues in an earlier interesting article. As they say, read the whole thing.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 11:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Britain Needs a (Bigger) Blogosphere (Among Other Things)

The Spectator now has a blog, which is off to a decent start.

One of the first posts is this one by Tim Montgomery of the British Conservative Home blog. Montgomery notes the "the impoverishment of British conservatism stands in huge contrast to the vibrancy of American conservatism." He advocates the British Conservatives adopt the "American model", and begin building a "conservative infrastructure." He notes that "the internet presents the greatest of opportunities for Britain’s grassroots conservatives to ensure that all of its eggs aren’t in the Cameron basket. Anyone can set up a blog, for example."

Agreed about the desperate need for a whole soup-to-nuts British Conservative infrastructure. It is a multi-decade project. Start soon. But let's focus on one slice of that, one that is cheap, easy and fun. We in the Anglospherist cabal have been muttering about the dire need for disintermediation in Britain for a long time now. Americans complain about the MSM, but things are way worse in Britain. The country is ripe for a peasant revolt of angry, pajama-clad Tories typing away furiously in the wee hours. More of this, please. Faster, please. When this process really gets going in Britain, it is going to have a huge impact, since Britain is much more centralized and clique-dominated than the USA. A better target. Disintermediated media in the USA has been a series of hurricanes buffeting the MSM. But the process is going to be even more spectacular in crusty, dusty, musty old England once it really gets going. I shiver in delicious anticipation of the shrilling shrieks of outrage as the British media monopoly begins finally to taste the lash they deserve so badly.

Montgomery has been pleased with his own blog's performance:

More than 20,000 comments have been left on the blog over that time. The comments display the best and the worst of blogging. Sometimes I’ve been embarrassed as I’ve read an exchange of personal abuse between partisans for the leadership contenders. At other times I’ve learnt an enormous amount. Pieces I have written on tax policy, grammar schooling or English Votes for English Laws have often produced one hundred and more comments of enormous quality. A hundred brains have vindicated James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds and its contention that “All of us know more than any one of us does”.
That sounds pretty familiar. One tip for him: Delete rude comments without notice or apology.

Montgomery concludes:

My hope is that the conservative blogosphere is the seedbed of a real conservative renaissance. My prayer is that it has the potential to breed transformational ideas, platform persuasive voices and open up hundreds of thousands of wallets.

Yeah, baby. Make no small plans.

Posted by Lexington Green at 07:16 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Lady T. in Hospital

Margaret Thatcher has been hospitalized, hopefully only overnight. She has our prayers and best wishes.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 06:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The boy-king of the Conservative Party

Some Tories are jumping up and down with excitement: they are seeing a Conservative victory in the next election, whenever that may be. Others and many on the right, who are not exactly members of the party, are feeling very glum, indeed. Even though David Cameron’s victory in the leadership election was a foregone conclusion with yesterday’s announcement more like an anointment, the thought of the boy-king as our best hope against a fourth Labour term, this time probably under the disastrously old-fashioned redistributionist Gordon Brown, does not fill one with joy.

What do we know about David Cameron? On the one hand, rather too much but on the other hand, nothing at all. We know about his education – Eton and Oxford – his lifestyle in Notting Hill, currently one of the most fashionable parts of London and in Gloucestershire, his wife, who is creative director of the elegant Bond Street stationer Smythson’s, his children – two in number, one of whom is disabled and a third on the way.

We do not know what his political views are. And that, many of us think, is a serious handicap (oooops, that word) for a political leader. The Conservatives in Britain and a number of writers in America have somehow accepted the myth that the problem with the party was not message itself but the way this was presented and interpreted in the media. Therefore, they reason, having a nice likeable young leader, who is full of the most up-to-date jargon about modernization (wot dat?) and compassion and who has lots of friends in the media, is bound to give the Conservatives an even break.

This rests on an entirely false premise. The reason the Conservatives did no better in the last election, despite the basic unpopularity of the government and distrust for the Prime Minister, is because when they spoke about their policies directly with no media misrepresentation, they did not say what people wanted to hear. And the person who was responsible for a rather feeble election manifesto that refused to promise tax cuts, a real shake-up in the public sector, smaller government and, above all, a complete rethinking about the European Union and Britain’s membership of it? Step forward David Cameron, MP for four years, one of Michael Howard’s closest adviser and a man who seems to be constitutionally unable to outline, in however general terms, a policy.

In 30 seats the number of votes by which the Conservatives lost was smaller than the number of votes that went to UKIP, Veritas, English Democrat Party, even the BNP. While it cannot be argued convincingly that the Tories would have won all those 30 seats if they had come up with stronger policies on Europe, education, law and order, taxation and immigration, they would have had between 20 and 25 of them. It was not the delivery that was wrong – it was the message.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives have refused to draw any kind of a lesson from that or from the fact that their vote having plummeted in 1997 and 2001, has not risen in 2005. Their concern seems to be to woo the Liberal-Democrat vote, for which David Cameron is an excellent choice.

He expresses no hard ideas, seems to have few real opinions and these tend to be of the discredited post-war statist, nay, socialist variety. He is also full of emotional touchy-feeliness, which sits oddly with his Etonian tones and carriage.

The trouble is that people who vote Liberal-Democrat are unlikely to vote for a Conservative Party that is wanted and needed by the rest of the country. In fact, they are unlikely to vote Conservative at all. And even if they did, the possible numbers would be far outweighed by the deserting Conservatives.

Until yesterday David Cameron was Education spokesman of the Conservative Party. His views on the subject were aired in a speech at the beginning of the leadership campaign. It seems, according to this rather rich and privileged Etonian, that the people of this country (or those of them who cannot afford the highly expensive private education) do not really want to have choice. They would rather not choose schools for their offspring. Well, not being able to afford Eton, they cannot be relied on to make the right choice, one presumes. No, according to Mr Cameron, what they want is for people like him to sort out the education system.

His pronouncements on the rest of the public sector – a disaster area whichever way one looks – have been less detailed but along similar lines.

Somebody obviously told him half-way through the leadership campaign that maybe, just maybe, the Conservative Party should be for individual freedom and small government, so those words did occasionally crop up in his later speeches but these were overshadowed by the mellifluous sound of “modernization”, “forward looking”, “compassion” and so on. And we are none the wiser as to what any of it means.

Putting everything together: Cameron’s background, for which he feels he has to apologize, if half-jokingly, his lack of experience (his career has been entirely in politics except for a few years as Director of Corporate Affairs in a media group), his emphasis on the personal in politics, his references to the state as the purveyor of the compassion that he is so keen on, one is left with a cold feeling. The Conservative Party is going to be led by somebody Margaret Thatcher would have unhesitatingly described as a “wet”.

What of the fact that Cameron has been described as a eurosceptic, though, one must admit only by a few very ignorant journalists? It all hinges on the rather arcane argument as to whether Conservative Members of the European Parliament should or should not belong to the federalist European People’s Party. Under Iain Duncan Smith they were pulled out, under Michael Howard they were marched back in. Cameron promised to pull them out but as many will not want to go, the outcome remains undetermined.

On the whole, this is not much of an issue outside the Westminster Village (Britain’s equivalent of the Beltway). Most people in the country have no real idea what the European Parliament is and, if they do, they are unlikely to understand its rules, which say that parties must join with other parties to create groups in order to function.

As against that, Cameron is known to have said that he could not envisage Britain ever leaving the European Union. Not ever. Prattling on about EU reform without clearly having the faintest idea as to how that reform could be accomplished (like most MPs, Cameron displays no knowledge of the workings of the EU) is the equivalent of babbling of green brooks.

The one definite policy Howard had taken on (after many difficulties, caused by Cameron and his colleagues on the manifesto team) was the repatriation of fisheries. When asked what he would do about it during the leadership contest, Cameron told the present spokesman that he would ditch it.

In actual fact, he is ditching everything resembling a policy and is setting up a new policy co-ordination to discuss policies, on the assumption that the election will not take place for another four years. He might miscalculate there.

We have seen Cameron’s first appointments – largely predictable so far, though putting the born-again compassionate Conservative Iain Duncan Smith in charge of social policies is a bad sign – and his first performance in Prime Minister’s Question Time. These give little indication of the future. The Conservatives who are rejoicing may be right. Gordon Brown may well lose the next election for Labour. But will it matter to the country that David Cameron wins it? And will the electorate be as enamoured of the boy-king and his delightful family as the Tories are?

Posted by Helen Szamuely at 05:04 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

December 7th

Is Pearl Harbor Day, of course. Philippines Commentary, a blog that has the interesting habit of mining the mostly-forgotten archives of the American experience in the Philippines, posts a firsthand account by an American in the Philippines at the start of the war.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 03:28 PM | Comments (3)

December 06, 2005

Speaking of Mergers

Well, if the US and Australia merged, we could put the Federal capital in a nice central place like Honolulu.

Meanwhile, here's a place that actually has a movement wanting to merge with the USA. Best thing about the idea: it would drive Hugo Chavez crazy!

Posted by James C. Bennett at 06:21 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Merge Australia and the USA???

I suppose this is meant as a joke -- but let's not nix the idea out of hand ... .

(Via Mr. den Beste)

Posted by Lexington Green at 05:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

New Alignments Emerging

Two important items have come to my attention, thanks to alert Seedling co-bloggers and commentors. One of Thomas Donnelly's AEI paper on the emerging "Big Four" alliance pattern the Bush Administration is quietly building -- Britian, India, and Japan working together with the US. Donnelly observes:

It is no accident that the four pillars of this emerging alliance stand in roughly similar geostrategic position relative to the Eurasian landmass. In the nomenclature of international relations theorists, the United States, Britain, Japan, and India fit the traditional profile of “offshore balancers”--powers apart from, but with vital interests in, Eurasia. In India’s case, the Himalayas’ ranges give, albeit less perfectly, the separation that the English Channel, the Sea of Japan, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans have given to others, but the basic relationships are the same.

I would add Australia, whose contribution as an ally has been all out of proportion to its population and GDP. My own observations on this emerging pattern discuss it in a more specifically Indo-Pacific context. Thanks to ElamBend for the link.

Co-blogger Peter St-Andre notices the following news item about a proposed commonwealth free trade area. The particularly interesting possibility would be if Canada participated. As Canada already has substantial free trade with the US through NAFTA, it would then become the linchpin of a free-trade system that would extend throughout the Anglosphere, and which would include a substantial chunk of the world's population and GDP. Expect for Britain, of course, which couldn't join because it now longer has the right to make that decision for itself -- those decisions are made in Brussels. Key quote:

''Everybody including the United States are signing bilaterals, so I have suggested, and the CBC (Commonwealth Business Council) has suggested the last two days, including to the foreign ministers yesterday, that they should consider a preferential or a free trade agreement among the Commonwealth countries,'' CBC co-chair Rahul Bajaj, chief executive of the Bajaj Auto company in India told IPS.

The business forum of the CBC was held in parallel with a two-day meeting of foreign ministers of Commonwealth countries. The proposal has been discussed directly with ministers from several countries, and the business suggestion has found considerable political support, sources at the forum meeting told IPS on condition that they were not named.

A Commonwealth free trade agreement has several advantages, Bajaj said. ''We have a common language, judicial system, free press, we all feel at home in Commonwealth countries.''

Canadian opposition leader Stephen Harper might want to point out in the course of the current federal election campaign what a good opportunity this would be for building up Canada's trade. And newly-selected British opposition leader David Cameron might point out why Britian has foregone this opportunity for itself. As our co-blogger Helen Szamuely has pointed out, Cameron has never taken an explicitly Eurosceptic stance, at least not to the point of any specific policy proposals. But any opposition leader needs to point out particular aspects of the government's policies that harm their national interest. This would be a good chance.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 12:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 05, 2005

WW0@1903 - The Anglo-Saxon Century

The Anglo-Saxon Century and the Unification of the English-Speaking Peoples
John R. Dos Passos New York 1903

This book is fascinating for a number of reasons. Written shortly after the Spanish-American and Boer Wars, it reflects the rapid and very public improvement of relations between the United States and the British Empire after decades of irritability and occasional hostility. The behind-the-scenes calculations of politicians, diplomats, generals, and admirals form no part of this book. The book was also published before the appearance of Germany, Russia and Japan on the oceans (Tsushima Straits was several years in the future).

Download 520K Microsoft Word e-book file here

In a sense, then, it was a brief period of unipolarity – British unipolarity. The Pax Britannica was under stress but regnant, and the United States was rapidly becoming de facto proxy for British interests in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The construction of the Panama Canal by American interests was to begin within a year, and all European powers were imagining what an expanding, newly confident America, bound efficiently coast-to-coast by water, would mean for global politics.

The tariffs of the McKinley era (1893) were the first signs that the free trade era encouraged by British investment was coming to an end. Economic liberalism was similarly under pressure. It is important to remember at the point when AngloSaxon Century was written, only Canada was self-governing. Its foreign policy was still effectively administered from Westminster, and its boundaries were still under dispute with the US. Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and South Africa were still establishing modern infrastructure, were not yet fully settled, and were essentially colonies. The western US was settled however. American eyes and hands encompassed Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The United States was looking outward.

Out of this unique period in history, comes John Dos Passos, corporate lawyer. His argument, like his book, is set out with clarity. He says there are two new great conditions in the world: (1) there are no more great regions to explore and colonize and therefore (2) all nations are now effectively neighbours. In this context, growth would need to come from co-operation not territorial expansion.

Dos Passos, echoing British Foreign Secretary Joseph Chamberlain, claimed that the ties between the British Empire (and its dominions) and the United States were based on three things: sentiment (i.e., natural affection), self-interest (mutual interests), and duty (to promulgate Christianity and civilization). The Anglo-Saxon Century continues as an expanded discussion of these three foundations for unity between the English-speaking peoples, and the practical steps that should be taken to fulfill that unification.

Under the natural or sentimental ties of unity, Dos Passos first reviews the history of England and the British Isles highlighting for the reader just how much American sensibilities are dictated by events from British history ... Christianization, Magna Carta, the 1688 Bill of Rights. He then proceeds to note that the English-speaking peoples, wherever they are, share ancestry, and if not ancestry then immigrants quickly adopt the speech and values drawn from the British Isles. Amidst the same language, same literature, and same political institutions, similar values are nurtured and the intellectual and practical links between nations are built. The same "laws, legal customs, and general modes of judicial procedure" were particularly interesting to him because of his legal background. Further, the English-speaking peoples share the same "tendencies and methods of religious thought and worship" with a trend to disestablished churches. Personal ties between the nations were supported by intermarriage and commerce. And there were a multitude of lesser ways in which the peoples of America and the far-flung empire shared habits of living: sports, drama, pastimes, etc. The new technology of the time supported an increasing level of interchange.

Modern readers must also keep in mind that immigration to America in the last half of the 19th century still reflected the serious prejudices of the time. Japanese, Chinese and south Asian immigrants were excluded. English-speaking Catholic immigrants (generally Irish) were subject to general disdain and mistrust. White non-English speakers such as the Germans and Scandinavians were steered to rural communities, where pressure to assimilate was constant. A century ago, American culture was Caucasian, Protestant, and English-speaking to a degree inconceivable today. Talking about an Anglo-Saxon Century and shared values with Britain and its colonies in 1903 was therefore not a mere figure of speech.

Dos Passos turns to the selfish reasons which would provoke a unification of sorts between these peoples. Of these, a significant factor is the long- standing commercial and financial ties between the United Kingdom and America. American development was partly funded by British capital and with the advent of steam ships, the scale of trade between the United Kingdom and America at the end of 19th century was greater than that between the UK and all of Europe. Effectively, Dos Passos notes, the two countries were one giant mercantile community. The ties were so large, elaborate and dependable that a stable relationship between the two was in everyone's self-interest.

At a second level was the interest in self-preservation and the need for protection. While America could see no danger in the near-term, its experience in the Spanish-American War, where Britain subtly discouraged any additional European involvement was an example the author found compelling. As Dos Passos noted, "[a]re not our motions as a nation jealously and eagerly watched by the European powers?" The crumbling of the Pax Britannica meant that Britain was looking for assistance and should it not come from "her own offspring"? Self-preservation of American values, per the previous argument of sentiment, was effectively then preservation of Anglo-Saxon values across the regions of the English-speaking peoples.

This final point naturally led Dos Passos to a consideration of duty, and the self-confidence of the era that asserted Christianity and "the best and noblest conceptions of the origin and purpose of social existence" were to be extended everywhere. "We claim to lead," Dos Passos writes, "[but] is this assumption justified?" "If we are actuated by pure motives, which are made clear and are understood, we shall emerge from the struggle as the race always has, in victory."

With this, Dos Passos concludes his discussion of why a unification is desirable. He now turns to how that union can be created and maintained. He looks, he says, for some medium conservative ground between a sentimental entente and a written alliance. He outlines three possible methods: union into one nation, establishing a federation, and binding treaty regulating relations towards each other (America and the British Empire) but not toward foreign nations.

As for union into one nation, while Dos Passos considered it possible, he felt that "there is nothing in existing conditions which requires such a radical and revolutionary step." He makes passing reference here to the late 19th century effort toward "Imperial Federation." As for a federation between Great Britain and her colonies and America and her colonies, Dos Passos again says that it is impracticable. The nature of federation requires the surrender of at least some national individuality and the placement of members on equal footing. Disparities of population, territory, and prestige made such surrender very unlikely.

As a third option, Dos Passos suggests a treaty which establishes rules for relations between Great Britain, America, and the various colonies. The treaty would have no scope beyond the domestic. Relations with foreign nations were to be untouched by the treaty which should be "created by a written instrument , and attested by a legal, constitutional, and binding treaty between all of the English and American powers and colonies." Dos Passos considers this a conservative option ... a compromise somewhere between federation and "mere verbal" expressions of goodwill.

Having set the scope of what he feels is a practical form of union of the English-speaking peoples, he then identifies five initiatives or features of such a union.

1. The Dominion of Canada to reorganize into appropriately-sized states and join the United States.

2. Establishment of a common citizenship for citizens of the United States and the British Empire.

3. Absolute freedom of commercial intercourse and relations between the countries involved (similar in nature to interstate commerce in the United States).

4. Uniform metal coinage by value, interchangeable across the union, with insignia varying in appearance from country to country as desired.

5. Formation of an arbitration tribunal to decide issues arising under the treaty.

Of these five, the first is the most surprising to modern eyes but Dos Passos makes his case diffidently in full awareness of the sentimental ties to Great Britain and the Canadian national pride that would stand in its way. He bases his case on the benefits to all three parties ... greater security and prosperity for the United States and Canada, and the elimination of the cost of defending Canada for Great Britain. It's worth noting that at the time that Dos Passos was writing, the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta had not been created, and border or resource disputes between the United States, Canada and Great Britain were still active. So at a time when the antagonism between America and Great Britain was first falling away, Dos Passos made a dramatic proposition on very rational terms. The post-Cold War elaboration of NAFTA, and the recent initiatives toward unified continental security may be offered as practical examples of what Dos Passos saw in 1903. To quote Dos Passos: "[a]s long as we remain apart, are not tensions, discords, and differences imminent?" While a century later, war between the nations is a laughable idea, it is also true that the United States has yet to call upon Canada for any significant, even proportionate, contribution to the security or prosperity of the continent. And relations between the two nations often take the form of a younger, petulant brother ... envious of the elder's success and resentful of a perceived lack of attention. A Great White Waste of Time to use British journalism's epithet.

The fourth Dos Passos proposition, of metal coinage, is no longer of much cogency in the modern world, as capital flow, commerce, and trade is no longer constrained by the coins of precious metals minted by the English-speaking nations.

But of the other propositions ... for a unified citizenship, freedom of commerce, and an arbitration tribunal stretching across the English-speaking world ... these ideas must certainly strike the reader with force if they are familiar with Jim Bennett's writing in the Anglosphere Challenge.

And it can hardly be by chance, to my mind, that Dos Passos would be the man, and 1903 would be the year, in which such ideas would come to the fore in publication. Ten years earlier, Dos Passos' book would have been unthinkable. The most imaginative form of political thinking was British “imperial federation.” Ten years later, as we shall see, the tone of the times was dramatically different ... and would stay so until the end of the 20th century. Is it too much to say that the arguments presented in The Anglo-Saxon Century reflect a confidence and generosity of spirit that translate well into our own time? A potential union of the great Anglosphere pillars of the time (the British Empire and the United States) had suddenly become feasible and Dos Passos made the case. Now we stand in a different time, with the well-established nations of the Anglosphere fit to make their own judgments about association ... while their citizenry make a judgment every day with their feet: in tourism, in education, in trade and business. In some sense then, within clear limits, the vision of John Dos Passos has come to pass.

Or to quote the man himself from a century ago: "... when the curtain of the twenty-first century is raised, may the successful anglicisation of the world be revealed; may the real spirit of our institutions and laws prevail everywhere, and the English language have become the universal dialect of mankind.”

Posted by jmccormick at 06:01 PM | Comments (3)

Pusillanimous Princeton

From Dhimmiwatch.org comes the extraordinary news that Princeton has cancelled a speech by three former terrorists because the word "terrorist" is well, you know, a bit strong don'tcha know, old chap.

Writes Dhimmiwatch, "The event organizers planned to bring Walid Shoebat, Ibrahim Abdallah and Zak Anani to the Ivy League school to lecture on the terrorist mindset and how they were indoctrinated into terrorism." In a sane world, this coup might be regarded as a feather in the cap of an establishment devoted to freedom expression and the investigation of human thought.

Walid Shoebat is ex-PLO and participated in, among other things, the bombing of an Israeli bank. Zak Anani was already a committed murderer by the time he was 16. American-born Ibrahim Abdallah is also ex-PLO and injured Israelis with Molotov cocktails.

Stories about Mr Shoebat have run on the BBC, Fox News, MSNBC. CBS and Britain's Daily Telegraph. It is an extraordinary day when CBS proves to have a stronger commitment to freedom of speech than does one of the greatest universities in the Anglosphere.

(Dhimmiwatch.org was quoting from a press release from the Walid Shoebat Foundation.)


Posted by Verity at 05:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near

Every twelve to eighteen months, according to the common interpretation of Moore’s Law, the performance of our computers (measured against a fixed cost) doubles. It has done so for decades, and shows every indication of continuing for decades more. In the early 90s, chess grandmaster Kasparov disparaged computer chess programs. Yet a few years later, in 1997, Deep Blue (a fearsomely specialized computer built by IBM, running 256 customized modules) beat Kasparov. Five years later, Deep Fritz (running on eight ordinary networked personal computers) reached a draw with the then reigning grandmaster, Vladimir Kramnik. Sometime within the next few years, software running on ordinary PCs will reach a chess ranking of “2800,” and effectively pass all human players for good. For decades, during the early development of computers, the dream of a chess-playing program was seen as a fantasy or delusion. But the people watching the development of such programs, in tandem with the changes in information technology and material science, were actually watching two different curves and predicting two different futures.

2005linearlog.png

On the left, the linear progress of chess programs appeared pathetic for decades, but then suddenly the machines began beating novice and then mid-level players. As the “knee” of the development curve was reached, progress shifted from pathetic to awesome in a relative eye blink. Mapping development on a logarithmic plot during those bleak decades, however, such progress was both predictable and apparently inevitable. Computing pioneer Ray Kurzweil has spent the last four decades thinking about the implications of such logarithmic curves across the fields of computation, science, and economic development and developed a general Law of Accelerating Returns. Readers of Jim Bennett’s Anglosphere Challenge will recognize the significance of exponential development on the Anglosphere’s relative advantage in coping with rapid change. Kurzweil has now created a comprehensive presentation of the Singularity concept that is revolutionary in its implications and central to thinking about the Anglosphere.

Ray Kurweil has been working for many decades in the fields of artificial intelligence and more specialized applications such as speech recognition. An author of earlier controversial books such as Age of Intelligent Machines (1990), and Age of Spiritual Machines (2000), he has gained a reputation for thinking vigourously about the implications of technology.

In his most recent book, he builds his discussion around the concept of the Singularity: “a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed.” Kurzweil proposes understanding cosmic history in a framework of six epochs of intelligence … from the earliest epochs of planetary physics and chemistry, through the appearance of biological matter, brains, human technology, the emergence of machine intelligence, and finally the conversion of much of the universe’s matter to intelligence. In other words, Kurzweil addresses the biggest of big pictures.

In a writing style that is clear, relentless, well-organized but not always easy for non-scientists, the author outlines the trends in scientific and technological development. If those trends are stable (and Kurzweil makes a careful and compelling argument that they are), then the implications for the development of increasingly powerful machine intelligence are substantial. Through genetics, nanotechnology (ultra-small machines), and robotics (machine intelligence) [GNR], the constraints of supply and demand for all kinds of resources are tipped on their heads. As an example we all understand, the evolution of computing equipment counter-intuitively consumes less energy and less material as it increases its computation power.

In tandem with the evolution of computer hardware and software is an ever-accelerating pace of scientific discovery in the material and biological sciences: highlighted most clearly to the general public over the last five years by work on the human genome – DNA. This work, leveraging powerful IT developments, now offers the ability to understand, for the first time, how living systems work. No more “black box” approximations that have been the hallmark of natural philosophy and science for millennia. Suddenly, our own physiology and our own consciousness is being exposed to the same current of progress which once held sway over metallurgy and plastics.

More significant still, our understanding of human cognition, of how the human brain works at the molecular and neuronal level, is hitting that “knee” in the linear curve … we are, Kurzweil suggests, just at the tip of discoveries about the human brain that will be as dramatic as that in genetics. The resolution and image creation speeds of non-invasive brain-scanning equipment is progressing at exponential rates, doubling annually. This means that finer and finer-grained images of the human brain can be created, monitored at higher speeds for finer and finer-grained understanding of not only what happens in the brain but in what sequence. A moment’s thought will uncover just how significant such discoveries will be for ethics, philosophy, politics, and culture. The Anglosphere, by any calculation, will be at the forefront of such challenges to the status quo.

We can expect a cascade of information about mental illness, genetic disease, the structure of human emotion, human creativity, and human decision-making.

Kurzweil’s argument leads from an introduction of the six epochs of evolution, through an excellent theory of technology evolution (making extensive use of S-curves and logarithmic charts) to a chapter on “achieving the computational capacity of the human brain.” By using scientific notation to track the cycles per second (CPS) and data/memory storage requirements (bits) of biological nervous systems, Kurzweil is able to map some likely milestones in machine intelligence’s convergence with the capacities of biological systems. By his estimate, in 2020, $1,000 of computing power will provide the functional equivalent of the human brain. Another ten years will allow the discrete neuron-by-neuron simulation of a human brain. By 2050, computer power will be able to duplicate the mental computation of all humans on the planet. Heady stuff, if you’ll pardon the pun.

By Kurzweil’s calculations, 2045 will mark the point at which the non-biological intelligence manufactured will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.

These prognostications triggered traditional responses. Computation isn’t intelligence, despite the fact that electronic circuits are one million times faster than the electrochemical signals of neurons. Kurzweil answers the challenge by moving into a chapter on the “achieving the software of human intelligence.” He points out that much of the human body is geared to accomplishing tasks with the suboptimal options offering by biological solutions. A first step in working with the body, as we see today, is the replacement of complex biological systems with simpler mechanical solutions driven with IT (insulin pumps, titanium joints, pacemakers, neuro-stimulators). As the cascade of scientific understanding increases, however, it will become possible to duplicate neuronal and cellular structure with nanotechnological devices. There will be two major strategies in duplicating human intelligence … working from the bottom (molecules/cells) up and from the top (function, memory, analytical capacities) down. At the point at which nanotechnology allows the direct interaction between device and neuron, humans will have the ability to alter their consciousness directly … supplementing it as needed with machine-like capacities or moderating it as desired with familiar emotional states. Revolutionary is an appropriate word.

Just to halt for a moment, it’s worth recalling that all of this sounds like science fiction however Kurzweil’s arguments are mapped directly onto those logarithmic curves showing what is already happening. He is extrapolating conservatively from trends which have substantial histories and which are sustained by news we can read every day. By consulting his websites (AIKurweil.net and singularity.com), readers can monitor the very same leaps in scientific insight and refinement which he predicts in his book.

Flowing from a credible argument on the mapping and duplication of human intelligence in machine form by mid-century, Kurzweil turns to the three converging areas of genetics, nanotechnology and robotics to demonstrate that these areas share the exponential development pattern seen in computation and neuroscience. It is the engagement of these three fields (as they approach the “knee” of the linear progress curve) that will offer some of the biggest surprises to the general public in coming years. All three will draw from and feed back into the progress in computation and artificial intelligence. Nanotechnology will provide both medical and intellectual breakthroughs. Kurzweil leaves little doubt that he thinks that the race for baby boomers is to stay alive long enough to benefit from Singularity breakthroughs that make very, very long life not only possible but inevitable.

What will be the impact of the Singularity on different fields? Kurzweil devotes a substantial chapter on current and prospective changes in play for the human body and human brain, for human longevity, for warfare, work and play. He is upfront about his views on intelligence in the universe and why, through calculation and observation, he believes we’re the “first past the post” in our galaxy on the evolutionary move to machine intelligence. His cosmological comments are as intriguing and challenging as any relating to our everyday existence.

Kurzweil follows up his chapter on the impact of the Singularity with a discussion of what the Singularity will mean to individuals: to their personal considerations of consciousness, the definition of who am I? What am I? What is a meaningful life? If the modern world is stressing people over just those questions, the Singularity will be the issues into stark contrast. Is the Singularity a religious Transcendence of the old sort? For Kurzweil, who proposes that most religious belief addresses individual death, a culture in which individual human death effectively stops, will have profound philosophy issues to consider.

What about the perils of such technology? On this subject, Kurzweil has had many years of writing and thinking. As he points out, many of the current Cassandras (e.g. Bill Joy’s very famous WIRED article “The Future Doesn’t Need Us”) were informed about the issues by his articles and concerns in years past. So while he is no Pollyanna on the subject of “the deeply intertwined promise and peril of GNR [genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics] he is optimistic that the challenges can be overcome. More to the point, and of interest to the Anglosphere, he cannot imagine any effective social response to the relentless changes predicted by his logarithmic plots that would not risk totalitarianism. While moratoria and constraints on some kinds of research are likely and possible from time to time, the nature of the Singularity means that disruptive (and potentially destructive) technology is more and more within reach of people and nations. It remains for societies to adapt to such realities in the same way that they have to nuclear, chemical and biological warfare dangers.

In a final major chapter, Kurzweil addresses many of his critics (both social and technological) and it is here that we can see the shape of the controversies to come should his Singularity predictions pan out. He addresses criticisms triggered by social concern (incredulity, Malthusian limitations, vested industrial interests, rich-poor divide, governmental regulation, theism, holism) and from narrower scientific skepticism (software design, analog processing, microtubules and quantum computing, Church-Turing thesis, system failure rates). The revolutionary nature of his arguments is reflected in the amazing breadth of people who are upset by his conclusions.

“The Singularity is Near” is a thorough, substantive introduction to the concept of the Singularity introduced in the Anglosphere Challenge. Kurzweil’s book is the result of years of research, thinking and debate so it offers as good an initial grounding in the subject as we are likely to see. The profound philosophical and spiritual questions it raises are with us in seed form already and can only increase in importance with each passing year. I think back to 1995 and saying to a college professor friend “You know, this Internet thing’s going to be huge.” After reading Kurzweil’s book, I’m more than a little awestruck by what the next ten years might bring. I’m going to take some time to think through the implications for the Anglosphere (and Jim’s concept) specifically but my first hunch is that they will be similarly dramatic.

Posted by jmccormick at 02:40 PM | Comments (8)

Secret Weapon 2: Mapping Causality

In a recent satirical post, I attempted to consider the Anglosphere from the standpoint of its detractors and antagonists. What constraints and features of some "secret weapon" would satisfy the historical record of successes and failures of the Anglosphere? Could we imagine such a weapon, both humourous and historically valid?

Comments posted offered some good suggestions and highlighted the different kinds of causes or positive influences on Anglosphere history.

As suggested in the satire, there are a number of very high-level explanations for the Anglosphere - some rather ancient. They can be summarized as 1. Virtue, 2. Terpitude, 3. Historical/Geographic Circumstance 4. Non-historical circumstance (Fortune/destiny), 5. Mistaken Assumptions (e.g. There is no Anglosphere and/or it's not significantly successful).

Obviously, if one believes the fifth explanation, there's no need to make much effort to find causes for the Anglosphere but following up on my tongue-in-cheek attempt, I sought to organize my thinking on causality into a rough "map" as seen below.

2005_HierarchyOfCauses_60.png

Download larger image of chart - 35K .PNG file

Organized from left to right in series: personal, individual, social, environmental, and supernatural causes can be identified using terms that serve as "centres of gravity." This structure allows one to lay out whatever causes might be considered and to evaluate how causes might work in tandem or conflict with one another.

Now professional historians have felled forests in their efforts to discuss causality so my amateur efforts must necessarily be approximate and uneducated. A few issues arise immediately. Firstly, what kinds of causes are we interested in?

There are proximate causes for historical events (a Newtonian or Churchillian decision), and ultimate causes (the Royal Navy presupposes a body of water). And there are considerations of necessary causes which may nonetheless be insufficient on their own to explain some event, trend or process.

Apart from the broader issue of deciding what causes are central to any given aspect or event of Anglosphere history, we also need to consider appetite.

I must confess that the past year since reading Jim's book has been an enjoyable but industrious trip through political, military, economic, and even naval history, all in aid of educating myself on the various potential "causes" of the Anglosphere. However my interests, appetites, and fascinations are those of one firmly in the middle of the problem ... when Jim refers to an "Anglosphere Challenge" I see such challenge as existential, not cultural, racial, or economic. As the joke about ham and eggs says, the chicken's involved but the pig's committed.

The Anglosphere no doubt looks very different from the Outside, and if I was an Outsider, the question of causality would be very critical indeed. The happiest causality answer would be that the Anglosphere is an aberration set for imminent inherent destruction. Alternatively, if it can be halted or demolished through specific kinds of antagonism, then the Anglosphere's weaknesses need to be identified. The worst answer, for someone outside the Anglosphere, is that the "challenge" is effectively Over and the Anglosphere blocks any alternative approach to progress.

The question of causality has just as many vested interests in the domestic politics of the Anglosphere. If the cause of Anglosphere success is tied to geographic good fortune, or some moral value (inherent or inculcated), the centre of gravity for domestic politics, for the inclusion of new immigrants, must shift.

For both "foreign" and domestic observers of the Anglosphere, then, there are real questions (tied to causation) about what and how much of Anglosphere success can be shared and/or disregarded. What measure of global economic development, for example, happens in the penumbra of Anglosphere orderliness, and what measure is itself orderly (learned from the Anglosphere or inherent)? Needless to say, such questions tie into cultural self-esteem, which as we all know has risen to the status of greatest importance in public discourse, somewhere ahead of putting dinner on the table.

So while my chart is, I believe, a useful tool for thinking about causation (scaling from the personal to the cosmic), it leaves the question about what is to be explained and what is sufficient explanation to the user.

The three main themes of Jim's book were:

1. Anglosphere historical distinctiveness (exceptionalism)
2. "Network commonwealth" as an emerging form of social organization
3. Singularity as an imminent challenge to world culture.

For myself, the past year of zigzagging through the historical literature has focused on a general education but also on identifying what the nature of Anglosphere exceptionalism was ... whether the "network commonwealth" is inherent or intentional ... and whether the Singularity spells the end of the Anglosphere or merely its next challenge.

From my standpoint, if we are to look for a "secret weapon" it must lie in some universal human attribute interacting with some AngloSaxon social reflex. Something that (in retrospect) we can see evolving, elaborating, and increasing its impact on both the Anglosphere and the world. That's for installment 3 of Secret Weapon.

Posted by jmccormick at 11:42 AM | Comments (2)

Not Your Grandfather's Anglosphere

There is something exciting in being surprised by a turn of events, and proved wrong. I spent a quarter of a century agitating for India to do like Japan, China and Korea, for the government to take the initiative in integrating the elite with the non-elite by having school education only in local languages. And restoring to Indian languages the top end of their functional range, now occupied by English. But it didn’t happen. The elite simply won’t give up English.

So now, the non-elite has taken charge of the situation by laying claim to the language associated in India with a middle class existence. They are ready to turn India into a vast English-speaking country, where we, the elite will have to scramble to keep our footing. Where interesting things are going to happen.

Peggy Mohan, Is English the Language of India's Future?

Interesting things, indeed.

Fil-Anglosphere blogger Rizalist commented about Mohan's paper: If I were to replace the word Indian with Philippine and Hindi with Tagalog, and showed the result to people here, they would surely think it was a piece about them.

People have debated here about whether places like India and the Philippines belong to the Anglosphere. The real point is, what will the Anglosphere be like when all of India speaks English?

A hundred years ago, English-speaking union was on the table, but it was aimed primarily at Britain and the colonies of settlement. This time around, things are different. As Peggy Mohan says, "...interesting things are going to happen."

Posted by James C. Bennett at 12:02 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

December 04, 2005

Alan Greenspan: Anglospherist?

While perusing the speeches of Alan Greenspan over the past few years, I've noticed that he has a consistent appreciation for some of the distinctive qualities of Anglospheric cultures. He has spoken numerous times on the importance of economic flexibility to the growth of the American economy and also that of Britain. His commencement address at the Wharton School earlier this year, and a speech in 2004, show that he knows the value of high trust cultures to economic success. He observes that Americans have used their increased wealth to purchase aspects of a more civil and humane society. He reveres Adam Smith and his vision of a free people who act out of economic self-interest but also social sympathy, resulting in a strong civil society. Is Mr. Greenspan perhaps a closet Anglospherist?
Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at 09:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 01, 2005

Election in the Great White North

Now, Doug Gamble is one pessimistic dude when it comes to the Canadian election, and Canada in general. I guess that's why he's an expat. Captain Ed quotes an IPSOS poll that has the Tories in a dead heat with the Liberals, and, as several commentors point out, IPSOS tends to be chronically biased toward the liberal side. My own guess is the Tories will lose ground during the election, as the incumbents are willing to do almost anything to win. (And I'm hesitating about the almost qualifier.) The same thing happened last time around. However, the Conservatives don't really have to gain much more of a swing in many Ontario constituencies to gain a bunch of seats, so any swing at all in their direction would put them in a strong position to form the new government, although odds are against them getting a clear majority. At that point it will all come down to what kind of deal they can cut with the Quebeckers, who should also gain seats.

Gamble makes a point about how the Canadian Conservatives aren't really conservative by American standards. True to some extent. But what they are is conservative by blue state standards -- they'd be pretty comfortable with somebody like Paul Celucci, or even Giuliani. Or to put it the other way, if New England were an independent nation, their party of the right would be pretty much like the Canadian Conservatives, except for New Hampshire which would be their Alberta, except without the oil.

And if you really have an opinion about the Canadian election, you should enter Mark Steyn's contest.

UPDATE:

Michael Barone's current comments on the Canadian elections are worth noting. My family lived in Detroit from 1962 onward, and I had an interesting balcony seat on pre-Trudeau Canada and the subsequent changes. It was on some ways the start of the process that led to the Anglosphere perspective: it was clear that to understand the US I had to understand Canada, since it had so many of the things that made America what it is, but was clearly not the same. Then it was obvious I had to understand Australia since the Australians had many of the things that made Americans and Canadians what they were, but were clearly not the same. Then it became clear that I had to understand the British Isles...and there was no end to it. It is a fascinating puzzle.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 05:54 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack