March 31, 2006

What Multiculturalism Has Wrought

Via Instapundit comes this reminder of what the real stakes are in the real struggle. Assimilation is the central front, and the critical aspect of that is our willingness to defend the legitimacy of our society and its central assumptions. Everything else is, at heart, a distraction.

The Mexica Movement and those like them are fascists pure and simple -- so highy ironic that they try to portray their opponents as Nazis. They are still a tiny minority of the Hispanic population in the USA, but they are active and vocal, and very few people are willing to contradict the heart of their claims. In fact, a dilute form of their narrative has been standard fare for multiculturalists for the past forty years.

Hitler began with twenty nutbags in a beer hall. These people already have more than that.

UPDATE: Also of interest is this memo regarding the Senate legslation from a La Raza analyst to a Capitol Hill staffer. Key quote: While it doesn't overtly mention assimilation, it is very strong on the patriotism and traditional American values language in a way which is potentially dangerous to our communities.

Patriotism and traditional American values. Yes, that's very dangerous stuff indeed.

It would be very useful, I think, if the blogosphere were to make sure this material is very widely disseminated and kept in peoples' memories.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 10:44 AM | Comments (9)

Upcoming Podcast

The good bloggers over at The Speculist will interview Jim Bennett next week via podcast (that's a kind of Internet radio for you non-geeks out there). If you have questions for Jim about The Anglosphere Challenge, now is your chance to ask them! Visit the announcement page for details.
Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2006

Publicizing a new(ish) venture

Recent political discussions among my friends and acquaintances in Britain have been rather depressed and depressing. We all start off by saying that we absolutely have to get rid of Blair for all sorts of reasons, too numerous to list on this blog.

Then somebody asks rather gloomily what will happen when (and if) he is succeeded by Gordon Brown. We all groan. The idea of that prissy Scot who oozes hard core socialism as well as misery as Prime Minister fills everyone with loathing. (And I do mean everyone. Gordon Brown managed to lose Labour a safe seat recently in a by-election on his own doorstep in Dunfermline.)

Of course, Blair may well not leave until Brown has completely discredited himself. That is my own reading of the situation and I rather regret not putting any money on that before Blair said that he now regretted saying that he would not be leading the party in the next election.

What many people forget is that the Labour Party elects its leaders and, given its slightly crazy view of the world, it may not elect Brown but go for someone else, like the egregious Prescott. Probably not, but you never can tell.

On the other hand, somebody says, brightening momentarily, Brown will not win another election. (Prescott could not win a three-legged race against arthritic tortoises.)

And that will do what, another says. Well, we shall have a …. um … a Conservative government …. that is to say … the Conservative Party will win an election …. perhaps. That’s when the real groans start. For there is no doubt in anybody’s mind. The government that this Conservative Party with the Boy-King David Cameron and his court in charge might form will not be a Conservative one. Actually, it will not be anything but a tie-less version of a possible Liberal-Democrat government.

So, there we are. What is one to do? In my case, the obvious answer is turning to conservative history (with a small c as it is not just about the party and past governments).

Some time ago I took over the editorship of the Conservative History Journal and, having published three issues, have just finished proof-reading a pamphlet on the career of Sir Michael Hicks Beach.

That is not enough in the modern day, even for a Conservative History Group. So, I have started a blog which will, in the fullness of time, be turned into an all-singing, all-dancing website.

In the meantime, I anticipate lots of ideas, suggested postings and (hey, if you dream, dream big) even articles for the Journal from my co-bloggers and readers.

(Link to Conservative History Blog)

Posted by Helen Szamuely at 10:59 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

March 28, 2006

Anglosphere Island: The Un-Utopia

Constructing one's own personal Utopia is a widespread temptation. My definition of Utopia is "a different arragement of human affairs that can bring general perfectability and thus happiness".  I believe that human institutions can, at best only remove or mitigate specific causes of unhappiness. Happiness comes from within the individual, which is to say, it is the province of religion or philosophy, not social science or politics. Utopias are thus inherently inconsistent with the Anglosphere message, which is all about specific times and places and conjunctions in the past, present, and future. It is also about real-world societies that fall short of perfection in every conceivable area, but are still preferable overall to any existing alternative, in the eyes (and actions) of the great majority of the Anglosphere's inhabitants.

Still, I don't believe that the USA, or any other Anglosphere society, represents the best achievable version of a society that exemplifies the Anglosphere's virtues. It is at least amusing, and perhaps useful as a thought experiment, to construct a sort of imaginary Anglotopia -- which we could define as a society that seeks to maximize those things that make the Anglosphere desirable, and minimize those things in current Anglosphere societies that serve to undermine its own virtues. To that end, I have created the following sketch of such a place -- let's call it "Anglosphere Island" -- if we could imagine a group of Anglospherists who have managed to locate some uninhabited island that could be rented from some state willing to grant the islanders effective autonomy. (It doesn't have to be an island, of course, but so many Anglosphere societies have been islands or's sort of traditional. It also doesn't have to be a rental, but I wanted to make the point that unlike many new-nation schemes, this does not depend on sale of sovereignty services for revenue; it is expected to work for its living off of the world economy, most likely in information technology. Past new-nation experiments have been excessively hung up on formal independence.)

It's also important to stress that this is not my idea of the best possible society, even if it is entire notional, merely something that could possibly be achieved.

Although I have warned against an unconsidered "mix-and-match" approach to constructing constitutions, it is still possible to adopt a sort of "best practices" approach to imagining a green-field Anglosphere society. If nothing else, experience helps us avoid the worst practices. And in fact, viewing the four principal foundings of the core Anglosphere (United Kingdom, 1707, USA 1789, Canada 1871, and Australia 1901), it is clear that in each subsequent case the founders looked back at prior Anglosphere experiences with an eye to adopting best and avoiding worst practices. Even the British founders of 1707 looked back to the prior Acts of Union between England and Wales as sources of experience.

Some decisions are straightforward and obvious. The language of government is to be English. The legal system is Common Law, as to the form of the law, the manner of the judicial process, and the substance of the law. There is a question as to whether there should be an attempt to operate entirely on precedent, or whether there should be a statutory codification and restatement of the law. Practicality probably advises the latter -- most Common Law systems have had some degree of codification for a long time now, even though they have failed to deliver on their promises.

It would go without saying that there would be jury trials for all criminal cases, and most likely jury trials in civil cases as well. There is some question as to whether to rely entirely upon a permanent prosecutorial staff on the American model, or whether to adopt the British model of having "Queen's Counsels" -- a pool of qualified private lawyers hired to prosecute cases for the government on a case-by-case basis. I tend to think the American system tends toward greater politicization and thus a greater tendency for grandstanding on the part of ambitious district attorneys, so I lean a bit toward the British system here. In any event I would avoid the American state model of electing district attorneys.

One open question is whether to apply the doctrine of judicial review -- the process by which a court can declare a law unconstitutional. The classical argument for judicial review comes from the English jurist Blackstone (drawing on older traditions in English jurisprudence), but by quirks of history was implemented in America, and not in England. As the "mix-and-match" post quoted above discusses, it has recently been imported into Canada, and through the back door of European treaties, into Britain. And as a related question, if there is to be judicial review, what sort of Bill of Rights should it stand upon?

Here my instincts go to judicial review under an entrenched Bill of Rights drawing on the English and American Bills of Rights -- "negative" rights, i.e., listing those things that the government cannot do to you, rather than "positive" rights, listing things the government must do for you (and must thus take money from somebody else to do them with.) Popular sovereignty had a nice long run, but in the end judicial review under a strong Bill of Rights has probably done better. However, there needs to be a strict construction clause (probably in the form of a beefed-up Ninth and Tenth Amendment) to keep the Court from becoming legislators in their own right.

As to the form of government, we have the choice of a American or Westminster form of government -- i.e., either a strong elected President on the American model, or a ceremonial executive (either a constitutional monarch or a selected President, as in India or Ireland) with executive power held by a Prime Minister chosen from the majority party in the legislature. Here it's a real tossup -- the American model is efficient and usually provides for decisive executive action, but obviously can become too powerful, and the conflation of the ceremonial and political functions can erode civic feeling -- many Americans, variously depending on their political proclivities, found the idea of Clinton or Bush representing America in the world to be grating. The Westminster model is flexible and is used effectively in a wide variety of countries. However, there has been a tendency for power to drift to the Prime Minister's office, and in both Britain and Canada there have been few effective checks on a Prime Minister with an effective majority in Parliament.

As with many issues, the final decision should probably take into account the particular political traditions of the majority of the initial population -- Texas, for example, adopted the US model during its years as an independent republic as a matter of course, while all of the British colonies of settlement after the American revolution adopted the Westminster model. If the latter model were adopted, I would try to assure a strong second chamber of the legislature, as well as entrenched Bill of Rights, as a check upon such an ambitious Prime Minister. I have no inherent biases toward a constitutional monarchy or a republic -- the world is far more troubled by the republics that are not democracies, than by the democracies that are not republics. What most people feel is right is what they should have.

In regard to a second chamber, there are quite a few options. The British model, the House of Lords, works surprisingly effectively, (even while stuffed with Blair's donor base, it has been the most effective check on his ambitions over the past nine years) but I suspect that its long tradition and ethos has much to do with it. We don't have the thousand years or so to spare in developing the equivalent, and the idea of addressing our upper house as "Lords" seems more than a bit ridiculous. So that's out. The Canadian Senate, entirely appointed, is probably the least effective upper house in the Anglosphere, and should not be emulated. Since I'm assuming that Anglosphere Island is a rather small place, there's probably no call for federalism, and that is what gives the American Senate its power.

The Republic of Ireland has an interesting Senate, which is formed on "corporatist" principles -- the various "corporations" (by which is meant what is usually called "sectors", or perhaps "stakeholders") of society are represented -- business organizations, labor unions, civic organizations, etc. The "Corporatist" philosophy was popular in conservative Catholic circles in the early 20th century (and also influenced Mussolini and Franco), and the Irish Senate was an attempt to put them into practice. In actual fact the Irish Senate has not particularly distinguished itself and its performance is not readily distinguishable from the track record of a conventionally-formed body such as the Canadian Senate. The elected Australian Senate, which is distinguished from that country's lower house primarily by a somewhat different electoral system, is probably the most successful of the Commonwealth second chambers, after the House of Lords. This suggests that, of existing models, it might be the most useful one to copy.

As for the lower chamber, there is no reason to deviate from the classic Anglosphere model: single-member districts, electing members on a first-past-the-post electoral system, having the sole power to initiate budget bills. I would prefer a small enough size to permit useful debate with all members having a meaningful chance to speak, but a large enough size to permit a reasonably small elector-representative ratio. The model of proportional representation, beloved of certain political scientists, has been a disaster, leading almost invariably to interest-group deadlock and an inability to make a clean, decisive political reform. The fad for proportional representation was at its peak just after World War Two, when it inspired three of the worst constitutions of the times, those of Israel, Italy, and the French fourth republic. In each case the magnification of interest-group power and institutional deadlock it created contributed substantially to the inability of each nation to extricate itself from the various policy disasters it had gotten itself into. Only Charles De Gaulle, by leading a thinly-disguised coup, was able to short-circuit the logic of proportional-representation-based governments in the French case. All in all, the historical evidence is strongly weighted toward first-past-the-post, single-member-district representation.

In regard to the actual substance of legislation, the short answer of course is that it is up to the people: the Anglosphere tradition is that of representative government. But in general my preferences can be summed up as "Lockean in regard to all matters in which people tend to act as Lockeans, i.e., as rational calculators; Burkean in all things where people act as Burkeans, i.e., guided by their sentiments, habits, and passions. This means that I favor a strong, predictable framework of law and contract enforcement, within which economic functions are largely left up to private actors; and in those areas where substantial numbers of people are driven by compulsions (particularly those of sex, alcohol, drugs, and gambling), the law should attempt to mitigate and reduce the amount of harm people's compulsions may do to them. The former does not necessarily mean pure market relations, because the Anglosphere prediliction has tended to be what I term an "instrumentalist" view of state action beyond the core competencies -- where state action is tolerated for specific purposes, rather than a general assumption of state action, as happens under socialism. And the latter does not mean prohibition in regard to mitigating harm from compulsions in most cases. In general, a Burkean regard for society means keeping as many activities as possible in the civil realm, just as a Lockean regard for contract means minimizing "economic" offenses to genuine fraud and misrepresentation.

Thus the regrettable trend in American law to abandoning the mens rea distinction -- jailing people for actions even where there was no provable criminal intent -- would not be permitted on Anglosphere Island. Similarly, in considering Burkean measures to mitigate harm from the compulsive drives, a first test would be "will this measure drive people into the arms of a criminal underground?" Circumscribing, limiting, harassing, and annoying would be preferred to prohibition in most areas of compulsive behavior -- creating speed bumps on the road to Hell, rather than erecting a wall that most of the compelled can readily find a way around. These two principles -- requiring mens rea in all but a very selected number of crimes, and circumscribing the power to prohibit -- would be written into the constitution of Anglosphere Island. Domestic prohibitive crusades would be discouraged. (Technically, one could describe the optimal regulation on vicious compulsions as that which maximizes the transaction costs of indulging the compulsion to a certain point, that point being just enough below the transaction costs of satisfying the compulsion from a criminal underground, that a broad enough market to support underground services does not emerge.)

As to the great hot-button social issues, the constitution would create few fixed rules. It would try to steer their resolution toward legislation rather than adjudication, to make it clear that the Supreme Court does not have the power to impose a major change on the culture from above. The fundamental tradition of the Anglosphere is that the government is not a philosopher-prince determining the optimal way of life for the people and imposing it upon them, but rather an instrument to impose the relatively small number of rules that must be mandated generally rather than resolved by the mores and manners of the people.

In the matter of lawsuits, it seems clear by this point that the American doctrine of contingent-fee litigation has been badly abused and should be returned to its original purposes of enabling suits in limited cases where plaintiffs could not afford representation. The Commonwealth practice of a failed plaintiff being responsible for the legal fees of the defendant should be adopted. (It is amazing how American advocates of government payment for medical fees can point to the Canadian model in this regard, without ever mentioning the curbs on malpractice litigation that Canada enjoys, without which their medical system would almost certainly collapse.)

In terms of a medical system, nobody in their right mind would adopt the American system as it has evolved, nor would he chose to adopt the limitations of the British or Canadian systems at this point. My general observations are that the lower-income third of the population does better under the latter systems; the middle third does better in the American system, and the top third pretty much manages to take care of themselves under any system. (Even if, as in Canada, this means resorting to the unacknowledged upper tier of Canadian medicine, which is of course the American medical system.) If we were truly starting from scratch, something like the Singaporean medical system might be preferable, with large tax-sheltered medical savings accounts. Equally importantly, the pharmaceutical regulatory framework would tend to lean more heavily toward the concept of patient's accepting informed risk (which should be the general approach to all imperfectly safe voluntary activities -- no Nanny State!) than the American FDA; it would certainly accept drug studies done in any of the core Anglosphere nations in considering the status of proposed drugs.

As to immigration and defense, the Island would lean more toward the Australian (and to some extent) the Canadian approach to immigration, rather than the American. That is to say, benefit to the host country would be the primary criterion of entry; only the most immediate family (spouse, children, parents) would be permitted entry on the basis of family ties. A points system (in which candidates are scored on various aspects of desirability, with a minimum score needed for entry) as in the Australian and Canadian models would be strongly considered. Numbers would be related to the actual physical characteristics of the island, which, since it is notional, cannot be fixed here. However, I don't tend to be daunted by the prospect of overpopulation, I am pretty much a Simonian. Assimilability would be a major criterion of admission, and immigrants would sign a Contract of Assimilation as a condition of entry, which for example would require them to adhere to Common Law and the Bill of Rights even when it conflicted with their other beliefs.

This post is not intended to be a comprehensive tour de horizon of my Island, so I will not go into detail about education systems, banking systems, etc. I would presume that there would be a desire for a public school system off some sort, and that others would prefer to create private schools. It would be reasonable, as most Anglosphere countries do, (and many American states once did) to give parents a choice as to whether to use the tax monies allocated to their children's education by attending public schools, or to pay some portion of private school tuition. I would depart from optimal school-choice ideology by declining to fund education in languages other than English, or with an orientation that rejected the fundamental social and constitutional assumptions of the Island. The Island's constitution, as with the American, is not a suicide pact. Home schooling would not be hindered, and home-schoolers would have access to taxpayer-funded after-school and recreational programs as a matter of course.

In economic matters, the basic assumption is open market relations. Banking and currency would be on the basic Anglosphere models, with open entry into financial services subject to regulation to avoid fraud, deception, and gross mismanagement. Although in general I am trying to avoid novel experimentation, it may be worthwhile experimenting with Hayek's ideas for the denationalization of money; perhaps as a start it would be permissible to use any of the major Anglosphere currencies as units of account. If there are substantial natural resources under the Island's control, revenues would be redistributed to the population via a trust fund structure. As far as taxation is concerned, I would prefer avoiding an income tax altogether, particularly as the Island's economy would most likely concentrate on Information-Age entrepreneurism, with its convention location-independence, whose fluid use of labor doesn't lend itself to classic income taxation very well. An island permits the use of a revenue (as opposed to a protective) tariff as a major revenue source; a consumption tax and/or real estate tax has a similar effect.

Since the Island would undoubtedly be a small mammal in the ecology of world powers, its defense plan would be to raise the price of attack or invasion as high as possible, and to maintain order in the immediate surrounding sea and air spaces, and economic areas. Singapore's military, small, professional, and well-equipped, would be a model, although a citizen militia would back it up. A local version of the SAS would be a high-leverage investment. It would be expected that the ordinary citizen would have the opportunity to be familiar with weapons and, if desired, to participate in society's defense. Anglosphere alliances would be proactively sought.

The people of the Anglosphere have historically been very adept at setting up a functional representative constitutional government on very short notice, in all sorts of corners of the world, and sometimes under very difficult circumstances, such as being in the middle of a war of independence. They have done this by drawing from what is by now a very flexible and comprehensive toolkit of solutions. This thought experiment of Anglosphere Island is designed not to produce the perfect society, but rather a place in which ordinary, or extraordinary people from various corners of the Anglosphere could readily feel at home, and immigrants from other parts could feel welcome provided they chose to meld their cultures with those of the majority. As in the past, the power of the Anglosphere toolkit can be understood by asking whether once could easily imagine such a place, or wether one could imagine living there comfortably. I certainly can.

Anybody with a spare island is welcome to contact me for further discussions.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 06:03 PM | Comments (20)

March 27, 2006

A New Consensus on Immigration?

It's way too early to say that a new consensus is emerging on immigration, but I am wondering whether the outlines of such might not be coming visible. One of the signs that this may be the case is Glenn Reynolds' new column on the topic. Glenn has tended to be rather relaxed about the issue in the past. However, he had the same reaction to the demonstrations over the past weekend as have many others (such as Mickey Kaus, whose reactions are linked in Glenn's column.) There is a good deal of sympathy with the idea that Mexicans and others should be welcome to come here, as have other immigrants throughout our history, and join the American community. It's quite another for them to demand that they have a right to do so regardless of the wishes of the citizenry, or that they should not have to learn English or adopt the broad framwork of laws and assumptions that make America. It's not even a matter of assumptions of superiority: there's no implied superiority or moral imperative that, for example, favors driving on the right or the left side of the road, but it is vitally important that everybody keep to the same side. (I am waiting for the multiculturalist argument to the contrary.)

If there are outlines of an emerging consensus, I think they are taking the following form:

1. The mass smuggling of people across the southern border, organized and controlled by gangsters, has gotten way out of hand. It needs to be shut down, and a substantially greater amount of resources may need to be devoted to doing so. A security fence across much greater portions of the border is not absurd, and it is unquestionably in our right to construct such.

2. The nature of immigration needs to be based primarily on the needs of the country. A Canadian or Australian system by which applicants are scored on points, and the points heavily related to existing command of English, useful skills, and unlikelihood of becoming a welfare burden, would be a big improvement over the current system. Extended family ties are given way too much weight currently.

3. I understand the conservative aversion to yet another amnesty proposal, however disguised, but I think it is unrealistic to expect a mass deportation of people who have created no offense aside from being out of status. If the rest of the program in the consensus is adopted, a regularization of existing law-abiding immigrants is probably going to be part of it. It will take quite enough political capital and governmental resources merely to deport all the MS-13 gangsters and other criminal elements among the illegal immigrant population, and that is a task that should be accelerated.

4. The "jobs Americans won't take" argument is close to dead. It is pretty clear that the premium to get Americans (or legal immigrants on track to become Americans) to do such jobs isn't all that great; whatever general price rise that accompanies it will probably be offset by reduction in welfare and unemployment expenses for the Americans who go back to work at the slightly higher pay.

5. Immigration will continue, and in relatively high numbers. The people pushing for an "immigration pause" are, I think, highly unrealistic. It will take all the political capital the immigration-reform constituency can muster merely to accomplish the agenda outlined here. We are at a sort of critical tipping point, and I think the first side that persists in maintaining an untenable position will lose. The Mechistas who siezed control of the anti-reform rallies have gone a long way toward losing the issue; only a kamikaze-like focus on severe restriction could balance out those mistakes.

6. Assimilation, assimilation, assimilation. A focus on English languge, American rather than Mexican flags, and a return to an honest and even-sided teaching of American history in the school system and immigration education classes are starts. We must mine the historical record of the great assimilationist effort of 1880-1914 to see what further methods can be adapted to modern conditions. The more we see of Eurabia, the more we understand why assimilation is beneficial and essential. I believe there will actually be a side-effect of a wider understanding of exactly how big the Eurabian mess is, which is a realization that the assimilation of Latin Americans into the community of the USA is a much easier task in comparison (and in fact, the Arab-American communities are much better assimilated than the Eurabians.) Only a big Mechista push could blow this advantage.

We are close to a tipping point. Assimilation is going with the grain of American culture and history, and must be the focal-point of any attempt to address the problem. Securing the borders is a close second. Whatever the position of the major parties, I think the popular demand for reform is so strong that some politician will emerge to ride that horse.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 06:32 PM | Comments (75)

March 26, 2006

Wikipedia -- Nothing Succeeds Like Success

Over the past year or so, I've found myself using the English language Wikipedia for quick and dirty summaries on people, places, and things. Oftentimes, I've been led there by Google, which is increasingly pointing to Wikipedia because the general public is now using Wikipedia as the encyclopedia of first resort.

Wikipedia is not without its major flaws and faults. As a communal voluntary effort, its content can be very uneven (as the entry on the Anglosphere highlights) and riven by political partisanship. It has been the subject of pranks and malicious content ... and it has just recently gotten into a spat with the Encyclopedia Britannica over an article in Nature comparing the accuracy of the scientific content of both (Wikipedia came out well). Nonetheless, its scope, even in comparison to some of the giant encyclopedias of distant and recent past, is impressive for a project only five years old.

In an idle moment, I investigated the growth rate of the encyclopedia and was staggered to discover that it nows adds about 1,500 articles per day ... or roughly 100,000 articles every two months. It now contains 1,045,000 articles.

Early estimates assumed that the rate of article creation would tail off, and the content would be subject to increased revision. Instead, article creation has continued, and quickened, while revision has kept pace. Theoretically people will run out of articles to add ... but there's no sign of it happening yet. What is the theoretical maximum number of articles that can go into an English-language Wikipedia? 2,000,000. 5,000,000. I'm sure it's a question that's worrying the people who pay for the Wikipedia servers and bandwidth.

With schoolkids piling on to Wikipedia for homework assignments, how much longer before we see capsule descriptions of every small town and hamlet in the English-speaking world? Not a bad assignment in itself.

Now I'm sure much of the content is considered trivial by most, error-laden by many, and certainly often obscure ... but it is also out there for revision and correction as circumstances demand. And generally speaking, I've been very content with my occasional forays into the Wikipedia for bits of trivia on geography or history or science. I needed just the bare facts. And I got them. And every ambitious grad student has an incentive to nit-pick the articles in their specialty. I can imagine the science and biography articles getting very good indeed.

And Wikipedia itself seems to me just a repetition of the civic-minded amateur natural historians, scattered about the Anglosphere, whose volunteer labour and voluminous correspondence underpinned much of the great science (and great scientists) of the 19th century. There is something very satisfying about thousands of people around the world, many of whom aren't native-speakers, generating a goliath information resource driven by their own interests and a willingness to let others meddle with what they've created. This is the Oxford English Dictionary project ... for the 21st century.

As more and more Internet traffic drives toward the English-language Wikipedia (there are other "wikipedias" in over 228 other languages but with sharply fewer entries), we see a snapshot not only of the geography of civic-mindedness but the spread of a good idea to other nations, other peoples. Wikipedia, for all its faults, sure seems like a network commonwealth to me ...

Posted by jmccormick at 06:09 PM | Comments (4)

Mokyr - The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy

Mokyr, Joel, The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy, Princeton University Press, 2002. 359 pp.

I first became aware of Professor Mokyr (Northwestern University) when I stumbled across his book The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress (1992) during a period of economic history reading late last year. The book was quite strong on the details of technology in the ancient world and Industrial Revolution but virtually skipped the period that Professor Alfred Crosby had considered crucial to the change in mentalite in the West (1275-1325 AD in northern Italy) in his book the The Measure of Reality. My reading program at the time was meant to fill in the details of the period after the peak of the Italian republics. Instead, it highlighted the fact that science and industry were a rather murky transnational undertaking that didn't, by itself, lend much assistance to sorting out Anglosphere history. Was England unique, merely lucky, or simply the first? Lever of Riches was fascinating but steered clear of many of the social and political questions that might explain why the economics of the period were so unusual. Economic historians now believe that before 1850, the contribution of "formal" science to technology remained modest. There was a long period of very modest economic growth in England before Industrial Revolution allowing a rising population between 1760 and 1815 without a decline in per capita income. Income per capita edged up very slowly before 1830. Real wages barely nudged up before mid-1840s. And the switch to mineral economy (as an industrial power source) had been proceeded for centuries before 1750. What was the source of the evident dramatic change that people quite naturally want to call a Revolution?

Mokyr's older book was very readable and provided a wealth of additional recent citations on the period but definitely left an appetite for something more visionary. A quick search on Amazon uncovered his latest book and it seemed worth the effort to buy and review it. The effort, it turns out, was worth it. As a source and summary of recent scholarship, it can't be beat. The award-winning Gifts of Athena is an excellent review of the question of how the "scientific revolution" and the "industrial revolution" relate to each other. In loyalty to the duties of an economic historian however, Mokyr does begin with rather technical definitions, since terms like knowledge, science, and scientific revolution have led to the slaughter of large forests in aid of academic careers to no particular benefit of the public. He wants to present his argument on his own terms. General readers may find themselves befuddled when the formulas and Greek symbols appear, but plowing onward is worth it. Skip the stuff that is clearly meant for colleagues rather than mortals. There's plenty of value left over.

Like Lever of Riches, Gifts of Athena appears to be a number of academic papers retrofitted into a book, purged of tangents by copious but still comprehensible footnotes, and bridged with some pretty good writing. The result, as can be gathered from glancing at the Table of Contents below, is occasionally choppy. We get entire chapters on the factory and the role of knowledge on the management of health and domestic households. Fine stuff, I'm sure, but probably less critical to the overall tale of knowledge and economic development if they hadn't been the author's intellectual children. By way of illustration, though, these topics are quite useful but one will need to be particularly interested to find them a compelling part of the story.

The title of the book is also slightly misleading because the focus again is the Industrial Revolution and the period slightly before it. Enthusiasts of our current era must look elsewhere for a book which links the 18th century past and 21st century present. Where Mokyr really shines is in surveying the work of his colleagues. He appears to have read everything and sorted through most of the arguments regarding the Industrial Revolution and Renaissance. Not with a mind to making conclusions necessarily but with the view to fairly organizing the various academic parties and the key facts they bring to the table. One can only hope that Professor Mokyr is as good a teacher in the lecture hall as he is a writer of academic summaries. Gifts of Athena would be my first stop in identifying the key academics (past and present) working on the question of the 18th and 19th century influences on economic and industrial development. Some familiar names in the Anglosphere pantheon make their appearance: Macfarlane (re: the importance of glass in the West), Crosby (re: the importance of math) and Pomeranz (re: the divergence of East and West). Jenny Uglow's book on the The Lunar Men does not appear, likely because it was published in the same year as Gifts.

Mokyr's first challenge is to sort out what we are talking about when it comes to knowledge. For his purposes, it is worth distinguishing between propositional knowledge (omega) Ω and prescriptive knowledge (lambda) λ -- all that we know about the world versus what we know about doing things. As he points out, the accuracy of propositional knowledge is not the central issue. Much practical work can be done without knowing that the earth orbits the sun, much as our own day is prosperous and scientifically successful despite the fact that much of what we know is certainly incomplete, and most likely incorrect. But the more accurate the propositional knowledge, the more potential prescriptive knowledge can be discovered.

In the search for a theory of "useful knowledge," Mokyr is looking for a way to tie together the ideas, processes and people that link our "epistemic base" (what we know about the world) with the practical techniques for making and doing things. As it turns out, a major theme in Mokyr's book is the importance of the epistemic base. In earlier periods of economic or industrial innovation in classical or medieval times, the limitation on how much people knew "why" particular techniques or methods worked, cast a limit on how much innovation in industry and technology was possible. The bursts of creativity, sometimes lasting decades, eventually entered doldrums. The Industrial Revolution was unique, however, because the long-standing negative feedback loop between propositional and prescriptive knowledge was altered. In the 1820s, the innovations of the late 18th century in mechanics and chemistry didn't dwindle. They accelerated. And the early 19th century began to see a dramatic increase in fundamental understanding of the physical world ... the chemists and physicists were making practical contributions to industrialization.

To quote Mokyr:

"A century ago, historians of technology felt that individual inventors were the main actors that brought about the Industrial Revolution. Suh heroic interpretations were discarded in favor of views that emphasized deeper economic and social factors such as institutions, incentives, dmeand and factor prices. It seems, however, that the crucial elements were neither brilliant individuals nor the impersonal forces governing the masses, but a small group of at most a few thousand people who formed a creative community based on the exchange of knowledge. Engineers, mechanics, chemists, physicians, and natural philosophers formed circles in which access to knowledge was the primary objective. Paired with the appreciation that such knowledge could be the base of ever-expanding prosperity, these elite networks were indispensable, even if individual members were not. Theories that link education and human capital to technological progress need to stress the importance of these small creative communities jointly with wider phenomena such as literacy rates and universal schooling." p.66

And that, in a nutshell, is Mokyr's contribution. It is in the communities, or "Cortesian armies" to quote Robert Hooke's phrase (referring to Hernan Cortes), that the heavy lifting of practical discovery and epistemic diffusion take place. England's unique politics and social structure in the 18th and 19th century seemed to have inadvertently broadened both discovery and diffusion to new amibitious social classes. England created its own technocratic middle class out of regular folk, often of Dissenting or Radical mien. The Continental nations however, responding with trepidation to the British advance in the late 18th century, were to spend the first half of the 19th century manufacturing their technocracy in elite schools that are with us to this day. And after 1850, it was the Germans, French, and Americans who were to take the lead in broadening the "epistemic base" for technological and industrial benefit.

The tool which Mokyr uses to explain how the early Scientific Revolution (or general Renaissance) became Industrial Revolution is "Industrial Enlightenment."

"I choose the term "Industrial Enlightenment" with some care. The Enlightenment movement of the eighteenth century was of course a multifaceted and complex phenomenon, aimed at least as much at changing the existing political power structure and the distribution of income it implied as at increasing wealth by making production more rational. Its effect on creating a "public sphere" and a belief in the perfectionability of people and their institutions may well have been a watershed in social and intellectual history. The notion I am proposing is more narrow and more focused. It concerns only that part of rationality that involves observing, understanding, and manipulating natural forces." p.35
"The Industrial Enlightenment's debt to the scientific revolution consisted of three closely interrelated phenomena: scientific method, scientific mentality, and scientific culture." p.36

With concept in hand, Mokyr is able to show how the social environment of Europe variously interacted with method, mentality, and culture. For Great Britain, repository of wave after wave of religious refugees, very often bringing with them extraordinary artisanal skills, the blending of practical arts and commercial freedom meant that new ideas with economic value were always in demand. Much as Macfarlane has shown us with his description of the key scientific role of English lead glass, the importance of Huguenot clockmakers as the foundation for England's lead in precision instrumentation is a underappreciated element in why Great Britain made great strides in "doing" without always fully understanding the "why" of any given event. Sir Francis Bacon, writing early in the 17th century, had provided a vision of nature revealing its secrets, under duress, for the benefit of mankind. The great scientific works of the latter 17th century (such as Newton's Principia) were then to make explicit the importance (and unimpeachable social acceptability) of practical illustration with public witness ... of experimentation as central to argumentation.

"The Industrial Enlightenment learned from the natural philosophers -- especially from Newton, who stated it explicitly in the famous opening pages of Book Three of the Principia --- that the phenomena produced by nature and the artificial works of mankind were subject to the same laws. That view squarely contradicted orthodox Aristotelianism." p.39
"The Industrial Enlightenment placed a great deal of trust in the idea of experimentation, a concept inherited directly from seventeenth century science." p.38
"Experimental philosophy became the rhetorical tool that connected the scientific revolution of the seventeenth-century to the industrial transformations of the eighteenth." p.38

Mokyr relates the fascinating tale, during the 18th century, of the widening acceptance (at all levels of society) of the importance of useful knowledge. Public demonstration of the principles of science (whether through elaborate mechanical creations, or the whiz-bangs of the early chemists, or the bell jars and air pumps of the disciples of Boyle) were open to a fee-paying public at modest cost, brought out from the cabinets and meeting rooms of the Royal Society. In a sense, knowledge "got away" from its elite keepers ... and amidst the social, religious, and political ferment of 18th century England, such knowledge spread to the margins of the realm and took firm hold. As the use of mechanical power (wind, water, and finally steam) was converted to industrial use, great fortunes were made by young men who'd educated themselves at public lectures, and in the literary and philosophical societies that sprung up even in the smallest towns. On the continent, elite scholars in state-sponsored academies made substantial contributions to scientific theory and were in constant contact with the Royal Society, but they were only modestly interested in the application of their theories, and very uninterested in communicating their discoveries to the "masses."

Unsurprisingly, it was the Dutch who were the bring much British discovery to wider Continental consciousness. Like England, a broadly literate and educated populace allowed the Dutch to replicate the social environment of "natural philosophy" ... of magazines, private tutors, courses of public lectures, societies and publications, and salons. The path of European innovation, especially before 1820, is therefore a tale of extraordinary individuals in situations of greater or lesser social constraint. The place where that constraint was least felt was England, north to lowland Scotland. Many individuals made contributions. Knowledge, people, and equipment moved back and forth across the Channel. But up until 1800, the British seemed to have the best of the exchange.

Summarizing Mokyr, two events affected Europe's handling of useful knowledge (as "open science" took hold in the public realm). Firstly, the scientific revolution of the 17th century and secondly, the "Industrial Enlightenment." The latter allowed (1) diffusion of knowledge through review, as researchers slowly identified (2) why techniques worked. With each such "epistemic" success after 1750, the cross-fertilization and leverage for new practical knowledge leaped forward, and (3) cooperation between philosophes and artisans (the Baconian initiative) became not only acceptable but seen as a national imperative.

It was a change in attitudes toward omega -- Ω (propositional knowledge) and a change in access to Ω, on the part of artisans, businesspeople, politicians, and the general populace that was to have a lasting effect on science, technology, and English culture. The idea, widely held by most literate people of the time, that national phenomena were orderly, rational, predictable, must surely indicate a historically unique shift in political and intellectual awareness.

After 1820 and through the 19th century, we come to a Second Industrial Revolution and it is here that the initiative and momentum turn away from the British Isles. By the early 1800s, chemistry in particular had moved forward enough that the theoreticians were making increasing contributions to industrial process. While mechanics continued to evolve, it was metallurgy and industrial activity in dye-making and food processing that were to usher in a new era. The Europeans (first Revolutionary France, then Napoleonic France and its wide European holdings) responded first to the British challenge by creating a series of engineering schools (specifically for the training of military engineers) and then to the widening base of propositional knowledge by adding institutes for chemistry, physics, agriculture, etc. etc.

The funding and organization of these establishments were an open admission that national economic and military performance were dependent on the new science and technology. The nature of the response, however, was clearly distinct from the rather more haphazard and arm's-length engagement of the British government and upper classes with the First Industrial Revolution. It took most of the first half of the 19th century for these continental schools to make enough progress that their theoreticians were contributing to industrial change. During that period, wholesale importation of British equipment (especially steam engines) and British engineers and artisans was underway. One wonders if the so-called "golden era" of peace in the early 19th century was simply a reflection of how much the Continental nations were focused on catching up, rather than preying on their neighbours.

While the 18th century had Continentals proclaiming the amazing ingenuity and artisanal skills of the British, by the mid-19th century it was the turn of the British to become worried that their educational system (based primarily around the apprentice system) wasn't up to the task of educating a new generation of industrial scientists. The Continent had taken over the generation of Mokyr's propositional knowledge and Britain's lead in the generation of prescriptive knowledge was dwindling. During the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition, it was Manchester, Glasgow, and Birmingham that were major contributors to the industrial displays ... the British colonies were all but absent. And it was the Continentals and America that were to provide the novelty and potential competition for domestic industry. Within another 40 years, the Japanese were to join the club of nations that had found a way to explicitly link their scientific thinkers with their industrial doers. Mokyr is a firm believer in "Cardwell's Law" -- that the torch of innovation never dwells too long in any one place. It is perhaps part of the lucky history of the Anglosphere that the torch which passed out of the hands of Great Britain in the latter part of the 19th century came to rest, at least partially, in the hands of the English-speaking Americans, who were to act as counterbalance to the state-sponsored industrial machines of the Germans, French, and Japanese, and ultimately the Russians. The American response to the industrial productivity crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, with a burst of service industry innovation, is perhaps a sign that modern history allows Cardwell's Law to execute at Singularity speeds. Innovation and economic expansion can strike twice in the same place if social circumstances permit.

It's impossible to do justice in a review to a text that is effectively the historical sourcebook for 150 years of European history. I discovered over twenty book citations in Mokyr's Bibliography that warranted annotation and potential purchase. As mentioned, I found him particularly strong, and apparently even-handed, in his discussion of early and current scholars of the period so I would strongly recommend Gifts of Athena for readers looking to brief themselves on the history of the Industrial Revolution from a social and economic standpoint. Mokyr does his best to take advantage of evolutionary theory (i.e., mutation/variation, selection) to understand the era. It's an approach which has much to recommend it though I'm not sure that an evolutionary biologist would find the application entirely kosher. Gifts of Athena is well-written, if occasionally off on an academic tangent, but it repays the reader handsomely with an overview of events that seem even more amazing on reflection than they must have been for the participants.

For Anglosphereans, there is one potential "klang" in the text:

"At the same time, however, measuring these changes is highly subjective and it is hard to find something uniquely European (let alone British) about such attitudes, and the exact nature of what set the process [the Industrial Enlightenment] in motion will remain a topic of debate for many generations." p.41

It would be wonderful to get Mokyr and Macfarlane to sit down over coffee for a chat.

Further Reading

Review of Gifts of Athena by an Economic Historian.

175K PDF Why Was the Industrial Revolution A European Phenomenon? -- an article by Mokyr that encapsulates much of Gifts of Athena.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Technology and the Problem of Human Knowledge [1]
Chapter 2: The Industrial Enlightenment: The Taproot of Economic Progress [28]
Chapter 3: The Industrial Revolution and Beyond [78]
Chapter 4: Technology and the Factory System [119]
Chapter 5: Knowledge, Health, and the Household [163]
Chapter 6: The Political Economy of Knowledge: Innovation and Resistance in Economic History [218]
Chapter 7: Institutions, Knowledge, and Economic Growth [284]

Posted by jmccormick at 05:34 PM | Comments (5)

March 24, 2006

Quite a sketch!

Mark Steyn and PJ O'Rourke, in addition to their ability to marshall facts quickly, share a sharp, incisive wit that slices through the inanities of politicians and other foolish people.

I'd like to introduce another writer in the Anglosphere who has a similar talent for writing funny columns about serious subjects. Americans may not be familiar with the Parliamentary sketch writer - columnists who cover Parliament and write a - usually weekly, but sometimes more frequent - report on some of the more important, or telling, debates.

The most successful sketchwriters are not only familiar with Parliamentary procedures, but have the measure of most of the players. Wit, an ability to sketch a picture quickly and accurately, with a measure of cruelty, are what the British public requires in its Parliamentary sketch writers. Ann Treneman is one such. She writes for The Times.

Posted by Verity at 03:00 PM | Comments (1)

March 22, 2006

Our Friends on the Continent

In my comments to Gareth's post below, I mentioned the Continental European ideology of the organic nation-state, and its antipathy to the Anglosphere idea of the civic state based on networks of free association of self-directed individals. By fortunate coincidence Mitch Townsend has put up an excellent post over at Chicago Boyz with some interesting examples of the Continental philosophy. I won't say anything more lest I spoil the ending.

But do read the whole thing.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 04:21 PM | Comments (1)

March 21, 2006

Network Age

While perusing some comments recently at John Robb's blog, I chanced upon a fascinating paper by David Ronfeldt entitled Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks: A Framework About Societal Evolution (Rand Corporation, 1996). Ronfeldt's ambition is no less than to formulate a model of past, present, and future societal evolution. He does so by differentiating four different forms of societal interaction:

  1. Tribes or clans (the family sector and other societal realms characterized by kinship ties)
  2. Institutions such as the state (the public sector and other societal realms characterized by organizational hierarchies)
  3. Markets (the private sector and societal realms characterized by competitive, atomistic trading relationships)
  4. Networks such as NGOs (the social sector of civil society and other societal realms characterized by cooperative individual and organizational interconnections)

In general Ronfeldt argues that each of these forms or realms is additive: the earliest human societies were based on kinship ties at the tribal level (he calls these T societies); during the transition from a hunter-gatherer existence to an agricultural existence, certain societies added the institutional level of interaction, resulting in increased the societal complexity of what he calls T+I societies; during the long-running Industrial Revolution and its precursors, certain societies (especially, he notes, England) added free markets to the mix, resulting in the even greater complexity of T+I+M societies; and in the last 40 years, the shift to an information-driven society has witnessed the beginnings of T+I+M+N societies with strong multi-organizational networks, prominent NGOs, and stronger civil societies, especially in the U.S. and Canada.

A key point of Ronfeldt's essay is that societal evolution (from T to T+I, from T+I to T+I+M, from T+I+M to T+I+M+N) not only increases complexity but increases robustness. There are very few pure T societies left in the world because they were absorbed or superseded by T+I societies. Similarly, T+I societies (the classic authoritarian or absolutist states) have been pushed to the margins by T+I+M societies such as England (Pax Brittanica) and America (Pax Americana) -- though we still have far too many T+I nations in the world, they have been superseded in power and influence. Finallly, Ronfeldt argues that the societies that master the +N transition will set the terms for the next stage of societal evolution and international affairs.

Ronfeldt also emphasizes that each societal form and realm takes advantage of the most modern communications technology of the time. The power of kinship arose with spoken language, institutional hierarchies fed off written language, markets gained their greatest influence with the emergence of electronic communications (I would tie markets more closely to the printed word than he would), and networks are coming into their own with recent information innovations such as the Web, email, IM, blogs, wikis, and the like.

Will the rise of the network lead to the death of the state? Not likely, Ronfeldt says. Part of what happens during the emergence of a new form and realm is that the old forms and realms lose influence in some areas as organizations and individuals defect, but gain strength in their areas of core societal competency. Thus in +M societies the state no longer engaged in banking or trading or production, but the wealth generated by the market led perhaps paradoxically to a stronger state, not a weaker state. Similarly, +N societies will see some realms such as health, welfare, education, and perhaps media dominated by the social sector, but that may only make the public and private sectors stronger in their smaller but more focused realms. If true, these insights provide a challenge to libertarians and classical liberals.

Part of that challenge may be to cease fighting the state on behalf of the market and instead to work toward strengthening civil society. Although Ronfeldt notes that the social sector has to date been exploited best by progressive movements such as environmentalists, there is no reason to think that progressive libertarians cannot get involved in efforts to build productive alternatives to state action in the areas of health, education, media, and even the environment.

Further, Ronfeldt notes several times that the nations of the Anglosphere have been especially effective at combining societal forms into a strong web of interaction (partly, we know, because Anglospheric cultures are characterized by high levels of trust and reciprocity, as well as an openness to forming new relationships). One implication is that cooperating NGOs and other organizational networks have found it easiest to use Anglosphere nations such as the U.K. and the United States as a base. Interestingly, in large measure such NGOs are (perhaps unwittingly) yet another platform from which Western and especially Anglosphere cultures project their power and presence in the world. This model can be extended to build some of the sinews of a network commonwealth within the Anglosphere.

Ronfeldt's paper highlights some of the challenges facing information-rich societies (including the possibility of even greater social stratification and the potential power of "uncivil society" factions such as criminal gangs and terrorists), but also the promise of networked organizations and individuals to tackle complex problems that cannot be easily addressed within the context of existing state and market structures. Societies that master the +N transition will gain a greater ability to cooperate and coordinate with their allies and "sphere-mates" around the world, though at the cost of a greater blurring between domestic and foreign affairs. Although Ronfeldt doesn't quite come out and say "Anglosphere" or "network commonwealth" (after all, his paper quite predates The Anglosphere Challenge), the concepts are in large measure implicit in his analysis, which for that reason is well worth close attention.

(Cross-posted at one small voice.)

Posted by Peter Saint-Andre at 10:24 PM | Comments (10)

A "Present for Terrorists"

Daphne Park, who based on her life as British intelligence agent, would seem to know what she is talking about, trashes the idea of a national ID card, saying such a scheme would be a "present" to terrorists.

The Scotsman summarizes some highlights of her career:

Now in her eighties, her career began during the Second World War, when she volunteered for service and was assigned to train Resistance fighters who were being parachuted into France in the run-up to D-Day.

When the war ended, she was posted to Berlin where she was ordered to locate and secure German military scientists before they fell into the hands of advancing Russian forces.

That work brought her to the attention of MI6, who made extensive use of her services using the Cold War.

Although she has repeatedly refused invitations to publish her memoirs, many of Baroness Park's exploits as a spy are in the public domain - she is something of a living legend in the British intelligence community.

Among her Cold War postings were extensive service in Moscow, running agents inside the Soviet regime. During the Vietnam war, she was a covert operative in Hanoi.

She is also known to have been in Congo during the turbulent 1960s, at one point smuggling a defecting official out of the country in the boot of her car.

Yes, she just might know what she is talking about.

(Thanks to Stephen Smith for the pointer.)

Posted by James C. Bennett at 01:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

There is no England

In The Independent (Letters; 21 March 2006) Liberal Democrat Councillor Peter Arnold makes an intriguing case against an English parliament:

There is no need for an English parliament because there is no England. Scotland, Wales and Ireland are fairly homogeneous nations, each with its own clearly defined character and culture. That is why devolution (or independence) has been quite successful in all three. In England, the picture is far more complex. There are millions of Scots, Welsh and Irish living in England. The overwhelming majority of non-white migrants also live in England, along with many hundreds of thousands of other Europeans and people from other parts of the world. England is the genuine mongrel nation, and I welcome that.

The idea that a nation must racially pure for self-governance will come as a shock to those that sit on Capitol Hill, or in the Australian, Canadian or, indeed, South African Parliaments. What comes as a real shock is that these comments should come from a self-proclaimed Liberal.

Councillor Arnold continues:

I regard myself first and foremost as a Northumbrian, then as British, and finally as European. Here in the north-east we only began to be part of the nation after 1603. Before that, the independent kingdoms of England and Scotland played havoc with the area, and used it (and abused us) for their own dynastic ends. I have no loyalty to England. For me, the British state has meaning and relevance precisely because it has little connection with a brutal past based on ignorance and exploitation. The answer to the West Lothian question is the creation of a fully federal United Kingdom, based on Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the regions of England. There would still be disparities of size, but these would be far less than a separate English parliament would create. The failure of the referendum in the North-east in 2004 doesn't invalidate the concept. Devolution is working in Scotland and Wales; and independence has given most of Ireland a new lease of life. We just need to expand that successful formula to the rest of the United Kingdom.

Councillor Arnold's politics are not only objectionable to the majority of right-minded people but they are also riddled with inconsistencies. In his view Britain and Europe - both more 'mongrel' than England - are worthy of parliaments, and the concept of devolution - the the surrender of powers to regional English assemblies by central government - is tied to the biggest exercise in centralism ever devised, namely The EU.

But it's not the political sophistry of the Euro-regionalist that I want to discuss, it's the oft-used epithet of 'Mongrel', so regularly used to descibe England, and the idea that immigration is the death-nell of the nation.

The definition of mongrel in my dictionary goes thus –

Mongrel – n. animal (esp. dog) of mixed breed. Adj. Of mixed origin or character

To me this definition implies an admixture where no particular trait or feature prevails, and a multiplicity of elements and forces, many of them unknown, has been at work. It’s opposite is often held to be ‘pure’. This article is emphatically not to be read as a claim that the English are a ‘pure race’. All I intend to do is ask (and, I hope, answer) two questions – “Just how ‘mongrel’ are the English?” and “Why is the term applied so frequently to the English?”

Few people in the modern world would ever make a claim that their nation is somehow racially ‘pure’. And yet by the same token few would be willing to dispense with their historical identity. The use of the word mongrel in relation to an entire nation of people implies that their characteristics are not only not fixed, but are easily mutable, and have been frequently changed over time. In recent years the word has often applied to the English by commentators and not a few English people themsleves in a way which would have been uncommon just a few decades ago. The implication is that the English are not an ‘historical’ people, and do not have characteristics of their own but have an identity that is simply an amalgam of elements taken from the identities of other people. In the context of the doctrine of multiculturalism, these elements are provided by the supposed ‘waves’ of immigration to which England has been subject throughout her history. The English themselves certainly began as migrants, originally moving to late Roman Britain in dribs and drabs to be employed in the defence of this far-flung outpost of the empire, but as that empire collapsed and as its inheritors became increasingly fractious the peoples of Southern Denmark, Northern Germany and the Frisian Islands began to move in increasing numbers across the North Sea, drawn by employment as mercenaries and the hope of acquiring land. These peoples, though known as Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians were essentially the same – Germanic people who shared the same language, customs and religion. Tribal identities were not strong amongst the early English and by the time of the Venerable Bede (b. 672 or 3, died 735) the idea of an English people was well established, and strengthened over the ensuing centuries. This identity was firmly in the mind of King Alfred when he signed a treaty of peace with the leader of the Danish invaders Guthrum –

“This is the peace that King Alfred and King Guthrum, and the witan of all the English nation, and all the people that are in East Anglia, have all ordained and with oaths confirmed...”

The Danes originated from the same areas of North-West Europe as the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (both the lands of the Angles and the Jutes are wholly or in part contiguous with the territory of Denmark), and began to settle in England in the 870s. Their similarity to the English was such that in the BBC documentary programme Blood of the Vikings it was so difficult for researchers to distinguish the genetic characteristics of Anglo-Saxons from Danes that it was decided to treat them as being the same. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the cultural similarity between these near cousins; they spoke a language so similar that an Englishman and a Dane could probably conduct business without the aid of an interpreter, and the area settled by the Danes seems to be free of those marks of inter-ethnic conflict we nowadays associate with ‘ethnic cleansing’. Modern place-names in the area of the Danelaw are often an amalgam of English and Danish elements, suggesting that the boundaries between the two peoples were so flimsy that they quickly lost their meaning. Certainly they lost their meaning politically when in 937 King Aethelstan defeated a coalition of anti-English forces (including some Danes from within England) at Brunanburgh and united the various English states into the single nation-state of England.

By 1066 the Normans could see few distinctions amongst the English as they cast a covetous gaze over an England politically unified and culturally homogenous, and prepared for what would later be billed as the first great ‘wave’ of immigration in English history. But in the Normans we again are not really dealing with a distinctive group of people, at least not in racial terms. Many Saxons were settled in what would become Normandy in the later stages of the Roman Empire for the very same reason that they were settled in Britain – as hired mercenaries to protect the coast from raiders. These people, amongst others, were still in Normandy when the ‘Northmen’ settled the area and gave it its name. The Normans were themselves Danes, and although they took on the language and many of the customs and social traits of their French neighbours, they also retained many of the traits of their ancestors.

When William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, landed in Kent he brought with him at the most 8,400 men, 3,900 of who were Bretons and Flemish. The Bretons and the Flemish would likely have returned home after the successful conquest of England, as indeed would many of the Normans themselves who had families, land and employment in Normandy and beyond. Other Normans would certainly have come over to England in the wake of the Conqueror, but altogether the Normans were unlikely to have formed a large group within England, which at the time of the invasion had a population estimated at 1.1 million. However, the Normans were to have an effect on the political and social structure disproportionate to their numbers for the simple reason that they held all the reins of power. They formed a new elite, choosing to remove the native English aristocracy, but penetrated little into the great mass of Anglo-Saxons who surrounded them. In time they came to adopt the tongue of those they ruled, as well as their system of legal customs (which became known as the common law) and the system of administrative boundaries, renaming them counties instead of shires.

1066 and its aftermath saw the last significant immigration into England until the mass immigration of the 1950s onwards. It is significant largely because of its political and social impact rather than because of any great change in the composition or culture of the English. In the 17th Century a small number of Huguenots (possibly 50,000) entered England, which then had a population of about 4 million. Many Huguenots did not stay in England but moved on to her North American colonies, a pattern of movement that would be repeated later in England’s history. Flemish weavers and Dutch millers migrated to England in small numbers, but quickly disappeared into the enveloping English milieu that surrounded them, the only evidence that they were ever really here is the result only of careful research by local historians.

In the 19th century the largest migrations into England since the Danelaw took place. This was the movement of Irish to escape the potato famine and look for work in England’s burgeoning industries. It is thought that upwards of 750,000 Irish came to England, whose population at that time numbered about 30 million. A smaller number of east European Jews (about 120,000) also came to England at around the same time.

Danes, Normans, Huguenots, Irish and Jews all emerged from Europe, bringing with them values, and even customs, they shared with the native English. They found a strong, vibrant English culture which, in the space of only two or three generations, consumed them with hardly a nod at their existance. The historical ‘waves’ of immigration, then, were spread over a period of 800 years, and taking the best estimates of total numbers of immigrants, it is unlikely that the annual immigration into England throughout that period amounted to more than a fraction of a percent of the total population. Is it any surprise then that the immigrants rapidly vanished, through anglicisation and marriage, and that there is little that is tangible left beyond a few material monuments, such as Huguenot churches in London to mark their passage into Englishness? Ultimately the course of the English nation was hardly deflected by their presence.

Modern research, including DNA testing shows that the population of England is not that different from what it was in 1066. It is still clearly English – largely genetically, and almost completely culturally. So why, for the English, the sobriquet ‘mongrel’?

The answer is simply the unprecendented immigration into England that has occurred since the Second World War - truly a ‘wave’. Such high levels of migration into a country inevitably leads the native peoples to question whether or not they can continue to have a discrete existence as an homogenous people tied to a homeland. The English are now presented with a situation that is not in their national collective experience – a large, indigestible mass of people from very different cultures living amongst them. The English might respond to this by insisting that they are an ancient people, tied by ancient bonds not only to each other but to the land in which they live. Such a response would immediately place the future of mass immigration, and the doctrine of multiculturalism it has created, in jeopardy. In order to defuse any assertion that an ancient culture and national identity is being undermined it is important to show that that identity doesn’t really exist, or at least that it is easily shaped from the borrowings and leavings of other peoples’ cultures. If everything is in flux, is nothing but mix-‘n’-match, then what does it matter if the current manifestation of a common identity is abandoned for something new? In order to justify waves of immigration today it must be shown that there always have been ‘waves’ of immigration in the past, and that these have only been beneficial, because are we not a proud and accomplished people today?

But what if the ‘waves’ of immigration never happened? What if England’s achievements came about, not because of diversity, but because of her cultural homogeneity…?

Posted by Gareth at 09:35 AM | Comments (14)

March 19, 2006

Mark Steyn and the Anglosphere Style

Verity has opened the floor to the question of who is most widely read throughout the Anglosphere, which is perhaps not so easily answered as might be assumed on initial thought; after all, is an author who is widely read in the two most populous Anglosphere countries "more widely read" than one who has a smaller readership overall, but whose readership is spread more evenly throughout the English-speaking nations? Presumably Verity would favor the latter over the former, in which case Steyn is almost certainly the prizewinner.

Although I enjoy Steyn in general, I appreciate one particular aspect of his writing. That is the fact that he has more or less spontaneously managed to write in what I would call an Anglosphere voice and style. He is a Canadian who resides in New Hampshire, and who writes quite regularly for the American, Canadian, British (despite his temporary hiatus), and Australian press. Without particularly hiding either his Canadian nationality or his American residence, he manages to write on the politics of all four countries easily and familiarly. He does this without either adopting the sort of patronizing "I know your country" interjection of local detail (usually superficial), of the sort that a certain species of reporter will drop after two weeks (or two days) in the country, or the equally grating "Message from Abroad" tone. That is to say, when Mark is writing about, for example, Australia, he neither pretends that he is Crocodile Dundee's first cousin, nor tries to come across as the Quasi-Official Bearer of the Canadian Viewpoint to the Australians. What he does bring is a fairly good idea of how Howard's performance compares to Blair's, Harper's, or Bush's, and an ability to discuss it comfortably.

In a way, he is a harbinger of the disintermediation I expect to be more and more characteristic in coming years. There is a small group of academics and journalists who dine out on being the Explainer of Canada (or Britain, or Australia) to Americans, or vice versa. These people have a vested interest in maximizing the differences among us -- obviously, the more different, the more need for explanation. Although of course there are differences, and they are interesting and worthy of discussion, so are the similarities, which tend to get buried. The more the Web and other means of lowering the transaction costs of interacting proliferate, the less need we will have of this sort of interlocutor. Instead, I think we will see more writers with the sort of easy and unforced Anglospheric voice of Steyn. I just hope they have half his sense of humor.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 11:53 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

What is wrong with the European Union?

What a silly question, you might say. Would it not be easier to ask what is right with the European Union? It would take considerably less time to enumerate. However, I should like to go to the very nub of it: its idea of governance.

One talks much of the way legislation and regulations are passed in the European Union with the peoples and legislatures of various member states being presented with a fait accompli and an assurance that nothing can be done to reverse European legislation.

We also know that the process of legislation and amendment of legislation is so cumbersome and secretive that achieving changes is well nigh impossible.

Most of all, we know that the legislative programme of the EU pays no attention to elections either within member states or, even, to the European Parliament; nor does it pay attention to changes in the Commission. Legislative plans are laid out for five or ten years; the Commission’s work programme is decided every year; the process goes on regardless of any democratic or constitutional developments.

Over and above that there is the problem of the Opposition. The European Union and its supporters do not acknowledge its right to exist. This was summed up very neatly by Professor Jeremy Black in his latest book: The European Question and the National Interest. Writing about the response to the two negative referendum results last year, in France and the Netherlands, he explains:

“Posing long-term issues provides a context for looking at the current conception of the future, which is largely defined by the issue of how best to respond to the rejection of the European constitutional treaty by the French and Dutch electorates. After an election, commentators rush to explain results, and generally over-simplify the situation, but there does seem to be a contrast between French criticism of the process of European change as threatening to dissolve social safety, and Dutch views about the overweening demands of the EU.

If, however, hostility to the real, or apparent, pretensions and activities of the EU comes from different sources, and much was made by Euro-enthusiasts about contrasts between French and Dutch views, this does not imply that the EU is an appropriate via media or necessary compromise, both views voiced by supporters of Euro-convergence. Such an appoach accords with a tendency to see different views to those of Euro-convergence in terms of factious opposition that necessarily needs to be ignored or overridden, a view that is in accord with the ‘official mind’ of the EU and also with a centrist, or generally left-of-centre, political alignment. Politically, this attitude is at variance with the Anglo-American practice and precept of shifts in government control with the concomitant understanding not only that opposition is constitutionally valid, but also that its political place includes the role of gaining power.”

While this summary of the difference between the whole idea of an integrated European state and a political system that is based on democratic accountability is entirely accurate, sadly one must relate that the rejection of the validity of political opposition is gaining ground within British politics, particularly at local but also at government level.

Posted by Helen Szamuely at 04:24 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 17, 2006

The Anglosphere's best read columnist

The other day, I posited over on Samizdata, that Mark Steyn, whose columns appear in the United States (Chicago Sun-Times), Canada (Western Standard and MacLeans), Ireland, [until the Telegraph group's new owners, the Barclay brothers sacked him for supporting The Telegraph's former owner Lord Black] Britain, and Australia, is the best known columnist in the Anglosphere. As he himself says, a one-man content-provider.

Jonathan Pearce took exception to this and suggested the following names were more widely read: Christopher Hitchens; Andrew Sullivan; Charles Krauthammer; Larry Kudlow; Charles Kinsley; Robert Samuelson; Paul Krugman, etc.

I hadn't heard of most of the names and argued that these writers are known mainly to conservative American readers. (And I don't know who etc writes for.) Jonathan leapt back claiming Hitch and Sully are both more widely read than Steyn. Again, I think they are both specialised tastes and I doubt that many people outside the NE read Christopher Hitchens, as good a writer as he is. I also guessed that Andrew Sullivan's readership had fallen off since he became so obsessed with gay marriage.

Has anyone in Australia heard of Larry Kudlow? I doubt it. But they know Mark Steyn. Has anyone in Ireland heard of Charles Kingsley or Robert Samuelson? I doubt it. But they've heard of Mark Steyn, even if they can't stand him.

Any other nominations for best-known columnist in the Anglosphere?

Posted by Verity at 07:31 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

March 14, 2006

Chua - World On Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability

Chau, Amy, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, Doubleday (2003) 340 pp.

In a recent post, Jim Bennett outlined both his concerns and his appreciation for Amy Chua’s book “World on Fire.”

Unlike Jim, I was less convinced that she was offering “one size fits all” model but very much inspired by the utility of her model for understanding the relationship of the world to the United States and the Anglosphere. The US, and its occasional allies, are locked in a passionate love-hate relationship with the rest of the world … a discussion fought now on television that often appears deranged or infantile yet is driven by very real concerns and anxieties. There’s hypocrisy and cant aplenty on both sides of the argument as far as the eye can see. And it is the “do as I say, not as I do” conundrums facing the Anglosphere that will drive new and focused solutions … new legal structures, new ethical propositions, new responses to weapons of mass destruction and hyper-destructive individuals, new balances between individual and social rights, new clarity and, one assumes, a newly-minted sense of self-preservation.

Much of the reading I’ve been doing over the last few months has focused on national productivity figures (cf. Lewis’s The Power of Productivity) and on the EU’s response to the increasing GDP per capita gap between it and the US (The 2000 Lisbon Agenda). To summarize: the United States (with 300 million people) has roughly 30% greater GDP per capita growth each year than all other nations over 10 million in size. Canada (at roughly 78% of the US standard and 30 million people) is the only exception. My reading focus has been on the solutions offered by serious people around the world to close the gap or find a way to accommodate the gap within a successful sustainable social model. At the same time, I’ve been watching the figures, and discussion, on higher education and the “scientific wealth of nations.” In many ways, however, the responses and strategies put forward to catching up with the US, by both the industrialized and industrializing world, have been eerily parallel to those documented in the past by Chua for nations who have struggled to cope with free markets and democracy over the last forty years. There’s a lot more finger-pointing and bad-mouthing than concrete progress.

To quote Chua (p.6):

This book is about a phenomenon – pervasive outside the West yet rarely acknowledged, indeed often viewed as taboo – that turns free market democracy into an engine of ethnic conflagration. The phenomenon I refer to is that of market-dominant minorities: ethnic minorities who, for widely varying reasons, tend under market conditions to dominate economically, often to a startling extent, the “indigenous” majorities around them.

Now, the Anglosphere is no longer an ethnic minority. But it is very much a minority of civic culture and legal approach (cf. LLSV) when judged by global standards. Yet the crux of Jim Bennett’s Anglosphere Challenge is that it is coping better with the approaching Technological Singularity than other cultures and other nations. The United States no longer has companions in this technological current … it has a crowd of slip-streamed commensals and a vast deeply-dispirited school of fish left in its wake. No one is expecting Ireland, Norway or Luxembourg to convert their per capita GDP into market dominance. And for most of the world’s population in Africa, Latin America, and much of Asia (as highlighted in Chua’s book), only an Anglosphere catastrophe could allow them to return to the relative parity they enjoyed two centuries ago. For them, things are bad and getting relatively worse … but now they have their humiliation televised nightly in their living rooms.

I believe Chua’s greatest contribution to this blog is the description of the nature and history of these market-dominant minorities … of identifying Israel and the United States as regional and global market-dominant minorities (MDMs) respectively … and giving us some sense of the rhetoric that will be used (and the self-destructiveness that will result) if those two nations are challenged directly. Zimbabwe and Rwanda writ large is everyone’s nightmare. And Chua’s documentation of the Chinese, Indian, Lebanese, and Jewish MDMs ensconced throughout the Third World promises more turbulence before the story is over.

I think of the current Third World rhetorical arguments as succumbing to the Housecat-Tiger fallacy. In a thousand ways, many no doubt yet undiscovered, the housecat and tiger are identical. Their physiology, anatomy, behaviour, and cruelty are matched feature for feature. So yes, the West is selfish, greedy, indifferent, violent, indolent, dissolute, sanctimonious, arrogant, discriminatory, and so on and so forth.

But the only comparison that really counts is that the housecat will bite your finger. The tiger will bite, and crush, your neck. So too, in the dominance of the Anglosphere over the scientific, technological, cultural, and military (monopoly of power) spheres, there are many cruelties (some of indifference, others intentional) inflicted on the nations and peoples of the world. The alternative cultural and political structures on offer however all appear catastrophic by comparison. And lead back to the “good old days” of despots and tyrants and empires. The real empires, not the much-maligned facsimile of the Pax Americana.

All these global controversies seem more comprehensible if we use Chua’s concept of the “market-dominant minority” and identify the disruptive forces of the free market and democracy as working particularly in favour of the Anglosphere … effectively, according to Chua, America (the global MDM) and its farm team of talented English-speakers.

The statistics are compelling. Just as the ethnic German divisions that Hitler needed to defeat the Soviets were born in Minnesota instead of Bavaria, the European and Asian scientific talent necessary to compete with the Americans works in the US, not the Continent. And the graduates of African educational institutions migrate at very high rates to the industrialized world. With not a single non-English-speaking university in the top twenty (except for the University of Tokyo) … according to the Shanghai Jiao Tong University academic ranking of world universities. … the Anglosphere creates an irresistible magnetic force for the cream of scientific, academic, and managerial talent in the world. Chua, ironically, is a perfect example.

Turning again to her (p.259):

The bottom line is this. Democracy can be inimical to the interests of market-dominant minorities. There were good reasons why the Indians in Kenya and whites in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and America’s Southern states resisted democratization for generations. Market-dominant minorities do not really want democracy, at least not in the sense of having their fate determined by genuine majority rule.

Any more than the US, or the Anglosphere, wants its future determined by the votes of everyone else on the planet.

Chua concludes her book with sections on how markets and democracy might be more humanely and effectively introduced where they currently don’t exist. The case for a nuanced introduction of democracy and free markets, to reduce suffering in the general population, seems unassailable. Unfortunately, in societies firmly established on rent-seeking principles, every delay or fine-tuning in opening up a country provides more opportunities for minority predation (either in the market or in the government). And someone has to police the process. Usually at the barrel of the gun. This sounds a lot like Afghanistan writ large. Without a “big brother” to ensure smooth transitions, the indigenous culture is left to sort things out for itself … a matter that is harder and harder with guns, explosives, and demagogues finding new synergy.

As mentioned above, Chua’s descriptions of how MDMs work, and how they are assaulted, makes for sobering reading but it also gives us a model to understand why Anglosphere culture is simultaneously admired, imitated, and repudiated. This is a well-written book with fascinating and useful summaries of recent events in very different parts of the world. No, it isn’t all things to all people. And, yes, one may quibble with the details of who’s an MDM and what role they play in any given country. But the broader question of how and why free markets and generic democracy unleash ethnic violence, and occasionally massacre and genocide, seems answered with some utility.

I found the description of the US as a non-ethnic market-dominant minority very thought-provoking and a very useful tool for understanding the rhetoric of visceral resentment and plaintive dependency which is now dowsing America with metronomic frequency.


Table of Contents

Part One - The Economic Impact of Globalization

1 Rubies and Rice Paddies - Chinese Minority Dominance in Southeast Asia
2 Llama Fetuses, Latifundia, and La Blue Chip Numero Uno - "White" Wealth in Latin America
3 The Seventh Oligarch - The Jewish Billionaires of Post-Communist Russia
4 The "Ibo of Cameroon" - Market-Dominant Minorities of Africa

Part Two - The Political Consequences of Globalization

5 Backlash against Markets - Ethnically Targeted Seizures and Nationalization
6 Baclash against Democracy - Crony Capitalism and Minority Rule
7 Backlash against Market-Dominant Minorities - Expulsions and Genocide
8 Mixing Blood - Assimilation, Globalization, and the Case of Thailand

Part Three - Ethnonationalism and the West

9 The Underside of Western Free Market Democracy - From Jim Crow to the Holocaust
10 The Middle Eastern Cauldron - Israeli Jews as a Regional Market-Dominant Minority
11 Why They Hate Us - America as a Global Market-Dominant Minority
12 The Future of Free Market Democracy

Posted by jmccormick at 11:29 PM | Comments (11)

World on Fire: Market-Dominant Minorities, Smithian-Optimal Societies, and Radius of Trust

Having just read Amy Chua’s World On Fire and having discused it off-line with some of the other Seedlings, my thoughts are that is a useful entry into the ongoing discussion we've been having on culture and globalization,. However, I have some reservations. To some extent, she takes one idea and tries to universalize it, with the usual result that it fits a certain set of circumstances well, and others less well.

What I noticed was that her theory works best with the "Market-Dominant Minority" ("MDM") example she knows from personal experience --- the Chinese in Southeast Asia -- and similar situations, such as the traditional Jewish role in Europe, the Indians in East Africa, and the Lebanese in west Africa and Latin America.

What these groups have in common (and do not share with her other examples) are the following:

1. They have all had long histories as part of civilizations that reached Smithian optimality, but not the Exit. Often they have experienced many cycles of reaching optimality and falling back into the Malthusian predation trap. This has given them cultures that are comfortable with the workings of money and capital, that stress education, frugality, and hard work, but also that stress separation from the (potentially envious and dangerous) majority populations around them;

2. They have achieved their MDM role by and large in cultures that have never experienced Smithian optimality (or, of course, the Exit);

3. Although they are not typically high-trust cultures themselves, they have evolved means of extending their group radius-of-trust circles beyond immediate family networks: village associations or name associations for Chinese, sub-caste groups for Indians [pace Gurcharan Das]; and similar geographical and/or religious subgroups for Lebanese and Jews.

4. The cultures they move among are lower-radius-of-trust than themselves.

None of these societies could by themselves achieve the Exit. But they have all adapted rather well to operations within a post-Exit global system, basically by occupying a higher-trust niche within lower-trust societies. Interestingly, when these minorities move into a genuinely high-trust environment, like the US, the UK, or post-Napoleonic, pre-Hitler Germany, they assimilate readily and switch from being MDMs to becoming competitive, but not dominant, members of the wider society. They also begin intermarrying, even when they had intermarried little or not at all in previous host societies.

Her other examples follow quite different patterns. Some are “settler” societies in which a relatively small group of settlers impose their rule upon a much larger class of prior inhabitants, like the old settler elites in Latin America north of the Rio Plata, or the settler societies in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Although these populations are minorities, and are economically dominant, they differe substantially from the classic MDM populations of the previous category, most particularly by holding state power directly, as a class, rather than merely influencing it or buying favors from it. Here the problem is more one of forcing the dominant group to share political power, and secondly to share econoic opportunity.

The third pattern, perhaps best exemplified by Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia, is where two prior-exsting ethnic groups aree locked into contention. Even though one group might be economically dominant, the two groups are more nearly co-equal, and the compelte expulsion of the minority group is not an option.

One point I had trouble with in Chua is her use of the term “raw laissez-faire capitalism” to refer to the IMF-imposed systems in Latin Amerca, eastern Europe and elsewhere. Although the IMF reforms abolished some of the big state monopolies and privatized various marketplaces, they left almost untouched the web of street-level regulations and permits that hindered entrepreneurial emergence, they typically left the huge swathes of land in state hands untouched, and did nothing about extending secure land title to low-income people. Thus entrepreneurial formation was just as hard as ever, poor people had no access to the capital potential of the land with which they mixed their labor, yet even the inefficient subsidies and boondoggles by which they mitigated their poverty previously had been abolished. A pessimal outcome, but one not remorely describeable as “laissez-faire”.

I do think most of her solutions are sensible: encouraging village-level elections before national ones, encouraging assimilation of MDMs (although she balked at the Thai approach), encouraging solutions that spread wealth broadly, although she seems to favor social distribution programs, which typically are mismanaged and corrupted in developing nations, rather than a trust fund solution, such as is run in Alaska and Singapore, and would be easier to guarantee transparency with. Another element of a solution, which Chua did not discuss, would be a “cantonalist” constitution on the Swiss model, in which most public decisions were pushed to relatively local, decentralized government entities, which would more easily be made transparent.

Chua has introduced some points about ethnicity and culture into the debate about development and globalizations, some of which make people uncommfortable. There is a powerful desire on many peoples' part for a universalist theory, one that provides a toolkit of solutions that can be dropped into any society on earth and made to deliver big results quickly. Marxism serves this desire, and so does the sort of macro-economic determinism that Chua mistakes for "laissez-faire capitalism". Universalists of all stripes are uncomfortable with explanations that say "Well, your solution is right in general terms but we can't generate a solution in specific cases without taking into account the local knowedge about historical and cultural factors." The Anglosphere analysis is an example of such non-universalist thinking: it says "We know these mechanisms work in this set of cultures. We know (for example, from the LLSV work) that they have some effects when implanted into some other cultures. For some other cultures, we know that institutions and mechanisms do not work when implemented piecemeal and in quite different contexts. For everyplace else, the answer has to be 'Not known not to work.' "

Despite some reservations about her analysis, I’m happy to see Chua's book, as it will spark further discussions of this sort.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 11:51 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 08, 2006

The Elephant in the Anglosphere's Living Room

Bush's trip to India, and the new US-Indian nuclear accord, has had the beneficial side-effect of drawing attention to the issue of India's emergence and its strategic implications for the US, and the Anglosphere at large. Richard Brookhiser, for example, comments that:

India’s relation to the Anglosphere began in colonialism. The British in India were an alien, self-segregated ruling class. They built railroads, forbade suttee, ate curry and lived in their clubs. Yet British culture percolated to certain Indian elites, especially Bengali intellectuals. In an early Satyajit Ray film, Charulata, one of the characters, urging his friend to study law in London, breaks out into an English-language rapture on the stepmother country: “The land of Burke! Of Macaulay! Of Gladstone!” Britain’s legacy to independent India was mixed, for it included both parliamentary democracy and socialism; Jawaharlal Nehru had an opportunity to study both at Harrow and Cambridge. But time has winnowed the wheat from the chaff, for democracy remains, despite the hiatus of Indira Ghandi’s emergency rule, while socialism has been consigned to the dunghill.

India now feels a new Anglospheric tug with the blossoming of information technology. The 800 number you dial to order replacement parts or check your bank account connects you to Bangalore, for three reasons. Bangalore has educated, relatively low-wage employees; someone in Bangalore probably wrote the program that makes the system run; and Bangalore, thanks to India’s earlier access to the English language, has the jump on tech centers in other developing nations. So Google fortuitously reaps what Cornwallis and Wellesley sowed—and lays in the seed for later harvests.

This is largely accurate, although of course it just skims the surface. (The alien, self-segregated nature of the Raj was a fairly late 19th Century development -- there was also a significant class of British residents of India who studied Indian languages, religions, and culture systematically and became deeply knowedgeable about Indian civilization. The explorer Richard Francis Burton, who is one example of such, was of the opinion that the coming of steam navigation, which permitted the Englishmen in India to bring their wives out easily, led to that self-segregation, by ending the practice of English residents taking Indian mistresses openly.) Be that as it may, Brookhiser recognises that although the British departure from India ended one political era, it was merely the end of the beginning of a cultural-social-linguistic relationship between India and the Anglosphere (increasingly, we should say "India and the rest of the Anglosphere"), and the start of the next phase of that relationship. The post-colonial era, roughly 1948-2000, has also drawn to a close, although more gradually and without any single event. We are now in a transition period between the post-colonial era (in which India was busy defining itself by what it was not, particularly "not British"), and a third era, as yet unnamed, in which the young, well-educated, prosperous segment of Indians are looking at the realities around them and saying "now what?"

John O'Sullivan, addressing the same issues, points out that:

Rather that stress the exclusive nature of the Indo-U.S. partnership--which frightens as well as flatters--he might want to point out that other friends of India are also linking themselves more closely to the U.S. in the post-Cold War world. John Howard's Australia is one. Tony Blair's Britain another. Following the recent election in Canada, Stephen Harper's new government is likely to move closer, though cautiously, to the U.S.

Most of these countries are also connected to each other, to India and to the U.S. by other links: the large and growing Indian diasporas throughout the English-speaking world; the practical esperanto of the English language; the common institutions, legal traditions and liberal ideas inherited from the British; the very modern economic links through the information industry in which India is a world leader; the gradual development of an English-speaking world culture, both high and popular; and a communications revolution which makes cultural similarity a more potent source of international cooperation than geographical proximity.

All these developments have made the English-speaking world--in which the U.S. and India will soon be the two most important powers--a group of countries that tend to see the world in the same way and thus to cooperate on more and more matters from trade to military threats. James C. Bennett calls such groupings "network civilizations" and this particular one "the Anglosphere." As he points out, we should expect to see the different nations in the Anglosphere working together increasingly.

And in fact the Anglosphere, plus Japan and Israel, is gradually emerging as an informal U.S. alliance system that often works better than the formal NATO one. In this new world alliance India is a junior partner to nobody except the U.S. And the more India is seen as a dominant power in an Anglosphere alliance rather than a subordinate one in a purely U.S.-India alliance, the more easily India will shed its nostalgia for its days of Third World leadership.

Indeed. Given current realities, India's relationship with the Anglosphere will be one of the defining factors of the 21st century.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 11:59 AM | Comments (55) | TrackBack

March 06, 2006

So, does it matter?

The London Evening Standard trumpeted for all to see: Britons triumph at the Oscars. After the humiliation of the BAFTAs, when all the major and most of the minor prizes were carried away by the Americans, we got our revenge.

Alas, it was not so. Apart from Rachel Weisz getting an award for looking pretty in trying circumstances, the only British film to win anything was “Wallace and Gromit”. As it happens, I have seen it. (Well, how could I resist a film which was titled “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”?) It is very good, indeed. When it comes to amusing animation, the Brits can occasionally come up with the goods.

This has been the year of the least watched nominations, as anyone who has read Mark Steyn or various other commentators knows. The most popular of the winners is the documentary, “The March of the Penguins” and that only in the United States. The first Narnia film that was awarded various prizes also did well.

The London Evening Standard trumpeted for all to see: Britons triumph at the Oscars. After the humiliation of the BAFTAs, when all the major and most of the minor prizes were carried away by the Americans, we got our revenge.

Alas, it was not so. Apart from Rachel Weisz getting an award for looking pretty in trying circumstances, the only British film to win anything was “Wallace and Gromit”. As it happens, I have seen it. (Well, how could I resist a film which was titled “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”?) It is very good, indeed. When it comes to amusing animation, the Brits can occasionally come up with the goods.

This has been the year of the least watched nominations, as anyone who has read Mark Steyn or various other commentators knows. The most popular of the winners is the documentary, “The March of the Penguins” and that only in the United States. The first Narnia film that was awarded various prizes also did well.

“Crash”, which won the Best Picture award, has already gone into DVD, a bad sign for a main-stream film, however low budget it might have been. The other nominated ones, “Brokeback Mountain”, “Munich”, “Good Night and Good Luck” and “Capote”, have grossed remarkably low. “Brokeback Mountain” dropped out of the top ten grossing films in the week before the ceremony.

That, in itself, would not be a problems. The Oscars do not have to go to particularly popular films. The problem is that these are not films from little-known arty film makers. They are all main-stream and have had quite the most astonishing amount of publicity. Yet the public has been staying away in droves.

(To be fair, very few films do all that well nowadays, proof that Hollywood has lost its ability to understand what the audience wants.)

A few years ago there was a genuine surprise at the Oscars when the Italian “La vita e bella” won the Best Picture award. It was genuinely off-beat in that a film that would normally have been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Picture award, was put in for the big one instead and won. As it happens, it was a genuinely moving film handling a difficult issue – the Holocaust in Italy – in an unusual, comical way.

Since then there have been few surprises, though much is being made of the fact that “Brokeback Mountain”, the favourite, did not win.

The other interesting and, even extraordinarily funny, aspect of this year’s nominations is how seriously they have been taken by the industry itself and attendant hacks. Solemnly, we have been told that this is the year in which Hollywood and the Oscars have grown up because so many of the nominations were important, meaningful and dedicated to a cause.

Curiously enough, the causes were all left-wing and the alleged courage of the film-makers non-existent. Just how brave is it to make an anti-McCarthy film? Or one about the supposed evil-doing of corporate pharmaceuticals?

Interestingly enough a more “courageous” or, at least, a more truthful approach to both those subjects would have made better and, possibly, more popular films. If Clooney, or someone else as Clooney is terminally incapable of thinking outside the BDS Hollywood box, were to make a film that looked at the McCarthy era and what went on before it in the light of all the information that has come out in the last decade or so, he might have had something interesting to say.

Why did all those privileged people become Soviet agents? How did the party manage to dupe so many seemingly intelligent individuals like Edward Murrow? Was Murrow a dupe or a liar? How was “McCarthyism” used to prevent any discussion of Communism and Communist infiltration for decades?

Similarly, Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes might consider making a film in which the truth about medical drugs in Africa is told. That would involve a certain amount of research, of course, but the information is available to all who want to read it.

Mind you, the villains would not be big business but African governments who slap taxes on all those drugs that are sold to them at cost price or given free by the companies, thus preventing their use by the people who need them.

Other villains might be African officials who steal the drugs and sell them at highly inflated prices, again interrupting the flow to those who need them. Would Ms Weisz consider playing the heroine in something like that? Somehow, I doubt it. After all, that would mean abandoning all that she “knows” from everybody around her.

And what of the winner “Crash”? Have we not already had many films about the issue of race, some rather more courageous in peeking at the unfashionable red-neck attitudes? Only peeking, mind you.

Homosexuality? As Mark Steyn points out, the most courageous film on that subject was made in 1961. Joseph Losey’s “Accident” dealt with the issue when homosexual activity was still illegal in Britain. Dirk Bogarde took the role of the barrister in the closet at a time when he was one of the great pin-up heroes of young British womanhood. Now, that is courage.

So what do we have? A bunch of outdated and seriously unoriginal ideas put forward by people who take themselves and everything they say far too seriously and are of no interest to the public at large. Sounds like the Conservative Party. In fact, I can almost see George Clooney or Ralph Fiennes in the role of the Tory leader, who comes up with ideas that were buried years ago and people who have retired just as long ago.

As politics and the MSM turns into mass entertainment (some of it extremely cruel), the entertainment industry has decided, unilaterally, to become the conscience of the world and its political intelligence. Sadly, nobody else, apart from dribbling journalists agree with that idea but that has not stopped George Clooney, Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennnes, Stephen Spielberg and others, too numerous to mention, from pronouncing endlessly on subjects they have no knowledge or understanding of and, to be quite frank, no interest in. Otherwise, even pea-brains though they are, they might have found out something new and interesting.

The subject of British films has been uppermost in my mind (incurably frivolous, I tell ya) because on Friday I went to the National Film Theatre to see that wonderful 1954 comedy “The Constant Husband” with Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall, Margaret Leighton, Cecil Parker and a host of other excellent British actors.

An entertaining plot, amusing script and wonderful acting, together with quite a nasty little twist in the tail. Most British films of that period had one. Indeed, it is one of the greatest mistakes to assert that post-war British cinema was somehow cosy. Not a bit of it. Even the comedy capers are quite unsettling and the thrillers show a hard, narrow and unpleasant society.

What is it that made it possible for the British to make good films for quite a long time? Why can they not do so any longer? As it happens, I did see “Mrs Henderson Presents”, a rather fatuous and plot-less film about the Windmill Theatre, for which Judi Dench was nominated for the Best Actress Award. She was very good, as was Bob Hoskins, but neither was what I would call an outstandingly stellar performance. And the film was dull.

(As for our other hopeful, Keira Knightley – forget it. I am not going anywhere near what is quite clearly a travesty of one of the greatest novels in English literature.)

In the end I come to what is probably an obvious conclusion. Films were made by people who saw their art or craft or trade as being part of entertainment. Not only they were more popular, they were actually better – better written, better directed, better produced, better acted. How many of the ultra serious, self-important Oscar winners and nominations will be watched in ten years’ time? A big round number, I should say. But “The Constant Husband”? No problem.

Oh well, I suppose the two films that, respectively, justified and glorified terrorism, “Munich” and “Paradise Now”, got nothing. One must be thankful for small mercies.

Cross-posted (mostly) from EUReferendum

Posted by Helen Szamuely at 05:39 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

A Parsec Too Far - Glenn and Jim Approach the Social Speed of Light

Earlier today, Glenn Reynolds (the Instapundit) was commenting on a review of his about-to-be-released book, An Army of Davids. I've been bouncing up and down on my chair waiting for my pre-ordered copy to arrive from No joy so far, but I hope to review the book here on Albion's Seedlings before too long. A few sentences in Glenn's post brought me up short, however.

"It's a great review, and I have no complaints. But I'm a bit frustrated -- with myself -- because Malone doesn't see the connection between the final chapters of the book (on nanotechnology, space, and the Singularity) and the earlier chapters on more contemporary phenomena. That's my fault, not his. I thought I had a pretty clear story arc, starting with events today, then explaining how nanotechnology will represent a vast intensification of current trends, leading to vastly (and to a degree, dangerously) empowered individuals, with worries that we'd see either explosive chaos, or a global police state (I invoke Larry Niven's A.R.M., and note that it's actually a rather benign vision of such things) -- with the space bit appearing to explain why we need the safety factor of dispersing people beyond earth, and how the new space frontier will protect values of individualism. I quote Bob Zubrin on that point."
"It seemed clear to me, but Malone's not the only one to miss that, which makes it my fault. Maybe I'll add a few paragraphs to the next edition, if there is one, to make that point clearer."

Perhaps Glenn's being too hard on himself. Eighteen months or so ago, Jim released his book Anglosphere Challenge to very similar reviewer mystification. Jim's argument, I thought, could be boiled down to three axioms:

  • There's something very unique about the Anglosphere and the roots of that distinctiveness are very old.
  • There's a Technological Singularity on the way and it's going to profoundly challenge human culture.
  • The centuries-old cultural emphasis in the Anglosphere on individuals and civic society provide a unique opportunity for a "network commonwealth" approach to successfully deal with the Singularity.

Everyone got the history part (with many quibbles), and everyone was interested in the network commonwealth idea ... but the Singularity stuff ... not so much. Both these authors have (paraphrasing Professor Reynolds) pushed their readers to extrapolate from current (even ancient) patterns of social behaviour into a social setting with profoundly differently technological foundations. Not many buyers, apparently, if Glenn's comments hold true.

Now most people (even those who are unusually curious, thoughtful and busy) don't pay much attention to "big picture" theorizing. Traditionally, there's a very low "return on investment." Fair enough. And no doubt Glenn Reynolds and Jim Bennett share personal "enthusiasms" for space and nanotechnology that place their expertise well outside the mainstream chatterati. Trying to actually create the future has likely given them a perspective on change that the rest of us don't have. Similarly, Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near can be a pretty spooky read at times. Maybe someone has to work where the real and imagined blur, for an extended period of time, to be comfortable with such thinking.

Nonetheless, Bennett and Reynolds aren't just shooting for a "gee-whiz, Mr. Science" audience. They are extrapolating (or attempting to extrapolate) toward social structures that might be necessary to cope adequately with disruptive events. And if we believe historian Alfred Crosby , the last time we saw such a massive change in worldview was the late 13th century ... when a new emphasis on quantification and visualization took the perennial "good ideas" of Asia and turned them into technological and social modernity within a century or two.

And whether it's a generic Army of Davids or a mobilized Anglosphere working through a network commonwealth, it seems clear to me that some kind of long-term resolution of the disruptive and creative forces in global society has to be thought about, even in the absence of any immediate political solutions. The books by Jim and Glenn come out clearly on the side of a social model that emphasizes individual rights and opportunities. But most of the people on this planet view individuals as instruments of group survival, operating on a very short lease indeed. The "blue-sky" stuff may seem like a tangent for historians and sociologists but it should probably be taken more seriously by us ordinary folk. In my view, the pacing of the modern world is going to be driven by technology and epidemiology. And in Glenn and Jim's view, the sorts of people who can best cope with a very rapid pace will draw on particular styles of behaviour and even more specific historical traditions.

Gizmos and politics deserve the equal billing.

"Lay on, Macduff;/And damned be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'" (Macbeth V viii)"

Posted by jmccormick at 05:35 PM | Comments (5)

The Enlightensphere and the Anglosphere

Blogger Cuchulainn, at the Bewilderment, asks whether the idea of the Anglosphere hasn't been made obsolete by the confrontation between the heirs of the Enlighenment and those who reject it. He observes:

Who are we?  We are the inheritors of the enlightenment.  We are proud to number among us, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Anders Fogh Rasmussen.  We regret that do not number Tony Blair or the US State Department.

We are not the Enlightenment.  That was the 18th century, but we are its heirs.  We range across the globe, beyond the limits of the Anglosphere.

We, citizens of the Enlightensphere.

It's not an absurd question. And in fact I've talked about the "civilsphere" as the wider set of strong civil societies in which the Anglosphere operates -- it's more or less synonymous with the membership of the OECD, or the Enlightensphere as Cuchulainn calls it -- pretty much the same thing. But such sociological catgeories, fun as they are to make up, are only worth keeping if they are good predictors. That is to say, if you say the world is divided into group A and group B, then saying thhat somebody is a member of tone of the two groups ought to convey useable information about how that person will probably act.

The Civilsphere, or Enlightensphere, is a pretty good predictor when used in the context of all current societies, but it's also the case that being Anglosphere, or not, continues to be a good predictor of behavior within civilsphere societies.  

What individual politicians like Bush and Blair do or don't do (and remember that Bush and Blair have to act in the context of a world-wide set of interests that currently include staving off the disaster of a nuclear-armed Iran, stabilizing Iraq, and trying to drain the swamp of the Middle East just a bit) is the least reliable result of these civilizational differences. Broad-category predictors work best over time, and with large numbers.  I can admire Rasmussen's stand, and am delighted when the Western Standard republishes the cartoons -- but it's still the case that it's the US that tends to be most proactive on dealing with the threats to the Enlightenment, and the other main Anglosphere powers that tend to be the most helpful to them.

Meanwhile the Speculist had some interesting thoughts on the Enlightenment and the Singularity, making the important distinction between the Anglosphere and Continental Enlightenments. He also grasps that in an era of accelerating change, it is the more flexible Anglosphere version of the Enlightenment that will offer the tools to deal with such change.

An interesting point. Somebody should write a book about it.

Oh, yeah. I did.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 04:15 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Captive Nations of Today

Amusing as Verity's post is below, I think's important to distinguish between Islam in general, radical Islamism, and even within Islam, the more extreme fundamentalist varieties such as Saudi Salafism from the interpretations to which the great majority of Muslims pertain. "Islam", as a civilization and a phenomenon, is hardly about to collapse, as did the Soviet Union. Soviet "civilization", as they used to pretentiously call it, was always a fraud, a thin veneer of idological nonsense laid over Russian civilization, which for all its problems is also one of the distinct civilizations of this planet. Once the fraud collapsed, Russian civilization re-emerged and is now trying to undo the damages done to it. Radical Islamism is another fraud, a mishmash of continental European fascism, scraps of anti-American ideologies picked up from the garbage heap of marxist and fascist propagandists, and an Islamism that is more flavoring and protective coloring than anything like a valid religion. It inspires young people to die for it; well, so did the mishmash of Odin-worship, absurd racial theorizing, and anti-Semitic resentment inspire some unfortunate German teenagers to go out and immolate themselves in the process of assaulting American tanks in 1945.

Radical Islamism probably won't collapse in the Soviet fashion either, because it does not hold state power any longer (since they lost Afghanistan) and is unlikely to sieze it for long anywhere else. It will be around for some substantial amount of time, until the great bulk of its potential converts decide that it is loser stuff -- and that will take a while.

In the meantime, Islam as a civilization will be sharing the planet with the rest of us. It is not going to turn into a clone of our civilization. It does need to make some sort of transition, as it has substantial internal problems, most especially in the Arabic-speaking lands. We can't make these transitions happen by ourselves, as external actors. All we can do is help and encourage the genuine Arab patriots, Muslims and Christians alike, who are undertaking the dangerous task of reforming their societies from within. We need to continue to strike hard at the radical Islamists, and to particularly reject their apologists and enablers in our own countries who spread their toxic myths. Meanwhile, Islam will be around, and we cannot write of a whole civilization as our enemies, particularly because of the actions and words of a highly unrepresentative fraction of it.

During the Cold War, we observed Captive Nations Day, expressing solidarity with Hungarians, Poles, and other victims of the Soviet pseudo-"civilization". Perhaps we should revive it as an opportunity to show solidarity with the ordinary people held captive by corrupt kleptocrats and failed ideologues. The Islamic world has many such.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 11:38 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Muslim language dhimmitude

Islam is weak and in its death throes. It is going caterwauling and shrieking down the tubes – in English.

The Muslims have prostrated themselves to the Anglosphere. They submit daily to the knowledge that they cannot get anyone to pay attention to their hysteria unless they write their posters and shout their rants in the lingua franca of the intelligent sector of the world - English. “Wait for the real holocaust” is on a sign carried by a burqa-clad blob in London. Burqa-clad blobs hold up posters in Yemen reading “Don’t Buy Danish Products”; in Saudi Arabia to Nigeria supermarkets have signs in their windows, in English, informing other Muslims that they don’t carry Danish products. “Down with Denmark” they shriek – not in Arabic or Danish, but in the king of languages: English. They threaten the destruction of the enlightened West on the internet – in English. Complete submission to the English language. And we did it without a single kidnap or cutting off a single head!


Bow down and submit to our wonderful language, punks. English akbar!! And I want to see that forehead touching the tiles, Mohammed!

Carry on Abasing!

Posted by Verity at 08:16 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 03, 2006

The Daily Telegraph leader says it all

The third leader in today's Daily Telegraph celebrates ten years of John Howard's premiership, pointing out that our own Conservatives could learn a thing or two about his success:

He has combined various policies about which the British Right is nervous these days into a powerful cocktail that brings him triumph after triumph.

A markedly traditional and conservative take on social questions - most notably manifested in his immigration policy, where he has steadfastly maintained Australia's right to choose who lives there - is combined with economic liberalism.

Most compelling of all, though, is Mr Howard's determination to uphold his country's culture, and to rejoice in everything that is properly Australian. Such self-confidence and straightness are good for his people. They would be good for ours, too.

Perhaps, when Mr Howard gets tired of being a successful Australian Prime Minister (if he gets tired of it), he could come and sort British politics out.

Posted by Helen Szamuely at 11:16 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 02, 2006

India Plays the Anglosphere Card

Via Vodkapundit, here's a wrapup of Bush's visit to India and the new US-Indian deal signed there. The Vodkapundit titled the link "Welcome to the Anglosphere". The comments on his post are interesting, too. My favorite (referring to media reports of 10,000 anti-Bush protestors there) was:

10 thousand protest Bush? Bah! More people gather to watch when a cow upsets a hawker's handcart on an Indian Street!
Bush's approval is at 40% in US, v/s 54% in India. That coupled with our population being more that thrice that of US means we have much more Bush fans than entire US population! We love him because we are a pragmatic bunch who can cut through the PC/lefty/dhimmi cr@p and see who is fighting the good fight.

Posted by Tushar D at March 2, 2006 02:18 PM

As to where India stands with the Anglosphere, well, that's a work in progress. The key issue at this point is the rate at which English fluency and Anglosphere-linked jobs (IT and call-center) penetrate below the traditional English-speaking elites of India. That appears to be happening at a fast, maybe even exponential rate. At some point before too long (probably between 2015 and 2020) India will have more home users of English than the US; not much longer afterwards, there could be more home users of English in India than the rest of the Anglosphere combined. This (especially given the cheapness of electronic publishing and dissemination) will mean that the bulk of English-language media will be produced in India. (If Bollywood learns how to appeal to US audiences, which it eventually will, that will also be true of visual media as well.) That means that not only will the Anglosphere change India, but India will change the Anglosphere.

Not many people are thinking about what this really means. They should be. Bush's trip to India, and the deal made there today, may end up being the single most consequential act of the Bush presidency.

Posted by James C. Bennett at 05:22 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

March 01, 2006

From the Dhimmi-Free Zone

Last week I had the pleasure of being in Calgary and having the chance to visit briefly with the Western Standard gang. As our co-blogger Verity related a while back, the Western Standard became the first, and in so far as I know the only publication in Canada to publish the famous Danish cartoons. It suffered various penalties, including having the magazine dropped by Canada's only large-scale nationwide bookstore chain, Chapters/Dhimmitude (or something like that.)

In a cheerful mood despite the presence of several security guards, the Standard gang related how the letters of support and new subscriptions far outnumbered any negative comment or cancelled subscriptions.

Despite various expressions of despair over the spinelessness of Anglosphere support, there are at least zones of non-dhimmitude thriving in Canada. This doesn't mean that they wouldn't like your subscription, too. Plus, it's a great magazine, and carries original material by Mark Steyn every week. What more could anybody want?

Posted by James C. Bennett at 03:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack