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The Anglosphere


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The Anglosphere as a concept has ben drifting around multiple threads for some time now. This essay suggests that the common language of the Anglosphere is one of the factors behind the deep and strong roots of individual liberty in Anglosphere nations (in the essay, one author is quoted as suggesting the ideas of individual liberty were first being expressed in the 13th century). While language cannot be the only reason, the common cultural roots of the Anglosphere are certainly for individual liberty, and "culture" is the basis of everything:


The Anglosphere and the Future of Liberty

October 6th, 2013 - 4:20 am

A few days ago, The New Criterion and London’s Social Affairs Unit hosted a one-day conference about the future of the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States, with special reference to the contributions of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in maintaining that filiation. It was a jolly and informative convocation. Among the participants were John O’Sullivan, a close advisor to Margaret Thatcher, and Peter Robinson who drafted Reagan’s famous “Mr. Gorbachev-Tear-Down-This-Wall” speech. Other paper-givers included Daniel Hannan, a conservative, euro-sceptic member of the European Parliament for southern England, Douglas Carswell, a eurosceptic MP for Claxton, and Keith Windschuttle, the historian editor of Australia’s best cultural magazine, Quadrant. If I am counting correctly, this was the twelfth such collaboration between these two organizations. Our stated purposed is to enhance and strengthen the transatlantic conversation on such subjects as limited government, individual liberty, and the the constellation of values adumbrated by the word “Anglosphere.”

What is the Anglosphere? I’m not sure who coined the term, but it was James Bennett, another participant, whose book The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century gave the word currency. As the title suggests, it is an optimistic, or at least an upbeat book. (Dr. Pangloss was an optimist, but somehow was always a source of gloom.) If the 19th century was preeminently the British century in world affairs (and it was), the 20th century belonged to the United States. And going forward? “If the English-speaking nations grasp the opportunity,” Bennett wrote at the end of his book, “the twenty-first century will be the Anglosphere century.”

“If.” A tiny word that prompts large questions. What were those opportunities that needed grasping? How sure was our grip? And who, by the way, were “we”? What was this Anglosphere that Bennett apostrophized? Winston Churchill’s opus on the English-speaking peoples, published in four-volumes in the mid-1950s, principally included Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. He commenced his story in 55 B.C., when Julius Caesar first “turned his gaze” upon Britain, and concluded as Victoria’s long reign ended at the turn of the 20th century. By the time Andrew Roberts extended Churchill’s work in his magisterial A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 (2006), the Anglosphere had expanded to include Commonwealth Caribbean countries and, more to the point, India with its 1.1 billion people and the burgeoning capitalist dynamo that is its economy. The inclusion of India shows, as Roberts argues, that the defining quality of the Anglosphere is not shared race or ethnicity but shared values. It is a unity, as Madhav Das Nalapat put it in his contribution to an earlier TNC-SAU collaboration, a unity of ideas, “the blood of the mind” rather than “the blood of the body.” Its force is more intangible than physical—set forth primarily in arguments rather than armies—but no less powerful for that. The ideas in play are so potent, in fact, that they allow India, exotic India, to emerge as an equal partner with Britain and the United States at “the core of a twenty-first-century Anglosphere.”

I’ll say something about the substance of those ideas in a moment. First, it is worth pausing to register the medium in which the ideas unfold: English. Nalapat remarks that “The English language is . . . a very effective counter-terrorist, counter-insurgency weapon.” I think he is right about that, but why? Why English? In a remarkable essay called “What Is Wrong with Our Thoughts?,” the Australian philosopher David Stove analyzes several outlandish, yet typical, specimens of philosophical-theological linguistic catastrophe. He draws his examples not from the underside of intellectual life—spiritualism, voodoo, Freudianism, etc.—but from some of the brightest jewels in the diadem of Western thought: from the work of Plotinus, for example, and Hegel, and Michel Foucault. He quoted his examples in translation, he acknowledges, but notes that “it is a very striking fact . . . that I had to go to translations. . . . Nothing which was ever expressed originally in the English language resembles, except in the most distant way, the thought of Plotinus, or Hegel, or Foucault. I take this,” Stove concludes, “to be enormously to the credit of our language.”

Indeed. But why? What is it about English? I do not have an answer, but I note the fact that there seems to be some deep connection between the English language and that most uncommon virtue, common sense. I do not mean that English speakers act any less extravagantly than speakers of other tongues, but rather that English generally acts to tether thought to the empirical world. This is something Bishop Thomas Sprat dilated on in his History of the Royal Society (1667): “The general constitution of the minds of the English,” he wrote, embraces frankness and simplicity of diction, “the middle qualities, between the reserv’d subtle southern, and the rough unhewn Northern people.”

English, Bishop Sprat thought, is conspicuously the friend of empirical truth. It is also conspicuously the friend of liberty. Andrew Roberts, reflecting on the pedigree of certain ideas in the lexicon of freedom, notes that such key phrases as “liberty of conscience” (1580), “civil liberty” (1644, a Miltonic coinage), and “liberty of the press” (1769) were first expressed in English. Why is it that English-speaking countries produced Adam Smith and John Locke, David Hume and James Madison, but not Hegel, Marx, or Foucault? “The tongue and the philosophy are not unrelated,” the philologist Robert Claiborne writes in Our Marvelous Native Tongue: The Life and Times of the English Language (1983). “Both reflect the ingrained Anglo-American distrust of unlimited authority, whether in language or in life.”

Andrew Roberts stresses the element of pragmatic skepticism that speaks English as its native language. “The unimaginative, bourgeois, earth-bound English-speaking peoples,” he writes,

“refuse to dream dreams, see visions and follow fanatics and demagogues, from whom they are protected by their liberal constitutions, free press, rationalist philosophy, and representative institutions. They are temperamentally less inclined towards fanaticism, high-flown rhetoric and Bonapartism than many other peoples in history. They respect what is tangible and, in politics at least, suspect what is not.”

I have nothing by way of an explanation for this filiation between the English language and the habit of liberty. I merely note its existence. Alan Macfarlane, in his classic The Origins of English Individualism: The Family Property and Social Transition (1978), shows that the habit is far older than we have been taught to believe. According to the Marxist narrative, individualism is a “bourgeois construct” whose motor belongs to the eighteenth-century. Macfarlane shows that, on the contrary, “since at least the thirteenth century England has been a country where the individual has been more important than the group.” “Peasant” was a term the English used about others but not themselves. Why? Macfarlane locates the answer in the presence of a market economy, an “individualistic pattern of ownership,” and strong recourse to local initiative that were prominent features of English life at least since 1250. “In many respects,” he writes, “England had probably long been different from almost every other major agrarian society we know.”

Different in origins and different also in outcomes. Consider Britain’s record as a colonial power. “Thanks to English law,” Keith Windschuttle has noted, “most British colonial officials delivered good government.” And the positive effects are not merely historical artifacts. They are patent everywhere in the world today. “The key regional powers in almost every corner of the globe,” Mark Steyn reminds us, “are British-derived—from Australia to South Africa to India—and, even among the lesser players, as a general rule you’re better off for having been exposed to British rule than not: Why is Haiti Haiti and Barbados Barbados?”

“English institutions” you might say, “the rule of law, and all that.” Well, yes, but why were the English peculiarly, almost, let’s face it, uniquely, prominent among the bearers of that beneficence? Again, I do not have an explanation. It has something to do, I feel sure, with the habit of liberty, the contagious temperament of freedom.

It’s a trait that has been widely noticed. The Czech writer Karel Čapek visited England in the 1920s. Writing about the country a few years later, he observed that the Englishman “stays in England all the time even when he happens to be somewhere else, say, Naples or Tibet. . . . England is not just a certain territory; England is a particular environment habitually surrounding Englishmen.” Santayana registered something similar in his essay on “The British Character” in Soliloquies in England (1922). “What governs the Englishman is his inner atmosphere, the weather in his soul.”

Instinctively the Englishman is no missionary, no conqueror. He prefers the country to the town, and home to foreign parts. He is rather glad and relieved if only natives will remain natives and strangers strangers, and at a comfortable distance from himself. Yet outwardly he is most hospitable and accepts almost anybody for the time being; he travels and conquers without a settled design, because he has the instinct of exploration. His adventures are all external; they change him so little that he is not afraid of them. He carries his English weather in his heart wherever he goes, and it becomes a cool spot in the desert, and a steady and sane oracle amongst all the deliriums of mankind. Never since the heroic days of Greece has the world had such a sweet, just, boyish master. It will be a black day for the human race when scientific blackguards, conspirators, churls, and fanatics manage to supplant him.

“Scientific blackguards, conspirators, churls, and fanatics”: I see them all about us. And you do as well. The question is whether Santayana’s agreeable observations should be filed under the rubric “As We Were,” like A. C. Benson’s nostalgic look back at a vanished Victorian heyday. The alarming possibility that recent history has presented us with is that the assault of Santayana’s “scientific blackguards, conspirators, churls, and fanatics” may come as much from within the Anglosphere as from outside it. “Civilizations,” observed the political philosopher James Burnham “die, in truth, only by suicide.” What have we been doing to ourselves?

To what extent have the epicenters of the Anglosphere—Britain, North America, Australia—abandoned their allegiance to the core values Alan Macfarlane descried in English society three-quarters of a millennium past: individual liberty and its political correlative, limited government? Take Britain. In a melancholy passage, the critic Anthony Daniels writes that

The huge change in British society, from a free and orderly but very unequal society to a highly regulated but disorderly and rather more equal society, came about because the ruling political passions and desiderata, particularly among the ever-more important intelligentsia, changed from freedom and equality before the law to equality of outcome and physical well-being and comfort. If freedom failed to result in the latter, so much the worse for freedom: very few people in Britain now give a fig for it. The loss of their double-glazing would mean more to them than the loss of their right to say what they like.

A sobering contingency. Is it really as bad as that?

A growing influence of elites brings with it an erosion of local initiative as the blandishments of security are dispensed in exchange for a tithe on freedom. Tocqueville noted the perennial tension between the demand for freedom and the demand for equality in democratic regimes. And his great disciple F. A. von Hayek described the process by which “extensive government control” produced “a psychological change, an alteration of the character of the people.” “The important point,” Hayek wrote,

“is that the political ideals of a people and its attitude toward authority are as much the effect as the cause of the political institutions under which it lives. This means, among other things, that even a strong tradition of political liberty is no safeguard if the danger is precisely that new institutions and policies will gradually undermine and destroy that spirit.”

Evidence for the collapse of the spirit is not far to seek. Mark Steyn cites the deliciously awful spectacle of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown endeavoring to come up with a patriotic British equivalent of Independence Day for Americans. What did his government turn up? July 5, the anniversary of the inauguration of National Health Service, a fitting symbol of British surrender of personal freedom for the sake of a spurious security. “They can call it,” Steyn writes, “Dependence Day.”

The anatomy of servitude, which most bulks large in any anatomy of human affairs, tells a depressing story. But it is not all of the story. Even the “apocalyptic” Mark Steyn points to the way out. He is quite right that “you cannot wage a sustained ideological assault on your own civilization without profound consequence.” We’ve had the assault and we are living with the consequences. He is also right that “without serious course correction, we will see the end of the Anglo-American era, and the eclipse of the powers that built the modern world.” The hopeful part of that prediction comes in the apodosis: the course may still be corrected.

As Hayek noted about his own dire diagnosis: “The consequences can of course be averted if that spirit reasserts itself in time.” There are, I believe, two main sources of hope. One lies in the past, in the depth and strength of the Anglosphere’s traditional commitment to individual freedom and local initiative against the meddlesome intrusion of any central authority. “The future is unknowable,” said Churchill, “but the past should give us hope.” The Anglosphere, James Bennett writes, “is not a fragile hothouse flower that can be easily uprooted and disappear forever.”

The second main ground for hope lies in the present and immediate future. In the United States, anyway, I suspect we are beginning to witness a new “revolt of the masses,” different from, in fact more or less the opposite of, the socialistic eruption Ortega y Gasset limned in his famous essay on the subject. A specter is haunting America, the specter of resurgent freedom rising up in responses to the many depredations of the statist juggernaut that everywhere besieges us. Just after the 2010 mid-term election in which the American people delivered a much-deserved “shellacking” to Barack Obama’s top-down, “fundamentally transform” imperatives, I spoke on a cruise sponsored by National Review. One of the other speakers was the pollster Scott Rasmussen. One thing that that the election demonstrated, he said, was that Americans do not want to be governed by Democrats. Nor do the wish to be governed by Republicans. They want to govern themselves. Do they? If he is right—there’s that little word “if” again—the Anglosphere has a lot more mileage in it. Are things bad? Is it late? Yes, and yes again. But as Lord D’Abernon memorably put it, “An Englishman’s mind works best when it is almost too late.”

Edward Campbell

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There is some prospect for a useful (and even powerful) informal alliance alignment of like minded nations but I suspect that neither language nor a (fading) liberalism are at its base.

The big thing it needs is some purpose. What is it that unites prospective members? The answer, I would suggest, is the same one I give to a wide range of strategic issues: peace and prosperity. Nations with otherwise diverse, even competing interests, are likely to find common cause in maintaining peace in order to enhance their own prosperity.

(At the risk of repeating myself ...
Peace is more than just the absence of war. Peace is the situation that obtains when countries can go about their lawful business ~ which is business ~ without too much worry about the safety of their citizens' or their citizens' money. It is the situation in which nations, even nations that don't especially like one another can trade for mutual advantage.

Prosperity is more than French King Henri IV's "chicken in every pot."* Prosperity is the situation that obtains when people can live and work without undue worry about their health and safety, the basic needs of 98% of the population being met by employment, supplemented, a bit, now and again, by social welfare. Prosperity allows people and nations to help those (people and nations) that are less fortunate. Prosperity means that capital is "free" for use ~ globally ~ to invest and to innovate to increase the common wealth of all peoples in all nations.)

What should characterize the members of this alignment?

    First: what they do not share is English as a mother tongue, although we will find it in common use. Nor do they share a tradition of English liberalism.

    Second: they are democracies. They recognize that "government with the consent of the governed" is the type that works best to give their people the essential economic and personal freedom to make their own choices
    about their own beliefs and property.

    Third: they are "free market" economies.

    Fourth: (and, arguably, most important) they are law abiding societies.

Now, consider these two list:

Corruption Perception Index
Essentially a list of the 20 most honest countries
Rank    Country
1    Denmark         
1    Finland             
1    New Zealand   
4    Sweden     
5    Singapore       
6    Switzerland     
7    Australia         
7    Norway
9    Canada
9    Netherlands 
11  Iceland             
12  Luxembourg     
13  Germany           
14  Hong Kong       

15  Barbados           
16  Belgium
17  Japan               
17  United Kingdom 
19  United States   
20  Chile                 
20  Uruguay           
    See more at: http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2012/results/#sthash.4b2rXRVG.dpuf

GDP (PPP) Per Capita - IMF
Rank    Country
1 Qatar                      
2 Luxembourg    
3 Singapore    
4 Norway            
5 Brunei      
— Hong Kong    
6 United States    
7 United Arab Emirates
8 Switzerland    
9 Canada            
10 Australia            
11 Austria                
12 Netherlands    
13 San Marino        
14 Ireland              
15 Sweden            
16 Kuwait                
17 Iceland            
18 Germany            
19 Taiwan            
20 Belgium             
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita
    Countries (and territories) in blue are on both list.

There are, already, formal, recognized, Anglosphere military staffs: the Combined Communications Electronics Board, AUSCANZUKUS and TTCP, for example, consisting of:

New Zealand;
United Kingdom; and
United States; to which I would add (from the list above)
Singapore; and

(I have excluded Hong Kong, because is a territory with only limited foreign policy freedom, and Switzerland, because of its long standing neutrality and non-intervention policies.)
(I did not add either Belgium or Germany because they are not every high on either list.)

Eleven nations is, it seems to me, about as large as any alignment wants to be. (I served in various NATO fora before and during the expansion and I can recall that consensus became increasing difficult and, finally, impossible to achieve on major policy issues.)

Attributed as: "I want there to be no peasant in my realm so poor that he will not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday," the phrase was made famous in 1928 by an advertisement used by Herbert Hoover's campaign .



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I have an inherent disposition against all things Frankish. 

So to bolster the opinion that the Academie Francaise is the nexus of evil - stifling, stultifying, rigid and prescriptive - I went looking for other countries that had adopted the same style of control.  I was confident that I would find that most countries found on ERC's lists would not have such academies while the more authoritarian countries would have their own version of the language police.  I was surprised.

Wikipedia: List of Language Regulators.

It appears that English is the "only" language that doesn't have language police.  Instead it has a commercial record of the words in common use - The Oxford English Dictionary - which includes words like twerking and naffed if they show up in print anywhere three times.

Apparently English and the attitude of the English to their language is much more unique than I thought.  The language is just a medium, a currency, that floats according to the whim of the market.

The other curiousity came from E.R.'s "Chicken in every pot".  That quote originally is attributed to France's "populist" king, Henry IV of Navarre - the shape-shifting Huguenot pragmatist that conquered the Franks of Paris by accepting Mass.  I would look for links between Henry, La Rochelle, New Rochelle, Herbert Hoover and the Republicans.



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George Wallace said:
Ummmmm?  The Franks were Germanic tribes.

Exactly.  All things evil come from the Ardennes.  >:D 

Merovech's kids worked their way down to Paris and eventually made their stand on the Ile de Notre Dame in the Ile de France (Francs) (Franks).

One of the peculiarities of the way that English-French history is taught is how often the peoples of the old Angevin empire have found themselves on the same side against the Franks.

Cathar crusades, Templars, Hundred Years War, Huguenots, Cevenne Revolts - The folks south of the Loire have never been of the same mind as those north of the Loire.  True all the way back to Roman Aquitania.

There is a reason why red wine in Britain is synonymous with Bordeaux.



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Culture does evolve.  I see the anglosphere as a contemporary summation of the remnants of the British Empire.  Without the Empire, no angloshere would exist.  Arguably, modern Britain was influenced and evolved from the retreat of the Roman Empire.  Factions and tribes in Britain were resistant to Roman rule but now left on their own in 400 AD, applied the Roman concepts of law, economics, warfare, politics, architecture and engineering.  These concepts as well as British geography evolved into the middle ages and exported to the territories that ties us all together.



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I'd like to say that I agree with the writer, but it was so long winded I'm not so sure.  The writer doesn't prove my hypothesis that the reason the English language is successful is because of its conciseness.  His writing style reminds me of my issues and complaints with mil writing, where it seems that we favor convoluted, rhetorical, ambiguous and creative writing instead of simplistic and factual.  Occam would not be pleased.  It seems we write in order to impress our colleagues and superiors rather than communicating ideas to the masses. 

This makes me question the convention conference itself.  They would like to believe that they utilize the English language correctly, but does that go beyond their special club of persons patting themselves on the back?  Judging by some of the political unrest in some of our English nations, I don't believe the spirit of this convention is reaching anywhere or anyone beyond its walls. 

What is the intent of language?  I would say it is to communicate ideas in the most efficient way possible; not to convolute ideas with a crap load of unnecessary words.

Long live Occam!



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GnyHwy said:
I'd like to say that I agree with the writer, but it was so long winded I'm not so sure... His writing style reminds me of my issues and complaints with mil writing, where it seems that we favor convoluted, rhetorical, ambiguous and creative writing instead of simplistic and factual.  Occam would not be pleased.  It seems we write in order to impress our colleagues and superiors rather than communicating ideas to the masses. 
Sadly so true. Having worked at both CACSC and CFC, I can only mourn how poorly most officers write, and how little we do any more to teach them to cut through the garbage pile of excess verbiage and buzzwords to produce work that actually meets that good old standard of "CARL-B". Bring back Staff School! The greater sin is that most of their superiors seem to have adopted this confused, cloudy, bureaucratic/academic style of writing, instead of keeping it short, sharp and to the point.

What is the intent of language?  I would say it is to communicate ideas in the most efficient way possible; not to convolute ideas with a crap load of unnecessary words.

I think language does more than just that: it carries culture. What makes the English language so strong and flexible is that, like the core cadre of nations who speak it, it's highly flexible and adaptive. Just open a dictionary and look at how many commonly used words were picked up lock stock and barrel from other languages. If we like a word, we steal it and get on with it: we don't set up language police to enforce the wording of signs on coffee shops.

That said, I find the article rather overblown: it's almost a paean to the supposed virtues of the English speaking peoples, to the point of being counter-factual If being ruled by the English was so great an experience, why did the Americans (uniquely amongst all British colonies of European, English-speaking stock) revolt against the Crown?  And if liberty and individual rights are so much a backbone of Anglo culture, why did American revolutionary rhetoric stress so heavily that Americans couldn't find either under the Crown?

And if being ruled by non-English speakers was so miserable, why do so many former colonies of France, Spain and Portugal resolutely continue to preserve language, culture, political and judicial systems forced on them by their colonizers?