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The Anglosphere and the Future of Liberty

October 6th, 2013 - 4:20 am

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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.”

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All Comments   (14)
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On Belmont Club I directed readers to the excellent article by the late Kenneth Minogue in the September 2013 issue of your own The New Criterion. If by chance readers of your blog have not read it, I strongly encourage them to do so. Thank you for this blog and your outstanding monthly.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
But the Anglosphere is sick and weakening, right now.

It's robustness is being attacked from within by the Gramscian termite, that force which seeks to replace the ideals of the American Revolution - Judeochristian values, family as the core unit of society, government as servant rather than ruler, dissemination of political power to the smallest unit possible, and private economic freedom - with those of the French one, with its repaganization, emphasis on centralization of economics and politics, and the notion that the public sector rules rather than serves the private.

It is a true civil war the outcome of which is far from certain.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The thing UK can do right now to reaffirm Anglosphere and regain some sovereignty over her affairs is quit EU and join NAFTA
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is a wonderful article, Roger. And I must say that the phrase "the Australian philosopher..." seems comically oxy-moronic - and I speak as an Australian - but David Stove (and Keith Windschuttle) do exhibit a remarkable hold on common sense and clear thinking. Something rare in the academic world.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The de facto British Empire lives on.
Imagine the world if the U.s., Canada, and Australia belonged to any other civilization.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
A language of liberty?

Maybe.

But good ideas confidently and morally expressed in English, French, Chinese, whatever are more powerful in any culture, I think. No one has refuted Rand's thesis that America's failure has been the lack of a moral grounding of individual rights. Christian religious morality of sacrifice toward others (re: the cross) and Germanic altruism, a secularization of the same Christian philosophy, undermined the Renaissance and its greatest accomplishment--the American Revolution. Both philosophies are so obviously antipodal of the individual's pursuit of individual happiness, it becomes tiresome and embarrassing to feel the need to keep pointing it out. No wonder Rand likely died a bitter woman.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
When the sacrifice of the Cross is a private, individual thing, it is beautiful. When people try to morph it into a government mandate, it becomes a great evil.

Jesus said to do things to help the less fortunate. Yourself. He did NOT say that charity was voting for politicians who use the police power of the state to take money from your wealthier neighbors to fund your personal vision of utopia. Yet that is what nearly all Democrats and a not inconsiderable number of Republicans call charity.

It allows them, in their own minds, to engage in a self-congratulatory frenzy of how enlightened and compassionate and wonderful they are. All the while never sacrificing much of their own treasure, or getting themselves dirty doing acts of charity personally, but rather doing fun, social, "look at me" activities like candlelight vigils, or "walks for fill-in-the-blank", or listening to NPR, or attending political meetings. Or by simply voting for whomever will raise taxes on your wealthier neighbors the most.

Remove these types from access to power and the Anglosphere will heal itself.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
True enough. Helping others should be an individual decision, based upon individual values. Help the deserving by all means if you can and want to. However, Christianity morality commands that you help other regardless of individual judgement and that doing for yourself is immoral--that is the meaning of the cross. It is also the moral basis of all 20th and now 21st century statists programs and pograms.

Capitalism is based upon the moral ideal of making the most of your life. It requires no sacrifices of yourself to others or others to yourself. It is based upon win-win trade exchanges. Until Rand it never received the moral basis it deserved and was left open the corruption of Christian and secular altruism. Christian Conservatives have undercut American principles by stating they are are based upon Christian morality. Christian morality is toxic to capitalism.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
about it not being blood based; always good to keep in mind how few of us reading and repeating these memes are actually English.... I'm not. I've spoken to a couple people from India that thought the US was a majority Anglo country. It is not. Not sure it ever was either (re: even at the time of the revolution).
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't be so sure. I am originally from India. Although, I am not typical as I come from the small Christian minority in the South of India. India, even modern India, for sure is primarily a tribal society based on blood. However, there is very deep appreciation, at least among the elite, that that needs to change. Also, although often deeply flawed in its enforcement Indian law is based on English law in both letter and spirit.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Really? What do you think it is?
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bennet's book seems like it could well be paired with Gertrude Himmelfarb's "The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments".

From the Amazon review: "Contrasting the Enlightenments in the three nations, Himmelfarb demonstrates the primacy and wisdom of the British, exemplified in such thinkers as Adam Smith, David Hume, and Edmund Burke, as well as the unique and enduring contributions of the American Founders. It is their Enlightenments, she argues, that created a social ethic–humane, compassionate, and realistic–that still resonates strongly today, in America perhaps even more than in Europe."
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hayek's spirits are like Scrooge's ghosts. If we can invoke some Ghost of Honesty Past then maybe we will see your resurgent specter of freedom.

46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they have tried everything else." I hope Churchill was being too narrow in applying this to Americans.

Isn't this part of the resistance to progressivism, which continues to do the wrong thing with greater vigor, even when their ideas fail?
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
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