We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Evolving political forms and common culture: the Anglosphere

A review written by Keith Windschuttle has appeared in National Review. The book reviewed is The Anglosphere Challenge by James C. Bennett. (N.B. updated link allows access to US, British or Canadian Amazon and lets you read some of the book content.) I liked the book and liked the review and want to talk about them.

Let me start with a disclosure: I have biffed many an email to and fro with Jim Bennett, and have had the pleasure of meeting him once at one of Perry’s blogger parties. The ease with which that came to pass is of interest in itself. I cannot exactly remember how I went from hearing my husband say, ‘some bloke on the radio was talking about something called the “Anglosphere”‘, to talking to said bloke at a party. But it was not difficult and the internet was involved at all stages. There is nothing new about an interlocking network of informal communities (sustained by the exchange of letters) that include authors and people interested in their ideas, and whose existence is enlivened by the odd party. However what is new is that the ease of formation of such micro-communities has vastly increased. Their transaction costs have decreased.

People exchanging their writings (including but not limited to blogging) and ending up at the same parties are found at one end of an axis against which are plotted possible meanings of the word “community.” The quantity changing as one moves along the axis could be informality, size, fluidity, non-exclusiveness (in the sense that you can belong to many of them) or voluntariness: for any of these variables the resulting spectrum would still show the same types of community appearing in the same order. Libertarians by definition like the fact that email-swapping, partygoing micro-communities are voluntary, and they also tend to have a preference of taste for the fact that they are small, fluid, and non-exclusive. Libertarians generally have a good deal less affection for the thing we come to as we move to the other end of the spectrum: the liberal democratic nation-state. But in general we acknowledge that there is a great distinction between a civic state built up from individuals and maintained, in daily practice if not in theory, by consent and non-civic states that, in Bennett’s words, “place individuals under the permanent discipline of inherited or assigned collectivities.” Libertarians of a more conservative bent also tend to feel that there is merit and safety in seeking to evolve the institutions we have rather than to build whole new ones.

Which brings me to the idea of the Anglosphere. In Keith Windschuttle’s review he says:

The Anglosphere he [Bennett] envisages would be a “network commonwealth” of English-speaking nations based on the existing shared values of Anglo-American cultural and political traditions. His concept offers the prospect not of radical change but of a reaffirmation of deep cultural roots. Politically, it is diametrically opposed to the two major movements that, since the demise of socialism, have absorbed the Western intellectual Left: radical multiculturalism at home and bureaucratic internationalism abroad.

Bennett urges various non-utopian changes (for example the introduction of a “sojourner” status making it easy for people to live and work in another Anglosphere country for a number of years) to bring about a societal unit containing more people than a nation-state but less demanding in nature. In Windschuttle’s paraphrase:

“…a long-term civilizational relationship, more between the citizens of its various nations than between their governments. “

Bennett is suggesting a move off my axis where communities become ever more inflexible, exclusive and involuntary as they get bigger. The Anglosphere network commonwealth could exist alongside states and corporations, “cultural nations” and religions, tribes and hobby-groups. And, of course, alongside other network commonwealths, such as the Hispanosphere or the Sinosphere. I could have done with more in the book about the possible ways in which relations between network commonwealths could be more fruitful and less tense than relations between nation-states or trading blocs.

There is a lot of history in this book, explaining the author’s belief that the English speaking world is well placed – though certainly not destined – to exploit the information revolution. Windschuttle chose a good quote:

It is our core values and characteristics that have made us dynamic,” he writes, “and it is to those values that we must return”: individualism, rule of law, the honoring of covenants, and an emphasis on freedom.

Elsewhere Bennett adds another value not mentioned by Windschuttle. It is not one that is particularly inspiring but it is useful: ease of dissociation. Ease of dissociation makes it less risky to start cooperative relationships.

I have not talked in this post about one huge aspect of the book, namely Bennett’s discussion of why political units coalesce around a common language. That, too, comes down to trust and transaction costs. As distance becomes no obstacle to communication, and disapproval of interaction with people of different race or religion dwindles, language is all that remains.

It occurs to me that a really good system of computer translation might change things – although, then again, the mental concepts of the tongue in which one first learnt to speak surely have a major effect on what one finds worth speaking about. Even if some super version of AltaVista Babelfish translation were providing a real time fully grammatical translation of everything we said, I still think people at parties would tend to clump together in same-language groups for more comfortable conversation and cross-language groups for the pleasure and stimulus of hearing alien ideas.

Windschuttle remains sceptical of Bennett’s ideas in some areas:

One further problem with Bennett’s thesis is his rather excessive faith in technological change. Bennett’s day job involves him in futuristic high-tech industries. He knows a great deal about their potential and is bound to generate enthusiasm among people of a like mind; the rest of us, however, are likely to remain cool until we see the results in practice. In the last ten years we have all gone through the Internet revolution, which has radically affected almost every industry and profession. Yet at the same time, we have been subject to so much speculation that has turned out to be empty or mistaken — the paperless office, self-replicating robots, all the overblown claims made during the dot-com boom — that most of us will believe it only when we see it. A network commonwealth with the kind of political impact Bennett envisages may well be a viable proposition, but it has yet to prove itself so.

It is true that some of the predictions of radical change in the way most of us do our daily work have failed to come to pass. (Though some have.) But if you reading this spent more than two hours today blogging or blog-reading and have twenty or thirty English-speaking conversational partners scattered across the globe who you may never meet but whose input provides a considerable part of your perceptions about the state of the world, then you can testify that there is potential for major change in the way we associate.

74 comments to Evolving political forms and common culture: the Anglosphere

  • Finday Dunachie

    I wonder if Bennett deals with the biggest obstacle (IMHO) to the Anglosphere actually working – that its constituent populations are simply failing to reproduce themselves?

    Also I should say that US academia and media opinion-formers are bound to be hostile, having long ago given up the “melting pot” ideal of an integrated US society in favour of a fractured, muticultural one

  • Luniversal

    During WW2, C.K. Ogden invented ‘Basic English’, which was intended to enable people to exchange most ideas and concepts using a vocabulary of only 850 words with simplified grammar.

    It was intended as an auxiliary to mother tongues, a simpler alternative to artificial languages such as Esperanto. But it never really caught on, despite an initial flurry of enthusiasm when the United Nations was founded.

    Nevertheless, English in its unreformed condition has become more and more the globe’s lingua franca, supplanting French (previously Latin) as the medium of diplomacy and now– according to some factoid I could never confirm– being the tongue in which four-fifths of electronically stored information is expressed.

    Given that English is so pervasive, and if we assume that using somebody’s language helps you think more like them, there could be some traction in the enlargement of the British Commonwealth to include the USA, which is essentially what Windschuttle proposes. But I suspect that his ‘core values’ are not as durable as he makes out. Like a lot of classical liberals, he swallows the old ‘shining path of progress’ determinism of Whiggery and projects an idealised version of the British constitution (or is it the American constitution?) marching indefinitely into the future and around the world.

    I doubt the present federal USA can last much beyond 2050. The strains of multiculti which Findlay mentions are probably doomed to splinter it in the absence of a serious external menace to keep it stitched together. (‘Terror’ doesn’t make it.) If America breaks into a more loosely group of states or regions, those mainly inhabited by whites might seek some form of political association with the former British Empire, reversing the 1776 faux pas. But would this amount to much more than the present, easy-going, tolerant but not very politically dynamic or economically united Commonwealth? If there is a natural Anglosphere based on shared cultural assumptions, how much government does it or should it need anyhow?

  • “If there is a natural Anglosphere based on shared cultural assumptions, how much government does it or should it need anyhow?”


  • I'm sorry.. what?

    “…the enlargement of the British Commonwealth to include the USA”

    “..mainly inhabited by whites might seek some form of political association with the former British Empire”

    “…reversing the 1776 faux pas”

    Are you kidding?

  • Jim

    “..mainly inhabited by whites might seek some form of political association with the former British Empire”

    Hnh? I thought the Anglosphere was a cultural entity. If Slavs and Africans have been able to assimilate, why not Mexicans?

    In reference to “Basic English”, something like this typically happens spontaneously. These languages are called pidgins, and that is a fair description of the “English” of a lot of people who imagine they speak English. But it is close enough, and it leads to more and more English English.

    “I doubt the present federal USA can last much beyond 2050. ” Your timing is about right. The first fundamental reformation of the nation was in 1865, 80 years or so after the initial formulation. You can say that the New Deal-Civil Rights era amounted to another such revolution. Let’s split the differnnece and say that that occurred about 1950, 85 years later. So we are due for something big around 2050.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Why should I want this “Anglosphere” again?

  • “If Slavs and Africans have been able to assimilate, why not Mexicans?” So far as I’m concerned there is no reason whatsoever why not, and I hope they do. (I assume you refer to Mexican immigrants to the US rather than Mexicans in Mexico.) Their assimilation into American culture (and hence their following the route to prosperity taken by other immigrant groups) has been needlessly held back by communalist local political leaders and the multiculturalist ethos which promoted separate Spanish-language education.

  • ‘Why should I want this “Anglosphere” again?’

    I don’t want to make out that I agree with Bennett’s book 100%. But since I posted about it enthusiastically I feel it is incumbent on me to answer. A summary of what I like about the idea is seen in this quote from Windschuttle’s review:

    It is our core values and characteristics that have made us dynamic,” he writes, “and it is to those values that we must return”: individualism, rule of law, the honoring of covenants, and an emphasis on freedom.

  • Euan Gray

    individualism, rule of law, the honoring of covenants, and an emphasis on freedom

    A valid point, but this is not the only route to prosperity. Places like Singapore, Taiwan and now China aren’t exactly paragons of individualism and freedom, but this has not prevented the increase in wealth. I think it is somewhat narrow-minded to assume that the Anglo-Saxon model is the ONLY way to wealth.


  • True Euan, it is not the only way to prosperity, it is just (almost) the only way to prosperity with liberty, something not hugely important to you, methinks

  • “it is not the only way to prosperity, it is just (almost) the only way to prosperity with liberty”

    Hear, hear!

  • Continuing my role as defender of the book, Bennett does not claim that the Anglo Saxon culture is the only route to wealth. There is quite a lot of discussion of Japan, the Hanseatic League and other non-Anglosphere examples. Bennett’s argument, which borrows heavily from Fukayama, is that the Anglosphere has excellent prospects in the internet age because it is both a high-trust society and an open society.

  • An afterthought to my last comment. “Excellent prospects” does not, of course, imply inevitability. Bennett specifically makes this point. However in my opinion he is somewhat too optimistic, too little afraid of the damage that – for example – a generation of true integration into the EU could do.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Natalie Solent,

    You are suggesting these are the qualities of the Anglosphere? Do you live in the U.S.?!?!

    Sorry, the concept of the Anglosphere sounds like nativist bunk clad in some nice packaging.

    Count me out. Publius warned me about folks like you.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Natalie Solent,

    Their assimilation into American culture (and hence their following the route to prosperity taken by other immigrant groups) has been needlessly held back by communalist local political leaders and the multiculturalist ethos which promoted separate Spanish-language education.

    Apparently you don’t know much about this history of immigration. Let’s note that in many instances state coercion was used to get folks to speak English. Look at the closing down of schools in Wisconsin which taught German to German immigrant school children for example.

  • Gary Gunnels

    The first time I ever heard the word was in reference to the US-UK-Australian alliance over GWII. However, given that most of the rest of the so-called Anglosphere didn’t support the war (never mind that the people of the UK and Australia were fairly skeptical of the war) I found the term to be, well, dubious. I still do.

  • Gary, you are completely wrong about the “nativist bunk” accusation. Read the short version, aka the Anglosphere Primer, before you start insulting the author.

    There really is someting about the medium of the “blog comment” which leads to this kind of half-baked and mean-spirited response.

    As to whether or not you “want” there to be an Anglosphere, what you want isn’t the issue. The Anglosphere already exists, as a matter of historical and contemporary fact. The institutional form that the Anglosphere will take in the future is the interesting question which remains open.

    Bennett’s writings have been discussed in numerous posts here and elsewhere, not to mention the Anglosphere Institute‘s site. If you find these ideas intriguing or irritating, it is worth digging around a little.

  • Luniversal

    Natalie Solent: “If Slavs and Africans have been able to assimilate, why not Mexicans?” So far as I’m concerned there is no reason whatsoever why not, and I hope they do. (I assume you refer to Mexican immigrants to the US rather than Mexicans in Mexico.) Their assimilation into American culture (and hence their following the route to prosperity taken by other immigrant groups) has been needlessly held back by communalist local political leaders and the multiculturalist ethos which promoted separate Spanish-language education.”

    First off, how thoroughly have African-Americans been assimilated? What with the Black Caucus in the House, Kwanzaa, voluntary resegregation in housing and schools and the rarity of interracial marriage, I suggest the process is far from complete and may be going into reverse.

    Secondly, talking about Hispanics as natural, willing assimilation material who just happen to be held back by separatist community leaders begs the question why La Raza for Mexicans is so popular. Even GW Bush panders to them by speaking in Spanish and boasting that every subsequent president will have to be bilingual. So much for Anglospherical monophony. The nearness of Mexico, the history of the southwestern US as a Mexican possession and the to-and-fro of illegals and other Mexican immigrants means that the sentiments of many Mexican Americans towards the Union are way different from those of Europeans of the 19C who shook the dust of their old countries off their feet and put the Atlantic between themselves and their roots.

    Multiculti is not an incidental obstacle to Hispanic assimilation, promoted by malicious or woolly-minded liberals. It is a rationalisation of separatist tendencies already present among black and brown Americans, which the liberals caught on to and tried to tame, using the salad-bowl analogy instead of the melting pot for the post-Civil Rights USA. A spoils system was instituted, with big handouts and quotas to defang Black Power and La Raza. So far it has more or less worked. But the state’s finances make a continuation of this largesse into the medium term– when non-whites will be half rather than one-quarter of the population– doubtful to say the least.

    The more mixed in its origins the American population becomes, the harder it is to hold the nation together in the absence of a life-threatening external threat. The heavily centralised federal government, trampling on states’ rights in the name of Enlightenment and Necessity, does not command as much respect as in WW2 or the Cold War, which is why barely half of Americans even bother to vote for a president any more. It may be necessary to loosen the ties that bind the 50 states to keep them together at all.

  • Verity

    Luniversal. Kwanza and all that are like Chanukkah (except Chanukka is not made up) – a protest vote against the de facto numerical superiority and “cultural imperialism” of the Anglo Saxons. Chanukka is not an important Jewish holiday and in no way can be equated significance to the birth of Christ for Christians. Just because they’ve started sending out Chanukka cards in “revenge” doesn’t make American Jews any less American in their thinking or their loyalties. Same with this invented Kwanza.

    If you were listening to an American commentator addressing a political subject on the radio, there is no way, unless he/she was talking specifically about race and declared an interest, that you would be able to tell by the accent, the level of articulacy or the clarity of thinking whether that person’s ethnikcity was black or white or Jewish.

    I think the idea that black people might somehow become interested in no longer being American is ludicrous. Drive through upper middle class suburbs and you wouldn’t know whether the swanky spread with the four car garage belonged to a white or a black doctor. The most powerful woman in the world is an American black.

    The real danger comes from the south. The southwest was once Mexican territory and there is a real sense of entitlement there. President Fox has already declared himself president of “all Mexicans” – meaning those, legally or illegally, north of the border. America cannot patrol 2,000 of border effectively – in additiion to which, the will to do so seems to have dispersed. I would not be surprised to see a movement for the the US to cede parts of Mexico, CA, NM and AZ some time during the next 50 years to somehow stop this relentless colonisination. The numbers are absolutely overwhelming.

    It should be said that the Mexicans who take the same route that previous immigrants took – embracing the English language and going hell for leather for education – are prospering and integrating. But millions more are not going that route.

    The only hope for the pressure from the south to ease is Mexican prosperity. It is already not the same Mexico I first visited 20 years ago. The parking lots at Walmart, Costco and Sam’s Club are full of late model cars. Shops and restaurants have “Help Wanted” signs in their windows. Every street you drive down has a renovation crew tarting up someone’s property. The way to stop the pressure from the south is with the type of self-help that the existence of NAFTA is providing. Already, there is a simple social security system in place. I have seen people paying for staples in the supermarket with food stamps. Things are changing down here. But it needs to be faster and bigger and they need to adopt the free market and get rid of their exploitative monopoly telephone company and electricity companies.

    It doesn’t bother me that George Bush and his brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, speak fluent Spanish any more than it would bother me to learn that a British prime minister spoke fluent French or, indeed, Spanish, the biggest trading language after English. Chirac speaks beautiful English.

  • Luniversal

    But Verity, it *should* worry you that Spanish is now the de facto second official tongue of a country that always saw universal use of English as the greatest natural unifier of polyglot immigrants.

    And I don’t know how far you can generalise from the assimilation of upper middle class blacks (a small minority of the black minority) whose status in any case is largely the result of favouritism, since most work for the government directly or indirectly (academia, law practices hustling for positive discrimination).

    The recent study by Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom, ‘No Excuses’, documents how blacks are falling behind in school and how far segregated education (and so, in time, neighbourhoods) has developed since the idealistic busing days of the 1970s. Pathologies such as gang warfare, illegitimacy, drug use and crime have got worse, not better.

    Moreover, as the Hispanic quotient grows, blacks will lose their traditional exclusivity as victims. There could be a lot more tension and mutual hostility between the ghetto and the barrio.

    The headache is that the old sink-or-swim mentality which guaranteed newcomers to America a fair shake if they studied, worked and saved hard has been replaced by a culture of victimhood and entitlement. And this just cannot be afforded much longer. When financial necessity compels more colour-blindness– when the benefits begin to be cut and the set-asides are withdrawn– will the minorities quietly swallow it and buckle down to individual responsibility and effort, or are they too steeped in grievance-mongering to change?

    Solid support of blacks for welfare-state Dems implies they won’t become self-sufficient economic libertarians any time soon. Maybe the Hispanics are more promising material, but the Bushes’ efforts to woo them have won meagre rewards up to date and pissed off a lot of whites.

    I do feel these trends are against the Anglosphere, which might have worked 100 years ago when the States was more impressed by WASP-ishness.

  • Verity

    Luniversal – You raise some persuasive points, but are you sure Spanish is the “official” second tongue? That would disturb me if it were true. From what I have read, it was the Mexicans themselves who started demanding that their children be educated in English and ejected all these white do-gooders who professed to believe that children born to Mexicans should, for some reason, be educated in Spanish. Mexican parents seem to have been quite clear that they want their children educated in standard English.

    I agree that unless more stringency is applied – i.e. to welfare programmes – there is going to be an almighty battle over the territory of victimhood. If the US doesn’t want to cede any physical territory to the Mexicans, it is going to have to stop ceding psychological and other points to them.

    I won’t argue with your other points because I think they’re well made and find their mark.

    I am a big booster of the Anglosphere, but I think we ought to be getting on with it faster, and the major impediment is, of course, our inappropriate membership of the monster EU. I’ve said before that we need to ditch the EU and get a loose – though nevertheless formalised – association going with the US, Canada (if the notion doesn’t give the Canuck liberals the vapours; if it does, skip Canada), India, Oz, NZ, Singapore, Malaysia and the W Indies. This would give us around 1.5bn people who think largely along the same lines and all have the same system of law.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Verity – Just out of interest…why Malaysia and Singapore? Liberal Democracy in these countries is either undeveloped or functionally non-existent, depending on your POV. Culturally speaking, wouldn’t Thailand be a better bet than Malaysia? What about Japan and S. Korea? How about some of the friendlier Eastern European nations, too? If the UK were to break away from the EU, it might be good to have a couple of friendly Eastern European countries on the inside to foment trouble down Brussels way when we need some…

    Actually, if the generals step in in Turkey and slap down the Islamicists like they have done in the past, Turkey mightn’t be such a bad idea, either. Staunch Western ally, conduit in the Middle East, yadda yadda yadda..

  • Verity

    Suffering – I thought we were talking about the Anglosphere. Thailand and s Korea don’t qualify.

    We are also talking about former British colonies or possessions which are governed on the basis of English Common Law. The British legal system is alive and very well in both Singapore in Malaysia. The law of contracts is safe. Business is of the freewheeling Anglo-Saxon ethos.

    Although the official language of both countries is Bahasa Malaysia, they are both Anglophone. Official business and the courts in Singapore are conducted in English, and English is the teaching medium in universities and most schooling. There’s a Chinese channel and a Bahasa Malaysia channel, but TV is English, too. The news is read in English.

    “Culturally speaking, wouldn’t Thailand be a better bet than Malaysia?” Thailand is a notoriously corrupt, violent society and I wouldn’t admit them into a kennel club.

    In any event, they don’t qualify for the Anglosphere. Neither does Turkey.

    We are discussing the common legal tradition, culture, language and civil assumptions of the Anglosphere here. We need to get the Anglosphere organised tout de suite.

  • Millie Woods

    The reason an anglospphere exists is that English is the language of access of our time. A language of access is one that permits one to benefit from knowledge created in a language other than one’s own. That’s why nationals of small European nations learned languages such as German and French in the past. If you were a Hungarian scientist for example pre WW2 you learned German. Similarly for Czechs, etc. etc.
    I lived and worked in French-speaking Quebec and I can attest to the fact that I added no value to my knowledge from knowing French. However, my French first language colleagues learned a lot from me because I was the conduit for cutting edge research from the anglosphere.
    Similarly when one speaks of the Hispanosphere and the Sinosphere one is talking about numbers of speakers of those language and not of their potential sources of knowledge.
    English is dominant in the world today not for cultural reasons but rather for the intellectual riches it affords.

  • Gary Gunnels,
    “Do you live in the U.S.?!?!”

    “Sounds like nativist bunk” – That “sounds like” sounds like you haven’t troubled to follow the link. “Nativist” is fast replacing “racist” as a general purpose slur. Find evidence before chucking the word about.

    “Apparently you don’t know much about this history of immigration.” Apparently you don’t know much about what constitutes an argument. You talk as if the fact that a state commits a wrongful act tending to promote one policy permanently innoculates it from folly in support of the opposite policy.

    The way you heard the word Anglosphere used in some newspaper article about the Iraq war is irrelevant.

  • “We need to get the Anglosphere organised …”

    Hear, hear.

    But first we have to make it aware of what it already is and where it has come from. First, education, then organization. Or, parallel tracks, but both.

  • Verity

    How, Lexington?

    Millie Woods, I can accept your definition as a secondary or tertiary definition, but first definition of the term Anglosphere is Anglo-Saxon heritage, and that is the whole kit and caboodle of English Common Law and customs as well as language.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    People, we in Singapore are so ingrained with the high-trust mentality of the Anglosphere that other Chinese gave us the appellation “Wu Zhi”: naive. That is perhaps the single biggest reason why Singaporeans have trouble doing business in China. The need to grease hands and where contracts are routinely broken without due regard for the law just doesn’t sit well with us.

    Needless to say, that’ll be one very big stumbling block in China when all the scams are uncovered.

    As for liberal democracy in these parts, it’s not really anybody’s fault if the government is so damn efficient and effective at selecting talented folks to stand for elections. And if the populace is politically apathetic, that’s not too bad either, since we’re too busy making money than figuring how to vote greater privileges for ourselves(though the number of people asking the government for more medical subsidies without considering where the money comes from still rankles me).

    BTW, the news is read in chinese too, and we have two chinese channels and two english ones.

    Millie Woods-Have you considered why english has the abundunce of intellectual riches it now holds? In many ways, it was the cultural influence of Anglosphere traits that enabled anglo countries to become successful, which in turn feeds into their knowledge base. So it was still the cultural factor that was at the heart of the matter.


  • “How … .”

    Nothing magic about it. Nor will it be a fast process.

    Start from where we are. Encourage people to read the book, or they have Internet-shrivelled attention spans, to read the Primer or other articles. Try to get readers of blogs to correctly understand the ideas, embodied in the book and in other things Bennett has written, e.g. here. I anticipate that as he gets his Institute going that there will be more materials available to get this message out. Nor is it necessary to erect any sort of cult of personality around Mr. Bennett. He has a very nice annotated bibliography which points to further reading by other authors which illumninate the core idea of Anglosphere exceptionalism and the historical roots and contemporary consequences of that exceptionalism.

    I wish I could say, “Rupert Murdoch is my uncle and he has decided to invest $500 million in promoting the idea.” But, no. Alas, we will have to do it with the means at hand, which are not negligible, but are not on a world-class scale. Yet. So, the thing to do is to keep on as we have been, and spread the idea.

  • Verity

    Wobbly – Aaaiiiii-yo … aaaiii-yo! Dunno how many TV channels, lah! – but did neglect to say that the news is also read in Chinese. Of course it is. Sorry, uh?

    Everything Wobbly says about Singapore is correct. They keep turning up outstanding people to stand (they also pay them the equivalence of high level public sector salaries) for public office because they want to attract the best.

    Why do people get so upset that Singapore is so well run, I wonder? Why can’t they just accept that they’re smart? They run a tight, productive ship and they’re rolling in gravy. What is wrong with that? They have faith in their courts and their judges. If I were an innocent party going on trial, I would far rather be tried in Singapore than Britain. The system is not corrupt. They have faith in their police, who are outstanding.

    Actually, if we ever get a formal Anglosphere alliance going, I for one would be more than happy for Singapore to be the HQ.

  • Brian H

    The Anglosphere is not exactly the same as the Anglophone-sphere. The criteria are wider, and the feedback loop between individual exploration and freedom and common institutions is core. That’s why sham democracies (elections of pre-selected candidates to a kleptocratic inside track) don’t qualify, regardless of language.

    The Anglosphere concept is almost a spontaneous self-forming phenomenon; the selection of “sojourner” legislation as the sole real institutional change necessary is a recognition that smooth trusted exchange of ideas and other capital is key. Just think of all the nations where the very thought of that is ludicrous. For that reason, I doubt there will be a Sinosphere or Hispanosphere. Hispanic Latin American countries are far from having more than the shell or beginnings of such spheres of trust.

  • Verity

    Brian H – I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Lexington Green,

    …what you want isn’t the issue.

    Written like the crack-pot anti-individualist that I figured was behind this non-sense.

    The Anglosphere already exists, as a matter of historical and contemporary fact.

    No, the Anglosphere is a conjuring up of folks who think that Canadians, Britons, Americans, Australians, etc. share a “common culture.” The important term here is conjuring.



    Just to give you a clue, the common law is dead in the United States. Indeed, judges making law is exactly what the dominant force on the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t like, thus the re-trenchment from the use of the Court’s equity power. And we’ve seen the reaction of judge-made law in the U.S. in the wake of decisions concerning civil unions/gay marraige in Vermont and Massachusetts.

    Natalie Solent,

    You talk as if the fact that a state commits a wrongful act tending to promote one policy permanently innoculates it from folly in support of the opposite policy.

    Oh, more historical ignorance. You act like English has remained the dominant language in the U.S. via mere cultural exchange. It was done so via state force, sometimes quite violent force I might add.

    The way you heard the word Anglosphere used in some newspaper article about the Iraq war is irrelevant.

    But I didn’t write anything about a newspaper, did I? Thankyou for jumping to well, stupid assumptions.

    Publius warned me about people like you.

  • Verity

    Gary Gunnels – Fine. We’ll go ahead without you.

    If you can manage to get a halter on your courts, you’ll be most welcome to join us.

  • My only problem with this whole thing is the talk of “organization.” It seems to me that an Anglosphere of sorts is alive and well. We see it in the core of the Coalition of the Willing and in those first to provide assistance after the tsunami. What makes it work is not just friendly institutions, but friendly and communicative cultures – on the net, in the ability to watch each others’ tv and read each others’ newspapers, etc. All that plus a heritage with some appreciation for the notion of the rights of Englishmen.

    This informal association has worked as one where the stakes were high and agreement was clear. It has pulled together less resolutely or in different ways in other situations. It seems, at the moment, to include Japanese-speaking Japan but not English-speaking Canada. That may (but probably won’t) change. What’s beautiful, though, is that it can.

    C’mon guys, we’re libertarians, freely associating as the mood and shared interests prompt. Why would we suddenly want to make official what is just fine as an understanding that all are free to reinforce or take leave of?

    The run-up to the Iraq war illustrates my point perfectly. The far more organized EU, which has worked so hard to harmonize everything down to belly-button size couldn’t get it together to decide what to do. Too many had to agree on too much. The Anglosphere core of the Coalition of the Willing, by contrast, had far less trouble. Those who were on board, got on board. Those who weren’t, didn’t. Those whose position was “yes, but,” stipulated their reservations, where they could help and how much they could be counted upon. The only major upset has been the pullout of Spain. Italy and Poland stayed on board till the hardest work was done. The Brits, Australians and others are still on the ground. And the work is getting done.

    The biggest thing Anglosphere advocates have to worry about is some idiot getting the idea that it might counterweight or compete with the EU. That would lead to us getting tied down as we started working as one association competing against another. But if we just keep working together when our interests, and/or worldviews, converge, we’ll whup ’em every time because free people and free nations standing together when the moment calls for it – and staying away when it’s plain everyone’s going to get burned – are better at this stuff than formalized organizations where building internal agreement is as important as figuring out what to do. If the EU had seen fit to act in Iraq, it would still be deciding whether Germany or Spain got the contract for replacement tent spikes.

    The real Anglosphere challenge, then, is to stay clear of eggheads who would make an informal brotherhood into a formal organization. If we meet that challenge, we will have no trouble assembling an informal Anglosphere of free people and free nations whenever it is most needed. Even better, it won’t take idiotic challenges because not enough will sign up and it won’t be dragged down by members who have lost their way because such countries will opt out. In short: The less fuss we make about the Anglosphere, the stronger it will be. And the freer the world will be.

  • “the crack-pot anti-individualist that I figured was behind this non-sense”

    Gunnels, you are a rude person who slings insults at people in near total ignorance of who you are talking to. I started to type a response to the nugget of argument amidst your dismissive insults, but decided not to. Your repeated boorishness demonstrates that you merit no further response.

    Geoffrey, in general, I think you are correct. But, alas, there are real problems with relying on informality all the time. For example, if Britain becomse further enmeshed in the EU, that would be a bad thing, and antithetical to the further development of the Anglosphere. Similarly, the United States will embark on military alliances in the future. To whom should it look first, to “Europe” or to Britain, to China or to India. Also, including Britain (and Ireland) in a North Atlantic NAFTA would require government action. Similarly, whether to oppose or support a breakup of Canada into its French and English-speaking segments is also a political decision. Understanding the Anglosphere dynamic helps answer these questions. But your basic point, that voluntary action is the essence of the Anglosphere, is certainly right.

  • Geoffrey Barto,

    I very much agree with you. I like the idea of adjustments in law and treaty to make travel and trade easier; but pace the bit in Parkinson’s Law where it says that an organisation’s best days are behind it as soon as it has a purpose-built office, I don’t like the idea of a secretariat or anything like that.

    Also correct is your reluctance to take on the EU. I dislike the EU intensely (the old EEC would have been entirely acceptable, had it actually been what it was touted as to the British people) and want out, but the notion of organising a bloc to combat them would be a case of “out of the frying pan, into the fire.” The good elements of Anglosphere culture that are meant to be the point of the exercise would be greatly harmed by such an exercise.

    I can feel myself powering up for a standard libertarian sermon on how one should want all peoples to achieve the blessings of liberty; how none should object to being overtaken in prosperity if it happens because all ships have risen; how a virtuous circle of healthy emulation and competiton can…

    OK, take it as read.

  • sesquipedalian

    On the one hand:
    Starting an anglosphere club might, unintentionally, be the thin end of a big tranzi wedge.

    On the other:
    An anglosphere club might be a good idea but, IMO, it would be better if it were centred round anglospheric traditions/ideas rather than limiting association to actual anglosphere nations (some of whom are taking said traditions less & less seriously).

  • Lexington Green,

    Ah, the eternal dilemma. Your blog-colleague Jonathan Gewirtz had good post about libertarian practicality a month or two back. The dilemma hits me hardest with two issues – firstly school vouchers (dangerous concession that might let the gummint blight into private schools, or practicable improvement for the life-chances of children in inner cities?) and secondly when advocating military action. And, thirdly, now I come to think of it, when voting.

    The nearest I can get to a resolution is (a) to be honest and unashamedly idealistic about what one eventually wants; (b) at the same time to be charitable towards those who must make decisions in the real world, and (c) to prefer structures that are capable of evolving and self-correcting, such as common law.

  • Verity

    sesquipedalian and others – No. Not a lose association. A real association with a formal identity. It must be real and have the power to talk as one when the need arises.

    Second to all the fruitcakes who are arguing against the Anglosphere being a balance against the EU – where on earth did you get this weird notion? Did anyone here actually suggest such a childish idea? Form a huge association of 1.5bn people to counteract a June bug? The EU becomes less relevant on a global scale with every day that passes and will do itself in as it makes ever more laws in ever decreasing circles.

    We should not waste our time thinking about the EU – other than encouraging its demise through neglect – but thinking about global blocs. The world (minus the EU, which is paralysed) is evolving and we should be, if not controlling the evolution, then being the most powerful voice.

    China may (or may not, we don’t know) be a military problem one day. We need them to know that that is not a possibility for them. We need the Muslim world to understand that we, not they, rule and that an offence against one of our citizens is an offence against all of us. They can keep on worshipping their allah for as long as they like, but they must contain themselves or we will have to contain them.

    It will be a formal alliance of equals with the chief executive being chosen from any of the members. (My personal preference for the first president, or premier, would be Singapore’s BG Lee.) The only members of the Anglosphere are nations built on Anglo-Saxon principles. That lets out Japan. They can be an ally, as they are now, but membership – under no circumstances. Japan showed its true colours in the jungles of Burma two generations ago. They are not Anglo Saxon thinkers.

    The Anglosphere will have no reason to maintain membership of the UN as they will be making their own rules and acting acording to their own best interests.

    We need to get this up and running urgently. China may evolve into never being a problem, and may well end up our friend. I hope so. But the Islamic world needs to understand that there is strength of will matched by physical means to put an end to their global ambitions. Because there is no concensus, we are already tolerating too much barbaric behaviour from this group. This needs to end.

    Making thin, vapid arguments against the mighty Anglosphere being a counterweight against the EU misses the entire point. To repeat: the EU is an irrelevance. It’s bigger fish we have to worry about.

  • PJ

    The Anglosphere movement clearly needs a patron saint. I suggest Sir Winston Churchill.

    It already exists in military and intelligence matters – the British, Canadian, Australian and American military and intelligence communities swap secrets and military personnel as a matter of course. They cooperate around the world, not just in major operations like GW II, but also in routine matters such as sanctions enforcement or stamping out piracy. The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in London is basically a committee of the English-speaking world. And each of the major nations of the Anglosphere is committed by treaty to defend the others if attacked.

    Sure there will be diversity and disagreements, and this is no bad thing. Constructive, loyal opposition and debate, those most Anglo-Saxon of political concepts, are more likely to get to the best option than Continental or Japanese consensus or totalitarian dictatorships. However, there is plenty we should do soon to further cooperation. Firstly, trade – complete free trade might be unachievable, but we could take powerful strides towards it, eliminating the barriers to free agricultural trade. The EU’s common external tariff, which fetters Britain’s sovereignty in these matters, should be abandoned. Secondly, work permits. Why should somebody from Sydney without a felony conviction not be able to work in Washington DC, provided somebody from Washington DC can work in Sydney? The difference in incomes isn’t so huge that there would be an immediate rush, which is why it’s understandable that, say, Indians aren’t generally allowed to work in the UK or the US. And the labour markets of all countries would gain from freedom of movement. People would gain, too, from the increased independence and openmindedness that living and working abroad bring. Thirdly, travel. Artificial barriers keeping airfares high should be scrapped. America should stop its insane policy of protecting its airlines from foreign takeover, which keeps US and international airfares so high, and its airline industry in a state of permanent crisis. Thirdly, diplomacy. When one of the countries is challenged, the others should back it up, unless there is some critical reason not to. They already do this to a large extent, but this has never been a clearly stated objective, and sometimes (e.g. the Rainbow Warrior) it has been ignored. Finally, military procurement. Britain should stop chasing “European solutions” to weapon problems, when buying weapons off the shelf from the US is usually cheaper.

    All the English-speaking world would gain from those proposals – only the French and Chinese would stand to lose. Which is actually reason enough to back them if you ask me.

  • Jacob

    Will Israel be invited to join ?
    A former British colony, English spoken by almost everybody, the British legal system is used, independent honest judiciary, parlamentary democracy, free press run by lefties, ditto in the academia …

    In serious. the Anglosphere is a good thing, but please, no Secretariat, no Secretary General, no Security Council, no International (anglo) Court of Justice, no certified membership card.

    We are anarchists to some extent (minarchists ?), the mere mentioning of such names gives me the creeps. No new institutions for me, thank you.

  • Pete_London

    Verity’s plan makes sense to me. If it takes off I volunteer for the job of informing the French. It’ll be tough, but I’ll do my best.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Verity – I see where you’re coming from. Apologies, I was a little confused. You’re including former Anglo colonies regardless of their cultural makeup. Fair enough – I’d love to have India as part of the Anglosphere – if they’d join. However, I have to say I am somewhat leery of admitting a predominantly Muslim nation like Malaysia into the club. Sure, they have a common law based legal code, however there are too many sharia-inspired elements in there for my liking. I’d plump for Thailand any day, even if they aren’t a former colony.

  • Verity

    PJ – It needs to be formalised. We understand the fraternity of the Anglosphere, but we need to explain it to the rest of the world, too. Oddly enough – although it’s an unimportant incidental – the Anglosphere, which is by its nature, exclusionary, is actually the multiracial entity sought by the tranzi one-worlder commies. Except ours is organic and has a raison d’etre.

    Speaking for myself, I would have no problem with Britain being a state in an entity called the Anglosphere. We’ll have to rework the nation state, but why not? Everything evolves according the circumstances, and why should a country not be scattered round the globe these days? Hawaii is, I believe, about 4,000 miles from mainland USA. Anchorage is around a 10 hour flight from Seattle.

    Any other nominations for first prime minister of the Anglosphere? I’ve already submitted BG Lee of Singapore.

  • Verity

    Suffering, you’ve actually touched on my one area of doubt: Malaysia. I honestly don’t know what to say. Under Mahathir, who was a brilliant pragmatist, Malaysia kept the concepts of religion and legal and civil society separate. Now, following the Malaysian news, it seems the new man and the new (multi-ethnic though they are) cabinet seems a little bit too interested in shariah. Also, one of the northern states is completely Islamic and under shariah, which means it is not under Anglo-Saxon Common Law, which means Malaysia does not qualify. We also have to consider Singapore, which is a genuine and brilliantly contributing member of the Anglosphere, is surrounded by Malaysia, Indonesia (the world’s largest Muslim state, with a population of 195m) and Brunei. Singapore needs to be a full, equal state in the Anglosphere.

    Jacob – I’m not familiar with the history of Israel. I do not think of it as part of the Anglosphere, though, as English is not the primary language. It is also a theocracy, which is not the Anglos Saxon way. I’d have to know a lot more about the history of Israel before I’d cast a vote. I

    You do raise an intersting question though: auxilliary memberships. My view on that would be: No. Unless it is exclusionary and confined to immutable social and legal parameters, it will not work. Alliances, certainly. Treaties of protection, certainly. Junior members, certainly not. No muddying the waters. This has to work.

  • PJ

    Verity –

    “first prime minister of the Anglosphere?”

    Margaret Thatcher. Or Jonny Howard if he’s at a loose end by then.

  • John Mendenhall

    The very concept of the Anglosphere is cultural, not lingual. The majority of states in the world require corruption in one form or another in order to transact business large and small (if one can see the similarity between the baksheesh that is paid the petty official in India and the huge edifices that are built for the EU bureaucracy).

    That is why, in contrast to what is written above, it is a GOOD thing that immigrants to the USA were once required to learn, speak, and participate in English. Now, folks with German names whose ancestors lived in Wisconsin are American.

    A trip to Southern California, Texas, Arizona, or New Mexico would show a failure of Americanization in at least the last 2 generations of immigrants.

    Thus, rather than recruiting new Americans, we are importing Latin American ways of doing things. The Latin American way of doing things is not consistent with freedom OR prosperity. Can the British be EU’ed into extinction? I don’t know, but I suspect they can be Islam’ed into extinction, in much the same we American can be Latinized into extinction, if care is not taken. Multiculturalism must deny that tangible or intangible benefits of free, open societies with the rule of law exist–or that if they do, they are no more important than the fact that, say, bullfights do not.

  • Verity

    PJ – Margaret Thatcher is, I believe, in her seventies and invevitably her formidable energy will have declined by now – and especially by then!

    I was asking for serious nominations. Any American candidates? British?

    Actually, John Howard was going to be my second choice.

    But I just cannot imagine a better candidate than BG Lee. He is brilliant, he is disciplined, he’s schooled in nation-creating (his father invented Singapore, after all), he’s handsome, he’s articulate, he’s highly respected in Asia.

  • Jacob

    You failed to address the second part of my post.

    Having a prime minister, the Anglosphere would need, presumably, some additional ministers, complete with subsecretaries, and a full bureaucracy….

    What else ? A legislative body I suppose, like, say, the EU Parliament (debates only in English, it goes without saying).

    And, will the Tony serve under BG Lee ?

    Why does David Carr keep silent on this important subject ?

  • Verity

    Jacob – The reason I didn’t address the second part of your post was, we are not talking (so far as I understand it) of an ersatz United Nations limited to English language/Common Law countries. At least, I’m not.

    I would like to see a country.

    If it turns out to be a Common Law/Anglophone club, instead of a country, then with 1.5bn people as members, you are going to get secretariats and apparachiks by the shedload, I’m afraid.

    I would hope we would have learned from the dog’s breakfast that is the UN (as we failed to learn from the Leage of Nations) that this multiculti, all systems are equal tranzi crap doesn’t work. And why on earth would we want to be in partnership with thugocracies and terrorists, anyway?

    I would like to see a federation with very strong states’ rights, to accommodate our differences. But I would like the Anglosphere to become a formal federation. This way lies strength, and I think we are going to need it.

    And that is why I think it has to be exclusionary. That is the reality. It doesn’t mean to say we won’t want strong friends, and that we wouldn’t protect them (Israel, for example), but there must be discrete parameters so we all understand what the ethos is and what holds us together.

    BTW, the national game will be cricket and the Americans are just going to have to get used to it. They failed to export baseball (except to Japan and that was during the occupation).

  • John Mendenhall,

    I see forced integration as killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

    Going a little off topic (hey, it’s my party and I’ll go off topic if I want to), one of the disadvantages of state education is that one is obliged to have a policy. Whether the policy is right or wrong scarcely matters; there will be many switches of policy under the reign of different administrators and different fashions. In 1917 ( I assume some spasm of fervour against the Kaiser was what this Wisconsin stuff was all about) it was for forced integration: in 2005 it is for semi-forced separation. In Britain the ethos of the schools has veered from Our Island Story to anti-racist maths, and now begins to swing back. In Wales policy has swung from humiliating children who spoke Welsh in school (a policy supported by many Welsh speaking parents at the time) to encouraging Welsh-medium schools. In 2020 it will probably be something else.

    The best thing is to leave it to people to decide themselves. Most will go for assimilation because it pays (there is a low proportion of Welsh-medium schools even in North Wales) but if they don’t, that’s their choice.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Yes, Singapore can definitely hold its own. With the amount it’s spent on high-tech weaponry over the years, Singaporeans would be justified in feeling ripped-off if it couldn’t. I do wonder, however, if it would want to join the Anglosphere. Lee Kwan Yew was pragmatic in a very Asian way. He saw the big picture, and wasn’t afraid to kill a few people and dissolve a whole lot of individual rights to achieve his aims. Many in Singapore talk about a prosperity pact; as long as we’re comfortable and well off we won’t complain about your methods. I wonder how many Americans, Australians, English or Canadians would put up with this for any great stretch of time.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    And, when it comes to the crunch, how compatible states like Singapore are with the Anglospheric ethos, despite the fact that these states have achieved admirable outcomes.

    I keep crapping on about India, I know, but I think it has the right stuff to make an Anglospheric nation. I’m not convinced about Singapore, despite its economic miracle.

  • Verity

    I knew someone was going to raise the draconian way LKY had to impose discipline on a new country, Singapore, which was surrounded by Muslims and was infested with communist insurgents. He did what he had to do then, and if you think it didn’t pain him, read ‘From Third World to First’ – it’s unput-down-able – where he recounts the building of Singapore from zero – kicked out of the Malay Federation with nothing.

    Singapore today is peaceful, very prosperous and very aware of itself. They did all this with no natural resources. None. They don’t even have water. Water has to be imported in huge-circumference pipes across the Straits of Malacca. Of course, they feel very independent and proud of themselves.

    I think they would go for a federation with very strong states’ rights. Don’t forget, Sumatra (Indonesia) is a 45 minute flight away. Jakarta’s only an hour and a half. Malaysia is a two minute drive across the Straits of Malacca. Do you think their government is not aware of this 24 hours a day?

    I think that as long as it was a federation with the rights of states guaranteed, Singapore would join for the strength and security offered. And we would have a powerful financial state in SE Asia.

    This is not to say that if Singapore were attacked as things stand now (god willing that will never happen) Australia would be there in the blink of an eye. But assuredly, once Singapore became a state in a formal federation known as the Anglosphere, it would be out of danger of being attacked at all.

    They need to develop an affection for cricket, though.

    Maybe Wobbly will give us his thoughts.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Verity – I too am very interested in TWG’s interpretation of my position, because he is clearly a much more authoritative judge on Singapore than myself.

    As it stands, I think Singapore is particularly well defended. I can’t imagine any state surrounding it would dare attack due to its impressive weapons cache. Little Singapore would kick the crap out of any neighbourhood bully.

    The thing is, because of the above, Singapore is not a particularly threatened state. They are economically very comfortable. However, I see no trend towards personal liberty. If Lee Kwan Yew clamped down to better his country, great. It’s worked. We can all admire Singapore, and we all should. I certainly do. However, surely they’re rich enough and secure enough to loosen the thumbscrews a bit on the personal liberty front? One is reminded of the eventual Marxist-Leninist outcome of the “withering away” of the state. Unlike the Commies, the Singaporeans actually achieved their aims. Isn’t it time for Singaporeans to reap the liberty dividends of their prosperity?

  • Verity

    During Goh Chok Tong’s premiership, things loosened up a little.

    LKY inherited an island with around 3m rural, ignorant Chinese. After S’pore was expelled from the Malay Federation, think about it. What do you do on the first day the patch of land you occupy is an actual country? With a powerful, jumpy neighbour who’s keeping an eye on you? And your new country has no military structure and no trained military. Same with the police. Same with just about everything else.

    Fortunately, one thing the Chinese have in abundance is discipline and energy and they knuckled under. They knew there were communist insurgents all over the island. Jurong is a built up industrial zone today, but then it was sheer jungle. Like many other areas.

    Lee was building a country that didn’t yet have a military and he was fighting an enemy within. That is why even today, you can buy a map of Singapore and it may be misleading. They fashioned their maps to draw communists away from inhabited areas.

    What he accomplished is mind-boggling. And today, he lives in a modest house on a modest cul de sac with one policeman posted at the entrance of the street. But you’re perfectly free to drive up it and stand and stare at LKY’s house if you’re so inclined. When I was there, the neighbour next door was keeping hens. It may have driven them crazy, but he never used his power to get her stopped from keeping them.

    Mrs Lee (I can’t remember her name) is a fan of classical music and I saw her in Beethoven once or twice, with her grandson. When she’d made her choice, she stood in line with everyone else. (There were a couple of inconspicuous plain clothes men – and I only noticed them because I recognised Mrs Lee and looked around for her protection.) Then they would take their turn getting on the escalator down.

    The point is, he never sought power or glory. He knew it was life or death for Singapore and he did what he had to do.

    Things loosened up a little under Goh Chok Tong. They will loosen up more under BG Lee.

    To mind mind, Singporeans have the right stuff and would be a valuable addition to the Anglosphere.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    I hear you. However, you must consider; would they want to join us?

  • Verity

    TWG – SOS

    My guess – they are pragmatic. Access to the entire Anglosphere would be good for trade and enhance its prestige as a financial centre even further. Indeed, they could be regarded as the gateway to China as it is Mandarin, not Cantonese or Teow Chew (sp?) that is taught in school. This was intentional, by the way.

    Also, the military security issue cannot be overstated.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Perhaps. However, I am not sure the Singaporeans would want to culturally align themselves with us. They aren’t always ideal allies, for starters. In the intelligence realm, the Singaporeans conduct the most bothersome espionage programme against Australia out of all the countries in the region. There was considerable disquiet when SingTel bought Optus, the Australian telco that operates the Australian military’s satellite. This satellite also services ASIO, Australia’s CIA.

    I would really like to hear TWG’s perspective on this discussion.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Lexington Green,

    My rudeness or lack thereof has nothing to do with the matter.

    Ahh yes, the organized Anglosphere; our next socialist nightmare.

    I’m suffering…,

    Well, that and Singapore is one of the worst nanny-states on the planet.

    As to India, I’ve had a number of Indian friends describe it as a form of, well, imperialism.

  • Mr. Gunnels, your rudeness has everything to do with the matter. You are all too typical of too many libertarians who respond to the smallest deviation from their perception of ideological purity with insults and verbal attacks. You do your own views a disservice, and since I probably agree with most of them, mine as well. A libertarian society would necessarily be one governed by informal rules allowing free cooperation. Basic civility would be fundamental. Living according to basic civility is a way to move us in that direction and demonstrate that a libertarian society is possible. Trying to raise childrent to do this is backbreaking. Trying to get grownups to see this and act on it, when they don’t already, is usually futile. Demanding a modicum of courtesy and even charity when discussing contentious matters is substantive, not icing on the cake. It is the only way to make the process work.

    Part of participating in a conversation among adults is having some factual awareness of what you are talking about, or at minimum asking intelligent questions if you haven’t read the pertinent material. This is especially the case if you are going to direct hard words against people you don’t even know.

    Calling the current Anglosphere analysis and proposals “our next socialist nightmare” is so far off the mark that it suffices to prove you have done no homework whatsoever and are simply jeering from the sidelines. Why you think this is a good thing to do is a mystery whose answer only you know.

  • Verity

    G Gunnels says: “Singapore is one of the worst nanny states on the planet.” Ah, received wisdom is a wonderful thing, is it not? Could you tell us what leads you to make this observation? Could you tell us which are the other nanny states you’re comparing it to, and what led you to believe Singapore is worse than them?

    I would hope that a bracing wind of freedom would blow through an Anglosphere free of stale, outdated, failed 20th Century socialism. Especially as citizens would be free to move away from the socialist states and settle in the capitalist, entrepreneurial ones.

  • Jacob

    “I would like to see a country.”

    What ?? A country ? Some supernational organization, complete with “secretariats and apparachiks by the shedload” ?

    Oh, the horror of it ! Don’t you know such monstrousities never work ? It fits the Left to conjure utopian dreams about all-powerful all-benevolent super-organizations to rule the world (or parts thereof).

    As G. Bart commented above – the Anlosphere is a wonderful thing, as an idea, as an attitude. But establishing an organization would be contrary to the idea, would defeat it.

    As for the head of this august non-body: Queen Elizabeth II.

  • A great disussion. Just a few remarks: Gary, RTFB! Every point you bring up is discussed in detail in the book, most of it in the free portions available on the beek website.

    Also described in the book is the form of loose association (which I call a “Network Commonwealth”) that I think is feasible and desirable in our time. A real nation? If we can make the network commonwealth work, our children can debate that issue.

    I’d be happy to include Singapore, assuming they abide by the requirements for membership, which would include fairly strong civil liberties. Also people seem to forget that Singapore has a strong Indian element as well.

    As for cricket, probably the voracious appetite for content will cause both baseball and cricket to be follwed throughout the Anglosphere in twenty years time.

  • Verity

    Hey, Jacob! Wait a minute! Some supernational organization, complete with “secretariats and apparachiks by the shedload” ?

    I said this as a dire warning against having an Anglophone United Nations. I wasn’t presenting it as a desirable idea!

    I never said an organisation. Obviously, the form it would take is up for discussion over the next couple of years, but my view is it should be a lose federation with 20 or whatever Anglophone states with strong states’ rights. What America was before they started losing their states’ rights.

    We need to do this pronto, because the world is shaping up with or without a formal Anglosphere and we should have a head start in shaping it.

    By the way, one thing in the two-paragraph constitution – no foreign aid.

  • Verity

    Whhoaaah, Jim! What makes you think the Singaporean doesn’t enjoy as many civil liberties as Britons? I am getting sick of all this lefty propaganda about Singapore. If you read how LKY – on whose shoulders it fell to found a new nation after Singapore was KICKED OUT of the Federated States of Malaya (they didn’t declare their independence; it wasn’t their doing) had to develop the infrastructure and the people, you would know that some of the necessarily draconian measures have long since dropped away – because they worked.

    I am not saying there is nothing wrong with Singapore; but it is nevertheless a healthy democracy. They’ve never postponed elections. Don’t listen to people who’ve never been there and don’t know the place. Their only problem is, the Chinese (77% of the population) have never taken to cricket. The Singaporeans who play cricket are the expats – meaning English, Aussies and Kiwis. Jim, there isn’t a strong Indian presence — it’s only 7.9% — but by god, they play cricket!

    Also, their presence seems larger because they are very visible in the law.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Hey, it’s nice to have the author of the book commenting. Welcome Jim!

    I seriously wonder if the Anglosphere concept would be politically acceptable in the non-caucasian nations of what we call the Anglosphere. India’s people, for one, are extremely patriotic. It would be particularly easy for Indian opponents of the concept to depict it as the neo-colonisation of India. If this happens, what does the commentariat think of an Anglosphere-lite; maybe Oz, UK, USA, NZ and Canada, if she’ll join…

    There’d have to be a very strong constitution detailing the organisation’s limitations written at the outset. An unrestrained body could become EU-ish, which would lead to its demise, as the Americans certainly wouldn’t put up with it.

  • Verity

    Suffering – Those are good points – but I don’t think it has anything to do with over half the people being non-Caucasian. I think the problem would be the unwieldiness. Also, one reason Indians make such superb barristers is, they’re terribly argumentative. Meaning, nothing would ever move forward.

    I want to see a formal arrangement because perceptions are extremely important. The world needs to know that the Anglsophere is a real entity and has rules. This needs some sort of formal binding arrangement between us.

    It may also, incidentally, pull the US back from the brink.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    On social matters and civil liberties, we’re republicans, and not just because the government says so! Personal liberty is restricted because the populace likes it that way, and dissenters are few and far between, or quite often outright nuts, like Chee.

    There’s the infamous Internal Security Act though, but in these times of terrorism, most folks are actually glad we have it, when a few years ago people were thinking that we no longer needed it.

    Singapore, being such a small nation, it’s hard for the government to do anything dumb with the ISA unless it is capable of showing that it has a really good reason for doing so. For example, my sister’s godfather was, believe it or not, a communist. After LKY threw his ass into Changi and later released him with the ISA, he went ‘straight’, became an accountant, opened an accountancy firm, and is now quite rich. And people around him later agreed, he deserved that earlier treatment to wake up his idea(pardon my use of a local expression)! Ahhh, the joys of capitalism!

    So if the lack of civil liberties is troubling, it’s important for people to understand that people here like it that way. If they want more liberties, they can very well send a message through the ballot box, and that in fact is already a very significant liberty that most people do not realise. The fact that it hasn’t happened suggests that civil liberties are very low on the priority list, compared to getting a bigger car or a bigger house, or more money in the bank.

    And besides, I’ve always believed that economic liberty trumps everything else. The government can’t enforce hated laws without spending a great deal of money(and the current tax rate doesn’t allow them to do jack), which also means that those oh-so-draconian laws aren’t that hated after all if they can make it stick without any effort.

    To the public, libertarianism and the concept of liberty is virtually unknown. I can ask a hundred people what they think of libertarianism or the anglosphere, and I guarantee you 99, or even all hundred of them will just go “Huh? Li gong si mi?”


    Bottom line. Most Singaporeans have no idea what it’s all about. Most people have the freedom they want, and if it’s not enough for some, there’s the good ole Anglospherian tradition of moving to another country. Personal liberties take some time to be understood and accepted by people, particularly in a conservative nation like Singapore.

    However, the tax shift to consumption taxes in recent years, and some noises being made about private retirement funds instead of CPF, leads me to suspect the government is not unaware of the economical benefits of classical liberalism. And there is the gambling issue, plus the gradual but loosening of restrictions in recent years.

    Just the issue of gambling over the past few weeks got all the religious groups in a tizzy, and PM Lee had to batter down their arguments one by one to allow the opening of casinos here. It was a hard fought war, but one that indicates to me that the government is finally letting loose the reins. Lee in his address to Parliament mentioned online gambling, and that also hints to me that they’ve realised the only way forward in the Information Age is to let go even further.

    As a better example, Jack Neo, a local actor and director, known for his satire that mocks the government, was recently lauded by the very same people he had chided(can’t quite imagine that happening in the UK or US), and his views on censorship(no cencorship at all) and other areas of life, which tend libertarian, are slowly disseminating into the public realm. People understand the concepts, even if they can’t put words to it, or are willing to talk about it much. But attitudes are changing. Give it time.

    Singapore went from a small port subsisting on entrepot trade and light manufacturing to a modern financial and research center in 30 years. Economic progress is often rapid, but attitudes are harder to change. I quote in chinese: Jiang Shan Yi Gai, Ben Xing Nan Yi. Easy to move mountains and rivers, but difficult to change the nature of people.

    Defense wise, we look good, but we never feel good. We’re still a chinese nut in an Islamic nutcracker. And I think our military isn’t as good as we purport it to be. Hopefully, I’m wrong on that!

    And I personally feel that a formal structure for the Anglosphere would be counter productive. We don’t need any more superstates, and such an organization would have bureaucrats scrambling in joy.

    But if it is an informal affair, I believe Singaporeans would be quite receptive, provided the sales pitch is soft enough. And why not? English is the lingua franca of science and commerce nowadays, and if such an association helps us to do business, why the hell not? It certainly won’t deter us from working with China; the Anglosphere doesn’t work that way.

    I didn’t really keep a close eye on Singtel’s takeover of Optus, but all I saw was a money making opportunity. Maybe that’s really all there was to it. Are those who believe the rumors really that dumb to believe that any military would continue to let their satellites be operated by a foreign company? Get serious! There’s probably a clause or ten to shift the sat servicing to some other indigenous organization.

    Sportswise, we’re mad about soccer and the English Premiership, but also quite a few are attracted to NBA basketball. Rugby has a following, but not cricket. The indians expats play it(the NUS cricket team is all indian), and the japanese expats play baseball(there was a bunch of them at the local park a few weeks ago), but locals don’t play either sport.

    Oh well, can’t have everything.

    That’s enough for now. I was busy the last few days preparing for my supervisor’s observation of my lesson with a bunch of noisy secondary school kids for my practicum. Whew. It was a modest success, thankfully.

    I need to sleep.


  • I'm suffering for my art

    TWG – It’s not a rumour. Optus runs the Oz defence satellite. This was a hot political issue here when the takeover bid was going through the motions. Crucially, the government had just knocked back what would have been a successful takeover bid of Woodside, a large strategic gas miner, by Shell – due to issues of national interest. This attracted considerable criticism from types like ourselves, basically. I’m sure SingTel execs knew that the Australian govt would not want to put its free-market credentials in further jeopardy by blocking another takeover, especially in such quick succession. Clever calculations on their part. Many over here said the Australian government knocked back the wrong deal.

    Obviously the govt demanded safeguards if it was to allow the deal to pass – apparently only certain officials can be in the control room or something along those lines. The thing is, Singaporean intelligence gathering has a reputation for being imfamously devious. I wouldn’t put anything past those guys, to be honest.

  • Verity

    TWG – Thanks for that! Singapore has loosened up even more than I realised – and good for them!

    And yes, you are right about one more superstate not being a good idea. I think I am leaning now more to Suffering’s suggestion of a loose alliance. I still feel, however, that whatever form it takes, it must be formal and easily understood by the rest of the world. As I said before, perceptions count. I would like to see it called something like – uh, the Anglosphere – but previous commenters are right when they note that this would inevitably give rise to incremental levels of secretariats and the Anglosphere Office of The U-name-it …

    I nevertheless think it should have a formal identity for the rest of the world to understand.

  • “…a formal identity for the rest of the world to understand…”

    Verity, I think Bennett’s idea is to build on existing relationships — defence and trade agreements, and after that “sojourner” agreements. For the moment I don’t think the political demand is there for a more formal unity. However, a clear defence agreement between the main Anglosphere military powers USA UK Oz would be a major step. Perhaps others could join it going forward, India and Singapore come to mind. Each one of these major three has a “twin” which is usually a security free rider, i.e. Canada, Ireland and NZ. These may be induced to provide the type of “follow on” military capabilities and civil postwar functions which are so clearly needed, permitting a division of labor between the core and peripheral powers of the Anglosphere. Anyway, a clealry articulated alliance with capabilities all up and down the military spectrum from missile defense down to constabulary and peacekeeping woudl be possible and would provide a clear identity. That is one way it could go. I hope it will do so.

    The push for an explicit political union was last made in a serious way about 100 years ago. It was too early then and I think it is still too early. Better to have a military alliance defending a community of self-governing Anglospheric nations which allow a high degree of free trade and free investment and free travel. That gets us strong government where we need it — military capability — and government merely as a facilitator for voluntary activiity in other spheres. That way we all get to keep our flags, and the Brits their monarchy which I hope they will retain and all the other historical baggage, but to otherwise act cooperatively on the important things that require joint action, especially defense, while leaving civil society and the market economy and individual initiative the maximum scope for action.