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]

First thoughts on America 3.0 – the Emmanuel Todd connection

A great deal longer ago than I now enjoy remembering, I rashly promised the authors of America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century – Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come, James C. Bennett and Michael Lotus, that I would, very soon, write something here about this book. But this is not a regular book review. I have an agenda of my own to plug with regard to America 3.0, which is, in two words: Emmanuel Todd.

I have greatly admired Emmanuel Todd, the French anthropologist and historian, ever since, in a 1980s remainder shop, I first encountered English translations of two of his most important books, the English titles of which are The Explanation of Ideology and The Causes of Progress, my copies of these two books being among my most treasured possessions. America 3.0 is in no small measure the book that it is because Bennett and Lotus have also acquainted themselves with Emmanuel Todd’s style of thinking, and have applied it to America. And the most interesting fact about America 3.0, from where I sit, is that its publication may prove to be some sort of breakthrough for Emmanuel Todd in the place that James Bennett himself has dubbed the Anglosphere. My hope concerning America 3.0 is not so much that what it says about America will captivate lots of Americans, although I’d be very happy if it did, but that it may, because its authors based it partly on a foundation constructed for them by Emmanuel Todd, help to spark what I think is a long overdue debate throughout the Anglosphere, a far grander debate than a merely American discussion about America. This debate will encompass the entirety of Emmanuel Todd’s grand narrative, and will concern the entire world.

The historian Alan MacFarlane, author of, among other books, one called The Origins of English Individualism, whose work is aligned with that of Emmanuel Todd, is one of the few historians writing in English to have given Todd the time of day. The authors of America 3.0 tell me that in an email to them, MacFarlane said that Todd is “roughly right” in what he says. Which sounds like rather faint praise. But when you realise that what MacFarlane reckons Todd to be “roughly right” about is one of the most confidently reductionist, yet original and interesting, and above all persuasive explanations of the entire process of political and economic modernisation that has been accomplished and is still being accomplished by our relentlessly formidable and complicated and belligerent and inventive species, everywhere on earth during the last five centuries and more, and for at least the next several decades, then you begin to see where my admiration for Emmanuel Todd is coming from. Many very capable and admirable historians score eight, nine or even ten out of ten for their life’s work. Compared to them, I would give Todd about eight hundred out of a thousand and counting. The man is operating at a different level of explanatory reach to all other historians I have ever read, or have ever read about or heard of. Yes indeed, as MacFarlane’s comment illuminates, Todd has, over the years, got quite a few of the details of his grand narrative somewhat wrong, in fact he probably gets far more things wrong than most good historians ever get right. But what he does get right … well, it is an epic story, and furthermore, a story that I now believe, with MacFarlane, to be “roughly right”.

So, what has Emmanuel Todd been saying?

→ Continue reading: First thoughts on America 3.0 – the Emmanuel Todd connection

A light has gone from my life

I did so enjoy contemplating the coming inevitable defeat of Julia Gillard and the Australian Labor Party. Unimportant in the greater scheme of things, I know, but just to contemplate the ululations of grief and ritual cries of “misogyny” that would have come from the Guardian the morning after the next Australian election was a little thing that gave me a few snatched moments of innocent pleasure in this hard world.

Now, however

Mrs Thatcher clones

An unexpected pleasure, leftists chocking at the sight of people celebrating Margaret Thatcher, has just got even better.

The Daily Mail informs us that the “Thatcher haircut” is the rage in central London, with one salon claiming to be overwhelmed by demand.

Italian-born Christina Bellucci, 37, a digital consultant, said she felt the look reflected a modern attitude.

‘This is a strong style and gives me authority,’ she said.

‘When I walk out the door I feel a few inches taller, it gives me power without sacrificing any of my femininity.’

On this day in 1775

The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave . . . Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.

– Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775, at the second of the Virginia Conventions.

The full speech is available here It’s not long so, as Glenn Reynolds would say, “read the whole thing.”

The Anglosphere is not doomed

“The world financial crisis has provoked a stark feeling of decline among many in the West, particularly citizens of what some call the Anglosphere: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. In the United States, for example, roughly 73 percent see the country as on the wrong track, according to an Ipsos MORI poll—a level of dissatisfaction unseen for a generation.”

So write Joel Kotkin and Shashi Parulekar. And as they go on to point out, the idea that the English-speaking nations are in imminent danger of being crushed by some sort of Asian/other menace is – with all due respect to the likes of Mark Steyn and Co, wildly overblown. And of course, given that trade is not a zero-sum game, there is nothing to lose from the hopefully long-term enrichment of countries such as Brazil or India.

R, Facebook, Anglosphere?

R is a programming language for statistical analysis and visualisation that I’m taking an interest in for a work project. It’s another open source tool that makes us richer. One way it does that is by being used by Steve McIntyre to plot climate data and replicate (or not) the hockey team’s research.

While researching R, I found R-bloggers, and in particular a post about the use of an R-generated image in Facebook’s IPO filing. The image was originally created a couple of years ago by Facebook intern Paul Butler.

But when Paul switched from plotting every friend pair to instead plotting every city pair with a great-circle line whose transparency was determined by the number of friend-pairs in those cities, something beautiful emerges: a clear image of the world, with friendship bonds flowing between the continents

Paul posted a Facebook page about it and also linked to a high resolution version of the image.

The Anglosphere should be discernable in the image, or at least the original data. Lines from Britain to the USA do look brighter than those from Europe. Many of the lines obscure each other, unfortunately. A 3D version might help.

More map porn can be found on Reddit.

Back to the Anglosphere future?

It’s been pretty quiet here today, and all the things I’m am personally working on need more working on before they’re ready. But, if it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, well, here are a thousand words:


I found this at the top of a piece by Daniel Hannan about how Britain might just be being pushed out of EUrope and back into the Anglosphere.

I won’t be holding my breath, but I have long thought this to be an attractive idea.

A good old Ashes wallow

My fellow Samizdatista and cricket fan (but Aussie) Michael Jennings has been accusing me of not celebrating enough when England have done well in the recently concluded Ashes cricket series. My message throughout the series, to anyone who would listen, has indeed been: wait for it, wait for it. Both to England fans exulting and to Aussies wanting to pitch straight into their speculations about why Australia is now a failed state, I have been saying throughout, needed to wait until the crushing England win that looked ever more likely as the series proceeded was actually achieved. Or not, as the case might have been.

But now that England have indeed achieved their 3-1 (away) victory (there first away win at five-day cricket against Australia for nearly a quarter of a century, which included three innings victories which trust me is crushing), I am now celebrating, with a long posting last night at my personal blog. Well, really it’s about ten blog postings – with handily placed asterisks to enable you to skip to the next one, should you be inclined to.

Topics include: Jimmy Anderson’s girlie-man wicket celebrations, Alastair Cook sounding like Noel Fielding, the role of and nature of luck in sport (and in life generally), the inverse relationships between good individual bowling figures and team success (well, that’s mostly in the first and only comment so far, also by me) and between national economic and national sporting success. Plus, the fascinating contribution made to cricket folklore by the Radio Four shipping forecast, which, amazingly, caused Radio Four listeners to miss the final moments of all three England wins.

If you’re the sort that enjoys that kind of thing, enjoy.

Samizdata quote of the day

“No one died in any of these imperial takeovers of British soccer teams, no wildlife killed, no beaches littered with tarballs. But perhaps the outraged columnists in the UK should inform their football-obsessed readers that, like BP, most everything is globalized these days—from the strikers on their favorite club, to the companies headquartered in London. BP is a multinational corporation with American subsidiaries and workers, Swiss well operators, and a gaffe-prone Swedish chairman. And McDonald’s—that often-invoked symbol of American cultural hegemony—is no longer run out of Ray Kroc’s garage. The dreaded hamburger giant uses local products, employs regional officers and franchisees, is staffed by high school students from Flanders and Dortmund, and is eaten by almost everyone on Earth. Sarah Palin’s lame attempt at vilifying “foreign” BP, or Barack Obama’s subtle attempt to underscore the company’s non-American roots, is little different than former BBC reporter Andre Gilligan complaining that London is “owned by Americans,” with its streets “lined with New York Bagel shops, Manhattan Coffee Company outlets.” The stakes are different, of course, but the sentiment is much the same; if the city goes to pot, if the oil well explodes, it ain’t our fault. Obama is a blame-passing protectionist. Palin is an attention-seeking populist. And the poor British columnists are giving me reflux, that fashionable and incredibly painful American disease.”

Michael C. Moynihan

His right, of course. Given the amount of anti-American BS that regularly comes out of the UK intelligentsia (or what passes for it), a certain amount of “take some of that, Limeys!” is understandable. Another point that adds to the angst here, of course, is that so many British people imagined, naively, that that post-racial, leftie POTUS would not lower himself to the sort of nationalist rhetoric allegedly indulged by his Texan predecessor. But then we should remember that even a supposed “progressive” such as Gordon Brown was able to come out with lines such as “British jobs for British workers”, a remark that must have surely raised a sour expression among the many US expats who work in the City over here.

Bangalore changing to Bengaluru says that English will keep on pulling itself together

This sounds like the kind of thing that our own Michael Jennings is fond of saying:

“I was recently waiting for a flight in Delhi, when I overheard a conversation between a Spanish UN peacekeeper and an Indian soldier. The Indian spoke no Spanish; the Spaniard spoke no Punjabi. Yet they understood one another easily. The language they spoke was a highly simplified form of English, without grammar or structure, but perfectly comprehensible, to them and to me. Only now do I realise that they were speaking “Globish”, the newest and most widely spoken language in the world.”

That’s journalist Ben Macintyre, quoted by Robert McCrum, in a recent Guardian piece about the global evolution of the English language. But, McCrum then asks, will English, having spread so widely, and like Latin before it, then fragment into distinct languages? Or will the effect of what is loosely called globalisation mean that enough English speakers who start with their local variant of English will want then to move towards a more internationally tradeable, so to speak, version of English, and make the effort? Will they try to add some of that grammar and structure that Ben Macintyre spoke of? And will global standard English, particularly as spoken by the more globe-trotting sort of American and in due course by most Anglos, itself hold out its hand, as it were, making its own effort, and come half way to meet Globish, to ensure that English, although changing faster than ever before, nevertheless remains one language, or at least one linguistic continuum? Will English, in other words, keep on pulling itself together? Note that Ben Macintyre had no problem understanding the Globish that he heard in Delhi, and would presumably have no problem speaking like that.

My guess is that there are powerful unifying forces at work here, as well as fragmenting forces. What follows began life as a separate posting, and was mostly written before I encountered the above article. → Continue reading: Bangalore changing to Bengaluru says that English will keep on pulling itself together

Go east, young man

Occasionally, whenever one of us Samizdata scribes writes about events in the UK, such as loss of civil liberties, or the latest financial disasters perpetrated by the government, or crime, or whatnot, there is sometimes a comment from an expatriate writer, or US citizen in particular, suggesting that we moaners should pack our bags, cancel the mail and come on over to America. Like Brian Micklethwait of this parish, I occasionally find such comments a bit annoying; it is not as if the situation in Jefferson’s Republic is particularly great just now, although a lot depends on where you live (Texas is very different from say, Vermont or for that matter, Colorado).

But considering what might happen if Obama wins the White House and the Dems increase or retain their hold on Congress, I also wonder whether we might encounter the example of enterprising Americans coming to Britain, not the other way round. The dollar is rising against the pound, so any assets that are transferred from the US to Britain go further. Taxes are likely to rise quite a bit if The One gets in, although they are likely to rise in the UK too to pay for the enormous increase in public debt, even if the Tories win the next election in 2010.

Of course, this is an issue at the margins. If I were an American looking to get out of a left-tilting America, there are many other countries apart from Britain I would want to live in, not least because the weather here is generally lousy, you cannot defend yourself with deadly force, and the place is so crowded. Switzerland is likely to be popular for those who want to go to Europe; some East European states will be attractive. And there is the whole of Asia to consider, possibly even the better bits of Latin America. But do not be surprised to read of a steady exodus of Americans in the next few years, assuming Obama proves to be as bad as some reckon he is. We might hear the accents of the West Coast or New York on the London Underground and in the bars of the West End a bit more.

Update: Here’s more on the collapse of the pound. At this rate, New Yorkers will be heading to London to do their Christmas shopping. Seriously, this shows that markets believe Brown has so badly mortgaged the UK economy on debt that Labour will try to turn on the money printing presses. And we know where that leads.

Gordon supporting Obama is more than a joke

Although of course it is a joke, see the posting immediately below. As Jonathan has already noted, Guido Fawkes has had a lot of fun over the last few months noting that every time Gordon Brown comes out in support of anything, it immediately tanks. Andy Murray was Mr Brown’s latest victim, apparently. So when I read on the Coffee House blog this morning that Gordon Brown now supports Barack Obama, I knew that Guido would be crowing with laughter, if not now then very soon, and sure enough, he is. Obama, says a delighted Guido, is now officially doomed. Luckily, before posting this, I also checked out Samizdata to see if anyone else here was having a laugh about this, and of course, they are.

Apologies if you think I am duplicating here, but behind the hilarity of all this is to be observed an interesting re-arrangement of the political conventions, which is why I still put this thought up as a separate posting. More and more mere people, especially political people, like the ones who read Samizdata for example, have their particular preferences not just in their own countries and constituencies and districts and states and towns, but in ‘foreign’ parts also. The logic of the internet – even of instant electronic communication itself, which got started getting on for two hundred years ago – has always, to me, suggested global political affiliations, and in due course, global political parties. Certainly the Communist movement thought so. Maybe language remains a big barrier, but geography now matters less and less.

Remember that counter-productive attempt by the Guardian to swing the last (was it?) Presidential election against Bush? Many concluded that this proved the wisdom of political people staying out of foreign elections. To me it merely proved that if you want to help this or that side in foreign parts, make sure that you really are helping. Because attempts to help like this are absolutely not going to stop. As the very existence of Samizdata now nicely illustrates, this is all now one big Anglospherical conversation.

Obama’s idiotic campaign trip to Germany was, you might say, a self-inflicted version of that same Guardian blunder. But nor does that folly prove, to me, that campaigners should never go abroad and seek foreign support when campaigning, merely that they should choose their foreign supporters with more care than Obama did. Having the right sort of foreigners waving and cheering next to him can do a politician all kinds of good, now that the pictures can be flashed around the world in seconds.

Under pressure from the McCain camp, the Brown regime is conducting another of its hasty and shambolic retreats. All sorts of stuff gets read out by Mr Brown, or appears under his name in printed articles. But you don’t suppose that he actually reads it all beforehand, do you? Mr Brown’s people are now assuring us that it was one of them who inadvertently revealed this sentiment, rather than Mr Brown himself who actually said it. All Mr Brown did was allow his name to be attached to the bottom of a newspaper article. So once again, there is this pattern, of the political leader trying, but failing, to observe the old and obsolete conventions, against his natural instincts, but his mere people not being so inhibited about saying what they think. Sooner or later the world’s leaders will all follow their mere supporters, and stop pretending to be neutral in foreign elections. Their line should be, because this will be the truth: of course I’ll work with whoever wins, I’m a politician. But meanwhile, yes, I do most definitely have my preferences.

The particular awfulness and embarrassingness of Mr Brown’s particular expression of a preference in the US Presidential election should not detract from the more general interestingness of this little event. Inevitably, most of the commentary will be about how the Obama campaign may now have peaked (the comments on Jonathan’s previous posting are already saying yes it has), and about how the Brown regime is unravelling, definitely, again, some more. But I find the more general global political party angle at least as interesting.

After all, this is not now only Brown preferring Obama, which we all know he does despite any denials (does anybody at all in what is left of the Labour Party not prefer Obama to McCain?). This is also now the McCain team opposing Brown, and not caring who knows it. And by extension, and whatever Mr McCain may personally feel or even know about the man, helping David Cameron. After all, the heading at Coffee House says: “The McCain campaign mocks Gordon Brown”. So now Mr McCain is doing it too, whatever denials he may subsequently issue.