June 30, 2005
The Anglosphere rulesBy Thomas Lifson
We live in an age in which few important conflicts can be described accurately and economically, which is to say, bluntly. Race and religion are obvious examples of domains in which condescension—masquerading—as—sensitivity must be employed.
So too, the realities of world power. Ask any journalist, almost anywhere, and she will tell you that the world is a lamentably 'unipolar' power construct, with hyperpower America lording it over the rest of the world's nations, all of them consigned to second—class (or worse) membership in the community of man. Such an arrangement is deemed unnatural, exploitative, unduly hierarchical, and inherently unstable. By our allies. Our enemies use far harsher terminology.
The truth is rather different.
The world's future lies in the hands of a surprisingly open coalition of countries, regions, cities, and individuals, all of whom are members of the Anglosphere. Anyone, potentially, can join.
The Anglosphere is a state of mind, a set of market—centered economic institutions, a philosophical understanding of the role and danger of government power, and a vast, dynamic, and almost universal popular culture, beloved of ordinary people and abhorred by elites.
More than anything else, the Anglosphere is a set of rules, a paradigm of state and society, which creates freedom for dreamers and strivers to imagine and create the future. It provides property rights and courts, so that innovators can have a reasonable assurance of reaping the benefits of their genius and hard work. It affirms human dignity and certain inalienable rights, although the application of these is often problematic in practice.
Many great ideas, battles, rulers, warriors, thinkers, doers, artists, and ordinary folk have made the Anglosphere into the dominant force leading the world boldly into a future of increasing human possibilities. The Magna Carta and the American Constitution; Burke and Locke and Adam Smith and the American Founders; Lord Nelson, Wellington, Washington and Eisenhower; Edison, Ford, Matsushita and Toyoda; Shakespeare, the Beatles, J.K. Rowling, Tezuka Osamu and George Lucas. All have had a hand in building and extending the Anglosphere into the world's dominant system for the production of ideas, culture, and liberty, buttressed by the rule of law.
Technology, the product of the free exploration and exploitation of ideas, also embodies the Anglosphere, spreading human freedom and human possibilities. The automobile, airplane, movies and television have all transformed, and continue to transform the world. These technologies can be shackled by the hand of the state, of course. But they nevertheless trend toward Anglosphere values, just as water can be damned, but trends toward flowing downstream. Freedom is a force of nature, once unleashed in sufficient quantity.
Needless to say, the internet is the latest transformative product of Anglosphere technology and culture. The French are already worried about creating French—derivative terms so that their citizens may be spared the horrors such words as le click. In response to market forces making available the Library of Congress on the web, France plans to spend money putting its own Bibliotheque National on the net. The dirigiste model pays tribute to the Anglosphere.
But the Anglosphere is also a political and (increasingly) a military alliance, aimed at guaranteeing the political, moral, economic and cultural freedoms necessary for Anglospherical societies to function.
Who are the members of the Anglosphere? At its heart are The United States (its leading force) and the United Kingdom (whose culture and imperium gave it birth and made it a world force). Other members include Australia, Japan, India, Israel, Taiwan, and (less closely attached, militarily) Singapore, and even more distantly Hong Kong and Canada, which are controlled by regimes somewhat hostile to the dominance of the Anglosphere. Other nations participate in the Anglosphere in some realms, but not others, as they choose. The Netherlands, South Africa, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and Malaysia are examples of countries which join in some ways, yet stay outside in others.
Individuals, powered by jet travel and the internet, increasingly join the Anglosphere culture, even when their own regimes frown. Like gravity—powered water, they tend to erode the strength of alternative competitors.
A quick glance at history shows that colonization by the British is a helpful but not essential condition for membership in the Anglosphere. If not blessed with British colonization, military defeat, or at least occupation by the United States or Britain, is extremely helpful. The important point is that rules, habits, assumptions, and practices, deeply embedded in traditions derived from other ancient civilizations, must be either rejected or reconciled with Anglosphere rules. Often, this is painful and creates a backlash, which is why the involuntary path of defeat or domination is so helpful in making the transition possible.
Japan offers a shining example of both involuntary and voluntary forces moving it toward the Anglosphere. Prostrate in defeat in 1945, Japan was literally forced to reject antithetical aspects of its tradition (the suppression of women, devaluing of human life, military dominance of civilian society and politics, for example), and, in its quest for improvement of a desperate situation, embraced Anglosphere institutions and culture. But defeat was not the sole cause in the case of Japan.
Japan's late Nineteenth Century was an era of striving for position among the First Rank of nations. The Meiji Restoration was aimed at modernizing and improving Japan, to bring it the blessings of freedom and progress. Almost naturally, an infatuation with British and American institutions developed, and was only sidetracked by the Depression's trade restrictions and the rise of militarism fuelled by racial and diplomatic sleights of the West. There was an pre—existing base of Anglosphere affinity, precisely because the Japanese correctly perceived it as a paradigm that would work well for them.
The late Twentieth and early Twenty—first Centuries saw Japan move toward integration into the core of the Anglosphere. Step—by—step, Japan is arming itself to play a full role in the Coalition of the Willing, the active military alliance of Anglosphere—friendly nations, while steadily dismantling the controls, practices, and institutions which kept parts of its economy sheltered from the full force of the marketplace. On the cultural front, English—derived words make up an increasing share of the vocabulary of everyday life, and Japanese popular culture becomes more and more closely integrated into Anglosphere culture. It is increasingly a two—way street, incidentally, with anime films and manga comic books becoming part of everyday youth culture in the Anglosphere and beyond.
Canada is the odd duck: a nation incomparably blessed with historical and geographic benefits making it integral to the Anglosphere, but against all self—interest, moving away from it, in order to satisfy an odd quest for a distinctively Canadian identity. For example, Canada enjoys membership in the G8 club of advanced nations, solely because it was so vital a member of the Anglosphere. With Canada moving away, toward a Continental European, dirigiste model of government and society, would anyone seriously contend that this nation of twenty—some million people, steadily disarming and moving downward among the ranks of the world's most prosperous peoples, would be invited into such a group of the world's most powerful leaders, if it were to be created today?
Most of the world's major geo—strategic conflicts can only be understood in the context of struggle against the dominance of the Anglosphere. Islamo—fascism and terror are sparked by the (well—founded) fear that Anglosphere culture and society will dissolve the power base and control of rulers based in a Ninth Century political economy. Historical memories of a time in which Islamic Civilization was a rising force, prior to the arrival of the Anglosphere as the dominant world force serve to aggravate the fear and humilitaion they feel.
China's quest for ascendancy in East Asia is an understandable attempt to restore an era in which the Central Kingdom was the moving force in the world known to it, and the redress grievances dating from the Opium War, an Anglosphere project, which made evident the inability of China to match, much less exceed the power of what it regarded as a lesser civilization.
My Microsoft Word (yes, Microsoft is a potent part of the Anglosphere) spell check did not recognize the word 'Anglosphere' until I unstructured via an 'add to dictionary' click of my mouse. It is long past time for the world at large to begin using the concept of the Anglosphere to explain the world in which we find ourselves.
Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.