Editor’s note: James Bennett has proposed a daring idea of an Anglosphere alliance that extends across the world and presently led by the United States in his most recent book, The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century. This essay is my review and reflection upon his ideas.
National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru calls this alliance of English speaking nations, “The Empire of Freedom” which he says where the United States belongs. James Bennett has termed this Alliance as the Anglosphere. Anglosphere is the branch of Western Civilization that is moving beyond the West and on to its own. Ponnuru writes, “Anglosphere is no longer purely Western civilization” and Bennett writes that the Anglosphere is “Western in origin but no longer entirely Western in composition and nature, this civilization is marked by a particularly strong civil society, which is the source of its long record of successful constitutional government and economic prosperity.” While European are attempting to build a European Union that is bureaucratic in nature, the Anglosphere nations are for most part suspicious of such Super state institutions build from top down and instead as Bennett states, “promote more and stronger cooperative institutions, not to build some English-speaking super state on the European Union, or to annex Britain, Canada or Australia to the United States but rather to protect the English speaking nations’ common values from external and internal fantasies.”
Who is part of the Anglosphere? Good Question and author James Bennett answers,” Geographically, the densest nodes of the Anglosphere are found in the United States and Great Britain, while Anglosphere regions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa are powerful and populous outliers. The educated English-speaking populations of the Caribbean, Oceania, Africa and India constitute the Anglosphere’s frontiers.”
What we may be witnessing is a cooperative alliances based on defense alliances and trade. Ponnuru notes, “Important point here is that all these countries remain broadly in harmony on the subject of global free trade and more supportive harmony on the subject of global free trade, and more supportive of free trade than most countries outside Anglosphere.”
Of course, Anglosphere may be just another word for American led Empire of Liberty. While some feel that Europe is going in one direction and United States and other Anglosphere nations another direction, Ponnuru notes, “Is it conceivable that the political cultures of France and Germany could change into a free-market and pro-American direction in 20 years- or even ten?” As Ponnuru observed, Ireland is becoming an economic dynamo based on free market ideals, so Europe is not yet lost. While the European experience is different from North America, there is still enough similarity between the two separate cultures.
John O’ Sullivan has called for an American policy that is pro-American while undermining the Super state structure of European Union. With many central Europeans countries allying themselves with America, France leadership in Europe can be threatened. While present German government has joined France as attempting to move the super Europe super state, there is no guarantee that the gambit will succeed in the long run. Germany needs to tie Central Europe to modern Europe and many Central Europeans want American presence in Europe to safeguard their security. So within the European Union, contradictions may exist that undermines the whole experiment.
James Bennett thesis begins with the premise that manufacturing supremacy begins with those countries with the best information technology. Bennett notes, “The United States, being the current leader in information technology while still possessing a large manufacturing base, is likely to be primary beneficiary of this process.” While critics have expressed concern that we are seeing an outflow of manufacturing jobs overseas, Bennett considers such observation misplaced. Bennett quips, “This is like fearing that the advent of steel-hulled warships in the nineteenth century would undercut British or American naval might, because it made irrelevant those nations’ mastery of wooden ship technology.”
The dominant economic activity in the world will be information based and Bennett states that this is economic development is moving beyond the corporate model that has dominated the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The new economic model will exemplify by organizations that links entrepreneur, financiers and marketers. Those nations that encourage entrepreneurship will dominate and the Anglosphere world leads in that area.
As America begins to lead the world in the early part of the new century, there is a movement toward democratic governance. Bennett observed, “It is clear that prosperous states are rich because of the strength of their civil society, and that peaceful states are peaceful because of the strength of their civic statehood, not the other way around.”
Strong civil societies are the reason for the success of modern market economies and political states, not the other way around. What ensures whether democracy takes hold is the development of a strong civil society. As a civil society develops complexity, then democracy will emerge. As the move toward democracy occurs in the Middle East, the development of a civil society on the ground will ensure the success of a market economy and democracy. As Bennett observes, “Absent that civil society, importing the mechanisms of democracy- the forms and rituals- results only increasing one more set of spoils for families and groups to fight over at the expense of the rest of society.”
In the nations that form Anglosphere, Bennett notes, “Market economy is more than the absence of socialism. It is more than the absence of interventionist government; it is the economic expression of a strong civil society, just as substantive democracy is the political expression of a civil society and civic state.” While there is no rule that democracy and market economy need to exist side by side but they often do. What matters is a civic society and understanding that government is but one player in society and part of a greater society. Religion, private charities, and corporations of varied sizes as well as political parties are all players in society that interact with one another. A strong civic society sees individuals creating and working in a variety of enterprises.
For the Anglosphere nations, strong civic societies had their roots in the medieval Europe. In Medieval England, the modern day society was built upon mix of “tribal, feudal, local, church family and state institutions” and the lack of a single overwhelming power capable of dominating. From the Magna Carta, English princes and barons made it clear to the royal crown that they had rights and this ideal became rooted in English custom and eventually making it way across the Atlantic. When civic society is strong, government can be limited to specific duties since welfare can be provided through private aid as well as public aid.
The weakness of the non-English speaking nations is not the lack of creativity on the part of their people but the political institutions in place retards growth. Even in the old Europe such as France and Germany, entrepreneurial spirit is frustrated by bureaucratic inertia. And as Mr. Bennett notes, “It is likely that the Anglosphere will continue to pull away from Continental Europe and Japan.”
The Rule of Law and Anglosphere
“l’Angleterre en effet est insulaire, maritime, liee par ses echanges, ses marches, son ravitaillement, aux pays les plus divers et sovent les plus lointains. (England is indeed insular, maritime, and tied by its exchanges, its markets, its supply with the most diverse and often most remote countries.)-
Charles DeGaulle, vetoing British membership in the Common Market, January 14, 1963.
The American Constitution is a document whose existence is rooted in a wider constitutional tradition derived from Britain. From the Middle Ages to the present, there is a continuity and stability that under girds the Anglosphere. James Bennett observes that a business lawyer in New York would recognize the common law code of Australia or England. The lawyer would know the problems while dealing with any issues across the Pacific or Atlantic in a fellow Anglosphere nation.
The English monarch was never absolute in the same tradition of the Continental European and from the Magna Carta- the powers of the Monarch were restricted. The belief in the restriction of government has given Americans and the rest of the Anglosphere an advantage over their competitors. In the Anglosphere nations, entrepreneurship has flourished and spread beyond their borders. From the time of the American Revolution and development of constitutional rule, the French have endured two Napoleons and five Republics. Outside of England, no European had more experience with democratic rule than the United States. The development of a strong civic society and long time understanding of constitutional rule has fostered both political and economic freedom within the Anglosphere and led to its present domination throughout the world.
Within the Western traditions, there are now two competing ideas. For the French intellectuals, there is a continental system that features extensive government intervention within the economic sphere and beyond. Many French have derided what they call the “Anglo-Saxon” Ideas. In the 60’s, De Gaulle envisioned a block of nations as a separate world power that stood as a counter to the Soviet Empire and the American led “Anglo-Saxon Empire.” The intellectual fantasy developed during the Cold War has now come to forefront as many in the French communities believe that the United States stand in the way of French goals and have become a de facto enemy. Whether it is attacking American culture or complaining about America hegemony, much of the French intellectual and foreign policy apparatus view American ascendancy counter to their goal of dominating Europe through the EU. France wants to become major players on the world scene through various international bodies such as the European Union and the United Nations. For many French intellectuals, the EU is a the both the political and economic counterweight to what they view as “cowboy capitalism.”
One of the future key issues for the Anglosphere nations will be Great Britain relation with Europe. The present EU and continental system favors more bureaucratic control over the economy and increase industrial policies to favor specific industry. The harmonization of taxes and budgets within the EU is designed to maintain high taxes and support an ever-expanding welfare state. The policy of harmonization is being used as wedge against lower tax countries such as those in the emerging Democracies in Central Europe and Ireland. Britain goal of being “the Anglosphere voice” will be compromised by dealings with the French and Germans, the present leaders of the EU. The French goal is to use the EU to separate the British from the Anglosphere. James Bennett own observation is, “Were the United Kingdom to leave the Union and join NAFTA, it would lead to far more productive partnership.” For Bennett, Britain needs to look to a closer relation to the Anglosphere through inclusion in NAFTA and the other Anglosphere’s nation. This is a more logical alliance as Bennett observed that alliance would, “accelerate the existing trend toward mergers, partnerships, and alliances between U.S., Canadian, and British infotech companies. It would extend them into allied defense and defense-impacted fields such as aerospace and commercial aviation.”
For the Eastern Europeans, a Europe not allied if not actually led by the United States will be its own nightmare. With the resurgent nationalist Russians to the East and Germans to the West, the Eastern Europeans are not about trust their security to either Germans or the French. For Eastern Europe, there is history of their sovereignty being sacrificed by the Greater European powers and their freedom came as result of American power and idealism. Conservative forces in Italy and Spain as well as the Eastern Europeans are clearly allied with America for a less rigid European Union and acceptance of American leadership as a counterbalance to the European left that dominates the political landscape of Germany and France.
It is tempting to call Germany and France the old Europe and it is true that Europe as continent is several hundreds years in the making. What is also true is that the functioning Democracies in Europe are younger than the United States and Great Britain. And for the most of the past half century, Western Europe has been relieved of its defense responsibility by the United States, so there is a lack of maturity that exist within the defense and intelligentsia of these countries. Now Europe wants to play a greater role in world affair and what passes for policy is nothing more than political pap. Policies based on dreams are not functioning policies. Diplomacy has to be backed up by military power and Europe has been unwilling to spend upon military power. As the crisis in the Balkans demonstrated in the 90’s, it was America military might that determined the final results.
Many European leaders have learned the wrong lessons of the past fifty years. At this moment, Europe is at peace for the first in a millennium and there exists no prospect of a major European war. With the implosion of the Soviet Empire, the subsiding of the Balkan crisis and Russia turning westward, Europe lives in peace. This peace came as a result of American steadfast military support of Western Europe and now Europe is being integrated through diplomacy. Most European diplomats find that the peace obtained through negotiations can work anywhere. What is missing from the European mindset is the reality that outside Europe, there exists the law of the jungle. After the end of the Gulf War, the American Secretary of State must deal with the Middle East, North Korea, and possibility the crisis in Southern Asia. European diplomats consider Europe their main sphere of interest. There is different worldview between a European diplomat and an American diplomat. A century ago, it would be the European diplomat that took a worldview and the American diplomat who would consider their backyard as their priority. That has changed. Europe ability to project military power beyond Europe proper pales in comparison to America. As for America and the rest of the Anglosphere, there exist a world outside the shores of Europe or North America. Unlike the Europeans, whose populace is limited to a portion of the Eurasian continent; the Anglosphere nations stretched around the globe.
So what should American policy be? What will be required is one bold move; drown Europe in an ocean of Atlanticism. The one goal is to push our values and interest to all of Europe. United States could begin with a transatlantic free trade area that includes Turkey and open to all European country and Russia. Many including Steve Forbes and columnist John O’ Sullivan have proposed this idea.
The free trade zone will prove a counterweight to the socialistic super state being created by France and Germany. For Great Britain, cementing the special relations will provide it with a safety valve, entrance into NAFTA and a permanent access to American markets. Great Britain will not need Europe but maybe Europe will need Britain. Right now the Franco-German forces have the upper hand throughout the EU.
The United States allowed Europe a hand in determining policy in the past decade and what we have seen is a combination of leftist anti-American rhetoric combined with a lack of appreciation of its own past history. At present, the welfare state of Europe threatens it future economic prosperity along with declining fertility rates. Anglosphere respect for economic freedom and rule of law allows its citizens greater flexibility that will allow it to continue dominate the world economic scene in the first half of the 21st century.