I visited Iain Murray's blog and as I scrolled down, I came across a post by James Bennett commenting on my growing hostility to the trumphalism of the Anglosphere. He raises excellent themes that I'll broach in this essay. I also hope to advance the debate surrounding the Anglosphere and its influence on the world and vice-versa.
James states that the Latin cultures are less adaptive to modern industrial society and globalized commerce. Is that necessarily a bad thing? My question isn't idle because James' statement reminds me of an observation by Richard Morse that:
[t]hat a national government
Or more succiently, Latin cultures have been harried to modernity whether they want it or not; thus resulting in social disruption and economic dislocation that has an ambiguous legacy. Further, that ambiguity has provoked deep suspicious that to adopt capitalism so as to compete with the Anglosphere is rigged to their detriment. Try as they might, the Anglosphere will always be richer, more advanced, even more innovative, more dynamic, outmanuevered and the gap will be permanently unbridgeable if it isn't already.
To inject some ironic humour, One could view the Anglosphere's economic system as the new Church and its institutions as the various Congregations and Offices. Indeed, The WTO is the Rota- the Catholic Church court of appeal-; the IMF is the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith; the OECD, the Office of Inter-religious dialogue and so on. Obviously the irony can be pushed only so far because economics does have certain objective characteristics: if one spends more money than he makes, insolvency or bankruptcy will occur; if a country devalues its currency too often, it disrupts the producers and customers' ability to determine prices and transaction costs and so forth. Nevertheless, I've often wondered if the Anglosphere' success is due to its substitution of religious orthodoxy for economic. Albert Hirschman's books on the subject of economic development certainly raise the possibility that the advanced industrialized countries' prescriptions to the newly industrializing countries has, historically, smacked of a zealotry, rigidity and narrow-mindedness reminiscent of the dark periods in the history of Western religion. Unfortunately, I don't have Claudio Véliz' book to counterbalance my analysis as to why Latin cultures are less adaptive to industralized socity and the world economy but it would be reasonable to say that the Latins' 'adaptive' difficulties are due in past to a fundamentally divrgent view of life, man's place in the world and the motivational framework that organizes societies. Nonetheless, this reminder doesn't detract from one area that both the Anglosphere and the Latin cultures share commonalities: the civil society
Peace,order, good government and prosperity aren't exclusive values of the Anglosphere but a common human desire. Hence I bristled a bit when James used the term yanquificado. A somewhat misleading term though he expresses a phenomenon that Howard Wiarda also highlighted in more ponderous social scientific jargon.
Nevertheless, their basic point is still sound: that democratic countries' civil societies have objective commonalities even if each individual country emphasizes different values or vary their social structure to give priority to one set of values over another. Strong civil societies are one of the hallmarks of the Anglosphere and one of its admirable traits. Establishing civil societies is one of the most complex and long-term political events in a country's history as evidenced by the Anglosphere itself. Yet, as the Latin societies have demonstrated, non-Anglosphere countries can also establish civil societies.
Thanks to the Anglosphere's long experience with a robust civil society, it's possible to draw up an informal checklist of those elements that are present. The list won't be exhaustive but merely a reminder. 1) Separation of powers 2) a foundations of laws and regulation which are fairly and impartially enforced. 3) a proliferation of infinite variety of voluntary asssociation and entities that are either independent of official authourity or affiliated with an intermediate entity like a union, club, religious body. 4) Tolerance for racial, ideological and religious differences and teh freedom to express, defend and advance those differences without any fear of reprisal 5) Finally, the economic system is relatively market oriented with some state regulation and laws that limit or prohibit certain business practices.
As I pointed out, the list isn't exhaustive and I left out many other criteria. However, the ones that I cited allow us to compare how robust or feeble civil societies are within a country or a common liguocultral space. Nonetheless, how either establishes a civil society must be in reference to its past and cultural references even if a country or a cultural space imports a 'foreign' political institution, idea or practice, each would need require a change before acceptance by the inhabitants. John Elliott cites the example of Spain under Charles V that even though he was teh most powerful man of his time, he was still constrained by constitutions, laws, traditions and customs in his various realms that he couldn't do as he pleased even if wanted to.
The important lesson to draw from both the Anglospohere and the democratizing countries of the Iberian peninsula and Latin America is that the establishment of civil societies is possible. It's not easy and there many examples of reversals; yet, the basic elements of a civil society are found in other countries and other cultures that can structure their own civil societies which in turn ripple into a network effect of mutually reinforcing nodes (i.e. the OECD, the G-7, INTERPOL and other similar associations).
This essay and my recent articles on the Anglosphere is to forewarn its adherents and students from succumbing to a facile triumphalism. I have noticed recently a certain implicit strain whereby some commentators point out, for example, that America has lived under the same constitutional government and obeying the same document throughout its existence. A remarkable achievement Or, that only the Anglosphere is able to recognize and combat threats to the world order; while the Other is willfully blind and opposes in bad faith. Nonetheless there are also some areas of concern within the Anglosphere. For example, I'm distressed by certain business practices that have crept into Anglo-American capitalism such as the treatment of the company's assets as personal patrimony (Adelphi, ImClone);outright fraud of the company's raison d'être (Enron). I'm also deeply alarmed at the Anglophone Carribean's erosion of its rule of law because its governments are at a loss of how to stem the crime waves.
The value of the Anglosphere is that as a network, it can draw on vast resources and historical experiences. If those are inadequate, then the Anglosphere can link with another network that does have experience, resources and solutions to the problems at hand. So while the Anglosphere has much to share with the Other;the latter can contribute to the former.
Let's not dismiss each other but meet to resolve common problems.
I read James Taranto's latest's Best of the web where I came across the proposal of expelling France from a newly reconstituted Security council and substituting India. I've written in various comment boxed at different blogs that I'm opposed to the proposal.
I have a number of cogent reasons and the first is a pointed question:
What has India done to deserve such an elevation? My opposition to India arises because by choosing that country, America will be viewed- quite rightly- that America favours the Anglosphere and is willing to disbalance the linguistic balance within the international institutions.
No matter how much the Americans yearn to revenge themselves on the French, international reality forbids the exclusion of a Romance language power. Life is perhaps unfair but there has to be an attempt at evenhandedness by the dominant powers. So if they don't want the French, the Americans will have to choose someone else
My own proposal is for the Mediterranean arc comprising of Portugal, Spain and Italy. They're not Anglophone countries and each is a Romance language power- regional but with some international influence. Further, each has shown a commitment to democracy under trying circumstances. Portugal almost fell to the Soviets in 1974 during the chaos of the Revolution of the Carnations when the Communist party and Marxoid officers attempted a putsch; Spain committed itself to democracy during its Transition fraught with many dangers and grumblings, the attempted pronunciamiento in '81 was a close call. Italy in the 70s, weathered through a wave of leftist and organized crime terrorism that menaced the civil society and its political institutions. Only Columbia shares a similar ordeal.
The Arc's political leadership, particularly the Spanish and Italian, have personally risked their position and their parties' governing status by supporting American policy in the face of colossal domestic and intra-European pressures to oppose both American policy and to succumb to a facile anti-Americanism.
The American administration needs to reward the leaders of the Arc for their moral consistency in the face of deep opposition. A seat at the newly reconstituted Security council would signal not only a reward but also an awareness that the Anglosphere isn't the only coherent linguo-cultural network on earth and accommodations to linguistic, as well as political, reality are recognized. India ought to have a seat on the new Security Council within the next decade but right now its premature to elevate the country.
Over the weekend, I had an interesting discussion with Geitner Simmon's of the Regions of the mind blogabout the the Spanish-American war. By chance, I hadn't yet visited Bill's blog He wrote an article which he takes me to task about the Magna Carta was a felicitous accident. I remember an early post of Bill's where he reminds his readers that the Magna Carta was forgotten, until the beginning of the English civil war, when Coke remembered it and cited it as ideological justification for parliament's supremacy.
I still hold the view that the Magna Carta was still a felicitous accidient even though it was a document that the rebellious nobles forced on King John (or as he's known in Europe: John Landless; yeah the Robin Hood King John) to sign if he wanted to keep the throne. The document is significant because it puts into writing the limits on state power and thereby established for British, a stable political order, a sound civil society and a reasonably flexible constitutional structure. Just as importantly, the rights that it laid down were simple to understand and the courts could easily enforce them. Indeed, the Magna Carta is as significant in the history of constitutional law as the Roman 12 Tablets.
What so ironical about the Magna Carta is that the document and the various rights it enshrined isn't a radical document. On the contrary, it's an immensely conservative document that articulates the commonplace themes of medieval constitutionalism; yet that ostensibly conservative document contained a radical idea: the notion that the state and its officials couldn't act as they pleased; indeed, the king had certain obligations. Continental Europe had the same themes but it took a different path because of the rediscovery of the Justinian code and a genuine desire by the population to curb the abuses of the overly decentralized medieval polity and economic system
The redisovery of the Justinian Code- Imperial Roman law had 2 parallel effects that both joined and separated at different times: on the one hand, the Code provided the crown's lawyers with an intellectual source to bring the various intermediary institutions under a central authourity. On the other hand, those same intermediary entities also found within the same Code, the justification for subsidarity- that each entity and institution had its own competency that others couldn't intrude. Further, by the 1300s the ordinary people were increasingly fed up with the growing economic and political abuses of the medieval polity. They concluded that they were too much at the mercy of the local notables- bishop, abbot, lord, knight, bandits who oppressed them via taxation or by threats of violence. Further, their greviences weren't consistently being met by the local authourities so the ordinary people went to the Crown for satisfaction.. Mind you, if the crown became too ambitious or appeared to desire too much power, the ordinary people shifted their allegiance once more to the local authourities to block the king's political cupidity.
Consequently, in Europe, there arose the perennial dispute between the centralizers and the 'localists' or, in more classical political science terminology, between the centralizers and the federalists.'
The dispute between the centralizers and the federalists was often complicated by the perennial wars, conflicts and crises over the issue of centralization versus devolution. A conflict that continues to this day. Europe has never had the 2 major advantages that Britain has had; notably time and peace. Britain has always been rather fortunate that it's had the time to evolve its political development and the peace to purge out its pathologies. In fact, European history has always led me to perceive a race against time either because there isn't enough of it to stabilize the polity or the peace would be of short duration; the tendency to overlook the polity's pathologies, due to a sense of urgency to make do with what's on hand; subsequently aggravating Europe's political development.
So the Anglosphere has always been fortunate that the Magna Carta was incorporated into its legal and constitutional development, had the time and peace to work the rights and obligations, that the document imposed, throughout the state and society.