Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the activities of Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, possibly Britain’s leading eurosceptic, and his relentless campaign against the European Union. Not only should Britain not be a member of the EU, nor should anyone else (although he mostly accepts that it is a matter for each country to decide for itself what to do).
His latest work is a book entitled “How we Invented Freedom & Why it Matters”, which attempts broadly to divide the world into the English-speaking countries, that love free trade and liberty under the law, and the rest of the world, that does not. This notion of the Anglosphere enables British politics to claim the experience of America as part of its own, rather than being limited to the Commonwealth or the empire. (We federalists do this too: the US federal constitution is in origin a British political document, meaning that federalism is not inherently something that the British cannot abide. See also Canada, Australia, etc.)
The profound division of the world that the Anglosphere implies reminds me of my grandfather. In the 1930s, he joined an organisation devoted to the glory of empire, not merely because it was politically right but rather because it was an expression of Biblical prophecy. The British Israelites believed that the British empire was the instrument of God’s will: its people were the descendents of lost ten tribes of Israel, deported from their homeland by the Assyrians in 722 BCE.
Daniel Hannan is far too modern and sophisticated to think that Biblical arguments will assist his cause, but his cause does not seem so very different. We are right and you are wrong, and we will do what we have to to politics and history in order to prove it.
For example, if it is the Anglosphere that loves free trade, how come the EU and South Korea have chosen to sign a free trade deal recently? This deal is expected to more than double their bilateral trade over the next 20 years.
Similarly, if it is the Anglosphere that truly values liberty under the law, why it is that the recently exposed and extensive intrusions into privacy have been conducted by the American and British intelligence agencies, the NSA and GCHQ, outside the knowledge and control of their respective parliaments? And let us not forget the outrage at this felt in non-Anglosphere Germany.
The truth is that the lessons of recent history about the advantages of capitalism and constitutional democracy are being learned, or sometimes not, all around the world, regardless of the language spoken. Countries can learn lessons from each other. After all, the word chauvinism may have French roots but is now firmly an English word, too.