The Anglosphere Challenges the Left
The long first chapter of writer James C. Bennett's new book, "The Anglosphere Challenge," is a fascinating combination of cultural anthropology and technological prognostication. It led me to reflect on a number of issues.
1) Our Anglospheric culture, as Bennett calls it, enables people to form and break relationships easily. In economist's terms, the costs of entry and exit are low.
2) The ability to formulate and dissolve partnerships is very important in the real world of business, yet it receives relatively little attention in business school, much less in economics.
3) In the 1960's and 1970's, a book with the ambition, scope, and intellectual power of The Anglosphere Challenge would have been written by an academic.
4) Today's political Left is focused on group solidarity rather than on building a coalition.
Bennett takes the view that free entry and exit are characteristics of the culture of ancient England. The English were able to form relationships across tribal and religious boundaries. Unlike the states of continental Europe, the English obtained
law and order without a strong central monarch. They developed the pragmatic, evolutionary common law, as opposed to a top-down imperial code of law.
In Bennett's view, the cultural characteristics of easy entry and exit are the foundation of both democracy and the free market. The ability of citizens to form relationships that cross tribal or religious lines is the key to developing modern social institutions.
After reading Bennett on the importance of fluid relationships in the social, economic, and political sphere, one might be more skeptical about the nation-building project in Iraq. That country strikes me as one where loyalty to a clan or religious group is likely to supercede the ability to form a political coalition or a business relationship. If so, then democratic institutions will be difficult to establish.
I see some problems with this analysis. The Democrats are still a coalition oriented party, it is just that they are bleeding profusely from one segment of that coalition, the great, unwashed Middle, or the swing voter. Kling gets the analysis wrong when he positions group solidarity against coalition building. Coalitions are temporary working relationships between groups, so coalitions assume tribal groupings of like-interested individuals. The Republicans have their tribal interest groups also, and suffered in the past from their ability to wed them together into a majority. The success or failure in this process is in the ability of the ruling interest groups to be able to bend and flex just enough to stitch together a coalition of the core interest groups and a majority of the unaffiliated middle.
I see it as a life cycle process of birth, growth, maturity(dominance) and senescence(decline) that political coalitions go through. Coalitions gain strength during the growth period when they have more to gain than to lose by being flexible in their ideological commitments. The young, creative and energetic people are attracted to the revolutionary nature of the ascendant coalition, and they bring to it their acute view of social realities as they exist at the present, unencumbered by a lifelong commitment to the existing paradigm. These young people will become the leaders of the coalition in its phase of mature dominance of politica power.
Once coalitions achieve the pinnacle of power, the interest groups become entrenched and have more to lose than to gain from reform of the status quo. A reactionary "bunker mentality" sets in. Flexibility of commitments is lost. The middle drifts away.
One odd set of bedfellows present in the current Republican coalition, unacknowledged by the media and the party leadership, is that between religious conservatives and secular libertarians/conservatives. The current Red/Blue state dichotomy does not acknowledge any commitment of the secular to the Red side. Indeed, neither set of party leaders can imagine any reasons why secularists would do so. Here are some of my reasons for doing so:
- The Right is more committed to religious freedom and expression than the Left. Many secularists on the Left, having benefitted from Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s that have denied the power of local religious majorities to promote their religious views coercively through the public school systems, have been increasingly pushing for the legal system to totally ban any expression of religious sentiment in any context that can even remotely be tied to the public domain, in a misguided attempt to keep the genie of "theocracy" firmly in the bottle.
This is an unjust and thoroughly misguided notion. In a nation that is predominantly religious, it denies freedom of expression to the majority of citizens. At the same time it is extremely dangerous to secularists to establish a precedent that the party in power should selectively regulate and suppress religious expression. With this standard in place, a resurgent religious majority can easily use the precedent to turn the tables in their favor. As the saying goes, "payback's a bitch!"
- Outside of religious considerations, secularists are no different from any other Americans as to where their interests lie. Secularists have no personal interest or stake in the disproven, irrational and outright dangerous ideological commitments of the Left. The accomodation and appeasement of Islamic theocrats should be the last consideration any clear thinking secularist should pursue, but unbelieveably the ossified minds of the Left cannot let go of their paranoical fear of American Christian power as the ultimate danger. Secularists have no economic interest in the neo-communistic leanings of the anti-globalist, anti-capitalist, environmental shamanism of the recalcitrant Left.
I invite other Right minded secularists to add your reasons to this list.