March 13

What did they leave behind?

Further to our recent column of 12 February, 2007 on the UN Human Development Index, we saw this observation by Mark Steyn in his book, “America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It,” 2006, published by Regnery Publishing and distributed by DA Information Services, $49.95.  This was in an extract from the book which was published in The Australian on 19 February, 2006.



Mark Steyn writes:



“ In 2003, Tony Blair spoke to the US Congress. "As Britain knows," he said, "all predominant power seems for a time invincible but, in fact, it is transient. The question is: what do you leave behind?"  An excellent question.  Today, three of the Group of Seven major world economies are nations of British descent.  Of the 20 economies with the highest gross domestic product per capita, no fewer than 11 are current or former realms of Her Britannic Majesty.  And if you protest that most of those are pinprick colonial tax havens – Bermuda, the Caymans – okay, eliminate all territories with populations lower than 20 million and the top four is an Anglosphere sweep: the US, Britain, Canada and Australia.  The key regional players in almost every corner of the globe are British-derived – South Africa, India – and, even among the lesser players, as a general rule you’re better off for having been exposed to British rule than not: try doing business in Indonesia rather than Malaysia, or Haiti rather than St Lucia.



“And, of course, the pre-eminent power of the age derives its political character from 18th-century British subjects who took English ideas a little further than the mother country was willing to go.  As for the allegedly inevitable superpower of the coming century, if China ever does achieve that status, it will be because the people’s republic learned more from British Hong Kong than Hong Kong ever did from the Little Red Book.  John Cowperthwaite, the colony’s transformative financial secretary in the 1960s, can stake a better claim as the father of modern China than Chairman Mao, and, if Beijing weren’t so twitchy about these things, his would be the face they’d plaster over all the banners in Tiananmen Square.  Britain was never an unrivalled colossus, even at its zenith. Yet today, in language, law, politics, business and the wider culture, there is simply nothing comparable in scale or endurance to the Britannic inheritance..”




“Britain exported its language, law and institutions around the world to the point where today there are dozens of countries whose political and legal cultures derive principally from London. On islands from the Caribbean to the South Pacific, you can find miniature Westminsters proudly displaying their maces and Hansards. But if England is the mother of parliaments, the US’s is a wealthy spinster with no urge to start dating. Of all the new nations that have come to independence since 1945, not one has adopted the American system of republican decentralised federalism – even though it’s arguably the most successful ever invented.  The US has zero interest in empire, for obvious reasons. For one thing, it’s already as big as an empire, and most countries that controlled that big a land mass would probably run it in imperial fashion.  Instead, the US took a federation designed for a baker’s dozen of ethnically homogeneous east coast colonies and successively applied it across the continent and halfway over the Pacific. It’s not strictly true that the sun never sets on the American Republic, but it’s up an awful lot of the time.”




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