Several years ago a fellow junto member turned me on to the British member of European Parliament, Dan Hannan. He (Hannan) had just dressed down then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, comparing his excuses for English economic ruin to a Soviet apparatchik towing the party line. This was 2009 and the same charge could just as well been leveled at our own leader, who like Brown was also ordering the takeover/bailout of banks and car companies. For a while Hannan was on American talk shows for his breakout rhetoric, but since then I had lost track of him.
I found him again on a recent episode of Eagle Forum Radio, where he discussed his 2013 book Inventing Freedom, and the concepts within it. He claims that human freedom, as a unalienable right, emerged distinctly from what he terms the “Anglosphere,” the several countries – the UK, then later Australia, Canada, and the U.S.- which by and large have English as their national language. In the interview he covers topics such as how early English law informed the thread of freedoms that consistently inhabit the Anglosphere. He has some very strong positive words for the United States, a country started by anti-Catholic bigots who nevertheless built a Constitution that allowed freedom of religion. He believes in decentralization of federal power to local authorities, and talks more eloquently than any American politician about states rights. We might call this idea subsidiarity.
I’ve bought the book and have only gotten through the Intro and Chapter 1, but already there are some very interesting ideas. Hannan is not quite complimentary to Catholics as he describes the religious motives for all of the English wars against Catholic France and Spain. His basic premise is that the English language is imbued with and carries within its DNA the seeds of freedom and thus socio-economic success throughout the centuries. English-speaking (Protestant) settlers in North America flourished into the most powerful country in human history; our southern American counterparts were settled by (Catholic) Continental Europeans and have been relatively stagnant under centuries of dictatorship. Hannan ascribes this difference to the “Anglo” culture of natural rights rather than other explanations such as better land or fairer climate. He also warns that the Anglosphere is at grave risk, having been corrupted with silly European ideas of powerful, centralized governments and profligate spending.
To bring this around to practical Catholicism, listening to and reading Hannan does make me wonder how Catholic leadership from, say, Europe or South America– informed as they are apt to be by socialism and liberation theology– might not quite get the ideas carried around by many American (U.S.) Catholics. What could we expect from an American pontiff? Is there any hope for a Catholic Anglosphere?