The last time I wrote a column on this blog I was living in Stillwater, Oklahoma after leaving Tel Aviv just a short time before. Well, things seem to change rapidly in my nomadic life and I am writing this from my small apartment in Seattle where I have temporarily moved to help our son in his growing woodworking business. Check out his amazing staircases and furniture that he can ship and install anywhere in the USA: www.nkwoodworking.com. (Sorry for the shameless plug!)

Moving on to non-commercial topics, in honor of Thanksgiving, which in part commemorates the founding of English America, I am enclosing a link to a fascinating article I read a few weeks ago by Daniel Hannan in The Wall Street Journal titled “The World of English Freedoms.” His column traces the historical and cultural differences between the worldwide family of nations and those select few in the “Anglosphere,” the English speaking world. The column will no doubt delight those who consider themselves politically Conservative, although there are some observations that will give pause to those on the religious right. But even more important, for those on the left it will provide insight into the worldview of the American libertarian right – and might even generate some empathy and even agreement with some of their perspectives.  Here is an excerpt that will give you a glimpse of Hannan’s thesis.

What made the Anglosphere different? Foreign visitors through the centuries remarked on a number of peculiar characteristics: the profusion of nonstate organizations, clubs, charities and foundations; the cheerful materialism of the population; the strong county institutions, including locally chosen law officers and judges; the easy coexistence of different denominations (religious toleration wasn’t unique to the Anglosphere, but religious equality—that is, freedom for every sect to proselytize—was almost unknown in the rest of the world). They were struck by the weakness, in both law and custom, of the extended family, and by the converse emphasis on individualism. They wondered at the stubborn elevation of private property over raison d’état, of personal freedom over collective need.

Many of them, including Tocqueville and Montesquieu, connected the liberty that English-speakers took for granted to geography. Outside North America, most of the Anglosphere is an extended archipelago: Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, the more democratic Caribbean states. North America, although not literally isolated, was geopolitically more remote than any of them, “kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean,” as Jefferson put it in his 1801 inaugural address, “from the exterminating havoc [of Europe].”

Isolation meant that there was no need for a standing army in peacetime, which in turn meant that the government had no mechanism for internal repression. When rulers wanted something, usually revenue, they had to ask nicely, by summoning people’s representatives in an assembly. It is no coincidence that the world’s oldest parliaments—England, Iceland, the Faroes, the Isle of Man—are on islands.

Above all, liberty was tied up with something that foreign observers could only marvel at: the miracle of the common law. Laws weren’t written down in the abstract and then applied to particular disputes; they built up, like a coral reef, case by case. They came not from the state but from the people. The common law wasn’t a tool of government but an ally of liberty: It placed itself across the path of the Stuarts and George III; it ruled that the bonds of slavery disappeared the moment a man set foot on English soil.

Click here to read the rest.

To conclude this post and to come full circle back to Thanksgiving in Seattle, I recently took a walk near my apartment on the top of a hill in West Seattle with a spectacular view of the downtown skyscrapers across Puget Sound. At the spot with the best vantage point I passed a giant totem pole and a plaque with a speech delivered by Chief Sealth, the chief of the Duwamish Indians in the mid-1800’s who had lived nearby. (The city was named after him by the white men who mispronounced his name as Chief “Seattle.”) The chief befriended the first white settlers who arrived to stay on the shores of Puget Sound in 1851. Although that amity did not help his people in the long run, Chief Sealth was a skilled orator and below is the text from the plaque with his most famous speech. Although the authenticity of this text is doubted by scholars, the thoughts do resemble views he expressed in other talks. We might want to contemplate these words during this time of holidays and thanksgiving.

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.

Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.

This we know: The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know.

All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny.

We may be brothers after all.

We shall see.

One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover – our God is the same God,

You may think now that you own him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and his compassion is equal for the red man and the white.

This earth is precious to him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator…

Where is the thicket? Gone

Where is the eagle? Gone.

The end of living and the beginning of survival.

Chief Sealth, 1854