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Jock Coats and the Anglosphere

I was completely taken aback by something Jock Coats penned today. Jock, for those who don't visit his blog, is one of those rare beasts: a relatively liberal Liberal Democrat; someone who you could imagine not throwing money at the bureaucracy or, on a good day, perhaps even trying his hand at a little discreet liberalisation.

Or at least so I thought, until I read his posting on Britain's role in the world.

Jock has been pondering the way we treat people in the developing world and the claims made in The Great Global Warming Swindle that environmentalists are preventing development in poor countries so as to save us all from the spectre of climate change.

[W]e should put the Commonwealth, far more so than either Europe or transatlantic polity, at the core of our foreign and international development policy for the twenty-first century. Nearly sixty years ago, Churchill suggested that Britain's post-war role in the world ought to be as a link between Europe, America and the Commonwealth. We seem to have put a lot of emphasis on the former two, but for a variety of reasons seem to have quietly dropped the latter.

Well, yes, this is the Anglosphere idea, at least to a large extent - open ourselves up to these countries which have ties of history and culture, the common law tradition and so on. But why, we might ask, have we failed to emphasise the Commonwealth? I'm surprised that I need to point this out. It's the EU innit? We are not allowed to trade openly with the Commonwealth because Brussels says so. And what's the point in having emphasising our relations with someone we can't even trade freely with?

Yes, the intervening decades have seen many upheavals of independence from Empire and those newly "emancipated" nations struggling and jostling to find their position in the world. But let's face it, we are only where we are because of them. Because of the way we colonised them and took from them what we wanted, what would make us materially rich.

The Commonwealth could be a model, modern community of nations, with members from every continent and from every stratum of economic development on the planet, from the very richest to the very poorest, working together under a common aim of redistributing the common wealth within it to ensure that all its peoples attain their full potential.

I'm right with him here, up until that last bit. Redistributing the common wealth? Does he mean this? Has he completely taken leave of his senses? Surely he realises that "redistribution" impoverishes everyone? And is he aware that the "wealth" in the word "commonwealth" has the meaning of "well-being" rather than anything to do with money.

The whole piece makes no sense. We can't have more meaningful relations with the Commonwealth because we're not allowed to, and it would appear that even if we could Jock would want to make base our new relationship around socialism or reparations.

Thanks, but no thanks.

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Reader Comments (3)

I only just noticed this having only just got my blog signed up to technorati again since I changed it over. So it's probably not new enough a post to warrant posting on my own blog about it so I'll leave this comment.

Yes, I appreciate we cannot, as things stand, trade with our former Empire on more favourable terms than we can with our European partners. I think that is sad. I think that the benefits of free trade and movement of people would make a far bigger difference to the prospects of, say, Kenya, than relatively wealthy by comparison Bulgaria, say. If we could construct a group of nations encompassing the wealthy of the old empire as well as the poorest we could achieve more than we could with our protectionist euro-club.

You are right to say that I don't like throwing money at a problem. But I do believe in equity. Where our great companies still have land and so on in those commonwealth countries they should be paying a going rate for that land. We should build a system of credit that's fair to everyone in that bloc - we could even go it alone in doing what Soros suggested - distributing the wealthy, developed commonwealth countries' BIS allocations to invest in the poorer commonwealth countries.
Jun 24, 2007 at 9:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJock
OK, I'm with you right up until the last paragraph. You're saying that the companies should pay for the land they own already? I would have thought that that would be a matter for the government concerned - and they would be silly to do anything of the sort.

In terms of equity, you seem to be thinking statist again. A fair and equitable credit system is the free market. It also has the advantage that the money will go to the people it's intended for rather than getting diverted into the pockets of kleptocrats (again!!). How many times do we need to make this mistake before we learn from it?

(PS I've had similar problems with technorati. What's up with them?)
Jun 24, 2007 at 10:32 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
The Technorati thing was my fault - I hadn't claimed my non-blogger blog.

I do not believe that a "fair and equitable credit system is the free market". The "free market" is hampered by there not being a properly fair and equitable credit system. Money creation is a monopoly ceded to big business (banks) by governments, including ours. That charges far more to under-developed nations for their credit than it does to business in developed nations who therefore have an inbuilt advantage. The flow of wealth is out of those under-/un-developed nations with little reference to their real "credit potential".

In my opinion this could be achieved either by "repatriating" the ability to create credit in the first place from the banks to a national monetary authority, or, the Hayekian method, to completely privatise the creation of credit and not pretend it is any longer a national currency but a set of private bank currencies that compete against each other on cost and reliability grounds.

On balance I think the latter is, ultimately, going to happen anyway, but until it is, it would seem to me that the middle ground might be Soros's BIS credit system - let the underdeveloped nations borrow against the security of the developed nations' BIS allocations.

On the land issue - let's face it, minerals companies such as Lonrho, de Beers, Cons Gold and so on, as well as long standing agricultural commodities businesses, got land and mineral rights on far too favourable grounds in the days of Empire. We did not leave these countries with, shall we say, an endowment equal to what we had taken out. If they had to pay land value tax or similar on what they now own and operate, it would return some more of the profit they take out of those countries to those countries.
Jun 25, 2007 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJock

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