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How we invented freedom and why it matters

By Chris Golis - posted Thursday, 13 March 2014

Last month Daniel Hannan visited Australia on a speaking tour. To those unfamiliar with his name, he is a European MP for South East England but is also a prolific writer. Having heard him speak in Sydney, and then buying and reading his recently published book How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters (HWIF&WIM) I doubt if there a more fervent supporter of Australia who lives overseas.

Daniel Hannan was born in Peru, attended Oxford where he achieved a double First in History and has since developed a career as speechwriter, political commentator and subsequently as a politician. He is a Euro-sceptic and a very strong proponent of the Anglosphere.

The 'Anglosphere' was first coined, but not explicitly defined, by the science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his book The Diamond Age, published in 1995. John Lloyd adopted the term in 2000 and defined it as including the United States and the United Kingdom along with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa and the British West Indies. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the Anglosphere as "the countries of the world in which the English language and cultural values predominate'. Now having heard and read Hannan I would agree a key link is the English language but it is the political, legal and commercial ties that bind.


The book (HWIF&WIM) presents a completely different view of history. Many of us (and I include myself) look at history as a long but slow march to liberal democracy or what I would call the Francis Fukuyama position. Hannan maintains the complete opposite. He begins by arguing that in the Middle Ages the Anglo-Saxons were one of the very few nations (Iceland was another) that elected and disposed their rulers by a representative council. Hannan argues this is because Britain was an island, islands have no need for standing armies, governments with no standing armies are unable to engage in authoritarian repression. This was the foundation of the parliamentary democracy, common law, and the core concept that the individual is more important that the collective.

The Norman Conquest in 1066 is portrayed by Hannan as a disaster with the dismantlement at the national level of much of the Anglo-Saxon freedoms and the country becoming subject to European Feudalism. At the local level the Anglo Saxon systems continued but at the national level the next six centuries were perceived by the players themselves as slowly returning to the old Anglo-Saxon values. He makes the point that revolution did not have our modern meaning of change but of revolving back. Finally in 1689 at the Battle of the Boyne and the defeat of James II by the recently elected William was the former Anglo-Saxon system was essentially restored.

Ditto for 1776. Hannan contends that the American Revolution is a misnomer and a better description is the Second Anglosphere Civil War. The Americans did not see themselves as revolutionaries but as patriots. They saw their original Anglo Saxon rights (No taxation without representation) being taken away by an absolute and foreign monarch.

HWIF&WIM is great read and highly recommended. It is filled with interesting insights and quotes that I had never heard before. For example this one by Voltaire: "If you have two religions in a land, they will be at each other's throats, but if you have thirty they will dwell in peace." In one epigram the Middle East chaos is explained because of the Sunni-Shiite split.

Hannan is also an excellent speaker. His blistering attack on Gordon Brown in 2009 became the most viewed political speech in the fastest time in internet history. If you want to see him in action this talk to the Heritage Foundation is excellent. The start is brilliant. Don't skip the introductions.

As I said earlier Hannan is a Euro-Sceptic. During questions after his talk he was asked why. His first reason was I had never heard before. According to Hannan Britain has backed the wrong side. The original argument for Britain joining the EEC was economic – bigger market, benefits of free trade, etc. I know I was there. Unfortunately the EEC has now become a collection of debt ridden, non-entrepreneurial, anti-capitalistic economies. According to Hannan the annual growth of the 28 EEC countries has been and will continue to be a little over 0%. Meanwhile the Anglosphere (and here he particularly made reference to Australia) has shown continuous growth. He went on to give other reasons but said with a touch of irony that Marx was right and economics is and should be the primary driver in politics.

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Chris Golis is Australia's expert on practical emotional intelligence. He is an author, professional speaker and workshop leader. His site is

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