Network commonwealths may become a powerful and viable alternative to transnationalism. James C. Bennett argues that the Anglosphere is one such network. The Anglosphere is the set of English-Speaking, common-law countries with shared cultural norms.
Anglosphere Primer I, Primer II, Primer III
Volunteer civic organizations create social capital which allows greater political and economic dynamism. These types of civic societies create liberal democracy and “free” markets. The volunteer nature of these civil societies means individuals can freely leave and join new organizations as their needs and interest change.
There are more benefits when they civic societies network together. Since the Anglosphere states – the US, UK, Australia, et al – have a common culture and law, their civic societies are closely connected because there are few transaction costs.
These civil societies informally network together to share ideas and technology. This brings together more minds and allows faster generation of new ideas. The Information Revolution has made the civil society much more powerful at the expense of centralized nation-state governments.
From Bennett’s essayNetworking Nation-States (pdf):
A civil society is a vast network of networks, beginning with the individual and moving outward to encompass families, community organizations, congregations, social organizations and businesses—all invented by individuals coming together voluntarily. Such civil societies beget civic states. These states are ones in which authority begins at the local and community level and gradually is built upwards to deal with wider-scale issues. Civic states are built on community assent and a feeling of participation in a local, regional and national community, and the authority of the state is not upheld by constant exercise of force but by the willingness of citizens to comply with its directives.
At the root of civil society is the individual. People who define themselves primarily as members of collective entities, whether families, religions, racial or ethnic groups, political movements or even corporations, cannot be the basis of a civil society. Societies that place individuals under the permanent discipline of inherited or assigned collectivities, and permanently bind them into such, remain bogged down in family favoritism; ethnic, racial or religious factionalism; or the “crony capitalism” that has marred the economies of East Asia and Latin America.
Democracy and free markets are effects of a strong civil society and strong civic state, not their causes. Over the past century, there has been a misdirection of attention to the surface mechanics of democracy, to nose-counting rather than the underlying roots of the phenomenon.
Similarly, the market economy is more than the absence of socialism or strong government; it is the economic expression of a strong civil society, just as substantive (rather than formulaic) democracy is the political expression of a civil society and civic state.
The emergence of civil society takes generations. Simply installing the mechanisms of democratic elections and “free markets” fails in low-trust societies. They are overcome by illiberal desires, corruption, family nepotism, and lack of enforceable contracts.
I’ll even go so far as to say that structures and institutions do not play the primary role in creating civil societies.
The Anglosphere concept is a unique idea, althought I do not know how it will turn out. Bennett believes that the relative strength of the Anglosphere’s civil society makes it more robust than many competitors. He cites this as the reason why the Anglo-Saxon states dominated during the Industrial Revolution and why they will continue to dominate in the next scientific-technological revolutions.