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This is the second item in our British area, an article that first appeared in the Autumn 1985 edition (Volume 36, Number 3) of Supervisory Management magazine, Lichfield, Staffordshire, England (birthplace, 1709, of famed lexicographer Samuel Johnson). That publication is now known as Modern Management and is issued by the Institute for Supervision and Management (website at http://www.ismstowe.demon.co.uk). The Institute's general e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, but comments about their website in particular should go to email@example.com. (The first item in our British area is "Private Action for British-U.S. Union".)
Tho some of the attitudes described in the article below have shifted somewhat in the intervening years, they have not changed fundamentally, only incrementally. The photo of the author, like the article, dates to 1985.
The Autumn 1984 issue of Supervisory Management carried an article, "Factories in Space or How Britain Gave away the Space Race". This suggested a more basic problem than just refusal to run in the space race a lack of vision for the future in a large part of the British populace. To outsiders, Britain seems totally without direction or ambition, focused tightly on negatives and the past. Rather than working to expand the economic "pie", or bake a new one, everyone's fighting over the size of their slice of the existing even shrinking pie. Low-tech, antiquated industries are clutched tightly to the chest, while the industries of the future are ignored. Perhaps Britain would be best served by letting go of low-tech altogether to shift instead to high gear on high tech.
This would require a change of perceptions and aspirations, however, and an opening of society to more internal mobility, both geographic and social. The upper classes cannot hold the future for themselves and deign to give the lower classes only the past. For their part, the working class must aspire to and demand the education that alone will give them a foothold in the future, and not regard desk jobs in service industries as effete or unmanly.
Perhaps Britain lost its will to greatness when it lost its Empire. Rather than advance on new worlds to conquer, too many Britons have retreated to the glorification of smallness what might be called the "Splendid Island Syndrome". Clinging to a rock surrounded by an ocean, it is easy to feel limited and threatened, to look out at the world with resentment of other people's success and retreat to the library to glow in the warmth of one's own glorious history. But history alone doesn't get you very far. Britons have the right to ask of their country, "What have you done for me lately?" and even, "What have you done to me?"
The best of Britain is very good indeed, and the brilliance of Britain's top universities, publishers, and laboratories still impresses the world. When it comes to putting that brilliance to good use, however, something goes awry. Britain lacks context, perhaps because islands tend, not surprisingly, to make one insular. Within Britain, each class is isolated in some measure from the other, if not by neighborhood, then psychologically. Education, and thus the possibilities for the future it provides, is too much the possession of the upper class. But perhaps the upper class doesn't really want just anybody to understand, and use, pure science. Perhaps, in Britain, knowledge is acquired for its own sake, not to do things to put the wonders of science to so base and tedious a use as propelling a bus would be to sully the purity of science. Thus science is cut off from applications as the rich are cut off from the poor and as Britain is cut off from its past and the world. Layer upon layer of insularity afflict Britain and must be peeled away.
With the loss of Empire, Britain's opinions lost weight. Today, nobody asks Britain's opinion about anything, which makes Britons think they don't matter very much and in fact they don't. But Britain is, itself, in part to blame. [It has taken personally the rejection of Empire by former colonies, so gone off to pout and sulk rather than reach out dynamically to new relationships with the outside world for such new relationships seem to offer intimidating possibilities of rejection and hurt in the future. Having ventured nothing internationally in the past twenty-five years, Britain has gained nothing. Halfhearted integration with the European Community, and grudging metrication, have fooled no one Britons least of all. Britain holds itself aloof, from hurt feelings but outsiders think it's from arrogance and disdain.
There must be many Britons who would welcome the opportunity to throw themselves into something wholeheartedly again, to feel alive and important not because of what their ancestors did but because of what they are able to do .... right now! But what should Britain throw itself into? The European Community? Taiwanization (the transformation of an island remnant of a once-huge empire into an industrial and high-tech dynamo)?
Britain is stalemated in the European Community in being one of four major countries, each with its own language, culture, and history. Britain is at best evenly matched against Italy, with its glamorous Roman Empire and bountiful Renaissance; France, with its centuries of Continental domination and prestigious language and literature; and Germany, with its brute power and relentless industry. How does one impress those people, so wrapped up in themselves and their own versions of glorious history? How do you even talk to them, when they all speak different languages? Britain is hemmed in by Europe. Europe offers not endless possibilities but endless frustrations.
How content would Britons be with turning their splendid island into a gleaming factory? Taiwan at least pretends to be China. What can Britain pretend to be? If the British were Swiss, it might be enough to be a little country, prosperous and tidy as a pin. But that's not British. To be British is to strive for bigger things.
What, then, is Britain's future? Whatever it is, it must arise from its past and suit its nature. What is Britain's greatest success? The Empire! What remains of the Empire? Six advanced, English-speaking countries Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and Britain itself. Of those, which is Britain's greatest success? Even more than Britain itself, the United States is the British people's greatest success.
For two centuries, however, Britain's attitude to the United States has been poutish antagonism. British policy has been devoted to checkmating U.S. growth, hedging it in where it might have flowed over, as in Canada (which today would be part of the United States had not Britain done everything in its power to keep the neighbors apart.) Who has profited from these two centuries of antagonism? Is Canada part of Britain today? No! But it's not part of the United States either. A great triumph! For what?
Britain has been a father resentful of his son. Even when that son had clearly eclipsed him, and inklings of mortality began to creep into his consciousness, the father still works to thwart his son. As the Empire began to crack and Canada drifted away, Britain took satisfaction that the United States didn't get it. As the Empire lost the Caribbean, Britain chuckled that the United States didn't get that either. Now, instead of a huge and prosperous Union of which Britain is a valued and vibrant part, the Empire is nothing but a rose-tinted memory in hosts of separate competing countries. Britain itself has been reduced to but a ragged remnant of its former self on the fringe of Europe in every sense.
The Encyclopedia Britannica (which, despite its name, is published in the United States) speculates on what might have happened had the United States not separated from Britain in 1776. It argues that the capital of the Empire might have migrated across the Atlantic, as the center of imperial gravity shifted westward. In support of that thesis, it cites the Hudson's Bay Company and other corporations that shifted their headquarters to North America from London. (It might also have proffered its own move from Scotland to Chicago.) The point to contemplate is that if the Empire had reformed to adjust to changed circumstances, it might have become a federal union in which Britain, Ireland, Canada, the United States, West Indies, Australia, New Zealand and, maybe, even more remote and diverse areas like India were still united. Instead of being a backwater grudgingly accepting a subordinate role in "Europe". it might instead be a rich center of research, industry and finance for the Nation, little more distant from the capital (be that Washington or New York) than hugely important California.
Readers may think that "might have beens" are all very fine to pass an hour over ale, but have little to do with the reality of today. Not so! What might have been can, in large measure, still come about. It can happen if Britain recognizes that, if it must lose its sovereignty to some large entity (as many Europeanists contend), it would make much better sense, in light of British culture and history, for that larger entity to be an English-speaking federal union based on the most successful of Britain's children the United States.
British reunion with its lost "Colonies" through admission to the Union as up to five states of the United States, would almost certainly spur reunion of British North America, and possibly also of all the Old Dominions in a single federal Nation. Such a grand reunion would surely spur new ideas of all sorts new aspirations and vision in business and culture: the gain would be more than just political. In such a way might the long and brilliant history of Britain prove more than a depressing trip through aging clippings in a scrapbook; it would be the basis for an even more brilliant future.
The British Empire was not built by a lack of vision, but it was lost to one. Absorption by Europe is surely a prospect much less pleasant to the average Briton than reunion with the lost Empire, albeit in a new relationship of equality. And the idea of being able to work in, and travel through, a vast and wealthy Nation in all parts of which one can hear one's own, English, language spoken must be much more pleasant than the prospect of being locked into a small, insular economy dependent upon a Europe that does not speak English.
The Expansionist Party of the United States is looking for people with leadership ability who recognize that the first responsibility of a good manager is to see the big picture and one's own possibilities in it clearly. We welcome inquiries from members of the Institute of Supervisory Management who see that the problem of British competitiveness is really a problem of British self-esteem and confidence. As mergers of corporations may sometimes be the best way to solve their separate problems, perhaps merger of nations is the best way to solve their problems. It's worth some thought.
[February 27, 2007 addendum: Britons interested in forming a group, within the Expansionist Party or outside it, to promote statehood for Britain should contact:
9 Church Close
Market Weighton, York
England YO43 3BD
Tel.: +44 (0) 14 3087 9791 or +44 (0) 79 3267 9052
[Expansionist Party home page] ["Private Action for British-U.S. Union"]["One Plan for Boundaries of Six British States"] [Extending U.S. citizenship to nationals of highly similar countries, starting with Canada and maybe Britain?]