WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- The primary focus of this column has been on the potential among English-speaking nations for what I have termed a "Network Commonwealth" -- a set of cooperative associations such as trade areas, defense alliances, agreements for free personnel movement and other such integrative measures.
Because Britain, and subsequently the United States, experienced the Industrial Revolution and political modernity early, Network Commonwealth structures will probably also arise in the Anglosphere quite early. But the Spanish-speaking world is another prime candidate for the creation of such a community.
The Hispanosphere exhibits a similar flow of information as the Anglosphere and an increasing effort to renew common links and institutions. The Portuguese-speaking world, whose center is now Brazil, may also well construct a Lusosphere; the increasingly close connections between Brazil and the former Portuguese states of Africa foreshadows such a development.
The prospect raises interesting options for the Bush administration, whose plans for a Free Trade Area of the Americas have been slowed but not halted. The recently concluded bilateral free trade negotiations with Chile may well signal a renewed attention to the south. However, rather than a hemispheric model of collaboration, it may make more sense to see the Americas as an overlapping set of Anglosphere, Hispanosphere, and Lusosphere Network Commonwealths.
Latin America is unlikely to retain its current political, cultural and economic forms over the next twenty years. Changes are in process. If they can ride these changes successfully, Latin America may come to substantial prosperity as a result.
Two trends have emerged in Latin America which, between them, may mark a permanent break with the past practices that have kept these regions in poverty. One is the relative opening of their economies to market forces, most fully in Chile, but also significantly in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and elsewhere.
This opening is breaking down the cozy symbiosis between the political class and the economic monopolies, which has historically dominated Latin American societies. Observers such as Hernando de Soto, Mario Vargas Llosa and Claudio Veliz have all written extensively, from their various perspectives, on this phenomenon.
The other is the explosive, and mostly unnoticed growth of religious diversity, particularly in the form of evangelical Protestantism and the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). It may be, ironically, that the "equivalent to the Protestant Reformation" some sociologists have long contemplated for Latin America will be -- the Protestant Reformation. As with the original Protestant Reformation, there are signs that this change will ultimately be beneficial to Catholicism as well, as a challenge that drives the internal reform of church structures and their relationship to politics.
These changes are in part the result of the creative encounter that has been taking place between the Anglosphere and the Hispanosphere. Americans often comment on the increasing Latin American influence in the U.S. However, the influence of the Anglosphere (primarily of the United States, but also, historically, of Britain and the Anglo-Caribbean) in the Hispanosphere has been large, and continues to grow.
At one level, it is a revolution of North American and Latin American businessmen and women transforming industry, commerce, and finance from the sleepy administration of resource extraction to becoming part of a competitive global economy. In the process, business practices and attitudes are changing. At another level, it is a revolution of converts, many having been exposed to other churches while working in the U.S., reaching far into the backlands, challenging and changing society and politics.
Finally, there is the ongoing human encounter of immigration and intermarriage, which has increased enormously. Recent polling has indicated that, rather than coalescing into a coherent "Latino" minority in the U.S. similar to the African American community, Latin American immigrants remain primarily oriented to their country of origin in the first generation, and then tend to repeat the classic immigrant experience in the second and third, becoming North Americans proud of their ancestry, but thinking, feeling, and marrying like their non-Latin neighbors. Beyond the first generation, marriage of Latinos and non-Latinos is now taking place at an accelerated rate.
Yet this assimilation does not prevent Latino immigrants from continuing to influence their familial countries of origin. In fact, their assimilation in underlying values heightens their impact, for they become means of transmission of Anglosphere trends and ideas, already interpreted and adapted in some respects to Latin realities, back to the home nations. This impact is stronger than that of returning immigrants to Southern and Eastern Europe in earlier eras, because communication and transportation is so cheap today in comparison.
Pairs of civilizations have throughout history enjoyed stimulating and productive dialogues and encounters. The Anglosphere and Hispanosphere seem to be enjoying such a period, although like all such, it is not without its tensions and irritations. What seems to be unique about the Anglosphere is that it seems to be undertaking such a mutual encounter with most of the civilizations on the planet, simultaneously.
The Network Commonwealth approach has the merit of being sufficiently open and flexible to flexible to facilitate these encounters. Thus the interchange between the U.S. and Latin America can benefit Britain, just as Britain's ongoing encounter with India can benefit the U.S., or would if the European Union does not try to erect barriers between Britain and the nations it is bound to by history.
It s critical that the U.S. should not view its southern potential in terms of a closed and inward-looking trade bloc on the European model. While reaching south to the Hispanosphere and Lusosphere, the U.S. should also seek to accelerate its already-deep cooperative ties to Canada, and offer the same level of cooperation to Australia and New Zealand, who could be included with minimal effort. Then we can reach eastward to those in Europe who also are open to participation in these mutual encounters.