Monday, September 12, 2016

Book Review - Inventing Freedom by Daniel Hannan (Andy Jobson)

Review – Inventing Freedom by Daniel Hannan

I like to think that one advantage of teaching is that it keeps me reading.  Some people, however, just read widely because they love it. My mother-in-law is one of those people, and she often leads me to some wonderful books. Daniel Hannan’s Inventing Freedom is one of those great finds.

Hannan, a member of the European Parliament, provides an overview of the English-speaking world (which he calls the Anglosphere) that in some ways pays homage to Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking People.  Hannan takes one volume to share his insights instead of four (a bonus for busy teachers) and focuses heavily on the reasons that one island, and its offshoots, created what we think of today as Western Civilization. Those who like to denigrate the value of that civilization will probably hate this book, but those who see the importance of principles like the rule of law, private property, personal liberty, and representative government will find much to appreciate here.   

Here’s a small sample:  “(S)mall businessmen have been the drivers of progress through the centuries.  Societies that laud martial valor, nobility, and faith tend to be less pleasant places to live than societies that value freedom, enterprise, and privacy.  The petit bourgeoisie, whom Marx so despised, have contributed more to human happiness than any number of crusaders.  And they have done so, in the main, unhonored, unthanked, and unnoticed.”  (327)

Daniel Hannan
Like Churchill, Hannan looks far back into the Anglo-Saxon period in England to trace the growth of the principles stated above.  He reminds us Americans of the debt we owe to that nation while arguing that the English colonies that eventually declared independence are perhaps the strongest example of these values. As De Tocqueville said in Democracy in America, “The American is the Englishman left to himself.”  

This does not imply that only those Caucasians of Anglo-Saxon heritage are true Americans—I always try to remind my students that our nation’s citizenship is one of the few based not on ethnicity, but on philosophy.  To be American, I would argue, means to think a certain way.  Sadly, I worry that we’re losing that unique identity as we strive to become more like continental Europe. Hannan reminds us of the value of what we’re so casually throwing away. 

An educator of 22 years, Andy Jobson has taught government, economics, and U.S. History. Currently teaching English literature at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, GA, he’s also been an administrator, a STAR teacher twice, and taught elementary school with Teach for America.