Looking at various reports on Britain’s new coalition government, and their proposed reform agenda, no matter where you fell on the results of the last election, it’s hard not to respect the Tory/LibDem alliance (unholy monster?) for, by all accounts, giving the British what they wanted: a fully re-invented government. If even half of these proposals come to pass, Britain will have substantially reinvented itself in the space of a generation, but, in enacting those reforms, they’ll be abandoning the process that got them there in the first place. Have a look.
Much of the document is a ringing endorsement of Americanism, writ large, proposing as reforms for Britain several things we do right. This is a process that began with the end of hereditary lordships under Blair, the 2009 replacement of the “law lords” with a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom — a ringing endorsement of American-style judicial review — and, now, continues to potentially include, inter alia:
- A British Bill of Rights;
- Liberalized libel law (thus approximating an American-style speech right), and;
- Full elections for Lords.
It’s unclear whether the last proposal would effect true bicameralism — or if that’s even desirable. Post-Blair, Lords seems to work pretty well as a repository of policy wonks, full of individuals who regularly undertake the kind of in-depth, objective research that MPs can’t, for reasons both temporal and political. Would elections improve or neutralize that role?
Several other parts of the document approximate things we would do right, if we were faithful to ourselves. The Cameron/Clegg monster states an interest in “safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation,” equal pay for equal work, gay rights, and measures to institutionalize respect for “strong and stable families of all kinds.”
So, good for England, but the scope and ambition of this reform project should put us all to shame. A lot of this is what a true center-left platform would look like in America, and it would be feasible, but for the great national distraction of the culture wars, and the dead weight imposed on us as a culture by the far right. Even the document’s inoffensively positive parts would stoke absurd, nonsensical controversy here — when the government pledges to “give national museums greater freedoms,” does that mean at the taxpayer’s expense? And what if the art offends this one guy, somewhere? The horror.
As we speak, a nation with whom we share a deep kinship is reinventing herself, for the better, by consensus, within (unwritten) constitutional norms. Why can’t we?