United but different: Differences and similarities between the US and the UK

By Olta Totoni

The Western Democracies are the essential references for those countries and states that are in their beginnings. Countries like The United Kingdom and The United States of America with consolidated democracies make the difference and they also intertwine the old with the modern.  The United States of America a state of immigrants, a mosaic where every piece represents a certain state in comparison with The United Kingdom a monarchy where the monarch gives her royal consent for economical and political facts.

The influence of United Kingdom has been apparent throughout the history of the United States of America. From the colonies till now the situations have changed. They are two separate countries that collaborate freely with each other and offer equal chances for the relevant citizens.

Why is the United States of America considered to be a point of reference for all the western democracies? This federal state offers equal opportunity and it is characterized by freedom. Americans learn about the political system at an earlier age. The children learn how to vote, to elect the committees, to make a campaign etc. The voting process, the notion of the responsibility, the idea of the minority and majority are familiar for all the American citizens. The heart of the American democracy is the transparency and it is manifested in different aspects.

First, the American citizens have the right to participate in different meetings. As Americans they have the right to express their thoughts freely. They have their freedom of speech.

Second, the American citizens have the right to express their point of view by sending letters or electronic mails. The law for the freedom of the information has helped the American citizens to use public documents in order to understand better different situations, historical facts etc. The face of America is changing quickly. What in the United Europe can be seen as a theory, in the United States it is considered to be practice.  The power in the United States is well-organized and this is done in order not to gain terrain and misuse the role. (Checks and Balances).

On the other hand, why is the United Kingdom considered to be a point of reference for all the western democracies? The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy. It is a constitutional monarchy. The Sovereign is the head of the country and the government. There is no written constitution in comparison with the United States where the constitution is the “supreme law in the country”. In her role as a monarch the Queen is the head of the Executive power and plays an integral role in the legislation. The Parliament has deep roots in the history of the United Kingdom. The medieval kings had to provide amounts of money for the public and private expenditure. If there were a need for extra resources, the sovereign needed help from the barons in meetings which were handled several times in a year. During the thirteenth century the English kings had not enough income for their expenditure. They invited the barons, the representatives of the villages, towns in order to tax the additional taxes. This council included those representatives which were gathered on the basis of their title and that was later divided into two parts The House of the Commons and The House of the Lords.

The titles of the Crown derive partially from the Statute and partially from the descendants. The inheritance of the titles has been from one to another generation starting from the sons of the Sovereign that inherit the throne. When a daughter reigns she becomes a queen and she has equal rights with a king.

What is the role of the Monarchy in the United Kingdom?

The role of the Monarchy is very important. Throughout the years the British people have had second thoughts to keep the monarchy or not but they unanimously have voted for keeping it as a form of government. The role of the Queen is also very important. She has an important duty connected with the House of the Commons and the House of the Lords. Her role is preserved based on tradition and inheritance.  The access of the public during the work of the two houses is an essential factor. The work of the two Houses is broadcasted on TV, on the Radio and in the Internet in a registered form. The official reports are published daily in relevant websites. This way shows how much these democracies are developed.

Totally different is the model that the United States offers because the government of the United States is that ‘of the people, by the people, for the people …’ 

The United Kingdom and The United States of America are two democracies that despite of being the same in their values and principles, their differences are visible and this does not have to do only with their geographic aspects.

First, The United States of America is a democracy based on the President where The United Kingdom is based on the Prime Minister. Throughout the history the United States of America was governed by different presidents. Most of them have been military men. They were elected through the free will of the people and through the most democratic principles. The United Kingdom follows a tradition of Kings and Queens that through wars and battles have created a strong nation with strong roots and with an important position in the International arena. Either the United Kingdom or the United States of America have diplomatic, cultural, economic and political relations.

Second, the governmental structure in the United Kingdom includes many traditions whereas the American system is flexible. For example, the election period of the president of the United States is scheduled up to 4 years. In the United Kingdom the Prime Minister can call a general election at any time within the five years.

Third, the United States is the first economy in the World. It is in an economical ‘fight’ with China of ‘Who will be the next Super Power?  The United Kingdom is the fifth economy in the world but it still remains one of the most industrialized countries in the world.

Fourth, the resign of the President can cause early elections or the vice president technically can take his office. In the United Kingdom, The Queen can elect the person she thinks is appropriate for the position. For example, Winston Churchill was appointed by the Queen during the World War II.

These states offer the best models of the democracy in the world. Despite of the governmental systems (The United States a federal state and The UK a monarchy) these two democracies are a good example of the freedom and rights of the people.

Olta Totoni is a British and American Studies Expert and Researcher at the University of Tirana, Albania.

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Foreign Policy News

Foreign Policy News is a self-financed initiative providing a venue and forum for political analysts and experts to disseminate analysis of major political and business-related events in the world, shed light on particulars of U.S. foreign policy from the perspective of foreign media and present alternative overview on current events affecting the international relations.

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