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The UK and the US Political Systems Essay

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Updated: May 19th, 2021

Executive Summary

The United States of America and the United Kingdom are two countries of the world that are frequently compared and contrasted with each other in regard to a variety of different aspects, features, and characteristics. This could be the case because the two countries are strongly related in terms of historical development. Being the former British colony, the United States of America inherited many of its important concepts, views, and approaches in regard to the political system, legislation, governance, and law. As a result, there exists a set of similarities between the political and legal systems of the two states (such as the reliance on common law or case law in legal decision-making, the democratic structure of the political systems, and the division of the government and court systems into branches allowing them to balance and check one another.

Introduction

A lot of time has passed since the times of the British colonization of the continent of North America, and, as a result, the two countries grew apart, each taking its own way of future prospects, goals, and political courses. A detailed comparison of some of the aspects that comprise the statehood of the United States and the United Kingdom will be discussed in this paper. In particular, the major topics on which this report will elaborate are the differences and similarities between the Constitutions of the two countries, their view of a legal concept, governmental systems, and their perspectives on case law.

Differences and Similarities in the Design of Both Constitutions

The USA and the UK are some of the world’s most developed, wealthiest, and politically organized countries. Both of these states are also known for their strong democratic approach to their political systems supported by their constitutions. However, there exist significant differences between these documents.

The first and foremost point of difference between the constitutions of the United States of America and the United Kingdom is the way they are organized. In particular, while the Constitution of the United States is the existing document that was handwritten and thoroughly put together by a large group of political and legislative experts, the British Constitution is known to still remain unwritten (Thomas, 2017). As surprising as it may sound to a modern analyst, the British Constitution is practically a compilation of several documents that serve as the basis for its state governance.

At the same time, one of the major issues regarding the unwritten Constitution of the UK is its validity since this document is easy to challenge due to the lack of a well-organized set of terms and rules presented by it for the state to rely on. In addition, during the time while Britain enjoyed its membership in the European Union, there also had been multiple arguments dedicated to the discussion of the relationship of the British unwritten Constitution and the strictly organized, well-presented, and relatively modern Constitution of the EU.

It could be supposed that the lack of a clearly written text of the Constitution could serve as a significant issue when passing laws; however, as pointed out by Thomas (2017), quite often, the American laws are on the news due to their utter clash with some of the first ten Amendments (also known as the Bill of Rights). In that way, both types of designs (written and unwritten) are still known to face challenges when it comes to accomplishing the major functions of a Constitution.

Due to the strong and lengthy historical connection between the United Kingdom and the United States, there also exist a very significant set of similarities between the legal systems of the two states. First of all, the legal concepts of the UK and the USA have the same roots as the latter practically originates from the former (Rabon, 2013).

One of the main similarities of the legal concepts of the two countries is their source of legal authority. In particular, in the US, as well as in the UK, courts are seen as the major judiciary body that resolves litigations by means of relying on the presence or absence of precedent (Syam, 2014). At the same time, the major legislative organ in the United States is the Congress that is comprised of several branches; however, in the United Kingdom, this function is fulfilled by the Parliament that is regarded as sovereign in its power (Bogdanor & Rodriguez, 2008).

Court systems in the United States and the United Kingdom do not differ much. For the minor and less significant cases, there exist regional courts (or state courts in the USA); and for the major offenses, there is a specialized court hierarchy comprised of three stages – the bottom stage is represented by the District Court in the US and the Crown Court in the UK, the second stage is the Courts of Appeals, and the final and the highest stage has the Supreme Courts in both states (Syam, 2014).

In addition, approaching the litigation in the UK and the US in details, it is possible to point out the difference in the way they lawyers in the two states plead their cases; practically, this aspect is lengthier and more detailed in the US while the UK approach supports concise and brief pleading style (Byford, 2012).

Governmental System

Perhaps, the most obvious and well-known difference between the governmental systems of the United Kingdom and the United States is in the characters of the two systems. In particular, the United States is known to be the federal constitutional republic, whereas the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary governmental system (Wandrei, 2017).

The major differences between the governmental systems of the USA and the UK lie in the top levels of their structures. To be more precise, in the UK, the role of the head of the state is fulfilled by the monarch (currently, Queen Elizabeth II); this role includes majorly ceremonial duties and is highly limited in relation to the political powers and responsibilities. At the same time, the role of the head of the government is completely different in the UK and is carried out by the prime minister, whose duties include a broad scope of activities connected to the daily management of the state (Wandrei, 2017). In contrast with the governmental system of the UK, that of the United States has a single head of the state – the President, whose role presents a combination of both managerial and ceremonial duties.

The US government is divided into three branches – executive, judiciary, and a Congress that has a dual structure and is comprised of a House of Representatives and a Congress; the latter two bodies are democratically elected. The three branches of the US government are organized in a way allowing them to balance out one another and check each other’s activities (Wandrei, 2017). At the same time, in the United Kingdom, the Parliament that is the main governmental body, is comprised of the House of Commons (this is also the lower house) and the House of Lords (the upper house). In the House of Commons, the members are elected democratically by the constituencies; further, the leader of the party that is dominant in the House is appointed to be the state prime minister (Wandrei, 2017). When it comes to the House of Lords, its main function is to balance and check the actions of the House of Commons through the review of bills; the members of this House are not elected; also, prior to 2009, the House of Lords fulfilled the functions of a final court of the appeal currently carried out by the Supreme Court (Wandrei, 2017).

Case Law in the UK and the US

Just like the governmental systems, the legal systems of the United Kingdom and the United States have a lot in common due to the common history in the past. In particular, the major aspect of the legal systems of the two countries that are known as the case law or the common law is a shared concept accepted in both states. Case law stands for the approach to legal decision-making that is based on the review of cases or precedents (Rabon, 2013). In that way, a single decision focusing on a particular case or precedent becomes an exemplar for all the following cases that resemble the initial precedent (Rabon, 2013).

Since the time when the United States became an independent republic and began to follow its own Constitution, the country has accepted its own common law that is based on the rules and regulations gathered in and supported by the Constitution (Rabon, 2013). At the same time, the United Kingdom is comprised of four different countries; common law is the dominant approach in three of these countries – England, Northern Ireland, and Wales; the fourth country of the Kingdom, Scotland, has a legal system that incorporates a combination of common and civil law; in this hybrid of a system, the vast majority of regulations are based on statutes and legislation decisions (Rabon, 2013).

Conclusion

For the most part, the legal and political systems in the United States of America and the United Kingdom are very similar. The similarities can be majorly explained by the common roots of these aspects of the British and the American states and societies (since, initially, the United States of America originated from a group of British colonies), as well as by the similar approaches to the further political courses, development, and decision-making. In particular, the governmental systems of the two states are very similar in the bottom aspects and have major differences at the top levels representing the general kind of governmental system, the heads of the state, and the major governmental powers and their organization. The legal systems of the two states are majorly based on common law that supports the legal decision-making that comes from past cases. In that way, the major differences between the political systems of the two states are in the basic structure and the division into branches.

References

Bogdanor, V., & Rodriguez, C. (2008). Web.

Byford, N. (2012). Litigation: The differences between English and U.S. litigation. Web.

Rabon, J. (2013). Web.

Syam, P. (2014). Web.

Thomas, J. (2017). Web.

Wandrei, K. (2017). Web.

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