How Did Common Sense Sensibility And Rationality Shape Todays British Society Economics Politics
“How did common sense, sensibility and rationality shape todays British society, economics, politics?”
Common sense: –noun sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence.
Rationality: –noun, plural -ties. 1) the state or quality of being rational.
2) the possession of reason. 3) agreeableness to reason; reasonableness. 4) the exercise of reason. 5) a reasonable view, practice, etc.
There is no better way to approach any subject other than with reason and common sense. England through the centuries has done just this. Always putting the good of the people first and thinking of what is really good for the country. Its not always easy to choose and make decisions but common sense and rationality help. England is the perfect example of this: in the past she has had to face many dilemmas, the wrong choice of action would have made the country collapse. Fortunately it has not been so. Thanks to the continuous evolving way of thinking the english society has always made the right choices politically and economically making it one of the most important countries of the world despite the geografical size obstacle.
Before talking about english politics and modern english society it is important to understand the past that has characterised this country and has made it become what it is:
In Britain, there is no written constitution to protect civil liberties and define the rules of the political game. Yet, several traditions, constitutional agreements and political conventions exist and constitute the pillars of the regime. One of those document is the Magna Carta (Great Charter) granted by King John in 1215 under the pressure of his aristocracy and clergy. This document excluded very early in English history the practice of political absolutism and excessive use of the royal prerogative. Moreover, after Magna Carta, no excessive demand for money could be made by the King without the consent of the aristocracy and clergy. Finally, concerning individual freedom, after the Magna Carta, no arrest in prison or punishment could be performed on aristocrats and clergymen without a trial by similar kinds of people, according to the law of the land. It is the starting point of the notion of trial by peers.
Later on, in 1265, Edward I was forced by his aristocracy to summon the first Parliament in English history, which took the name of Model Parliament. The very notion of Parliament, from the French word “parler” implies a discussion on every legislative decision and therefore, the possibility for a diversity of opinions. English Parliament was the first to include representatives from outside the clergy and aristocracy. It was established that the King needed the support of the whole nation for his military campaigns against Wales, Scotland and France. Thus, it was necessary for him to raise money through taxation. So, before being a full legislative body where law is made, Parliament rests on the principle of no taxation without political representation.
From its origin, the Parliament started to meet in two separate chambers located in the Palace of Westminster :
• The Upper House or House of Lords, organized according to the principle of heredity (by birth, not by elections).
• The Lower House or House of Commons, organized by elections and receiving the representatives of taxpayers and landowners (= the rich).
The Parliamentary institutions founded in the Middle Ages have a paradoxical nature. The Model Parliament was the first representative political body in Europe, England was called the Mother of Parliament but the right to vote (= the Franchise) and the right to be elected (= Eligibility) were defined as a privilege either of birth or property and money, not as a universal right. It took several centuries for England to reform this initial trend.
In the first part of the 17th century, abuse of authority from the King led to a re-statement of rights. At the end of the 17th century, after a period of Civil War and a peaceful revolution, the tradition of parliamentary sovereignty became past of the legal framework of the English constitution. In 1628, the Parliament opposed a petition of rights to the King, claiming for political guarantees against money for Charles I’s European and colonial wars. The King’s refusal to renounce to this prerogative led to a civil war and to the King’s execution in 1649.
The principle of the petition re-emerged in the events of 1688, called the Glorious Revolution for it was bloodless. The current King James II was forced to leave the country and was replaced by his daughter Mary and her husband William on the condition that the two would accept a declaration of rights in exchange of the throne. The contract was instituted : political power against rights. After it was approved, the declaration was known as the Bill of Rights in 1689, which constituted the first constitutional monarchy in the world by stipulating once for all :
1. The King can’t suspend a law voted in Parliament
2. The King can’t raise taxes or maintain a permanent army in time of peace without a vote in Parliament.
The new institution created the notion of Government by the leaders of the country’s majority and led to the formation of two political parties alternating in power as the majority and the opposition. The name of the first party is the Whigs : they supported the new regime and represented the world of business and commerce. In the 19th century, the Whigs became the Liberal Party. The second party was the Tories, who supported a more authoritarian definition of the monarchy. They represented the class of agricultural landowners. In the 19th century, the Tories became the Conservative Party.
In the field of individual rights, before the Glorious Revolution, a piece of legislation passed in 1679 and called the Habeas Corpus aimed at protecting subjects against royal absolutism alongside the lines first defined by Magna Carta. The Habeas Corpus banned arrest and detention without trial but freedom from custody could only be obtained after came on an amount of money, given as a guarantee and called a bail. Therefore, by the end of the 17th century, England has become the first representative government in Europe. The King’s right to suspend legislation (= to refuse to give assent to a bill accepted by both Houses of Parliament) became purely theoretical : this right of veto was last exercised in 1707. Later on, the tradition of cabinet government and the position of Prime Minister progressively emerged and later became an unquestionable right of the British people. The P.M. was the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons. He became the real head of Government : British Kings were said to reign but not to rule.
Now lets talk about modern British politics:
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as head of state; the monarch of the UK also serves as head of state of fifteen other Commonwealth countries, putting the UK in a personal union with those other states. The UK has a parliamentary government based on strong democratic traditions: the Westminster system has been emulated around the world—a legacy of the British Empire. The UK’s constitution governs the legal framework of the country and consists mostly of written sources, including statutes, judge made case law, and international treaties. As there is no technical difference between ordinary statutes and law considered to be “constitutional law,” the British Parliament can perform “constitutional reform” simply by passing Acts of Parliament and thus has the power to change or abolish almost any written or unwritten element of the constitution. However, no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change. The United Kingdom is one of the three countries in the world today that does not have a codified constitution (the other two being New Zealand and Israel). This is an example of common sense and rationality: A constitution is typically a document or number of documents which together provide a basic framework for a country’s system of government, defining the relationship between the state and its citizens, and between the institutions of state themselves. It is effectively the highest source of law and is known as substantive law; law that create rights. Most countries have their constitution in a single document broadly describing the nature of the political system, acting as a kind of identity for the state. Britain’s constitution is rather more complex. The key features are
– The legislative supremacy of parliament
– The fact that Britain is a unitary state – Flexibility of change and adaptability
– The political supremacy of the executive
– Conventions which are uncodified but are nonetheless considered central to the political process – No entrenched rights, but a concept of “residual rights”: anything which is not legislatively forbidden, is permitted.
– The monarch is the supreme head of state and the source of all power in the land
Because of its diffuse nature, there are some aspects of it that are impossible to settle with finality. The UK constitution has evolved over several hundred years as opposed to being brought forth from any single major social or political event. But the period around and after the Glorious Revolution (1689) is the starting point of the more recognisable aspects of the constitutional settlement we see today.
In Britain there is no single definitive document containing the constitution. Rather, our constitutional principles have been gleaned from numerous sources. We do have rules, statutory, legal and conventional, that settle the various matters that a “normal” constitution would. they are, however, not all written down, and certainly not in one place, and this is why our constitution is called “uncodified” as opposed to “unwritten”.
The single most important aspect of the British Constitution is the sovereignty of parliament: there is no law that parliament is legally forbidden to make.
But it is this very flexibility that makes the British system so effective: vast changes can be made to the architecture of the state and the economy relatively smoothly. So it is ironic that the chief criticisms made against British constitution’s strengths are that its greatest weakness is that it is too simple to alter, and too unresponsive to change.
Economically the United Kingdom has the fifth largest economy in the world in terms of market exchange rates and the sixth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) and it has the second largest economy in Europe after Germany. The United Kingdom is one of the world’s most globalised countries, ranking fourth in one recent survey. The capital, London, is one of the three major financial centres of the world, along with New York City and Tokyo. When talking about the economical and industiral point of view, we have to remember this countries past, its great empire and power:
The British Empire was the largest empire in history and for a time was the foremost global power. It was a product of the European age of discovery, which began with the maritime explorations of the 15th century, that sparked the era of the European colonial empires.
The foundations of the British Empire were laid at a time before Britain existed as a single political entity, when England and Scotland were separate kingdoms. In 1496, King Henry VII of England, following the successes of Portugal and Spain in overseas exploration, commissioned John Cabot to lead a voyage to discover a route to Asia via the North Atlantic. Cabot sailed in 1497, and though he successfully made landfall on the coast of Canada (mistakenly believing, like Christopher Columbus five years earlier, that he had reached Asia), the voyage was unprofitable, and no attempt at establishing a colony was made. Lack of interest in overseas matters followed this voyage, and continued until well into the reign of Elizabeth I, during the last decades of the 16th century. Enmity and rivalry between Catholic Spain and Protestant England during the Anglo-Spanish Wars led to the Crown sanctioning English privateers such as John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake to engage in piratical attacks on Spanish ports in the Americas and shipping that was returning across the Atlantic, laden with treasure from the New World. At the same time, influential writers such as Richard Hakluyt and John Dee (who was the first to use the term “British Empire”) were beginning to press for the establishment of England’s own empire, to rival those of Spain and Portugal. By this time, Spain was firmly entrenched in the Americas, Portugal had established a string of trading posts and forts from the coasts of Africa and Brazil to China, and France had begun to settle the St. Lawrence River, later to become New France.
In 1578 Sir Humphrey Gilbert was granted a patent by Queen Elizabeth for discovery and overseas exploration, and set sail for the West Indies with the intention of first engaging in piracy and on the return voyage, establishing a colony in North America. The expedition failed at the outset due to bad weather. In 1583 Gilbert embarked on a second attempt, on this occasion to the island of Newfoundland where he formally claimed for England the harbour of St. John’s, though no settlers were left behind. Gilbert did not survive the return journey to England, and was succeeded by his half-brother, Walter Raleigh, who was granted his own patent by Elizabeth in 1584, in the same year founding the colony of Roanoke on the coast of present-day North Carolina. The colony did not survive due to lack of supplies.In 1603, King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English throne and in 1604, negotiated the Treaty of London, ending hostilities with Spain. Now at peace with its main rival, English attention shifted from preying on other nations’ colonial infrastructure to the business of establishing its own overseas colonies.
Although its beginnings were hit-and-miss, the British Empire began to take shape during the early 17th century, with the English settlement of North America and the smaller islands of the Caribbean, and the establishment of a private company, the English East India Company, to trade with Asia. This period, until the loss of the Thirteen Colonies after the United States Declaration of Independence towards the end of the 18th century has subsequently been referred to as the “First British Empire”. At the end of the 16th century, England and the Netherlands began to challenge Portugal’s monopoly of trade with Asia, forming private joint-stock companies to finance the voyages – the English (later British) and Dutch East India Companies, chartered in 1600 and 1602 respectively. The primary aim of these companies was to tap into the lucrative spice trade, and focussed their efforts on the source, the Indonesian archipelago, and an important hub in the trade network, India. The proximity of London and Amsterdam and rivalry between England and the Netherlands inevitably led to conflict between the two companies, with the Dutch gaining the upper hand in the Moluccas (previously a Portuguese stronghold) after the withdrawal of the English in 1622, and the English enjoying more success in India, at Surat, after the establishment of a factory in 1613. Since 1718, transportation to the American colonies had been a penalty for various criminal offences in Britain, with approximately one thousand convicts transported per year across the Atlantic. Forced to find an alternative location after the loss of the Thirteen Colonies in 1783, the British government turned to the newly discovered land of New Holland, later renamed Australia.
In 1770, James Cook had discovered the eastern coast of Australia whilst on a scientific voyage to the South Pacific. In 1778, Joseph Banks, Cook’s botanist on the voyage, presented evidence to the government on the suitability of Botany Bay for the establishment of a penal settlement, and in 1787 the first shipment of convicts set sail, arriving in 1788. Matthew Flinders proved New Holland and New South Wales to be a single land mass by completing a circumnavigation of it in 1803. In 1826, Australia was formally claimed for the United Kingdom with the establishment of a military base, soon followed by a colony in 1829. The colonies later became self-governing colonies and became profitable exporters of wool and gold.
All these colonies and trade unions ensured money and power to England. These links still work today.
The British economy is often described as an ‘Anglo-Saxon economy’. It is made up (in descending order of size) of the economies of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The UK has been a member state of the European Union since 1973.
In the 1980s, under the Government of Margaret Thatcher, most state-owned enterprises in the industrial and service sectors, which since the 1940s had been nationalised, were privatised. The British Government now owns very few industries or businesses – Royal Mail is one example.
The British economy has in recent years seen the longest period of sustained economic growth for more than 150 years, having grown in every quarter since 1992. It is one of the strongest EU economies in terms of inflation, interest rates and unemployment, all of which remain relatively low. In consequence, the United Kingdom, according to the International Monetary Fund, now has the seventh highest level of GDP per capita in the European Union in terms of purchasing power parity, after Luxembourg, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria and Finland. However, in common with the economies of other English-speaking countries, it has higher levels of income inequality than some European countries. The UK also has the world’s third largest current account deficit, despite significant oil revenues.
Englands modern way of evolving and adapting to circumstances has made it successful. At the base of this mentality there is always common sense. A country cant demand to have order and respect by its people if it isnt organised in a fair and practical way. Sensibility towards the individual without forgetting the general well being of the whole country is difficult but thanks to past experience and learning from it England had created a balance in which the well being of the country always comes first.