The United States and the United Kingdom are among the most powerful and successful democracies in the world. The structure of the government of both states was formed centuries ago and has not changed much since then. The founding fathers of the United States could not completely reject the influence of European, and especially English, politics that had existed for two centuries, which influenced the formation of its government structure. However, despite some similarities, the US and UK political structures differ significantly in the functions of the legislative and executive branches, as well as the volume and distribution of power within the government.
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The first noticeable difference between the United States and the United Kingdom is the different forms of government. The United States is a republic, and a president is its leader, the UK is a constitutional monarchy in which a queen or king is the head of the country. However, the Queen has only ceremonial functions, and the Prime Minister, who is the head of the government, takes the main control (Leston-Bandeira & Thompson, 2018).
The advantage of both countries is that both the President and the prime minister are not elected by direct vote. In the United States, Electoral College chose the President (Caramani, 2017). In Britain, members of the majority party vote for the Prime Minister (Leston-Bandeira & Thompson, 2018). This feature helps to reduce the manipulation of ordinary citizens but promotes choice through a more professional and qualified opinion.
One of the significant differences between the heads of government is their term of office. The President of the United States cannot hold office for more than two terms of 4 years (Caramani, 2017). The Prime Minister has his or her position life, or until he or she loses the House of Commons’ support (Leston-Bandeira & Thompson, 2018). This feature is an advantage for the United Kingdom as it contributes to more stable development and the realization of long-term goals. At the same time, even the most successful US president cannot take office, which leads to a frequent change in politics.
The US government and the UK also have a bicameral parliament, which has various powers of functions. However, their main difference is the fact that people elect both houses of the American parliament by direct vote, while the Premier appoints the House of Lords (Leston-Bandeira & Thompson, 2018). Besides, the Prime Minister and the President choose the composition of the Cabinet, but while the President does not interfere in its work, the Prime Minister is a constant participant in the discussions (Leston-Bandeira & Thompson, 2018). This fact is a drawback of the American system of government since the President thus has more limited participation in decision-making.
In addition, Congress must consider and approve or reject bills that any member of government proposes. Furthermore, only a member of Congress can submit a bill for consideration, so even the President instructs one of the deputies to present his proposals since he is not a member of the legislative body (Caramani, 2017). This fact is a flaw in the US government system since it adds bureaucratic obstacles and slows down the adoption of critical political decisions.
However, the main drawback of the UK government system is the lack of balances and an even distribution of power in the executive and legislative branches. Although formally the British Prime Minister has less power than the American President, Congress has the right to veto the President’s executive orders (Caramani, 2017). The President also has an influence on the legislative and executive bodies by vetoing bills, which eliminates the abuse of power on both sides.
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At the same time, the Prime Minister leads the government, which proposes the majority of laws and has the majority support in the House of Commons, which makes its legislative and executive powers practically unlimited (Leston-Bandeira & Thompson, 2018). Consequently, the lack of balance can affect the implementation of policies in the country.
Historical processes, as well as agents of socialization, formed the features of the political system of both countries. Neundorf and Smets (2016) note, “Personal, social, cultural, political, and historical changes affect young citizens disproportionally, thus creating generational differences in patterns of political attitudes and behavior” (p.5). Consequently, the primary agents for both countries are education, family, media, and the surrounding society, but they influenced countries in different ways.
The constitutional monarchy headed by the Prime Minister replaced the absolute monarchy after the palace coup at the end of the 17th century (Leston-Bandeira & Thompson, 2018). Representatives of the elite and wealthy families became the main new political structure since they had the knowledge and education to make decisions for the benefit of the state. Consequently, mainly private tutoring, which was widespread at that time, as well as some educative institutions, formed the political views of the people who created the Parliament.
In addition, the media of that time, such as printed brochures, as well as the oral distribution of news, also had a significant impact. Ideas about democracy spread among the population and formed their positive attitude towards the new form of government (Leston-Bandeira & Thompson, 2018). Further, conservative older members of a family, as well as the educational system, transmitted views on politics to children, and thus the political structure of the UK was formed.
At the same time, the same social agents acted in the USA, although they had a different effect on the formation of the political structure of the state. Since England colonized American lands, political institutions and structures were also partially transferred to the New World. For almost 200 years, the socialization of Americans was formed under the need to obey the rules of the Crown, local characteristics, and the desire to free themselves from the oppression of the Empire (Caramani, 2017).
For this reason, after gaining independence, the founding fathers wanted to create a unique democratic system that would ensure the rights of citizens. At the same time, the knowledge gained from the English colonialists was the basis of an understanding of the political system. Consequently, the founding fathers adopted the political structure of England in such a way as to guarantee the most democratic form of government under the influence of public moods and knowledge gained from other countries (Caramani, 2017).
These aspects became the basis for the modern political system of the United States with a clear separation of powers, which has not changed much throughout history, except for some adaptations and amendments. Thus, socialization agents such as European education, public attitudes, and the memory of generations formed and supported the US government system.
Health policy is a prime example of the political culture of both countries, although it cannot fully reflect the effectiveness of government structure. The United Kingdom has a public health system funded by the state or citizens’ taxes (Zeng, 2019). The state also supports the U.S. health system, but its basis is on private health insurance. In 2014, the United States invested 16.6% of GDP, while the U.K. spent 9.9%, while life expectancy in Britain remains higher (Zeng, 2019).
This factor shows the impact of the fact that in Britain every citizen can get free medical care, while most Americans cannot afford insurance. At the same time, Britain’s health policy has remained stable for many years, while under various U.S. presidents, they criticize the policies of their predecessors and try to change them, for example, Obamacare. Therefore, this aspect shows the disadvantage of a limited-term in the office of the U.S. president and the flaws of the structure of healthcare.
However, in general, both systems of government correspond to the political culture of states, which their overall GDP and political stability of the countries demonstrate. Although both states face political and economic challenges, their governments have the resources and power to confront and hold leadership on the world stage. Consequently, despite a more successful health policy of the U.K., it is not correct to say that one system of government is better than the other.
In conclusion, the political systems of the United States and the United Kingdom have many significant differences related to the distribution of power, specific functions, and structure. Some of these features are an advantage to ensure effective and stable policies, while others impede the implementation of beneficial initiatives. However, both systems have arisen in response to socio-historical processes and are consistent with the political culture of their states.
Caramani, D. (2017). Comparative politics . Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Leston-Bandeira, C., & Thompson, L. (2018). Exploring parliament. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Neundorf, A., & Smets, K. (2016). Political socialisation and the making of citizens. Oxford Handbook Online. Web.
Zeng, Y-J. (2019). Who is the winner: The comparison between UK and US health care system. International Conference on Education, Management, Economics and Humanities (ICEMEH 2019). Web.
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