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Book 11

  1. Amis, Martin — London Fields (471 pages)
  2. Morpurgo, Michael — War Horse (182 pages)
  3. Winterson, Jeanette — Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (177 pages)
  4. Robinson, Bruce — Paranoia in the Launderette (43 pages)
  5. Carter, Angela — Heroes and Villains (152 pages)
  6. Burroughs, Edgar Rice — A Princess of Mars (209 pages)
  7. Hill, Susan — The Woman in Black (152 pages)
  8. Fowler, Karen Joy — Sarah Canary (293 pages)
  9. Rennison, Nick — 100 Must-Read Prize Winning Novels (174 pages)
  10. Beresford, David — Ten Men Dead (426 pages)
  11. Freedland, Jonathan — Bring Home the Revolution: The Case for a British Republic (245 pages)
Page count
2524

A quick glimpse at my recent reading might suggest that I've become political all of a sudden, but no. It's pure coincidence that I followed a book on Irish Republicanism with a book on the American brand of republican government. This had started out as my second book of the year; I set it down briefly to read War Horse, picked it up again, and mysteriously lost it halfway through and had to order another copy online. I did not consider leaving the book unread an option, as I found it too interesting.

Bring Home the Revolution was written from a British perspective, by a Brit for a Brit audience. Thus, I found myself nodding in agreement a lot, as so much that is taken for granted as common knowledge for those who have received an American education was spelled out. That said, reading about American institutions from a British perspective gave me a new perspective and renewed my appreciation for how the Founding Fathers largely got it right. Bring Home the Revolution also gave me insight into how the British system works, which explains a lot of the difficulties I've run into.

Freedland's argument is simple. He states that the ideas upon which America were founded were originally British ideas, but while political revolutions were occurring in France and America, the British essentially stood still and let the world pass them by. Rather than political reform and progress, the system in Britain has remained relatively unchanged for centuries. The basic differences between British and American democracy, as Freedland explains it, is that the former employs a top-down model and the latter a bottom-up model. That is, in Britain power is derived from the monarchy (and by extension the idea of divine right), with Parliament and the Prime Minister a surrogate for the monarchy. And it's a system with little or no transparency, so one not in the system is unlikely to have any idea how it works or any power to change things. Whereas in America, power is derived directly from the people.

Freedland goes on to demonstrate the many ways in which the grassroots model manifests itself, influencing all aspects of life in America, and how it is similarly absent in Britain. The result, he argues, is a vibrant civic society there and a comparatively stagnant one here. Now, Bring Home the Revolution isn't just US glorification or UK bashing — that would make for a fairly boring read. Freedland takes a hard look at some of the uglier aspects of American society but ultimately demonstrates how these are just further evidence of how complete the people-first democratic ethos is and how despite these ills on the balance America is better off as a nation for it. He also looks at some of the positive aspects of British society, how they came about as a result of the current system, and how they might be affected by political reform.

In the end, Freedland makes a very convincing case for why the current British political model is outdated and why Britain would be better off "bringing home the Revolution," taking the American form of government and instituting a version of it in the place which gave its founders and ideas birth.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
necturus
Dec. 6th, 2012 01:01 am (UTC)
Doesn't Mr. Freedland realize that the American political system is largely dysfunctional, and woefully inadequate to the challenges of the present day?

I'd trade our system for the British one in a heartbeat (although, if I had my choice of political systems right now, I'd choose Canada's).

Edited at 2012-12-06 01:02 am (UTC)
spwebdesign
Dec. 6th, 2012 07:04 am (UTC)
He acknowledges its flaws. And yet it remains far more responsive to the people's will, especially at the local level, than the British system.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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