July 16, 2005
Follow-up to the last post… perhaps I am approaching the issue from too American a perspective. The time here in Oxford has shed fascinating light onto Britain’s unique system of government. Unlike the U.S., The United Kingdom has no written constitution. It is a constitutional monarchy, governed by a parliamentary democracy. Many of the rights codified in the U.S. Constitution from free speech to gender and racial equality are just as valid here as in the States, but written down nowhere. Instead, convention dictates much of the government’s function, enforceable only by morality and each political party watching the others’ moves. The net effect, in my opinion is a mixed bag. It becomes very difficult to know the rules of the game, since the courts are no longer the final arbiters of justice (oh yeah, no judicial review either. again, by convention). But just because that is the way in the U.S., is that really the best way to do things? Unlike the States, the unelected judges (and “Supreme Court” of Britain’s Law Lords) are not absolute and unaccountable. They cannot overturn statutes with binding authority (though this is changing in recent times, especially with regards to the European Court of Justice).
What does all this have to do with Harry Potter? Maybe nothing. But maybe it’s a real world illustration of an American/British cultural divide on how, and by what conventions, authority figures govern themselves. It’s nice to think Rowling’s characters are the products of societal differences rather than sloppy storytelling. But hey, whatever makes me feel better about obsessively reading a children’s book! Right?
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