Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Giving the Government Back to the People

If the Executive Branch of our government is, as I have suggested, truly an institution guided by no motive other than the ability to exercise power then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is likely to make some of our "executives" very nervous. According to a report from Reuters, Brown has decided that since Parliament consists of the elected representatives of the British public, major decisions of national import should be determined by the entire Parliament, rather than the elites of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. Here is the Reuters text reproduced in its entirety to emphasize the implications of Brown's decision:

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposed on Tuesday giving parliament the final word on going to war, saying he planned to relinquish a raft of powers traditionally held by the head of the government.

The measures are designed to bolster public trust in a Labour government and in British politics, shattered by his predecessor Tony Blair's decision to back the U.S.-led war on Iraq and by allegations of sleaze.

Brown said he wanted parliament to hold United States-style hearings on key appointments and assume the power, currently held by the prime minister, to ratify international treaties.

"The changes we propose today and the national debate we now begin are founded upon the conviction that the best answer to disengagement from our democracy is to strengthen our democracy," Brown said in his first statement to parliament since he succeeded Blair on Wednesday last week.

Brown proposed relinquishing or limiting powers held by the head of government for centuries in 12 areas.

They included the power to declare war, to dissolve or recall parliament and to appoint judges and bishops.

He proposed that new members of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, including the governor of the central bank, be subject to greater parliamentary scrutiny through hearings.

Brown also said he would consult on a bill of rights for Britain and on lowering the voting age.

The country which we fought to establish our own independence now seems to have a better appreciation of the ideals of our Founding Fathers than our current government does. We need to watch the progress of Brown's vision very carefully, because we may learn some useful lessons from it.

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