Freedom 'Across the Pond'
While the Freedom Museum focuses mainly on American freedoms (particularly the First Amendment), some knowledge of the state of liberty abroad can help to inform our understanding of the freedom that we in the United States enjoy. Great Britain, another longtime bastion of democracy in the West, stands as one of America's closest allies on many issues in the international arena. Many forget, however, that Britain began the process of ending monarchal rule long before the American Revolution established the modern world's most influential democracy. As Gordon Brown, the UK's new Prime Minister, pointed out in a 2004 speech (while serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer), the British were the first people in the world to "reject the arbitrary rule of monarchy," wresting power from King John with the Magna Carta in 1215 (a document I had the pleasure of viewing at the British Library only a few short days ago).
Britain's long history of democratic rule has been shaped by events, structural peculiarities, and specific actors unique to its system, a number of which will be explored in blog entries to come. This storied Western democracy, while outwardly quite similar to the one that persists in the United States, can yet speak volumes about the varied nature of freedom as it is experienced in America and around the world. Many of the questions currently plaguing the American and British democracies are the same; it is the institutional mechanisms, the people concerned, and the way these questions are answered that merit intensive study.
The goal of this experiment in blogging is to elicit a deeper understanding of the possibilities for (and obstacles to) various freedoms in different democratic societies. Through this comparative analysis, we hope to shed light on the state of liberty at home as well as abroad.