Monday, March 06, 2006

The American Option

This post was transferred from my original blog

The USA is the only real Great Power in the modern world. One position that is taken by many British politicians is that we should develop as much influence as possible with the USA. This would be characterised as the Special Relationship.

Of course, there is a way of getting far more influence in Washington that the special relationship can ever offer: statehood. Taking England as the regions, and combining London with the Southeast, you get eleven new states of the union: South East, Southwest, West Midlands, East Midlands, Eastern, North West, Yorkshire, North East, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That's 22 Senators (18%). UK population is 60,000,000. USA is 290,000,000. Assuming allocation by population, the UK would get 74 Representatives (17%) and the 50 states get 361. In the Electoral College, the UK as a whole would have 96 votes, while the current USA has 464 (DC gets 3).

That's a very substantial and fair share-out of power to the UK.

There would be some issues to negotiate in the accession treaty, which would, I think, require a constitutional amendment to resolve them. Mind you, I think it would be forthcoming. Amendments you'd need:

1. Admission of the USA to the Commonwealth and acceptance of HM the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth.

2. Amendment to the Guarantee clause to permit that a State may have a hereditary monarchy and still be a Republic for the purposes of the Guarantee.

3. Disestablishment of the Churches of England and Scotland as part of the settlement - that's First Amendment and there's no prospect of amending that.

4. Create a new right for a state to prevent a Federal capital punishment being exercised for crimes committed in that state (so the UK doesn't have to accept the Federal death penalty).

5. The only real battle: arms control. The UK is going to have real problems with the Second Amendment; the USA isn't going to accept changing it as part of an admission treaty. If the Second applied only to the Federal Government, so the British States could retain severe restrictions (perhaps add the words "in States that have a Militia" on the end) then the UK would have no trouble - but making RKBA into a state option would not be acceptable to the NRA or even to more moderate pro-RKBA activists in the USA - it's a fundamental right like freedom of speech in their eyes. I think in the end the UK would have to find the most restrictive firearms legislation possible under the Second and hope that the island status helps.

The other major differences between UK practice and USA practice are either wholly cultural, like greater religiosity in the 'States, or entirely within the realm reserved to the States, like the UK education and health systems (sure, it would be 11 State Health Systems, not one NHS, but otherwise unchanged).

OK, there would be an issue with Titles of Nobility, but I suspect that since they are purely honorific in today's Britain, the USA would accept them - after all, they hand out honours as well (PMV, frex).

Obviously we'd have to leave the EU, but probably not the Commonwealth.

It always surprises me how practical this is and how little of the UK's traditions go by the board - shows how flexible the Constitution of the United States of America is. Great credit to James Madison, as ever.


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