Posted on 26-10-2009
Filed Under (Environment) by Rashtrakut

How to deal with emerging economies has been a huge stumbling block in climate change negotiations.  The Kyoto treaty foundered in the United States because it did not place requirements on India and China.  India and China point out that their per capita pollution is a fraction of western countries and they would need assistance in terms of technology transfer.  This position has been cynically exploited by resource rich countries like Saudi Arabia.  However, faced with the impact of global warming the Indian environmental minister is internally lobbing around a proposal to kick start negotiations.  However, as the article suggests that none of this will work without American leadership.  And American leadership is imperiled by climate change deniers (See a slideshow of some of the most vocal deniers) many of whom who control the ideology of its opposition party and a national chamber of commerce too short sighted to explore the opportunities that a clean energy policy could provide.

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This link by Andrew Sullivan about a proposal to replace the House of Lords got me thinking about an issue that has fascinated me for a while.  How did government structures evolve as to their current form and how does a country choose a structure best suited for its needs?  Why do countries with a similar socio-economic background have differing successes with the same governmental system?  As Afghanistan founders in its presidential election and Iraq struggles to draft an electoral law these are pressing concerns in current affairs.  So this will be the first of a series of (non-academic) ramblings on the subject surveying the evolution of ruling systems through history.

Thomas Bingham’s proposal in someways is emblematic of the patchwork way the United Kingdom’s unwritten constitution has evolved.  Most of its constitutional developments have been ad hoc attempts to address the problem at hand rather than a result of a comprehensive review of how and why things are the way they are.

King John abuses the nobility, get the Magna Carta.  Henry III squanders money on foreign favorites and wars (and a quixotic attempt to place his son on the Sicilian throne) get the Provisions of Oxford and Westminster.  Edward I wants money for wars in France and Scotland get a parliament.  Worried about a Catholic monarch, toss him out, restrict his successor’s power and bar Catholics from the throne.  Worried Scotland will break the personal union of the crowns when the childless Queen Anne dies. ram through an Act of Union. Expand the franchise as needed.  If the House of Lords gets in your way, cut down its power and alter its composition.  The United Kingdom did completely separate out its judiciary from Parliament until October 1, 2009 when it finally created a Supreme Court.  Until then it was a function of the House of Lords.

The piecemeal approach has generally worked, but there are some major inequities in the current system.  Even Thomas Bingham’s proposal does not address the problem created by devolution of powers to a Scottish and Welsh Parliament.  Scottish and Welsh ministers in Westminster can vote on solely English issues.  However, English MPs cannot vote on items devolved to the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments.  The London based governments of England have historically been slow to address issues of concern in the far off regions of the country. Read the rest of this entry »

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