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We Brits don’t share America’s view of freedom

A gun-rights advocate in Salt Lake City, Utah. George Frey/Getty Images

Despite our common roots, the US is “not a clone of Britain but its antithesis”, says Melanie Phillips in The Times. The first big divergence is the endemic violence of America, and its “implacable refusal to abandon its culture of gun ownership”. The second, just as crucial, is Americans’ lack of trust in the justice system. When a jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse recently, those who disagreed wanted to replace their verdict with that of the mob. Democratic congresswoman Cori Bush tweeted: “The judge. The jury. The defendant. It’s white supremacy in action.”

Americans tend not to understand that over here the courts act a bulwark for the individual against the power of the state, because their experience is that the courts are the state. And they’re right. In Britain, we’re lucky that our police, prosecutors and judges have political independence. In the US they rely on political patronage to climb the greasy pole. That’s why so many Americans believe that the state is their enemy and that, when it comes to defending their freedoms, they are on their own. In truth, we believe in different kinds of freedom. In Britain, freedom has been achieved through common law and representative democracy. In America, by contrast, freedom is vested in the individual “and guaranteed at the end of a gun”. 

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