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Law politics in USA and Denmark
in connection with the topic “Living differently”
USA has in many ways a great influence on how Denmark acts in proportion to the country itself and the world. But the social structure and culture in USA and Denmark are different.
I will examine:
• How the USA court system is
• Why Denmark has started to imitate USA
First problem: How the USA court system is
When you have to find out how a country's society is built up you have to know three types of welfare society. According to that splitting up Denmark and USA are so different that they are each other’s contrasts.
Denmark is described as a universalistic social state which means that the public social benefits are accessible to everybody because of the country's high taxation rate. The USA is characterized as a residual Anglo-Saxon state. That implies a low taxation rate and social benefits which is only given to people in deepest need –otherwise you have to pay for insurances.
In defiance of the differences the American democracy is one of the world’s most modern. However it is managed in another way than the Danish the difference can for instance be seen on how the USA court system is built up.
The constitution was written down in 1789 and is called "Constitution of the United States of America". The judicial part of the constitution descends from the English "Common Law" but has evolved independently.
The USA has split up the power of the state into three – a legislating, a judgingly and a practicing power. All powers of the state have put on equal terms. The practicing power lies with the president as USA is a presidential democracy. The legislative power lies with "the Congress". The judicial power lies with the courts of which Supreme Court is the country's central court. The individual states' courts treat however all kinds of cases – right from criminal cases to inheritance cases and cases about real estate. The population chooses the jury to the cases because the country wishes to get jurors with connection to real life.
Unequal’s in this balance of power have taken place through the time and the balance between the actual federal states’ and the 51 individual states' understanding of the American system led in the 1860s to the American civil war.
The contrasts stayed so great that the system collapsed.
In the beginning of the post-war era USA had a tendency to humanize laws and punishments – for instance by making the imprisonments short. They said that it should help something to shut up people without destroying their lives.
But the reconstruction period left behind itself deep tracks in the American psyche and that have been important for law’s role in the American weekday. Today the American people look at the law like the solution model for all problems. Law has become the forum where the Americans discuss which behavior and which assets they wish will come up in USA.
The people think that the punishment is to correspond to the injustice one has committed and that the person has deserved what he or she has asked for. Therefore you often hear of damage’s worth millions, prison sentences in several hundred years because one has committed three crimes or death penalty like a row of the American states still practice.
The American court system is by many experts accused to be on of the worlds hardest. They do not use the people as an argument but the easy access to guns and the need of a social safety net to lead the bad development.
Second problem: Why Denmark has started to imitate USA
In Denmark both the left and right wing politicians have especially in the recent years started to use a rhetoric that points to an American model of the court system in Denmark.
It happens in a time where Denmark is becoming a multicultural society – something that the USA always has been – and that Denmark therefore also has claims to securing the minorities' rights. The church and state are separated in USA and there are no shared assets and norms. The same initiatives have also been for debate in Denmark to make an identical basis for everyone.
But you can be surprised to this development. Why it is going to be just now and why there are no other countries that are the inspiration source. There is not just one answer to the problem but a number of parameters that can lead to a qualified answer.
Everybody knows that the world stands in the middle of a globalization period. Everybody also knows that USA is the world’s only remaining superpower. The country has in other words through the 20. Century had a big possibility to mark the world and the Americans have naturally done what to expect.
From a politically point of view USA has often made its mark as the world's police officer and grasped into situations without always knowing when and how the world community has had to act. The world community has not had other choice than do what USA told it to do because it is afraid of the consequences of not doing like the USA order. Still a number of countries had stand against and that has so far only led to enmity.
Therefore the September 11th 2001 is an important day – the only day in the recent world history where USA has felt threatened. As backlash USA went to a high technological surveillance society. Surveillance that is used to classify and discipline people and to maintain a fixed social order. Many western countries – including Denmark – sat down in the place of and felt that it might have been them and thought "maybe it'll be us the next time".
At that time the republican George Walker Bush was the president of USA. Two months after the terrorist attack the general election in Denmark took place. The Social Democrat Poul Nyrup Ramussen had to resign and was replaced by the Liberal Anders Fogh Rasmussen. His liberal party Venstre that corresponds to Bush' The Republican Party got their best choices so far.
Since 2001 the liberalization of the Danish society has begun. Denmark has become an individualistic society where the focus is to complain instead of finding agreement about what good morals are. The left wing parties had to follow these steps in order not to lose its power. All the parties spend more and more time on strategies and campaigns than really political reality and a lot of the electors change party from election to election.
The newest initiative from the USA world is that the boss of the intelligence service Mike McConnell has said that the surveillance of the internet will be increased for the future. USA is maybe the most rights interested country in the world. They will now limit the freedom of speech and use methods like the communist in the Soviet Union – a country they have used countless of resources to neutralize.
It stays interesting to see if there are some countries that will follow USA.