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|Harris speaks on Americanization of England|
Peter Harris, a former barrister and British Parliament official, has watched England become more Americanized after decades of cultural and political influence.
Harris worked in the Lord Chancellor's Office in the House of Lords, and was eventually appointed as an assistant secretary. In this capacity he was responsible to ministers for a wide range of policies and legislation relating to the justice system. He currently teaches at the Oxford Centre for Family Law and Policy at the University of Oxford, England.
Harris recently spoke to the English-Speaking Union of Ouachita Parish about "The Americanization of England."
"When you look at England, it looks as though it is being Americanized, and people are constantly saying that," Harris said. "Well, what do they mean by that? Some of what it means is people are wearing baseball caps, jeans and T-shirts. They're eating hamburgers and fries. And, if you look at our entertainment and politics today, you'll see a strong American influence."
"And, many of those influences are seen as not being good, I should tell you," Harris continued. "When they use the words, 'We're getting like the Americans,' that is almost invariably said in regret. The interesting question for England is: Are we just like everyone else … from Paris to Peking, you'll find people wearing American clothes, eating McDonalds, and so on. Or, is there something about the Americanization of England, if that's what it really is, that's more fundamental. My contention is it's much more fundamental."
He said in the late 1970s, England experienced the "Thatcher revolution." During that timeframe, the country "sold off all our nationalized industries and privatized them, loosened up the labor markets and adopted several American policies such as the 'three strikes and your out.' The fact of the matter is we seem to get our inspiration in policy matters from the USA."
"That's arguably strange since we're linked constitutionally to Scotland, Wales and Ireland," Harris explained. "And, of course, we're linked constitutionally to the European Union, but yet, we get our policy inspiration from America."
Harris first visited the United States shortly after Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. That visit began his "love affair" with the United States. He has returned numerous times to the United States on government and now academic business.
"Given that we have this strong link to America, what does it mean for us in the next 50 years?" Harris said. "I think in domestic policy, our real job will be to continue to persuade our partners in Europe and the rest of the United Kingdom to move towards a more individualistic model … away from the paternalistic state and giving more power to the individual.
"That's a hard fight. Governments are moving very slowly, very painfully in that direction. But now, it will be much harder because they'll point to this financial disaster and say, 'there's the Anglo-American model … who wants it?'
"I think our job is pretty straight forward. As long as America remains the best hope for liberty, we better stick with you. Even though we may not agree with you, if we don't go with you, we find ourselves in a conspiracy against you.
"That's a lunatic situation. The English can't undermine the U.S. without undermining themselves."
In light of the financial crisis that recently struck the U.S. economy, Harris said England also felt the pain with collapsing banks, which needed to be privatized, supported or sold off.
"Whether we're going to put a good chunk of our money into our bad debt, I don't know," he said. "There's some talk in Europe that we're going to do it, but I don't think it will happen."
Much like America, England's people have run up vast debt over the last 15 years, Harris said.
"Consumer debt has just gone through the roof," he said. "We carry more debt than any of the other Europeans. We're just like the Americans, for better and for worse."