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- . The history of Britain: the 19th century.
- 5. Britain in the 21st century
- BRITISH POLITICAL SYSTEM
- BRITISH ECONOMY AND TRADE
- МОДУЛЬ « США » GEOGRAPHICAL AND CULTURAL REGIONS OF THE U.S.A.
- HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
- FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES
- U.S. ECONOMY AND DEMOGRAPHICS
- s expanding at an exponential rate
1. The history of Britain: the 18th century
The Treaty of Union is the name given to the agreement that led to the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, the political union of England (including Wales) and Scotland, that took effect on 1 May, 1707. London became the capital of the entire island. Great Britain from then on had a single Parliament and a single system of national administration and taxation.
In the period of 1688 to 1760 England definitely took the lead in European commerce. During the Industrial Revolution (1760 - 1850) Britain became the first industrial power in the world, "the workshop of the world."
The Seven Years' War took place between 1756–1763. It involved most of the great powers of the time and affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines. Great Britain competed with both France and Spain over trade and colonies. The war was a success for Great Britain, which gained many lands of New France in North America, Spanish Florida, some individual Caribbean islands in the West Indies, the colony of Senegal on the West African coast and superiority over the French trading outposts on the Indian subcontinent.
2. The history of Britain: the 19th century.
In the 1790s, the wars of the French Revolution merged into the Napoleonic Wars, as Napoleon Bonaparte took over the French revolutionary government. In 1797 Britain was beset by naval defeat and by French invasion attempts. The war caused a boom in farm production and in certain industries. At the same time it caused rapid inflation: Wage rates lagged behind prices, and Poor Law expenses grew. In 1797 the Bank of England was forced to suspend the payment of gold for paper currency, and Parliament voted the first income tax. Irish rising and a French invasion threat led to the Act of Union with Ireland.
Union, Act of (Ireland), 1801. United the parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland, abolished the Irish Parliament in Dublin, and ended Irish legislative independence granted in 1782. The Act originated from Britain's difficulties in governing Ireland especially after the Irish rising of 1798, and was designed to strengthen British security against France. The Act came into force on 1 January 1801. In place of her own House of Commons of 300 members, Ireland was given 100 MPs at Westminster.
The Crimean War (1853 – 1856) was a conflict in which Russia lost to an alliance of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia. The immediate cause involved the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land, which was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The French promoted the rights of Catholics, while Russia promoted those of the Orthodox Christians. The longer-term causes involved the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and the unwillingness of Britain and France to allow Russia to gain territory and power at Ottoman expense. Russia lost the war and the Ottomans gained a twenty-year respite from Russian pressure. The Christians were granted a degree of official equality and the Orthodox gained control of the Christian churches in dispute. The war was largely fought in and near Crimea. This war is also known as the "Eastern War”. The war had a permanent impact, the present-day states of Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and regions such as Crimea and the Caucasus all changed in small or large ways due to this conflict.
The great political issue of 1831–32 was the Whig Reform Bill. After much debate in and out of the House of Commons and after a threat to swamp a reluctant House of Lords with new and sympathetic peers, the measure became law in June 1832. It provided for a redistribution of seats in favor of the growing industrial cities and a single property test that gave the vote to all middle-class men and some artisans. In England and Wales the electorate grew by 50 percent. In Ireland it more than doubled, and in Scotland it increased by 15 times. The bill set up a system of registration that encouraged political party organization, both locally and nationally. The measure weakened the influence of the monarch and the House of Lords. Other reforms followed. For example the Factory Act (1833) limited the working hours of women and children and provided for central inspectors
3. Victorian era.
The Victorian era which comprised the second half of the 19th century, called after Queen Victoria, was a period in which Britain became the strongest world power: besides being the greatest financial and commercial power, the greatest sea power and the greatest colonial power. In was the era of the greatest colonial expansion. The 10,600-km railroad network of 1850 more than doubled during the mid-Victorian years, and the number of passengers carried each year went up by seven times. The telegraph provided instant communications. Inexpensive steel was made possible and a boom in steamship building began in the 1860s. The value of British exports tripled, and overseas capital investments quadrupled. Working-class living standards improved also, and the growth of trade unionism among engineers, carpenters, and others led to the founding of the Trades Union Congress in 1868.
In 1842 an organization called Young Ireland was formed to campaign for Irish independence. In 1848 Young Ireland attempted an uprising. Led by William Smith O'Brien 1803-64 a group of Irish peasants fought with 46 members of the Irish Constabulary in County Tipperary. Afterwards O'Brien was arrested. He was sentenced to death but instead was transported to Tasmania.
Also in 1870 a lawyer named Isaac Butt (1813-1879) founded the Irish Home Government Association. The aim was to gain MPs in the British parliament and fight for independence. The Association was a success in that it soon gained a large number of MPs but Butt was regarded as too moderate. He soon lost control of the movement.
4. The 20th century.
The 20th century is a period of the decline of Britain as a world power a period of crises of the two world wars, from which Britain emerged as a victor, but greatly weakened. Britain entered WW1 in the defense of Belgium and in reaction to Germany's violation of The Treaty of London (1839), in which Belgium’s neutrality was to be respected by all nations. Britain used to own almost half of the countries in the world, so when Britain went to war, so did they -- e.g.: Australia, New Zealand, and India. World War I also known as the First World War or the Great War was a global war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. More than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war. After the war Great Britain obtained land in Africa and the Middle East (In Africa, specifically Tanganyika, part of Togoland, the Cameroons; In the Middle East, specifically Syria, Palestine, Jordan)
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people, from more than 30 different countries. WWII began when Germany attacked Poland, when Poland surrendered on September 28, 1939, their allies Britain and France were forced to intervene. Hitler did not feel enmity towards Britain, only towards France and Russia. Britain declared war on Germany only because it had guaranteed the security of Poland. After that, the Battle of Britain and the huge overseas campaigns made Britain and Germany bitter enemies. During WWII the ruling monarch was King George the V, the prime minister was Winston Churchill.
The immediate post war years were difficult. The national treasury was nearly bankrupt and depended on loans from the United States. The first priority had to go to rebuilding the burned out cities, restoring the export industries. The Labour Party won and its prime minister promised a planned economy, full employment, return to prosperity, and greater equality. The main tool was nationalization of major industries. Unemployment and inflation were indeed kept low, and by 1953 prosperity had returned in time for the nation to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.
Britain was a winner in the war, but it lost India in 1947 and gave up nearly all the rest of the Empire by 1960. The final major decision was the turning over of Hong Kong to China in 1997.After a long debate it joined the European Union in 1973.
The Commonwealth is an intergovernmental organization of 53 member states that were mostly territories of the former British Empire. The Commonwealth dates back to the mid-20th century with the decolonization of the British Empire through increased self-governance of its territories. It was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, which established the member states as "free and equal". The symbol of this free association is Queen Elizabeth II who is the Head of the Commonwealth. The Queen is also the monarch of 16 members of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth's objectives were first outlined in 1971, where it was named the institution of world peace, democracy, individual liberty, equality and opposition to racism.
5. Britain in the 21st century
Afghanistan War (2001-Present)–Britain joined with the United States and other allies to oust the Taliban and al-Qaida from power in Afghanistan in the wake of al-Qaida’s September 11 attacks on the United States.
Iraq War (2003-Present)–Britain, along with the U.S., Australia, and Poland, invaded Iraq to drive out the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein. British forces ended their participation in the war in Iraq on April 30, 2009.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) is a Scottish nationalist and social-democratic political party in Scotland. The SNP supports and campaigns for Scottish independence.
The SNP is the largest political party in Scotland in terms of membership. The SNP membership has increased while other parties in Scotland are losing members, between 2003-2011 SNP membership increasing by around 110%.Over just two days, from 19 September 2014 (the day after the Scottish independence referendum), to 21 September 2014, membership increased by over 40%, with over 10,000 new members joining. The SNP was founded in 1934
In 2007, the SNP won the most seats in the Scottish Parliament, forming a minority government. In 2011, the SNP formed a majority government in the Scottish Parliament. The SNP currently holds 6 of 59 Scottish seats in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom and 2 of 6 Scottish seats in the European Parliament.
David Cameron formed the Cameron ministry after being invited by Queen Elizabeth II to begin a new government following the resignation of the previous Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, on 11 May 2010. It is a coalition government, composed of members of both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats. The government's Cabinet is made up of sixteen Conservatives and five Liberal Democrats with eight other Conservatives and one other Liberal Democrat attending cabinet but not members.1 The Cameron ministry is the first coalition government to have governed the United Kingdom since the Churchill War ministry of the Second World War.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a constitutional monarchy. That is, it is a country governed by a king or queen who accepts the advice of a parliament. It is also a parliamentary democracy. That is, it is controlled by a parliament elected by the people. Britain is almost alone among modern states in that it does not have a ‘constitution’. Of course, there are rules, regulations, principles, and procedures for the running of the country-all the things that political scientists and legal experts study and which are known collectively as ‘the constitution’. But there is no single written document which can be appealed to as the highest law of the land. Nobody can refer to ‘article 6’ or ‘the first amendment’ or anything like that, because nothing like that exists.
There are three arms of state: executive, legislative and judiciary.
The power of Queen Elizabeth II is not absolute. It is limited by Parliament.
The legislative body- Parliament
The UK Parliament is housed in the Palace of Westminster in London. It consists of the non-elected House of Lords, the elected House of Commons and the monarch. The two Houses contain members from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
All three parts of Parliament must normally pass a bill before it can become an Act of Parliament and law. Parliament also votes money to government; examines government policies and administration; scrutinizes European Union legislation; and debates political issues.
The House of Commons is the part of the parliament which has the most power. It is made up of Members of Parliament elected by the people. Sometimes it is called the 'lower house'. (The 'upper house' is called the House of Lords.)
In the British parliament, there are 650 Members of Parliament or MPs. Each MP represents a constituency, which covers an area of the country. The people of each constituency vote at a general election or a by-election to choose one person to represent them in the House of Commons.
The House of Lords is a hereditary chamber. It has an amending function, which may be used to delay government legislation for up to one year or to persuade governments to have a second look at bills. It consists of the Lords Temporal and the Lords Spiritual. Lords Spiritual are the Archbishops of York and Canterbury and 24 senior bishops of the Church of England. Lords Temporal comprise some 92 peers and peeresses with hereditary titles elected by their fellows and about 577 life peers and peeresses, who have been appointed by political parties and an independent Appointments Commission.
The executive body consists of the central Government — that is the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers, who are responsible for initiating and directing the national policy.
The Government derives its authority from the elected House of Commons. General elections, for all seats in the House of Commons, must be held at least every five years. The Government is normally formed by the majority political party of the House of Commons. The leader of the party is appointed the Prime Minister by the Queen and chooses a team of ministers. The second largest party becomes the Official Opposition with its own leader and the “Shadow Cabinet”.
The judiciary body is independent of both the legislative and the executive ones. Each of the separate legal systems in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland has their own judiciary. In the United Kingdom, the Lord Chancellor was the head of the judiciary.
Before the mid-19th century politics in the United Kingdom was dominated by the Whigs and the Tories. These were not political parties in the modern sense but somewhat loose alliances of interests and individuals. The Whigs included many of the leading aristocratic dynasties committed to the Protestant succession, and later drew support from elements of the emerging industrial interests and wealthy merchants, while the Tories were associated with the landed gentry, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland.
By the mid 19th century the Tories had evolved into the Conservative Party, and the Whigs had evolved into the Liberal Party. In the late 19th century the Liberal Party began to pursue more left wing policies, and many of the heirs of the Whig tradition became Liberal Unionists and moved closer to the Conservatives on many of the key issues of the time.
The Liberal and Conservatives dominated the political scene until the 1920s, when the Liberal Party declined in popularity and suffered a long stream of resignations. It was replaced as the main anti-Tory opposition party by the newly emerging Labour Party, who represented an alliance between the labour movement, organised trades unions and various Socialist societies.
Since then the Conservative and Labour Parties have dominated British politics, and have alternated in government ever since. However, the UK is not quite a two-party system since a third party (recently, the Liberal Democrats and UK Independence Party) can prevent 50% of the votes/seats from going to a single party.
The Conservative Party is the main centre-right political party in the United Kingdom. Their policies usually promote conservatism and British Unionism. They are the largest party in the British House of Commons with 302 out of 650 seats and the party leader David Cameron is the Prime Minister. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a constitutional monarchy.
Most Conservatives believe in the following things:
1. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should remain as part of the United Kingdom.
2. Marriage should be encouraged through the tax system.
3. People who are on benefits, who refuse a job they are able to take, should stop getting benefits.
4. Pensions should be tied to a person's average earnings.
5. There should be less immigration to the United Kingdom.
6. There should be more support given to members of the British armed forces and their families.
7. Britain should not join the Euro (although some Conservatives believe that Britain should).
8. Britain should keep its nuclear weapons.
9. There should be no changes made to how elections are held in Britain.
10. Homeowners should not be punished by law for defending themselves against people who break into their homes.
The Labour Party is the main centre-left political party in the United Kingdom. They are a social democratic party and have been one of the UK's two main political parties from the early 20th century, to the present day. They are currently the second largest party in the British House of Commons, with 258 out of 650 seats and they form the Official Opposition. Their current leader is Ed Miliband.
The Liberal Democrats, often shortened to Lib Dems, is a political party in the United Kingdom that promotes liberal policies. The Liberal Democrats are strong supporters of the European Union, as well as environmentalism and they are in favour of creating a new British House of Commons which is elected using proportional representation. The party has 57 out of 650 seats in the House of Commons. The party is in a coalition government with the Conservative Party and the party leader Nick Clegg is the Deputy Prime Minister.
Britain lives by its industry and trade. With a population representing only 2 per cent of the world total, it is one of the largest trading nations in the world, providing about 10 per cent of world exports of manufactured goods. Britain is a highly industrialized country and today 28 people work in manufacturing, mining and building for every one engaged in agriculture. Britain's major industries include iron and steel engineering, including motor vehicles and aircraft, electrical and electronics manufacturing, textiles, chemicals, etc. The textile industry is considered to be the most extensive one: immense quantities of cotton and woolen goods and artificial silk are produced and exported. But great disadvantage of its economy is that it possesses very few of the raw materials necessary for its industry. Most of them must be imported. The heart of England’s industry is the Midlands.
Britain is also a big market for food and other consumer goods, British agriculture, though highly efficient, produces just about two-thirds on the country's food requirements. The main grain crops are wheat, barley, oats and rye potatoes and vegetables are grown in all parts of Britain.
In order to pay for the food and other materials it needs, Britain relies not only on the sales of manufactures. The City contains probably the greatest concentration of financial expertise in the world. The London Stock Exchange is one of the world's markets in securities. Other important financial institutions in the City include the Bank of England as well as hundreds of commercial banks.
There are also a few hydro-electric schemes, especially in Scotland. The main centre of coal-mining is Wales. With the discovery and exploitation of oil and natural gas from the bed of the North Sea, Britain has become self-sufficient in these kinds of energy. Nuclear power stations produce about 10 per cent of Britain's electricity.
After Britain joined the European Economic Community, its foreign trade expanded substantially. Britain imports huge quantities primary products and exports about a third of its manufactured goods.
CULTURE OF THE UK
The culture of the United Kingdom is the pattern of human activity and symbolism associated with the United Kingdom and its people. It is influenced by the UK's history as a developed island country, a liberal democracy and a major power, its predominantly Christian religious life, and its composition of four countries—England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales—each of which has distinct customs, cultures and symbolism. The wider culture of Europe has also influenced British culture, and Humanism, Protestantism and representative democracy developed from broader Western culture.
British literature, music, cinema, art, theatre, comedy, media, television, philosophy and architecture are influential and respected across the world. The United Kingdom is also prominent in science and technology. Sport is an important part of British culture; numerous sports originated in the country, including football. The UK has been described as a "cultural superpower", and London has been described as a world cultural capital.
The Industrial Revolution, with its origins in the UK, had a profound effect on the socio-economic and cultural conditions of the world. As a result of the British Empire, significant British influence can be observed in the language, culture and institutions of a geographically wide assortment of countries, including Australia, Canada, India, Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa and the United States. These states are sometimes collectively known as the Anglosphere, and are among Britain's closest allies. In turn the empire also influenced British culture, particularly British cuisine. The cultures of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are diverse and have varying degrees of overlap and distinctiveness.
In each country there are five stages of education: early years, primary, secondary, further education (FE) and higher education (HE). The law states that full time education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 (4 in Northern Ireland) and 16, the compulsory school age (CSA). In England, compulsory education or training has been extended to 18 for those born after 1 September 1997. This full-time education does not need to be at a school and a growing number of parents choose to home educate. Prior to the compulsory school age, children can be educated at nursery if parents wish though there is only limited government funding for such places. Further Education is non-compulsory, and covers non-advanced education which can be taken at further (including tertiary) education colleges and Higher Education institutions (HEIs). The fifth stage, Higher Education, is study beyond A levels or BTECs (and their equivalent) which, for most full-time students, takes place in universities and other Higher Education institutions and colleges.
The National Curriculum (NC), established in 1988, provides a framework for education in England and Wales between the ages of 5 and 18. Though the National Curriculum is not compulsory it is followed by most state schools, but many private schools, academies, free schools and home educators design their own curricula. In Scotland the nearest equivalent is the Curriculum for Excellence programme, and in Northern Ireland there is something known as the common curriculum. The Scottish qualifications the National 4/5s, Highers and Advanced Highers are highly similar to the English Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and Advanced Level (A2) courses.
The United States of America is a federal republic on the continent of North America. It has an area of 9,826,630 sq km and is the third largest country in the world after Russia and Canada.
The U.S.A. consists of 50 states and is divided into three distinct sections: the continental United States, Alaska, which is physically connected only to Canada, and the archipelago of Hawaii in the central Pacific Ocean. Their names are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
Washington, D.C. is the capital city and administrative district of the U.S.A. The population of the District of Columbia is more than 5million people.
The largest U.S. cities are New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
The continental U.S. comprises eight distinct physiographic regions: Laurentian Highlands; Atlantic Plain; Appalachian Highlands; Interior Plains; Interior Highlands; Rocky Mountain System; Intermontane Plateaus; Pacific Mountain System.
Two enormous drainage systems dominate the U.S. landscape: the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River and the Mississippi-Missouri rivers drainage areas.
The continental U.S. is subdivided into six major cultural regions: New England, Mid-Atlantic, South, Midwest, Southwest and Western states.
Geographers traditionally divided the 48 contiguous states of the United States into two broad patterns of continental climate: the humid East and the arid West.
The United States has substantial mineral deposits within its borders. It leads the world in the production of phosphate, an important ingredient in fertilizers, and ranks second in gold, silver, copper, lead, natural gas, and coal. Petroleum production is third in the world, after Russia and Saudi Arabia.
As the U.S. economy developed, the nation’s natural environment changed. Environmental contamination in industrialized countries such as the United States can affect life conditions around the world.
Today, U.S. regional identities are not as clear as they once were, its regions converge gradually. Regional differences make themselves felt in less tangible ways, such as attitudes and outlooks.
Each of the country’s four main regions — the Northeast, the South, the West, and the Midwest and Southwest treated together — maintains a degree of cultural identity. People within a region generally share common values, economic concerns, and a certain relationship to the land, and they usually identify to some extent with the history and traditions of their region.
In the struggle for control of North America, the decisive factor was that only the English established colonies of agricultural settlers, their interests lay mainly in the acquisition of land.
English migrants came to America for two main reasons: religious and economic. The colonists who came to the New World were not a homogeneous mix, but rather a variety of different social and religious groups, and they created colonies with very different social, religious, political, and economic structures.
By 1733, English settlers had founded 13 colonies along the Atlantic Coast, from New Hampshire in the North to Georgia in the South. The 13 colonies were tied to the British Empire socially, politically and economically. Although each of them was different from the others, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries several events and trends took place and brought them together. The Royal Proclamation and a number of British Parliament Acts aggravated the situation in the colonies to the extreme and ignited the American Revolution.
The Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775 marked the beginning of the American Revolution. The last major battle of the American Revolution took place at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781. The war officially ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, by which England recognized American independence and relinquished its territory from the Atlantic to the Mississippi.
On July 4, 1776, the members of the Continental Congress agreed to issue the paper that is now called the Declaration of Independence.
During the war years, the Continental Congress acted as a central government, but few people thought of it as a government that would continue after the war. In 1777, the members of Congress worked out a plan for a union of the states. The plan was called the Articles of Confederation and it was approved by the state legislatures.
In 1781, the new national government started. In 1787, the Constitutional Convention, met in Philadelphia to revise the Articles but instead decided to write a Constitution, which was ratified by eleven states in 1788. In 1789, the Constitution of the United States was put into operation, and George Washington was elected the first President of the United States.
After the revolution and the defeat of the British army in the war of 1812, the independent American republic began to expand westwards without any opposition from either France or Britain.
The size of the country almost doubled after purchasing the vast Louisiana Territory from France. The frontier did not uniformly expand westward from the Mississippi River. The growth of railroads encouraged westward expansion more than any other single development.
Though Native Americans resisted the influx of white settlers, the volume of white settlers taking over Native American land and the ways in which these settlers transformed the West destroyed the Native American culture of independence.
By the mid-19th century, two fundamentally different labor systems had emerged in the North and in the South of the U.S.A., one based on wage labor, the other on slavery. After Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, 11 Southern states left the Union and proclaimed themselves an independent nation, the Confederate States of America.
The American Civil War of 1861-1865 was fought between the U.S. forces coming from the 23 northern states of the Union and the newly-formed Confederate States of America. More than half a million soldiers lost their lives. The war put an end to slavery, and made the country an indivisible whole.
Reconstruction was the period after the American Civil War when the 11 seceded states of the defeated Confederacy, were reintegrated into the Union. The end of Reconstruction marked the end of the brief period of civil rights for African Americans; it was also a time of growth and change.
From 1865 to about 1900, the U.S. became the world’s leading industrial nation, witnessing meteoric expansion in the pace and scale of production. Between 1840 and 1920, about 37 million of immigrants came to America.
At that time, the laissez-faire capitalism dominated in the USA, it fostered huge concentrations of wealth and power, on the one hand, and severe exploitation of workers, on the other.
As the United States entered the 20th century, a new political movement called progressivism emerged as a response to the demand to remedy the problems created by industrialization and urbanization and minimize violent labor conflicts and clashes.
The early 20th century witnessed the imperial acquisitions of the U.S.A as Uncle Sam began to acquire territories overseas.
WWI changed American mentality. The American people chose isolationism to international cooperation. The U.S. enjoyed a period of great prosperity. It was the time of the Roaring Twenties, the age of jazz, spectacular silent movies, and the age of Prohibition.
The inflated stock market led to the crash of Thursday, October 29, 1929. Federal mismanagement of the 1929 stock market crash brought about the notorious Great Depression.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the New Deal. As a result, the American political and economic life became much more competitive than before.
In September 1939, the U.S. Congress revised the neutrality acts; it enabled Roosevelt to start a plan known as cash-and-carry. As the U.S. moved to a wartime economy, the depression ended, and the U.S. economy came to life.
In World War II the U.S.A. lost almost 300,000 people in battle deaths; there was no fighting or bombing in North America. The war made the United States a military and economic world power.
Americans’ belief in the nation’s political institutions and its Presidents was shaken by a series of scandals: the Watergate scandal, the Iran-Contra scandal, the scandal between President Clinton and a young White House trainee Monica Lewinsky. The issue of civil rights dominated American politics in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Between 1945 and 1970, the U.S. enjoyed a long period of economic growth, interrupted only by mild and brief recessions. In the early 1970’s, stagflation gripped the nation. In the 1980’s, President Ronald Reagan cut taxes and reduced regulations, and the economy rebounded. Unemployment and inflation dropped back to normal levels.
In the 1990’s under the Clinton Administration, the federal budget was balanced, mainly due to massive investment in the stock market further accelerated by the dot-com boom. A recession began during the transition to the Bush Administration with the end of the dot-com boom, and was aggravated by the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The military responses to the September 11, 2001 attacks such as an invasion of Afghanistan and the war in Iraq didn’t bring the desired results. The invasions have ignited protest in the U.S.A. and anti-Americanism all over the world.
Barack Obama came to office in such difficult circumstances as no one of U.S. presidents since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The beginning of his presidency was marked by a severe economic recession of 2008 resulting from a housing market bubble, a subprime mortgage crisis, soaring oil prices, military spending and a declining dollar value. In 2014, the economic situation normalized. But on the international arena the situation worsened.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES
The American Constitution is based on the doctrine of the separation of powers between the Executive (the Presidency), Legislative (Congress) and Judiciary (the Courts) branches.
All legislative powers of the federal government are granted to Congress. Congress is a bicameral legislature, consisting of two chambers: the House of Representatives (the “Lower House”) and the Senate (the “Upper House”).
As far as passing legislation is concerned, the Senate is fully equal to the House of Representatives. The House lacks two specific powers granted to the Senate. Only the Senate can approve treaties negotiated and submitted by the President. The Senate also has sole power to confirm cabinet members and other key government officers. However, the legislation dealing with gathering revenue (generally through taxes) originates in the House of Representatives (specifically the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means).
Congress has sole jurisdiction over impeachment of federal officials including presidents. The House has the sole right to bring the charges of misconduct which would be considered at an impeachment trial, and the Senate has the sole power to try impeachment cases and to find officials guilty or not guilty. A guilty verdict requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate and results in the removal of the federal official from public office.
The Constitution provides that the Vice President shall be President of the Senate. The most powerful person in the Senate is the Senate Majority Leader. The House of Representatives has its own presiding officer — the Speaker of the House, who is elected by the House and has important responsibilities, giving him considerable influence over the President.
Congressional committees play a dominant role in Congress proceedings. At present the Senate has 16 standing committees; the House of Representatives has 20 standing committees. Each specializes in specific areas of legislation. Almost every bill introduced in either house is referred to a committee for study and recommendation. The committee may approve, revise, kill or ignore any measure referred to it. It is nearly impossible for a bill to reach the House or Senate floor without first winning committee approval.
Bills are introduced by a variety of methods: a) some are drawn up by standing committees; в) some by special committees created to deal with specific legislative issues; and с) some may be suggested by the President or other executive officers; d) citizens and organizations outside the Congress may suggest legislation to members; and e) individual members themselves may initiate bills.
The President has the option of signing the bill (at this point it becomes national law) or vetoing it. A bill vetoed by the President must be reapproved by a two-thirds vote of both houses to become law, this is called overriding a veto.
Congress is a collegial and not a hierarchical body. Power does not flow from the top down, as in a corporation, but in practically every direction, the legislative behavior of representatives and senators tends to be individualistic, reflecting the great variety of electorates represented and the freedom that comes from having built a loyal personal constituency.
The head of the executive branch is the U.S. President, who is both the head of state and head of government. Under him is the Vice President and heads of the executive committees forming the Cabinet. The President is the executive and Commander-in-Chief, responsible for controlling the U.S. armed forces and nuclear arsenal. The President may be impeached by a majority in the House and removed from office by a two-thirds majority in the Senate for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The President may not dissolve Congress or call special elections, but does have the power to pardon convicted criminals, give executive orders, and (with the consent of the Senate) appoint Supreme Court justices and federal judges.
The U.S. judicial branch is represented by the federal courts, which include district courts, courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court. District courts are trial courts; courts of appeals as well as the Supreme Court consider only questions of law and legal interpretation.
Each branch of government power checks or limits the power of the other branches.
The U.S. has had only two major parties throughout its history. Three features have characterized the party system in the United States: 1) two major parties alternating in power; 2) lack of ideology; and 3) lack of unity and party discipline.
U.S. ECONOMY AND DEMOGRAPHICS
The U.S. economy is the world's largest. Its nominal GDP was $17.311 (Q-2 2014), with the GDP growth of 4.2% in 2014. The U.S. economy also maintains a very high level of output per capita. In 2014, GDP per capita was $54,980.
Historically, the U.S. economy has maintained a stable overall GDP growth rate, a low unemployment rate, and high levels of research and capital investment funded by both national and, because of decreasing saving rates, by foreign investors.
Almost two-thirds of the nation’s total economic output goes to individuals for personal use (the remaining one-third is bought by the government and business). The consumer role is so great, that the U.S. is characterized as having a “consumer economy”.
The U.S. economic history covers a period of more than two and a half centuries. Historically, the main causes of the U.S. economic growth were:
the number of available workers and, more importantly, their productivity and mobility, including a stable cheap labor pool of millions of immigrants from all over the world,
a large unified market,
a supportive political-legal system,
vast areas of highly productive farmlands,
vast natural resources (especially timber, coal and oil),
a cultural landscape that valued entrepreneurship,
a commitment to investing in material and human capital
willingness to exploit labor.
The U.S. has a capitalist mixed market-oriented economy. But there are certain limits to free enterprise and private ownership. Some services are better performed by public rather than private enterprise.
The U.S. has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world. Its economy is postindustrial, with the service sector of the economy now contributing to the greatest share of the U.S. GDP. So, the service sector contributes 79.4% of GDP, industry – 19.5%, agriculture – 1.1 %.
The overall pattern in American business is characterized by the trend towards large-scale enterprises. Giant corporations dominate. Small corporations are being consumed by larger ones and large corporations become even larger through mergers. At the same time the end of the 20th century saw a trend called deinstitutionalizing.
The World Bank ranks the U.S. first in the ease of hiring and firing workers. The U.S. has the highest labor force participation rate in the world with 156.08 million (includes 8.98 million unemployed, Q2 2014). Of those employed, around 80% had jobs in the service sector. The private sector employs 91% of Americans. Government accounts for 8% of all U.S. workers. Over 90% of all employing organizations in the U.S. are small businesses. The 30 million small businesses in the U.S. account for 64% of newly created jobs (those created minus those lost). Jobs in small businesses accounted for 70% of those created in the last decade.
The drive for success is the cornerstone of American ideology as a result there is no focused ideological support for America’s labor unions. Labor unions in the U.S. do not have the power or political direction of their counterparts in Europe. About 12% of workers are unionized, compared to over 30% in Western Europe.
The wealth is varied with relation to race, education, geographic location and gender. No doubt, households with greater income feature the highest net worth. In addition, wealth is unequally distributed - the wealthiest 25% of U.S. households own 87% ($54.2 trillion, in 2013) of the wealth in the U.S.
America’s export trade - $1.57 (2013) are capital goods, 28%; industrial supplies and materials (except oil fuels), 25%; consumer goods (except automotive), 12%; automotive vehicles and components, 9.4%; food, feed, beverages, 8.6%; fuel oil and petroleum products, 7.6%; aircraft and components, 6%; other, 4%.
The leading U.S. imports - $2.30 trillion (2013) are consumer goods (except automotive), 23%; capital goods (except computing), 19%; industrial supplies (except crude oil), 18%; crude oil, 14%; automotive vehicles and components, 13%; computers and accessories, 5.4%; food, feed, and beverages, 4.8%; other, 3%.
Main export partners of the U.S.A are: Canada 19.1%; Mexico 14.8%; China, 7.4%; Japan, 4.2%; United Kingdom, 3.2% (2013). Main import partners are China, 18.4%; Canada, 14.9%; Mexico, 12.5%; Japan, 5.8%; Germany, 5.3% (May, 2013). So, Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, UK and Germany are top trading partners of the U.S.
On June 30, 2014, debt held by the public was approximately $12.6 trillion or about 74% of Q1 2014 GDP. Intra-governmental holdings stood at $5.1 trillion (30%), giving a combined total public debt of $17.6 trillion or about 103% of Q1 2014 GDP.
The main reasons of the credit crunch of 2007-2009 were sky-rocketing military spending by the U.S. government, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, investment bank failures, tight credit, high oil and grain prices.
Since Franklin Roosevelt, no U.S. president came to office in such difficult circumstances. Like FDR President Obama started with his policy of Relief, Reform and Recovery named Change.
All programs aimed at overcoming the consequences of the 2008-2009 crisis, meant more government involvement and greater government spending which was expanding at an exponential rate. Nowadays, federal spending is almost 18 times higher than it was back in 1970. Barack Obama proposed a budget that would increase the U.S. government spending to 5.6 trillion dollars in 2021.
In 2012, Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of living beyond its means "like a parasite" on the global economy and noted that dollar dominance was a threat to the financial markets. In fact, the U.S. federal government is massively overextended, most of state and local governments are massively overextended, most of major corporations are massively overextended, and the majority of U.S. consumers are massively overextended.