The Moment: London


More than 100 years before the French and American revolutions, a series of convulsions in Britain built the essentials of the modern democratic state. A civil war, and then what was termed "the Glorious Revolution," established the constitutional primacy of Parliament — a body whose principal chamber is accountable to, and removable by, the popular will, expressing itself in periodic elections. A "parliamentary democracy" is how Britain describes itself, with both pride and, occasionally, condescension for those (as they say) in less happy lands.

Right now, neither pride nor condescension is the order of the day. Revelations of...

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