London School Of Economics Wants To Crowdsource A Constitution For The UK

from the fun-discussion dept

We've written a few times about the attempt in Iceland to crowdsource a new Constitution. While that's had some political troubles, despite widespread public support, it seems others are taking note. The folks over at the London School of Economics recently decided it might be a fun thought experiment to see if it would be possible to crowdsource a Constitution for the UK. While many are aware of things like the Magna Carta, which in many ways laid the groundwork for the US Constitution, the UK today does not have a single written constitutional document -- meaning that there is no effective restriction on the UK Parliament's actions (as the US Constitution restricts Congress in the US).

There have been a number of online discussions about ideas for this crowdsourced Constitution on the site linked above, which are worth reading, but recently the LSE held an event to do some of the crowdsourcing live, which they then released as a podcast (on a sidenote: if you're interested in economics or world politics, I highly recommend the LSE podcast). The discussion is well worth listening to. They take a somewhat lighthearted approach to the whole thing, and it gets pretty amusing at a few points, but the discussion is still fascinating, as they debate concepts like whether or not the right to be treated equally belongs in a Constitution (and further, what does the statement even mean). There's also a spirited argument made for not having a Constitution at all (and a rebuttal for why a Constitution would be really helpful).
While it's unlikely that anything actually binding or important will come out of this process, it's somewhat fascinating even to think through the process of making a Constitution, and it's fun to see the LSE attempt to do the whole thing publicly.


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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    horse with no name, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 1:16am

    The whole school?

    Or is it just one or two professors looking to get their names in the media?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 1:33am

    Re: The whole school?

    Or is it just one or two professors looking to get their names in the media?


    Well, if you bothered to look at the actual page, it says:

    It is led by LSE’s Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and Department of Law, together with the LSE Public Policy Group (PPG) and Democratic Audit.


    Sounds like a big part of the school...

    Must you shit on everything?

     

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  3.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 1:49am

    Re: Re: The whole school?

    "Well, if you bothered to look at the actual page"

    Of course not, that's a recognisable troll handle, albeit one of the less common ones. I expect to see the same reaction as the last article involving the LSE - lots of unfounded allegations about the school, its credentials and its motives, very little in the way of facts or coherent arguments to refute what's actually being said.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 2:17am

    meaning that there is no effective restriction on the UK Parliament's actions (as the US Constitution restricts Congress in the US).

    The US has a constitution, and the right to bear arms, and still it government acts as if their is no restriction on their powers. The only effective way to restrain politicians is for the citizens to be active in politics. However politicians are such nice people that many citizens do not want to associate with them for fear of a knife in the back.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 2:27am

    meaning that there is no effective restriction on the UK Parliament's actions (as the US Constitution restricts Congress in the US).

    We'll that's not entirely true, (take out entirely), you might want to look up the

    Westminster system
    and
    Constitution of the United Kingdom

    Look at your Government shutdown, something that would not happen under the Westminster system that would lead to a "double disillusionment" and an election.

    In many, many ways its a far more effective system than that of the US.

    If it's not broke don't fix it, and if it's not broke don't adopt a system that does appear "broken".

    If you want to reject a president (impeach them) you have to go through an involved legal procedure. If you want to reject a Prime Minister, parliament can raise a "vote of no confidence" and force a referendum or an election.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 2:46am

    'there is no effective restriction on the UK Parliament's actions'

    and that's why there is no 'Constitution' there. and who thinks that the UK government is going to implement one? it's already doing it's best to remove the laws on Human Rights. it wants to leave the EU so it can then crap all over the people again, like they use to in Victoria's day!!

     

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  7.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 2:54am

    Re:

    I think the bigger problem is that governments are set up in such a way that most citizens of a country can have basically zero effect on the government and its decisions.

    Money or publicity are the only things that talk in modern politics and the "average citizen" is capable of neither and only has a tiny voice on a national scale - not even the 1/63Mth a UK citizen should theoretically have. Even the greatest activist in the world can't raise enough "tiny voices" for a government to care without either. Money usually means some sort of corporate backing which tends to dilute the message anyway. Catching the whimsy of the media usually distorts the real issue by going for the "human interest story" and if anything tends to result in bad law by knee-jerk reaction.

    I think a constitution for the UK might be a good start, but what is really needed is a new form of government - a true democracy perhaps, where citizens can genuinely have a voice and each voice counts no matter how much money they have. Modern communication technology makes that dream at least feasible, so perhaps that's why politicians always seem so scared of it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 3:43am

    "I think the bigger problem is that governments are set up in such a way that most citizens of a country can have basically zero effect on the government and its decisions."

    Quite the opposite actually, the Westminster system is set up such that ALL citizens have the ability to form their own party, run as an independent if they wish, and often have the deciding vote in important issues on the senate, and the upper house.

    with this system you could form a "Defund NSA party" and you could force a referendum, and make actual changes.
    You could even cause the dissolving of the Government, and a new election.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 3:54am

    Re: Re:

    "a true democracy perhaps, where citizens can genuinely have a voice and each voice counts no matter how much money they have"

    I'm no political scientist, but as I understand it no "true" system is really desirable. For example, a "true" democracy leaves people vulnerable to the "tyranny of the majority" where minority groups can be unfairly marginalised and downtrodden. Similarly, a "true" capitalist system would lack the socialist safety nets that keeps the most vulnerable out of complete destitution.

    We can agree that getting money and corporate influence out of politics is the way forward, but how to do this and where the best place to go would be are very much open to debate.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 4:15am

    People are getting a taste of writing code(laws).
    This may prove useful.

    A good step in the right direction, but not enough I am afraid, we still need to mirror anything governments do in the NGO sector, I avoided using the term private sector here, it conveys the sense of companies, excluding other options like cooperatives, non-profits, etc.

    So when a block goes bad, you exchange that block for another one. Got love Lego.

    These in fact would reduce governments influence over people lifes and hopefully putting costs under control and refreshing the field when it is needed.

    Leave any government agency in place long enough or any agency anywhere without changes and it will start to stink.

    Adverse reaction: Failure to have alternatives may cause crooked bailouts, government brown outs and increased levels of acute lead poisoning.

    My hope is that some countries have reached an education point where they are now capable of doing it, this is not an option in Africa or poor countries in Asia or Latin America, they don't have the massive pool of educated people needed to pull it off.

    Is like software, if you don't have the money to buy it, you start making your own and ask others if they would like to try it and help out.

    We clearly can't compete in price for our sellout actual governants but we can and should be trying to make alternatives to anything that they provide us.

    Armed revolutions are not optimal, you exchange one set of crooks for another the underlying system stays intact, it doesn't change anything, we don't get new proposals for new ways of doing anything.

    Short version:

    I will be bold here and say that there are only 3 ways to get things in this world.

    - buy it.
    - ask for it.
    - make it yourself.

    All have good and bad associated with it, chose wisely and may the cold winds be with you.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 4:23am

    Re: The whole school?

    I was wondering when you'd start showing your face around here, Prenda fanboy. What, no whining about how you had to use another proxy to post from your mobile phone? Guess you were bullshitting the whole time, huh?

    horse with no name just hates it when due process is enforced.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 4:54am

    Re:

    (as the US Constitution restricts Congress in the US)

    Indeed. I'm at a loss if I mark my own quote funny or not. Maybe we need a new button or something?

     

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  13.  
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    I'm_Having_None_Of_It, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 6:05am

    Re: Re:

    Excuse me, but here in the UK we have a true democracy. AND devolution means that much of the decision-making is done at a local, regional, and national level.

    For example, Scotland and Wales make their own laws and Scotland has its own currency. Both Scotland and Wales have their own "assemblies," or Parliaments.

    The whole nation has national, regional, and local elections at regular intervals. We also have freedom of speech and of expression (with some limits - racism can get you into trouble, as documented here on Techdirt).

    You make us sound like a third world dictatorship. We're not.

     

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    horse with no name, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 6:32am

    Re: Re: The whole school?

    It still comes to the same thing. "Londong School of Economics" is not the same as:

    LSE Public Policy Group (PPG) is an independent consultancy and research organisation.

    Democratic Audit is an independent research unit based at the Public Policy Group in the LSE’s Government Department.

    It doesn't appear to be the school that has signed on as a whole, rather one or two departments (and their self employing consultancies) are leading it.

    What I find interesting is that considering the institution, it's wild to think that they feel that replacing an entire constitution with hundreds of years of caselaw is a good way to go.

    So, the question stands: Is it the school, or just a couple of their departments and their self-supporting consultancies doing this deal?

     

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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 7:19am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Excuse me, but here in the UK we have a true democracy.
    No, we really, really don't. Technically, I think, the UK is a "Constitutional monarchy". The US is not a democracy either, it's a republic. Theoretically in both, the electorate get to choose those that make the decisions, but do not get any further decision making power themselves. A "true democracy" is where the people get direct decision making ability. As PaulT notes above, that too has its dangers of course.
    You make us sound like a third world dictatorship. We're not.
    No indeed, they tend to be more honest about the level of control the ruler has over the serf-uh-citizens.
    As for the UK actually being like a dictatorship, well no of course it's not. However, my point was that the average voter has literally zero voice in government. Being able to select once every few years the least objectionable of 2 parties whose policies one doesn't support and who are more likely to look after to corporate interests than those of an average citizen does not constitute much in the way of voice.
    Oh, and I could be wrong but I believe the UK is also the only western country that does not include a "right to silence" in their criminal procedure... that's fairly police-state-y if not actually dictator-y don't you think?

     

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  16.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 7:20am

    Re: Re: Re: The whole school?

    "So, the question stands: Is it the school, or just a couple of their departments and their self-supporting consultancies doing this deal?"

    Interestingly, the question "that stands" is suddenly very different from the one originally posed:

    "Or is it just one or two professors looking to get their names in the media?"

    Are you now saying that every department and/or every professor in the school have to sign off on every project for it to be valid, or are you just moving the goalposts once questioned with facts?

    As for whether it's just "one or two departments", this is a legal experiment and has been led by the Department Of Law. Which other departments should you think be involved to make it a valid project?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 7:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The whole school?

    Oh my GOD, it's almost like the horse with no name doesn't trust government or anyone!

    Who knew?

     

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  18.  
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    I'm_Having_None_Of_It, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 7:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Citation?

     

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  19.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 8:04am

    Quite the opposite actually, the Westminster system is set up such that ALL citizens have the ability to form their own party
    True, theoretically at least. In both UK and US. But that's the problem - it's only theoretically true. It takes way more money to be elected to parliament than even a fairly large group of citizens is likely to amass without, for example, corporate backing. And even if one manages the unlikely feat of being elected to parliament without compromising one's values or selling out to corporate interests, it's one against 649.
    This is why we have an 2 party + 1 spoiler system and not an "anyone can make it" system. Whatever the rules say, lack of choice is institutionalised in british politics. Just look at the current makeup of the house. Even if every single "independent" (and I use the term laughingly as it includes, for example Sinn Fein and the Scottish Nationalist party) that's managed to get elected shares a view on something, that's a total of 34 votes - not even enough to beat the Lib Dems at anything, never mind sway the government.
    The price of a seat in either house (IIRC ~$1.5M+ for congress, ~$6M+ for senate) in the US makes the same problem if anything even more insurmountable over there.

     

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  20.  
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    I'm_Having_None_Of_It, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 8:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 8:06am

    Re:

    Quite the opposite actually, the Westminster system is set up such that ALL citizens have the ability to form their own party
    True, theoretically at least. In both UK and US. But that's the problem - it's only theoretically true. It takes way more money to be elected to parliament than even a fairly large group of citizens is likely to amass without, for example, corporate backing. And even if one manages the unlikely feat of being elected to parliament without compromising one's values or selling out to corporate interests, it's one against 649.
    This is why we have an 2 party + 1 spoiler system and not an "anyone can make it" system. Whatever the rules say, lack of choice is institutionalised in british politics as it is in US politics. Just look at the current makeup of the house. Even if every single "independent" (and I use the term laughingly as it includes, for example Sinn Fein and the Scottish Nationalist party) that's managed to get elected shares a view on something, that's a total of 34 votes - not even enough to beat the Lib Dems at anything, never mind sway the government.
    The price of a seat in either house (IIRC ~$1.5M+ for congress, ~$6M+ for senate) in the US makes the same problem if anything even more insurmountable over there.

     

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  22.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 8:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, that is kind of the point. Whatever it may be called, a right to silence stops looking like a "right" when it's limited by when and how you can not say things.

     

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  23.  
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    Anon, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 10:42am

    Careful you don't give offense!

    Is this the same LSE whose student union threw out an atheist group for offending muslims with a pineapple on a table, with a post-it on it?
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2012/01/25/the-right-to-offend-is-fundamental-to-the-ri ght-to-free-expression/
    These people shouldn't be allowed anywhere near such an important document.

     

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  24.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Careful you don't give offense!

    It is, but think about what you're saying. A voluntary body within the school has 12 members (4 full time, 8 part time according to their site) - some of whom did something wrong against other people within that school. Because of that, we should ignore everything their entire 10,000+ student body are involved in, even one that includes full participation from the public?

    That doesn't seem quite right.

     

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    btr1701 (profile), Oct 15th, 2013 @ 2:37pm

    Restrictions

    > meaning that there is no effective restriction
    > on the UK Parliament's actions (as the US
    > Constitution restricts Congress in the US).

    Since the Obamacare decision-- hell, since Wickard vs. Fillburn in the 1920's-- there's been no effective restriction on the actions of Congress, either. Having a Constitution doesn't seem to matter.

     

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  26. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    horse with no name, Oct 15th, 2013 @ 11:23pm

    Re: Re: The whole school?

    First off, nice flaming piece of bait there, too bad I am not a "prenda fan boy", just not a fan of abusive, overreaching judges. The difference apparently escapes you (as do so many other things, like personal hygiene).

    I don't use proxies. I leave that to people like you.

    It actually appears that the people at Techdirt got bored of blocking me personally, so now I can post again without first having to wait 2 - 7 days for the to "moderate" my comments. Safe to say that the removal of this block seems to match up nicely with a decline in activity in the comments sections on many of the posts. You may draw you own conclusions from that bit.

    The rest of your flaming bait, well, you can eat it yourself. I hope that Mike and the rest of the moderators here realize you are the real troll here, and let you enjoy the same treatment I got for a few months.

     

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  27.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 16th, 2013 @ 1:05am

    Re: Re: Re: The whole school?

    "It actually appears that the people at Techdirt got bored of blocking me personally"

    Oh dear, still a whining conspiracy theorist, I see.

    It was explained to you how your tantrums add nothing to a conversation and that when your posts consist of nothing but that and baseless accusations that they will get reported as trolling. Reported posts get flagged, repeated flagging leads to going into the spam queue because the system treats them as spam. Valid comments in the queue are then manually approved by Techdirt staff - not the other way around. It's basic logic for anyone who isn't a paranoid idiot.

    Yet, here you are. You've had a timeout from automatic flagging (or your ISP changed your dynamic IP address since your last bullshit flood), so your posts are appearing immediately again. But now, you're adding nothing to a conversation, only whining and making baseless accusations against others yet again. You're literally asking to be flagged and sent into the spam queue again.

    Try participating in a conversation for once, and you'll get your posts treated better. Look above - you started this conversation with a question that you've then deliberately avoided acknowledging were answered by the links in the article itself, only responding when someone calls you out personally for previous behaviour. You've show yourself to not be interested in an actual conversation nor a discussion of the relevant facts. I wonder why you get flagged as a troll and treated as such?

     

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  28. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    horse with no name, Oct 16th, 2013 @ 4:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The whole school?

    Paul, with all respect, you cannot expect civil discourse if your reply is nothing but an attack on me personally.

    If you want to flame me, that's your prerogative. I hope the site operators can see and understand now who is actually trolling, and who is expressing an opinion on the story.

    Take your own advice. Try participating in the discussion, rather than just attacking me. I hope the mods notice who is trying to flame and bait me, I won't engage you.

     

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  29.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 16th, 2013 @ 6:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The whole school?

    "No *you're* a troll!"

    Civil discourse, indeed...

    I asked a couple of valid questions in response to you above, which you ignored in favour of playing the victim (presumably since I'd already correctly identified your goalpost moving attempt). Do try answering them rather than whining about a fictional conspiracy and that you're being told why you're wrong about it.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2013 @ 11:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: The whole school?

    Moderated? You mean like this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and this?

    You're not fooling anyone. Walks like a Prenda fanboy, squawks like a Prenda fanboy. You complained that all your Hong Kong mobile towers were being blocked - how do you explain the continuous shitstorm of your drivel ending up here?

    It's no surprise that a horse like you enjoys post activity when it consists of "Bawk, cluck, moo", because it's evidently all the intelligence you can handle.

    And here's something you won't be able to handle either: horse with no name just hates it when due process is enforced.

    horse with no name just hates it when due process is enforced.

    horse with no name just hates it when due process is enforced.

     

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