Iceland (a.k.a. The Transparentest Place On Earth) Crowdsources Its New Constitution
from the totally-throwing-off-the-transparency-curve dept
We talk a lot about government transparency here at Techdirt. (We honestly do. Admittedly, the conversation tends to revolve around the lack thereof, but that's hardly our fault. We weren't the ones promising the most transparent government ever and then spending most of our time boarding up the windows and chanting "State Secret" over each piece of paper that crossed our collective desks. But I digress...)
Back to the point at hand: a transparent government. Ours may be struggling mightily with the ideal, but Iceland has one-upped every government in the world by crowdsourcing the writing of its new Constitution. Not only that, but it's embracing the crowd at all the popular hangouts, incuding Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, and it's streaming all of its meetings live.
Of course, opening up yourself to the "wisdom of the crowd" has its drawbacks, most them directly related to the "wisdom" of said crowd. Some bizarre advice has turned up on its Facebook page, but to its credit, the moderators are handling it with the tireless patience that Iceland will soon become famous for, if there's any justice in the world. Here's a sampling of some of the best/worst from their Facebook page.
Here's Joshua E.'s three-pronged platform:
Just read the full current draft, and had some thoughts: 1. I would suggest that under Education, a clause be instituted to allow children and their families to seek restitution from individual teachers upon improper teaching of personal views, 2. the amount of parliment needed for impeachment of the president be reduced to 2/3rds as to avoid blocking by a member of the president's own party, and 3. that a process be created by which the collected MPs may create amendments to the constitutionSilja Bára Ómarsdóttir (Iceland Facebook page admin):
the president in Iceland is not affiliated with any party so that's moot. The idea of amendments is not something we normally use here, we would rather have the whole document revisited, for example through constitutional assemblies every few decades. And for the first point, I would be hesitant to support such a document as I think it would support the development of a "sue the bastards" mentality we have not had so far. But thanks for your critical reading of the document and interest in the process.
Justin E. lays out some common sense:
Okay, here is a no-brainer. To keep special interests out of the government, you pay politicians at a flat rate, and do not allow them to accept monetary sponsorship from corporations.
Katrín Oddsdóttir (another admin):
Exactly what we're doing Justin ;)
Joe C. takes a swing at the "welfare state" and ends with a baffling plea to edit the Consitution and Bill of Rights:
If you write "rights" to the fruit of other peoples' labor into the Constitution, you will have set up this state for failure before it even started. Please copy the US constitution + bill of rights, remove the bad parts and clarify the liberty-damaging clauses.
If there is any place in the world where the constitution can promise social welfare to all, that would be Iceland which is very rich in resources and has only 320.000 people. So we have to go for the full force social and economic rights, in my opinion. We also have a very different legal system to the US so it's hard to compare how such constitution traditions would act out, on the Ice. Thanks for the comment Joe.
Justin L. is concerned with an inseparable church and state:
Having an Established Church as well as Religious Freedom seems a little counterintuitive.
This is a huge issue and no wonder you mention it. Iceland has had a national church for decades and very many people want a separation between the Church and the State. However, the current constitution demands a referendum should the state church be abolished and that is why our current draft has two options on the church. This essentially means that when (and if!) our new constitution goes to referendum, the people of Iceland can choose whether they want to mention the Established State Church in the future constitution or not.
And finally, Phil C. reminds us why we love/hate the internet -- semi-coherent, punctuation-less rants:
You people are crazy nuts You are abdicating your responsibility to your nation's people. guarantee all the "rights" you want to includingno-one needs to work the government will take care of everything cradle to grave a country of welfare is a country that cannot survive. You are ruining your country and setting the worst possible example
People will have no desire to contribute sweat equiity if the government pays all the bills. Have you thought of where you will get the money needed to support all of your welfare recipients once you guarantee they won't need to pay for any of there own needs?
Now now Philip. We are blessed with ample natural resources like hydro electricity, clean water, agriculture and sustainable fishing. Our healthcare and education system is the foundation of our future.
I would not go as far as to say that we are crazy nuts, but as a nation of viking seafarers we do like to go out on a limb sometimes.
It's true. Vikings are iconclastic ass-kickers and somewhat prone to rash action, hence Iceland's sudden drive to rebuild its constitution. (The still-in-progress full text is online both in English and in the original Icelandic.) All the push Iceland needed was a catastrophic collapse of the financial system. To say that this effort has struck a chord with people worldwide is an understatement. And while there's probably a million reasons this won't work, it might turn out to be a perfect fit for a country with the population of St. Louis, MO (approx. 319,000). If nothing else, it may inspire a bit more transparency worldwide, and that can't possibly be a bad thing.