In the 18th century, if you wanted to draft a democratic constitution you crowded a handful of men into a room and hashed out the finer points of policy and philosophy until you had a document that was declared the law of the land. Same for the 19th and 20th centuries. But nowadays, the Internet--that great democratizer--is bringing a new kind of power to the people. Icelandic authorities overhauling that county's constitution post-financial meltdown is tapping the power of the Web to allow citizens to give their two cents on how a new governing document should look.
There is still the small collection of leaders in a room drafting the actual document--25 of them to be exact. But they are reaching out to Iceland's 320,000 people--one of the world's more computer-literate populations--through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (but mostly Facebook, let's be honest).
A thorough review and rewriting of the constitution (which is more or less Denmark's constitution with a few minor tweaks) has been on the legislative agenda since Iceland gained independence in 1944. The new crowdsourced document could be put before the entire voting population in a referendum before parliament decides on the final draft. We're not sure why. It seems like parliament should have a pretty good notion of how the public feels about the final draft based on how many "likes" it gets.
They must not know about hacking.
Maybe I can put in a few perks for me.
That is awesome! I'm always amazed at how behind the U.S. is when it comes to the Internet in general, but especially when it comes to government transparency via the Internet.
Google Switzerland for more info...
lol yeah they definitely need to find a way to keep hackers away from this process. Hopefully nobody will try to mess with it, though...
@B.V. -- Let's see... The internet was invented for and developed by the US military and US colleges... The United States has the most internet users by number, and over 75% of the population uses it... Facebook was created by an American... Most people world wide use an operating system developed and sold by American businesses... It doesn't seem America is behind, but that the world needs to catch up.
As for government transparency... just because a government puts things on the internet doesn't make it transparent, because you have no clue what's placed on the internet isn't some sort of propaganda.
The internet makes for all new voting possibilities. Their new constitution could allow full spectrum voting from representative to referendum on every single vote, but there are dangers from dictator to mob rule of a true democracy. Imagine you could proxy your vote on specific subjects to different representative, or cast your vote on a specific bill you feel strongly about. Imagine you could attach your votes to any one you feel confident in representing you on that subject. This may be an opportunity to reinvigorate the electorate, and rein franchise voters. Democracies lag behind the new social media, and dictators are at risk of being ground up by them. The ones who change soonest may lead the world and not lag behind it.
Iceland is not the only utilizing the wisdom of the crowd and the Internet. In fact, "constitutional conventions in Europe and Africa are turning toward iPads and open source software to construct their countries' new rules of government" (read more at http://crowdsourcing.org/l/1910).
"wisdom of the crowd"
Are you kidding me?! Individuals might (or as the case here, might not) have wisdom. Crowd, in fact, is as dumb as a bag of hammers. As for constitution, that "handful of men" in a crowded room after spending weeks in prayer and through guidance and wisdom of God drafted a document that is unprecedented in history of the world as far as democracy and freedoms go. It was unprecedented then and it is unprecedented now. I can only imagine what they are going to come up with in Iceland, using "wisdom" of the crowd as their guide.
Capt_Tight_Pants i feel sorry for you, and i feel sorry for everyone one else that has a similar opinion, to many people have lost sight of what true democratic republic truly means, the elected body of people to represent the view of the people. before it was impossible for all the views of a peopel to be represented so an official was voted to represent the majority of these views. And these representatives came together to create lawas and govern a country. Now we can cut out the middlee men and make all our voices heard with out corruption or persuasion by out side influences. I think this is great. I did not vote for our president for his election but the one thing i truly hope would happen was transparency on the level Iceland is creating, and unfortunatley i am still waiting for it, I think there should be a FB page where all bills are posted and discussed, where dumbed down versions can be shared and people can truly understand what our gov. is passing on our behalfs, good luck Iceland!!
Agree with capt_tight_pants, this is why we live in a republic and not a true democracy. While there are some simple issues that people can weight in on, other issues are too complex for the average person to fully understand. Besides the fact that most people are too busy living their lives to vote on every issue. If something isn't that important to them they just won't vote, which will further worsen the issue, as only those interested will vote and most likely get whatever they wanted in the first place. That is why our representative form of government, though flawed in some ways, is the best option. The main problem we seem to have is we have too many representatives who lack the moral and ethical base to do what is truly right for our nation; they only think of what is good for their record, campaign, or district.
good point. I think most people blindly defending the U.S. constitution have never read the constitution of another country (or, probably even this country's)... which fuels their "Americuh #1" delusion.
Also, I TOTALLY wish we had e-voting like they have in Switzerland... where basically whatever their representatives try to make into a law, the citizens can vote yes/no on and keep them in check.
Count the number of times the word "freedom" is used in the Swiss constitution. Count the number of times it's used in the U.S. constitution.
Count the actual number of freedoms explicitly written into the U.S. constitution... then do the same for Switzerland... and then kindly STFU.
Instead of spouting undocumented B.S. about how great Americuh is, how bout you go use Google to see if your brainwashing actually reflects reality.
China has 470 MILLION internet users--that's more than THE ENTIRE F-ING POPULATION OF THE US... "The United States has the most internet users by number"... yeah, if you don't know how numbers work.
The rest of the world needs to catch up to the U.S.? http://www.techpark.net/2010/04/15/broadband-internet-speeds-2009-2010-the-top-10-countries/
You must be one of those U.S. residents stuck on a capped-DSL-lite connection, because you MUST be conserving your monthly quota by not researching any of the nonsense you type... that's the only way I can make sense of your ignorance.
@ B.V.: That whole comment makes my eyes bleed. You should probably take some of your own advice there, Captain Switzerland.
If your eyes are bleeding perhaps you should stick your head back in the sand and keep telling yourself you're number one (at self-delusion)...
Whether or not you believe the U.S. is "number one" (whatever that even means)... only a fool refuses to evaluate the competition and steal their best ideas to constantly improve and STAY #1.
And the U.S. is full of fools who haven't been more than 8 miles from the place they were born but will tell you with 100% confidence level that their crappy town in the middle of the backwoods of their crappy state is the best damn place in the universe.
So, basically, every half-educated moron with no background in law, philosophy, economics or history can go online and "like" a proposal for their constitution based solely on how it sounds to them?
Sounds like an idea completely immune to failure.
I don't think one needs a degree in law, philosophy, economics, or history to decide on some very basic principles for the country.
Like... pretty much any non-retarded person in the U.S. can decide whether or not a black person should be counted as 3/5ths of a person... or if we should be allowed to have guns... or if there should be a separation of church and state... or if alcohol should be illegal...
I'd bet the farm that if you randomly pulled in 2 (non-retarded) residents from each state and sent them to the senate for 2 years to serve, the country would either be about the same or actually better for it.
@B.V.: Not only are you adept at making flawed, nonsensical arguments and gross generalizations, but you are also quite adept at putting words in other peoples' mouths and giving them opinions they do not have. At no point did I say that I even remotely thought the US was number one. I do know however that you are a complete and utter moron. Thank you for clearing that up for me.
Maybe y'all should switch to decaf. I believe the article was about Iceland gathering popular thought on their new constitution. Not if so'n so is a moron or if America leads or follows the curve on Internet savviness. Y'all read like little kids squabbling over who did what to whom, but hell I guess the interwebs ain't where one goes for communication and intelligent debate, eh?
Please elaborate on what un-flawed and sensible belief would cause you to take the time to call me "Captain Switzerland" after claiming that your eyes were bleeding due to my comment.
It sounds like some people think dumb people shouldn't vote at all. Is that your idea of democracy? If the population is 90% dumb, then let the dumb people have their vote. A minority controlling a naive majority usually ends up becoming a totalitarian government.
In defense of Iceland and Switzerland, I'd bet that the average citizen is less naive/ignorant than the average American.
Yikes for some reason this makes my hackles rise like the arab pro-democracy spring that wasn't. Have a feeling it will turn out to be less good than advertised.
@B.V. what's the deal? Why so hating the U.S. If you've ever been here you have to realize its actually a pretty nice place. Haven't read switzerlands constitution, nor do I know how many times it lists freedom. It would be appreciated to enlighten me so I don't have to dust off my rusty small bits of german. But I bet its more often than the U.S.'s huh. As has been pointed out, the genius of our constitution is it's a document of negative liberties, i.e. it controls what the government is allowed to do TO us, that's it's most powerful strength, not a weakness. It's pretty nice here, not sure why your hating so hard on it.
I'm not hating it. I live in the U.S. and am a U.S. citizen--I love it here.
However, just as a loving parent becomes angry at their child when he/she doesn't do their homework--I become angry at my fellow citizens when they don't do THEIR homework and the country falls behind in class.
The smartest kid in school isn't so "just because." He/she doesn't sit back and go "welp, I'm the smartest, no need to study!"
That's the attitude I encounter in the U.S. "Welp, we're 'the best' so no need to improve!"
I think that is the worst position one can take.
"it controls what the government is allowed to do"
No... it really doesn't. It's just a piece of paper--it's only "powerful" if people continue to agree it is. If 51% of the voters elected a new Hitler and he turned the U.S. into a fascist nation, the constitution wouldn't burst out of it's protective case, grow machine guys, and then go on a rampage to control what new-Hitler is trying to do.
I know it's pretty nice here... but it's not perfect. All I suggest is that Americans continue to strive for perfection instead of sitting back in their recliners and cracking open a beer to say "nah, I'm the best".
To read the Swiss constitution check out http://www.admin.ch/ch/e/rs/101/index.html
It's in English and it's actually very interesting... I definitely think we could draw a LOT of good things from it to improve the U.S.
@BV...quit being a negative SOB, every comment from you is the same negative crap, troll
You must be one of those people who doesn't listen to NPR because "it's too depressing."
Sorry if reality isn't a Disney movie, and you aren't a beautiful princess who will be whisked away by a blonde prince riding a white horse.
"Negative" vs. "Positive" really comes down to one thing:
Whether or not you feel like you are in control of your life.
If you feel that you are not, hearing "negative" comments/news is depressing because you are too weak to do anything about it.
If you feel that you ARE in control of your life, hearing "negative" comments/news is motivating because you are able to correct your course and improve your actions.
I don't really give 2 squirts about people like you and inaka_rob who piss and cry and moan about how my comments ruin you day of self-delusion.
My comments are meant for those who actually have the balls to react and respond (and sometimes even anticipate and take preemptive action) when it comes to events in their life.
If they make you feel sad... the problem is in your head--not my comments.
I'm always amazed at how off topic the comments get on PopSci.
Anyways, I think this is a great idea. The 25 people who are writing the constitution don't have to take every idea that comes to them. However, the people can give their opinions and possibly improve their country. Who knows, maybe there's a Leonard Susskind type out there who has been sitting on an idea for years and just needs an "aha" moment. I think it could only help Iceland.
Whether this would work in the US, I'm not sure. Maybe on a local level, but I'm not sure about on the national level.
@B.V., you just showed your as# again, arrogant SOB troll, you didn't even get the first sentence of your last comment correct, f#ck off
All of you on here fighting are missing the real point of this article. See, the people there obviously decided they were seriously pisst and they ain't takin it no more. I imagine people in Atlantic coastal countries should just count ourselves lucky if they don't re-ratify pillaging towns.
@bv I went to the link honestly planning to read switzerlands constitution. The index alone took me 5 minutes to read, that is one long mama jama. I will try to read through it one day.
This is similar to what we at GovTogether are trying to accomplish for America. Under our proposed system, we would uphold our current constitution, but in a much different way. In addition to voting for our elected officials themselves, we want to set up a web-based voting system that would enable ordinary American citizens to have a say on each individual issue as they came up.
If you like our idea, visit our site for greater detail and maybe even cast a vote. The more votes we get, the more of a chance we have to make this new system into a reality for America as well.
Here are the most interesting parts IMO:
Title Two: Fundamental Rights, Citizenship and Social Goals
Chapter One: Fundamental Rights
Art. 7 Human dignity
Human dignity must be respected and protected.
1 Everyone shall be equal before the law.
2 No one may be discriminated against, in particular on grounds of origin, race, gender, age, language, social position, way of life, religious, ideological, or political convictions, or because of a physical, mental or psychological disability.
3 Men and women shall have equal rights. The law shall ensure their equality, both in law and in practice, most particularly in the family, in education, and in the workplace. Men and women shall have the right to equal pay for work of equal value.
4 The law shall provide for the elimination of inequalities that affect persons with disabilities.
Art. 9 Protection against arbitrary conduct and principle of good faith
Everyone has the right to be treated by state authorities in good faith and in a non-arbitrary manner.
Art. 10 Right to life and to personal freedom
1 Everyone has the right to life. The death penalty is prohibited.
2 Everyone has the right to personal liberty and in particular to physical and mental integrity and to freedom of movement.
3 Torture and any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are prohibited.
Art. 11 Protection of children and young people
1 Children and young people have the right to the special protection of their integrity and to the encouragement of their development.
2 They may personally exercise their rights to the extent that their power of judgement allows.
Art. 12 Right to assistance when in need
Persons in need and unable to provide for themselves have the right to assistance and care, and to the financial means required for a decent standard of living.
Art. 13 Right to privacy
1 Everyone has the right to privacy in their private and family life and in their home, and in relation to their mail and telecommunications.
2 Everyone has the right to be protected against the misuse of their personal data.
It obviously goes on from there as there are THIRTY FOUR explicit rights granted by the constitution.
As you can see, the language is very straight-forward and easy to understand... even for those without a doctoral degree in philosophy or polit sci.
Internet voting? NO THANKS. Anyone who wants no paper trail needs to go back to kindergarten. I guess everyone forgot about Gore/Bush?? Doesn't surprise me, attention spans are very short nowadays. Anyhoo, with internet voting we will finally get to see the 1st President to be voted in with 100% of the vote.
The U.S declaration of independence / constitution is the single best piece of law ever written and nothing will ever come close to it's perfection.
Congratulation to the citizens of Iceland. Here in the USA we are number 1 in ignorant and arrogant loudmouths and any furriner that calls out our flaws provokes our wrath. Too bad we must rely on representation from those that refuse to represent our needs. I hope the Iceland method will find it's way here.