Populism fee-vah: Iceland to draft ordinary citizens to write new constitution

posted at 8:30 pm on November 26, 2010 by Allahpundit

It’s not quite the Buckleyan dream of being governed by the first 400 names in the phone book, but it’s as close as we’ll ever get.

On Twitter, Karl suggests a name for the project: The Iced Tea Party.

“This is the first time in the history of the world that a nation’s constitution is reviewed in such a way, by direct democratic process,” says Berghildur Erla Bergthorsdottir, spokeswoman for the committee entrusted with organizing the Constitutional Assembly…

The constitutional assembly will be made up of 25 to 31 delegates, the final number to be determined by a gender and equality ratio. It will be made up of regular citizens elected by direct personal voting. Anyone is eligible to stand for election, with the exceptions of the president, lawmakers and the committee appointed to organize the assembly.

The assembly will draft a proposed new constitution next year. They will use material from another extraordinary project earlier this year in which 1,000 randomly chosen Icelanders — aged 18-89 — offered their views on what should be in the constitution.

Now the race is on to be among the charter’s authors, with 523 people in the running. Truck drivers, university professors, lawyers, journalists and computer geeks are all among the candidates. All have been given equal air time on Icelandic radio to make their platforms known.

Since the country’s financial system melted down two years ago and a parliamentary inquiry revealed systemic corruption in the government, the public’s been desperate for a jolt of hope and a dose of change. So they’re startin’ fresh — so fresh that, as noted in the blockquote, practically the only citizens ineligible to draft the new law are … the sitting parliament. I’m tempted to call this a grand gimmick to placate a restless country, but a constitutional convention ain’t no gimmick. In fact, it reminds me of the National Assembly, albeit with the intriguing twist that not only is the current government not resisting, they’re actually helping it along. Is Icelandic society so fragile that this is the most stable option for the ruling regime? Even though it’s an open question whether the current constitutional system is contributing to Iceland’s problems in the first place?

As for electing the reps, the idea of a truck driver taking a break from the rig to help draft a new national constitution is irresistible to you and me, but I’m thinking it might not be so irresistible to a voter who has to live with the results thereafter. Icelanders could go two ways on this: Either treat it as a normal election, in which case the usual crop of successful professionals and well-credentialed eggheads are likely to prevail (with a few ordinary joes thrown in), or embrace the populism in earnest by making the convention overwhelmingly blue-collar. I’m hoping they go the latter route just because it’d be a fascinating experiment, but my hunch is that because they have so little information about the candidates to go on — and because, with only 30 seats available, every seat is crucially important — they’re more likely to “play it safe” and opt for the professional class. Or, if they’re feeling really anarchic and nihilistic about the country’s future, they could elect a bunch of joke candidates and see what they come up with when they put their heads together. Alternate headline: “Greatest reality show evah.”

If you’re hungry for more, an Icelandic journalist writing at HuffPo has a provocative proposal of her own for the convention. She wants them to establish a permanent citizens’ assembly that will meet for two weeks at the end of every parliamentary term to review laws passed, court decisions issued, treaties ratified, you name it. Anything they find to be against the national interest would then be put to a national referendum and overturned if a majority of the public opposes it. Hmmmmm. Exit question: Do tea partiers dig the idea of an “ordinary joe” constitutional convention or would they prefer something more oligarchic along the lines of the Continental Congress? Adams, Madison, and Jefferson may have been proud populist patriots but they were supremely well educated for men of their era (Harvard, Princeton, and William and Mary, respectively). Too elitist to draft the new supreme law?


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As for electing the reps, the idea of a truck driver taking a break from the rig to help draft a new national constitution is irresistible to you and me, but I’m thinking it might not be so irresistible to a voter who has to live with the results thereafter.

Our founding fathers would have pointed to instances in history when this level of direct democracy resulted in some bad outcomes.

bayam on November 26, 2010 at 8:33 PM

Woopie will call this an act of terror.

Electrongod on November 26, 2010 at 8:33 PM

I know a good one they can copy. Hardly requires any modification. That’s the easy part. The hard part is staying loyal to it.

TheBigOldDog on November 26, 2010 at 8:33 PM

The bigger issue to us from this may be if the new constitution will outlaw us from having a base there.

conservnut on November 26, 2010 at 8:36 PM

Government By the People
We have diverged from that idea and if we do not return to it we will be doomed.

Grunt on November 26, 2010 at 8:37 PM

I know a good one they can copy. Hardly requires any modification. That’s the easy part. The hard part is staying loyal to it.

TheBigOldDog on November 26, 2010 at 8:33 PM

Stop right there! We have a thread winner!

katy the mean old lady on November 26, 2010 at 8:38 PM

Iceland: Going Rogue.

Electrongod on November 26, 2010 at 8:39 PM

I say go with the two week assembly idea and anyone in government guilty of corruption gets publicly executed

too extreme?

Daveyardbird on November 26, 2010 at 8:39 PM

This kind of radical proposal is actually a very feasible option for Iceland. Virtually nobody lives there, it has a very small land mass, and it lacks a standing army. It’s akin to governing Wyoming…

I would love to see what would happen if they really opted for a constitution with a limited government and not much of a safety net. Good for them!

Outlander on November 26, 2010 at 8:40 PM

Adams, Madison, and Jefferson may have been proud populist patriots but they were supremely well educated for men of their era (Harvard, Princeton, and William and Mary, respectively). Too elitist to draft the new supreme law?

Education really isn’t the determining factor for an “elitist”.

Tea Partiers aren’t anti-education – although I would say that the kind of education offered at these colleges has greatly degraded since the days of the founders.

The founders mentioned were all “men of the earth” – and being colonialists, they were – by definition – PIONEERS.

Which is a far cry from the likes of Obama or Mitch McConnell.

HondaV65 on November 26, 2010 at 8:42 PM

They could end up like a union owning the company: they vote themselves great pay and benefits, and then it comes time to find the money to pay for it…

Wethal on November 26, 2010 at 8:42 PM

Do tea partiers dig the idea of an “ordinary joe” constitutional convention or would they prefer something more oligarchic along the lines of the Continental Congress? Adams, Madison, and Jefferson may have been proud populist patriots but they were supremely well educated for men of their era (Harvard, Princeton, and William and Mary, respectively). Too elitist to draft the new supreme law?

Shhhhh

ernesto on November 26, 2010 at 8:43 PM

Hmmmmm. Exit question: Do tea partiers dig the idea of an “ordinary joe” constitutional convention or would they prefer something more oligarchic along the lines of the Continental Congress? Adams, Madison, and Jefferson may have been proud populist patriots but they were supremely well educated for men of their era (Harvard, Princeton, and William and Mary, respectively). Too elitist to draft the new supreme law?

I’m not in favor of that. Ordinary citizens should take part in the governing process, but not all ordinary citizens are qualified to be reviewing or drafting law. I know way too many super-nice people who are totally clueless about what is going on in the world and how laws passed affect their lives.

MikeknaJ on November 26, 2010 at 8:45 PM

I think this is a fine idea. Its not as if the truck driver is going to get to write anything he wants in the constitution without discussing it with others. Why the hell shouldn’t he be listened to? The lawyers pretty much screwed the pooch over there and now they are doing it differently.

Good thing our lawyers have done so much better over here with current legislation and steered the course to fiscal and social sanity! /

sharrukin on November 26, 2010 at 8:45 PM

Bad idea, they’re just going to come up with more socialist muck. The US constitution was written by extraordinary citizens. People who eared the right to write it, not just any Joe or Jane off the street.

Tommy_G on November 26, 2010 at 8:46 PM

The idea of actual citizens being able to stop government excess is pretty glorious…

JIMV on November 26, 2010 at 8:47 PM

A Harvard graduate in the 1700′s was educated. A Harvard graduate in the modern era is credentialed. You are comparing apples and oranges AP.

chemman on November 26, 2010 at 8:49 PM

I know way too many super-nice people who are totally clueless about what is going on in the world and how laws passed affect their lives.

MikeknaJ on November 26, 2010 at 8:45 PM

Nancy, Reid, Obama
I have been told they are super nice people but I understand where you are coming from.

Electrongod on November 26, 2010 at 8:50 PM

A Harvard graduate in the 1700′s was educated. A Harvard graduate in the modern era is credentialed. You are comparing apples and oranges AP.

chemman on November 26, 2010 at 8:49 PM

exactly

Daveyardbird on November 26, 2010 at 8:52 PM

“This is the first time in the history of the world that a nation’s constitution is reviewed in such a way, by direct democratic process,”

The constitutional assembly will be made up of 25 to 31 delegates, the final number to be determined by a gender and equality ratio.

Iceland’s definition of “We the People” = “gender and equality ratio”

steebo77 on November 26, 2010 at 8:53 PM

ICELANDIC Hope and Change baby!!

canopfor on November 26, 2010 at 8:53 PM

Do tea partiers dig the idea of an “ordinary joe” constitutional convention or would they prefer something more oligarchic along the lines of the Continental Congress? Adams, Madison, and Jefferson may have been proud populist patriots but they were supremely well educated for men of their era (Harvard, Princeton, and William and Mary, respectively). Too elitist to draft the new supreme law?

There is a fundamental difference here thought. In Colonial America, our elites were highly educated abotu civics and history. In modern America the governing class tends to be willfully ignorant about the same.

So, if you’d want another enduring document of the sort our country is based on, I’d think that instead of lawyers, professors, and bureaucrats, you’d want a heavy representation from mid-level combat hardened officers, small businessman, and engineers.

18-1 on November 26, 2010 at 8:54 PM

The assembly at the end of a session has merit. I like Heinlein’s suggestion of a tricameral legislature. First two, like our current legislature pass laws. Third chamber reviews and overturns laws. Simple majority is all that is required to rescind laws passed.

Could it be abused? Sure, name something that can’t. It would however provide a check on growing government — laws passed would truly required significant support.

AZfederalist on November 26, 2010 at 8:57 PM

On Twitter, Karl suggests a name for the project: The Iced Tea Party.
============
I better take a fine Canadian tea bag,and teabag my
Royal Doulton cup,and put my think’n cap on for a phrase
-aroo on this one!!

canopfor on November 26, 2010 at 8:57 PM

Iceland retooling

Kini on November 26, 2010 at 8:59 PM

Pat Benatar – Fire And Ice

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsKCU5ll3D0

canopfor on November 26, 2010 at 9:00 PM

The main problem will be majority rule over minority. Otherwise known as how much the majority can get away of abusing the minority.

Minority in this case mean political minority and not necessary mean race, religion, etc.

jdun on November 26, 2010 at 9:00 PM

They should just take ours.
It was written by some really smart men, it’s lasted over two hundred years, and we aren’t using it anymore, anyways….

Chuck on November 26, 2010 at 9:03 PM

A Harvard graduate in the 1700′s was educated. A Harvard graduate in the modern era is credentialed. You are comparing apples and oranges AP.

chemman on November 26, 2010 at 8:49 PM

A Harvard graduate in the modern era does receive an education – just not in Greek, Latin, logic, mathematics, history, etc. Current areas of study include science (How SUVs Kill Polar Bears), government (How Ronald Reagan Killed Polar Bears and Poor People), and, my personal favorite, ethics (Its Okay to Kill Babies and Old People; Just Don’t Kill Polar Bears).

steebo77 on November 26, 2010 at 9:07 PM

Iceland retooling

Kini on November 26, 2010 at 8:59 PM

Kini:I bet alot of Japanese men in Japan downloaded that!:)

canopfor on November 26, 2010 at 9:07 PM

Lots of the new Tea Party members in the House are citizen legislatures. There are lots of doctors, nurses, small business owners, and veterans. And this is why unlike in the Europe, the main U.S. protest is for cuts in gov’t spending, not against them. U.S. citizens feel that they have a stake in the success of their country and aren’t just staying there for free handouts.

Frankly, Europe has a major elitist bent to its nanny state where the people with the right names and the right credentials are the only ones who get a say in government. That really needs to change if the EU would like to hang around for the next century. Bread and circuses (i.e. fat social programs) only work to appease the population when you have the money to pay for them.

Illinidiva on November 26, 2010 at 9:10 PM

steebo77 on November 26, 2010 at 9:07 PM

Funny, but of course untrue

ernesto on November 26, 2010 at 9:12 PM

And the winner is…..sharia!

Inanemergencydial on November 26, 2010 at 9:17 PM

What could go wrong?

Dollayo on November 26, 2010 at 9:22 PM

I don’t know which is funnier: that they consider this to be a great idea, or that the plebes will probably produce a better constitution than the political class would.

There Goes The Neighborhood on November 26, 2010 at 9:27 PM

Too elitist to draft the new supreme law?

I think the source of your mistake is that you’ve bought into the notion that the tea party’s rebellion against elitism is a know-nothing movement apposed to intellectuals in general.

I don’t think evidence bears that out. The new tea party is no more anti-intellectual than was the original. After all, the founding fathers, including Adams, Madison, and Jefferson, created a nation ruled by the people with the elites on a tight leash.

The problem is that the elite of today have little resemblance to the founding fathers. They are of an entirely different nature. If the elites of today where transported back in time, replacing our founding fathers, America would never have gained the freedom and liberty we once had.

FloatingRock on November 26, 2010 at 9:38 PM

I bet alot of Japanese men in Japan downloaded that!:)

canopfor on November 26, 2010 at 9:07 PM

Robot fevah my friend

Kini on November 26, 2010 at 9:38 PM

Unlike the founding fathers, the elites of the past century have consistently eroded freedom and liberty while growing ever more corrupt.

FloatingRock on November 26, 2010 at 9:40 PM

This will be a disaster.

Spathi on November 26, 2010 at 9:45 PM

They’d be better off just not having a government.

Spathi on November 26, 2010 at 9:46 PM

canopfor on November 26, 2010 at 9:07 PM
=========================================
Robot fevah my friend

Kini on November 26, 2010 at 9:38 PM

Kini: True dat,I prefer mine,as:)
==================================

Cat Scratch Fever-Ted Nugent

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nW8S58CYQqs

canopfor on November 26, 2010 at 9:49 PM

It will be made up of regular citizens elected by direct personal voting. Anyone is eligible to stand for election

The second they have to run a campaign to get elected to be on the committee is when they are corrupted by the progressives/Marxist/socialists and all other forms of evil to free people. They need to take a page out of black Friday. The first 2000 people that show up get there name in, then have the names by random draw picked down to workable number.

After all every politician was a regular citizen at one point before they where corrupted by power.

tjexcite on November 26, 2010 at 9:49 PM

Can’t me any worse than what has come before.

Bishop on November 26, 2010 at 9:54 PM

It all depends on what the politics of the people elected.

Hopefully the will get a bunch of hardworking stop meddling types.

Slowburn on November 26, 2010 at 10:12 PM

Our founding fathers would have pointed to instances in history when this level of direct democracy resulted in some bad outcomes.

bayam on November 26, 2010 at 8:33 PM

Then again, it wasn’t looking so rosy under the Monarchy, The House of Commons & the House of Lords either.

mizflame98 on November 26, 2010 at 10:17 PM

The constitutional assembly will be made up of 25 to 31 delegates, the final number to be determined by a gender and equality ratio. It will be made up of regular citizens elected by direct personal voting.

These two sentences seem a direct contradiction of one another. What’s the point of giving mob democracy a go, if you’re going to socially engineer the mob?

Set a specific number of seats and fill all of them based upon popular vote. This is as stupid of an idea as I have ever seen. The smartest decision our founders made was to create a new country, rather than try to hit the reset button on England.

JCred on November 26, 2010 at 10:34 PM

The assembly at the end of a session has merit. I like Heinlein’s suggestion of a tricameral legislature. First two, like our current legislature pass laws. Third chamber reviews and overturns laws. Simple majority is all that is required to rescind laws passed.

Could it be abused? Sure, name something that can’t. It would however provide a check on growing government — laws passed would truly required significant support.

AZfederalist on November 26, 2010 at 8:57 PM

Actuallt, RAH’s tricameral legislature idea expressed in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress had the repealing body able to repeal with only a one third minority.

Random Numbers (Brian Epps) on November 26, 2010 at 10:53 PM

Scoff if you will, but Iceland has got the world’s most literate population, and they have a lot of time to think when the weather closes in.

They’ll probably do a heckuva job — if they can avoid 200-page preambles and unpronounceable position titles.

cthulhu on November 26, 2010 at 11:17 PM

From the writings of these Great Americans, it’s clear that what we should put into pedestal are the principles and warnings to protect the cause: NOT JUST FREE BUT AFFLUENT AND PEACEFUL AMERICA. They never dreamt of being worshipped like “kings”.

What we have forgotten is that those who originally wrote the Constitutions were also ordinary men, like us.

Rewriting the constitution by ordinary folks? No problem.

But what’s wrong with the original, anyway?

TheAlamos on November 26, 2010 at 11:23 PM

Constitution not constitutions. My bad.

TheAlamos on November 26, 2010 at 11:24 PM

Icelandic chicks are sssssmokin! Not sure what this has to do with the article tho…..lol

KMC1 on November 27, 2010 at 12:39 AM

The original congress was made up of trusted men from their respective colonies.

One was a cobbler, another was a self-made man, yet another was famous primarily for being a smuggler. Still another was a farmer and semi-successful lawyer whose main claim to fame was his reputation as an honest man.

You forget, most of the founders were not big men before their service. They were elites. But they were elites drawn from a wide swath of the people, and those that had proven their elite nature through their life. And they were not elitist. They believed that the “elite” would naturally rise out of the peoples ranks- farmers, pastors, choir directors. People who showed in their life that measure of excellence that raised they above others around them.

They did not think of some credentialed group of educated men as the “elites”, and all others as non-elites.

I say to Iceland, elect those people who have shown excellence through out their life. Whether it be in truck driving or in fishing, or in scholarly pursuits.

What is needed is not “the smart and educated man”. What is needed is the man of excellence.

Sackett on November 27, 2010 at 12:42 AM

JCred on November 26, 2010 at 10:34 PM

Actually they did reset.
Keep the King, but elect him
Have an upper and lower legislative house, but with regular elections.
A judiciary operating under English Common Law (for a while, anyway).

FOWG1 on November 27, 2010 at 12:45 AM

Funny, but of course untrue

ernesto on November 26, 2010 at 9:12 PM

Well…based on my experience, half true.

steebo77 on November 27, 2010 at 1:06 AM

Harvard, Princeton, and William and Mary, respectively,,,
At one times bastions of freedom and thought not training grounds for new commies.The credentialed class lacks common sense in many cases. Real people with experience in modern day fouled up government may very well come up with a workable system.Let us wish them well and perhaps these writers also will be Divinely inspired.

Col.John Wm. Reed on November 27, 2010 at 7:24 AM

Divide the country down to small pieces that have 30,000 people each. Elect one from each district. The District has recall ability on its delegate. Build up from there.

Iceland is not a huge multi-culti Nation, but more of an extended family… while such families do have snobs, they can easily be watered down by the rest of the family. Start small, perhaps at the neighborhood level with each family putting a representative forth, then the neighborhoods vote on a representative from them for the district. In no time at all you have an accountable set of representatives who may not be chosen because they know how to ‘run’ for office, but because they represent their families, neighborhoods and districts.

That is how it used to be done in Norse times.

Perhaps they should do a ‘back to basics’ movement there…

ajacksonian on November 27, 2010 at 8:14 AM

A Harvard graduate in the 1700′s was educated. A Harvard graduate in the modern era is credentialed. You are comparing apples and oranges AP.

chemman on November 26, 2010 at 8:49 PM

exactly

Daveyardbird on November 26, 2010 at 8:52 PM

Did either of you go to Harvard? Would you object to being worked on by a doctor from todays harvard that is “credentialed”? Or would you prefer a 1700s Harvard doc thats going to cover you in leeches becuase they are “educated”

snoopicus on November 27, 2010 at 9:07 AM

Did either of you go to Harvard? Would you object to being worked on by a doctor from todays harvard that is “credentialed”? Or would you prefer a 1700s Harvard doc thats going to cover you in leeches becuase they are “educated”

snoopicus on November 27, 2010 at 9:07 AM

Big difference between Harvard College (or the graduate schools of Government, Education, Law, etc., for that matter) and Harvard Medical School.

steebo77 on November 27, 2010 at 10:05 AM

So how do you prevent a bunch of koskiddies getting involved? or conpsiracy nuts etc?

aikidoka on November 27, 2010 at 11:26 AM

I know a good one they can copy. Hardly requires any modification. That’s the easy part. The hard part is staying loyal to it.

TheBigOldDog on November 26, 2010 at 8:33 PM

They should use the better version, the CSA one. Many improvements over our Sacred, but flawed document.

Tim Burton on November 27, 2010 at 1:06 PM

I would feel good about this if the delegates took a year for the study of constitutions before starting their work. Informed people are going to write a better constitution.

thuja on November 27, 2010 at 1:26 PM

So how do you prevent a bunch of koskiddies getting involved? or conpsiracy nuts etc?

aikidoka on November 27, 2010 at 11:26 AM

A few conspiracy theorists might be a good thing.

Slowburn on November 27, 2010 at 11:41 PM