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Offline Zero2Cool  
#1 Posted : Monday, June 20, 2011 2:45:04 PM(UTC)
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http://globalpublicsquar...onstitution-2/?hpt=hp_c2

Fareed Zakaria wrote:
We all know how Americans revere the constitution, so I was struck by the news that tiny, little Iceland is actually junking its own constitution and starting anew using an unusual - some would say innovative - mechanism.

The nation decided it needed a new constitution and it's soliciting ideas from all of Iceland's 320,000 citizens with the help of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. This social media method has worked. Ideas have been flowing in. Many have asked for guaranteed, good health care. Others want campaign finance systems that make corporate donations illegal. And some just want the country to make shark finning illegal.

There is a Constitutional Council. It incorporates some of these ideas, rejects others, but everything is done in plain sight on the web. As one member of the Constitutional Council said, the document is basically being drafted on the Internet.

Now, why do they need a new constitution anyway? Well, after Iceland was crippled in recent years by the economic crisis, they all wanted a fresh start. And, anyway, they felt the document was old and outdated, drafted all the way back in 1944.

Now, you might be tempted to say that Iceland doesn't have any reasons to be proud of its political traditions in the manner that the United States does. Well, think again.

Iceland is home to the world's oldest parliament still in existence, the Althing, set up in 930 A.D. The rocky ledge on which they gathered represents the beginnings of representative government in the world. So Iceland has reasons to cherish its history, and yet it was willing to revise it.

By contrast, any talk of revising or revisiting the American constitution is, of course, seen as heresy. The United States constitution was, as you know, drafted in a cramped room in Philadelphia in 1787 with shades drawn over the windows. It was signed by 39 people.

America at the time consisted of 13 states. Congress had 26 senators and 65 representatives. The entire population was about one percent of today's number - four million people.

America was an agricultural society, with no industry - not even cotton gins. The flush toilet had just been invented.

These were the circumstances under which this document was written.

And let me be very clear here, the U.S. constitution is an extraordinary work, one of the greatest expressions of liberty and law in human history.

One amazing testament to it is the mere fact that it has survived as the law of the land for 222 years.

But our constitution has been revised 27 times. Some of these revisions have been enormous and important, such as the abolition of slavery. Then there are areas that have evolved. For example, the power of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, is barely mentioned in the document. This grew as a fact over history.

But there are surely some issues that still need to be debated and fixed.

The electoral college, for example, is highly undemocratic, allowing for the possibility that someone could get elected as president even if he or she had a smaller share of the total national vote than his opponent.

The structure of the Senate is even more undemocratic, with Wisconsin's six million inhabitants getting the same representation in the Senate as California's 36 million people. That's not exactly one man, one vote.

And we are surely the only modern nation that could be paralyzed as we were in 2000 over an election dispute because we lack a simple national electoral system.

So we could use the ideas of social media that were actually invented in this country to suggest a set of amendments to modernize the constitution for the 21st Century.

Such a plan is not unheard of in American history.

After all, the delegates in Philadelphia in 1787 initially meant not to create the Constitution as we now know it, but instead to revise the existing document, the Articles of Confederation. But the delegates saw a disconnect between the document that currently governed them and the needs of the nation, so their solution was to start anew.

I'm just suggesting we talk about a few revisions.

Anyway, what do you think? Should we do this? And if we were to revise the U.S. Constitution, what would be the three amendments you would put in?



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Offline Wade  
#2 Posted : Monday, June 20, 2011 4:24:50 PM(UTC)
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1. Actually, Iceland is better as a historical example of why anarchism is superior to majoritarianism than as an example of the virtues of "representative democracy." The author ought to read the Icelandic sagas more carefully.

2. Frankly, the idea of coming up with a new constitution using Facebook, Twitter, etc. is appalling to me. In my opinion, it would lead to the worst sort of least-common-denominator democracy. Perhaps not so bad in a place like Iceland, where, though they have incredible problems with alcoholism, the populace is well-above-average in being well-read and in its overall historical consciousness. But here it would be an utter disaster, rivaling the French Revolution/Reign of Terror/Napoleonic period in its descent into insanity. The last thing we need to do is use modern tech to imitate that past silliness.

3. I shudder to think of what constitutional change will yield here in the USA. I don't think it's a question of if, only of when and how. I think it'll happen in the next twenty years, but I have no idea how it will work out. I'm not optimistic, given that we are so bloody ignorant compared to those advocating ANY of the strategies of 1776. We're morons (or, if you'd rather use our SF friend's term, zombies) compared to EITHER the federalists, OR the anti-federalists, OR the radicals like Tom Paine, Sam Adams, and the original Tea Partiers. Frankly, if we end up as well as the bloody French did 1789-1848, I'll be amazed.
None of the above. It wouldn't have been a wasted vote. Obama and Romney -- Those were the wasted votes.
Offline wpr  
#3 Posted : Monday, June 20, 2011 8:04:02 PM(UTC)
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No. But thanks for asking.
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Offline rabidgopher04  
#4 Posted : Monday, June 20, 2011 8:49:43 PM(UTC)
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His argument that the Senate is undemocratic because states of varying population have the same representation is idiotic. The House of Representatives balances this. Besides, the United States is not purely a democracy. It is a Democratic Republic.
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Offline Nonstopdrivel  
#5 Posted : Monday, June 20, 2011 9:35:39 PM(UTC)
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Someday people will realize the United States is not, and never was intended to be, a democracy. It is a republic.

Quote:
In 1787, shortly after the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, a woman interested in the proceedings approached Benjamin Franklin.

"Well, doctor," she asked, "what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?"

The venerable champion of American liberty replied, "A republic, madame, if you can keep it."
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Offline Zero2Cool  
#6 Posted : Tuesday, June 21, 2011 6:43:19 AM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: rabidgopher04 Go to Quoted Post
His argument that the Senate is undemocratic because states of varying population have the same representation is idiotic. The House of Representatives balances this. Besides, the United States is not purely a democracy. It is a Democratic Republic.


I don't know much about this, hence me asking, how does the House of Representatives balance the electoral votes? I've always kind of been baffled how a candidate could get less actual "person" votes and still lose. The article outlined something else that confuses me, how can a state with far less population have the same amount (or more) electoral votes than one that has a larger population?

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Offline Wade  
#7 Posted : Tuesday, June 21, 2011 6:48:51 AM(UTC)
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The rest of the article pushed so many of my buttons, I forgot to answer its final question.

The three changes I would make if writing a new constitution.

I. Renumbering the current articles (today's Article I becomes Article II, Article II becomes Article III, etc.) and inserting the following as Article I.

Article I: Limitation of power.
1. The Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary described below, shall have no power not given them by this Constitution.
2. The enumeration in this Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construedto deny or disparage others already existing in the people.
3. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to
the people.
4. Save for the enforcement of contracts, the prevention of slavery, and acts taken in case of national emergency, Congress has no legitimate authority to make any law affecting commerce, the Executive has no legitimate authority to enforce any law affecting commerce, and the Judiciary has no legitimate authority to interpret any law affecting commerce.
5. All laws, regulations, and degrees enacted under the "national emergency" exception above shall become null and void upon the end of the emergency or upon the expiration of 730 days following the laws, whichever comes first.

II. Term limits.
1. No person shall be allowed to serve more than two terms of federal elected office, total, across all federal legislative or executive positions.
2. No person shall be allowed to serve more than five years in unelected federal executive office or position.
3. No person shall be allowed to serve more than ten years in federal judicial positions.
4. No person shall be allowed to serve more than two terms of office, total, in any state or local elected position, more than five years, total, in any state or local executive position, or more than ten years, total, in any state or local judicial position.
5. None of these limits may be changed, even in cases of national emergency, save upon the ratification of 75 percent of all state legislatures.

III. Remuneration of public officials.
No public official, whether state, local, or federal, shall receive total remuneration from the government greater than the median individual income existing on the date of their election, appointment, or hiring.


The best government is an emasculated one. :)
None of the above. It wouldn't have been a wasted vote. Obama and Romney -- Those were the wasted votes.
Offline Porforis  
#8 Posted : Tuesday, June 21, 2011 11:18:13 AM(UTC)
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The structure of the Senate is even more undemocratic, with Wisconsin's six million inhabitants getting the same representation in the Senate as California's 36 million people. That's not exactly one man, one vote.


Stopped reading there and after he spoke about Democracy for the 40th time. We're not a democracy, we're a republic. The entire purpose of the senate is to protect the rights of smaller states, and is countered by the house and the presidency (elected by more or less popular vote). As a resident of a smaller state, would it be fair to you or in the best interest of the country if the largest 20 states population-wise got together and decided to draft a law that would completely shaft the other 30 states? Sure, it'd be democratic, but the founders knew well what it was like to be opressed (ib4 NSD) and were wary of the dangers of a tyrannical majority.

Put quite simply, government doesn't work well on a massive scale, but different forms of government work better on larger scales than others. A pure democracy never would have lasted this long, the country would have fragmented, plain and simple. Communism and pure democracies simply don't work well/fairly on a large scale. This article is utter trash, exactly what I'd expect from CNN (and fox, msnbc, abc, cbs...)
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Offline wpr  
#9 Posted : Tuesday, June 21, 2011 11:45:59 AM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: Porforis Go to Quoted Post
Stopped reading there and after he spoke about Democracy for the 40th time. We're not a democracy, we're a republic. The entire purpose of the senate is to protect the rights of smaller states, and is countered by the house and the presidency (elected by more or less popular vote). As a resident of a smaller state, would it be fair to you or in the best interest of the country if the largest 20 states population-wise got together and decided to draft a law that would completely shaft the other 30 states? Sure, it'd be democratic, but the founders knew well what it was like to be opressed (ib4 NSD) and were wary of the dangers of a tyrannical majority.

Put quite simply, government doesn't work well on a massive scale, but different forms of government work better on larger scales than others. A pure democracy never would have lasted this long, the country would have fragmented, plain and simple. Communism and pure democracies simply don't work well/fairly on a large scale. This article is utter trash, exactly what I'd expect from CNN (and fox, msnbc, abc, cbs...)


exactly. the whole reason to have the bicameral system is to give the large states more voice in one chamber and the smaller states an equal voice in the other chamber.

FWIW, the Presidential elections do give the larger states more of a voice due to the electoral college.

link
Quote:
Four presidents took office without winning the popular vote. In other words, they did not receive a plurality in terms of the popular vote. They were elected, instead, by the electoral college or in the case of John Quincy Adams by the House of Representatives after a tie in the electoral votes. They were:

John Quincy Adams who lost by 44,804 votes to Andrew Jackson in 1824
Rutherford B. Hayes who lost by 264,292 votes to Samuel J. Tilden in 1876
Benjamin Harrison who lost by 95,713 votes to Grover Cleveland in 1888
George W. Bush who lost by 543,816 votes to Al Gore in the 2000 election.
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Offline Nonstopdrivel  
#10 Posted : Tuesday, June 21, 2011 2:02:28 PM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: Porforis Go to Quoted Post
The entire purpose of the senate is to protect the rights of smaller states, and is countered by the house and the presidency (elected by more or less popular vote).

Excellent point, although I would like to point out that the original vision for the Senate was that it would specifically represent the interests of the states. Therefore, senators were supposed to be elected by the state legislatures themselves, not by popular vote. It was only the House of Representatives that was supposed to represent the interests of the people directly, which is why representatives are apportioned by population. This was changed, of course, by the 17th Amendment, which was the brainchild of a (in my opinion) misguided populist movement aimed at making the United States more democratic and less republican.

Modern complaints directed against the Electoral College are equally fallacious, since they ignore the fact that the Electoral College was founded not only to facilitate election of the President in an era when communication was much slower than it is now, but also as a self-consciously republican check on popular whims. While Electors have traditionally cast their ballots according to the popular vote, they are bound only by their own consciences. The Founding Fathers took great pains to ensure that the transfer of power would be orderly and peaceful, to ensure the rule of law under a republican system. They feared democracy just as much, if not more so, than monarchy. As Thomas Jefferson wrote: “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

Originally Posted by: Porforis Go to Quoted Post
Put quite simply, government doesn't work well on a massive scale, but different forms of government work better on larger scales than others.

I couldn't have said it better myself. In fact, there are no instances anywhere in history of pure democracies working on anything more than a (very) local scale: we are talking cities -- at most, city-states -- here. Even in the city-states, most of the governance was handled by the local councils. The only pure democracies in existence today of which I am aware are in small New England villages, where the entire village population get together to vote on all local issues. It doesn't take much imagination to realize that such a form of government is extremely inefficient. Delegation of authority to a group of representatives is necessary to get anything done, which is all major governments throughout history have concentrated power in the hands of the few, whether in the form of monarchies, oligarchies, or republics.

Originally Posted by: Porforis Go to Quoted Post
A pure democracy never would have lasted this long, the country would have fragmented, plain and simple.

Many of the Founding Fathers (Jefferson among them) probably would not have objected too strenuously to such fragmentation. They envisioned the United States as a more or less loose confederation (whence the word federal) of sovereign states; that is, nations. However, as the disaster of the Articles of Confederation proved, it was not exactly a viable form of government, which is why the current Constitution was drafted to centralize more power in the federal government. Even so, it remained common practice to refer to this nation as "these united States" until after the Civil War, when the Union victory cemented the nation permanently into "the United States." I still believe this was a grave mistake on the part of Abraham Lincoln, by the way, and that states should be free to join or leave the Union at will.
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Offline Zero2Cool  
#11 Posted : Tuesday, June 21, 2011 3:29:26 PM(UTC)
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:sigh:

had to look up 'whence'

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Offline rabidgopher04  
#12 Posted : Tuesday, June 21, 2011 7:50:36 PM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: Zero2Cool Go to Quoted Post
I don't know much about this, hence me asking, how does the House of Representatives balance the electoral votes? I've always kind of been baffled how a candidate could get less actual "person" votes and still lose. The article outlined something else that confuses me, how can a state with far less population have the same amount (or more) electoral votes than one that has a larger population?


Two different issues. I meant that the House of Representatives balances out the Senate which are all (mostly) unrelated to the Electoral College.

States with smaller populations do not have the same or more electoral votes as larger states. Electoral votes, just like the number of representatives per state in the House of Representatives, are based on population. The census every 10 years is used to determine how to split the 435 seats in the House; I believe it also determines the number of electoral votes per state.
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Offline Nonstopdrivel  
#13 Posted : Tuesday, June 21, 2011 9:44:36 PM(UTC)
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Indirectly, yes. The number of Electoral Votes per state is equal to the number of representatives and senators that state sends to Washington, D.C.

By the way, I forgot to mention in my previous post that it is the states' own fault that the Electoral College is not as democratic as it could be. In almost every state, Electoral College votes are apportioned on a "winner-take-all" basis, rather than proportionately according to the popular vote in that state. As far as I know, these rules are established by the state electoral commissions, as opposed to being written into the state constitutions, and thus could be amended at will. If the states wanted to make the Electoral College more responsive to the popular vote, they could accomplish that quite easily.
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Offline Porforis  
#14 Posted : Tuesday, June 21, 2011 9:55:16 PM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: Nonstopdrivel Go to Quoted Post
Indirectly, yes. The number of Electoral Votes per state is equal to the number of representatives and senators that state sends to Washington, D.C.

By the way, I forgot to mention in my previous post that it is the states' own fault that the Electoral College is not as democratic as it could be. In almost every state, Electoral College votes are apportioned on a "winner-take-all" basis, rather than proportionately according to the popular vote in that state. As far as I know, these rules are established by the state electoral commissions, as opposed to being written into the state constitutions, and thus could be amended at will. If the states wanted to make the Electoral College more responsive to the popular vote, they could accomplish that quite easily.


But what state wants to be THAT STATE that swings an election? Seems like it should be an all or none thing.
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Offline Nonstopdrivel  
#15 Posted : Tuesday, June 21, 2011 10:11:28 PM(UTC)
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So you think it is better for one vote to win an inordinately disproportionate percentage of the Electoral College votes? The current process also heavily skews campaigning, because the incentive is to focus primarily on states with lots of Electoral College votes.

I don't understand your logic. Rather than being perceived as a bad thing, I would think states would love to be "that state." It could be seen as a good thing, empowering individual states. I think the main reason for the all-or-nothing systems is simply convenience: in a proportional system, states might be sending Electors from multiple parties. That actually would not be much of a problem (beyond deciding which Electors got sent), since each state partie appoints its own slate of Electors.
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