Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Constitution Game

A constitution does two things: it establishes the structure of a government, and it establishes some of the overarching principles the government is to operate by. Constitutionalism is important to principled government because it enforces governance by consistent principles over time.

Here's a game I play a lot:
If a new country were being founded and you had some say in shaping it's constitution, what features would it have?

The easiest way for me is to think of changes to the American constitution. I have a lot, but here are a few:

1) I would replace the single executive with a small executive council. I think an executive council would limit the policy setting influence the president currently has by limiting the charismatic influence the executive has.

2) I would make it easier to challenge the constitutionality of legislation and executive policy. Specifically, I like the mechanism where a small minority of legislators can send any bill, passed or unpassed, for constitutional review.

3) I would establish a rule against government keeping keeping secrets about policy. The recent scandal about extraordinary rendition was the event that led me to come up with this. Government should be allowed technical secrets, such as where exactly they rend prisoners to, when the situation demands it, but government should not be allowed policy secrets, like that the government rends prisoners to different countries in the first place.

What are yours?


Anonymous said...

There are more typos in this entry than in all the others. I think. See you Friday!


John said...

3's solid and makes an interesting distinction. To my understanding, 2 is already done, unless you mean to have it done by the Supreme Court. Then the quality of review would be drastically reduced by the astonishing case-load. 1 I don't really get. All administrations consist of cabinets which act as executive councils, with the President as the head. As for policy-setting, who should have policy setting influence?

loogel said...

Someone from the legislative branch should have policy setting influence, probably the majority leader. It's dangerous to mix legislative authority with executive power; that's why we have seperation of powers in the first place.

As for 2, I mean that there should be a constitutional court review (not necessarily by the Supreme Court) that has the force of law. I imagine a set of courts under the supreme court, but seperate from the criminal and civil court system. The important part is that the review has the force of law instead of an advisory role as congressional committees do. If something similar to this already happens, do you have a link?

John said...

For number 2, I meant they have lawyers comb through to decide. For example, when they passed that partial birth abortion thing, they knew it would fail. Of course, then it passed, but that's called politicizaiton of the judiciary. Also, I disagree wiht lower courts having a legally binding say on the constitutionality of legislation.

For number 3, does the name Nancy Pelosi ring a bell? Also, that's the way parliamentary democracy works; the Prime Minister is always the majority leader. Also, presidents have very little legislative authority, they have persuasion. I can't really imagine an argument against persuasion. Finally, the leader of the government (aka president)should have a really strong say regarding the legislation s/he is asked to enforce, because s/he is the one who's going to enforce it.