PDA

View Full Version : Constitutions and exceptions (split from selections thread)



arosar
22-03-2004, 03:54 PM
Yo KB. That you are reminded of that has reminded of something too. Whaddya reckon of a Bill of Rights? For it or against it? I heard that the ACT is the first in Aus to have such a document and which was derided by the PM. On your particular dilemma, isn't that taken care of by the both the bicameral structure of govt as well as the three-level separation of powers? Perhaps I am completely misunderstanding it. Also, isn't one of the great features of a 'constitution' is that it is always possible to change?

AR

Kevin Bonham
22-03-2004, 09:37 PM
Yo KB. That you are reminded of that has reminded of something too. Whaddya reckon of a Bill of Rights? For it or against it?

Usually against. Those who push for this concept generally push for too big a bag of rights and pick some that are either silly or contradict each other, which doesn't help in the long run. Even if you get it right the damn thing will only get interpreted virtually out of existence over the long term anyway.


On your particular dilemma, isn't that taken care of by the both the bicameral structure of govt as well as the three-level separation of powers?

Only usually. Not necessarily always. A sufficiently popular party will sweep both houses in a bicameral system and when that happens you may as well have only one house. Also, while bicameralism increases the chance of stopping awful legislation proposed by corrupt or politically motivated governments, it also increases the chance of stopping essential legislation opposed by corrupt or politically motivated upper houses. (Having lived in a state which once had one of the world's most excessively powerful and conservative upper houses, I'm especially sensitive to this point!) Similarly, seperation of powers doesn't help you if (whether by corruption or incompetence or whatever) all levels make the same mistake at once. It doesn't help that appointments between levels are sometimes politically motivated as well.

These safegaurds all reduce the risk of your political system someday going belly-up because it can't handle a particular unforseen issue, but they don't remove it entirely.

Chess by comparison is in a much better situation because a bad subjective selection can still be taken to a very disinterested and impartial court outside chess even if all appeals against it fail. In the case of a country and its constitution there is no such recourse because there is no-one who is truly disinterested and truly outside the system. And this applies both if you have a "sovereign" with reserve powers, and if you don't. :eek:


Perhaps I am completely misunderstanding it. Also, isn't one of the great features of a 'constitution' is that it is always possible to change?

Indeed. But the more flexible you make a constitution (in terms of rules for changing it) the more the risk of it being quickly changed stupidly, and the less flexible you make it the more the risk of a series of important changes never being made or not being made in time. In any case, the sorts of reservations I was talking about apply more to what happens if a country's constitution is found wanting in an unexpected emergency.

PHAT
23-03-2004, 04:06 PM
These safegaurds all reduce the risk of your political system someday going belly-up because it can't handle a particular unforseen issue, but they don't remove it entirely.

Absolutely right. Nothing as complex as a techno-society can hope for a garrentee of stability. It is a case of a system being in a local minima. ie a relatively stable dynamic equilirium. However, "shit happens", and the system lurches off to find a new local minima.

The deeper the local minima, the lowere the risk of the system going belly-up. The structures such as; three separated "powers" plus the fourth estate (media), bicameral parliament and a submissive military, all help deepen the local minima. However, no minima is deep enough to garrentee absolute stability.

I think that one of the great under-rated stabilisers of techno-societies is universal education - for both sexes and up to early adulthood. The inculcation of deference to authority is a strong conservitating (a word?) force. Teachers today have had much of their authority usurped by lawyers. This has resulted in a slightly more cynical and noncompiant generation coming online. This is neither good nor bad, but a mixture. It means the stabilty decreases, but the rate of social evolution increases.