Iceland Is Crowdsourcing Its Constitution

<a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b7/Abraham_Ortelius-Islandia-ca_1590.jpg">Abraham Ortelius</a>/Wikipedia

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Just after the United Nations declared internet access a human right, Iceland is crowdsourcing its constitution. No joke. In the wake of Iceland’s 2008 banking collapse, the 25-member consitution council is starting from scratch by posting drafts of laws to its website, and then incorporating suggestions posted by citizens on its Facebook wall. The process should take three to four months, the council estimates. Already, worldwide applause is flooding in though its Twitter and YouTube accounts. 

You might predict that wacky ideas are muddying up the document, but that’s not the case. So far, rather than pandering to a hodgepodge of interests on the fringe, the constitution has well-reasoned democratic rights. Some of them are even downright innovative. For instance, it protects human rights regardless of “genotype.” (Forgive the Google Translation quirks below.)

 

It also guarantees universal mental health care…

 

…and the protection of natural resources down to the “ocean bottom.”

 

 

Iceland’s project showcases social media’s creative potential. No longer just for toppling oppressive regimes, Twitter and Facebook can be tools for democratic reform. This recent UN report stresses the power of social media for political revolution and reconstruction. And most recently, as the New York Timereported Sunday, the Obama administration has been helping revolutionaries by creating “shadow” internet and cell phone systems for international dissidents that will bypass the reach of oppressive governments. “There is a historic opportunity to effect positive change, change America supports,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Times.

But the Arab Spring has incited a slew of criticisms about the long-term consequences of social media revolutions. Online uprisings could leave countries leaderless, Nicholas Thompson recently argued in the New Yorker. Let’s hope Iceland gives us an example of how to crowdsource democracy—leadership included.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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