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

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.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.