In January, the Parliament of Catalonia approved Proclamations 250 00059/10 and 250 00060/10. The proclamations declared, “…the … people of Catalonia could determine freely democratically their collective future….” (For a machine translation of the proclamations contact me through the “Leave a Reply” button on the bottom of the home page.) Unlike the United Kingdom, the Spanish Constitution does not give Catalonia (with a population of 7,570,000) the “right” to succeed. For a more complete description of this process, check the blog (on www.I-CONnectBlog.com, dated 11 February 2013) by Professor Zoran Oklopcic, Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In an anonymous posting on www.I-CONnectBlog.com, we were informed of the Scottish constitutional roadmap published in February. More information can be obtained from http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/00413757.pdf. Scotland, a country of 5.3 million, has been seriously working on this phase of “devolution” since 1997.
The United States ranks dead last in providing societal success for our citizens. This assessment is from seven of our peer countries in Europe. Intuitively, one could have expected that we would have come out in the middle of this ranking. Instead, we are at the bottom of the list. To make the evaluation as objective as possible, I started with the countries that Professor Dahl (Robert A. Dahl, How Democratic is the American Constitution?) used in his comparison of constitutions. My aim in calculating “societal success.” was to use a metric that would stand up to scrutiny. The metric was limited to just two factors: crime and education.
Crime data came from the United Nations’ crime surveys for the year 2008. Education information came from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report, Learning for Jobs, The OECD International Survey of VET Systems: First Results and Technical Report, 2009. The final results were reduced to an “index” so you could adjust for population. The US is on the bottom of the list and the Netherlands, although significantly better than us, is our closest neighbor. Finland is on the top of the list with Switzerland just below them. From high to low, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Germany round out the list.
The United States needs to change.
Why do we need a new constitution? Perhaps Thomas Jefferson was right when he said that all constitutions die a natural death after 34 years. Let’s look at three critical areas where our constitution is failing us.
• Supreme Court’s Ware v. Hylton (3 Dallas 199), decided in 1796, declared that we did not have to follow our agreement with Great Britain that ended the Revolutionary War. Was it any wonder then that Great Britain burned Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812? The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (No 08-205) allows business to control US elections. Even if those businesses are owned by foreigners!
• Executive: The President of the US has too much power and does not represent the will of the people. The method of electing the president must be changed. There are many possibilities for this. The first required change is to scrap the Electoral College as described in the Twelfth Amendment of the present constitution. Options include:
• Direct election where if the candidate did not get 50% plus one vote (as happened in Oregon’s election for governor in 2010), there would be a run-off election.
• The president (head of state) would be a ceremonial position (as in Great Briton) and the head of government would be selected by the majority party(ies) in the legislature (as prevails in Europe today).
• We would have a plural executive with a rotating president selected by her/his colleagues (as is the case in Switzerland).
• The president’s cabinet would be composed of members selected from the House of Representatives (or it’s equivalent under the new constitution) drawn from each party in proportion to their representation.
• Legislature: Congressional Committees and House Ways and Means Committee: (Committees have too much power and have been called independent fiefdoms). The question of who introduces legislation, the executive cabinet (made of members of the legislature) or legislative committees. Democracy will be promoted by having multi-party representation. Currently, the few Independents must “caucus” with another party.
• The right of secession: Each state must have the right of secession as was assumed by many in the Colonies. This has came to an end with the American War of Rebellion of the 1860s. The 1936 Constitution of the USSR guaranteed secession and this came about with the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Since 1997, The United Kingdom is in a process of devolution. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland are at different stages of devolution or independence from London. The new US Constitution must guarantee secession and, unlike Article 17 of the 1936 USSR Constitution, must provide a process for secession.
1936 CONSTITUTION OF THE USSR
ARTICLE 13. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a federal state, formed on the basis of the voluntary association of Soviet Socialist Republics having equal rights, namely:
ARTICLE 17. To every Union Republic is reserved the right freely to secede from the U.S.S.R.
The Soviet Union dissolved on 26 December 1991.
For further reading I recommend:
Campbell, John L. and Hall, John A. “Defending the Gellnerian premise: Denmark in historical and comparative context,” Nations and Nationalism. Volume 16, No. 1, 2010. Pages 89-107. (This essay shows how a smaller country can be more democratic than the larger ones.)
Washington, H. A., ed. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: New York: John C. Riker, Taylor & Maury. 1854. (Especially see Volume 3, pages 102-108.)