Icelanders show us that democracy is the original crowdsourcing (but both have some issues)

Icelanders, who crowdsourced a draft of their national constitution over the past two years, have voted by a 69.5 percent margin to present it to Iceland’s parliament as the basis of the country’s new constitution.

That’s a significant step in crowdsourcing, similar to Finland inviting the public into the making of new laws, and it’s a reminder that democracy itself is an act of crowdsourcing — sourcing, in effect, authority from the crowd.

Initial reviews of the new constitution are positive for inclusiveness, respect for individual rights, and innovation. In fact, a report by ConstitutionMaking.org says:

Iceland’s constitution-making process has been tremendously innovative and participatory. Though squarely grounded in Iceland’s constitutional tradition as embodied in the 1944 Constitution, the proposed draft reflects significant input from the public and would mark an important symbolic break with the past. It would also be at the cutting edge of ensuring public participation in ongoing governance, a feature that we argue has contributed to constitutional endurance in other countries.

But it’s not without its issues.

Article 63, for instance, on religious freedom, seems to give with one hand and take with the other. One wonders who determines what is “prejudicial to good morals or public order.”

All persons have the right to form religious associations and to practice their religion in conformity with their individual convictions. Nothing may however be preached or practised which is prejudicial to good morals or public order.

Or article 73, which seems to contradict itself, saying first that the law cannot allow censorship, and then in the next sentence that freedom of expression can be restricted by law in the interests of public order or state security.

The law may never provide for censorship or other similar limitations to freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression may only be restricted by law in the interests of public order or the security of the State, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights or reputation of others, if such restrictions are deemed necessary and in agreement with democratic traditions.

I’m no constitutional lawyer, and this is an English interpretation of the Icelandic constitution, so there may be some translation issues (although it is on an official Icelandic government website), but I’m wondering if the new constitution will require some massaging when it comes up for parliamentary approval.

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

Hat tip: GigaOm


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