Why A New Constitution? - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Why A New Constitution?

Why A New Constitution?

Published November 16, 2010

Iceland’s Constitution is a legacy of our prior status as a Danish colony and basically a direct translation of Denmark’s constitution.
The concerns of a 19th century colonial power seeking to limit—but not abolish—the previously unlimited powers of its monarch resulted in a parliamentary system in which most of the legislative and executive powers are held in the hands of the heads of political parties, ergo, career politicians and party operatives.  The parties are anti-democratic.  They cut deals to split the funds they are supposed to be spending on our behalf among their friends and family, and fill government bureaucracies with incompetent, inexperienced political hacks.
Iceland needs a strong chief executive, along the lines of the American or French president, chosen directly by The People.  A strong executive, elected by the entire nation, would be able to rise above party politics, and guide the nation according to its best long-term interests. A powerful chief executive would also go a long way towards rehabilitating Iceland’s image abroad—and at home; we learned in the Black Report that we don’t have a single political leader who is responsible for anything. A single chief executive would be held liable for all failures. As Harry Truman famously said: “The buck stops here.”
We must abolish all ties between the state and the Icelandic Lutheran Church. The current state-sponsored church is anti-democratic. It has grown fat, lazy, and corrupt from the lack of competition. It has failed miserably in its important duty to instil moral responsibility into the nation’s—and its own—leaders.
It is also essential that the constitution define the limits of artificial limited liability business entities. The proliferation of such entities in recent years, as well as the complexity of their interrelationships, has resulted in situations in which it has become nearly impossible to trace funds or to hold criminals liable for their blatant larceny. Thieves shift money from one company to another with no limitations, and laugh all the way to Tortola. Further, it must be clear that the constitution’s human rights provisions apply to humans only, not corporations, as has happened in the US, where corporations now enjoy freedom of speech rights (what’s next, a corporation with the right to bear arms?)!
Iceland’s bankruptcy laws do not permit honest individuals who, as result of illness or forces beyond their control, have lost their jobs, their savings, and in whose houses they have no equity despite years of payments, to escape the yoke of personal debt. Although limited liability entities are free to (often fraudulently) discharge their debts and start over, ordinary people have no shot at a fresh start. The constitution must make clear that individuals who have not acted dishonestly have the opportunity to start over without enduring a lifelong stigma.
The constitution must explicitly define property rights and state that our national resources are owned by the State, by The People. It must clarify the conditions under which government resources may be used by individuals. The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individuals has been the result of the government’s wasting our wealth, giving away fishing licenses and banks in recent years.
Our current constitution purports to guarantee the freedom of expression, but in fact you may be thrown in jail for offending your neighbour. It must be made absolutely clear that no such laws will be tolerated in our society.
Given Iceland’s size, the high level of education among its citizens, and the ubiquity of electronic media, there is no reason why specific matters should not be submitted to the voters directly. Although technical details should remain in the hands of those who can devote themselves to such matters, issues that are basic—such as the sale or privatisation of public resources, the means of funding the government, and the acceptance of treaties—should be decided by referendum.

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