Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Chain the bastards up

David Farrar has finally realised we need a written constitution to chain the bastards up.  It is vital, he says

that at some stage we the people vote into existence a supreme law or constitution that not even a Helen Clark can ignore or amend. A law that allows Judges to strike down a Government’s actions or even a Parliament’s actions if they act in an undemocratic way.
    If we ever manage to get such a supreme law, it should be dedicated to Helen Clark and Robert Muldoon. They have proved why it is necessary.

Read on to see his reasons -- reasons with which The Hive sympathises.

Like I've said so often (so often I'm almost losing my voice), we have governments for the same reason we get guard dogs.   And just like guard dogs we'd better make sure we chain them up, or else instead of protecting us they'll be out there chewing off our leg.  That's the job of a written constitution.

They're an indispensable protection for freedom.


  1. I can completely agree: an ideal written constitution would be preferable to what we've got. But what are the odds that that's what would emerge? I'd put better than even odds that it would make things worse with lots of enumerated positive rights. Hope I'm wrong though.

  2. PC: A [constitution] is an indispensable protection for freedom.

    Yeah right.

    In the land of the constitution the taxpayer was just robbed of a declared $700 billion, while undoubtedly a multiple of that is actually on the hook.

    And that land just guaranteed to export that money overseas, or, how it's called: interbank lending guarantee.

    A constitution guarantees just as much as no constitution. The problem is the policians. Abandon virtue and its ideals, and you abandon virtuous behaviour.

  3. Berend, the problem you mention is caused by the real problem that Crampton raises.

    A written constitution is an indispensable protection for freedom IFF it contains enumerated rights that protect freedom (and not so called "positive rights" that take it away); it contains effective means whereby that protection can be ensured, and sufficient checks and balances to ensure the protectors don't become the violators of those rights; and there is sufficient understanding in the populace of the nature and importance of the constitution, and sufficient vigilance to maintain its integrity.

    The US was almost there on the first two points, but in falling down seriously on the last point, it allowed loopholes to be become gaping holes.

  4. Yea but the Tories just don't get the purpose of constitutional government.

    "A law that allows Judges to strike down a Government’s actions or even a Parliament’s actions if they act in an undemocratic way."

    That's wrong, a constitution isn't meant to stop politicians acting against the majority - "undemocratically". It most cases it does the opposite, prevents the majority from abusing and robbing from the minority.

    Democracy is supposed to protect the public from the politicians - by providing choice every 3 years.

    A constitution protects us from ourselves - by removing the ability for our politicians to choose evil, no matter how popular it is at the time.

    A New Zealand constitution would be a disaster, there's not the culture for it. We'd get worse than we have now.

  5. PC: even were that written constitution perfect, it can't enforce itself. The best we can hope for is that it builds, over time, a constitutional spirit such that folks oppose that it be broken even though they'd not support any of its individual provisions were they to come up themselves for a vote. James Buchanan, who has spent his life studying this and got the Nobel for it, argued that without this constitutional spirit, the whole thing falls apart over time. In that case, it doesn't matter nearly as much whether the constitution is written or unwritten; rather, what matters is that voters accept the idea that there are bounds to the legitimate activities of government, even if 50.1% want to do something. If you haven't got that, you're screwed.

  6. Willie: I fear you're right, but the only way to change that is to do something about the ignorance.

    If a New Zealand constitution would be a disaster because there's not the culture for it, then how much more important to effect the necessary cultural change.

    Crampton: I know that you're right.

    The best we can hope for is to begin building that constitutional spirit. On that, see above. :-)


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