The constitution didn’t scale

So, in a discussion on facebook I was talking about how the constitution failed to scale. This isn’t surprising – most code written to run with 50 million users won’t scale to 350 million. How did it fail to scale, in my opinion? Note that this is not a hard set list of opinions – I might change my mind later about what bits failed to scale. I know that it failed to scale because of all the epic stupidity running around, but I don’t know that I know exactly how and why. But here are my guesses.

A: It failed to have a enforced code check of some sort. The only provisions for amending it involve getting a large and very disparate group of people to agree that it needs to be amended. We have reached the point where that would be very difficult to do because we can’t get over half the people to agree on anything, and yet, this is the time when it needs a tune-up the most.

B: While it stated what rights can not be taken away, it failed to say what should happen to people who *do* take those rights away. We’ve clearly lost the freedom of assembly, it seems likely we’ve lost the freedom against self-incrimination, and there’s no redress other than to hope the courts figure it out. This was not as large a problem when there weren’t as many people – but, as the number of people go up, the number of people in law enforcement potentially violating the rights of others goes up.

C: It failed to consider the fact that societies change and grow. It has no provision for the deletion of laws, or of precedents, or of what the rational time for considering such deletions might be. As a result we have so much cruft in laws and precedents that only a determined study of them for many years offers a citizen much hope of even understanding what is legal and what is not. I do not think it was the intention of our founding fathers that 10% of the nation would have to be lawyers

D: It failed to predict or offer ways to adapt to massive technological change. This is the most invasive when it comes to improvements in communications – that milliseconds after someone says something, a video of them saying it can be in the hands of everyone in america. Also, that the second amendment would have to go up against the idea of citizens owning nuclear weapons, or at least semiautomatic cartridge guns capable of several shots a second. There are also new questions about rights brought about by a state that can maintain a database of every action every citizen has ever done, could potentially track every citizen, etc. New rights likely must be forged to protect privacy.

E: It failed to predict that the voting methods laid down would result in a two-party stranglehold, where any third party risks the prisoner’s dilemma. It also was never designed to be a true representative government – for example, we’re 50% female, but the kingdom is ruled by a bunch of old white men, and there’s no attempt to address that

F: It failed to predict that automation someday would require a new economic system because it will no longer be possible or practical for everyone to have a job.

G: It failed to predict a industry that would thrive on misinformation – while freedom of the press is a good thing, it might be a good idea to require the press to label misinformation, misleading statistics, etc as such. As it is, it’s very difficult to figure out who’s spinning which way and what’s really going on, which makes it very difficult to make informed voting decisions.

H: It failed to predict the tyranny of the rich – that at some point, corporations would be considered people, and the richest people would break the system trying to become richer in paper dollars at the cost of actual wealth.

2 Responses to “The constitution didn’t scale”

  1. bunne Says:

    Holy crap. That is like SPOT ON. Seriously. Make that a white paper and mail copies to congress.

  2. Alderin Says:

    One of the largest omissions from the constitution, in my opinion, was the lack of mention of Responsibility required of citizens to maintain those rights. Rights without Responsibility are like Liberty without Security, they need to be balanced (prior to virtualization) or people will claim rights while shrugging off all responsibility, taking advantage of those who maintain responsibility.

    I agree with all your points too, especially the need for a law review process. I think such a process should be done “quarterly”: every 25 years. Long enough that it still matters that a law is passed, long enough that many of the original proponents/opponents should no longer be involved with the law making decisions, but not so permanent as the current system. I also think that law deletion needs to be available in a similar way to law addition, so laws found to be obsolete in three years (ie: 56k limit on telephone-based data transmission) due to technological assumptions (cross-talk from high voltages on copper wire end-to-end connections (false) ) won’t hamstring a growing public technical network and innovation engine.

    With the current “leadership”, plus more activity in Yellowstone, I’m thinking again of getting off this rock. These concepts should be codified into a functional set of laws for implementation in Sol space.

    I have a prototype engine to build…

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