In the 18th century, if you wanted to draft a democratic constitution you crowded a handful of men into a room and hashed out the finer points of policy and philosophy until you had a document that was declared the law of the land. Same for the 19th and 20th centuries. But nowadays, the Internet--that great democratizer--is bringing a new kind of power to the people. Icelandic authorities overhauling that county’s constitution post-financial meltdown is tapping the power of the Web to allow citizens to give their two cents on how a new governing document should look.
There is still the small collection of leaders in a room drafting the actual document--25 of them to be exact. But they are reaching out to Iceland’s 320,000 people--one of the world’s more computer-literate populations--through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (but mostly Facebook, let’s be honest).
A thorough review and rewriting of the constitution (which is more or less Denmark’s constitution with a few minor tweaks) has been on the legislative agenda since Iceland gained independence in 1944. The new crowdsourced document could be put before the entire voting population in a referendum before parliament decides on the final draft. We’re not sure why. It seems like parliament should have a pretty good notion of how the public feels about the final draft based on how many “likes” it gets.