After the recent economic crash, many governments had to overhaul both financial structure and fiscal regulation. The majority, including the US government, formed a plan of attack using the same bureaucratic and economic venues in use for centuries. Politicians come to the table with plans and ideas based on their own thinking and research. Some use these opportunities to filter in their own agenda, hidden in layers of jargon and political colloquial, to be reviewed and passed (or passed on) by a body of politicians behind closed doors.
With this kind of complicated maneuvering, those that want to know what is going on in their government and why changes are taking place often have to sift through pages of jargon to get to the meaning. The problem lies in the process through which political action takes place--a process largely hidden from the eyes and ears of the people. Why not open up to the people you are trying to help?
Iceland, on the other hand, has taken a bold and very public approach. Understanding that the problems of the present are the results from the past, they are rewriting their constitution by crowd-sourcing ideas and suggestions via the Internet. Through the use of social media like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube, Iceland opens the doors to everyone around the world to observe or participate. Anyone can send in suggestions or comments that will potentially be added to their constitution.
Why would the government do this? Perhaps to gain more ideas faster? Or to engage their constituents more effectively? Whatever the reason I find it interesting and worth everyone and anyone's attention. Any person interested―me, you, him, or her―could literally have a hand in shaping how a country handles healthcare, banking, or taxes. You can do it! That's huge.
We already spend a lot of time on social media. Why not use some of the time you spend organizing your Facebook farm to help a real country reorganize? Tweet about legal reform and that tasty beverage you just consumed at the corner bar―then see what others had to say on the same subjects.
This has the potential to set precedent on how governments restructure and regulate. Or perhaps how politicians write and submit bills. The possibilities go on and on. With transparency, political systems can reinvigorated not just in how they run, but also in how they determine who helps run it. Business and industry have experienced this kind of revitalization through the Internet and with advancing communications technologies. Why not politics? If a young kid in Idaho creates a fantastic new iPhone app, why couldn't that same kid have a fantastic idea on healthcare data handling or business rules reform?
Thinking back to the founding of my own country, I wonder how Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and the others would feel about opening up the discussion about democracy in a very real and very open venue? Perhaps there would be a deeper emphasis on government checks and balances or perhaps a sharper focus on the social reforms.
Whatever the case, the discussion is open and we invite you to contribute. How would your country be different if government was open in this way? Do you think this is a recipe for success―or confusion? Vote and veto in the comments below.