WikiLawmaker Proposal

ProposalEdit

I do not have the time to administer the site if this plan goes ahead so basically I'm looking for volunteers to make Lawmaker a reality, and of course offer whatever suggestions they see fit.

In a true democracy, every citizen (and the definition of citizen is contestable in itself) would have a say in the laws of the land. In ancient Greece, this was done by gathering all citizens of the city-state in one room and asking for their vote. However since then this approach has not been practical as the populations grow too vast in number and distance from the centre of government. And now we have the internet - the largest and most accessible room ever made. WikiLawmaker is thus an experiment in pure democracy. The site will closely resemble Wikipedia in structure, with articles of law instead of encyclopaedia entries.

Purpose of the siteEdit

The purpose of WikiLawmaker is:

  • to create a resource that details the arguments for and against particular real life laws and the history behind them
  • to give people experience at the process of writing laws and having them exposed to others and the imperfect world - an experience of the concept of law as something you own rather than something that is placed upon you
  • to give people an arena to experiment with their own political ideas
  • to inspire people to get more involved in real life politics, by exposure to ideas they may not have encountered before and by the support that comes from logical argument

ArticlesEdit

Each article will deal with an area of law, for example "On the Control of Arms" would deal with gun law, "On Transportation" would deal with road safety, and so on. There could be sub-articles, so "On Transportation" might have a sub-article of "On the Speed Restrictions on Vehicles using Motorways".

I propose that an article be constructed of four sections:

I. AimEdit

The aim sets out to make the intention of the law clear to subsequent readers. It should be expressed as a dichotomy, or tension between issues, to reflect the balance that the law is trying to achieve.
For example, in "On the Consumption of Alcohol" the aim might read:
"To limit the damage that alcohol causes while letting citizens have freedom over what they put in their own bodies."
In "On Inheritance Tax" the aim might read "To let parents support their children while controlling the gap between the wealthy and the poor."

II. LawEdit

Here the actual law should be detailed. For example "citizens travelling over 70 mph on a motorway will be subject to a fine of 5% of their monthly income." or "Sales of alcohol will be subject to a 200% tax." This section should include a logical justification, or at least an explanation, of why the law is this way.

III. Problems with the LawEdit

I think that everyone who write or re-writes a law should fill out a section detailing anticipated problems, and how they intend to deal with it. For example, prohibition on alcohol will cause a black market, or short patents will lower incentives for drug companies to fund research, or outlawing abortion will cause backstreet abortions and unsafe medical practice. It is crucial to the balance of the site that everyone face and attempt to debate logical criticism of their opinions.

IV. Historical BackgroundEdit

This is the encyclopaedic section of Lawmaker. I propose that each article has a section that details the history of such laws in real countries around the world. For example the history of abortion law in Ireland or to compare the gun laws of Sweden and the United States, through history. Links to Wikipedia would obviously be appropriate here. "The original purpose of rights to gun ownership was..." etc.

Exceptional articlesEdit

The first few articles will be exceptional articles or "meta" articles in that they should define the purpose of the constitution itself ("This constitution is the property of the people", "No part of this constitution shall be kept secret from any person", etc), and the definition of a citizen with regards to who would get to contribute to the constitution. Would you deny criminals the right to contribute to the constitution? If so, how do you prevent someone from maliciously over-classifying people as criminals in order to gain power? But what about if the criminal act is to plot the overthrow of the constitution itself? And so on. The second article should probably deal with a declaration of the rights of citizens, the third with the structure of government and legislature, down to the local level (remember you can have sub-articles). How will laws be implemented? Should all laws have a hard expiration date? etc.


The Scope of the LawEdit

The scope of articles is limitless - they should set the structure of government, structure of the military, taxation, judiciary and so on. If the head of state should be separate from the head of government, for example (as in Great Britain with the Queen and Prime Minister, or France with the President and Prime Minister) this should be laid down in an article. There could even be articles that say "this should be decided at local, not state level." Of course even this stance must be justified.

ControversyEdit

Obviously there will be some (if not most) articles that upset a lot of people who read them, particularly if the visitors to the site are highly dogmatic and unused to debating their opinions. For this reason the WikiLawmaker website will be much more focused on the discussion pages than Wikipedia is. Perhaps it would be worth emphasising the discussion button a little more, so that the angry are encouraged to vent, pause and think before mercilessly editing.

Just as Wikipedia attempts to constrain wild opinions not backed up by evidence using the neutral point of view, Lawmaker will encourage the use of logical argument and dealing pragmatically with the problems that arise in the real world. It is essential that the site not become a bastion of left-wing or right-wing thought, as this will discourage opponents from visiting. But where Wikipedia has a corps of volunteer editors who attempt to enforce NPOV, finding a similar group of people with open opinions about politics may be harder.

Should there be a set of unalterables? Such as the right of all to free speech? Or should everything be open to debate? I favour the latter. Let every point live or die on its own merits.

It should also be emphasised that the constitution will never be finished, because a society based around it would retain the ability to edit the constitution, or at least make amendments.

Other Items on the siteEdit

There will be sections of the site that support its purpose and inform and inspire visitors. There should be a section that describes critical thinking, "How to Spot a Strawman Argument" and the like. Also there should be a section that provides links to existing constitutions and documents such as the Magna Carta and La Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du citoyen. Links to Wikipedia and Wikisource will be very useful for both of these sections.

Also, maybe there should be a section for constitutions for alternative societies - maybe someone would like to attempt designing a society with no police force, or pure marxism. However even these would have to obey the debating rules of logical argument and pragmatism.

Concluding RemarksEdit

The law is the source code of society, in that it defines how our societies operate. So why not give everyone access to it? Can that even work? WikiLawmaker is experimenting with this idea.

As I mentioned at the beginning I unfortunately have no time beyond my initial design (with contains some more ideas beyond what is here) and very little technical knowledge of the web or wikis to do this by myself. So please everyone, give some thought to my idea, make recommendations, spread the word to others and volunteer to help set it up!

GJLawmaker 18:52, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)