The most basic democratic right? Beneficial ownership of natural resources

News about ‘Democracy’ from Iceland

If Iceland demonstrates the possibilities of direct democracy, recent months have also exposed its limitations. A row still rages over the country’s constitution, which was created after its economic collapse. When 950 Icelanders, randomly chosen from the national register, gathered for one day in 2010 to decide its founding principles it was hailed as the world’s first “crowd-sourced” constitution.

A 25-member constitutional council drew up the constitution in four months – despite Iceland’s supreme court judging the election of the council void.

The draft was not without controversy: it stipulated that Iceland’s remaining unprivatised natural resources should remain in the hands of the state, a move unlikely to be supported by Iceland’s powerful fishing industry, and called for freedom of information and greater accountability for politicians.

Despite the fact that two-thirds of voters approved the document in a non-binding referendum in October 2012, the bill did not make it through parliament before it broke for elections, and several politicians told the Guardian it was unlikely to proceed in its current form.

Read more about this here:

Interesting that Icelanders see the ownership of Natural Resources by the public, for the benefit of the public as a constitutional pre-requisite. Meanwhile in another snowy land, Alaska, the politics and democratic voice involved in the beneficial ownership of natural resources is laid out in a crystal-clear fashion.

One Response

  1. This extract from the Guardian article strikes me as a sensible compromise between election and direct citizen initiative for the introduction of policy proposals, that might be workable in a tiny internet-savvy political community (2/3 of Icelanders are on Facebook and the total population is only 320,000):

    “If a policy – those mooted by members of the municipal government or Reykjavík residents have equal weight – is “liked” enough times, it works its way to the top of the priorities list and action is taken.”

    The article doesn’t make clear what is meant by “action is taken” — perhaps the policy would be debated by the elected assembly. In an allotted democracy the mechanism would be the same but the assembly would be constituted by allotment. The main point is that the online initiative system preserves the dual principals of ho boulomenos and the “liking” of all citizens, essential components of Athenian democracy. In the fifth century “action is taken” would mean implementation of the policy, whereas in the more conservative fourth century this would have meant scrutiny by a legislative court.


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