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Constitutions that build citizen power and joy

Written By: - Date published: 7:05 am, May 23rd, 2020 - 34 comments
Categories: activism, community democracy, democratic participation, International, political alternatives, political education - Tags: , , ,

This long read essay by British academic and freelance researcher for civil society organisations, Carys Hughes, explores how governance affects the imagination of the people to effect political change. Cross posted from opendemocracy.net


Glazed eyes are probably the most frequent response if you mention the need for ‘constitutional reform’ in the UK. For others, this is about important but specific, standalone issues, such as Scotland, PR or the House of Lords.

In fact, our constitutional order is fundamental to who we are, how we think and feel, and what we feel able to do.

As the articles in this series have explored from diverse perspectives, if we want to move beyond neoliberalism, we must ask how public policies and governance could produce the kind of consciousness that such a shift would require. Here, I consider this question from a constitutional perspective.

For forty years, neoliberal institutions and governance have worked to inhibit citizen power and creativity, through limiting the forms of interaction which are possible within society and undermining all but highly individualised modes of thinking and acting. This ‘consciousness deflation’, as Mark Fisher called it, has profoundly weakened our ability to overcome the existential challenges we face. (Indeed, it is only because states themselves have retained the memory that they can undertake vast, decisive collective action that we are able to come out of the coronavirus crisis at all.)

Emerging from the current crisis, what kind of state can be envisaged that could do the opposite of this consciousness deflation, by enabling and encouraging an empowered citizenry, and harnessing public intelligence, creativity and ingenuity for the common good?

I suggest we turn to the philosophical tradition which stems from Baruch Spinoza to answer this question. Where neoliberal governance is based on a picture of people at their best when forced to compete, Spinoza recognised the inherently interconnected nature of people and their ability to act and effect change in the world.

For Spinoza, our capacities – what he called our ‘potentia’ – are a product of our past experiences of productive collaboration with other people and other things, and our ongoing material conditions which make such positive collaborations more or less difficult. Through positive encounters with others we increase our capacities to act – our agency – and it is this kind of empowerment which is behind all feelings of pleasure or joy.

A Spinozan state would be designed to facilitate and encourage such productive encounters between people and people and things; state institutions and processes would be structured to encourage citizens to freely collaborate and take control, thereby building their capacities, agency and society’s potentia.

What might this look like in practice?

Well, actually, in parts of Latin America, this is quite a lot like what governments have tried to do.

A new constitutional model 

Between the late 1990s and mid-2000s, new governments in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, embarked upon three uniquely participatory, collaborative and inclusive processes of constitutional transformation. These processes and the constitutions they produced have been hailed as amounting to a new constitutional mode – ‘the new Latin American constitutionalism’ – that is based on a fundamentally different understanding of the relationship between ordinary people and the state.

The Morales, Correa, and Chávez governments came to power by surfing a wave of movements for constitutional change. Election campaigns promising to ‘Re-found the state’ captured the popular sense that state institutions and structures were outdated, undemocratic and responsible for many of society’s ills.

Upon taking power, referenda were held on the creation of ‘national constituent assemblies’: extraordinary bodies that would have the power to completely restructure the state, creating and dissolving state institutions and foundational laws. The electorates of each country in turn voted in favour of this dramatic proposal, and lengthy participatory democratic processes followed. Elected delegates (drawn from civil society and social movements, as well as from political parties) solicited proposals for the new constitutions from the public, and parallel meetings and negotiations took place across civil society, where indigenous social movements, neighbourhood groups and other actors met to deliberate and develop proposals. The final constitutional texts were presented to the public for ratification via national referenda and were approved by substantial majorities (64% in Bolivia, 69% in Ecuador, and 72% in Venezuela).

Common features of the three constitutions include a commitment to transform the material conditions of society, increased state intervention in the economy, increased emphasis on social, economic, and cultural rights, and an arguably unprecedented vindication of indigenous rights and philosophies. Both Bolivia and Ecuador declared themselves ‘plurinational states’, recognising the indigenous nations which predate colonialism. Describing the inauguration of Bolivia’s constituent assembly in 2006, Nancy Postero captures something of the social and political significance of these changes: “[It was] attended by delegations from all the country’s indigenous groups and social movements. Many carried signs reading ‘¡Nunca Más Sin Nosotros!’ (Never Again Without Us!). . . . I was there and can attest to the incredible feeling of social revolution in the air.”

Constitutions which recognise and build ‘constituent power’ 

Most significant, however, from a constitutional perspective, is their emphasis on ‘constituent power’. The notion of ‘constituent power’ was made famous during the French Revolution by Emmanuel Sieyes, who distinguished between the constituted power (the state; its offices, institutions and procedures) and the constituent power (‘the people’; the force which originally created the state). Sieyes argued that it is ‘the people’ who have authority over the state; and the right to change it. The theory became the defining myth of the revolution and provided the theoretical basis for the 1789 national constituent assembly and the first written French constitution.

Constituent power remains an important concept within traditional (liberal) constitutional theory. The notion of an original ‘founding moment’ when ‘the people’ created the state serves as the ongoing source of legitimacy for the modern-day state. But practically speaking, the concept is without teeth. There are no instances in which a new constituent power might be recognised as a legitimate authority over the existing constitutional regime.

In fact, the main purpose of traditional constitutions is to limit opportunities in which the collective citizenry might take control.

New Latin American constitutionalism takes a completely different approach. Here, the aim is to deliberately support the emergence and expression of ‘constituent power’ within the structures of the state. A somewhat paradoxical arrangement, these constitutions deliberately create spaces in which the seeds of their own destruction might grow. Popular mobilisation is seen as a vital part of the constitutional order, hence Illan rua Wall’s evocative description of this as “the constitution of turbulence”.

In practice, this is done, firstly, through constitutional provisions for triggering a new constituent assembly process (via petitions and referenda) should a future citizenry deem this necessary. And secondly, through institutionalising a diverse range of participatory and direct democratic mechanisms and initiatives. Examples have ranged from municipal level constituent assemblies, to participatory budgeting, to the Communal Councils and Urban Land Committees, which supported local residents to resolve community problems. These diverse forms – trialled at different places and times – have experimented with how to facilitate collective, participatory self-governance and have opened up diverse and sometimes transformative experiences of collective agency for the people involved.

Fundamentally, this is about whether we believe ordinary people should take charge of the constitutional order and governance systems within which they live: and whether they are capable of doing so. The UK’s current (unwritten) constitution limits opportunities for citizen power, in order that the existing order be preserved against the passions and whims of the unruly, irrational masses. New Latin American constitutionalism is based on an altogether more positive and optimistic picture of peoples’ ability to collaborate effectively to manage the state and govern themselves.

Does this kind of constitution change how people think, feel and act? 

Researchers interested in how state structures and processes shape public consciousness have tended to focus on neoliberal states. What we understand far less is how the state might be experienced as liberatory, transformative and empowering. Of course, there is much less material to draw on. However, stories and anecdotes from those who have participated in these recent constitutional experiments in Latin America suggest that the state can sometimes be experienced in this way. In other words, that a positive form of governmentality with which to replace neoliberalism might at least be possible.

As a foreigner living in Bolivia in 2010/11, (several years after Morales came to power and the Plurinational state was founded) I remember being struck by a disorientating, unfamiliar atmosphere within civil society spaces. From a dusty public hall or old classroom, movement leaders and other civil society actors would deliberate the details of the major global transformations required to tackle the climate crisis and how these would be achieved. Discussed in earnest were ideas and questions unsayable in a UK context, at the time, (unless wrapped in reassuring irony to clarify: ‘Of course I’m not suggesting this could actually happen!’) In Bolivia, there was a visceral sense of agency and possibility I was entirely unused to. People took themselves seriously, as agents within wider national and even global struggles.

Describing the Ecuadorian constituent assembly, Catherine Walsh highlights how these kinds of ‘bottom up’ constitution writing processes can – when done right – be vehicles to raise and transform public consciousness:

“In its organization and practice, the Ecuadorian Constitutional Assembly worked pedagogically to engender, enable, and push this ‘thinking with’ [the ‘historically subjugated, denied and negated’]. The popularly elected Assembly women and men did not represent political parties but social and political movements and varied social sectors and regions of the country. Most were new to the political arena, were of a younger generation, and were there to contribute to the learning, thinking, and debate entailed in the shaping and making of the Constitution. Organization was through thematic mesas that endeavored to study the issues of concern with readings, discussions and debates, and invited presentations. Only with consensus and profound understanding did these mesas then propose to the plenary the articles for consideration. As one of the invitees and as an ongoing unofficial advisor to an Afro-Ecuadorian Women’s Assembly, I can attest to the sociopolitical, epistemic, and pedagogical significance of this practice and process.”

The ‘processual state’: a ‘potentially liberatory process of collective engagement’

But this is not just about the process by which these constitutions were developed, but the new constitutional orders that were produced. Naomi Schiller employs the notion of the ‘processual state’ to characterise Venezuelan community groups’ approach to the state as a “potentially liberatory process of collective engagement”. Drawing on ethnographic research with community media producers in Caracas she describes how they “experienced, created and depicted the state first and foremost as a work in progress, a collection of institutions in which they participate and a liberatory endeavour”. To be sure, this did not undo past experiences of the state as an apparatus of violent coercion, and at times it is still experienced as “an adversarial coherent force”. However, what is new is an explicit and self-conscious approach to the state as an “unfolding project”, an “ongoing and uneven process of deliberation”, and “something that can be used by ordinary citizens, to challenge inequalities”.

The achievements of these governments should not be romanticised. Linda Farthing describes the Morales government as presiding over an ‘opportunity squandered’. Incredible social gains notwithstanding, the government ultimately failed to move away from an extractivist development model, heavily dependent on multinational corporations. This led to the government’s violation of many of the new constitutional rights and the progressive alienation of sections of the indigenous and campesino movements which brought them to power in the first place. Correa’s government followed an even more disappointing course (after similarly impressive social gains). And following the collapse in global oil prices, Venezuela’s desperate economic situation is threatening the future existence of the Bolivarian project.

However, none of the eventual declines of these governments were related to their experiments in being open, porous, participatory states. If we are interested in real world attempts to restructure the relationship between the state and ordinary people, creating a fundamentally different kind of state, explicitly intended to build the power and capacities of ordinary people and foster self-governance: then this is where we should start by looking.

Building ‘potential’ through local, municipal, and civil society spaces

Appreciating how the form and orientation of the state is relevant to the fabric of our daily lives, delimiting our thoughts, desires, and behaviours, adds to the case made by Anthony Barnett, Dan Hind, Adam Ramsay and Stuart White, amongst others, for re-thinking the structures of the British state.

In this moment of rupture, with normal life on hold and questions about what sort of system we want to rebuild on the table, we should think about how the underlying constitutional form of our institutions shapes what feels possible.

However, we need not – and nor do we have the time to – wait for wholesale constitutional transformation, by way of a constituent assembly or constitutional convention.

The state is not a single coherent thing, but a collection of many different, sometimes contradictory institutions, processes, officials, and representations, operating at national, municipal and local levels. As many have argued recently, the most important national policies and initiatives in the UK have often started at the local level. (The NHS, as the best example, was based on a Welsh village’s collective insurance programme).

Neoliberal governance practices could spread so quickly across the world because they shared a common DNA; an aim and orientation, based on a story of what it looks like to flourish. Now progressives must do the same. But instead of contriving the conditions for competition between individuals at every turn, the aim must be to foster positive potentia within the citizenry. Policies, processes, and institutions within local and municipal spaces, and across civil society, should be developed or transformed with this common orientation; creating spaces which enable and encourage diverse groups of citizens in diverse contexts to collaborate to take control, pooling their unique insights and creative potential to solve common problems. Innovative new institutional forms like the recently developed model for Public-Common Partnerships, and community initiatives like Margate’s Millions’ experiments in local deliberative democracy, show the beginnings of what this might look in practice.

Forty years of neoliberalism has created societies of tired people with limited emotional and psychological resources to solve the complex crises we are facing – or to resist the rise of the far right. Rational arguments and statistics – about the need to reduce emissions, the effects of Brexit on the economy, and so on – do not address this problem. Institutional structures which shift the affective dynamics within society, building citizens’ individual and collective psychic resources through different experiences of collective agency, can begin to do so.

Peoples World Conference on Climate Change and Defence of Life” in Cochabamba, Bolivia. | UN

______________________________________________________________________________

First published at Open Democracy on 20 May 2020, as part of the Left Governmentality series.

Reposted under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

34 comments on “Constitutions that build citizen power and joy ”

  1. Dennis Frank 1

    Participatory democracy has long been a popular aspiration and the essay above provides some food for thought. Seems to me translating the notion into political action is where the concept has always proven inadequate. Spontaneity is good – but the number of people who are ready, willing and able to contribute to making it happen remain few.

    Most people support paternalism – they want someone else to hand them goodies on a plate. So the residual patriarchy continues to use democracy to service that collective desire. Patronising the people is as popular as it ever was. So leftist wannabes wear suits to show that they are aspiring patrons.

    Global elites will continue to recruit those who succeed. Will Ardern get an invitation to the next Bilderberg conference? Their Eurocentric and mid-Atlantic framing is ripe for global expansion now. They will be brainstorming whether to flog the dead horse of neoliberalism or co-create something completely different.

    The essay writer presumes people power and crowd-sourcing wisdom, but the missing element in the presentation is how to co-design optimal collaborative formats. Until we generate competence at that base level the elites will keep winning by default.

    • weka 1.1

      "Most people support paternalism"

      Most people haven't had the chance to try an attractive alternative to that. I mean, can you think of any in NZ that have been available to the wider public outside of Māoridom?

      The essay writer presumes people power and crowd-sourcing wisdom, but the missing element in the presentation is how to co-design optimal collaborative formats. Until we generate competence at that base level the elites will keep winning by default.

      I took the essay to be presenting the rationales for doing it differently, giving some examples, and setting the scene because it's new to our thinking. I agree the how is important, especially how we might do it here (what works in Latin America won't work here necessarily).

    • Drowsy M. Kram 1.2

      "Patronising the people is as popular as it ever was." How true.
      "So leftist wannabes wear suits to show that they are aspiring patrons."

      Only the leftist wannabes, Dennis? How tribal of you.

      • Dennis Frank 1.2.1

        A generalisation. Clearly James Shaw wears a suit to signal his compliance to the residual patriarchy. However it is entirely possible that the signalling is subconscious, due to primate biology.

        My tribe is alternative Aotearoa. However that subculture has long been characterised by biodiversity rather than tribalism. It's true that it was originally tribal – back when the prevalent media framing was `anti-establishment'.

        • Drowsy M. Kram 1.2.1.1

          Dennis ("mystic, fringe-dweller, leading-edge conceptualiser"), does your "alternative Aotearoa" tribe tend to wearing suits? Rod Donald certainly saw the appropriateness of wearing a suit and/or tie, on occasion. Won't wear either myself, regardless of occasion – such garb makes no sense.

  2. bill 2

    When politically minded people stop dancing along with the pathetic charade/pantomime that constitutes our daily news offering; when all of the tired and predictable knee jerk reactions to the minutiae of every maneuver or opinion of a politician or the “mainstream” media and their “punditry reckons” ceases – then I guess we’ll we see a space emerge that might filled be with political imagination and courage.

    Until then, it’s mindless tribalism and rocks…

    What headlines that are grabbing peoples’ attention and energy today? Oh. So we’re still in that “until then” space. ~sigh~

  3. Interesting that the essay mentions Spinoza but ignores the necessary role of religion in a broad people's movement. Rather a lot of waffle about how the assembly actually works; probably because it would be a sclerotic talk fest with no real leadership.

    I found this essay much more enlightening about our current situation. Underneath Western world's stagnation under neoliberalism is a deep spiritual malaise; we have lost our vision and purpose because we rejected God

    • weka 3.1

      Waffle, really? I thought she was explaining what happened in South America because this is a new process to the English speaking world. What are you thinking about leadership? I took the point to be about decentralising so that people's creativity could be accessed.

      I think there are huge problems with the rejection of god too, but am mindful of the problems with some religion in a world of fear and rising fascism. Interestingly, I bet those Latin American communities still have strong spiritual basis.

      • roblogic 3.1.1

        The problem with decentralised (or abrogation of) leadership is that a slow talkfest is incapable of dealing with a crisis; e.g. the piecemeal and half arsed approach to Covid that the USA demonstrated when the White House proved useless and each state decided to take its own path.

        • weka 3.1.1.1

          unless you can demonstrate that what happened in the South American situations was a slow talkfest that couldn't deal with a crisis, I can't see how that is relevant.

          I also don't see the relevance of the comparison with a system that patently not what the post is talking about and is instead the antithesis. Had the individual states been nation states and autonomous and had people in charge that took Labour's approach, there's no reason why it wouldn't have worked.

          I'm not seeing engaging the creativity of the public as incompatible with leadership.

          I'm wondering if you are reacting to some ideas about collective action that aren't in the post?

          • Dennis Frank 3.1.1.1.1

            I'm not seeing engaging the creativity of the public as incompatible with leadership.

            I don't either. Transcend that binary via both/and inclusion is how to make progress happen. Active leader & passive followers is wrong model. Better a dialectic in which leading initiatives are taken by followers (when they can agree), which gives the elites an alternative path to the future to use if they want to proceed on a common-interest basis.

            • roblogic 3.1.1.1.1.1

              That's a rosy view of human nature.

              • Dennis Frank

                A tad new-age, true. The thing is, people will default to the status quo regardless. New stuff happens sometimes by accident, sometimes due to natural or societal alchemy, but also via nudging situations with intent to catalyse it. So my scenario is a bit of a plan for communal actions with intent to co-create a better world.

  4. bill 4

    Harnessing the power of the state to undermine the state and disperse power among the citizenry is a damned fine idea. But it creates a danger for those who embrace it as a way forward.

    Of the three elected leaders mentioned in the post, one is dead and his successor subject to assassination attempts/coups alongside his legitimacy being undermined in the international arena by the "Washington Consensus gang" (of which NZ is an enthusiastic member). And the country is currently the target of sanctions that can be described as genocidal in nature.

    Morales was also targeted by the "Washington Consensus Gang" and is either in jail or just newly released (I'm not sure which) while the country has been handed over to "a safe" pair of hands via the mechanism of a coup orchestrated by the same "Washington Consensus" mob.

    And Correa – the leader who gave Assange sanctuary – has a bogus arrest warrant out on him (he currently lives in France) and the country has been chain yanked to heel by (you've guess it) that "Washington Consensus Gang"

    I wonder why the author makes no mention of those "details" in the piece?

    • roblogic 4.1

      It's also a danger to the US oligarchs who are aware that real democracy threatens their ability to plunder the world's resources.

    • weka 4.2

      "I wonder why the author makes no mention of those "details" in the piece?"

      Maybe because she was focused on communicating at the level of providing an overview of an alternative. She does talk about the LA countries as not being silver bullets and having major problems.

      It was a long piece, going into detail about international macho politics structures would have detracted from the point, which I saw as being to just give something to progressives in the English speaking world so they can start thinking differently. If you follow the series link you may find more analysis of what you are talking about (or her own work, I'd be interested if you find out what she thinks about the pressures of the global situation).

      For us to change the power structures you refer to, we need people engaged in a different way. That's what I think she is talking about, how change might happen.

      • bill 4.2.1

        She took the time to offer dropping oil prices and political ineptitude as reasons for the demise of the S American political experiments – so why not mention the dominating factor seeing as how reasons were being offered?

        If she had wanted to do a piece on structural theory and not politics, then that's what she should have stuck to instead of offering a "free pass" to liberal shenanigans.

        The politics in S America (or elsewhere) don't happen in a vacuum or because people have some kumbaya moment. If there wasever to be any such parallel to S America on the cards here in NZ, it would be absolutely fucking necessary to know what the countervailing forces are and what they are capable of.

        My thoughts go in two directions when wondering why she didn't make mention of the imperialist reaction in S. America. Number 1 is that she's not so very well informed (unlikely given she lived there) or number two, that she adheres to the anti-anti-imperialist politics of Trotskyism.

        • weka 4.2.1.1

          If you want to know why she did or didn't talk about things (or whether she disagrees with you about what is important) I guess you'd have to ask her.

          My takeaway was that we need solutions (and she is offering some), which is a welcome change from the left just tearing things down.

          • bill 4.2.1.1.1

            Maybe the solution lies in tearing things down.

            Governance of the modern nation state (and much else in this world) is at such a scale as to require individuals or discrete groups be subsumed or rendered invisible for the sake of constructing or maintaining homogeneous or all encompassing forms of order from above.

            Imposing order from above is a very Christian view of order. I'm not saying it's unique to Christianity, just that it is Christian, and is important insofar as liberal world views are informed by Christian world views.

            By and large, left projects have puzzled over how mega structures of order might be 'brought to heel' such that ordinary people are both seen and heard. It's a doomed venture.

            Once it's acknowledged that order naturally arises from simple initial conditions and not by way of imposition from above, then simply abandoning or tearing down existing structures of order becomes the first step towards our individual and collective liberation.

      • bill 4.2.2

        Damn. Was too late to edit. But on the non-mention of meaningful political context, there's also this doozy –

        Neoliberal governance practices could spread so quickly across the world because they shared a common DNA; an aim and orientation, based on a story of what it looks like to flourish.

        So no guns and bombs and coups and assassinations and sanctions…just the natural spread and adoption of an idea 🙄

    • AB 4.3

      Yeah – you can't "disperse power among the citizenry" without dissolving (or at least challenging) the existing centres of private wealth/power. If the state is already captured by private power, it won't even start such an experiment. If it isn't, then private power fights back – viciously. In the Latin American context, members of the local elite decamp to Florida and egg the US on to economic sanctions and coup by strangulation. So there is an obvious paradox – how do you disperse power among the citizenry in a way that will be durable, without having to act like an authoritarian vanguardist in order to destroy existing private power? i.e. how do you avoid acting in ways that procedurally at least, are the complete opposite of your final goal?

      • bill 4.3.1

        Yeah – you can't "disperse power among the citizenry" without dissolving (or at least challenging) the existing centres of private wealth/power.

        Yup. And Chavez sought compromise. I don't have an answer to the dilemma, because the acculturation to leadership in the form of an identifiable person to be followed runs deep, and it's that that ultimately has to fade.

        There were strategic alternatives for Chavez (and others in a similar position) at various junctures that might have better served their purposes. But when there's a bit within people that doesn't actually want to be free, then even better choices being made by leaders at crucial moments doesn't necessarily secure a desirable outcome.

      • weka 4.3.2

        what would happen in NZ if similar processes were used ie. in a context where we're unlikely at this time to provoke repressive state reaction?

        I don't think the state's permission is needed to start this. What the article points to is the need to imagine a different way, and responding to that by talking about why it can't work rather than why it can is part of the problem for the left. Not that analysis isn't needed, but too often the negative becomes the focus and it drains the joy out of the change and then no way in hell will people want to be part of it. Joy is in the subject line for a reason.

        • roblogic 4.3.2.1

          I like the idea of a grassroots community network; the kind of thing that emerges in a crisis (e.g. Chch earthquake, Covid lockdown). But how to sustain such a thing in a society grappling with late stage capitalism is another question. Neighbourhood facebook pages are a sad reminder of the prevalence of assholery and disinformation that is destructive of community.

          • weka 4.3.2.1.1

            Neighbourhood FB groups are another reason why we need to have community based democracy, in the actual community. Social media is enabling shitty and dangerous behaviour, we won't always have the opportunity to counter that.

            "But how to sustain such a thing in a society grappling with late stage capitalism is another question."

            In NZ I think the rest of us have a lot to learn from Māori, who have maintained cultural values and practices that are much closer to what the post is talking about than anything else I've seen here, and they did that in the early – late stages of capitalism.

  5. Descendant Of Smith 5

    We do have opportunity if we started treating Maori as an equal partner in our political system.

    60 Maori seats and 60 general seats in parliament would be a good start. Similar structures at local body levels.

    Add to that the devolution of centralised control in government agencies to regional structures that were required to consult locally (including paying for such consultation and not expecting it for free). Wellington should serve and support the regions not the other way around.

    I tend to think of government in the main as a division of labour function, where we pay people to carry out a public service function rather than the managerial controlling structure it has become.

    Until we address the power imbalance with our treaty partners I'm not sure anything will work that suits New Zealand conditions. I'd love to see a parliament with 60 iwi representing their particular interests as well as the collective whole.

    • roblogic 5.1

      +1

      set up a Maori Parliament or Upper House, return all stolen land to Maori, and lease it back to current landholders for 49 years or so…

    • DS 5.2

      Having 60 Maori MPs vs 60 MPs for Pakeha, Asian, Pacific Island, and Other, when Maori amount to one-in-six of the general population? That's not democracy, mate. That's giving one ethnic group six times the voting power of everyone else combined.

      • Descendant Of Smith 5.2.1

        Actually it would be giving them equal voting power of everyone else combined.

        Democracy has had many forms over the years in terms of voting power and eligibility. Whether landowners only had the vote, then working class men then Maori, then women – none of those things altered the fact that prior to those changes a democratic system was being run in New Zealand.

        We already have Maori seats in order to help protect their interests as a minority group and tangata whenua. What value is there in having a Treaty where we are equal partners if the power structures that exist negate that equality by dint of voting numbers. That is how much legislation was passed dispossessing Maori of their land in the first place.

        Here's a nice timeline.

        http://www.apanui.co.nz/aa-home/directory/peter-shields-home-page/the-treaty-of-waitangi/history/land

        All done in a democratic way.

        That we could not combine democracy and the Treaty to have a more deliberative style of democracy where we recognise the right of Maori to have an equal and more for them equitable say, rather than simply a proportionate say based on population is not inconsistent with democratic principles.

        I certainly don't fear such a partnership approach.

  6. Incognito 6

    It has taken me the whole day to finally read this Post. It is an excellent piece that stimulates thinking, discussion, and imagining different ways of ‘governance’. Many thanks to whoever posted this!

  7. Gabby 7

    Didn't one of those extraordinary bodies take it upon itself to decide it'd run the country?

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