Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Daily Read: Iceland and Popular Constitutionalism

Touted as a "crowd-sourced" constitutional revision by many, including the NYT (international edition), the national referendum on Iceland's draft constitution was completed last week, with less than 50% turnout and all queries answered affirmatively, according to the Iceland Review.

Two pieces of recent scholarship provide necessary perspective to these developments in Icelandic constitutionalism. 

In his brief essay, Grassroots Constitutional Politics in Iceland, available on ssrn, Paul Blokker reminds us that the "Icelandic Constitution has since its adoption in 1944 been understood as a transitory document by many, even if this status has never translated into wholesale revision or substitution of the document." 

In a more substantial article, From Collapse to Constitution: The Case of Iceland, available on ssrn, Professor Thorvaldur Gylfason also begins with the 2008 financial collapse as the catalyst for constitutional revision, but he also discusses individual provisions of the constitution in a manner that connects the financial regime with the human rights regimes, including freedom of speech, press access, and environmental protections. Gylfason also asks the broader question:

Does financial regulation belong in constitutions? Or is it enough to confine such regulation to laws? – which, to date, is near-universal practice. 

This is a fair question, especially in a country that has recently gone through one of the worst financial crashes on record, with grave consequences for many households and firms at home and elsewhere.

 

800px-W16_Protesters_2656
Protestors in Austurvöllur square in front of Alþingishús - the Icelandic parliament house in early 2009.

Gylfason also has some intriguing thoughts about the participation of legal education in the process of constitutionalism as well as the importance of Iceland's experience for other constitutional democracies.  Definitely worth a read for anyone engaged in constitutional theory, even if one has not been following the developments in Iceland.

RR
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