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Thursday, August 25, 2005


Making Constitutions

David Brooks offers some thought about constitution making in Iraq:
In the last election each group expressed its authentic identity, the Kurds by voting for autonomy-minded leaders, the Shiites for clerical parties and the Sunnis by not voting.

This constitution gives each group what it wants. It will create a very loose federation in which only things like fiscal and foreign policy are controlled in the center (even tax policy is decentralized). Oil revenues are supposed to be distributed on a per capita basis, and no group will feel inordinately oppressed by the others.

The Kurds and Shiites understand what a good deal this is. The Sunni leaders selected to attend the convention are howling because they are former Baathists who dream of a return to centralized power. But ordinary Sunnis, Galbraith says, will come to realize this deal protects them, too.

Galbraith says he is frustrated with all the American critics who argue that the constitution divides the country. The country is already divided, he says, and drawing up a constitution that would artificially bind three divergent societies together would create only friction, violence and civil war. "It's not a problem if a country breaks up, only if it breaks up violently," Galbraith says. "Iraq wasn't created by God. It was created by Winston Churchill."
It seems to me that Brooks is really exploring the value of a true constitutional setting when deciding on the words of a constitution. What I mean is that a constitutional setting has to require a super-majority to approve the constitution, and not a simply majority. Perhaps the ideal would be unanimous consent, but this is impractical in general. Nonetheless, a super-majority reduces the likelihood that what is written into the constitution regarding the power and role of government will allow a minority in the community to use the power of government to coerce others in the community.

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