We Need Better Constitutions
by László Szalai
László Szalai addresses the pressing issue of corruption within the cultural-political landscape of Europe, urging for constitutional reforms as a potent countermeasure.
There are many ways in which the current cultural-political civil war in Europe is being fought. Communists and national socialists want to drastically change government structure; modern parties are trying to operate within the framework of the current liberal democracy or republic and get themselves into power; political outsiders are trying to elect their populist leaders; citizen journalists are writing articles where they are trying to sell their ideas to thousands; political influencers are doing the same by other means, and so on. These are all valid goals, but I suggest another battlefield, on which battles could be fought in parallel with the other battles listed above. The constitutions of Western countries are modern and well written but they miss some common sense improvements, and only the motivation of the current corrupt political parties stands between improving our constitutions and the continuation of the status quo.
Constitutions have long-lasting effects, which can be evidenced by looking at the impact of the hundreds of years old American or French revolutionary constitutions. Changing a constitution has longer-lasting effects than electing your favorite populist leader (Trump is good but he will be gone one day) and it can be done even within the current framework of political rules. I wanted to make a list of some common sense constitution upgrades, which would undoubtedly improve the culture of politics worldwide. Many good ideas have been brought up by citizens, political thinkers and NGOs since the establishment of liberal democracies, and I don’t think I made a complete list. Please contact me if you are aware of more things to add. I think most of the ideas listed in this article would appear reasonable to the sensible voter no matter where he or she stands on the political spectrum. Despite this, not a single country has successfully enacted these constitutional reforms yet. Will your country be the first? Will Hungary be the first? We will see.
The first and most urgently needed constitutional amendment would limit the maximum time a politician is allowed to stay in office to two terms or 8/10 years. In many countries this rule already exists but sadly it only applies to presidents. It should be valid for members of parlament/congress/city councils and school boards too. This helps “rotate” politicians, helps new ideas and new political generations get into power, it eliminates the concept of career politicians, counteracts the effect of the “incumbent advantage” (the politician currently in office generally has a higher chance of winning an election than his or her challenger), and makes it clear for anyone wanting to be a politician that being a politician is supposed be a temporary occupation: they have two terms to work on whatever it is they want to work on, then they ought to retire back to their civilian life and let other citizens take over. This is important on a psychological level, too. No matter how morally good, how motivated a certain politician is – power tires people out; power corrupts people, and with time they become encapsulated into the political bubble with zero idea of how ordinary citizens are living their lives. Human nature can not be ignored when designing the rules of politics. Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden have spent 36 years in Congress. It’s an insane amount of time. They were the the first- and third-highest ranking politicians in their nation when the needless Ukraine war started – tells you everything you need to know about letting career politicians be in charge. But what about Rand Paul: shouldn’t good politicians like him be able to serve their country for more than 8 years? Right now, Rand Paul is trying to push a constitutional amendment through the Senate, which would clearly outline that Article 5 of the NATO treaty doesn’t take precedence over Congress on the issue of declaring war. The problem is that for every Rand Paul-type politician there are a hundred spineless congressmen. Statistically, it would be effective to keep the average politician from becoming a career politician indefinitely.
I don’t know how the American people are comfortable with the fact that their elections are banana republic tier – it is a mystery.
Gerrymandering is a big problem worldwide and it is a problem which has already been solved by mathematicians, but politicians of course don’t want to lose this dirty trick. Gerrymandering is the manipulation of the shape of electoral district boundaries to influence the outcome of elections. Take a look at Democrat-controlled states and areas in the United States if you want to see the most surreal example of these creative shapes. Mathematicians have shown (“Gerrymandering and Convexity” – Jonathan K. Hodge, Emily Marshall, Geoff Patterson, 2011) that “the most striking feature of bizarrely shaped districts is that they are extremely non-convex.” They introduced a convexity-based “measure of bizarreness” and calculated this measure for each electoral district in question. If the convexity of the area reaches a certain threshold, it means that corrupt politicians can’t effectively get extra undeserved votes from an election held there. Politicians and lawyers should be free to come up with all the exotic shapes they want when setting the boundaries of electoral districts, but the result should then be looked at and judged by a mathematician. This should be enshrined into consitutions worldwide. One less dirty trick for the politicians. Simple as.
Every decision involving spending government/state/municipal funds should be debated publicly. Let civilian observers personally attend these meetings and stream them in real time. This wouldn’t eliminate corruption completely. But it would eliminate a major part of it. Decisions like which company should renovate the city’s bridge happen behind closed doors, so no one is witnessing the fact that politicians will be openly talking about the project going to the company of their party’s favorite oligarch donor. Politicians love thinking up newer and newer regulations to annoy citizens needlessly. One single monetary-motivated regulation on them would save much of the taxpayers’s money from theft. Politicians will not like the extra accountability. So what? They will be free to retire to their civilian careers if they ever feel like their work suddenly gets less enjoyable.
Election integrity! It’s very sad that I have to include this too, but, believe it or not, not every first world nation has realized what the common sense rules of voting and vote counting should be. The United States of America does not have three basic common sense rules regarding their elections. No same day voting, no voter ID and no same night counting. Same day voting means that after the urns close on voting day, no more additional votes will be accepted – not even mail-in votes. Mail-in votes that arrive before this deadline will be counted obviously. Voter ID means that the common sense concept of “one person one vote” is enforced. Same night counting means that the extremely common sense idea of chain of custody (vote counters don’t leave the votes unattended until they have finished counting all of them and have finalized the official vote count) is respected. I don’t know how the American people are comfortable with the fact that their elections are banana republic tier – it is a mystery. You might say that this is a problem for Americans, let them sort their shit out. How does their internal chaos concern Europe? You might be right if not for the fact that this nation coincidentally also has the biggest defense spending and the most dense military base saturation on the planet. Including military bases in the heart of Europe – Germany is still occupied by Americans almost 80 years after the end of the great war! Therefore it is also in non-Americans’ best interest to have the commander of these armies chosen by that nation’s people (who would get sent to war by the same person) and not by faceless war profiteer oligarchs.
Ludlow amendment. This is very basic and it’s incomprehensible to me that even the most culturally advanced nations of the world haven’t implemented it yet. The people who get sent to die in a war should have power over whether there even should be a war in the first place. Each time the government wants to declare war, they have to hold a national vote on it. This law would not apply when a foreign nation invades the homeland; the declaration of a defensive war would be automatic then. American oligarchs controlling US foreign policy would love a world war to distract from their 2020 coup. If it’s up to them, they will force NATO to attack Russia. If it’s up to the American people, we don’t have much to worry about. In the darkest places on the internet in free speech forums, Americans are openly discussing ways to dodge an upcoming draft. They wouldn’t want to die for their government’s corrupt interests in Ukraine. There is obviously zero chance for this constitutional amendment to be added to constitutions worldwide before the Ukraine crisis is resolved, but historically even this single amendment could prevent disastrous world wars in the future.