Saturday, May 28, 2005

Role models

Natalie Solent links to a post from Thought Mesh, asking why so few other countries have adopted constitutions similar to that of the United States, given the success of that country. It is of course quite interesting to read the Australian constitution (written in the second half of the 1890s, enacted in January 1, 1901) from this perspective. An awful lot of it is clearly based on the American constitution, and in places it is close to being the American constitution word for word. And of course it is certainly what Thought Mesh calls a "structural constition">, which outlines the powers of government and certain intitutions, without attempting policiy prescriptions. In terms of the particular structure, the big difference is the lack of a directly elected executive in Australia. However, a lot of the written bits of the Australian constitution follow the US model, and the unwritten bits tend to follow the British model. (There are bits of the Swiss model thrown in too).

And as for Thought Mesh's further comment about the US model perhaps being unfriendly to founding fathers who hoped to rule using the model itself and thus unpopular with such people, this sort of issue did not apply in Australia. Australia was already a democracy (or perhaps six of them - the colonies had elected their own legislatures from the 1850s), the delegates who wrote the constitution were country lawyers who had been democratically elected to the constitutional conventions, and the constitution had to be approved by referendum in each of the six states and enacted as an act by the British parliament before coming into effect. All this meant that the document was not intended primarily as a vehicle for the personal ambitions of the people who wrote and enacted it.

And the constitution in question has been an unusually successful one, having provided Australia with peace, prosperity and democratic government for more than a century. The circumstances of its enactment are different to that of the US contitution, but they had in many ways a very similar result.

No comments:

Blog Archive