virus: A Memetic Constitution

C. David Noziglia (
Mon, 27 May 1996 08:11:45 -0700

I would like to propose a new thread topic, which I hope will be of interest
to my friends in the CoV. It is also my hope that this is a big enough topic
to have lots of sidebars and ideas, and which will not be able to achieve
agreement or resolution, but plenty of interesting exchange of ideas.

It has been said by several of my friends that the ideas of science cannot be
directly applied outside their perview, into being used as principles of
social organization. An example of the misuse of scientific ideas for
political purposes, of course, is social Darwinism. It is nevertheless true
that people have always used their understanding of the way the universe is
run to guide and inform the way they think of -- if not consciously create --
social and political systems. This is true right from the beginning, most
notably true of the way that medeval monarchs saw their role as patriarchal,
benevolent stand-ins for God. It was also quite directly true of one group
of people who did design their government, the Founding Fathers.

There is a direct connection, through Adams and Malthus, and through Locke's
Leviathan, between the ideas that Jefferson and Madison used to design and
justify the shape of the American Constitution, and the basic thread of ideas
that Darwin applied to the natural world. Jefferson and Madison, however,
lived in a world whose most important natural science ideas were those of
Newton, and there is a touching faith in the clockwork model of social design
that is also evident in their discussions of constitutional principle.

Some people have said that, as remarkable and effective as the U.S.
Constitution has been, the world has changed since then; our ideas of the way
the universe and people work have changed since then. Maybe it's time to
write a new Constitution to keep up with those ideas. A slavish devotion to
"original intent" is, clearly, absurd given that those doing the intending
wouldn't have had a clue about the problems we are faced with today.
Jefferson himself believed that it would be necessary to rewrite the
Constitution every three or four generations, and it's been several times
that since then.

My proposal is this: Let's have a virtual Constitutional Convention, and
write a constitution embodying the principles of memetics into a political
system. This would address the ideas of direct vs. indirect (or even
"guided") democracy; separation of powers vs. assignment of responsibility;
the complexity of powers and their flexibility in meeting new problems vs.
having enough simplicity that people understand what's happening; what does
in fact sovereignty mean; balancing individual rights and community identity.

I'm certain that there are lots of notions to consider that I can't even
think of now. The first thing for a convention is, what do we do first?
Write a preamble? A bill of rights? A statement of principles? Hmmm?

C. David Noziglia
Wellington, New Zealand

"Blessed are those who have no expectations, for they will never be disappointed." Kautiliya Shakhamuni Sidhartha Gautama Buddha

"Things are the way they are because they got that way."