There are a variety of views on what a constitution should look like. Reginald Adams has given us an example of the contents and priorities in a constitution from The Humanist Party‘s perspective.
Well, it must be the unambiguous basis of law for the UK where both the citizens and the authorities are living by a mutually agreed set of values that have been finely detailed and yet largely principled. A constitution for the UK must protect all the good ideas that have brought this nation to this place and banish all the bad ideas into history. It must address the latest issues where we collectively feel outraged, where justice has not been served through a fault with our current legal framework. It must stand as a pillar in light of recent challenges from incoming cultures and yet it must reflect our accommodation for the diversity of the UK as a global nation so it cannot dodge and avoid some potentially confrontational issues in the name of cultural cohesion.
At the heart of the constitution is our collective set of moral values. For some morality is defined by the rational thought processes of modern society while for others it is defined within scripture of a range of mutually exclusive religious ideas. A UK constitution therefore has to pick apart the principles of a range of moral positions and write them into ‘golden rules’ that would be suitable across society to people of all religious and non-religious thinking where that is possible. It is clear that this nation has evolved its moral positions from its Christian background developed by secular post-Enlightenment/Age of Reason thinking. It is a culture that can show a diverse range of influences and contributions and the result is that we have a very detailed legal system that is largely intact and has not been corrupted by its law enforcers.
I have taken on the task of dissecting these issues for my work on political philosophy that has resulted in the book: Now Utopia (www.nowutopia.com). It is a book that looks at how we may better organize our governance and economic policy for future generations within society and the eco-system. The UK constitution I propose is coupled with a Social Contract outlining the responsibilities of citizenship with an outline for how efficiently governance can be delivered across twelve essential governmental pillars. A big subject.
The UK constitution though can be brought down into a set of standards made as simple as possible but no simpler. My starting point was to recognise that across the variety of moral positions that we take there are some that we value more than others. Much of our cultural story telling is based on the struggle between the conflict of moral positions, of empathic compassion, pursuit of justice, of goodness, of loyalty, purity and how people valuing their moral position higher than that of opposing moral positions.
The aims of a constitution then should be to avoid the conflict by everyone knowing and living by a set of values they can agree to. It must be recognised then that people of other nations may have a different set of values based on their own cultural and/or religious history. It must be something that British people can say ‘this is right for us’. It comes, therefore with the notion of sovereignty, or cultural identity and of nationalism. That is not to say that modern Britain cannot recognize itself as being made up of people with other cultural histories other that of British history only. It does, however, require us to ask ‘who is this constitution for and who should it apply to?’. This diversity we have puts us into a position where we must take into account all people within what I term as ‘the agreed collective’, that is the people who make up the British population at this point in time. The fact that we are attempting to define a constitution as the basis of law means that we want to bring in one single set of rules for all to live by, in effect, this means that there would be limits to how diverse one can live one’s life within this nation and that limiting boundary is drawn up by the majority to protect the values of the majority. We are in a fortunate position of having a wide range of lifestyle choices within our agreed collective that need to be accommodated and taken into account where possible and it is these differences that supply us with a wide of useful considerations. This is a good thing. I am only one person with a set of my own ideas, however, I like to think that I have taken into account a range of other ideas. I have been as liberal as one can be. Let me know if you think otherwise.
My final, and perhaps most important chain of thought for constructing a constitution was something that reflected the human journey. Human history is rich with attempts at defining constitutional values. It must be recognised that religions have served as providing materials and ideas for social design as much as philosophers. My starting point then for prioritizing constitutional values is the notion of ‘The key objectives of human endeavor’ and I put a hierarchy of categories in place that read:
a) The Sanctity & Preservation of Human Life
b) The Quality of Existence
c) Harnessing of New Life & Personal Development
d) Protection & Development of the Living Environment
Here then is my own construction of what a UK Constitution may look like if enough people agreed. It begins with its own preamble that determines a sovereign position, the only construct worth writing a constitution into.
This, the Constitution of The United Kingdom of Great Britain, recognises the complete sovereignty of this nation, free from rule and oversight of other nations, and serves as the final and highest word in law of the people of the nation and the responsibility of government to its people, replacing the authority on previous law of these lands and of foreign legislation over this nation. The United Kingdom of Great Britain continues to recognise its responsibilities to the outside world as a nation within the unity of nations and will endeavor to help influence the world to bring their own survival, well-being and prosperity to the peoples of other nations as equals to our own people.
The key objectives of Human Endeavor and the Moral Principles to live by, in order of priority:
Sanctity & Preservation of Human Life
- The sanctity, protection and preservation of human life is above all the single most important feature of human endeavor. It must be in every citizen’s mind and the basis of every state legislation and hold priority above all other actions that people are protected from life threatening occurrences and kept out of harm’s way
Quality of Existence
- No person in the agreed collective can inflict harm or incite or instruct others to inflict harm on a person or persons either physically or mentally at any time with the only exception being where it can be shown that it is in a position of defense as a last option in a given moment and that defense is proportional as a reaction to prevent harm being inflicted
- Every person has the right to freedom from domination, suppression, fear, threat, servitude, slavery, degradation, torture or cruelty or harm physically or emotionally, in the home, the workplace, society or upon foreign soil
- All citizens are afforded maintenance of liberty, a life of dignity and privacy where required while they are maintaining their responsibilities and obligations of citizenship
- To recognize the human conscience and reasoning to question, to opinionate and to express where that expression in cause and effect does not violate the quality of existence of others
- To have respect for religious, spiritual, or non-religious, non-spiritual beliefs of others with in the nation state, within the community or within the family or domestic arrangement and to be allowed to live a life within those belief systems where it does not contradict or violate the ethical or moral ideology of the nation state or social standards of behavior preserved within this constitution i.e. the sanctity and preservation of human life, the quality of existence or the harnessing of life and personal development or the rights and duties of citizen or the objectives and responsibilities of the nation state.
- All people – citizens, visitors to the nation state and foreign nationals – are to be treated with respect and equality in regard to their gender, age, physical or mental abilities, race, place of origin, religion or spirituality, their position in society and their sexuality.
- The arrangements for romance and sexual encounters are to be entered into by dual consent of two adults at any time over the age of 16 and either party may choose to dissolve that arrangement when they want to without penalty.
- Indecency, overt sexuality and nudity in verbalization, personal enactment, film or image are only to be in areas where adult agreement has been made to accept said practices
Harnessing of Life and Personal Development
- Every citizen has the freedom and encouragement to harness all personal potential in oneself developing self-determination, quest for knowledge, sociability in their connection to the living environment, utilized capabilities, courage and the rational required for self-control.
- Every citizen is to harness a relationship of empathic connection to society based upon Compassion, Awareness, Shared Responsibility, Interactivity, Productivity and Participation.
- It is the objective of both citizen and state alike to draw a balance between the above two positions within each citizen in recognition of the self as both the individual and the member of society, to continue to act as both while neglecting neither.
- Marriage is to be recognised as an arrangement of inter-dependency between two people and as an institution is to be open to any two consenting adults as long as both adults agree fully on the contract
- Every child is born, or adopted, into a situation of care and responsibility taken by the adult carer/s who have prepared in understanding how best to carry out their responsibilities as parent/guardian
- At 4 years, every child is provided a formal situation of education in which to develop and learn from professionals who become their guardian for the duration of that learning period
- At 11 years, every child agrees to take partial responsibility for their own learning and citizenship in partnership with their parent/guardian/s and allocated teaching professionals
- Education and re-education throughout life is to be encouraged by the individual and by the state in order to produce a society of progressive intellectualism
- No person should be enforced into a situation of separatism based on creed, skin color, race or religion, either in the school, the workplace or other commercial or social institution.
Protection and Development of the living environment
- Due to the nature of the shared environment no person or institution or entity shall unduly pollute the environment where it can be avoided and where an understanding of pollution has been established.
- The personal production of pollution also extends to odours, noise and chemical where the cause effects other people in the moment or the greater environment for future generations
- It is the responsibility of all in society and state to work towards the improvement of the living environment for current well-being, future generations and long term human survival.