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We the People – Pt. 1

Laws, government and rules. How are they made? And on what principle do they all work? These are questions that we all have asked ourselves at some point in time. We the People is a series of articles exploring the art of writing a constitution, specially adapted for NationStates (NS) Players in order to help explain and answer common questions like the ones above. 

One may wonder why a nation would require a constitution. Well, a constitution provides new dimensions to explore for a nation in terms of domestic roleplay. Having a detailed constitution with policy limitations, for example, would give rise to political movements opposing it, who can at some point protest and turn violent, or eventually win a legislative majority.

At the same time if one has a vague series of guidelines within the constitution, resolving the various differences would be a good piece of domestic drama, such as having the legislative body attempting to resolve it, or a group of lawyers screaming their arguments through courtrooms, and that is the recipe for a brewing disaster for any governing executive. The point is that having a constitution for your nation can enhance your nation’s roleplay. 

Now that we know the new opportunities and layers of roleplay a constitution can bring, let us define a constitution. In simple terms, a constitution is any written document or a collection of documents that state the fundamental principles and operations of a nation-state. It is considered to be the paramount law, and no legislation can supersede the constitution. How does one go about writing a constitution however? 

Sit down and start thinking about what your constitution should look like: Do you visualise your constitution to be a single document, filled with several articles and clauses? Or would you want it spread over multiple laws, judicial rulings, and convention, or a mix of both? To understand this better, one must understand that constitutions are broadly classified into three types on the basis of how much of it is codified. 

The first type is the wholly codified constitution, which means that your nation’s whole constitution is written down in a single place. This is the most conventional form of a constitution. Here, one could use a lot more creativity while writing the constitution and perhaps introduce some stringent and quirky rules that everyone would have to follow. Most known constitutions are of this form. 

If you prefer having a series of different laws, treaties and rulings governing you rather than a supreme body of text, the next type, uncodified constitutions are a good match. These are normally scattered around the place and cannot be quantified. This is suitable for those who would want a constitution that can be easily amenable without having to abide by a rigid amendment process, and at the same time, adding a lot more secrecy through convention and protocol. 

The third category is for those who want to have a mix of both the above types. The mixed constitution type is where we have a codified element, normally through a treaty or an Act, and the rest is similar to uncodified constitutions (with prerogative, convention, protocol, court rulings and legislation defining the void caused by the constitution’s lack of focus to detail). This type of constitution is often referred to as “organic”,  and is easily amenable while being codified. 

One unique concept that can be incorporated into your nation’s structure to make uncodified constitutions more engaging is the Basic Structure Doctrine. This doctrine puts forward the idea that the constitution of a nation has certain basic features that cannot ever be amended or infringed upon. Basic features, in this case means those fundamental concepts that your nation is founded upon, like its name, your governing structure, the founding values of your nation and the rights that your constitution would grant its citizens. 

This can be added to virtually every type of constitution, but in an uncodified form this can add even more drama because there isn’t a single destination to figure out what exactly “basic features” would be defined, thus allowing the issue of constitution to be presented as a challenge within the political conversations your nation has within itself. These features are normally defined by the judiciary of that nation, but as with NS, you can change it to whomever you feel would be right to handle this function and then stir the roleplaying pot in your nation to brew the right level of drama and protest.

In general, the first item that will need to be written is a preamble, a statement of expression introducing the nation, including its values, purpose and philosophy. 

Normally, references to a nation’s history are not made in a constitution’s preamble unlike those written in front of legislation. When writing a preamble, use your creativity: be as unique as possible, it is totally fine to write a really long preamble, pledging loyalty to you and your pet, for example. The preamble is the place where you can make your vision clear and define your ideal nation and how its people must strive to be. The only rule to observe when writing your preamble is to never use full sentences – at any point in your preamble; you must start with a verb, either in the present or future tense. 

As you move ahead and write your preamble, I shall bring this article to a close. In the next part of this series we shall explore the key principles and traits noticeable in a nation with a constitution.

Author

  • Vulshine is the current Vice President for the URA, and is a budding writer and the Deputy Director for HR at NSToday who enjoys working in NS governments. An avid reader, he hopes to produce enjoyable content for NSToday and the broader world.