What is the New Constitution Project?

The N.C.P. is a global collaborative conceptual art project, a kind of game that dares you to ask yourself what type of society you’d like to live in, and then to cooperate and negotiate with others in order to agree on a vision that we all can believe in. At the same time, the N.C.P. is a form of direct action, in which the people themselves determine the direction of their activism, without relying on any "representatives" to decide the constitutional principles for them and then to impose these ideals on the rest of society. As yet, the home of the New Constitution Project is at the site, specifically the page: But mirror sites will be developed and perhaps many different constitutions will be developed in parallel and compared as time goes on.

(And let’s take a moment right now to ask those who are computer savvy for help in creating a better website for this purpose - one with a better, more user-friendly appearance, the capability of forums, and hopefully, ultimately, a consensus-type structure, along the same lines as the consensus-building work being done at the various occupy sites.)

Who are you? Who is creating this new constitution?

The N.C.P. was started by attendees of Occupy Wall Street. This art project is not in any way made by or connected with computer hackers or any other lawbreakers. Nor is it a front for crimethinc, or the I.W.W., or Anarchist Black Cross. We have received zero dollars from the Tides Center, Open Society, George Soros, or any foundation or think tank or NGO. Nor are we connected with any law enforcement agency or government surveillance organization. Nor have we accepted money from, nor are we affiliated with, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the I.S.O., the R.C.P., or any kind of Marxist or Communist party. No one - at all, anywhere - is paying us to do this. We’re just a bunch of fun-loving individuals, concerned about our future, and willing to start thinking about it and talking about it together.

So who is creating this constitution? You are! As soon as you visit the website, you can start getting involved in the debate and making sure that your point of view is represented. With your help, we’ll make all of the Occupy events into mini-constitutional conventions. No one is in charge. Everyone is welcome. And it’s free.

Why are you anonymous?

As Samuel Beckett said (and Michel Foucault was fond of repeating), “‘Why does it matter who is speaking,’ someone said. ‘Why does it matter who is speaking?’”

It’s not about us, as individuals. We’re not politicians, trying to sell ourselves to the public. As soon as our names get out there, celebrity-obsessed culture will fixate on personalities, rather than the ideas. As someone said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” A great idea - but no one knows who first said it!

So don’t worry about who else is involved in this - just read it, and if there’s something you don’t like, change it!

Are you for real? Is this serious? Or is it a big joke?

Yes, yes, and yes. Does it have to be one or the other? What’s wrong with a little sense of humor? Does it automatically invalidate an idea? As Oscar Wilde said, “Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.”

What do you hope to accomplish with this constitution?

At the very least, it’s a way to have some fun, and to stimulate some very interesting thought. Not only is it a means for people to present ideas to each other, it’s also very liberating and self-actualizing to realize yourself as a person who is taking part in creating the power structures that you live in - which you are always doing anyway, whether consciously or not. For the first time, the words “We, the People” actually mean, “We, the People,” in the very literal sense that we, the people wrote this. No one is `speaking for us. For once, we are speaking for ourselves. Perhaps, one day, we can start encouraging politicians swear to the people to uphold the principles declared herein, just as they now swear to Grover Norquist not to raise taxes. Who knows what is possible? It all depends on what you do with this text.

Look at it this way: politics is the art of compromise. Certainly it is very hopeful to assert that the people will get everything they want. But we should at least know what we want, so that we can negotiate from a position of strength, fighting for a bare minimum of change (say, a constitutional amendment calling for a separation of corporations and the state).

What’s wrong with the current United States Constitution?

Nothing at all. The current contributors are all great fans of the existing Constitution, and great admirers of the people that wrote it, who are our heroes. That’s why we want to be just like them, and to do what they did. This document is very much based on the 1787 Constitution, and copies it in both content and style. If it turns out, after everyone takes part in the New Constitution Project, that the resulting document is exactly like the 1787 version, that is fantastic, and it’s a glorious vindication of the compromise that the framers settled upon, more than two centuries ago. And if it turns out that the current version is different, this in no way dishonors their great achievement, though the tension between the existing laws and the people’s aspirations will have to be worked out.

How is the new constitution different from the 1787 Constitution?

Well, the new constitution is constantly changing, as new people are exposed to it, edit it, add to it, and revise it. It’s constantly evolving. So this answer may already be out of date. (You’ll have to go to the website and check it out for yourself - it’s exciting to watch it grow.)

But as of the writing of this FAQ, there are a few important differences between this text and the 1787 text (or the 1791 text, or the 1992 text with all 27 Amendments). To find out, read it. But here are some of the most important differences, so far.

First, many rights that are only “implied” in the 1992 text are stated explicitly in the 2011 version - for instance, the right to privacy. Also, many rights that are never stated explicitly or implicitly in the 1992 version are stated explicitly here, such as the individual’s right to property and ownership of every part of her own body. That means that a person owns her own genetic code, for instance, and no one is allowed to tamper with it without her consent - a glaring omission from the 1992 version, given today’s technology.

Second, while there is an “implied” wall of separation between church and state in the 1992 version, there are several explicit walls of separation in the current version - not only is the church separated from government, but so are corporations. Some believe the separation of corporation and state is the most important thing we are fighting for in the N.C.P., or in the Occupy Together movement in general. Also, the military and the media are separated from the government.

Third, and perhaps most significant of all, corporations and workplaces become more democratic in this system. The workers, in councils, get to vote on how their workplaces are run.

Are you trying to create a new world order? A global government? Are you trying to expand the federal government?

No, no, and no. Actually, the N.C.P. is a movement in the opposite direction. It is a truism that anarchism works on a small, personal scale, among friends, but that challenges arise (not necessarily insurmountable) when anarchists attempt to spread their social relationships into larger and larger groups of people (without, of course, the use of coercion). The threat of hierarchy looms when mass-strategy is involved and people are treated less like friends and more like statistics - mass-planners treat an individual like the populace divided by the population, and, as Arthur Koestler put it, the individual is more than "a million people divided by a million."

Anthropologists and sociologists have arrived at "Dunbar's Number," first proposed by Robin Dunbar in 1992, the number of people with whom humans can interact at a personal level. This number is usually estimated as being somewhere between 100 and 230. Dunbar himself suggested 148, and most typically round this number to 150. This number, believed to be imposed by constraints on the neural processing of social relations, determined by the size of the neo-cortex of the brain, is the size of a group at which interactions can still be considered personal - emotional, empathetic, individual, with the capacity to interact on the basis of mutual respect and rational debate. Groups of human hunter gatherers in the paleolithic period of human development appear to have been approximately this size.

Accordingly, the self-government of people according to this constitution begins with the participation of people in democratic councils of approximately 150 people, with coordinating councils that meet periodically and coordinate for groups of 150,000 people - and that's it. This constitution does not call for the creation of social structures any larger than that.

In other words, what we are calling for is the devolution of federal and state governments down to a more personal size. In an age of capitalist globalization, the N.C.P. is a movement in the other direction, the direction of localization, the direction of community. The N.C.P. can be seen as being of a piece with the locavore movement (which calls for local food sources, often organic farming, rather than factory farms) and D-I-Y culture, which is always locally based.

On the other hand, there is one form of globalism that the N.C.P. supports and embodies: the global spread of information, of which the N.C.P. can be seen as an example.

Is this constitution proposing communism?

No. Actually, it doesn't really propose any economic system. It simply proposes democracy, and allows the workers' councils and consumers' councils to decide what kind of economic system we'd like to have. Each small community will choose how to be organized and how goods and services will be distributed. If they want almost all of the resources to go to only a few small families, that is their right. Since there will be thousands of different councils, there may well be thousands of different systems. But pretty soon we'll be able to see what works and what doesn't. In other words, this is the first truly scientific economic system - a system based on experimentation - a system based on democracy!

Why should corporations be democratic?

In Civics classes in American highschools, we are taught that democracy is better than autocracy (rule by one person) or oligarchy (rule by the few), not only because it it is good in itself and promotes liberty (though these are laudible) but also because it is more economically stable. And it's easy to see why: in an authoritarian organization - an autocracy or oligarchy - the decision maker or makers can make any kind of crazy decision, wasting all kinds of wealth for reasons that don't make sense, or worse yet supplying no rationale, and simply helping themselves to the money and keeping it for themselves, and there is no check or balance on their power. This kind of organization invites waste, chaos, and gluttony - as Lord Acton would put it, power corrupts, "and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

What the New Constitution Project does is simply to apply this good old-fashioned American democratic principle to corporations. To see why, simply look at the events of the past 4 years: in 2008, for instance, the Wall St. banks (having been bailed out with taxpayer money) helped themselves to $160 billion in bonuses and huge pensions even as they caused widespread foreclosures; the executive boards of Auto companies (having also been bailed out) among others "vote" themselves huge salaries even as they refuse to hire more workers to get the economy going. If there were any kind of checks and balances on these decision makers, this kind of behavior would be tossed out as the absurd nonsense that it obviously is. That's why democracy works, and autocracy doesn't. That's why we need democracy.

To answer your question, turn it around: why wouldn't you want to have any kind of say in a corporation? Why would you choose to be docile and submissive in your obedience to the absolute will of the CEOs and boards of directors, even as they drive our economy over a cliff? What is it that you don't like about democracy?

Once workers and consumers have earned the right to have at least some kind of voice in decision-making, corporations will be run in a manner that is, in the truest sense, much more conservative. With checks and balances on their power, the big guys will not be as easily tempted to engage in the kind of risky behavior (such as the irresponsible gambling they did with high-risk, predatory mortgages and complex financial instruments) that got us into the current economic crisis.

So you hate corporations, and want to destroy them?

No, we don’t hate anyone. We think corporations will actually be stronger once they become democratic, just as governments around the world become stronger after they become democratic. Look at the United States: democracy has made it the most powerful nation on Earth. Likewise, democratic corporations will outcompete autocratic or oligarchic corporations, and for obvious reasons: first, because people want to be free and would rather work where they have some self-determination, which means that democratic corporations will outcompete autocratic corporations in the labor market. Secondly, this is because happier workers are more engaged workers, and therefore more productive workers. But most important of all is the profit motive: since workers will be working for themselves, and receiving the profits of their workplace, they will do everything they can to maximize these profits.