Monday, September 7, 2009

An explicit society needs a constitution

We hold these truths to be self-evident...

There is something mysterious about a healthy society, in open source as elsewhere. From outside, it looks as if it just happened that way, particularly in open-source. It may be that some projects and societies are lucky with their people and the cultures they make. Maybe NIPY is such a project. But, our job is to defend our society, and our project, from decaying.

To do this, we need to understand the sources of decay, and that is what my previous posts were trying to describe. Without this understanding, we can make no sensible defense.

In the case of NIPY, we started with a naive model (one person in charge). For many reasons, that model has not worked well. We then need to make another model that will work better. To do this, we summarize the state we want to avoid, and then we regulate.

Law plays a fundamental role in making the rules of the society clear, and making agreement to those rules explicit. It provides a defense against arbitrary decisions, bullying and abuses of power; it reduces anxiety, and with it the motivation to seek power. It draws people together who have a shared vision of how society works, and what it looks like when it works well.

We need a constitution. What should go in the constitution? It should be set of principles that we consider important as a society, and the rules and decision making process that will hold us to these principles.

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