Thursday, January 22, 2009

Test Driven Government?

I was looking at Perri Nelson's site, in particular this article on how the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are the requirements and specification for the USA.

That works pretty well. You can check out his thought processes in that article. (I read it and felt a little like Paul Simon listening to "Sail Away" and thinking, "I should've written that.)

Now, logically, I know that any system fails when the vigilance of the people it governs fails and their integrity is compromised. Even Communism could work, after a fashion, if people were truly pure of heart.

The American Experiment is particularly interesting because it seems to have worked the best for the longest time of any recent government, and it's interesting to see how it fails. With the scrutiny given it, it's also interesting to debate whether certain things were/are failures, too. (Ultimately, of course, the fault lies in the people which, one presumes, must be where the solution comes from.)

But from an engineering standpoint, I was intrigued by the mention of test-driven programming, and began to wonder how that might be applied to a Constitution. The Bill of Rights is great, but of course, over time, the state (and a non-vigilant people) have allowed it to be compromised through "interpretation" (i.e., "changing what the words mean so that we don't have the bothersome process of actually changing the law.")

A test-driven Bill of Rights would be really cool, though. What you would have is a series of questions that would have to be answered with regard to any law in order for it to be Constitutional. These questions would add precision to what is meant by a particular item and could be used as litmus tests.

Consider these potential questions:

  • Does this law allow the government to control political speech in any way?
  • Does this law compromise the effectiveness of any citizen to protect the state?
  • Does this law allow quartering of troops in the homes of citizens?

Now, you need a lot more precision. Is all speech truly free? You would need to codify some base rules, say infringement on life, liberty or property, which could be made part of every test.

It's an interesting exercise.

Ultimately, of course, it doesn't matter too much, even if you were building a new Republic: You're still stuck with human nature and success apparently breeds failure, as strange as that seems.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link. I like the notion of a test driven bill of rights. Ultimately though, I think that the testers ought to be those we choose to represent us, and not the courts.

    And of course, lets not forget user acceptance testing.


Grab an umbrella. Unleash hell. Your mileage may vary. Results not typical. If swelling continues past four hours, consult a physician.