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Open Ministry Crowdsources Laws In Finland 181

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-of-the-group dept.
First time accepted submitter emakinen writes "The new Citizens' Initiative service started today in Finland. On the Open Ministry website, anyone can present an idea for a law or initiative. If the idea wins enough support, the ministry's volunteer workers will work on it and turn it into a presentable bill for the MPs to chew over. If 50,000 citizens of voting age agree on a bill Parliament has to take it up."
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Open Ministry Crowdsources Laws In Finland

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  • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Friday March 02, 2012 @04:04AM (#39218313) Homepage Journal

    The only drawback there are only 49,000 citizens.

    • We still have this at least here in Washington State it's called "initiatives". If you get X votes it shows up on the ballot.

      Unfortunately it's used by a single person to constantly screech to a halt all governance in the state. Every time we decide to do something he goes around and finds enough votes to freeze it until voters approve/disapprove it.

      Look we have a representative democracy for a reason. You have to be willing to make compromises and barter what you want with other representatives. If you

  • by solarissmoke (2470320) on Friday March 02, 2012 @04:10AM (#39218341)

    There is, however, one obstacle that the Open Ministry and the entire citizens’ initiative law is already facing.

    The Ministry of Justice should have a website where people can sign the initiatives. To be legally valid, the signing of an initiative requires a bank identifier code or some other form of accepted online signature to prove the signee is who he or she says he is.

    The Ministry of Justice has not even commenced the constructing of such a system. It will not be up and running before the end of the year at the earliest.

    • Probably won't be the thing that holds it back. Bank credentials are commonly used for person identification in Finnish official websites (welfare, taxes, etc). So at least that is possible to implement.
    • by Luckyo (1726890) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:51AM (#39218733)

      So I will sign with my banking credentials (pretty much everyone has them here nowadays, they're offered for pretty much any new bank account). You just get a series of links containing "confirm your identity with your bank", click your bank, it takes you to the page of your bank where you enter your banking credentials and confirm that you want to be recognised by that site.

      Whole process takes about 30 seconds.

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        "You just get a series of links containing "confirm your identity with your bank", click your bank, it takes you to the page of your bank where you enter your banking credentials and confirm that you want to be recognised by that site.
        Whole process takes about 30 seconds."

        Sounds like a wet dream of the phishing industry.

        • by tapanitarvainen (1155821) on Friday March 02, 2012 @06:40AM (#39218913)

          "You just get a series of links containing "confirm your identity with your bank", click your bank, it takes you to the page of your bank where you enter your banking credentials and confirm that you want to be recognised by that site. Whole process takes about 30 seconds."

          Sounds like a wet dream of the phishing industry.

          Not really, since the credentials aren't reusable: you have a list of key-value pairs, each used only once, in random order. Moreover, payments require separate confirmation (second key-value match), so even man-in-the-middle attack with identification-only site wouldn't allow stealing your money (well, not that easily anyway).

        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          They've been having this dream for many years now, and it hasn't progressed from "dream" stage. As the other poster points out, it's actually pretty hard system to crack, even with social engineering due to nature of keys being either non-reusable or reusable but changing across a very big chart.

          Do note: this is a system that HAS BEEN WORKING FOR YEARS. Not a hypothetical idea for the implementation.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          phishing banking credentials is always the wet dream of the phishing industry. but what happens mostly, is that you're forwarded to a site ran by your own bank, which then asks you for your credentials and the site requesting the confirmation is only told if the credentials check went through or not. that bank log-in procedure usually (with most banks here anyways) includes a one time pass, for which site posing as the bank to acquire needs to have a code for anyways(the site asks for a pair for a code they

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        So I will sign with my banking credentials (pretty much everyone has them here nowadays, they're offered for pretty much any new bank account). You just get a series of links containing "confirm your identity with your bank", click your bank, it takes you to the page of your bank where you enter your banking credentials and confirm that you want to be recognised by that site.

        Man, I love Finland. If it wasn't dark so much of the year, I would so move there to live. Finnish people are smart and decent and e

  • This thing could very likely be used for the purposes of doing a complete patent and copyright system reform in small steps. I personally do not seek to completely abolish either, but I wish to bring both of them down to a maximum of 10 years so that people who patent stuff will actually have to also start utilizing their patents and not just hoard them, and copyrights won't keep on benefiting the creator for several lifetimes without them having to do any work ever again.

    Do we have any Finns around here on /. that agree? I'm just curious.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      This thing could very likely be used for the purposes of doing a complete patent and copyright system reform in small steps. I personally do not seek to completely abolish either, but I wish to bring both of them down to a maximum of 10 years so that people who patent stuff will actually have to also start utilizing their patents and not just hoard them, and copyrights won't keep on benefiting the creator for several lifetimes without them having to do any work ever again.

      Do we have any Finns around here on /. that agree? I'm just curious.

      Wait a minute... are you trying to subvert these new laws for good rather than evil? I don't think that's what they had in mind.

    • by G-forze (1169271)

      Absolutely. I'm a finn and I intend to submit my idea for an intellectual property tax (that I linked to in another story a few weeks ago) once this project is online

      Here it is: http://reengineeringtheworld.blogspot.com/2012/02/taxing-intellectual-property-owners-of.html [blogspot.com]

    • A finn that agrees, checking in.

      We need a coordinating website or such.

      BTW, I'm vacillating between completely abolishing copyrights and *drastically* restricting them. I am afraid that, if they're not obliterated, there will always be a douchebag politician willing to re-extend them in duration and scope.

  • by hammeraxe (1635169) on Friday March 02, 2012 @04:21AM (#39218387)

    Something similar [manabalss.lv] has been running in Latvia for a while now. People can sign online petitions that are submitted to the parliament if they get enough signatures. The identity verification is done by logging in with your bank details (as there is no official electronic ID as of now). Some of the successful initiatives include tighter tax control for shady offshore companies and stricter control of whether MPs actually obey their vows.

  • I want this in the US so badly, with numbers adjusted for population of course. In a way we have it now, except it is only for the WhiteHouse, nothing is mandatory, and popular measures get a polite but firm dismissal (as if we were misbehaving children rather than citizens in a democracy).
    • by Nursie (632944)

      Same in the UK.

      There was an official petitions web site set up under the last government, as part of their campaign to make it look like they were listening to the electorate. People could raise an issue, any issue, and others could sign their names to it.

      All that happened was when a measure became popular enough, usually somewhere around the 50-100K mark, the PM (or more likely an underling) would tell you it was a stupid idea in their opinion and was never going to be considered further. It was a huge jok

    • by macraig (621737)

      Move to California [ca.gov], then. Not that the process matters because it gets (ab)used to ram thru bad laws just the same, some worse than what even the Assembly would allow. If you can mislead and mis-educate enough people, even an Athenian process like this can be abused. Tyranny of the majority FTW.

  • You can start an e-petition and if you have 100,00 signatures it has to be debated in the House of Commons (Parliament)

    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Diol1/DoItOnline/DG_066327 [direct.gov.uk]

    Though they have been know to 'run out of time' to debate on at least one occasion

    • If you get 100,000 signatures they only have to consider offering a debate, which means less than nothing in the Commons.
      • by jamesh (87723)

        If you get 100,000 signatures they only have to consider offering a debate, which means less than nothing in the Commons.

        That is a certain measure that the politicians are too far removed from the public. If 100,000 potential votes aren't worth even thinking about for a moment then something is terribly wrong, especially if the signatures have been collected over a reasonably small area.

    • by Nursie (632944)

      Really?

      Because all that's ever happened before, so far as I can tell, is that it gets to a certain level and then someone from the other side closes it with a reply telling you it's a dumb idea and they're not going to listen.

      Has one of these ever actually made it as far as a debate?

  • What if a majority, any majority, decides to vote a law againts the rest of the population?

    What if a majority of finns pass a law that only those born in Finland have the right to stay?

    What if another majority decides that only they are true finnish citizens and pass a law about only them having the right to vote?

    People are stupid and evil. True democracy doesn't work.

    • by speedwaystar (1124435) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:26AM (#39218631)

      you noticed the bit where it said "Parliament has to consider the proposition," not "the proposition automatically becomes law", didn't you?

    • You have a point, but:

      1. There is still parliament in between the people and a law.
      2. I bet you need more than just a simple 50,000 supporters to change the constitution. You probably need 2/3rd (like in many countries) of all votes.

      But you are correct: stupidity and democracy aren't a good combination. Luckily, education is quite good in Finland, so if any country has a chance of pulling it off, Finland is certainly on of them.

      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        1. There is still parliament in between the people and a law.

        And what will be the parliament's criteria to veto laws? Whether they are "bad" or "immoral"?

        2. I bet you need more than just a simple 50,000 supporters to change the constitution. You probably need 2/3rd (like in many countries) of all votes.

        I don't know of a country where the constitution is actually followed as law instead of guideline.

        But you are correct: stupidity and democracy aren't a good combination. Luckily, education is quite good in Finland, so if any country has a chance of pulling it off, Finland is certainly on of them.

        I don't think it's only an education problem. I don't believe taking decisions as a homogeneous group makes sense.

        I wouldn't democratically choose with my doctor, my lawyer and my accountant which medical treatment I should follow nor how to manage my contracts and my finances.

        • >I don't know of a country where the constitution is actually followed as law instead of guideline.

          I live in one. South Africa. It does help that in this country the government is NOT the highest authority or power-holder. That is the constitutional court which has the right to strike down laws, force the creation of new laws and even force policy implementation changes if policies are found to fall short of the constitutional obligations on government.

          So for example - the constitutional court back in th

        • by hvm2hvm (1208954)

          I wouldn't democratically choose with my doctor, my lawyer and my accountant which medical treatment I should follow nor how to manage my contracts and my finances.

          Not a correct analogy. Some laws don't require specialization in law or economics, only a decent amount of common sense. OTOH, a medical diagnostic does require a medical expert.

      • You have a point, but:

        2. I bet you need more than just a simple 50,000 supporters to change the constitution. You probably need 2/3rd (like in many countries) of all votes.

        In Finland the parliament can change the constitution, but it has to be supported in two consecutive parliaments (with an election in between) and by 2/3 majority, or by single parliament with 5/6 majority. A bit too easy for my liking, but certainly harder than getting 50000 supporters.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      What if a majority of finns pass a law that only those born in Finland have the right to stay?

      What if a majority of finns vote for a party that will pass a law that only those born in Finland have the right to stay? Your whole argument relies on the assumption that by positioning a set of politicians between the people and the law we get a system with higher integrity and more respect for civil liberties, do you feel this is the case? Having a direct democracy and a constitution is not mutually exclusive, we could have an amendment process just like the representative democracies do.

    • by hjrnunes (1135957)
      Excuse me but, I fail to see how that is any different of what exists today. There will still be a Constitution or equivalent, that laws - any law, has to respect. And in the particular Finnish case, as pointed already, proposals are voted for in the parliament. But the things that you mention can as easily happen with a representative system.
      If you are right about people. remember representatives are people too, therefore as stupid and evil as any other, possibly more.
      Anyway, I think you're wrong. I do
      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        If you are right about people. remember representatives are people too, therefore as stupid and evil as any other, possibly more.

        Representatives might be more evil. I don't really, think so, but they might. However, they are less stupid. They have spent an important portion of their lives studying or experiencing the government of a country.

        And I believe a stupid government is worse than an evil one. I don't have much to support that belief, though. Is it better to be the slave of an evil tyrant? Or the victim of a random system.

        I suppose it depends on how much you depend on that government. If you can live alone in the woods, a stup

        • by hjrnunes (1135957)
          Wouldn't an evil government look stupid until you finally realize it's actually evil?
          • by Thanshin (1188877)

            Wouldn't an evil government look stupid until you finally realize it's actually evil?

            No. It's the opposite. The government looks stupid until you study it closely and see that it's actually just evil.

    • New petition : "It should be forbidden for any female news anchor between 20 & 40 to wear anything on TV".
      You'd get 50 000 votes in a heartbeat.

    • by Extremus (1043274)

      This can happen in any system based in representation. However, for some reason, that doesn't happen (usually).

      The good thing of this system is that now a group of people have the same power to propose laws as a unique MP. The rest of the process is the same and I don't see much differences of what can happen in a traditional system. First, it is not that people are voting for a law; they are voting to propose a law to be considered. Second, any crazy group of people can propose any crazy law, as any crazy

    • by master_p (608214)

      First of all, democracy does not mean that only the good things are voted for by a society. Democracy comes from the greek words 'demos' and 'kratos', roughly translated as the 'public' and 'government'. This means that democracy is the system were the will of the majority of the people becomes law for all the people.

      Secondly, stupid decisions like the ones you mention do not usually happen, because people are actually afraid that by not taking into account their fellow citizens, one day the system might be

    • by macraig (621737)

      The term you're looking for is tyranny of the majority. Darfur. Tutsis versus Hutus. (American) Whites versus anyone with dark skin. Nazi Germans versus ethnic Jews. Saying people are "stupid and evil" isn't really accurate, though; call them selfish and hopelessly tribalistic and we'll be in agreement.

      Tribalism and groupthink is the single biggest threat to democracy and egalitarianism and human civilization, which won't be civil if certain tribes have their way.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Saying people are "stupid and evil" isn't really accurate, though; call them selfish and hopelessly tribalistic and we'll be in agreement.

        What's the difference?

    • There is a binary choice between "tyranny of the majority" and "tyranny of the minority," if the majority cannot overrule the minority then the minority has the actual ruling power, AKA an oligarchy. Many countries have true democracy and it seems to work fine for them.

      The founders of the US tried to strike a balance in this binary state. It's sort of like DRM, they tried to make possible what wasn't technically possible, but like DRM it only worked until people found a way around the weak protection and th

      • by Rakishi (759894)

        The majority wants what's best for most people, the minority wants what's best for only a few.

        Utter BS.

        The majority wants what they're been convinced by a minority would be best for them. It's been that way since the first Greek democracy where the best public orator got the population to follow him. In the end a minority has all the power, the question is just how difficult you make it for them to gain and use that power.

        That is the issue that the founding fathers tried to solve.

  • 1) This pre-supposes a reasonable part of the population being reasonably enlightened, and educated

    2) This pre-supposes a reasonable part of the population being reasonable interested in the political processes through which they govern themselves

    3) This pre-supposes a reasonable part of the population being, in principle, reasonably willed to accept and even defend compromise on important issues

    4) This pre-supposes a multi-party, well-oiled democracy, in which partisan fights are background issues

    A

    • by hjrnunes (1135957)
      I would consider those factor as requisites for any democracy.
    • by jcdr (178250)

      You should consider the other way: having a direct democracy tend to make the people more concerned about politic.

      In Switzerland we have to vote many time per year, usually on multiple questions. The fact the all the people have to vote make a heavy pressure on the media to talk about the subjects to be voted. So it's became virtually impossible to not know the basics facts of the ongoing votes. This make everyone concerned, and if you see this process since even before you are adult, you take it as a part

  • Stupid and useless initiatives that are popular with a non-representatively small and extremist part of the population get a real chance of becoming laws, like the infamous minaret interdiction in Switzerland...
    • by hjrnunes (1135957)
      But how does that not happen with a pure representative system? A lot of people seem to assume the only laws voted for in parliaments are laws that the majority of the population supports. I don't see that. I see quite the contrary: laws go to parliament first, and then the partisan groups start the public "education" campaign to mobilize the people to their positions. Hardly any law representatives come up with is proposed by the People, they come instead from interest groups and lobbies and more often tha
    • Then go and have more people sign the opposing suggestion.

      Democracy isn't dropping a slip of paper in some urn every 4ish years. Unless you want others to decide how you are governed. But then, what do you need (or deserve) democracy for?

    • by jcdr (178250)

      About the minaret interdiction, I think the the vote was a big advantage to show the real problem (fair of invasive Islam culture and/or extremism) that visibly concerned a big part of the population. Why such subject are taboo in adjacent countries ?

      The vote have made good progress on some points:
      * Moderate have realized that the public know only the talk fro the extremist. Now there take more distance from them.
      * Many acknowledge that the free practice of a religion is still granted and like that, without

      • by 21mhz (443080)

        * A side effect is that the traditional religions will probably not make ostentatious construction either.

        Well, that part's been bothering me the most. The traditional religions (who decides which ones are traditional, BTW? Can I has a golden-domed Orthodox church?) are supposed to know their bounds, there's only one that is expressly prescribed to.

        • by jcdr (178250)

          This is the interesting question ! By "traditional religions", I was talking about the religions that already have build somewhat ostentatious constructions here in the past. The fact is that, actually, all of them are slowly lost interest from a more and more big part of the population. So the consequence is that there will probably not get a good public feeling by making new ostentatious constructions. The minaret was a symbol because there was a small group of extremist that pushed too far there desire t

  • by abbamouse (469716) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:25AM (#39218627) Homepage

    Sounds like a recipe for special interest groups to dominate politics. The same is true of initiative measures in the United States -- they are largely used by well-funded narrow interest groups to advance their agendas at the expense of the public. Indeed, the whole point of the signature requirements is to keep one person (of modest means) from making a difference. As Olson predicted, these schemes lead to the victory of highly committed, well-organized, resource-rich minority positions over the larger but diffuse interests of the public,

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Remember this is talking about 50,000 in a population of 5,4 million, the equivalent number in the US would be 2.9 million people signing a petition. That's a pretty solid bit of public support, considering most people won't bother to do anything or is just indifferent to the subject at hand. Trying to listen to millions of opinions is all but impossible, I'd say signatures is a pretty good way of raising the issue, once raised you can do a public poll and hear if the other 99% are vehemently opposed or jus

    • The propositions don't automatically become law. If you find 50,000 idiots to sign your petition to make Lord Ubuduzul the unquestioned spiritual leader of Finland, it means exactly jack if said proposition gets laughed out the parliament.

      For such extremist groups, it's not really a boon. They already can get that kind of attention from politicians. For reference, see the US. If anything, such petitions offer the ability to organize and rally people who don't actually hang onto some minority issues, but hav

    • by grumpyman (849537)
      Given ANY system, no one can stop the special interest group from pursuing of that special interest. This may not necessary be ideal but would you prefer the status quo?
  • Let me add the development of the "Open Ministry" is also open. We welcome all interested developers and pull requests! You can find the source code at https://github.com/avoinministerio/avoinministerio [github.com] . The tech stack is currently simple Ruby on Rails hosted on Heroku, with few associated tools like MailChimp. At the moment the developers hang out at Flowdock channel https://flowdock.com/ [flowdock.com], you'll certainly get an invitation by request.

    As the service has been just launched we just squash bugs and keep ser

    • by Ja'Achan (827610)

      Hack the law!

      First we could hack the source code, and now we can hack the law too? If this goes on like this, someone will make it possible for us to hack the planet!

  • I hope they don't ignore the fact that even this process can be abused, if the wrong people (One Percenters or other tyrannical types) get a mind to do so. Need an example? Look no further than the state initiative process in California, United States, which is intended to function and serve the same purpose as this new process in Finland. It's been abused repeatedly to pass laws that had far less chance of being enacted through the traditional process.

    'Open' process or not, if people can be successfully

    • by Ja'Achan (827610)

      which is intended to function and serve the same purpose as this new process in Finland. It's been abused repeatedly to pass laws that had far less chance of being enacted through the traditional process.

      I'm a little confused. I thought passing laws that have less chance of being enacted through the traditional process is the purpose of this new process?

      • by macraig (621737)

        I was referring to BAD laws getting proposed and passed. I realized after clicking Submit that I wasn't very transparent and had only implied it, but as you already know I couldn't edit the comment. Wasn't the implication obvious enough from the context in any case? Don't be pedantic if the purpose is just to mock my goof.

        • by Ja'Achan (827610)
          Bad laws, good laws. What's good for you is bad for someone else. You made it sounds like "It's a good idea when it helps me it but a bad idea when it helps others."
          • by macraig (621737)

            No, I DID NOT make it sound that way, I made it sound exactly the opposite. You don't fucking understand the difference between laws that serve the common good and those that serve some selfish uber-tribal minority, do you? I don't often say this so bluntly without qualification, but you're a jackass and further engaging you is unconstructive. Bugger off.

  • From a Swiss citizen.

    Here this is in place since 1848, but I hope that the adoption of the referendum will grow an a accelerated rate in many countries.

  • In the US, what would have happened if the public were to opine about Negro rights in the South or Irish, Italian or Puerto Rican immigrants in New York? What would have happened after the World Trade Center disaster to Muslim immigrants?

    Public opinion is volatile, easily swayed by raw emotion, religious fervor and yellow journalism, and requires the moderation of level heads before being rushed into legislation.

    • by 21mhz (443080)

      requires the moderation of level heads before being rushed into legislation.

      So not the Congress, then.

  • This will be complemented in EU level with the European citizens' initiative starting 1.4.2012:

    http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/public/welcome [europa.eu]

    The European citizens' initiative allows one million EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies, by calling on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal.

  • We do not need the crowd in the US of A, we have ALEC [alecexposed.org] to solve all our ills.
  • "There is, however, one obstacle that the Open Ministry and the entire citizens’ initiative law is already facing.
    The Ministry of Justice should have a website where people can sign the initiatives.
    To be legally valid, the signing of an initiative requires a bank identifier code or some other form of accepted online signature to prove the signee is who he or she says he is.
    T

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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