Saturday, May 28, 2005

Role models

Natalie Solent links to a post from Thought Mesh, asking why so few other countries have adopted constitutions similar to that of the United States, given the success of that country. It is of course quite interesting to read the Australian constitution (written in the second half of the 1890s, enacted in January 1, 1901) from this perspective. An awful lot of it is clearly based on the American constitution, and in places it is close to being the American constitution word for word. And of course it is certainly what Thought Mesh calls a "structural constition">, which outlines the powers of government and certain intitutions, without attempting policiy prescriptions. In terms of the particular structure, the big difference is the lack of a directly elected executive in Australia. However, a lot of the written bits of the Australian constitution follow the US model, and the unwritten bits tend to follow the British model. (There are bits of the Swiss model thrown in too).

And as for Thought Mesh's further comment about the US model perhaps being unfriendly to founding fathers who hoped to rule using the model itself and thus unpopular with such people, this sort of issue did not apply in Australia. Australia was already a democracy (or perhaps six of them - the colonies had elected their own legislatures from the 1850s), the delegates who wrote the constitution were country lawyers who had been democratically elected to the constitutional conventions, and the constitution had to be approved by referendum in each of the six states and enacted as an act by the British parliament before coming into effect. All this meant that the document was not intended primarily as a vehicle for the personal ambitions of the people who wrote and enacted it.

And the constitution in question has been an unusually successful one, having provided Australia with peace, prosperity and democratic government for more than a century. The circumstances of its enactment are different to that of the US contitution, but they had in many ways a very similar result.
I am in Milan

I can make a few obvious comments, for instance that it is indeed true that the Italians have no understanding whatsoever of the concept of queueing. (I wonder if the concept immediately becomes understood if you go north and cross the border into Switzerland). They do understand the concepts of food and of coffee, however, so I must be grateful for certain things.

Another thing. Many guidebooks will start the section on accommodation with a description of how hard or easy it is to find accommodation in a city. Often (and this is true of what the Lonely Planet Italy says about Milan), they start with things like "It can be very hard to find a hotel room in \, particularly during \". (In Milan this referred to weeks with fashion shows. In Strasbourg it was times when the European Parliament is sitting). In practice, such comments usually mean the city contains lots of hotels, and it is quite easy to find a hotel room at all times other than when those seasonal activities are occurring. This turned out to be the case in Strasbourg, and it is the case in Milan. I guess that highly uneven demand leads to the ultimate number of hotel rooms being somewhere between the demand levels, whereas more even demand leads to capacity being close to full most of the time (and prices being more constant too). Airline seats are like this too, which is how I managed to fly from London to Milan for £45 return including taxes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I have some thoughts on how Malcolm Glazer might actually make money from Manchester United over at Samizdata.

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