This workshop introduces democracy using a first principles / philosophy point of view. It starts with a discussion of cavemen living in a ‘state of nature’; they don’t cooperate at a societal level. There are no rules or laws. Stealing food from or killing other people is no different to doing those things to animals. Within the workshop we show that a system of rules emerges naturally as it is in everyone’s best interest. Democracy follows as the best way to facilitate the rules-making process. Finally, it conducts an exercise which illustrates how rules ought to be made: without consideration of your (the rule maker’s) position in society. Anything else leads to biased rules which favour the rule makers. In this we derive one of the basic ideas of constitutionalism: minority rights.
This workshop explores how the behaviour of citizens, in an ordered society run on democratic principles, must differ from the cavemen in the state of nature. We introduce trust, cooperation, and ubuntu as key ideas through a simulation game (The Prisoner’s Dilemma). We then turn to a discussion of what cooperation means at the national level, with the aim of coming up with everyday activities usually considered part of good citizenship.
Separation of Powers
This workshop shifts to a much more concrete topic: it explores the ideas behind the doctrine of separation of powers and how this system works in the South African Constitution. We start by explaining the concept of conflict of interest, with reference to everyday examples. Then we devise basic systems to implement checks on conflict of interest. Finally through a simulation game (Unconstitutional Power Grab) we demonstrate the complex and difficult interactions between the executive, parliament and the judiciary.
The Rule of Law
Here we focus on laws, why they are necessary, how they ought to be developed and what is required for them to be considered good laws. The core of this workshop is a series of discussions leading to the conclusion that laws must be: clear, well-known, and treat citizens equally. We discuss what it means for all citizens to be equal before the law, and link the above to the independence of the judiciary. We contrast the rule of law with the rule by law.
This workshop highlights the centrality of rights acting as a baseline for a system of laws and as the legal and moral concept at the core of the Constitution. It starts off with asking the learners to explain ‘what is a right?’ in the most basic form. It then encourages them to think up rights in the Constitution, differentiate between moral and legal right, state who has that right and how can the right be changed – can it be given up/limited, and lastly what does the right require of other people. We then examine conflicts between rights, and conclude that this system cannot replace difficult moral choices.
Progressive Realisation of Socio-Economic Rights
This is the Project’s capstone of the series’ workshops. This workshop examines the unique difficulties we face as a country whose Constitution guarantees rights like healthcare and education. Through a simulation game, we examine the limitations that resources place upon the realisation of rights. The conclusion to this is that the realisation of socio-economic rights is not a once-off affair.