Week Four: Looking to the Future of Democracy

      I spent this past week of work doing much of the same research that I have been doing throughout my first month. I read a few more constitutions, including those from Ecuador, Bolivia, and South Africa. I also read the draft constitution for the Republic of Catalan. Elliot suggested that I read the draft because it is helpful to see what people are most interested in changing about democracy today. Looking at a draft constitution, especially for a place that does not yet have its independence, helped me to analyze what sorts of issues are considered truly important on the world stage. Also, I was able to find a number of "anti-oligarchic" provisions in the Catalan Constitution, so it will be interesting to compare that constitution to others going forward.  I also spent some time reading through a primer on formation and removal mechanisms in parliamentary democracies. I can't post a link to the primer as it has yet to be published, but it was an informative read that allowed me to gain a better grasp on the intricacies of parliamentary democracies. I found it especially interesting to see how different parliamentary democracies can be from one another. I think I held the false impression that any parliamentary democracy would be much like any other. However, most countries approach the parliamentary process in their own unique way. For example, in some countries, the head of government (often a prime minister) is directly appointed by the head of state without input from parliament, but in other countries, parliament must directly elect the prime minister for his or her position to be considered valid. After learning more about parliamentary systems, I now want to learn more about government in general, in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the ways in which countries outside of the U.S. function and prosper.

     After work each day, I spent the evenings with my parents. We tried some of the restaurants in town, as well as the famous Dutch bitter balls, which are what I would describe as a kind of fried combination of meat and gravy. Sounds strange, tastes delicious. But very hot. The kind of hot that inevitably tags along with a pizza roll. I could imagine that bitter balls are the Dutch's version of a pizza roll for that matter. I also introduced my dad to Dutch coffee (my mom is not a coffee drinker), which he appeared to take a liking too, probably because of the free cookies that came with each cup.

     Later in the week, we went to a beer tasting at the Bar Gekke Geit, which stands at the lower level of a local hostel. We spent about three hours in the bar, learning about typical Dutch culture and tasting a variety of local beers. Although I'm not much of a beer person, it was fascinating to hear about the ways in which different beers are created and how various breweries often have a "mark" in their beers that enable you to tell if the beer came from that brewery (if you know enough about beer that is). Overall, it was a fun and educational evening, which I think was a success.

I saw my parents off on Friday. They took a train back to Paris Friday evening and flew back to the States on Saturday. Today (Sunday), I took the train to Gouda, visited the Gouda museum, and tasted some cheese at a local store. Since it was a Sunday, I missed most of the activity in the city because most places were closed. However, it was nice to see a new city and get to take some pictures of more Dutch architecture.

     Before I sign off for the week, I wanted to take a moment to express my sadness at the mass shooting that occurred in Orlando last night. Even though I am across the ocean right now, I feel as close to this tragedy as if it happened next door. One of my hopes for my legal career is that I will be able to make a positive difference in the world. I hope that I can use the education I recieve from William & Mary to help protect people's civil rights. While having our rights be recognized in society may not always protect us from being targeted by violence, I believe that it is still important to work to protect these rights if we are lucky enough to be given the opportunity. I am lucky enough to have the resources to attend law school; I want to help those who lack the resources to protect themselves. To that end, I would like to thank the generous donors that enable us to travel abroad for our summer internships. International IDEA does important work and I am glad to be a part of it.



Den Haag

The Binnehof in the Hague.