Week Two: The Oligarchy Project

This week I began one of my long-term projects, an examination of how constitutions both protect the poor from exploitation and prevent economic elites from monopolizing the governmental system. My coworker, Elliot, began this project because of what has been called the recent trend towards "demagogue" democracy, where people turn away from faith in party democracy and towards the leadership of one person. To begin, I read some literature related to the topic, including an article about how campaign financing provisions can help to bridge the gap between political parties and regular citizens. Then I spent some time reading through a few constitutions to get an idea of what kinds of "pro-poor" or "anti-oligarchic" provisions already exist in established constitutions. Using what I learned from the literature I read, I finally created a checklist of provisions to look for when I continue my research. Going forward, I will read a number of constitutions to see what provisions, if any, the various constitutions include that match with the list I made. I am also going to do some further research into the Mexican Constitution because I noted that it calls for an institute to ensure that economic and social equality is promoted. Elliot suggested that I look into whether that institute is actually in existence, and if so, to what extent it is effective. Lastly, I am going to spend some time reading a few books about the differences between majoritarian and consensus democracies.

I have also done some more exploring since I've been here. Last weekend, I explored the Hague, saw where the various foreign embassies are located, and saw the hotel where my parents will be staying when they come to visit me next week. It was fascinating to see how the old and new mixed in the city, which is one of my favorite things about European cities.

Yesterday, I visited Clingendael, an estate at the outskirts of the Hague. I went there in the hopes of seeing the Japanese Garden, which is in full bloom at this time of year. It was an incredible sight. However, after visiting the garden, I realized that there is more to the estate. The estate itself is beautiful, with fields full of impressive old trees and places for people to picnic. There are also canals dotting the landscape, much like in the city center.

Today, I took the train to Delft. It was an easy trip, requiring only one stop on the intercity train. I spent some time walking through the city and visiting some of the churches. I also walked through the weekly market, where the vendors sold everything from pottery to clocks. Although I didn't plan to buy anything, I couldn't resist buying some fresh strawberries, which served as my souvenir for the trip.

I look forward to continuing with my project on Monday. Then, next weekend, I travel to Paris to meet my parents, who are coming to Europe for the first time. We're going to spend the weekend in Paris and then travel back to the Hague together, where they will stay as they spend the week exploring the Netherlands.

One of the canals in the Hague One of the canals in the Hague.