Problems with WGOSA Constitution
I thought that I had cleverly designed the WGOSA constitution to be eminently flexible. The initial version would lay out an amendment process but otherwise would be “empty”. Content could be supplied through subsequent exercise of the amendment process. The initial version of the constitution, a single paragraph labeled paragraph 1, explains that the constitution will consist of numbered paragraphs, that paragraphs will be added by 2/3 consent of the membership, that paragraphs may not be altered or deleted, that paragraph 1 takes precedence of all other paragraphs, and that after paragraph 1 higher numbered paragraphs take precedence over lower numbered paragraphs.
Well and good, but now I’m wondering what would be the total effect if a paragraph 2 subsequently were added which flatly contradicted paragraph 1 and itself claimed precedence over paragraph 1? What would be the best interpretive approach to such a conflictive document? My original intent was that paragraph 1 would always trump, but as interpreter, I cannot see a rational basis for deciding between the conflictive claims of the two paragraphs. On the one hand, founding intent carries weight. On the other hand, we normally allow people to revise their statements, to change their minds, and, accordingly, recent statements are generally more reliable than distant statements as guides to factual assessment and current intent. Another question that occurs to me is whether adjudication of such a conflict could be influenced by still another paragraph or perhaps multiple additional paragraphs, all lending their support to either paragraph 1 or paragraph 2.
The WGOSA constitution appears to be defective, but I am not sure how to fix it. One thought is that the text of paragraph 1 could be placed, with slight modification, in a separate document, a “metaconstitution”, and the WGOSA constitution could start out truly empty. Another idea is that the amendment process need not be written in stone. Precedence could always go to higher numbered paragraphs and this rule could be spelled out in paragraph 1. Then an interpretive deadlock between paragraph 1 and some later paragraph would be unlikely to occur.
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