Of patents and constitutional authority

Britain's new prime minister wants more power, but not for himself. For his people. It's too bad that software can't seem to follow suit.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
2 min read

Wow. Michael Tiemann sent me this link to the text of Gordon Brown's speech to the British parliament. Brown is Britain's new prime minister, which would seem to be the time to ask for more power. But he's asking for less:

I propose that in twelve areas important to our national life, the Prime Minister and executive should surrender or limit their powers - the exclusive exercise of which by the Government should have no place in a modern democracy.

These are:

  • the power of the executive to declare war;
  • the power to request the dissolution of Parliament;
  • the power over recall of Parliament;
  • the power of the executive to ratify international treaties without decision by Parliament;
  • the power to make key public appointments without effective scrutiny;
  • the power to restrict Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence services;
  • power to choose bishops;
  • power in the appointment of judges;
  • power to direct prosecutors in individual criminal cases;
  • power over the civil service itself;
  • and the executive powers to determine the rules governing entitlement to passports and the granting of pardons.
I now propose to surrender or limit these powers to make for a more open twenty first century British democracy.

Bravo, Prime Minister Brown! Now if we could just do something of this kind in our little world of software. We like to play the USA vs. USSR Mutually Assured Destruction game with patents, claiming that we all hate the system but have to live by the broken rules that "the system" foists upon us.

And yet Brown clearly shows that leadership is not following what "the system" imposes. It's refashioning the system to improve lives. We should heed this example.