Is a constitution like an operating system?

Imagine a constitution as an operating system. Like Windows or OS X.

Imagine amendments as patches.

Imagine social ills as viruses and other exploits.

Imagine founding fathers as the Bill Gates and Steve Jobses who once started it all in a garage somewhere.

Imagine, perhaps, companies and other organizations as the applications that run on it. With the people as hardware and culture as a file system, and the president as the sysop.

Is this analogy accurate? If it is, can we learn something from it? If not, in which important ways does a constitution not like an operating system?

There is no universally accepted understanding of the constitution. Nor does it define how it should be understood. If you want to look at it as an operating system, go for it.

The UK works fine without one.

The Australian constitution doesn’t codify a shedload of rights that the populace live by 24/7.

If the Constitution was an operating system, possession would be 10/10th of the law.

The UK has a constitution. Just no one has written it down yet. They are lazy.

So both halves, then?

An operating system operates on a machine, so we can predict how changes will affect the overall processes.

A constitution operates on a human society. It’s much harder to predict how they will react to changes.

One thing I realized by using the OS model, the US constitution can then be seen as freeware that had most of its features locked by the early compromises made.

It was such a revolutionary OS that only just recently its features were unlocked for more Americans.

IMHO it was until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that we could begin to see the full features of this OS :slight_smile:

So, isn’t the underlying question, is society like a computer?

I’ve got to say, no. Not even close.

The huge gap in the analogy is that I don’t see the word “state” mentioned.

A constitution is so called because it constitutes a state; a structure or mechanism erected by a society in order to acheive certain social goals - principally peace, order and good government. But society does lots of things that have nothing to do with the state, or the constitution. In fact, most things we do have little or nothing to do with the state/the constitution. Hence, if society is analogous to a computer - a debatable proposition at best - then the consitution is analogous to something much less signficant than an OS.

The US Constitution is a specification. It spells out the the limits of the government operating system, and system of checks and balances. The rest of the operating system is codified in lots of other documents, and sometimes it’s not clearly defined at all. The Constitution defines functionality more closely resembling a ‘monitor’ than an operating system in computer terms (‘monitor’ doesn’t mean a display device in software). Other countries may have more detailed constitutions, but one of the ideas of ours was to allow flexibility in the operation of government.

No. Your analogy would be closer if people actually operated like logic circuits, and the same input produced to same output reliably. But they don’t. Not even the same person will generate the same output for a given input reliably.

I would argue the UK has a constitution it just is the equivalent of undocumented software :p.

Kurt Gödel might agree with you.

That’s pretty much why I gave the answer I did, which is the same as yours.

There is a difference between an analogy and equivalence. People don’t have to be the same as logic circuits to make analogies to computers. The point of an analogy is to compare a known situation to an unknown one to help in understanding the latter. In the case cited by the OP, I wouldn’t find that very useful, but it might be for someone who understands what an operating system is and doesn’t understand what a constitution is.