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5.25.2010

Wiki-constitutionalism?

The New Republic has just posted a nice essay by Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez about what he calls wiki-constitutionalism in Latin America: the tendency of constitutions in the region to be changed as easily as wikipedia pages. Lansberg-Rodriguez points out the costs of rewriting, and argues persuasively that institutional stability will require overcoming wiki-constitutionalism.

He also ties frequent change to longer constitutions; however, in our recent book on global constitutional endurance we found no such connection, at least when one looks at all countries and controls for other factors. Instead there seems to be a secular increase in the length of constitutions, independent of their endurance. This seems to be driven by an increase in the number and type of rights, as well as new and more complex institutional structures.

I also like this comment by ironyroad on the TNR blog: "The [U.S.] Constitution is an Enlightenment intellectual exercise written as a British Romantic poem. As if John Keats had thought long and hard about representation and the separation of powers. The Latin American problem is that their constitutions are magical realist novels written as legal documents."


--TG

4 comments:

  1. Great post. The problem is not, I suspect, malleable constitutions as the article suggests but rather the lack of citizen buy-in to constitutional projects. Certainly the historical experience of Latin America suggests that constitutions without social moorings facilitate dictatorship. The UK, on the other hand, has a famously malleable constitution and provides, I think, a better example of wiki-constitutionalism. An article in today's NYT, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/world/europe/25london.html has a nice discussion of the U.K.'s political constitution.

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