fountain-pen

Long constitutions are not garrulous, they are restrictive

by George Tsebelis & Dominic J. Nardi, Jr.
Being part of the acceptance speech delivered by Professor George Tsembelis following the bestowal of an honorary PhD by the University of Crete the following extract draws upon his seminal “veto player” theory to address the relationship between bad constitutional design, amendment rate and poverty.

Constitutions are typically amended after extraordinary procedures. These high hurdles of approval and modification guarantee that the constitution at the moment of adoption or modification is located in the “constitutional core” of a country. The “core” of a political system is a technical term referring to the set of points that cannot be upset by some specified majoritarian procedure. So, the “constitutional core” means the document that cannot be replaced by any other under the existing requirements for constitutional revision.

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When more is less: the negative economic effects of longer constitutions

by George Tsebelis & Dominic J. Nardi, Jr.

When the Eurozone crisis struck Europe in 2009, it soon became apparent that Southern European countries would have to drastically restructure government spending and improve their competitiveness in order to reduce excessive levels of public debt. However, some states found themselves unable to do so, and not merely because of lack of political will. In some cases, detailed socioeconomic provisions in their constitutions limited their scope of action. For example, Greece’s 1975 Constitution prohibits the privatization of universities (art. 16(5)). In short, such constitutional provisions risk locking governments into policies that in other countries would not even be considered questions of constitutional law.

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