The Waning Influence Of The United States Constitution

Photo: Terry Miller

Photo: Terry Miller

Adam Liptak describes the decline of the United States Constitution’s global popularity in the New York Times. (If the U.S. adopted Roger Copple’s Third Constitution might the American model become more popular?)

The Constitution has seen better days.

Sure, it is the nation’s founding document and sacred text. And it is the oldest written national constitution still in force anywhere in the world. But its influence is waning.

In 1987, on the Constitution’s bicentennial, Time magazine calculated that “of the 170 countries that exist today, more than 160 have written charters modeled directly or indirectly on the U.S. version.”

A quarter-century later, the picture looks very different. “The U.S. Constitution appears to be losing its appeal as a model for constitutional drafters elsewhere,” according to a new study by David S. Law of Washington University in St. Louis and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia.

The study, to be published in June in The New York University Law Review, bristles with data. Its authors coded and analyzed the provisions of 729 constitutions adopted by 188 countries from 1946 to 2006, and they considered 237 variables regarding various rights and ways to enforce them.

“Among the world’s democracies,” Professors Law and Versteeg concluded, “constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall. Over the 1960s and 1970s, democratic constitutions as a whole became more similar to the U.S. Constitution, only to reverse course in the 1980s and 1990s.”…

[continues in the New York Times]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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9 Comments on "The Waning Influence Of The United States Constitution"

  1. Emc_0002 | Feb 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm |

    Our problems have not been caused by the constitution but by the politicians we elect who disregard it.

    • Calypso_1 | Feb 7, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

      I don’t remember electing the Supreme Court Justices that continue to uphold the legal fiction of corporate personhood, unlimited corporate political expenditures, the use of eminent domain to seize land for private profit, or warrantless militarized search and seizure.

      • Liam_McGonagle | Feb 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm |

        Fair play.  The Supremes are nominated and confirmed by electeds–though removable only under very rare and currently unprecedented circumstances.  There’s a theoretical case to be made on both sides.

        It still seems that the real problem is the deeply ingrained perversity of contemporary consumerist culture.  The operation of constitution or legal system of any description must necessarily be filtered through that prism.

        We used to be cool with calling human beings 3/5 of a legal person and then granting their voting rights to the people who purported to “own” them.

        It’s terrifying to realise an individual is only a flyspeck in the broader sweep of social history, but times do change.  Just too damned slowly to suit my taste.

      • Emc_0002 | Feb 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm |

        We don’t elect them directly, but we do elect who chooses them.

        Article 2 (Executive Branch) Section 2

        • Calypso_1 | Feb 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm |

          …yeah, I know – I made it beyond Gov101 – but when was the last time a candidate ran with you knowing who their appointees would be?  Sure we know which candidates will choose between ‘conservative & liberal’, ‘activist vs. constructionalist’; how parties vie to place a judge to uphold or overturn majorities on single issues.  But how much do we know about the lobbying that goes on with the Senate Judiciary Committee during the appointment process? Or who are the ideological proxies farmed by parties to become court clerks? – They draft the opinions. Justices’ tenure of ‘good behavior’ is unchecked and dubiously offers a higher order of oversight free from political influence.  
          As the ultimate arbiters of the land they have failed miserably on these accounts.  They dissemble to the maintenance of the highest ideals of ‘We the People’ while corrupting the fundamental structures of these rights by furthering the agendas of corporate statism.

  2. frankz00 | Feb 7, 2012 at 2:41 pm |

    Well of course! If we don’t actually abide by it ourselves, The Constitution is seen as meaningless!

  3. Nunzio X | Feb 7, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

    George Bush 2 was supposed to have said: “The Constitution? That’s just a piece of paper!”

    I’m unclear whether he actually said that or not, but certainly his behavior, and the behavior of his replacement Mr. Obama, seems to indicate that they believe Georgie Boy’s supposed words.

    From the president all the way down to the street cops, the Constitution has become “just a piece of paper.”

  4. votes have never mattered
    democracy has never existed
    the constitution never mattered
    those are all just myths to make you think you have any power
    you are cattle
    deal with it

  5. And, the farther we go from it, the worse our nation has become..

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