May 31, 2003

HERE'S YOUR RECIPE, IF ONLY YOU HAD THE INGREDIENTS...

Constitutionally, a Risky Business: Drafting a constitution is often the first step in transforming a country to democracy, but the questions seem to be endless. (FELICIA R. LEE, 5/31/03, NY Times)
In the last 35 years, more than 100 countries have tried to accomplish what Iraq is trying to do: create a democratic constitution.

While some countries have succeeded, many others have been stymied by ethnic and religious hatreds, differences over power divisions and deeply rooted corruption or violence.

Drafting a constitution is often the first step in transforming a country to democracy, but the questions seem to be endless.

If you start a democracy with a constitution you've already gone tragically wrong. A functional constitution is necessarily a conservative document--restraining change and providing predictability--so it must be preceded by the development of a series of social and governmental institutions that are worth preserving. Among these are family, neighborhood associations, churches, unions, a military, a precedential legal system (with property rights), a relatively market-oriented economy, etc.. It is the desire to protect these things that gioves the citizenry a vested interest in the success of the constitutional order. In the absence of these things, all a constitution is likely to do is determine who will get to exercise authority over the nation or, in some ways worse, who will hold office but not have the actual authority to govern. Either of these alternatives naturally tends to undermine the people's faith in constitutionalism itself. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 31, 2003 7:33 AM
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