Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez, '13, on New Comparative Constitutions Project/Google Endeavor
In one of his pithier moments, Alexander Hamilton, l'enfant terrible of the American Founding Fathers, reflected on the potential shelf-life of the recently ratified U.S. Constitution: "So long as we are a young and virtuous people, this instrument will bind us together in mutual interests, mutual welfare, and mutual happiness. But when we become old and corrupt, it will bind us no longer."
Kudos, then, to the United States, whose constitution has exceeded Hamilton's expectations, remaining in force for nearly twelve-score tumultuous years and counting. In part because of this success, having a written constitution has now become a sort of political gold standard for countries around the world (and seems very likely to continue being so for the foreseeable future).
This week, Constitute, an ambitious new initiative by the Comparative Constitutions Project in conjunction with Google Ideas (the tech company's in-house think tank), has made those 160-odd (in some cases truly odd) governing documents currently in effect worldwide accessible to a global audience. The site offers users the ability to access either an entire constitution by country name and date, or to peruse the documents by particular themes. Constitute aficionados can thus familiarize themselves with constitutional standards for hundreds of matters ranging from "indigenous rights" to minimum age requirements for constitutional court judges.