Tom Ginsburg on Stress Tests for Constitutional Democracies

Stress Test for Constitutional Democracies

Vital Interests: Tom, thanks for participating in the Vital Interest forum. You have spent your academic career thinking about constitutions - how they are created, how they are implemented, and how they endure. Recently you have been involved in two timely books  - How to Save a Constitutional Democracy and Constitutions in Times of Financial Crisis

Let’s look back a bit and talk about the “golden age” of constitutionalism with the ending of the Cold War, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, but also the end of colonialism. 

Tom Ginsburg: Constitutions have become a very central part of the script of what it takes to be a nation-state. It is literally one of the first things an emerging country does to announce that it is a new state.  As Americans, we are accustomed to thinking that a constitution is some kind of deep social contract - people coming together and articulating their fundamental values that will define the government they envision. For the most part, constitutions written today are not aspirations of the people but rather are elite products that many times are written as a grand gesture but without much intention of observing their rights provisions or promoting constitutionalism. 

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Constitutional democracy