“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty...”
So begins the Preamble to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1787, as the bedrock of American democracy and the oldest written national constitution still in use in the world. However, according to a new study, “The Declining Influence of the United States Constitution,” to be published in the New York University Law Review this June, the U.S. Constitution’s appeal as a model for constitutional drafters among the world’s democracies is dramatically declining. Co-authors David S. Law and Mila Versteeg, both law professors, analyzed 729 constitutions adopted by 188 countries from 1946 to 2006, considering more than 230 variables. They found that other countries, especially in the past decade, have become unlikely to model their own constitutions, including human rights provisions, on the U.S. Constitution, as opposed to in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The study says the U.S. Constitution is becoming distant from the global mainstream in terms of not protecting entitlement to food, education and health care. According to the study, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been gaining more influence in constitution-making worldwide.
Do you think the U.S. Constitution is out of step as a model for other constitutions? What does this study imply, or not, about broader political perceptions of the U.S.?
David S. Law, professor, law and political science, Washington University, co-authored, “The Declining Influence of the United States Constitution”
Eugene Volokh, professor, constitutional law expert, UCLA School of Law