How to Save a Constitutional Democracy

University of Chicago Press
Free sample

Democracies are in danger. Around the world, a rising wave of populist leaders threatens to erode the core structures of democratic self rule. In the United States, the election of Donald Trump marked a decisive turning point for many. What kind of president calls the news media the “enemy of the American people,” or sees a moral equivalence between violent neo-Nazi protesters in paramilitary formation and residents of a college town defending the racial and ethnic diversity of their homes? Yet, whatever our concerns about the current president, we can be assured that the Constitution offers safeguards to protect against lasting damage—or can we?

How to Save a Constitutional Democracy mounts an urgent argument that we can no longer afford to be complacent. Drawing on a rich array of other countries’ experiences with democratic backsliding, Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Z. Huq show how constitutional rules can either hinder or hasten the decline of democratic institutions. The checks and balances of the federal government, a robust civil society and media, and individual rights—such as those enshrined in the First Amendment—do not necessarily succeed as bulwarks against democratic decline. Rather, Ginsburg and Huq contend, the sobering reality for the United States is that, to a much greater extent than is commonly realized, the Constitution’s design makes democratic erosion more, not less, likely. Its structural rigidity has had the unforeseen consequence of empowering the Supreme Court to fill in some details—often with doctrines that ultimately facilitate rather than inhibit the infringement of rights. Even the bright spots in the Constitution—the First Amendment, for example—may have perverse consequences in the hands of a deft communicator, who can degrade the public sphere by wielding hateful language that would be banned in many other democracies. But we—and the rest of the world—can do better. The authors conclude by laying out practical steps for how laws and constitutional design can play a more positive role in managing the risk of democratic decline.
Read more
Collapse

About the author

Tom Ginsburg is the Leo Spitz Professor of International Law and professor of political science at the University of Chicago. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Judicial Reputation, The Endurance of National Constitutions, and Judicial Review in New Democracies. Aziz Z. Huq is the Frank and Bernice J. Greenberg Professor of Law at the University of Chicago.
Read more
Collapse
Loading...

Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
Read more
Collapse
Published on
Oct 5, 2018
Read more
Collapse
Pages
320
Read more
Collapse
ISBN
9780226564418
Read more
Collapse
Read more
Collapse
Read more
Collapse
Language
English
Read more
Collapse
Genres
Law / Constitutional
Law / General
Political Science / American Government / General
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Democracy
Read more
Collapse
Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
Read more
Collapse
Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
Read more
Collapse
Eligible for Family Library

Reading information

Smartphones and Tablets

Install the Google Play Books app for Android and iPad/iPhone. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are.

Laptops and Computers

You can read books purchased on Google Play using your computer's web browser.

eReaders and other devices

To read on e-ink devices like the Sony eReader or Barnes & Noble Nook, you'll need to download a file and transfer it to your device. Please follow the detailed Help center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders.
It is no longer controversial that the American political system has become deeply dysfunctional. Today, only slightly more than a quarter of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction, while sixty-three percent believe we are on a downward slope. The top twenty words used to describe the past year include “chaotic,” “turbulent,” and “disastrous.” Donald Trump’s improbable rise to power and his 2016 Electoral College victory placed America’s political dysfunction in an especially troubling light, but given the extreme polarization of contemporary politics, the outlook would have been grim even if Hillary Clinton had won. The greatest upset in American presidential history is only a symptom of deeper problems of political culture and constitutional design.

Democracy and Dysfunction brings together two of the leading constitutional law scholars of our time, Sanford Levinson and Jack M. Balkin, in an urgently needed conversation that seeks to uncover the underlying causes of our current crisis and their meaning for American democracy. In a series of letters exchanged over a period of two years, Levinson and Balkin travel—along with the rest of the country—through the convulsions of the 2016 election and Trump’s first year in office. They disagree about the scope of the crisis and the remedy required. Levinson believes that our Constitution is fundamentally defective and argues for a new constitutional convention, while Balkin, who believes we are suffering from constitutional rot, argues that there are less radical solutions. As it becomes dangerously clear that Americans—and the world—will be living with the consequences of this pivotal period for many years to come, it is imperative that we understand how we got here—and how we might forestall the next demagogue who will seek to beguile the American public.
As countries in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries change from colonialist to independent rule, or from a socialist to a democratic society, the need for a written constitution becomes apparent. Countries in the former Soviet Union, Africa, or nations once part of the British Empire face social, economic, and humanitarian problems as they experiment with democratic rule. Such issues as clearly defining where sovereignty lies, how much power is given to the people, and what rights are possessed by a nation's citizenry are new to these countries. While a constitution, being a man-made document, is subject to interpretation and does not always delineate in a lucid framework its parameters for future generations, it is clear that constitutions do matter.

This volume, compiled under the direction of the City University of Stockholm, is an important study on the significance of constitutions and constitutional law in a democratic society. A number of scholars in law, political science, and economics have contributed to this volume. They include: James Buchanan, Aleksander Peczenik, Mats Lundstrom, Joakim Nergelius, Sverker Hard, Niclas Berggren, Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard, Wolfgang Kasper, and Erik Moberg. All add to the understanding of the intertwining roles of politics and the social sciences in a modern democratic state.

They explore why a constitution is essential; the relationship between a constitution and a rational political system; the democratic principle of majority rule; why constitutional constraints are needed in a democratic state; recent constitutional reforms in the United Kingdom; the electoral system and its centrality in a democracy; evolution in constitutional change; competition within a federal structure; and the connection between politics and economics. Why Constitutions Matter is a fascinating and timely study of constitutionalism, and will be of interest to students of politics, law, economics, and sociology.

©2019 GoogleSite Terms of ServicePrivacyDevelopersArtistsAbout Google|Location: United StatesLanguage: English (United States)
By purchasing this item, you are transacting with Google Payments and agreeing to the Google Payments Terms of Service and Privacy Notice.