Research unveiled at FLJS workshop confirms decline of US Constitution

09 February 2012

A 'Constitution Index' unveiled by Mila Versteeg and David Law at a Foundation for Law, Justice and Society workshop, which identifies the declining international influence of the US Constitution, was featured on the front page of the New York Times yesterday.

The authors coded and analyzed the provisions of 729 constitutions adopted by 188 countries from 1946 to 2006, and considered 237 variables regarding various rights and ways to enforce them.

"€œAmong the world'€™s democracies, constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall", the study claims - conclusions that have made waves in the US, with front page coverage in the Times and the International Herald Tribune, as well as on CNN. According to Professors Law and Versteeg, "The turn of the twenty-first century saw the beginning of a steep plunge that continues through the most recent years for which we have data, to the point that the constitutions of the world's democracies are, on average, less similar to the U.S. Constitution now than they were at the end of World War II."

Whether this waning influence points to a general decline in American power and prestige is open to debate, but was reinforced by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the US Supreme Court in a television interview during a visit to Egypt last week. "€œI would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,"€ she said.

Mila Versteeg, co-author of the study, will be speaking at a forthcoming workshop of the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society, on 'Constitutional Revolution and the Arab Spring', to be held at the University of Virginia on 24 February.